Crystal Valley

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Crystal Valley

Unread postby Nerroth » June 23rd, 2009, 2:58 pm

Hi.


I will be launching into the full Crystal Valley storyline soon, but I wanted to start by providing a kind of preview of some of what is to come.

I hope this will set things on the right path.


Note:

This story is intended to be a follow-up to the story
A Moment of Truth, which itself follows the Good ending of Fate/Stay Night's Unlimited Blade Works story route.



Crystal Valley: Preview


BGM: Trevor Morris - And So It Begins


We had come a long way, Sakura and I.

Across half the world and back again, I found the acrid depths a human mind can stoop to…

…and the soaring heights to which our kind should all aspire.


Together, she and I, with those who comprise our family circle, faced our moments of truth.

At long last, one chapter of our collective lives had come to an end.


And yet…


Despite the glimpses offered, by the one which beckoned us towards a new destiny…


…none of us were prepared for what lay in store.



------------------------------


The group of adventurers were astounded.

The flight from Sao Paulo into the interior covered such a diverse array of terrain, so many individual glimpses at a country – a continent – in constant flux.

From the urban sprawl of the metropolis the group left behind, the course of the flight gradually took them over wide subtropical forests and immense stretches of savanna, pock-marked to a greater or lesser extent by large stretches of farmland. Much of it had been ‘claimed’ at the expense of a unique ecosystem which lay under increasing siege, despite the efforts of many to steer its fate towards a less destructive path.

And further on, past the myriad works of man, lay the pulsating heart of life itself…

…the Amazon basin.

“It’s hard to get a handle of…” admitted Rin, who had a hand pressed against one of the small plane’s windows, trying not to ‘accidentally’ Reinforce the glass while doing so.

Shirou nodded, putting a hand to the side of his head, as he tried to peek out himself. “It’s usually so cloudy when you fly to London from Japan and back. I don’t think I’ve ever had the chance to see the terrain I’ve flown over quite like this.”

Saber, who almost wished she had asked for the chance to fly the group to their destination herself – assuming her Riding skill wouldn’t take too long to adjust – remained silent. Her wide eyes, intently picking up every last scrap of detail it could along the way, said more than mere words could convey, to those who knew what to look for in them.

Meanwhile, Sakura rested her head on Seonac’s shoulder, as the two looked on through their own windowpane. Much as the view had to offer, the two couldn’t help but find their thoughts drawn away from it, and towards a more distant point they would have to try and reach.

“They’re waiting for us,” Seonac ‘whsipered’ into his beloved’s mind.

“Hai,” came the reply.

They had so far left to go… but even so, they were on their way.


------------------------------


As the rain beat down, from clouds which had not been there a few hours ago, the captured man shuddered in reaction to the mysterious, piercing set of green eyes which remained locked upon him.

“Wait…” he said, as he tried to steady himself, “I don’t…”

Something’s not right here, Seonac thought to himself, as he suddenly sensed a shift within the prisoner’s mind. It was almost as if…

“Ah, so you can notice it,” a new voice spoke, from the prisoner’s mouth. The man smirked, his expression changing in an instant – but Seonac knew that this was not the same man at all. “Interesting.”

Seonac tried to retain the initiative, despite a growing sense that something was about to go very, very wrong. “I don’t suppose you feel like talking about it, then?”

The ‘man’ chuckled, as he stood up, going as far as he could while the bonds remained in place. “No, I’m afraid I don’t have anything to say to you and yours. Well, except for one thing, that is.”

Seonac replied, as he noted Rin, Saber and Shirou approach. “Which is…”

A wider grin, as the final words were spoken. “This one’s usefulness… has just reached its end.”

The five of them could feel the pulse of danger, as Saber’s instincts reacted even as the low whistling sound was immediately followed by the pitiful sight of fear in the man’s eyes as his head burst open to one side.


------------------------------


The way to the village was un-marked by any recognisable trail, though the guide seemed to note every step’s worth with the expertise of one who carried a lifetime’s worth of experience among the rainforest.

Some of the villagers had stepped forward to note the strangers’ presence, while others seemed content to remain at whatever stations they had been busy at before the new arrival.

Seonac was fascinated by the sight of these people, but what was perhaps most striking was how they, or at least those who were most prominently reaching out to his mind, seemed to recognise him.

