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Storms and Secrets

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Storms and Secrets

 

 

Written by Azura and Nikolas Belliveau

 

The sky was bruised with angry splotches of swirling colour, streaks of deep violent purple melting into rapidly darkening smudges of charcoal and ash. Weak slivers of depleting sunshine were slowly being banished by rolling bands of storm clouds that swarmed above like smoke. Those swollen and ominous patches of grey and dark blue were illuminated by bolts of silver, lightening crackling in jagged webs that struck out with silent frenzy against the gloomy and sombre painted backdrop of misty circling fog that clung and settled over the valley below.

 

Through the escarpment, a small pale figure moved in a blur, rivers of glimmering indigo blue flying out behind her. Her pale ink stained skin gleaming in tones of ivory that stood out amongst a sea of speckled earth flecked brown and viridescent green. Through the tree line, Azura raced. Her heart beating wildly against her chest, tangled coils of black and white spilling into the air. Her bare feet skidded and slid against the undergrowth, fallen leaves crumpling and rustling beneath her. She was trying to outrace her panic again in hope that the rush of wind howling in her ears would eliminate the words and thoughts that rested there. Lunging at her without mercy, deepening her confusion and frustration, her grief and regret. With each breathless gasp she took, the air around her vibrated with an unseen intensity as if those brewing emotions of hers were linked to the trembling of the storm that circled above.

 

In one hand she clutched the necklace Iniro had left her with, a token passed on to her by the father she had never wanted, the man who had used his last breath to offer his apologies for all the anguish he had caused her. The silver stone gleamed like moonlight, its smooth polished surface reminding her too much of her mother’s straight pale blonde hair, so unlike those  messy tumbling waves of raven black and alabaster white. She had never understood why she had been born so different, a break in tradition, whispers surrounding her birth but that had all changed the moment Erodo had come bursting into her life with those dark and silver flecked strands. Visions of his beaten and bruised body accosted her, followed quickly by memories, the revelations she had railed against and refused to believe. She had hated him so much, the snap of her own broken wrist echoing as her mind raced through the catalogue of images and yet..  He had slowly wormed his way beneath her skin, unable to deny the warmth of having someone who actually seemed to care about her welfare, the relief of knowing she had at least one blood connection left.

 

By the time she burst out into that familiar clearing, panting roughly, those emerald orbs were glistening with hot tears of anger and confusion made all the more worse by the way Zack’s words thudded and echoed in her mind. Azura had fled from him upon hearing those revelations, unable to process the meaning of the feelings he claimed he held for her, feelings that he said Niko also mirrored. And then there was the betrayal of the way he had spoken of her, her teeth gritting at the idea and though she had not pressed for details, somehow this was worse for now her mind filled in the gaps, likely making the content of his words to Niko far worse in comparison to the truth.

 

A bolt of lightening flashed, piercing the darkness which cast twisting shadows into the clearing, mirroring the anger that sparked through veins lit with magic that was slowly shuddering to the surface. However, the full extent of that rage was kept at bay by her confusion, unable to vocalize why both men sent her skin aflame, her heart racing. Panic and fear swirled, the whispered voices of her mother drifting to her, those warning and harsh punishments that had marred her childhood. Another pang of outrage hit her. Her mother had been the harshest, so quick to scold and reprimand her, remind her of the dangers of men and love. And yet, it had been a hypocritical lie for was not Azura herself born out of such an emotion? How could she believe anything she was told when her own mother had broken the most important rule of all?

 

To her surprise, she was unable to hold back those tears any longer and as she slipped into the comforting depths of that blue green lagoon which shimmered before her, fabric floating in vines across the rippling surface as droplets streamed down her cheeks. At the same moment, sheets of rain began to fall, soft and hazy at first but as that resolve of hers finally shattered into anguish and confliction so did the groaning skies above until she could barely hear the sounds of the forest or the gurgle of running water beneath the heavy pound and sting of the storm that raged about her. She forced her eyes shut but this only caused her to picture the darkness of her mind to be pierced by amethyst eyes, followed shortly by a glimmer of turquoise.

 

Those orbs of mossy green snapped back open, a hand lifting to swipe at those tears much the way a child would during a heated tantrum, streaks of black spreading across her face as she smudged the dark tribal paint that decorated her features whilst her grip tightened on the necklace. It was a token, a reminder of her mother’s betrayal to her people, to her culture and yet why was she overcome with the urge to slip the trinket around her own neck? Her fingers curled into a fist, trapping the stone inside and before she could change her mind, her arm reeled back and she flung the object with as much force as she could, the gem sparkling as it sailed through the air before vanishing into the tree line with a dull thud.

During the time that the sky had been clear, the phoenix found himself taking flight to get some air. The previous day had been very dramatic. Many things had happened. From the tense situation with the demon, to the brief occurrence with the vampire, only to end the day with the strange formal man with the claws. It still struck a curiosity in him, wondering what exactly the Valencia man was. Azura didn’t seem to like him.. And was scared of him. That much was known, but even then he couldn’t help but feel as though that man was probably the most sane out of the entire bunch, including himself. Vivid wings flapped against the whirls of air, pushing himself up so that he may stay at a fair level. There was no plan, no destination. He simply wished to go for a breeze. But, then there was the darkening of the clouds, which soon trembled with thunder and shattered the ground below with lightning. Shit. Niko wasn’t one to like being caught up in a storm. Wouldn’t be pretty if he got struck by lightning. Nope, not fun at all.

 

As small droplets began to splash against his large form, sizzling sounds erupted from him and steam began to billow off from each drop that touched his fire and sleek feathers. It seemed as though the storm was going to take a turn for the worse with the sudden heavy drops that just released from the over indulged clouds from above. Twisting his head, his beak faced upwards, staring above at the dark clouds. Now was the time to drop. Quickly, he dove downwards, wrapping his wings around himself to create a faster flow to reach the ground, but of course that was when the rain was at its heaviest. His body shuddered at the cool caress of the rain, lowering his temperature just a touch with each roll of steam that came from him. There was a split second when he felt a rush of energy near him, making his feathers stand on end. A blinding light flashed beside him, catching him off guard. His eyes being useless from the flash, he struggled through the air to push himself away from the electric current and ended up facing skywards with his back against the forest below.

 

No, no, no! Fuck! A bright ball of fire, that was what he was… But with a cloud of smoke framing him as he fell through the top level of the trees, getting hit by each and every branch as he fell. Cracks and snaps shattered the air as he crashed through the wood, only to land on his back with wings splayed out on either side of him. The glamour of the avian shivered, then began to fade into a violet fire that disappeared over the now humanoid’s chest. A gasp came from him from the rather hard landing and he clawed at the ground before rolling over onto his side, coughing violently.

