“It’s true, though.” Pine said simply, shrugging her shoulders. “You can deny it all you want, but the truth of the matter is that she’s been firmly in Lady Northa’s clutches this whole time. In a place where you can never reach her, no matter how hard you fight and scream.”
“Ah, but we do want you to fight and scream! It’ll make it all the better when you fall into utter despair.” She said, smiling at him. “I don’t tell any lies, not anymore at least.”
“…I won’t give you that satisfaction. Apologies.” *Taimu inclined his head a bit, grip tightening on the hilt of his sword.
But he didn’t think Pine was lying, per se…just that she didn’t know the whole truth. He couldn’t tell her this, though. If she knew, it could end badly for Luna. And he’d be responsible.
So for now he had to ignore this.*
“I’ll still get her out. I’ll beat this Northa woman, and you if necessary.”
[Ayla’s quite horribly tongue-tied as Taimu asks if she’s all right, flushing red instantly and unable to piece together a normal sentence. Her eyes grow wide as he helps her up, flustered noises growing all the more, and she barely even notices when Taimu yells at a thief.
It’s only when he apologizes that she does her best attempts to calm herself, fiercely shaking her head.] “Y-you didn’t s-scare me!!”
[Gods no, quite the opposite. She flails her arms back and forth in an attempt to reassure him, takes a step closer to further this reassurance -
- and then her ankle flares up with immense pain. Panic forgotten, she cries out in pain, losing her balance as she pitches forward, hastily grabbing onto Taimu’s shirt to stop the fall, leaving her sort of tilted and trembling with the effort to keep herself on one foot.]
“M-my ankle hurts a-a lot…”
[It’s about now that the situation is starting to catch up with her, causing her eyes to well up with tears. Oh, oh no she’d utterly humiliated herself, hadn’t she…?]
*Taimu catches her without thinking, his large hands easily supporting her under her arms. He suppresses a wince at her words—great, so he didn’t frighten her, but when she fell down she hurt herself. That’s as good as if Taimu himself had shoved her. Or something.
He notices her tears and pulls her a little closer to himself, petting her hair to comfort her. It’s something that’s always worked on Aumoe, surely it’ll work now.* “Here now, don’t get upset…Come on.”
*Effortlessly, in one swift and fluid motion, he bends down and catches her legs, carrying her “bridal-style” as he straightens back up* “If your ankle hurts so much, you shouldn’t walk. Come on, let’s get to you a healer.” * Without waiting for a response, he starts forward purposely. He’s not about to let her protest*
“Oh, it’s not about making a new one!” Pine said, shaking her head, still smiling at him. “It’s just the principle of the thing, really. You see, I really don’t like it when people break my toys.” She said, locking eyes with him.
“Ayla? That cripple’s in a place where you can never reach her.” She said simply. “Nothing can ever reach her anymore. She’s spending each day in torment, being haunted by nightmares! She gives off such wonderful despair, you know, she’s making the Tree of Sorrow grow so fast!”
“…that can’t be true.”
*He didn’t scream it, he didn’t rage, he didn’t shout and screech and declare revenge…He wasn’t that sort of person. So when he said this, his words had an undercurrent of anger, and of despairing denial, but they were low and calm and steady. He wasn’t like that other dream warrior or whatever.*
“It can’t be…I can’t believe that. I told her—” *He stopped. No, it was probably best not to mention the crystal. The one he gave Ayla for protection, to keep him with her in a sense. The fakes hadn’t had it—if there was a crystal, it was a cheap imitation. So the real Ayla still had the crystal, and if she still had it then…* “She’s not suffering, I know it. You’re only lying to try and get to me, break me down like the fake Ayla did.”
“Ah, so you know the name after all!” Pine claps her hands, looking almost delighted, a sadistic hint on her smile. “Wonderful! That saves me from explaining some things, then. I can get right to the fun part!”
“Oh, but you see, Lady Northa wants nothing from you. This is about what I want.” Pine told him, placing a hand over her chest. “You see, you broke one of my toys, and I’m really not happy with you about this, little dreamwalker.”
“So I just thought I would kill you.”
*Taimu tensed up further, taking an involuntary step back away from this girl. What was she talking about? Toys—wait.* “Did you mean the fake Ayla? Or the Luna?” *he asked, eyes narrowed slightly.*
“And why kill me? If you could make two copies, surely you could have made another…Why kill me because they’re gone?” *Not that he wanted her to make new ones…he just didn’t understand.* “Where’s the real Ayla?”
Pine smiled at him still, watching him carefully. He was on guard, and rightly so- he wasn’t a fool, at the very least. Fighting him would be a good measure of her own abilities, as well as a way to let off some excess steam.
“I am Cure Pine.” She introduced herself, giving the man a curtsy. When she looked up at him, her eyes had shifted, going from their normal color to a color that mirrored Northa’s. “Faithful servant of Lady Northa.”
Taimu wracked his brain quickly, a brief wave of fear going through him when he saw the look of her eyes, how they’d suddenly changed color. ‘Northa…’ Had Shadow or Blaze mentioned that name? Luna? He’d heard it before—from one or all three of them, he just knew it.
The crystal’s light pulses, and then his sword was out. But he didn’t move to attack, he remained in a defensive, taut stance.* “And what does Lady Northa want with me?”
