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Stars Collide- Azura’s death

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Stars Collide- The demise of the last Akaari
(Azura’s death)
Written by Azura and Nikolas Belleveau

 

 

The previous night had been quite hectic. Zack had chosen to try and heal the wounds that he had inflicted upon Azura by doing a blood to blood ritual to cleanse her system, yet it had all backfired. The woman’s blood had seeped into the demons, transfusing it together and killing off those impure cells. It was painful to watch as the male’s body had begun to deteriorate in front of them, only to take his last breath. When they thought it couldn’t get worse, the demon that was possessing Zack at the time had made an appearance, in which he had threatened Nikolas multiple times, having an obvious hate for the phoenix race. Niko had actually lost his grip out of fear and drew out his avian form to protect the woman since the wolf demon was aggressively asking who or what had killed its host. Such a shocker to have the powerful creature face him and Azura in that manner, only to drag the corpse of Zack back to Hell, or at least he believed it to be Hell.

He was unable to allow for the woman to stay laying on the grassy ground since she had passed out, knowing that it was far too dangerous to leave her unconscious in such a public place. So, he took her back to his studio. Honestly, he had no clue where her homeland was. The only place that he knew of that was in relation to her was the wild forest surrounding the blue lagoon that she had always swam in and frolicked around. So, he took her up in his arms and left for the studio. A full day had passed and here he was, sitting on the couch in his living room, unable to bring himself to speak to the woman. Sure, he had cooked her food and tried to get her to eat and occasionally would check up on her, but he knew better than to bug her after such a tragedy. The man had expressed his love apparently to Azura, evidence of that was the way he spoke of being able to at least love her before he passed on.

It had rubbed Niko the wrong way. Had the woman shared the same feelings for Zack? Did it pain him if it did? Well, yeah.. But he wasn’t one to push his feelings upon another and he understood what he was and what his past consists of. Love wasn’t something that the phoenix need nor should even seek out. Not after the loss of his beloved fiancé. If Azura had suffered the same way that his lover did, what then? Could he forgive himself of such anguish? No, no he couldn’t. So, let’s just leave it at that… Right? A friendship was more than enough for him. His hands folded together, threading his fingers with one another and his violet eyes flickered over the room. Paint tubes lay here and there as well as several bowls with herbs that were sending grey clouds of smoke to waft up to the skylights above. Slowly, he leaned back against the couch and rested his head against the cushion and stared up at the windows to view the indigo and salmon colors that splotched the sky. What could he do for her? If he had done something… Would it hurt her even more? Should he just leave her in that room to sulk and spill her tears until she was filled with nothingness just as he had done years ago?

Sighing, he picked himself up off of the couch and took a few steps towards the hallway. No… His movement was halted and he leaned up against a wall for support and crossed his arms, trying to conjure up any ideas to try and get the woman to be more active than she was being. Get her out.. Outside? Perhaps.. She did love the woods or large bodies of water. Perhaps he could coax her out to see the winding rivers that ran through his hometown of La Havre.. Or something else entirely.

Eyelids fluttered before listless green eyes emerged to blink at her blurry surroundings. The darkness had now fled from those emerald orbs and yet, their colour was muted, devoid of their usual luminous shine. Azura barely recalled how she had come to be nestled in the warmth of Niko’s bed, could not recall the journey from one world to the next. It had only been just over a day since those nightmarish events and yet, the hours melted together so quickly it felt as if it had been much, much longer. There was a flicker of a memory of the phoenix managing to wash the blood from her skin and since she was clothed in attire she did not recognise, clean of dirt and scarlet stains, she understood that he had helped her dress. Normally, she might have been embarrassed or even enraged at the idea of these things but they barely registered in her broken mind. She had mostly slept, unable to keep her eyes open though she was unsure whether her exhaustion was due to grief, her fractured heart or the way her body felt as if was filled with lead, slowly crumbling around her. Still, peace evaded her. Her dreams were filled with lifeless blue eyes, rivers of blood, echoing with screams.

But it was not just the pain of losing Zack, the guilt of his death and the knowledge that he had been drowned by her magic that tortured her though that was likely more then enough to account for the way she seemed to have little to no strength, barely a response offered to Niko in those rare moments he slipped into the room to check on her. No, not only had she lost Zack but it seemed as if her magic had fled from her as well. She felt empty, drained. She could not feel that spark of stardust nor the cool flow of water. She felt no connection to the Goddess. And for much of the night, it seemed as if she was feverish, sweating beading down her forehead whilst the next moment, she was struck with a cold chill that made her tremble and quake. Those ribbons of black tendrils that marked her veins had faded away and yet her skin seemed paler than usual, veering on a blue tinged grey. Oh, and then there were those moments when she sat up suddenly, alarmed by the way she had to gasp to drawn air into her lungs. Azura knew that something was wrong though would have been surprised to know the demonic essence inside her continued to spread itself throughout her system like an infection, like the slow growing underground roots of a tree. She would be plagued with rolling waves of searing pain only for it to be replaced minutes later with an almost euphoric languor that felt as if she was floating, a breath of a whisper away from simply fading away completely, as if she was made of air instead of flesh, bone and blood.

She sighed, staring with zero interest at the bowl of now cold vegetable stew that sat atop the bedside table, one hand reaching to push it further away before rolling with a groan to face the opposite side. Would it feel like this forever? She wondered. There was a trickle of fear in knowing that she might have lost her magic permanently. Perhaps that was why it felt as if her insides were collapsing? Perhaps those symptoms would only fade once the last fleck of magic ebbed from her soul, leaving her barren and empty. Her face lifted half-heartedly as she heard footsteps creeping down the hall though when they paused once more, she let her face sink back into the soft cushion, tempted to let her eyes fall shut once more but unwilling to subject herself to more of images that waited to poke and jab at her psyche. She wondered then if she should ask the phoenix to take her back to the lagoon for he was sure to be tired of having her whimpers and moans keep him awake, no doubt wished to have his bed back. Though really, for some odd reason it was her mountains Azura craved like never before, a sense of foreboding pressing at her so much so that she felt desperate to return to them, eager to climb, to perch herself atop the highest peak, to feel as if she was immersed in an endless constellation of stars. Maybe the gush of milky strands of water tumbling over rock and the kiss of silver moonlight would be enough to… She stopped the thought. Why did it matter? Azura thought. Perhaps this was her punishment for Zack’s death?

 

Just check on her, Niko. It can’t hurt. Another heavy sigh fell from him and he twisted his head so that his vision rested on the door at the end of the hall. What would he find when he opened the door? Would she be crying again? Sleeping out of sheer exhaustion? Would she push him away through angry and guilty tears? He wasn’t sure and it terrified him to find out. Fine.. Slowly, he pulled himself away from the wall and began the long journey of a mere fifteen feet. It would seem like ages had passed before his feet found sanctuary in front of the door, where he hesitantly reached out for the brass knob and gave it a gentle twist. His other hand rapt its knuckles against the door just to give a warning upon entrance to allow her time to collect herself should he find and unsightly scene in there. Wouldn’t want to walk in on her naked or anything else. Frowning, he took a courageous step and cracked the door open and slipped inside. The room was quite dark, having all of the heavy curtains draping in front of the windows to block out any sunlight and the electricity looked as if someone had cut it due to the lack of active lights. Cold… Dark.. Somber.. A lovely place to get lost in an ocean of depression and remorse. Truly a bad mix that was just asking for a catastrophe of emotions to force one into a steep chasm with no return. He knew this all too well from his past. +There was a long period in his life where depression had coaxed him into its dark embrace, causing him to look through the eyes of an exhausted and slumbering body. He was so numb during those days, oblivious to the world around him… But that is also when anger and rage had writhed in his heart, being the main cause of those fiery disasters that he had scourged.

“Azura.. I just wanted to check on you again..” He murmured, blinking a few times to adjust his eyes to the shadowy room. Carefully, he somehow maneuvered his way over to the bed and sank down on the opposite side that she lay. He stayed there for a moment, studying her to see if there were any changes. He couldn’t quite tell that there was a change in her skin tone, but if he had saw it he could only assume that it is from the pain she felt for the death of her dear friend or lover.. Whatever the hell Zack was. A glance was given to the bowl of soup that had been given to her hours prior and a frown stretched his features.