 

“F-Fucking hell.. Where d-did that come from?” He choked out in anger. After being able to catch his breath, he looked up and scanned his surroundings. Sure, he knew this was the forest that Azura typically ran like a wildling through, but that still did not mean that he knew exactly where she was. Niko wasn’t the best at navigation from the ground. Feeling very much like a raptor trapped on the forest floor, it could potentially be dangerous. At least with the rain that was now coming down upon him. His apparel was soaked. From the black turtleneck to the grey skinnies that covered his legs. Why now of all times? Muttering under his breath, he picked himself up and crossed his arms against his chest and covered his mouth with his hands, warming them up with the heated air that derived from his lungs. Nope, he did not have a damn clue where he was. His eyes darted around him, searching for any sign of a path or road. That was when he heard a soft whirling sound through the air, only to be hit smack dab on the cheek by some inanimate object.

 

“W-What the fuck..” He hissed, reaching up to place his fingers against the area that had been inflicted by the object. Blinking  in confusion, he stared down at the shiny amulet that now lay on the ground below him. Where did that come from? Quickly, he scooped up the necklace and pocketed it, then began to tread off in the direction that it had came from. Padding through the greenery and brush, he stumbled out onto the clearing near the lagoon. Oh thank heavens! He knew that he could find his way back to the tavern from here. Harry better have a warm drink ready for him. Frowning, he turned to face whatever path was the one that lead into Consequence, but his eyes sort of fluttered over the water, catching the outline of Azura out in the streaming water. Wait.. What was she doing all the way out here? Was the necklace hers?

 

“Azura!” He called out, stepping closer to the muddy bank. “You shouldn’t be out there.. If lightning struck, you’d be fried!”

 

Azura did not hear the phoenix approach, so intense was the emotion that raged beneath her skin, the crunch of his footsteps drowned out by the heavy pound of water crashing into the soil, turning the earth into mud, droplets raining down against the surface of the lagoon which had begun to tremble and vibrate. Her back was turned to him, the wet fabric of transparent indigo cloth sticking to her frame like a second skin, allowing anyone who viewed her to see the silver lining of her curves in shocking detail and on quick glance, one might even mistake the pale tribal woman for a water spirit, a otherworldly sprite with blue tinted skin, bathing naked in the depths of that forest.

 

Those wriggling tattooed serpents writhed up her back, twirling and interlocking, the finely etched lines obscured by damp strands of black and white that trailed over ink, cascading to gently curl against her hips. She looked like a creature that belonged to earth and water, who sang to the stars and slept beneath moonlight in a bed of vines and leaves, rocked to sleep by the baying of wolves. Tendrils of water had begun to leap from those depths through which she waded, ropes twisting to wrap around her limbs in a violent frenzy, whipping against her frame and snapping into the air but as her name fell, the shout only just heard above the roar of wind and rain, Azura spun in a circle, thick wet strands of hair scattering before settling over her bare shoulders and in the same moment, those vines of blue green trembled, falling still and dropping back to the current that lapped against her thighs.

 

Those eyes were wide, panicked and filled with alarm as she scanned the stormy pewter toned darkness, confused by the scent of smoke and ash hanging in the air, vapors of steam billowing and creating a sheen of fog that was slowly clearing, a familiar shape melting into her vision which was obscured with the continuation of her tears, the scene before her warbled and blurry. Azura had spent so many years withholding the sting of tears that now, it was almost as if a waterfall was flowing from her, never-ending as clear droplets streamed down her cheeks, streaking the contours of her face with rivers of black paint, a luminous fire burning in the dancing embers of her emerald eyes. Her chest hurt, her lungs burning, tempted to lift her face to the heavens and let out a blood curling wail. Finally, through that fog, she glimpsed movement, slowly processing who it was that stood before her, his mouth moving and yet all she could hear was white noise. Niko took a step closer, steam drifting in clouds from his limbs, concern etched in his violet gaze.

 

For a moment, time stood still, a lull in the rain like the eye of a storm, an eerie quiet descending upon the clearing as she gawked at him, resisting the urge to fling herself into his arms, the desire to be held so overwhelming that all else was forgotten. But then, reality interceded and like a cornered wild animal, a look of crazed panic erupted over her features, the memory of his touch weighing on her, Zack’s last words and those of her father echoing so loudly in her head that the woman before him quickly staggered backwards with each step he took towards her. Breathing heavily as fear gripped her.

 

Suddenly, a burst of rage flitted through those large eyes of hers when she recalled that the phoenix had not even bothered to inform her of the way in which the other male had spoken of her.  With the thought, a bolt of lightening struck the ground near the male that approached, seemingly a warning and overhead, thunder rumbled like gravel, echoing and bellowing as it built itself into a slow crescendo, a symphony of sound and light illuminating the sky above, sparked with growing violence and fury as her emotions spiraled out of control. A sudden burst of heat accompanied that silver jagged streak that struck so close to the phoenix, a burst of flame as the grass beneath the spot ignited. Azura leapt on the distraction so that by the time Niko finished reacting to the sharp crackle of light and heat, she was already in motion, scrambling from the lagoon and taking off with such speed she would be little more then a blur of sapphire fabric and bone white flesh vanishing into the depths and shadow of the wildwood around them. Breathing heavily, Azura sprinted away, ducking and weaving through the treeline as if by running from Niko, she could out run the feelings she had thought herself incapable which now seemed to strike at her from more then one source and left her feeling as if the earth beneath her feet was quickly slipping away, leaving her to plummet in a never ending free fall, disorienting and terrifying.

 

Staring at the pale woman, his eyes ventured over what was visible of her form. More of her tattoos were visible to him, but did that mean that the fabric was thin enough to… He averted his gaze for a moment when the woman had spun around, not wanting to view her lady pieces if they weren’t protected by another coverage. A bright sanguine blurred his cheeks, embarrassed by what could or would have been a very intruding thought. It was then that he noticed the charcoal smudges and tears that ran down her face. No, it wasn’t just the rain that was creating those streaks, she was crying. His heart fell for her, stomach dropping in his core. Why was she crying? Had the classy man from the previous night hurt her after he had departed from them? Damnit.. He shouldn’t have left. The abrupt changes in her expression was worrisome, making his brows furrow in confusion.

 

“Azura, what’s wron-” He could hardly finish before the strike of light shot into the ground next to him, making fall backwards onto the ground with his arms shielding his face from being harmed. The hairs on the back of his neck stood up. And for once he was thankful that his shaggy mane was wet, if it hadn’t been, could you imagine the poofy mess that would be sitting atop his head from all of the static and energy convulsing through it from just being in a close vicinity of the lightning. Wait.. How the hell did that happen? It was too close of a call to just assume that it was a random one in a million chance to be nearly hit by lightning. Was it the woman? He was unaware of the fact that she had control over the storm, only knowledgeable that she could manipulate water and ice. Having to take a few deep breaths, he looked over to the lagoon, trying to find the woman.

 

“That was rather close wasn’t it?” No one was in the water.. She was gone? What the fuck? Picking himself up for a second time, he caught a glimpse of the woman’s hair flailing behind her as she disappeared into the trees. Bothered and confused as to why she was acting in such a manner, he took a few steps, then quickened his pace to a slow jog after her, bobbing and weaving in between the trees and brush below. Occasionally his hands would accidentally touch the life around him as he ran, sparking mini infernos of violet and amethyst. He wasn’t focused on the fact that he could have or could be starting a forest fire, the only thing in his mind was Azura. Why the hell was she running from him?
“Azura!” He yelled after her, pushing past clusters of vines and thorns bushes.