“So, I don’t suppose you have any idea why they already seem to recognise you?” Rin asked, wondering when any of these locals were actually going to speak. She had a few guesses as to why they had not done so, but none of them meant that she had to like it.

Before Seonac could reply, one of the elders directed them to what looked like a kind of statue…

…but when they came closer, they realised that the effigy was made of a material like no other on Earth.

This would have been the most important part of it, were it not for the person the face of the effigy echoed in astonishing detail.


------------------------------


The five had been given the time they needed to settle in, or at least as much as they could settle for what was, even now, a waypoint on their wider journey.

And yet, even leaving the anthropologist’s treasure trove which this unique culture represented aside, it seemed increasingly obvious that these people were strongly linked to the place where the five were going.

Their story was crucial to understanding what lay beyond.

As the music began, so did the telling.

“What do they want, itoshii?” Sakura asked, as another of the elders approached them, his hand outstretched.

Seonac stood up, and smiled as he held Sakura’s hand in his own. “They want us to dance.”

She smiled in turn as she followed him up, and the assembled crowd watched the two move together, as if they could hear an echo of the song which played within their entwined minds.

As the dance continued, more and more of the villagers joined in, each following a kind of pattern that seemed to tell a story within a story, all of its own.

As the dance widened, a shared vision flowed into the minds of all assembled – a vision of another time, another place. At the dawn of this people’s world, when they had been the first of their kind, the architects of a realm like no other.

As the cries called out, one after another, each with more sorrow, more depth, more meaning than the last, the tragic tale unfolded.


A burning light in the distant sky.

An unwilling exodus to a foreign land.

A stream of tears and heartache, as friends and loved ones passed beyond the known realm.

A determination to dance, to rejoice, to defy the call into oblivion, to assert the bittersweet mantra what while there is life, there is hope.

A set of new arrivals, each hundreds of moons apart, each reflected in the living metal…

…and each drawn to a fate unknown.

A sense that all of this, somehow, was inexorably building towards something…

…that would change their world yet again.


------------------------------


Like the ringing of a solitary church bell, the pulse of psionic energy emanated across the gathering, as if calling time on one set of events, and calling forth the onset of a new phase.

At the source of the pulse, the eyes of the ‘statue’ flared a bright emerald.

It stepped forth.

It was time.


------------------------------


The five followed the course laid out by the walking simulacrum, its sure and steady stride in stark contrast to the carefully-navigated route the indigenous guide had followed to lead them to the village.

It walked as if even the act itself was a carefully-choreographed form of mimicry, as if it had somehow been trained to move in a fashion alien to it.

Its lips did not move, not even to show any sign of breathing, nor to express any sign of exertion.

And despite the utter silence, both verbally and telepathically, to be found within, the being still emanated an immensely powerful sense of purpose – as if it was fulfilling one small, but crucial, part in a far more intricate plan.

It stopped at what seemed to be a rock face, and turned to face the group as a shimmering vortex of teal and emerald formed behind it.


------------------------------


On the other side, the four humans, one Servant, and one simulacrum stood upon a smooth disc of the same alien material as the silent guide.

As the disc flew along towards its destination, the five were left speechless at the sights they passed through.

Within an immense subterranean cavern, a glowing light seemed to emanate and reflect from a hundred thousand surfaces, from the distant roof to the ground below. They passed through endless rows of petrified – no, crystallized – trees, plants, even animals, left as if frozen in time at the moment of ossification. Thin strands of the alien material, light as the air yet stronger than diamond, was woven into an impossibly intricate pattern, between the trees, along the surface, among the relatively few notable terrain features on the ceiling.

In the centre of the cavern, this immense crystal valley beneath the surface of an otherwise-unheralded patch of the hemisphere, rested the somewhat egg-shaped pods within which two very special forms of life currently resided.

They were too far away to be seen clearly, but Seonac and Sakura rejoiced as they could sense the little ones’ presence.

But there was so much, so very much more than that.

The flying disc approached the centre, and as it did so, the will of the one which had guided its actions lay manifest.

The five looked up, open-mouthed, as they strained their necks in order to try and take in the sheer scope of the Ultimate One before them.

It was hoisted in the centre of the Crystal Valley upon impossibly large, curved legs, which held up a torso mounting innumerable appendages, large and small. Behind its back lay a perfect circle, effortlessly housing a churning matrix of unfathomable power and majesty.

Its three heads – or was it five? Or maybe only the one? - rested upon long neck-like extensions, and even the one, central head seemed to take in all of the arrivals at once.

