When Love Turns Macabre

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Mako’s wings clattered as he leaped to his feet. Saphira looked up at him, hands in her lap and hair frazzled from the static in her hoodie. The strands floated around her face, poking out of the hood and clinging to her cheeks and nose.

“What do you prefer? Swords, bows, guns?” Mako asked, wandering in a circle around her. She shrugged and put her hands on her knees. She pushed herself to stand and pocketed her hands.

“I have a sword, but I had it taken from me when I first entered Miano.” She whined. Mako picked her up and launched into the air, wings sending giant gusts that tossed her hair all over her face. She glared at him and hit his chest, grabbing his hood and cloak collar in fear of dropping to the shrinking ground.

“If you could fly with me the whole time why didn’t you!?” She roared, fury burning in her eyes. Mako grabbed her wrists with his free hand and restrained her.

“It’s kinda hard to look for something you dropped when you’re 30 ft in the air,” Mako growled, carrying her over the forest and to the castle walls. Saphira pushed him away and landed unsteadily on her feet. He dropped and folded his wings into his cloak, pulling a dark blue mask from within and putting it on.

“Why didn’t you just-?”

“Because you’d be shot on sight. Now calm down, I need to disguise you,” he interrupted. Saphira glared but quieted in agreement. Mako rolled his shoulders and placed his hand on her face, a tingling web crawling out from his fingers, “this Mirage won’t be very strong, but you don’t need drastic changes.” Her hair dimmed to a caramel brunette, her face gaining a soft dust of freckles, eyes fogging to a milky white. Saphira made an uncomfortable face at the web of magic covering her eyes, rubbing them and pushing his hand away.

“Stop.” She whined. Mako chuckled softly, taking her hand and adjusting his mask.

“Don’t worry, it’s done. I have to keep a hand on you for it to work, though,” He started leading her to the castle gates. Two inhuman guards stood extremely tall beside the steel seal to the city, “I fogged your irises so they couldn’t see your telling blue… you’ll have to pretend you’re blind.”

“It would have been nice to get a heads up on that.” She muttered, gripping his hand tighter, her body shaking anxiously as they approached the dangerous inhumans. Their eyes were narrow and piercing. Their giant bodies adorned in violet armor. They pointed spears as tall as themselves down to the reaper and his scruffy companion, one re-wrapping his three-fingered hand around the pole.

“What business do you have in Miano?” The guard with black hair and long ears asked. Mako lowered his head, offering a halfhearted bow as he picked a quick lie to roll with. Saphira stood stiff, unsure if she should take his lead or if that would expose her sight. She quietly gulped.

“My sister and I came here to get medicine for her condition,” Mako glanced at her through the blue mask, his eye lights illuminating the dark sockets, “we can’t get it in Edoa. Please let us through, it won’t be very long.” Saphira took the cue to start a raucous coughing fit, clinging to his cloak and hiding her face in his chest. He pat her back lightly with a hidden grimace and cleared his throat.

“D-don’t worry…” He told her, sending a pleading whine to the guards. They gave each other a cryptic look, raising their spears and pulling down the gate for them. Mako led her inside with the care a blind young woman deserved, slow and cautious until the gate closed again to let go of her and dispel his Mirage. She blinked away the webs and dragged her hands down her face, pulling her hood over her head and burying any visible skin in the plush fabric. She still felt the tendrils invading her eyes no matter how hard she smothered her face into the cotton. Mako raised his mask and let it rest on the crown of his head, using his Mirage on himself.

“Where to then?” Saphira asked.

“Well, I don’t think they’d keep weapons out in the open. We ought to ask around the underbelly and see if they have any arms.” Mako said, taking her down at alleyway and pushing through meandering commoners. Avoiding any guards was a bit easier in a large crowd. Saphira saw no reason to object and nodded in silence. They rounded a bend, Mako started looking for something unknown while Saphira kept an eye out for any trouble. She rested her shoulder against the wall and poked her head out of hiding.

“Don’t monsters live here too…?” She muttered. Mako tensed, his wings jutting into his ribs making him cough and halt his search. Saphira didn’t bother checking on him, her hand on the cold stone wall with her back to him.