 

Azura sprinted, ducking and weaving as fast as she could through the undergrowth, angry tears still streaming down her face. She heard his voice call after her, reminiscent of the way her mother had shouted her name during her childhood as she fled in much the same way except this time, instead of racing from prayer, rules and responsibility, she was running from herself, from the truth she was too frightened to accept for it would mean accepting that she had been raised on lies. She had not expected him to give chase, her heart beat thudding wildly in her chest, her lungs burning with the exertion of keeping up the pace at which she wound herself deeper, taking sharp twists and turns in order to evade the heavy tread of footsteps she felt following her.

 

She chanced a glance back, a worried look cast over one shoulder as she silently hoped she had managed to loose the male that pursued her and yet, the tunnel of trees was lit with dancing violet frames, tiny spots of fire that illuminated her vision in glimmering vines that licked against the forest floor, crackling up bark and causing crumpled leaves of brown and red to wither. And yet, the smoke that rose obscured her vision, unable to see the phoenix. Her head turned, mossy eyes setting themselves on the path ahead as the storm above rumbled, the rain only growing heavier with her panic, so thick now it was difficult traverse the rough terrain without slipping in the boggy mud and sinking damp soil. Azura gasped as the near skidded into the large trunk of an ancient oak that rose before her so suddenly, she had to veer to the side though it was not long before the woman was tumbling roughly to the ground, her ankle caught in the upturned roots of the tree she had just barely avoid slamming into.

 

Azura gave a small grunt as she struck the ground with a light thud, the wind knocked from her lungs and leaving her choked for air as she rolled onto her back, trying to recover from shock and pain, slowly drawing herself into a sitting position and blinking through her tears at her surroundings for the woman now found that there was little else to run to, a wrong direction taken as she fled through the forest which now left her pressed against the base of rocky mountains that tow

 

Running wasn’t exactly something that Niko was skilled at. Not an athlete in any way.. Sure, he had skateboarded and experimented with other things in his younger years, but it wasn’t like he was a track star or football player. Though, his lungs had plenty of endurance from the major flights he typically took during the week. It was just his humanoid form that was struggling to keep up with the woman as she slipped through the woods with ease.

 

“Azura, wait!” Droplets of rain dripped down his face, flooding to wet the turtleneck like a sponge. Ebony waves of hair had lost its volume, now slinging in the air as he continued to run after the woman. As the foot tracks from her began to seep deeper into the ground, Niko was careful about the way he stepped, taking each one with caution in the slick terrain. Crashing through trees, nearly stricken by lightning twice, and being completely drenched.. He did not need to add being covered in mud to the list. His eyes desperately searched the foggy landscape, trying to keep any track on the woman as she ran from him. Had she been afraid of him? What happened.. Did something speak ill of him to her? Had Zack twisted his words and thrust the vulgar words onto him instead? The assumptions his mind was making seemed to be making him angry, gaining a slow burning pit in his stomach. Not that he could hear very much over the sounds of the rain pummeling anything and everything around them, he did hear the heavy thud, suddenly making him aware that there was enough time to catch up.

 

There! He narrowed his eyes at the woman on the ground. With a quick pace, he finally drew near to her, but stopped a few yards away, still unsure of why she was running so he would keep his distance for the time being. Plus there was no telling what she +11:11PMcould do with all of the water that was pouring down and pooling at the ground below. Nearly out of breath, he placed his hands on the back of his head and buckled over, taking deep breaths of air.

 

“W-Why the fuck are you running, cher? Did I do something?” His voice shook with each breath, but was host to the worry and confusion that stained his face. She had tripped.. Or slid? Either way, she may have been hurt. He took a step forward, but found himself staring up at the rocky structures behind her. Wow.. He felt tiny compared to that. Shaking the feeling, he cautiously moved towards her, then knelt down in the mud beside her, looking over her legs in case she had hurt herself. A rock? Vine? Mud? Or even the clumsy thing of tripping over her own feet.

 

“Cherie.. I didn’t hurt you did I?” His eyes searched hers, pleading for an answer as to why she was running from him. Was it about what he had said regarding children and women in his early paths of destruction?

 

As air started to flow back into her choked lungs, Azura attempted to scramble to her feet but a sharp yelp tumbled, elicited by the sharp sting of pain in her left ankle which throbbed, the steady pulse sending her crashing back down, landing heavily back into the dirt. Stretching one leg out, she glanced down at her foot, her ankle already starting to swell and show the early signs of bruising, discoloration marking her ivory flesh in shades of purple and blue. swollen. Still, a sense of panic and urgency pressed at her, a voice whispering to keep moving before.. the snap and crackle of forest debris being crunched underfoot made her heart take a dive once more, a sinking feeling as she knew it was too late to resume her frantic attempt to evade Niko, a flood of red seeping over her pale cheeks before she even heard his voice trying to make itself heard over the howl of rain soaked wind and thunder rumbling overhead.

 

As he spoke, she kept her emerald gaze averted, fixing her eyes on the patterns etched in the mud as droplets made impact, creating indentations and grooves in the moist soil. She was shivering, the spark of her anger stolen by the shock of her fall and the cool kiss of rain sliding over her already soaked form. She kept her head lowered, her white streaked dark mane hanging wet and dripping, ashamed of those tears and the way as soon as she heard the concerned frustration in his voice, she no longer wanted anything other then to ease his distress even when her own was so overwhelming. She tried to speak, trembling lips parted but no sound came from her suddenly dry throat, drawing her knees to her chest and hugging them against her shivering frame, suddenly deflated, exhausted physically and mentally, plagued by so many conflicting thoughts that she no longer felt as if she had the energy to get to her feet, doubt and confusion weighing her down.

 

The storm seemed to give a sigh, a sudden ease in the rain that hammered down, the swell receding to a light drizzle, that quiet eerie lull returning. It wasn’t until Niko drew closer did the woman on the ground seem to give much of a reaction to his presence, her gaze warily drifting up to find the violet tint of his eyes as he bent and knelt beside her. His questions would remain unanswered for the moment those pools of green locked onto his own, she gave a small whimper and without even thinking of the risks involved or much else for that matter, Azura flung herself at him clumsily, shifting to her knees as her arms reached to encircle and loop themselves around him, her upper body leaning and dragging him into her slightly as her face nestled itself into the hollow of his neck to which she now clung, tangles of wet hair likely tickling his face. There was a hitch in her breathing as she fought to push back her tears, a muffled voice whispering into his ear the only words she had the courage to say.

 

“My father is dead”  She breathed in a husky voice, shuddering against him.

 

It was the first time she had ever called the man by such a term and the word fell from her mouth awkwardly, painfully. It was all she could offer, biting back the rest of those feelings that encircled her and made her want to run from him, unsure if she was ready to face hers or his, conflicted and alarmed by the way her heart felt as if it was being led in two different directions for even as she let her hands wander, brushing against the ends of his dark soggy strands of hair, Azura was reminded of the shocking contrast between the fire of his touch and the comforting cool rush of Zack’s, unable to stop thinking of gleaming blue eyes blinking with regret and shame as the man showed enough courage and honesty to say what Niko could not, revealing both their feelings for her in the same moment.