Saber tried to steel herself in the face of this godlike entity, despite the overwhelming sense of apprehension at their very presence within this un-earthly landscape.

Rin and Shirou held each other’s hand more tightly than either realised, as they thought of the last time they faced something even remotely comparable in terms of power.

Sakura, in contrast, was trying to fight down the intensely strong urge to rush over and embrace the pods containing the little ones – but the sight of how her partner faced the immense being before them gave her pause.

Seonac, however, left no fear or apprehension at all, as his mind opened to the One which had beckoned him forth. Rather, he left that he was on the very cusp of something… magnificent.

“I can see it,” he spoke, as the first tendrils of communication formed. “Its presence, its purpose…”

He could see it all.

Its reason for being on this world.

Its efforts to understand, in extraordinary detail, the kind of life, so different to its own, which awaited it here.

Its revelation that, despite its solitary presence here on Earth…

…that it was not alone.


“Quite the show, isn’t it?”

That voice…

Seonac’s head turned, his eyes looking out into the crystal valley, desperately trying to pick out who had ‘said’ this. “What are you…”

“I’ve waited for far too long,” the voice proclaimed in triumph, loud enough for all of them to hear, “And at last… vengeance shall be mine!”


All Seonac could do was scream, as the bolt of Gin-soaked energy fired from a hidden vantage point, soaking up the energy permeating the cavern as it smashed into the circle upon the Ultimate One’s back.

------------------------------


When the new portal opened, wreathed in crimson, I knew that four thousand years’ worth of effort had been left in vain.

As it – as
they – came forth, I knew that the fate of mankind itself now lay in the balance.

As I looked to my friends, my family, we all realised that there was only one, faint chance, before it was too late.

And as I turned to the Ultimate One before me, and took the step towards my true destiny...

...I wondered if it would be enough.
Last edited by Nerroth on August 5th, 2009, 6:27 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Crystal Valley: Preview (FF)

Unread postby zweiterversuch » June 23rd, 2009, 10:08 pm

YAY! Some ORT action!

I can't wait to read the rest of it!
http://visualnoveldai.com/
If you want to create your own visual novel go there!
Try it out, no compromise!
8 inches in a week!

btw Princess Tutu is still Awesome!!!
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Re: Crystal Valley: Preview (FF)

Unread postby Nerroth » June 23rd, 2009, 11:00 pm

In that case, I hope you'll like it when it's up and running!


(Also, if you like, and haven't tried it already, please have a look at the story which leads up to this one - there's a thread for it here on the boards.)
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Crystal Valley: Prologue

Unread postby Nerroth » July 27th, 2009, 11:13 pm

First of all - it's Jonathan Rhys Meyers' birthday - so to the star of a series I've mercilessly 'borrowed' BGM ideas from, Lá breithe shona duit!


And secondly... this.


Crystal Valley: Prologue



BGM: E3 2009 trailer for Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker


1929.

It was the year of the Wall Street Crash, a financial reckoning which would signal the world's headlong plunge into the Great Depression.

It was a year of crises and conflicts in East Asia. The Jinan Incident came to an end, but had only served to deepen the gradually-stirring enmity between Imperial Japan and Nationalist China. Tensions to the north were also evident, as a Sino-Soviet conflict sparked up, then petered out, over the Manchurian Chinese Eastern Railway.

While the East Asian rivals and the old and rising powers of Europe and the New World officially sought to renounce war through the signing of (or declared adherence to) the Kellogg-Briand Pact, the reality of armed conflict simmered away in the background.


It was a time when, in the midst of the shifting sands of history, there were those tho lived their lives within the numerous consulates, enclaves and administrative territories lying at the crossroads of fate.


Not all of them were human.



------------------------------


"Are you ready for your surprise, sir?" the rather corpulent man asked the newcomer. He man was wearing a somewhat less than well-fitting military dress uniform. Or rather, it was one which looked like it was tailored for an officer who might have been somewhat less out of place had he been in service - of you could call it that - fifty years ago.

Such anachronisms, petty vanities and licences taken seemed all too common in these enclaves,
thought the newcomer in question. Since arriving in Hong Kong not all that long ago, his travels had led him to and from the various pocket colonies, extra-territorial enclaves and disputed ports and settlements scattered across East Asia - with the odd stop-off in Tokyo and Nanjing thrown in for good measure.