“.. Mon cherie.. You need to eat.” His voice was stern, as was his expression, but it only lasted for a few seconds before he loosened up. He reached out and delicately stroked a few fingers against her hair, then brushed her forehead with the back of his hand. Was she cold? She sure felt like it, yet it was always hard to tell since he was consistently burning as if he were on fire. Like literally. There was a desire to wrap her up in his arms and just lay there for hours on end to comfort her, to tell her that everything was going to be okay. But… He didn’t. It wasn’t something that he could so freely do, especially with her in such a saddened state. How could he know what her reaction to such a bold touch would be?

Had Azura even noticed how dark and gloomy the room was? Highly unlikely. Though had she realised, it would have made very little difference to the woman whose world had already darkened so much. She heard the door creak open and yet she stayed where she was, her eyes closing even though she faced the wall. Perhaps if she feigned sleep, Niko would just let her fade away into nothing more then a shadow of herself. Silence greeted his words. She waited quietly for him to leave and yet those steps of his drew closer until the mattress on which she lay dipped beneath his weight as he took a seat and since she could hardly tell the phoenix to leave his own bedroom, she merely gave a heavy sigh, nuzzling her face deeper into the pillow for she did not want him to see the tears brimming. She sniffed softly, forcing them back as he began to speak once more.

“I’m not hungry.” She murmured, her voice muffled by a sea of blankets, keeping her features turned from him, eyes opening to blink at the wall though when she felt his fingers brushing against those rumpled strands of black and white, Azura gave a small sigh for the gesture was almost calming, soothing in a strange way. Besides, she was far too exhausted in both body and spirit to lurch away from the phoenix, too tired to fight the comforting and heated warmth of his touch. It was the stroke to her forehead that finally had her shifting, half rolling to let her deflated green gaze drift towards his face, tempted to reach for him and pull him close, to drown herself in those flames and cling to him the way she had that night when they had been both splattered with paint. -c- Without the full strength of her magic, would she burn? It seemed an almost fitting end, immersed in those brilliant violet flames. As if tempted to test the theory, her fingers fluttered towards his hand, tentatively brushing along his skin, testing the temperature, before letting the limb falling limp once more to the mattress. She had expected to feel flesh melting but there was only that electric pulse of heat. At least, she had enough power left to be able to withstands those slow burning embers.

“Niko. Why didn’t you just leave me in the park? I would have been less of a bother there” She murmured in a sombre voice as another wave of scalding pain struck her though she was careful to not let it show, merely gritting her teeth for a second or two.

“I want to see the sky. I’m just.. so.. tired” Azura said in a dreamy voice that mirrored a swaying tremor of wind, eyelids flickering for a moment as another rolling cloud of drowsiness tried to settle over her.

 

He waited patiently to hear her voice, yet only received “Not hungry.” Well, how was he supposed to get food into her if she wasn’t going to touch it? He hardly knew what to feed her.. The only times he had seen her with sustenance was water or liquor, no food. So for all he knew she was a vegetarian or something of the sort. Maybe.. Or perhaps she didn’t need to eat because her goddess had blessed her in such a way. Who knows. All he could think of was the loss of plasma the previous day. The woman was surely feeling woozy from all of the blood that had seeped from her. That put the idea in his head of stuffing her full of food to regain the energy that was taken from her. When her fingers brushed against his, he stared at her with a very soft expression that seemed to grow warmer by the minute. It wasn’t a time to blush and be flustered, no. She was hurting and he wanted nothing more than to give her comfort and someone to lean on should she require it. Niko was not aware of most of the sick and weak feeling that was causing her distraught. He only knew of the anguish and possibly guilt that she suffered from. Had he known that she was hurting, he would have offered his healing touch.. But then again, could he even heal something that was falling apart faster than he could put things back together? Her question brought him back to reality. Why had he taken her from the park? It caught him off guard to hear such a question slip from her lips. 

 “I-I.. Azura, you are my friend.. I wasn’t going to just leave you out there to rot. Who knows what the hell is out there looking for you.” He mumbled in deep thought. The vampire was gone.. But there were will others that could and would potentially harm her. Shaking his head, he looked away from her and nervously chewed his lower lip. So, she wanted to go outside. Could she truly handle it?

 “If that is what you wish, then so be it.” He replied quietly, stroking his fingers through her hair one last time before his eyes fixed themselves upon the emerald pools that sat opposite of him. She looked exhausted.. Slowly, he withdrew his hand, then stood up from the bed.

“I think I have an idea that could cheer you up, cherie.. The sun should be setting soon and the stars are just now peeking out of the clouds. Would be a good time for you to get some fresh air.” Yes, being cooped up in a room with your salty tears and heavy emotions was not a pleasant thing. He walked over to one of the closet doors and propped it open, pulling down a few plushy blankets and a couple feathered pillows.

“I don’t suppose you are thirsty since you aren’t hungry, are ya?” A glance was given over his shoulder at her, then he turned around to face her.

“Can you walk.. Or must I carry you outside?”

 

It still felt strange to think on the existence of those that cared, or claimed to care, for her welfare. Azura had spent so long simply battling to survive, relying on no one but herself that she wondered if she would ever actually get used to the idea or be able to accept that not everyone in this world and the next wanted to harm and exploit her for their own twisted means though to be fair, it did seem as if this was the intention of the majority of those she had met so far. She allowed herself to wonder what might have happened if Niko had just left her lying in the cold moist grass. Would that demon have returned to wreak revenge? She suffered no fear or alarm at the idea. In fact, in her current state, she might have even welcomed it, embraced the slash of claws, the snap of razor sharp teeth dripping with saliva. She said nothing, merely offering a nod of acceptance as those faded green eyes started to drift closed yet they returned once more when Niko’s voice pierced the circling fog of her mind.

 “Hm?” The questioning noise was sleepy and the woman now seemed to stare at him as if she wasn’t quite sure what he was talking about, or where she even was in this moment but she wriggled closer to the hand that was stroking its way through her dark bone streaked curls, one arm moving to pull the covers up over one milky shoulder as she became temporarily lost in the violet haze of his gaze. Was she still dreaming? Had Niko invaded her sleep yet again? She wondered drowsily, blinking several times to force the clouds of languor away. -c- She shifted, struggling to a sitting position even though her arms and legs felt as if they had been tied down by stone.

“An idea..” Azura repeated, rubbing at one mossy orb, slowly drawing herself back from the edge of exhaustion. The invitation he posed might normally have elicited a wide grin, an excited gleam to her emerald gaze and although the tiniest of smiles appeared to flicker fleetingly across her face, her enthusiasm seemed deflated. Oh, but she did wish to see the sky, and the stars that hung draped around the silver sphere of the moon. Had she told him that already? Is that why he was offering? Azura seemed conflicted for a moment, glancing at the rumpled covers as if she were about to sink back down into them for it would be so much easier to nestle into their warm and let everything else fade away. Slowly, she nodded. “I would like that Niko. Though I am afraid that the wind might just blow me away” She said softly, watching him carefully as he began gathering pillows and blankets, piling them over one arm before glancing at her over one shoulder. Azura stared at the question, unsure how to answer it for in reality, she was not sure how much strength she had left in those legs of hers but there was at least a small amount of stubbornness left in her.

 “I can walk.. I think” She said, pushing aside the blankets that lay atop her and swinging her body around so that her knees were bent at the edge of the mattress, bare feet hovering lightly over the floor without placing her toes down yet. The clothes she wore were strange, at least to her, a grey singlet and dark high cut shorts that she had somehow managed to kick off during the night, leaving her in just the top and the looped shimmery blue fabric that wound itself around her hips, covering her decency.

Normally, she might have blushed at the amount of tattooed pale skin left bare without a veil of flimsy cloth to protect it from view but she was instead wondering in a distracted, dreamy fashion where it was that Niko had gotten such feminine garments. It struck her all at once, frowning for a moment as she realised she was wearing fabric that once lay flush against the flesh of another. Did it bother him to see her in something that would no doubt trigger memories for him? It was then she noticed the black woolen dress slung over the end of the bed, that same dress he had surprised her with to replace the one he had burnt to nothing more then ash. She reached for it with one shaky hand, clutching it in her lap for a moment before she used the frame of the bed to steady herself as she stood. There was a blinding flash of pain the moment her toes pressed onto wood, nerve endings seemingly lit aflame for a few seconds until it subsided enough for her to drag black wool over her head, pulling the edges of the dress down over her thighs. The steps she took towards him were slow and measured, as if she was walking upon a pond frozen with a thin sheet of ice, wary of the surface cracking and pulling her forcibly into freezing depths. So focused was she on maintaining her balance and composure that it was not until she finally reached Niko did she answer the question she had almost brushed aside

“I don’t suppose you have any whiskey?” She asked, fumbling for his arm and leaning against him slightly, tempted to bury her face in his neck and drift off to sleep once more but instead, she merely clung to his arm, her grip tight as if the world was spinning and he was the thing keeping her from tumbling to the ground.