 

Her face nuzzled deeper, burying her features into the soft warmth of his skin, surprised by the way the rain that shimmered and fell around them quenched the ferocity of the flames that lurked within him. With the two both drenched from head to toe, both might be shocked to find that the fabric of her glistening wet dress seemed less flammable for as she kept her arms hooked around his neck, the cloth brushed against his frame and shockingly, remained intact.

 

“Why did you not tell me what Zack said about me?” She whispered then, that tremor of accusation and hurt sneaking back into her softened tone. The words brought on a steady rumble of thunder however the sound was distant, a murmur of what could be if those emotions of her escalated out of control once more. Ignoring the sting of her throbbing ankle, Azura tilted her face from his shoulder, a questioning hurt expression flitting over her features, mixed with streaks of clear grief and inner anguish.

 

He watched as she had struggled to stand, only to fall back into the mud below. Yup, she must be hurting. He went to reach out for her, aiming to touch her ankle, but it was interrupted by the way she had thrown herself against him. A light /oof/ left his lips from the pressure that was now against him. Nearly falling back, he had to wedge one of his knees in the mud to keep himself from moving. It was surprising to have the woman do such a bold thing. Plus, it wasn’t like Niko was used to having people be so hands on with him since the temperature his body usually radiated. But, regardless of these factors, he remained still beneath her grasp, allowing for her to wrap her arms against him and bury her face in the crook of his neck.

 

“Azura what are you…” His words were paused as he heard the woman speak of her father. That was the first time she had addressed the man as such without the explanation of who he was like she had given to him when they had first met. “Your father? Cher, I am sorry.. So very sorry to hear that..” He murmured softly, portraying a look of remorse for her. She seemed to just make herself comfortable against him, so he decided to do the same. Staying aware of his hand placement, he wrapped his arms around her waist, pulling her closer to him as her face brushed against his skin. The moment should have been too emotional for him to be blushing at the way she was acting, but tell that to his nerves. his face was lit up with reds and pinks, flustered at the touch he was being given. Finally, there were more words from her, but to his distaste it was about the conversation between him and Zack.

 

“Azura… I-I did not want to speak of it to you because I was curious of how he would go about it.. If he were to tell you or to nag at me to keep from blackmailing him.” He whispered in response, then closed his eyes to relive the moment between him and the demon. “You yourself believed that he was good of heart.. He tried to apologize to me for what he spoke, but being in a rash mood I chose to threaten him with telling you.”  He nervously chewed his lip, tilting his head to lean against hers when he felt her hands playing with his wet streams of hair.

 

“If he was truly good, then would it have ruined your image of him? I thought it would affect it.. Not that I like him, but everyone deserves a chance to be what they strive to be..” There was a crack in his shell. Niko did care for other people, he just hadn’t grown close to very many over the past few years, pretty much due to him pushing others away.

 

“He isn’t that /bad/.. But I still don’t like him either way. It… It made me furious to hear those words spill from him, Azura. I wanted nothing more than to just burn him there like a witch on trial at the stake.” When she lifted her face to view him, his violet hues shifted to meet her emerald ones.

 

“And even if I had wanted to speak of it to you.. I believe we were far too busy yesterday evening with those two men than to converse between one another about daily squabble.” Hesitantly, he reached up and stroked a hand through her hair, curling his fingers around a few strands that made up the white streak.

 

Azura had barely even noticed that the weight of flinging her body into his frame near knocked the phoenix into the muddy dirt. It would be difficult to determine who was more shocked by the sudden impulse for the woman herself had not expected to do such a thing, something so alien to her nature that it was an even greater shock that she did not immediately pull away in regret and panic but then, she was so overwhelmed with emotion that she seemed to be unable to do so, clinging on to him as if he was the only thing keeping her from drowning in a torrent of her own tears. It was almost as if all those harsh years of isolation, deprived of human touch, had struck her at once and now, she was not sure if she would ever be able to let go as she finally felt the wall she had built start to fall. The grief she was felt was so heavy however somewhere in the back of her mind she knew it wasn’t specifically Erodo’s death that had caused such an internal break down. No, the news of his demise had simply just been the trigger that forced her to finally feel the full weight of all she had lost. That combined with the revelations Zack had shared with her which only deepened the confliction and doubts she had over her culture and indeed, her identity. His apologies were only met with a small flinch as moments later, his hands drifted to find her hips and in that moment, her eyes quickly closed in panic for she expected his palms to once again ignite the thin fabric of her dress but no, the sheer cloth was far too wet for that and so was he.

 

Slowly, she relaxed into his touch, allowing him to pull her closer, the small awkward gap between them that she had created closing as her body pressed against his. Secretly, she was alarmed by how something she had had always feared seemed to feel so natural, nothing like she had expected though it was not until those hands of his slipped around her waist did her breath seem to catch in her throat, a lull in that woe felt for a moment and replaced by bursts of soothing warmth, the rain acting to chill his flames enough that she resisted the urge to gasp at the difference of temperature in his touch. Niko was not the only one that was now blushing, Azura’s porcelain skin becoming saturated with a deep shade of garnet mixed with patches of bright pink. It was probably a mistake on her part to have leaned back those few inches, painfully aware of how close their faces now hovered together, mere inches apart, brought even closer to those dizzying pools of violet flecked with silver and sapphire, at risk of falling so deep into them that her surroundings were starting to blur.

 

As he began to speak, her gaze drifted to his lips and the words that were starting to flow. Realizing she was staring, and suddenly panicked on where to look, those green eyes flitted downwards, seemingly focused on nothing and yet averted from his. It was just as well for she did not want the phoenix to glimpse the hurt and confusion in her gaze that was triggered by his words.

 

“I’m not a game..” The words were uttered in a whisper without further explanation, droplets of rain growing a tad heavier, crashing into rivers that streaked across the dirt. Swallowing the frustration, biting down on her tongue in order to allow him to finish his answer at which point she gave a small exhausted sigh.

 

“I still do believe he is good of heart Niko. I can’t pretend I’m not still hurt and angry about it but he at least told me the truth…”  Azura said, trying hard to repress the childish tone of bitterness for she could not help but still be injured by the fact that Niko had simply just chosen to wait and see what would eventuate from the situation instead of revealing the confession to her. And he had yet to confess to her the so called ‘feelings’ Zack claimed that the phoenix had for her though had he done so, the woman may have likely fled from him in panic just as she had done moments earlier. She swallowed the frustration, trying to not focus on how his embrace made her heart ache. “..though, he was vague with the details.” Azura murmured, an unspoken question in her voice, clearly hesitant to press for more information on the matter. When he confessed that the other male was ‘not that bad’ but insisted on his dislike, emerald orbs finally tracked back to his face, locking onto his features with startling intensity, those jade pools blinking, still misty with tears.

 

“Why?” She whispered then. “Why don’t you like him then? Why did it make you so mad?” She probed, her heart thudding at the questions and suddenly wishing to take them all back. She gave a defeated sigh at his last words, a reluctant nod offered which only caused those rumpled black and white coils to tumble over the contours of her face.