At almost every stop, he found himself figuratively shaking his head at the eclectic mix of optimists, cynics and opportunists who seemed to litter these places. He also noted the many innocent, well-meaning people, who had either grown up in these places or who had moved here with the promise of excitement, wealth, or perhaps even a chance to build cross-cultural relations.

They really had no idea, the newcomer thought to himself, though showing no outward sign of emotion.


Meanwhile, the 'colonel' was growing impatient. "I'll take that as a yes, then." Without waiting for an clarification, he made a summoning gesture to one of his associates, who opened a side door and stepped across to let a set of others enter.

The colonel smirked as he saw the others enter with their quarry. "My, my... I believe we have quite the offering this time!"

The newcomer looked to see her. She seemed relatively unharmed, for now, and was doing her best not to show any sense of fear to her captors.

But it was there. He could see it. It was in her eyes, for those who knew where to look.

But then, there weren't many who could sense it the way he could.

he was about to say something, before the colonel turned and sneered at him. "You see, young man, we have something of a routine in these enclaves. There are... needs we must fulfill, and ways in which we have to make sure that newcomers are properly adjusted to the idea."

He could hear the sound of more than one concealed firearm being armed.

"And of course," the colonel added, "we operate under the principle that it's that bit harder to undermine said routine when we make sure that those who run into it are either equally culpable, or... well... faced with another option."


The colonel was probably expecting some kind of tortured reaction - no doubt waiting to savour the awful choice that would dawn on the newcomer.

So, when the man remained silent, and turned his gaze to match the woman's, the colonel and his associates didn't think too much of the moments of silence which followed.

After all, what could one unarmed man do?


"If you can hear and understand me," a silent 'voice' carried over from one mind to another, "do not speak, or show a reaction. Speak to me through your mind, if you can."

She did not speak, or react outwardly, but he could tell how shocked she was.

And yet... "I hear you."

"Go on then," the colonel waved once more. "Send her over. Let our guest get a good look in, before he makes his decision."

The guard at her side pushed her forward, and she remained silent as she stepped carefully over to the newcomer. "What do you -"

"There are many questions to answer,"
came the reply, "but right now, I have only one... the one from which all others may flow.

Do you trust me?"


Of all of the questions to ask, this was one she was least prepared for. She had been taken from her home by those who had murdered her family, had felt the terror of what fate she might be subjected to by her leering captors, and now seemingly offered up to some unknown man on a platter as part of some terrible pact.

But as she looked into those bright blue eyes, she somehow felt a surging feeling in her spirit. Without stopping to wonder why, she knew her answer.

"I trust you."


With this reply, the newcomer nodded, showing the first reaction any of the others had noted since this particular 'offer' was made.

"Ah," the colonel asked, "so do we have an answer?"

"Indeed," came the vocal reply, sent just before another one, to only one.

"Then hold on."

She reached out to him.

As he moved in response, something... changed.

His eyes flashed a bright, rich blue.


The others had no idea what was about to hit them.


------------------------------


The colonel found himself flying through the air, his bulbous self smashing against the wall as he looked on. Paralysed, he was unable to even speak, as he saw the tide of judgement sweep upon his associates.

His mind could not fathom what was happening. The newcomer was gone, and in his place was a silver, blue and crimson wave of death. He could not even register if this or that guard or accomplice were cut down by some kind of weapons fire, shredded by a bladed weapon, or torn to shreds through sheer physical force.

But it was those eyes... those twin blue spheres which cut through into the very depths of his soul, exposing his crimes and failings like a professor dissecting an unwanted cadaver.

Blood and bile built up into his mouth, and he could feel himself choking to death, or rather the choking sensation attempting to outpace the drowning feeling in his lungs as they filled with his own fluids.

As his life finally slipped away, he found himself wondering what the... thing which had started all of this, and had gained purchase over his own soul long ago, would make of what had befallen them.


------------------------------


"This way"
, the voice asserted. The woman ran, her hand holding on tightly, keeping pace somehow with the one she had put her trust in.

Any guards or accomplices who were foolish or unfortunate enough to get in the way were left as shattered and broken ruins in their wake.

Soon, they approached a large stained-glass window, which reached from the floor to the ceiling. They could hear the alarm klaxon, no doubt from those still scrambling to react in the compound.

"Where do we go from here?" she 'asked' him, still wary of using her real voice.