 

The phoenix was unaware that the woman had such dreams of him. There were a great many things that were unknown to him about the woman. For example, where she came from. The world that she spoke of with vast mountain ranges and her tribe of people dedicated to her water goddess were all a mystery. She never spoke of such information to him. No, she only made him aware of the strictness in her village and the way that men were pretty much just used for mating and procreation. Her voice registered in his mind and a brow arose in question. Blow away in the wind? Was she feeling that weak? It was just emotions.. So she was probably feeling a bit lightheaded from the tears that had been shed and the lack of energy. He nodded slowly and watched as she had tried to sit up, only to slip her legs off the side of the mattress. His violet gaze rested on her feet, then slowly worked their way upwards, eventually landing on the shimmery undergarment. Immediately, his pale features were blurred with a dark fuchsia. It wasn’t a bad sight, not at all.. And it was rather interesting to see his previous lover’s clothing on her, though it did make his heart lurch in ways that he thought to be impossible. She could walk..  

“O-Okay, cool.” He twisted his head back around and faced the closet, not daring to spend another second staring at the bareness of her legs or the silky underwear that covered her womanhood. It was far too inappropriate for him to do so.  

“S-Sorry.. I can leave if you wish for more privacy.” He stammered, lowering his head into the bushel of pillows and blankets that lay in his arms.  

“You d-don’t look half bad in that.. It’s a b-big change compared to those dresses you wear.. Very uh.. M-Modern.” Smiling to himself, he glanced over at the door and wondered if he should just leave her in peace and wait for her on the other side. His ears twitched when hearing the scuffling in her movements, signifying that she was getting dressed. This made that blush worse, burning his cheeks with a bright hue. Now she was stepping towards him. Okay, that should have been enough time for her to prepare herself correctly, right? Making assumptions on his own, he turned around to face her once again. She was wearing the dress he bought her.. As per usual she was beautiful, but he found her even more stunning in that black sweater dress. It hugged her feminine physique very well. From the turtleneck collar that covered her swan-like neck, to the cutouts of her shoulders, straight down to the soft edge that rested on her thigh. She looked normal.. Well, minus those lovely and intricate tattoos, but nowadays those inked artworks were now normal and no one gave funny looks at them unless they were over abundant or even vulgar.  

“Y-You.. Look very um..” He froze, at a complete loss for words. “Perfect..”  Wait.. She was asking for whiskey? This gave him a mini heart attack. Yes.. He had alcohol, lots of it, but he did not want to drink. Well, a single glass wouldn’t hurt, right?  

“Um.. I may have a partial bottle somewhere.. But I also have a few wines and a-” Should he even admit to having stronger drinks?

“Vodka…” he mumbled, looking away from her for a moment, only to be drawn back to her when she clung to his arm. She did know that he had alcohol problems, he had admitted that in one of their first meetings. Blinking, he looked down at their interlocked arms, then back up at her. She was weak.. He could feel it in her touch. 

“Are you alright?” He murmured softly.

 

No, Azura had never spoken to Niko, or anyone else for that matter, of her home in anything more then vague descriptions of its wild and savage beauty. Certainly, she had never dared to bring anyone to visit those steep mountain ranges and glimmering blue pools, still fiercely protective of the secrets that lay buried there, untold power that her people had given their lives to keep hidden from the world but even the sacred waters of Melusina could not reverse the damage inside her. Her veins were dry, leaked of magic and replaced with writhing tendrils that sapped at her strength and weakened her mind. She had not noticed the stammer in his voice, the way he had blushed furiously before turning from her, an attempt to protect her modesty though his words were heard all the same.

“You’ve seen me in far less, haven’t you.” She would have murmured as she reached him, blinking at his compliments and glancing down at the way black wool fit snugly to her figure, wondering what it was about the dress that made the phoenix gape at her, seemingly loss for words. His compliment did elicit a faint dusting of pink along the fine contours of her cheeks as she blinked. –

“Perfect.. I would not go that far though I much prefer it over modern” She said, a tiny if not weak smile appearing at the sight of his own. Fingers fluttered to the high neckline of the dress, tugging at it for a moment for she was unused to such a feature. Leaning into his frame now, her arm still threaded through his, Azura blinked at his answer.

“You do?” She asked, though seconds later recognition dawned over her features and she winced as he began listing the variety of alcohol he had on hand. It was so very difficult to trust her memories in this moment but now, she recalled what Niko had told her about those blind alcohol fuelled rages he had only recently begun to turn from, using natural remedies to alleviate his temper instead.

“Oh. I.. Uh. Well. You know, water will do just fine as well” She said in a low husky voice, frowning at her own idiocy, brows furrowing in concern. His question only deepened the grimace and she was quickly shaking her head from side to side, unable to bare revealing to the phoenix how hollow she felt, how the absence of her magic had left her empty and drained of strength so much so that had he suddenly moved away from her, she would have likely collapsed to the floor.

“I’m okay Niko. It just hurts so much and I’m tired” She whispered softly. It was not a lie. The loss of Zack still burned like a fire that could not be extinguished but there was also those bursts of physical pain that occasionally assaulted her though it seemed as if those moments were growing less and less, replaced by that sleepy haze that threatened to pull her down into a deep chasm of ignorant bliss but she held onto reality. Azura wanted to see the stars. Perhaps then, she could sleep, nestled against the comforting heat of Niko’s frame.

“I can walk” She repeated, pausing to sigh heavily.

“Though I wonder if it will already be morning again by the time I get there” She murmured

 

“I suppose you are right.. But still, it caught me off guard, mon cherie.” He replied faintly, trying to push the image of her in those undergarments out of his head. Don’t be foul nor rude, Nikolas. You are not that kind of guy, you were taught better.

“Well, it is perfect on you. At least in my eyes. Modern or not.” After having told her of the liquors that he had on hand, he gave a quick shake of his head.

“No, no, no.. It won’t bug me. You look like you need a drink at least. Not me.. I can survive.” He frowned, then did his best to force a smile. 

“It might cheer you up a bit.. Could help you sleep better as well.” Carefully, he took a few steps towards the doorway, allowing for brief pauses and breaks in his movement to let the woman take her time as she walked with him, being balanced on his arm. When she shook her head and tried to persuade him that she was okay, he gave her a long hard look before releasing a deep sigh and continued on with the steps, eventually moving out into the hallway that stretched into the main room of the studio.

“I would offer you other things to help ease your mind, but the whiskey may be your best bet, especially if it is something you use anyway.” He directed her towards a couch and would wait for her to slip from his arm so that he may go to the kitchen to rummage through the cabinets for the bottle that she had asked for. Each and every one of the upper cabinets were opened and hands moved to shift each of the bottles that may lay in his way, searching for the amber colored bottle. It wasn’t one that he used very often as of late, but it was well used in previous times. Or at least that specific liquid was used. This bottle however was nearly three quarters full. Ah, there it is! Quickly, he took down the bottle and turned it over a few times in his hands as he read over the label.

“Do you need a glass, or would you prefer to drink it straight from the bottle? I won’t be using it anytime soon, so I don’t mind if you did. Actually, consider it yours, I don’t really need it.” Shrugging, he cracked open the fridge and pulled out a bottle of soda before making his way back over to the couch to assist the woman outside. He readjusted the pillows and blankets against his chest and shuffled the two bottles between them.

 

A faint smile rose, flickering softly. She did like to catch people off guard though she had not intended to in this situation, had not even considered those violet eyes that had tracked over her skin when normally, such looks would have made her blush.

 “Thank you Niko..” She murmured, unable to say much else for that awkwardness was still there beneath the surface of her dazed and weakened exterior.

“If you do not mind..” She added seconds later with a gentle nod. Azura was not much of a drinker herself but at least the whiskey might take the edge of her grief and discomfort. She took a deep inhale of air before he started slowly guiding her from the bedroom into the main section of the house. Since her recollection of entering the studio the night before was hazy at best, Azura now blinked at the small pieces of evidence she had left in her wake from the time before, stained splatters of colour hear and there, the paint stains that he was unable to get rid of though in all honesty, the phoenix had managed to repair most of the damage.