 

“I suppose that is true. I’m sorry.. I .. I don’t mean to be so quick to anger nor to assume so much.. Its hard when you have spent your whole life ignorant to the normality’s of social interaction..” She mumbled, letting her eyes rest on his though as that hand of his brushed back several strands of her unruly mane, she quickly let them drop away once more, breath held. as she focused on the ground, shivering now as the rain continued to pour. A hesitant, worried look was cast to the dark and gloomy skies above, another crack of thunder roaring. “I..I.. don’t think I can stop it” Azura admitted in a hollow voice, her words seeming to confirm the fact that those rush of emotions had caused the storm to begin with.

 

The feeling of their bodies pressed together was more than alarming for the phoenix. Physical contact was not something that he was used to. The heat and fire that his body produced inflicted pain onto others since he could hardly control it. It was just something that he had to deal with. As a child it wasn’t so bad, but as he aged and progressed with knowledge or lack of knowledge of what he was, his anger compiled in his heart, forcing that inner flame to kindle brightly, rarely ever fluctuating unless something or someone was able to pry more of his rage out.

 

Now, he was embraced by the mysterious woman, trapped under the endless downpour of rain, stuck in mud surrounding trees and shrubs that were highly flammable. Not a good place to be, but there was nothing else that felt more right than that moment. The softness of her, despite the tenseness in her form and the way her emotions ran through her. It shouldn’t be shocking to him to know how little contact she had with others, mainly men. He did know that at least. The way her people hated men.. They had gotten into arguments about it before. Her words pulled him out of his head, making his violet hues narrow at her. Game? What was she getting at? Did she think he was playing her?  With her eyes fading from his, he stared at her, observing her as she internally fought with herself, only to speak in a confronting manner.

 

“Truth? You think I don’t speak the truth to you?” Hurt was evident in his voice and the same went for his expression. Going onto the topic of the descriptive blubbering from Zack, his brows furrowed with dismay. “… You speak as if you wish to know the details, Azura.. I don’t think you do.. As for not liking him, I just don’t, alright? It’s okay for someone to not like anyone.” He muttered, closing his eyes and relieved a heated breath.

 

“I just.. I don’t know. He is too, well. I don’t know how to explain it.” His head lowered and his arms loosened against her for a brief moment. “He made me mad by the way he spoke about you.. Having no regard for you as another person. He sounded like an animal, cher..”

 

Shuddering, he felt the raindrops grow heavier, landing with soft ‘plinks’ and sizzles against his drenched self. The fire was eased for now, the heat was dimmed. And even though he may seem warm to the touch, there was a slight tremor from him as if he were cold from the slight drop in temperature in his body. He wasn’t /freezing/, just a bit chilled. Her apologies made his jaw stiffen, but it soon fell with the effort of trying to stay somewhat positive near her. She just lost her father.. And was told that the demon had spoken foul things about her.. There was no reason to add onto the pile by getting angry with her. His chest rose in a deep breath, then fell with release of a deep breath. The fingers in her hair curled around the damp locks, twisting them in spirals.

 

“I understand.. I know your upbringing.” He mumbled, then glanced at her when she shifted her gaze to the dark gloomy skies above.

“S-Stop it? You are meaning to tell me that this is all your doing?” He stammered with wide eyes.

“The lightning.. Back at the lagoon.. That was you then?” Those words were very accusing, showing the panic that streamed in his mind. She had meant to scare him, or was it to harm him and she had only missed? Is that why she had ran? Blinking, he bit his lip and looked away from her, his hand slipping from that dark mane of hers to fall back on her hip.

 

Azura actively avoided those narrowed pools of lavender, clearly not willing to answer the silent questions she felt radiating from him in that moment when she had let her bitterness slip but then when he physically voiced such a thing, she frowned, the gesture making her features crumple slightly, almost as if she was about to burst into tears all over again, shocked by how the hurt in his voice triggered an internal burst of guilt and pain in her. Gathering the courage to speak, her voice came out a choked whisper.

 

“Just because I am a savage does not mean I am stupid Niko.. No. Technically, you haven’t lied, that I know of.. But..” She paused, clearly struggling to finish her sentence especially with the weight of his narrowed gaze upon her, so much so that she spoke the rest of the words into the crook of his neck, her breath circling his ear softly. “..choosing to hide things is another form of dishonesty”  She said no more, lapsing into silence and allowing him to finish, her face tilting to find his as it left the comfort of his shoulder.

 

That frown of hers only deepened, brows furrowing as large green pools carefully scanned his, clearly examining his words carefully and as they drew to a close, a spark of sudden hurt flitted through her gaze only for the features of her face to slowly tighten and Niko would see that mask of hers fixing itself back into place, brick by brick, her body tensing in his arms. Azura tried to ignore the stab to her chest, his mutterings wounding her so much due to the fact that she could hear the lie in his voice, that telltale glimmer of avoidance as he continued to shut her out, keeping her at a distance it felt, disappointment glimpsed before the wall was complete.

 

She stayed still in his arms, slightly limp, her grip around his neck loosening just as his own were. Azura stared, trying to read the lines in his face as he continued to speak, trying to figure out if the reason why he had gotten so upset with Zack was the very same that the silver haired male had offered. Feelings. It was such an oddly innocent word, the definition of such a term deepening her confusion for it was such a broad statement for one to say they had feelings for another. What did that even mean, really? Azura had ‘feelings’ for Cu, the connection between them like siblings. She had ‘feelings’ for her dear horse, North and even that shaggy wolf hound, Luah. She supposed she even had feelings for birds and trees, the sound of water rippling over rock. And yet, this felt different. Something strange, foreign and confusing for how was she to know exactly what meaning others placed upon the term or how to figure out the difference in her own? These thoughts swirled through her mind, realising with a start that she needed to speak.

 

“I.. I wish you did know how to explain it. I find myself.. quite confused as of late” She admitted before adding with a tone of distress. “Was it really that bad, Niko? Did he give you a reason for such behavior?” She asked. It was a leading question, she knew that for she already knew the man’s reasoning behind his choice but was curious as to what the phoenix’s answer might be or if the other male had revealed such things to him. Did Niko know that Zack had admitted that both had these peculiar ‘feelings’ for her? Her blush had begun to fade but feeling his fingers brushing through her hair, curling to twirl damp strands of ivory and black, it returned in full force and for a moment, she struggled to remember why she was still frowning, struggled to remember anything other then papery soft texture of his skin. Right, all those secrets he seemed to keep from her, the burden of his past which she would have been happy to share, a desire to push past the wall that he kept around him, similar to her own, and yet it remained sturdy, no flaws to be found in the brickwork.

 

“Yes.. however, I wish I knew more about yours” She breathed in a husky low voice, watching the way pillows of steam rose from his pale flesh, only just now realising how drenched the phoenix was, a burst of guilt tightening like a band around her stomach as she wondered if such a thing would harm him in some way for some fires were not meant to be quenched. That sense of guilt was only heightened by the way his eyes widened in shock, or was it fear? Flustered and shamed by the accusation in his tone and features she shook her head quickly.