"Step back for a moment,"
was his reply. As she did so, he knelt facing towards the window.

If the change she had seen earlier was incredible, this further shift was simply extraordinary. Her sense of the world around her was being re-written again and again.

"I'm sorry if I frighten you," he admitted, aloud, as the cocoon of light flexed and swayed over him.

It was only the second time she had heard him speak, the first since he began to change. But it did not matter if it was ten minutes or ten millennia. "I am not afraid, azukaru."

She had put her trust in him, and that was all that mattered.


------------------------------


The beast had been unleashed.

However, this had not been in accordance with its plan. It had sensed that something very serious was happening, and knew that it could not afford to maintain the usual pretense.

So, it burst free from its 'captivity' - in truth, a set of loosely-held chains intended only to maintain the illusion for those who would be obliged to bear witness to the latest round of sacrifice.

The human guards nearby, no longer of any relevance, were torn asunder and consumed, their blood and flesh invigorating the beast as it roared in defiance.

It leaped out into the clearing within the compound, and could smell the fear reeking from the humans cowering behind their weapons, huddled within their mechanised contraptions. He wondered how soon they would recognise their peril.


It would be sooner than even the Beast would realise.

Explosions ripped through the vehicles in the compound, gun emplacements ravaged by incoming... fire? The beast's heightened senses were better equipped than those of mere humans to keep track, but even this could not get around the fact that even it had never faced the like before.

"Whatever, or wherever, you are," the beast roared, "face me! Face your death!"

As if in reply, a beam of yellow and crimson energy lanced from the distance and bore deep into the side of the beast's torso. It screamed as the unearthly force cut through its aethyric form and smashed out of the other side, detonating the weapons magazine in an armoured vehicle and causing a ferocious detonation.


The beast held its arms across its chest, its claws pawing at the gashed rent, its breathing heavy as it tried to summon its prana reserves to heal itself enough for the fight.


"You are your kind are relics of the past, daemon."

The beast looked up, trying to focus its eyes.

It saw a being of some silver-like material, with a sheen that reflected like no known substance on the face of the Earth.

It was encased in a blue and crimson halo, with two impossibly deep, glowing eyes looking down towards the beast.

It held a human female carefully in one arm, and some kind of long-barrelled weapon in the other... or rather, an object which seemed to act as a physical extension of its very form.

"If I... am... a daemon..." the beast called out, defiantly, "what... does that.. make you?"

The azukaru raised its right arm to take aim once more.


As the energy built up for the second strike, it had but one answer.



"A herald... of the future."
Last edited by Nerroth on August 5th, 2009, 6:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Crystal Valley - Part 1

Unread postby Nerroth » July 29th, 2009, 8:24 pm

Crystal Valley: Part 1


BGM: Rob Lane - The Call of Destiny/Titles


A young man walks along a well-beaten path, in the midst of a wide-ranging forest.

He carries a rare and powerful secret, hoping that the place at the end of his journey will help him make the most out of this hidden gift.

What he has yet to realise, however, is that the very steps he takes have been known to many since before he was even born, by those who call him by many names - ones he has not yet heard himself.

Indeed, his fate will become the stuff of immortal legend. Told and re-told, analysed and re-interpreted, long after his words and deeds fade from the page of history... his is a tale that shall never be forgotten.


The tale... of Merlin!



But things are set to take a dramatic turn, even in these early days, when his legend was still a fragile embryo.

Time and again, he finds himself facing monsters, sorcerers, dark warriors, mystics and others - all the while obliged to hide his own gift from a reactionary King who would have his own head cut off were he to know the truth.

But Merlin won't be alone. Alongside him are friends old and new, heroes of lore and aspirants of promise.

The fortune of Camelot depends on their efforts, their struggles... and perhaps even their sacrifice.



From a sword lying in the deep waters, a myriad of images rush past, glimpses of battles won and lost, challenges met and resolved, powers tamed and unleashed...

...and in the distance, emerging as a beacon of hope, lie the great walls of Camelot itself!


Thus, the stage for the greatest story of them all is shown.


------------------------------


"The story of Merlin!"

Bewley's Oriental Café has seen its fair share of characters in its day, being that it has been a fixture of Grafton Street since 1927.

So, when one English man tries to talk to a colleague at the same table about a topic of interest while making use of a wide variety of evocative hand gestures, it might nto make quite as much of a scene as you might think.