“The whiskey will do though I do wish I had some moon tea left” She whispered through another crackle of pain, grateful for the fact that he was leading her towards a couch onto which she slid, sinking into the cushions like a ragdoll, seemingly breathless from the mere few feet they had crossed. Trying to catch her breath, Azura watched the phoenix has he rummaged through cupboards, considering his next question for a few seconds before she responded. There seemed no better time then to allow herself to indulge in more then a few sips and so she chose to dispense with the offer of a glass.

“The bottle is fine though I really don’t think I could ever drink the whole bottle, it would at least take a long time.. But I am glad you no longer feel you need to drink Niko. The sage must be helping” She said, trying to maintain a façade of normal conversation even when it felt like everything was crumbling around her, and inside of her. She leaned back as she spoke, head pressing into the cushions and those eyes fluttered just for a moment before she was forcing them open. The stars, she reminded herself. As encumbered as Niko was with all those blankets and the two bottles wrapped within, Azura did hate to be even more of a weight on his frame but she was unable to help the way as soon as he offered her his hand, she latched onto it, using him to pull herself up before leaning into him gently.

“I wish I could show you how bright the stars of home are. I wonder if yours are just as bright?” She said in a soft wistful voice that swayed gently as they slipped out into the hallway outside his apartment and towards that strange metallic looking door that had frightened her so upon her first visit. There was a drag in her steps. She had never travelled in one of those moving rooms before and Niko was about to learn that the tiny tribal beside him was scared of at least one thing. Small spaces.

“Niko. Is it safe in there?” Azura asked, tightening her grip on his arm.

 

Ah, yes.. The sage was helping, but the herbs could only do so much for him. There would always be that nagging voice in the back of his mind, telling him to drain his stock of alcohol to fill that wretched hole in his heart.  

“Um.. Yeah, I guess it’s doing its job.” He frowned, awkwardly averting his gaze for a few seconds. She seemed exasperated. Was it from the grief she was feeling or was it something else? She did look sick.. But maybe it was just an aftermath of what had happened, and of course it could have just been from the blood loss she suffered when performing the ritual with Zack. As she accepted his grasp to help her off of the couch, he followed along and walked alongside her, walking through the studio and out the doors into the floor hallway. There was the silvery double doors of the elevator and a door that led to a staircase made of concrete that led both up and down. Well, they stopped at the elevator doors and a glance was given to it, then to the woman. As much as he wanted to give the woman the experience of using it, he shook his head.

“Can’t use it.. It doesn’t go to the roof, cherie. We will have to take the stairs.” He gestured to the door that lay opposite of them in the hall. Could she make the walk on her own? Surely the steps would be a bit too much for her body to handle, or at least her mind. Sharply groomed brows furrowed above the the bridge of his nose and his eyes closed for a handful of seconds before re-opening.

“The elevator is safe, but sadly we must travel by foot.” There would be little warning as he leaned over and tightly wrapped his arms around the woman’s waist, hoisting her against his shoulder in a similar manner to the night in the rain where he tossed her over his shoulder, only, this time was in a more gentle manner.+His arms rested around the meaty part of her thighs and his grip was fairly loose, allowing for her to move around or even sit against him when he had straightened his posture. The pillows and other things were somehow managed in his grasp with the woman being an addition to these things. Yep, he did expect to be smacked or kicked or something, but he did not care. She was drained and he wasn’t going to let the woman tackle those steps just in an effort to get outside.

His movement would be slow at first, but eventually they found themselves inside of that concrete stairwell, making their way upwards to reach the door that would open and reveal the smoothed rooftop of the building. A deep gust of air filled his lungs. Such a fresh and clean smell compared to being cooped up in his home which was heavily laden with sage, peppermint, lavender, and various other herbs. Finally, he took those last few strides and came upon the middle of the roof, where he carefully knelt down and released the woman. Bending his knees, he balanced on the balls of his feet and began to lay out the pillows and blankets, making sure that the woman was going to be super comfortable since she was out of the safety of the bedroom.

 A quick glance was given to the night sky, studying the different shades of purples and reds as they came to a close to mix with the ruthless black and blue. It never ceased to amaze him how beautiful the sky was, but perhaps that was just the phoenix blood in him. The sky always had a place in his heart, making him long to fly through the breeze and feel his wings stretch out with freedom.

 

Azura almost breathed a sigh of relief at his response for she was quite petrified of being trapped in such an enclosed space. It was a temporary respite from her anxiety though. Stairs. At the discovery that they would need to take a more laborious route, she chewed on her bottom lip nervously, wondering if she would be able to make such a journey when already, she was out of breath. It was disconcerting to her that she need worry about such a thing since climbing was a natural skill of hers, a childhood spent scaling mountaintops. She had never had to worry about sickness before since her body seemed immune to most illnesses, an effect of the healing element to her blood.

“I’m not sure..” She started to say in a voice laced with disappointment and uncertainty before her words died in her throat, replaced by a small gasp of surprise as the phoenix curled his arms around her waist before lifting her, without permission, to rest against his shoulder, her small stature allowing him to complete the feat with ease.  Niko was right to brace himself for an animated protest, correct in assuming Azura’s natural instinct might have been to growl and thrash in an attempt to free herself from his grip and maintain her own independence. However, it would come as a great surprise that she did none of these things. Instead, she gave an almost grateful sigh and looped her arms around his neck. Even the grasp he maintained on her pale thighs did not seem to disturb her, only a fine powdered pink dusted along her cheeks as she re-positioned herself so that she could press her features into the hollow of his neck though she was careful not to disturb the items he now juggled along with her.

She was quiet as they ascended concrete stairs, the echo of Niko’s footsteps and the gentle murmur of her breathing the only sounds to be heard, and in truth, the sway of movement had begun to rock her back into sleep though it was more likely she floated in that cloud that often swarms ones mind in those moments right before dreams take hold. The creak of a door opening and a cold night breeze pushed her back from that brink. She rocked with the wind as Niko placed her back on the soles of her feet, watching him for a moment as he rearranged pillows and blankets before her misty gaze drifted, tilting towards the sky. In that moment, it did seem as though the colour of her eyes brightened for the beauty spread out above her was breathtaking. Shades of violet and crimson fading into inky black and blue.

The sun had sunk below the high tops of buildings and with tentative small steps, Azura moved closer towards the edge of the roof in order to glimpse the city spread out below, glimmering and burning with flickering bulbs of gold light, the artificial glow captivating and unlike anything she had seen before, the sight increasing in radiance as the shadows of night closed in and more switches were flipped to provide illumination to those that moved beneath. The effect was made all the more dazzling as the light reflected and flickered along the surface of the large port that bordered the city’s edge. And beyond it, she could glimpse the ocean, stretching as far as the eye could see, endless miles of rippling black for the absence of the sun bleached away any remnants of colour from its depths. She longed to dive and submerge herself, to float amongst the burning gold smudges of lamplight, to drift while viewing the silver brilliance of the stars but it was too far, and she was too tired.

“Its beautiful Niko” She said softly, breathless this time out of awe, moving backwards as she spoke before turning to see the nest the phoenix had crafted out of linen. A tired smile came and though she was worried that she might doze off if she settled into the warmth he had created, Azura slowly lowered herself carefully on to the blankets, repressing a small shiver as a sudden gust whipped her black and white mane from side to side.

“You didn’t have to carry me or go to this much trouble, but I am glad you did anyway. I would have hated to have missed this” She said, one hand reaching for his to pull him down beside her as her features lifted once more to find the sky, a look of anticipation creeping over her face as she waited for the first speck of silver starlight to appear.

 

“It truly is.. I only get to enjoy the view every once in awhile.” He replied with a small smile. “I never seem to have enough time to relax.. Or well, my head likes to think that I have no time. Always have to be on the run.” When her hand rested on him to guide him to the blanket, he willingly followed along and sank down beside her.

“I well.. You seem weak.” His eyes widened as soon as that observation left his lips.