 

“No! I mean.. yes.. I didn’t mean to.. it was an accident!” Azura stammered, her blush deepening in color. “It just.. happened” She said with a heavy sigh. “I didn’t even know I was capable of such a thing until today but then I have never been this upset other then..” She said softly, fading off, knowing he would know exactly what she meant. Another glance up at the skies, the chill of the rain and her thin soaked dress was causing her teeth to start to chatter, lips trembling. “

 

As m-much as I’m enjoying this m-moment I think maybe we should get out of the rain” She said and with a reluctant sigh. She was prying herself from his grip and rising to her feet only to give a sharp yelp, her swollen ankle forgotten in her haste and causing her to stumble slightly, arms reaching out to balance herself as they gripped onto his shoulders.

 

“Savage.. I never called you that nor stupid, Azura.” He stated, his expression growing cold if that were even possible for the phoenix. As she had come to a pause, only to whisper against his ear. he shivered when her breath moved across his sensitive skin. Hide? Oh.. That there he couldn’t fight with. There were a great many things that were kept hidden behind those galaxy eyes. Feeling the stiffness in her was making him aware of how uncomfortable each of them were with each other. Anger, guilt, pain, and sorrow were felt between them, tugging at their throats like a noose. Her words washed over him again, forcing him to think abou the meaning.

 

“.. Yes, Azura. It was /bad/.” He replied, narrowing his eyes at her as she stared up at him. “If you wish for me to describe it, I hope that you trust what I had said.. It is unfitting for me to speak such vulgar shit to you.” Closing his eyes, he shook his head and sneered his lip in disgust.

 

“Details.. Right, how the fuck do I even explain that? Well, for one, he spoke of how he was to take your body and lay you down… Spreading your legs and /feeling/ on you before taking you as his own.” His body trembled with rage when those words passed through his lips. “I didn’t want to fucking explain it.. I still don’t, I hate that he even said those things. There was a thin line of respect that you enforced in my heart for him, yet all it took was a few words for me to just flip a switch.” He had to take a few deep breaths to keep himself from igniting himself, both attitude wise and the fire.

 

“I asked him.. He said that it was something he /had/ to do just to get a few fucking things out of my head.. He was pressuring me to see how much I cared for you. Do you see how fucking selfish that is?” He nearly growled, still biting back the anger. No, Niko was unaware of the fact that Zack had told Azura of both of their feelings.. Had the phoenix known, there would have been much more to say and more things to start with the male. Looking away for a moment, his eyes darted over the muddied ground, then up to the blackened clouds that swarmed above them in violent formations. More? She wished to know more of his past.. Was he willing to give up that security that he had built for so long? To unbury the pain that he had hid from his heart?

 

“Why would you want to know more about me?” He hissed, but ended up with a look of guilt. Dropping his head, he lowered his eyes from her. With the stammering of the woman, he kept his gaze lowered, knowing what embarrassment or fluster would be plainly set on her face for anyone to see. Well, for him and the trees to see. Just happened.. Right. Okay, well he couldn’t judge her. He did hurt her and it had /just happened/. A lack of control was something both of them suffered from. Hearing her yelp in pain, his eyes flickered upwards to view her feminine physique as it came tumbling towards him and used his shoulders for stability.

 

“It is getting rather wet, isn’t it?” He spoke plainly, but released a puff of smoke from his lips. Or was it steam from the water that dripped down his face? A glance was given to their surroundings, then to the rocky spire that lay before them, glorifying the skies with the mounds of stone that surpassed the treetops. There had to be some sort of shelter out there, right?

 

“Fine.. But don’t get pissed at me, alright Cher?” She wouldn’t be able to walk with that injury. So there was little notice before he is scooping up the woman, tossing him over his right shoulder as he carefully stood to his feet. His right arm was protectively placed around her thighs, but was careful to stay away from her hindend. Looking around once again, he began to tread in the direction of the mountainous form, searching for any sort of sanctuary from the ruthless rain. If this was her doing, that must have meant that her emotions were spiraling out of control, forcing her powers to do just the same. It was a miracle that he hadn’t been drowned nor even had the water inside of him to just be pulled from his cells to dehydrate him. Wait, could she even do that? Fuck that is a scary thought! Shaking his head at the random idea, he made his way up to the rubble, finding a path to trek. There! His gaze froze on a small crevice between the slabs of sandstone and granite. That looked big enough to house them for a little while, right? He wouldn’t ask the woman for approval. Instead, he just started walking in that direction.

 

“.. You said that you wanted to know more about my past… What exactly do you want to know?” His voice was nearly a whisper, barely grazing his lips as they left like the gentle breeze sweeping up leaves of autumn. As they came across the oddly formed stonework, he kneeled down, just a few feet in front of it so that the woman may be able to slip off and push herself into the safe zone.

 

“I know you havent..” She said softly, a tone of regret to be heard, biting down on her bottom lip. No, Niko had never called her such things and yet somehow, the pale tribal woman seemed to think most held that opinion of her since she had heard the insults so many times, or at least the insinuation of such. Or maybe it was part of how inexperienced and foolish she often felt in the outside world that made her hurl the remark so often, usually in a self deprecating manner, as if trying to beat others to the punch. She had begun to offer an apologetic smile but the explanation on Zack’s remarks halted the gesture in its tracks, shock pouring itself over her features like a bucket of cold water, her gaze widening with horror and disbelief, anger and hurt. Her jaw stiffened, her entire body clenching as she reeled back slightly, the hands that gripped his shoulders as she balanced against him tightening, embarrassment turning the pink of her blush into a flustered, outraged scarlet.

 

Azura glared at Niko, and for a moment it would almost seem as if she was shifting all the rage she felt onto him, shooting the messenger so to speak but in reality, she was simply searching for a lie, praying and hoping that she would find one for she had not known the other male’s words had been so.. descriptive. Yes, he had admitted that he had spoken of her in such a way, of what it would be like to ‘bed’ her but to speak in such vulgar terms? How could he do such a thing? All to determine another person’s feelings for her? Azura gritted her teeth, unable to reply though moments later, a bolt of lightening struck the ground in the distance, the forest lit up with a sudden but temporary flare of blinding white light.

 

“I understand..” She finally managed, her tone shaking with a clear pang of betrayal. Why did she even care what Zack said? Why did it cause so much pain? Others had spoken of her in such ways before, and to her face. Vile insinuations and repulsive hungry leering looks that made her skin crawl, pawing at her and leaving the stain of their words and touch on her skin though they always came to regret such a thing in the end for their pursuits were met with little success, bones shattered by forceful streams of water before they could satisfy those sickening urges. Her eyes had been focused straight ahead but now as she felt him practically shaking with rage, a sudden pulse of heat pressing through his clothes despite how soaked the dark cloth was, they flicked back down towards him. Azura held her breath as he offered finally some semblance of truth.