"Well?" 'Matthew' (the name he was going by at the moment, for whatever reason) asked, "Are you gonna say anything, or what?"

'Mark' (the name the colleague was going under, mainly because 'Matthew' suggested it, and he didn't feel like arguing over it) tapped away at the page he had in one hand with the tip of the pen he held in the other. "Oh, I'm just waiting to get to the part you wanted me to play in this little business of yours."

"Little?" Matthew gasped, in a bout of over-exaggeration. "This is gonna be a big deal!"

"It might be a big deal for you. If I sign up to whatever you have in mind, then it'll also be a big deal for me." Mark was trying not to enjoy this too much... but it wasn't working. "Until then, it's not so big a deal."

Matthew wanted to use some rather more intemperate language in response, but tried to remember why they were here in the first place. "So yeah. A couple of us have been running over the idea for a while now, and we're hoping that the BBC will let us get started production-wise in March."

"Okay..." Mark nodded, as he started to scribble something on the page before him.

"We'll need to get some actors - a young-ish set, you know, to make it all fresh and exciting and stuff." Matthew had a few names in mind already.

"How young?" Mark wondered.

"Well," Matthew conceded, "there'll be a few older characters, like Uther as king, but the likes of Merlin and Arthur will be young -"

"Wait, Arthur's gonna be the same age as Merlin?" His mind was still in Merlin-as-mentor mode.

"Yep!" Matthew sounded as if he had hit upon the unified field theory or something. "It's a shake-up - this time, Merlin will have to get the hang of his own potential, at the same time Arthur is kicking his heels waiting for Uther to kick the bucket."

Mark sounded kind of disappointed. "So no getting Sam Neill for the role, then?"

"No," Matthew sighed. "He's set to star in that new show about Henry VIII being made over here anyway. And besides, even if he were, say, Merlin's mentor or what have you, people would think we're trying to tie into the miniseries he did."

"Aw," Mark sighed a little. "I like Sam Neill."

"It's not a case of liking him or not -"

"I wonder what he'll be like in that new show, actually," Mark went on, taking a bit of a tangent. "Doesn't it have that guy from Bend it like Beckham in it as well? You know, whats-his-face, the lad in the Hugo Boss commercials."

"Look, will you -"

"He'd probably have to stack up on the pork pies and wear a red wig for the role..."

"Moving on!" Matthew shouted, a little louder than he might have liked. "So yeah, we're gonna set the story in Camelot, and have Uther still be king..."

"Is it gonna be sub-Roman, like in that Clive Owen movie?" Mark wondered.

"No, we'll have the standard medieval knights in shining armour deal," Matthew tried to clarify.

"Ah," Mark countered, "but then you'll have all of the different sets of purists going 'they didn't have that kind of thing back in the Dark Ages!' - and than another set going 'stop calling them the Dark Ages, they weren't that bad!' and a third going 'well, it wasn't a bloody picnic at the time, was it?' and..."

Matthew found himself clasping his head in his hands. "Come on, it's supposed to be a family TV show. We can do what we like with it!"

Mark found himself jumping onto this question. He tended to jump back and forth a lot. "What kind of family show?"

"You know," Matthew tried to make a you-know gesture with his hands... or, at least, what was intended to be such. "Family. Something that kids can sit and watch with their parents and grandparents."

"Oh, like Doctor Who!" Mark's eyes lit up at the name of the Holy Programme. He wasn't entirely thrilled with some of the creative decisions taken recently with that series, but still sub-consciously started tapping out the da-da-da-dum da-da-da-dum sound of drums...

Matthew's eyes rolled. "Do you even realise you're doing that whole Harold Saxon thing right now?"

"I don't know what you're talking about." Da-da-da-dum. Da-da-da-dum.

"This is giving me a headache." Matthew hoped that this scatter-shot mind could be of use when making the project work - but I tell you what, it's not half trying. "Yeah, it could be shown in the Doctor's timeslot when it's not on."

"Fair enough." Mark noted onto the sheet: Does not conflict with Doctor Who.

"So then..." Matthew hoped to try and get a solid answer this time. "Are you in?"

"Hmm." Mark remained silent for a moment, his eyes seemingly focussing on some empty portion of the page before him. "What about specials?"

Matthew wasn't quite expecting that. "Specials?"

"Yeah," Mark continued. "Like, the way you see short bits and bobs done for Children in Need or some such. Are you gonna get the chance to do one of those?"