Now that she was free of any illusions of being on the side of good, Inori decided that it was high time to take action- and her first order of business was to do something about that pest who had destroyed her precious mirror Sorewatase, the one she had ordered to take the shape of that Luna girl.
Taimu, was it? Well, his name didn’t matter. He wouldn’t exist for much longer.
Cure Pine sought him out, smiling when she found him, and using tricks she had been taught by Northa, closed off the space around them, creating a dark vortex as she appeared out of nowhere. “Good day!” She called out to him, her eyes shining in a wicked manner, though she was smiling as pleasantly as could be.
“You are Taimu, are you not?”
*Taimu’d had no idea what had just happened to him. One minute he’d been on his way to the hospital—to see how everything was, to speak to Aaron—and then the next he was surrounded by pitch darkness.
And then there was this girl…
He tensed up, on guard as his eyes narrowed ever-so-slightly. How had she known his name? How did she do this? He didn’t take his sword out yet, he didn’t know if this would be a fight just yet…*
[Even with Nami’s help and Professor Kouin’s coaching, Ayla had found her moon charm to be hard to focus with. It wasn’t like it was bad, just…difficult. She’d never had such a problem before! It normally wasn’t safe to get more than one focus charm, but maybe she just needed another look-through?
So here she was, browsing jewelry - though nothing else felt right at all! It depresses her a little, but it’s still jewelry, right? And it was at least pretty to look at…
O-oh, that teardrop shaped one was pretty, maybe she could buy it for a friend or something! She smiles as she reaches out to take a look at it -
- and her hand lightly brushes with someone else’s. Ayla makes a tiny note of surprise, smiling sheepishly as she looks over to apologize to whoever the other person is -
- and then she just stares. Oh no. I-it - it was him!
In response to his question, she quickly jerks her hand back, face turning a brilliant shade of red.]
“N-no, that’s fine! I-I’m just b-browsing!”
[Her face is scarlet now and she laughs brokenly, nervously taking a step back, then two -
- and then she steps wrong, twists her ankle, loses her balance. She falls back, grabs a cloth to try and slow her fall - but of course, as luck would have it, the cloth she grabs is the one laid on the jewelry stall table, and it doesn’t even slow her fall. As a result, she accidentally flings the cloth off the stall, sending necklaces, jewelry, and charms in every direction, before she hits the ground.
As final insult to injury, of course she ends up with the cloth blanket over herself, making her look like some absurd sort of ghost. Ayla groans in pain, dazed and not quite up to speed on how spectacularly she’s made a complete and utter fool of herself just yet.]
*Taimu winces, having outstretched his hand to try and save her, but not being fast enough.* “Ooh…” *He waves off the concerned (and indignant) shopkeeper, and kneels down to gently tug the cloth off of the poor girl.* “Hey, are you alright?” *He smiles at her, kindness still coming through despite the half-lidded, tired eyes.
The shopkeeper is trying to pick up the gems, a few other shoppers helping her. No need for Taimu to try and divide his attention then, right? So he can focus on this girl.
He stands up, gently helping Ayla to her feet, holding her hand.* “You’re not injured, are you?” *Before she can answer he spots something in the crowd, and suddenly he’s standing perfectly straight, eyes alert as he reaches for the small dagger he brought with him in case of an emergency*
“Hey! No pocketing anything, or I’m taking you in!” *Yeah, it’s his day off, but he can still issue a threat, right? And apparently it’s enough, because some poor fool sheepishly pulls a necklace from his pocket and gives it back to the shopkeeper.
That unpleasantness out of the way, he can concentrate on the girl again* “I do apologize, miss. I didn’t mean to scare you.”
*Finally, was all Taimu could think as he shuffled tiredly through the city. It was finally his day off. The guard shut his eyes as he leaned backwards, hands on the small of his back as he popped his spine.
There was no way in all the lands he was going to do anything related to work today. To try and convey this, he was wearing the simplest, plainest garb he could find, no armor, no sword. No one was going to make him break up fights or stop thieves—that was his colleagues’ job today.
Today was just for browsing the shops; seeing the gems and jewelry always relaxed him. Sure enough, a slight smile appeared on his face as he neared the marketplace and made a beeline for one of the jewelry-sellers. Taimu leaned over the display, eyes wandering over the gems and necklaces—and then his gaze landed on a lovely necklace with a teardrop-shaped, cornflower-blue gem. He reached for it, meaning to inspect it further—
[Sol’s quiet for a moment, allowing himself to let Taimu’s explanation sink in, make sense, so to speak. Finally, he nods.]
“Y’wanted her t’know the person you are, not the role you’re in. A prince is somethin’ normal people can’t relate to or even strive towards - a regular guy named Taimu’s easier t’deal with.”
[He smiles a little, scratches behind Reverie’s ear. For Taimu to hide such an important part of himself, being so worried about what she’d think about it - he cared about her. Really and truly.]
“She’ll still like you. It’ll prolly embarrass the hell outta her though. So break it to her nice and slow, okay?”
“…I know. I will.” *Taimu’s voice is still low, a little rumbling. His cheeks tint a dull red as he looks back at Sol, moving to stroke under Reverie’s chin*
“But…what if it scares her, is the problem. What if she thinks she’s unworthy, what if she’s afraid of me after that? …she shouldn’t be, I mean. In Songe, the women are more powerful; Aumoe would be the one to rule and make the majority of decisions, I’d just be a symbol and not even take the throne in the first place but…But just what if?”