 

“And.. how much do..” She started in a shaky voice though the question stayed broken, the word ‘you’ silently added in her head for how could she even complete the sentence when Niko was now hissing at her, as if her desire to want to learn more about his past was an insult, an offense. If not for her bruised and swollen ankle, she might have stumbled back from him, confused by the seething tide of anger that quickly took hold, the flame started by those memories of Zack though it quickly seemed to spread to encompass her as well. This, was what she feared about the phoenix, the unpredictable way he could so quickly turn from charming and tender to secretive and defensive.

 

“..Why wouldn’t I?” She retorted, her voice mystified and injured by that sudden wave of irritation though any anger she felt was held back in the face of that guilty expression he wore seconds later, nodding along to his next question, the shiver in her soaked limbs answer enough. Cold as she was, exhausted now the tide of emotion was gradually easing back, bruised and aching, Azura would still have stubbornly insisted on walking, if she had been presented with an option but it seemed as if she had little choice in the matter. She seemed to get the gist of his intentions from those words even before he reached for her, eyes widening in alarm and panic, her hands lifting from his shoulders to be held defensively in front of her.

 

“No.. Niko.. its fine. I can wal..” She didnt finish, her protests ending in a tiny gasp as one hand snaked around her, her small frame easily swept off her feet and swung over his shoulder.

 

“Hey!” She exclaimed, no real anger in her voice just an imitation of such, perhaps even evidence of shocked amusement bordering on irritation as if the squirming woman did not know quite how to feel about her right to movement being taken in such a way. One hand curled into a small fist and giving him an annoyed thump to his back, her upper body dangling and draped against it, wet coils hanging over her face which she tried to push back, a difficult feat when her face was facing the muddy ground. Had anyone else tried to maneuver her in such a way, Azura would likely have kicked and thrashed violently especially upon feeling a hand brush against the back of her damp thighs, an intimate place for his grip to settle but she found herself frozen, locked in place by the thudding of her heart as adrenaline pumped through her veins, making her blood sing

 

“Your lucky I don’t try to strike you with another bolt of lightening” She muttered though there was a hint of playfulness in her voice mixed in with the stubborn self righteousness that came naturally to her and yet she did not fight, seemingly content to stop her wriggling once it became clear that he was not going to place her back down and had begun to determinedly stride towards the mountainside. His question startled her, as did the timing off it, strung over his shoulder as she was and so instead of offering an immediate response, she fell silent, the only sounds the roar of wind and rain, the crackle of lightening and thunder, the squelch of his shoes tracking through mud. What DID she want to know? Azura thought, abruptly unable to think of anything at all to say other then the one word she offered.

 

“Everything..” It was a heavy request and one that she instantly regretted making, knowing how he would react to it. Biting her lip, she watched the forest pass by in a disorienting fashion, her view skewed as the watched the way they had come, unable to turn her gaze to the path ahead and so when he finally drew to a halt, she was unsure where they had even stopped though soon he was allowing her to slip awkwardly back down his frame as he kneeled, a glance taken at her surroundings however the second her bare feet touched the ground, she winced and drew in a sharp breath, reaching to once more steady herself against him before easing her figure into the crevice. Her ankle throbbed painfully, forcing her to hobble as she slid into the jagged gap cut stone. It was dark inside, shadows made deeper by the darkened skies and stormy weather so much so that she could barely see her own hand in front of her, gripping onto the rock walls to keep the weight from her ankle.

 

During the traveling, the motions she made against his back made him wince, but those movements would just be drowned out by the boldness in his movement towards the mountain. Now, kneeling in front of the crook, he glanced back at the forest that they had come from. She wanted to know everything.. Was he ready to give up everything? To just let it slip so easily? He wasn’t sure if it were the right thing or not, but he found himself scooting under the safety of the stone slab, seeking refuge from the cold downpour. Violet eyes squinted, trying to see through the blackness that enveloped the cave, blinding them as they sought out the walls and floor for direction. Raising his right hand, he decided to release a bit of that pent up frustration, allowing for a blast of amethyst flames to go scouring across the stone floor, though was careful that the woman did not get touched by a single tongue of the fire. There.. Now they can see. A line of fire was laid out across the cavern floor. It may seem unnatural, but the fire fed on the stones that Niko had pointed them at.. It was just as described in one of their past visits, it was hot enough to melt bone and most metals..

 

“Are you sure that you want to know everything?” He spoke, barely above a breath as he stood to his feet and crouched down so that he wouldn’t hit his head. He walked forward, mapping out the small area, then finally decided on a place to rest. Slowly, he sank down to his feet in a roughly shaped corner and leaned up against a pillar of rock. There was a wince from the touch, making him fully aware of what bruising may be hidden beneath that shirt. “Mère baiseur..” He hissed through his teeth, arching his back against the solid form. Seems as if that fall took a toll on him. and he was just now feeling it

 

.After taking a moment to recollect himself, he puckered his lips and blew a puff of smoke, trying to relieve himself of the sharp pains coursing through his back. His gaze shifted over to the woman, pupils dilating to adjust to the strange lighting from the oddly colored flames that he had summoned.

 

“… I don’t even know where to start, mon cherie.. There is too much to explain.. Too much pain.” His voice was hesitant, but gentle in every manner. There was a lingering thought in his mind, one that was pressuring him to spill just as the oh-so soft demon had. Niko pent up his past, his pain, his rage.. It was all just released in the acts of arson he committed.

 

“I suppose you wish for me to start from the beginning.. Just as any story.” Leaning his head back against the surface behind him, he stared up at the jagged ceiling, recalling all of his memories at the orphanage.

 

“I don’t have parents.. At least not by blood. Many years I spent in an orphanage, living out my childhood until I was officially adopted by a very loving couple in La Havre.” Highly uncomfortable with the subject at hand, he tightly crossed his arms over his chest and closed his eyes, not wanting to view the woman’s reactions.

 

“I grew up as any normal kid would, but I was drawn to fire. To warmth.. And my parents were starting to become aware of my habits.. Burning things..There weren’t any incidents until I was in lycée.. I had friends, quite a few of them.” There was another sign of discomfort from him as his knees were drawn close to his chest and his expression twisted with guilt and anguish. “…. The same goes for enemies.. I had many of those too. And this was around the time that I was truly getting to know what or who I was.. I-I” He froze, biting back tears. No.. You can’t cry. Just tell her what happened and get over it. You aren’t a baby, Niko..

 

“There was a day where a few of the boys came up to my friends and I.. They cornered one of them and I stood up for him. I-I felt so weak in that moment, Azura.. So helpless.. I was angry with myself as I was being pummeled, bloodied by these kids. I just…. Broke.” He craned his neck and looked away from her, keeping her wandering eyes at bay from his emotions.

 

“The fire… It consumed everything.. M-My friends.. Those pesky troublemakers.. The school… Everything fucking burned and I couldn’t stop, couldn’t h-help them..” His form trembled and he sharply bit down on his lip as if to force down those ugly tears and self loathing. “There wasn’t any remains of them.. Only fucking black stains on the floor where their bodies were melted..

 

” Those ashy smudges were much like nuclear shadows, just remnants of the last second of life each of the kids had. “…. There is so much more than that.. I-I’ve done so much more than that… And I keep doing it because I can’t fucking get enough of it. Can’t get it out of my head.”