"I... uh... guess?" Matthew hadn't thought of it.

Mark was scribbling again - this time, showing a rough sketch of a giant yellow bear with an eyepatch stomping over a castle. "Well, since you've got magic and stuff, maybe Pudsey could be threatening Camelot!"

"Yeah..." Matthew started to think. This lad might be on to something. "Well, Uther won't allow magic or monsters in the kingdom, so he'd have to have a way to not try to kill the Pudsey?"

"Are you sure?" Mark asked, as he found himself drawing over the stick figure Uther, who had been set to cut off poor Pudsey's head.

"Well, maybe they could send someone out to get humiliated, and placate the Pudsey." Matthew's fingers snapped. "Make it Merlin! He's liable to get a few potatoes thrown at him anyway."

"Potatoes wouldn't be in Camelot," Mark pointed out, as he kept scribbling. "They hadn't been found in the New World yet."

"Who's going to notice?" Matthew sighed. "Anyway, Merlin can be put in the stocks, and have fruit thrown at him. Money is raised, the King is happy, and Merlin looks like he had an accident in an organic food store."

"Hmm, I guess that might work too." Matthew had a look over at what Mark had drawn...

...a stick figure Merlin with a saddle on his back, going clack-clack with a set of coconuts Monty Python-style, with a stick-figure Arthur hopping around in front of him pretending to be riding a horse. There were even little sound effects drawn in, too.

And a note saying 'they could get the coconuts from Asia, through long-distance trade or something.'


"You're not just barking mad, mate," Matthew said bluntly. "You're completely out of your fucking mind."

"I aim to please," Mark parried.

Mark put the pen and paper down, and said "alright, count me in."

"Brilliant!" Matthew clapped his hands together. "So, come on, shall we?"

"I'm done, yeah." Mark hadn't had much to drink anyway.


As the two got up to leave, five people at a neighbouring table tried to maintain their composure. It wasn't quite working.

Matthew passed one of them, some young lad, who looked like he was about to say something. "Something on your mind, young man?"

The young man waved his hand. "Oh, no, I'm fine..."


------------------------------


The French-built light rail tram rolled along the tracks, one of the fleet which comprised the Luas system's Red Line. This line ran from all the way out in Tallaght, one of Dublin's suburbs. It would go along a path crossing the Liffey near Heuston Station (where intercity trains heading to places like Cork left from) and across the north side up to Connolly Station (the southern terminus of the Enterprise rail service from Dublin to Belfast).

For one particular set of passengers, however, it was taking them along to a stop along that northern shore of the Liffey.

"It's this one," Seonac pointed out. "Ard-Mhúsaem." On the Luas, and most of Ireland's modes of public transport, separate images were shown of the route in Irish and English. Ard-Mhúsaem - Museum - stopped off in front of Collins Barracks, once the site of a major British garrison in Ireland, and after independence served as a barracks for the Irish Defence Forces until 1997. Most recently, it had been re-furbished as one of the four sites of the National Museum of Ireland... but as a recent addition would show, the legacy of the site would not be forgotten.

"So, how much Irish can you actually speak, then?" Shirou wondered. While he noted the funny-looking script everywhere, he didn't hear a lot of it. But then, he wasn't too sure what to listen for, anyway.

Seonac shrugged. "Well, I can tell you how to pronounce certain things, more or less, but that's about all I'm good for."

He wondered what the Lancer Shirou had met - or the one that had apparently been in action during the 4th Grail War, for that matter - would have made of it all. But then, Irish as a language had been imported itself, replacing whatever tongue the original inhabitants of the island had spoken three or four thousand years ago.

The tram came to a stop, letting one or two people on, but mostly letting others off. Seonac, Sakura, Saber, Shirou and Rin stepped out onto the platform, and took a moment to look around.

"It's a nice view from here," Rin noted. "How come you didn't bring us here last time?"

"To be honest," Seonac answered, as he turned to look up at the facade of the Barracks, "the main collection they put in here wasn't something that I was all that excited about."

"What changed your mind?" Saber wondered, turning to the structure awaiting them.

With that, Seonac pulled out a flyer he had with him, and shows it to them. "This."


------------------------------



"For in far foreign fields from Dunkirk to Belgrade, lie the soldiers and chiefs of the Irish Brigade."