“N-Not weak like weak weak.. But uh weak as in your condition.. You just seem down.” Frowning, he looked away from her and rolled his eyes at himself for the awful choice of words. He scooted a bit closer to her and pulled his knees to his chest, then reached over and pushed the pillows towards her. The bottles were set just a few feet behind them, but he wasn’t in the mood to see the amber liquor bottle staring at him if he were to turn and grab the soda. Nope, he was perfectly content for now to just stare off at the dying sunset. It just hit him that the city landscape was probably a big change to the savage woman. She was always out in the forest or lagoon.. Occasionally in the tavern, but still. These large and decorated buildings were very different compared to the usual crowded structures of trees and greenery. Violet eyes went skyward, searching through the hazy clouds and warm tones to seek out any of the silvery glimmers that would soon be decorating the darkened sky.

“On that note.. How are you feeling?” He glanced over at her for a few seconds then resumed the search for stars.

“You didn’t eat very much.. Sorry if it wasn’t something you liked. I can always cook other things. Just figured soup may be a bit easier to get down, plus it is warm and sorta comforting.

 

As soon as he was seated comfortably beside her, her hand freed itself from his grip and moved to tug at one of the blankets, hoisting it up over her exposed and rune decorated thighs, legs crossing as she did so. Her gaze remained tilted towards the sky as he spoke, fixated on the changing colours, nodding along to his thickly accented voice. However, Azura wondered why the people of this world always seemed too busy to pause and appreciate the true wonders of what lay around them. Her life had always revolved around such beauty, collecting pretty river rocks and patterned leaves, waking before the sun to watch its golden ascent, frolicking beneath moonlight. Had she been raised in an urban jungle, a city of concrete and electric glow, she might have understood the comment.

The green of her eyes bounced to his face as he began to stammer, a shadow of sadness draping itself over the faded mossy surface yet the feeling of grief had begun to fade along with her pain. There was little of that anymore. She felt as if she was made of smoke, slightly numb and disconnected, a moment away from evaporating. Cold and tired. But as the sky darkened, her eyes brightened and she felt a rumble of muted excitement for the stars that would soon appear. Azura did not even flinch from the way he scooted closer, the wave of warmth his frame provided comforting, keeping her awake and tethered to the world. She waited patiently for his words to draw to a close before she made a reply, watching the way violet pools darted between her and the wait for silver light

“The food was fine Niko. I just.. I can’t eat. I do feel strange. It is hard to describe. I have known grief before but it has never felt like this. But it’s not just the guilt and despair over losing Zack but..” She hesitated, unsure if she should try to explain the sickness that plagued her. It would only deep the worry etched in his amethyst gaze, echoing in his voice.

 “I guess I am just tired.” She finished weakly. Azura wriggled a few inches closer, green orbs focused on his face for a second before they too raced to join his in expectation. The sky was plunged with shadow, a purple haze blotched along its surface. A ghostly outline of the moon had begun to appear as the last of the sun’s amber rays sunk into the city skyline and there, glistening in charcoal coloured depths was a glimmer of silver, soon to be joined by countless more, constellations taking shape before their vision. She held her tongue, allowing an almost reverent silence to take hold, the blanket falling away as she too brought her knees to her chest, hugging them tightly as she stared. She turned a few seconds later, eyes gleaming with a spark that burned softly beneath those shadows.

“I feel a tiny bit better already” She said with a gentle if not fragile smile that she hoped would reassure the phoenix, and herself. Slowly, her head was cautiously finding its way to resting against his shoulder as she closed the gap between them.

“Will you tell me a story, Niko? Perhaps one about a certain bird that can rise again from ashes?” She asked with in a dreamy voice.

 

Niko was a bit oblivious to the chilly breeze, even moreso of it affecting the woman beside him, but then again had he not brought her the blankets and pillows to use should she need them? So, she couldn’t eat.. It was probably just a part of the mourning process. It had only been a day or two since the passing of the demon. Or well, the host of the demon. As she went on to explain even further as to how she felt, a finely groomed brow rose up and his eyes darted back to hers to search for whatever was hidden beneath those words.  

“I never told you.. But I-I am sorry for what happened.. I didn’t realize how close you two actually were.” He frowned and looked away, refocusing back on the sky above. The sky was always soothing to him, but admiring it from the ground was a bit too boring. He would have much rather enjoyed the feeling of the air sifting through his feathers as he flapped his wings across it to an unknown destination. It was hard for a bird to be on the ground.. His eyes glimmered with the light of the rising moon as he mapped out the stars, tracing the poka-dots to piece together each of the familiar constellations. Feeling the blanket being pulled, he glanced over at Azura and smiled lightly when she spoke of feeling better.

“I am glad, cherie. Sometimes a little fresh air can’t hurt.” The pressure of her head suddenly appearing on his shoulder was pleasant, but did bring quite a shocked expression of wide eyes and a touch of redness in his pale flesh, which looked exceptionally well against the solid black outfit that he wore. She was so cute.. So sweet, yet not. Personality wise, he wasn’t sure if she could necessarily be called sweet. No, it was more like the innocence and naivety that was sweet. A story.. About phoenixes? What could he tell her that he hadn’t already done? Well, there were a few ideas that came to mind, but he wasn’t too sure what to actually spill to her. “A story.. Alright, I think I can do that.” A faint smile was given and he closed his eyes, taking in a deep breath before exhaling it back out. Where to start..

“Well, I suppose just as any phoenix story this one starts with an egg.. Born out of the ash of a dying flame. Blessed by the gods to do great things, yet having no clue as to what its purpose was. This young bird went by no name, sought out no name.. It simply just was itself. Not needing a title since it was no one at the time or at least thought to be no one.” His words were quiet as he stared skyward.

“This bird found its strengths. Of course flying and healing were of the important and most obvious things. But, the bird in all of its solitary grew lonely and sought out the comfort of others. Yet, it searched with no prevail as phoenixes are quite rare. So, instead of abiding by its natural gifts and the blessings from the gods, it found a new power. It could blend in with those around it and live a normal day to day life where it was not lonely. Many trials and tribulations happened, testing this young phoenix and the way it chose to live. Ignoring its powers to seek out the happiness that it thought it desired in life. It had friends, ones that the gods above didn’t care for. And in these acts, they cursed the poor bird. Leaving it cursing it and stranding it in its natural form. The bird hated itself… Loving and mourning over the life that was taken from it. But, there was a certain friend of it that was starting to find out what it truly was.. And tried her best to help it find out who it truly was. Yet, in all of its pain, it ignored the woman’s words and drove itself into self loathing.. Hating every inch of its being. It wanted something normal, but a normal life was impossible for it. Sad really.. You’d think that the phoenix would learn to love what it was. To learn how to help others with its powers, but it was a very selfish creature. Only ever seeking out what it truly desired, hurting those around it.” Frowning, he opened his eyes and glanced down at her. The story wasn’t quite finished, but he’d allow her to get her thoughts in.

It surprised her to hear the phoenix say he was sorry for what had happened to Zack for moments before she had intercepted the two that night in the park, it looked as if the males were about to tear each other to shreds. Certainly, there was a rage burning in Niko’s violet gaze that had frightened her, that blinding inferno of purple flames shooting towards silver hair and blue eyes. Azura mulled over his words for a moment, keeping her head tilted against the warmth of his shoulder. In truth, she had spent far more time with the phoenix then she had with the demon, had shared more of her past and culture with him as he had with her. She trusted Niko, had realised that the night she had allowed the stroke of his brush to paint her bare skin with colour. Yet the trip to Hell with Zack had deepened the connection she felt to him as well, glimpsing his place of solitude, the eloquent words he had shared, and the vow he had made. Perhaps her grief was so great because of that promise which had come after she had revealed the way the phoenix made her feel, gushing about her confusion, her culture. She had expected frustration and irritation only for him to assure her he would stand by her side no matter which direction her heart lead. It had been a welcome ease to the pressure she felt weighed down by, to know that she would not be abandoned and lose another person she cared for. It was true that the burn she had suffered in his company had tested and made her question the newly built bond but then, she watched him drown in her magic. The guilt of his sacrifice to save her sharpening the loss.