 

Many reasons filled him as to why he was so secretive about such information, he hated to relive the past.. Yes, but he also hated to be reminded that he kept living that lifestyle everyday of his life, only without the care for other people and their welfare, he just strived to watch everything get devoured by the sweltering heat of his relentless inferno.

 

Azura was limping ahead, a small groans of pain tumbling from her as she blindly groped her way deeper into the darkness, not a thought spared for what creatures might possibly be wandering in those shadows, also seeking shelter from the storm, for if there was one thing the woman was unafraid of it was beasts of the wildwood, no matter how large and ferocious they might be. No, she was more afraid of being alone with Niko in such cramped quarters, the sound of his breath behind her reverberating off the stone walls, her heart pounding a frantic rhythm. At least, it was dark, the inky blackness concealing the blush that never seemed to fade, especially with the memory of being carried in his arms so fresh in her mind, aware of how close he was behind her by the tread of his steps on the hard cracked cave floor. Something wet and cold struck her cheek, beads of water dripping from the granite ceiling and trickling down the carved walls, the sound magnified in the silence, made louder by the restriction of sight, forcing their ears to focus and make up for the lost sense.

 

“Niko..” She was starting to say, a suggestion that maybe they should wait out the storm at the threshold of the crevice instead of winding themselves deeper without a clear idea of whether they were making twisting turns that would lead them astray though she was hesitant to confess that she was a tad claustrophobic. Who knew how far into the mountain the cave ran or whether it had an end at all. However her unspoken words were soon made unnecessary by the sudden flare of violet flames, thin streams snaking along the floor like a sparkling amethyst river. Azura jumped, unable to help being worried those dancing tendrils would catch onto her drenched dress, licking over her limbs and melting her flesh.

 

With her fear of fire and small spaces being combined, even the beauty of those flickering embers did not help that first burst of shock and panic. However, as she realised the phoenix was keeping her from their burn, the flames diverging into a fork and spanning around her form to forge on ahead, Azura slowly relaxed, allowing herself to feel a glimmer of awe and wonder at the way that purple fire seemed to consume the very rock on which they stood, the floor growing heated but not unbearably so. The sudden warmth inside the cave certainly helped warm the two, drenched as they were with rainwater and would surely speed up the drying process but for now? The two were still soaked. Her shivers subsided, though there was still the occasional shake making it difficult to determine that she was nodding her head at his question, teeth chattering as she voiced a reply.

 

“Yes. I am sure.” She said, trying to place confidence in her voice. Was she sure? No. Not at all. In fact, she almost wished to take the request back for she knew there was darkness in his past, violence wielded by his hands. She could glimpse it in the vibrant hue of his gaze that matched those dazzling flames, the connection not lost on her for both were breathtaking on the surface and yet if you trailed too near, could be dangerous. Could she remain fire proof?

 

As he sunk to the ground, she mirrored his movements, sitting cross legged on the floor across from him so that she could stare at his features while he spoke. Stretching out her bruised and swollen ankle, she tried not to wince, fixing him a look of concern when she saw the lines in his face distort with pain. She would have rushed forward in distress, much the same way she had when Zack had seemed injured but she did not want to halt the words she knew he was about to speak for who knew when he would actually be willing enough to speak of his past again? It seemed a rare opportunity and one she clung to silently, large green eyes blinking at him with worry and nervousness.

 

As he began, Azura began gathering her long soggy mane to one side, fingers combing through the tangled wet strands before slowly twisting, attempting wring the moisture from those black and white coils, heavy droplets sliding down her already glistening pale skin to which that fabric still clung, revealing the gentle slope of her curves beneath, not that she seemed to notice for she was inching closer, a breath held as he spoke of his childhood.

 

 

Those twisting low burning flames cast an eerie if not otherworldly purple shimmer of light bouncing, illuminating the cavern and their skin in a haunting lilac tint. For a moment, her eyes strayed, widening at how breathtaking the sight was, holding her hands out and turning them to glance at her shade palms. But then, the sound of pain in his voice forced her attention back, frowning as she focused on the information he offered which made her heart lunge with empathy, her mind reeling as she imagined such a life. To be alone from birth, no family, no tribe.

 

She listened in silence, not wanting to interrupt and steer him off course for once the phoenix started, it seemed as if the words had begun pouring out of him with such raw angst that her hand was already moving, reaching for his. A quiet gesture of support. And yet she was unable to press her palm to his, her hand withdrawing as he hugged his knees to his chest. When he froze, the sound of anguish and tears evident in his voice, her heart took a dive, crashing to her stomach. She suddenly felt so helpless, watching that pain of his emerge. Not only that, she felt guilty for she knew she had pushed and prodded him down this path of memory. She almost told him to stop, sensing that the story was only going to get worse, a dark tone to be heard in the gravel of his usually so smooth voice now broken and shattered with emotion.

 

Unable to bear watching him in such a way, Azura reached to gently stroke her fingers against his knuckles as those hands gripped his knees, her touch resting and fluttering there, moving back and forth as she stroked his skin, skin that felt like it was resuming that spark of heat rapidly with each word. Azura could not help the gasp when he finally revealed the root of his pain, her eyes filling with sympathetic tears for she could not imagine how much horror and pain Niko felt.

 

“Niko.. It was an accident. You were angry and hurt. You defended yourself, you did not mean to harm so many people..” She murmured softly, her tone gentle and soothing as her hand moved to timidly caress his forearm though at the last words, there was a tremor in her touch, a shake of hesitation. Couldnt get enough? What did that mean? Did he actually enjoy hurting others? The idea made her wince, though she quickly recovered, not wanting him to see any disapproval in this moment of intimacy, that break in his wall finally able to be glimpsed but oh, how it wounded her to hear him say that he continued to do such things for the poor woman before him had herself convinced that that violence was in his past, the only deaths to regret, the ones that were accidentally caused by those flames, that rage.

 

But now? He was indicating that he was indifferent to the suffering of those caught with them. What if she was to become one of those victims? The thought hit her with such force that it took all her energy to keep herself within close proximity to him and even more self control to be able to move that hand of hers to brush aside the streaks of dark hair that had fallen over his face as he tried to lower his face away, fingers gently sliding down his cheek until they found his chin, a single finger placed beneath in order to tilt that starry gaze back towards her and in a soft but firm voice, she murmured.

 

“It doesn’t have to be that way, Nikolas. You don’t have to be angry. You can make amends.” The words rolling towards him in a whisper and as they echoed, her voice drawing back into silence, the distant howl of wind and rain suddenly fell into an almost deafening stillness as the fury of that storm subsided, along with the swell of her emotions. 

    2 Comments

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    1. Clayton Wade 11 months ago

      The Azura and Nikolas series are deeply involved stories, both of you putting a lot of thought into the incredible details of your world(s). It’s obvious the reader would be familiar with the stories from your interactions with each other, but even without it it’s a great read. You compliment each other’s writing so well. Great works.

      • Author
        Azura 11 months ago

        Awh, thank you Clayton! That’s so lovely and nice of you to say. It’s always great to know that people are enjoying the story <3

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