“Why do you ask?” He coughed, snapping his teeth without realizing it.

“Besides the gate giants, there isn’t a single monster in the castle town.” She hummed, pointing at the streets full of common people - all of human descent - wandering without care from building to building. Mako pushed aside a pallet of wood and shrugged, trying to place his exact memories of this kingdom.

“There were at one point. Probably ages ago.” Mako said, shoving bags of trash aside.

“Hm… You seem to have forgotten a lot of things,” Saphira started, ducking as someone passed too close, “why are you having such a hard time remembering?”

“You forget a lot of things when you lose oxygen to your brain,” He grumbled, “I thought you would’ve forgotten some things too, but I haven’t been revived before.” Saphira frowned and shook her head at him. She didn’t appreciate his bite. It seemed he just didn’t like having people around.

Mako started thinking over what things he could remember and how far back it would go. He took a breath and began whistling to aid his thoughts, the song a tribute to his home in ruins. It echoed serenely in the alleyway, causing Saphira to quiet and listen to his melancholy tune. He dragged his fingers over a wall and mulled over forgotten lyrics behind his tune. His fingers hit a nook in the wall and separated it into a passageway. Saphira was still on lookout giving Mako the chance to fist pump in joy without being seen.

“Hey! I found the way, let’s go.” He called. She lingered her gaze out to the crowd before turning to him and slipping past into the passage, leaving him behind. He closed the stone wall behind them and followed her further into the dark. The two met at the bottom of the stairs, Mako’s eyes the only light in the subterranean hallway. He held out his hand and manipulated the spirits in his bones to create a faux flesh over his hand. The Manifested hand cast a light over the walls, illuminating their way.

“What are we looking for down here?” Saphira muttered.

“A bazaar,” Mako shrugged and looked down a split in the hall, “more or less.” Light broke the monotony ahead, marking the end of their short trek. They stepped out from the shadows and came upon the vast underside of Miano. The place was entirely slummish, the shops made of discarded metal scraps from the surface. The people dressed in robes and cloaks, keeping their identity secret from the criminals around them. Saphira pulled on her hood, making sure it covered the majority of her face. Only her aquamarine eyes shone from within the plush fabric. Mako looked down at her, giving a soft, amused chuckle at the sight.

“I’ll make sure you’re safe, don’t worry.” He hummed, leading her to the booths at the far end of the Bazaar that pressed up to a solid stone wall. Saphira squinted at the booths. There wasn’t a single other shop set up next to them and there were barely any items laid out around them. Before she could even ask, Mako took her shoulder and leaned down to her ear.

“These guys will pounce so you might want to put on a voice or something…” He muttered. Saphira nodded and tucked herself out of their line of sight. Mako cleared his throat and folded his arms.

“Hmph… what do you want, undead?” The booth manager growled.

“I’m here to talk to the big guy.” He answered cooly, his bones stiff as the dead. The manager looked him over and shook his head, chuckling.

“Heh, nah. He doesn’t talk to people like you,” he picked at his teeth with his pinky nail and flicked the debris, “well, guess you aren’t people though.” Mako flared, his wings rattling inside his ribs. Saphira took his wrist and hushed softly, breaking his amassing hostile thoughts. He extinguished his eye lights for a few moments and shook his head.

“Right, well you just tell him I’m here for some arms and we’ll see what he says,” Mako said, pulling a bag from his cloak, “I have the funds for it. I’m not playing around.” The manager glanced at the small ball of hoodie behind him and leaned over the counter, pointing at her.

“Will they be joining you?” He grumbled. Mako looked back at her and placed himself between them.

“Yeah, they’re joining me,” Mako answered, “it’s their business we’re discussing.”

“What business could this runt have that’s so important?”

“Oh, for the love of- Just let them in, you idiot!” A gruff voice called from past the stone wall, “You’re so annoying. I know Mako, he can come in!” The manager shrunk a bit and grumbled. Mako smirked, raising a cocky brow at him. The manager turned to the stone wall and pulled out a slab of solid gray rock. Mako led her inside the chamber as the stone was replaced behind them.

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