Her lips parted to explain but the thoughts were already slipping away like clouds, impossible to grasp in her fingers. Besides, his voice continued and she was anxious to hear the smooth timber of his voice paint a picture of words, a story beneath the stars all she wished to focus on in this moment, pushing memories of hellfire and demons aside. It was strange and perhaps only wishful thinking. But it seemed as if the longer she spent beneath the glimmering light of the stars and the ghostly sphere of the moon, Azura could feel a flicker of magic stirring in her veins which had previously felt so dead and vacant. There was a faint hum in her bones, intensifying with each second, and the silver streaks that danced along her blue tinted skin coating the two in an eerie pallor.  She withheld her gasp, the surge of hope that perhaps all was not lost and she just needed time to recover, to reconnect with her powers. She lifted her head for a moment, a pleased smile flashed towards him and brought on by both her secret discovery and the fact that he agreed to her request. Her features sank back into his shoulder with an excited sigh, eyes closing as he inhaled, allowing her to focus on envisioning the images brought on by the rasp of his accent.

Her veins sang and whispered with stardust as she pictured an eruption of luminous violet flames, tendrils dancing and licking the smooth polished edges of a perfectly round egg, embers dying slowly to reveal more and more of its shining surface. It was the sudden flare of heat and power swelling through her limbs that had her green orbs snapping open suddenly, her gaze locking onto the sky through which the stars had begun to shift, a constellation of light breaking apart just as they had the night in the forest when they seemed linked to a thin string tied around her fingers. Slowly, they blinked, creeping with sluggish speed as they drifted, seemingly trying to form the picture that she had created in her mind. Azura glanced at Niko, but those violet pools were still shuttered shut or at least, he had not noticed the gradual change.

Her brows furrowed for a second in concentration, already eager to see the wonder and amazement in amethyst orbs once Niko realised the stars were taking shape to follow his words, like illustrations in a story book. The small tribal might struggle to describe or understand how she felt in his company but perhaps rearranging the very constellations might explain better then she could? She hid a smile, head still resting on his shoulder as her fingers traced along her thigh, blankets rumpled and thrown aside now. A silver glow dripped from the curved points and above, specks of light collided to form flames, an egg. The concentration that such a task required pained her in such a weakened state and yet she gritted her teeth, pouring what little energy she had left into her resolve to see him smile with awe.

The story he told made her heart race, lunging as she watched that shell crack, a magnificent bird gleaming in starlight above them, wings spread, plumes decorated with fire as it dipped and soared. In the next moment, her heart plunged with sadness as she imagined the loneliness of the life he described. Azura frowned despite the phoenix constellation drawn in the sky, glimmering above, features no doubt resembling that of the man beside her for she had already begun to guess the tale he told was based around his own life and experiences. But did that make her this ignored friend? Did that mean he would inevitably turn to darkness and self-hatred in the end, hurting himself and her? Her head lifted from the groove of his neck now as he paused, green eyes searching for his as did her hand, fingers fluttering to lace themselves between his own.

“It is sad. Especially since very little is impossible in this world. I’ve learned that myself Niko.” She whispered meaningfully.

“Please tell me it has a happy ending? That he listens to the words of his friend?” She added softly.

 

Eventually during the story telling, his eyes had found themselves glued to the sky above and his mouth gaped in awe. What was happening.. The stars, they were moving. Were those airplanes? No, they couldn’t be. They were too far up in the sky, not a part of this atmosphere to be an airplane. Blinking, he had to skim his eyes over the forms several times, but was astounded when those shapes moved and danced as if in tune with the story that he had just told seconds earlier. Slowly, he leaned his head against hers and just enjoyed the view for a moment, watching as the stars partook in the shape of the phoenix being described in the story. How strange was it for him to admire such a creature despite being one himself. He never truly got to get a good look at himself. Nope. It would be hard for a phoenix to get close enough to any sort of reflection whether it be water or even a simple mirror. Just didn’t happen very often so he was pretty clueless about how he appeared aside from the occasional picture of his avian form on the news.. But that was all in the past. When he felt her move her head from his shoulder, he frowned and sat back a little to watch her, but instantly blushed when her fingers intertwined with his.   

“Impossible.. There is a lot of impossible things in this world, Azura.” No , not necessarily just Earth. He meant in general there were many impossibilities. Nothing was perfect.. So there would always be issues. Ignoring her next question, he averted his eyes and chewed his lower lip, playing with the single piercing that marred his flesh with his tongue. He wasn’t ready to explain if it were a happy ending or not.

“Did you do that to the stars?” It was a whisper as it fell from him since it sounded absolutely ridiculous, but he didn’t know any other that the stars would do such a thing without the help of the gods or some divine entity. His galaxy eyes were brought back up to meet those emerald gems that sat opposite of him and he found himself lost staring into those depths.

“It doesn’t have an ending.. Hasn’t gone that far yet..”  His lips curled into a faint but shy smile and he crept closer to her, bridging the small gap between them. The hand that was in hers would clench and tug her towards him while his open hand had freed itself from his knees to reach for the woman’s jawline where it snaked itself behind her ear to entangle itself in those curly waves of ivory and ebony.

Without hesitation, he leaned in and met his lips against hers, unable to hold back the longing he felt for her. Sure.. He did not ask, just as he had promised to do any other time, but this felt so natural. To have her in his grip and to sit there beneath those stars with a smile plastered on his face. Was it right for him to feel happy? Surely it wasn’t, but gods it felt so fucking good to smile. Heavy lashes fluttered shut and he pressed his forehead against hers in the kiss, pulling her head closer to him by gently coaxing her with the hand in her hair. After a few seconds he had realized that this may have been far too fast and possibly even unwanted. Had she not lost the man that she was also somewhat attracted to? Rather abruptly, he cracked his lips from hers and immediately sat back, staring at the space between them before looking up to meet those eyes that he knew all too well would be furious with what he had done.

“I-I’m sorry, Azura.. I didn’t.. W-Wasn’t thinking. I know you just.. Fuck.” Those words came out of him in a stammer and his head lowered for a moment, but soon shot up when he realized that he was still holding + onto her hair and her hand.

 

Azura was watching the features of his face ever so carefully though the majority of her focus remained on keeping those glimmering stars as they danced, grinding her teeth against waves of disorientation that pricked at the edges of her concentration. Beads of perspiration had begun to appear atop her forehead yet with the flush of sudden stardust in her veins, they merely melted into her skin before they could roll. Splayed fingers were closing into a fist to disguise the tremor that passed through her hands though it would be felt as one was now clasped within his. Above them, through those inky shadows of night, the starry phoenix beat its wings, drifting as if it moved in time with the rhythm of the wind. The awe and shock she glimpsed in wide grey speckled purple pools was reward enough, the way his jaw dropped open causing a large smile to appear and float across the contours of her face as she watched his admiration and fascination bloom, pleased by the way she was able to alter his perception and expose him to the beauty in which she viewed his phoenix form, so graceful and spectacular in her eyes. Her head shook firmly from side to side at his answer to her words, that playful smile still in place as a waning spark of mischief flashed in her gaze.

 “Impossible.. like moving the stars?” She breathed, the slanted smirk of victory she wore likely answer enough to his whispered, incredulous question though if not, the nod that came after would confirm his suspicions. Yet, Azura’s control on that scrap of power was already fading just as quickly as it arrived, the smile wilting inch by inch and with a whoosh of air, the stars suddenly crumpled and fell into a misaligned mess, pulsing silver bulbs slowly being dragged back to their original places with dizzying speed. And as the shape of that radiant phoenix fell apart, it felt as if she might be too.

A soft grunt left her, the result of feeling as if she had been struck by an invisible force which slowly dragged away her strength. A heavy cold wave had begun to seep over her as the last pulse of warmth in her veins seemed to wither and die, leaving her empty and deflated, without an inch of energy to hold onto, kept afloat merely by the heat of Niko’s hand which helped steady her from collapsing. However, she wasn’t sure if she could hold out for much longer for each breath now felt laboured, her lungs seemingly filling with liquid that choked the air from her body and made it difficult to draw new gulps in. Unbeknownst to both to them, the show of beauty and power had drained the very last cell of magic from her soul and yet had Azura known this, she still would have repeated the fatal mistake in order to see the wonder in his gaze. His words sounded far away and she leaned in closer to make them out, his face starting to blur as her vision doubled.

Despite the way she felt as if she was drowning, she blushed at the hidden meaning in the comment he offered, the urge to prod and pry further into that unfinished ending and what he meant by the unfinished remark jabbing at her yet it was difficult to shake her voice loose from her throat. She could only offer an embarrassed and awkwardly strained smile which froze in place as he tugged at the hand he held, scooting even closer. Green eyes stared in surprise, widening in alarm and shock, a gasp brought on by the tingles of warmth that flowed from the tips of his fingers as they met with her jawline and gently traced their way along the length of her skin, caressing her face before burying themselves into tangled coils of black and white.

 “Niko..” The word was all she managed before her voice was cut off by lips crashing into hers and sending a sudden jolt of electric heat into her that was temporarily chasing away that cold rush of exhaustion, reawakening her senses abruptly as if she had suddenly been struck by lightning, a surge of adrenaline coursing through her limbs that made her heart race so fast it felt as if it might shatter in her chest. Her breath was stolen by more than just the sickness inside her now and as he coaxed her face closer, guiding it with that firm grip above her ear, Azura felt herself practically melting into him.

His kiss was tender and soft yet passionate and swift like swirling volcano, intoxicating and unlike anything she had ever experienced before, completely unlike the embrace Amnus had once forced upon her. Azura froze for a second, the burn of his forehead pressed against her own not the only thing making her skin flush in tones of red and pink, eyes closing as the hand nestled within his twitched and freed itself to flutter tentatively along his arm as if aiming to push him away and yet she could find no resolve to do so. The moment seemed to last an eternity though really it was nothing more than a few seconds before he dramatically pulled from her though those fingers remained wrapped in the wild tangles of her mane.

Her eyes were still pressed shut but as those sparks faded from her, the icy prick of darkness quickly moving to replace the exhilarating simmer of embers, the green of those pools emerged once more. Azura stared, seemingly speechless. Her jaw dangling as she teetered between the rush of his touch and the swell of frightening numbness, watching the way he began to panic and stammer, apologize for the bold impulse. She wanted to be angry, to frown and snarl for that was her instinct but she could do none of those things, too amazed and intrigued by the desire she felt left simmering, unquenched, the way she instantly felt cold and drained without his touch. Their faces were still so close, his thumb pressed above her ear, rustling dark ivory streaked strands. It was an unconscious choice, one she barely thought about, an impulse acted upon even as he continued to try and explain his actions and yet he would not get far for those frantic words were hardly given time to settle before Azura leaned forward to abruptly interrupt his speech, her movement sudden and quick before she could change her mind as she awkwardly threw her arms around his neck and pressed her lips into his, the kiss she flung slightly clumsy and inexperienced.

 

The tiniest of glances was given to her, raising his vision to meet hers. Oh shit.. He messed up big time. It was obvious by the way the woman had pressed her hand to his arm and was now staring at him with her mouth gaped open like that. Another apology was about to fall from him, but was abruptly interrupted by her lips and her arms anchoring themselves around his neck. His eyes widened in shock. She had kissed him back.. Out of freewill! So she hadn’t /hated/ his touch. Well, that was reassuring, but could she still feel what he did for her? Not that he truly wanted to be back in the horrible circle of love again. Heartbreak was all it brought.. Did his fiance not die in his arms? But this was different, right? Azura was different. She could handle the heat of his flames, or at least be able to until he could regain control should his emotions take over and cause a flare up. It took a few seconds before he allowed himself to close his eyes and lean into the kiss. 

 The fingers woven in her hair would curl and release, only to curl up again, almost in a stroking fashion. Since her hand had escaped from his he reached up and laced it through her hair as well, keeping her in place. No, he wouldn’t allow for them to get too far with this act. The woman was still new to these touches and forms of endearment.. So, he would do his best to keep this situation under control. He had to admit that her touch was quite exhilarating. It felt so natural, yet so foreign at the same time. How strange.. It was as if there was something trying to split them apart. They were quite different in every way. Aside from their stubbornness. Well, was he stubborn? Or something else? Eh, he wasn’t really sure what to call it, but all he knew as of now was that he was definitely enjoying this kiss. A soft wave of heat fell from his lips as they cracked away from hers, still hovering just a few centimetres from her to relish in this moment. It was lovely.. Soft and sweet.. The taste of her was like a drizzle of golden honey fresh from the hive. Gods it was so good. His patience had paid off.. Yet, it did dawn on him that her actions just could of been in the heat of the moment or even because of the emotional flurry that she was caught up in. It was wrong to kiss her after the death of her beloved demon.. But.. It felt so right. Couldn’t he at least have this? Carefully, he tilted his head against hers once again and sat back against her arms so that he could lightly nuzzled his nose against her own.

“T-That was.. Unexpected, mon cherie.” He murmured, opening his eyes to stare at her even if those emerald pools were hidden from his sight. He wanted to express how it felt to him, but wasn’t sure if it was stepping out of line too much because just stealing a kiss from her was far too risky for his taste. But then again it happened..

“That was.. You were.. Amazing.” His pale features lit up with a wide array of warm tones.

 

It was electric. His kiss, his touch. Tremors of heat rippling through her. For those dying cells, the sudden shock worked to reanimate her strength, poured new life into her veins. But such a thing was only temporary, could only prolong the inevitable for so long. Azura knew none of this. Driven instead by the way his touch chased away those cold and suffocating shadows, distracted her from her grief and triggered feelings in her that she had never even known existed. Her heart thudded, racing wildly, its beat only skidding further out of control as both of his hands found their way into her messy two toned waves, pulling her face closer and keeping it locked in place. As he began pushing back against the awkward kiss, her movements were uncertain and clumsy though slowly, she melted into the rhythm of his lips.

Panic, fear and disbelief at her own boldness lingered but it was felt at a distance, beneath the exhilarating rush of butterflies, the dizzying swirl circling like fog, the desperation to hold onto that heat and the way it filled her limbs with pulsing energy. It was strange, to have feared and avoided something for so long only to now throw herself willingly into it with little concern other than the intoxicating taste of his mouth moving against hers. Azura could never have imagined the thing she had actively pushed away could feel so.. Was there even a word to describe it? Her brain was swimming, making it difficult to think. She had always been intrigued by the spark that existed between them, that sudden surge of energy that flowed between their skin the moment contact was made but now, it intensified in disorienting volumes, forcing her to hold on tightly, fingers curling into his neck gently.

She realised abruptly how terrified she was to lose the few people she had left in this world, the loss of silver hair and eyes still waiting to overcome her. Would she eventually lose the phoenix too? What about Cu? Eve? Little Em? She tried to remind herself that Niko was in many ways, immortal. He could rise again and again from the ashes of death. But that did not mean she wished to see him suffer, unable to bare the idea of it. Azura was unsure she would be able to pull away, fearful of what might come next though she lacked the understanding of why she felt that way, a sixth sense of foreboding pressing at her and making her desperate to hold on to the moment. But all things had to end. And soon, she felt his lips being dragged away, his voice whispering in thudding ears, his nose rubbing against hers.

Her eyes snapped open, wide and alarmed, staring into violet starry pools though with each second the light within those emerald depths was darkening. She felt none of his touches, his words sucked away almost as soon as they left his mouth for that wave was waiting and the very second cold air washed over her features, it collapsed atop her with such weight that Azura gasped, her grip around his neck loosening, slackening until it fell apart. Her hands moved to his forearms, balancing herself as she fell forward, slumping against the hands that were still buried in her hair. Her breath came shallow and ragged now as she struggled to draw air into lungs that felt as if they were slowly filling with seeping ice.

“Niko.. I need.. to lie.. down..” She whispered.

“I feel.. strange” She panted, resting her forehead against his. Her skin was like ice, what little warmth she possessed evaporating as if it never existed to begin with.

The touch was changing. She was slipping downwards in his grip, lowering her head against his own for the time being. Or.. Was it to balance herself? Was it crazy to think that she felt very weak to the touch? Even looking weak in appearance. But her skin.. It was as cold as ice.

“Azura..” He frowned, staring across the bridge of his nose at her. What was wrong with her? She said she felt strange.. Was she really sick then? Or was it just an overwhelming amount of grief due to the demon’s death happening only to be kissed? Nikolas was very confused, but took in a deep breath and tried his best to relax. Carefully, he slid his hands from her hair to rest on her shoulders, then underneath each of her arms to draw her closer to him, shifting her to allow her head to lower and lean against his shoulder.

“Do you want to lay here or do you want me to bring you back inside? I know the bed would probably be more comfortable for you to get some rest.. The rooftop is sorta rough.” He lightly chuckled.

Repositioning his arms around her, he placed each of his hands on the opposite shoulder of hers and gently rubbed her as if to rid her of whatever illness or emotion she was feeling. He leaned his head against hers and placed a delicate kiss in those wild tangles of ivory and ebony to try and comfort her. The senses were finally hitting him. She was indeed very weak. How had he not noticed this earlier? Just the touch of his skin against her own was enough to make him aware of whatever darkness was plaguing her. Such a sticky and nasty feeling.. Could it be healed? Was it just a common cold or was this something else? Wait.. No, if it were a cold or even sick she’d be running a temperature. What the hell was it then? Maybe a lack of energy. That had to be it. She didn’t eat very much food and she had lost quite a lot of blood. So, that could be it and be why she was so tired and faint feeling.

“Maybe if we get some food into you, you may feel better.. If you need anything, just let me know, mademoiselle.. I can always run and get you something if I don’t have it on hand.” He murmured against her hair, closing his eyes so that he could inhale the earthy scent that was naturally stuck in her hair

 

As he pulled her forwards to rest against him, he would notice how light the woman felt in this moment, barely there. Her vision had already begun to blur, a soft ringing in her ears that made his words drift away even before they left his lips. She groaned, murmuring lightly as her head settled against his shoulder. Mossy eyes were fluttering, closing for a moment only to force themselves open seconds later like someone trying desperately to fight tide of sleep. Azura tried to focus on his voice, the thick accent that she had grown so fond of, the delicate way he shaped words making her dream of faraway places and northern skies, cities painted in gold, buildings as tall as mountains. She shook her head, her chest heaving with the effort of maintaining breath, hands falling limp to her lap as she leaned against him. She heard his laughter, the chuckle soft and soothing. The sound of it made a small smile appear though she did possess the strength to keep it in place.

“Just.. need to .. rest” She gasped, a strange rattling sound following her words and seconds later, her head slipped from his shoulder to find its way to the comfort of his lap, unable to keep herself upright even with the support his arms provided. She was so cold, shivering violently as that terrifying wave of frost started to climb though with it came a calming numbing that was almost peaceful if not for the way it had become so hard to breathe. Fear pooled in her gaze, the surface of those orbs growing misty as she blinked up at a blanket of stars though it was Niko’s amethyst eyes she found herself being drawn to, focusing on the dancing shards of grey and sapphire.

“Something is wrong.. My magic.. I was scared to tell you.” She whispered softly, pouring all her remaining energy into forcing her arm into movement and after failing several times, she managed to finally lift her hand towards his face. The tips of her fingertips shakily brushed against his pale cheek before finding their way to gently stroke back a few dark strands. The gesture was slow and laborious, the limb dropping seconds later to drape itself against her stomach. Those green eyes were starting to fill with frightened tears, shimmery droplets spilling over her cheeks yet the fluid was stained with black oily streaks that cut lines down her pallid skin, flesh tinted blue.

“I’m cold Niko. I.. I want to go back to ..the mountains” She croaked, panic able to be heard in the voice that was growing softer with each stammered word, eyelids flickering. It was odd. Azura had spent her entire life pining for adventure, for the unknown, for the outside world. She had rebelled against and questioned the rules that were enforced on her, always dreaming of places beyond the boundaries of her existence. But now? All the wild tribal wanted was to go home. To lay beneath a sky that wasn’t foreign, to be rocked to sleep by the sounds of her childhood- the baying of wolves, the gurgle of water of rock, the rustle of flames trees swaying in the wind.

“Can you take me home?.. Please” She breathed, her voice no more than a tiny weak whisper though there was a pleading almost childish tone to be heard. She was trying so hard to keep her vision focused on the purple glint of his gaze but with those last words, the light in Azura’s eyes faded completely, glistening teary orbs falling shut as her head slumped to one side, her hand tumbling to trail against concrete as her breathing came a jarring stop, shakes subsiding as her body came to rest in stillness, motionless except for the way the breeze sent stray curls of black and white rippling over her pale face, the silver light of the moon bathing her in an eerie halo of illumination. And just like that, Azura was gone and with her, an entire culture. The last of the Akaari was dead.

Again, she spoke of needing to find rest. This was starting to get a bit unnerving. He should probably get going and put her back in bed. There was no telling if she was truly sick or not, but he could definitely feel it on her flesh and see it from the way that she was acting. His head tilted in concern when the shakiness of her voice hit his ears. What was that? Could it have been pneumonia? That was a fair reason for her to be acting the way that she was.  Shit… When she had fallen against his lap and started struggling to hold herself up against him, he immediately reached for her arms to help stabilize her. His violet gaze stayed locked with hers, taking in every detail of those emerald orbs, searching for what was hidden beneath their surface from him. Something was wrong? So he was partially right… But her magic? What was wrong and why the hell was she scared to tell him?  

“Azura.. Why are you scared?” He frowned, concern written all over his face. “What is wrong with your magic? You are acting strange…” The stretching of her fingers towards his face brought out a look of terror as he questioned why she was suddenly so emotional and touchy feely. What the fuck was going on?

“Azura…” He whispered, but found himself freezing in shock when those streaks of black slid down her pale skin. No… Gods no… Was that the blood, the damn demon’s blood? It was over… It was supposed to be fucking over and she was back to normal. His heart sank upon realizing what was truly happening beneath her flesh. Just like Zack… No, this can’t be happening. She wanted to go to her mountains… Where the fuck was that? He seemed to get lost in those green gems, frantically trying to piece together any information that she had shed with him. Nothing. Absolutely nothing was revealed to him about her world nor the area from which she and her tribe had reigned.

“W-Where are your mountains.. Cherie, where am I supposed to find these m-mountains??” Those words were choked, almost hysterical in a way from the incoming stress that was now burning beneath his skin. Her words were killing him. Bring her home? How was he supposed to do that?

“W-Where is your home, Azura? I can’t help you if you don’t allow me to..  I-I am useless to your words… To your wants…” His voice grew very hoarse, rasping his tongue in that native accent. The suddenness in the way her body had stopped shaking made his skin crawl.

 “A-Azura…” He whispered reaching up to try and catch the last bit of the touch her fingers brought before her hand was sliding away to the ground.

“No… N-No… Azura, you can’t…”

Boiling tears festered in their respective ducts, soon flooding over and breaking the strict dam that he had forged so well. Quickly, he pulled her up from his lap and struggled to hold her against his chest, pushing her head back to his shoulder where it had rested only moments ago.

 She was limp… And cold… Lifeless…

“Please don’t…” His fingers brushed against her neck, pressing into her flesh for a few seconds only to pull away in shock. No pulse… That couldn’t be.

“F-Fuck… Azura, w-wake up… Please wake up, goddamnit!”

He sobbed, leaning his head against hers, yet ended up burying his face in her wild mane of hair to try and keep his tears at bay. She was gone… Dead… It was just now registering in his head as to what had just happened. Her body had been drained of its magic, of course it was the demon’s fault in every fucking way, but as of now it wasn’t his problem since the demon was dead. But… His friend… His beloved Azura was -… Don’t think about it, Niko. You can’t travel down this path again. No, not this shit again.

“P-Please… Please w-wake up.” His words were slurred by his lack of breath and the constant stream of tears mixed with the ungodly amount of saliva that drowned his tongue in its midst.

 “Y-You can’t g-go… Please…” Black lashes clenched shut, hiding those violet orbs from sight. The tears would slide down to meet the woman’s neck, cheek, and possibly the open patch of skin on her shoulder. Oh… His tears… They could heal her, right? Phoenix tears were an extremely potent tonic. A miracle potion if you will.  With that thought, he nuzzled against her, forcing those tears onto her flesh to try and force his magical abilities upon her. He rubbed all of those salty drops on her and continued to rub his cheek against her in an effort to spill every single drop of his own magic into her.

“P-Please… J-Just come back to me… I-I can’t lose you too… I can’t… Why… Why w-would you go, why would you l-leave me too?”

So much pain filled him as well as memories of his fiancé being set alight by his very own amethyst flames, burning to death in his arms. It was nearly the same… Death, it was all the same. But for it to happen to both of the women he loved in life… that was too much. One last attempt of those tears were only brought in vain. Nothing happened. No healing, not a stir from the woman at all. It was disheartening, if that was even the correct definition for the current event. He was broken, shattered to his very core… His soul was fractured and his suffering only deepened as the seconds went on. Silence was impossible for him as he began to rock the woman back and forth, crying his heart out for the anguish that engorged his sanity. Rage bubbling up as well, but it was nothing in comparison to the torment that he was suffering from.

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