- Thomas Davis


The latest addition at the time to Collins Barracks, the largest display project ever undertaken by the National Museum of Ireland had been recently opened to the public; Soldiers and Chiefs: The Irish at War at Home an Abroad from 1550.

As one walks through this exhibit, one is taken back and forth through history, through the rough and the smooth of life as it was for so many Irish people. Be it in one of the many conflicts and troubles to take shape on the island itself, or in the garrisons and battlefields of those who went all over the world.

While all of the exhibit is indoors, there is a very different feel to it depending on which part of it one stands within. From the opening section detailing the British presence in Ireland during the 19th century, through to the era of conflict which broke out in the trenches of Europe in 1914 and ended in the countryside of rural Ireland in 1923, the rooms are smaller, more reliant on artificial light.

One could almost imagine it as going through a tunnel, a long series of chapters in the storied history of Ireland.

But then...

Seonac held the door open as the others stepped through, leaving the last of the sections enclosed in this smaller type of space.

Now, they opened up into a more open, more naturally-lit area. Large glass windows let the sunlight flood in, giving a very different feel to the latter exhibits.

For it was here, the home of the last three sections of the exhibition, which were set in the time of the modern Irish State.

Steps led down to the exhibits proper - which, in keeping with the official policy of the Irish government, now had Irish above English for its descriptive entries - but none of the five were in a rush to head down just yet.

"Interesting..." Saber's eyes lit up as she looked to the two items held from cabled running up to the ceiling, hovering over the main area of the gallery proper.

"Which one do you like better, Saber-san?" Sakura asked, as she stepped over to the balcony beside her.

Immediately, Saber pointed to the more distant craft. "That one!"

That one was a de Havilland Vampire T55. Used for a time as a training aircraft by the Irish Air Corps, the sleek silver craft hung proudly above a section where two armoured vehicles which had been used at different times on UN peacekeeping operations.

Although, for some reason, it almost looked like one of the green-white-orange roundel on the bottom of one of the wings seemed like it was slowly peeling off..

In comparison, the propeller-driven Miles Magister seemed somewhat more modest, but was no less important a factor in the IAC's heritage.

"Just so you know," Seonac said over to Saber, jokingly, "while you'd probably be able to jump over on to that thing, it might not be wise to try and see if you can fly it!"

She turned to him and showed a very telling smile. "Be careful what kind of suggestions you make, Seonac."


------------------------------


While Saber had perhaps appreciated the military exhibit the most - though Shirou couldn't help but picture what it might be like to Trace some of the various swords on display - the next place the quntet tried out was far more up Rin's alley.

The Chester Beatty Library, snuggled in a building set in the gardens to the side of Dublin Castle, was Seonac's favourite place to go in Dublin, and Rin had taken a major shine to it when she had seen in in her first trip to Dublin back in 2006.

Its permanent exhibits were on two floors, one above the other. Each echoed the layout of the other, with a section detailing European works to the left, South and East Asian items to the right, and the arts of the Islamic world in the centre.

Magnificent examples of the Qu'ran rest near to wall-mounted mandalas from India and Tibet, while samples of Persian, Mughal, Ottoman and other calligraphy rest near to jade carvings dating form the Qing Dynasty.

On the roof sat a peaceful rock garden, where one could try to find a moment of peace, or maybe look out onto the grounds of what had once been the Royal residence in Ireland.

Also, various temporary exhibits were set up in a separate section, where items from around the world would be displayed.

Not least of which was the Codex Leicester, shown from 13 June to 12 August 2007... penned by the hand of no less a man than Leonardo da Vinci himself.

For those able to visit this place, and the museum at Collins Barracks for that matter, it was a true delight to be able to see these wonders for free... though donations were always welcome, of course.


"Look at that..." Rin had a hand carefully placed on the glass between herself and the exhibit she was poring over.

The others wondered what was so fascinating about lumps of lapis lazuli and other such minerals, when all sorts of other works surrounded them. "What is it you like about this section, nee-san?" Sakura asked, curiously.

"Well, Sakura," Rin replied, though not shifting her gaze one millimetre, "while I like seeing some of the items here - not least when it comes to trying to sense any kind of aura from them - none of them would be possible without the kind of building blocks you see here."

"These rare materials have a power of their own. They lie there, waiting to be shaped and moulded, to be given form and expression - yet speak to me even now, as they are." Mineralogy was something that came easily to her, and even items she wouldn't try and spend time each day charging held a certain fascination for her.

Sakura might have shared much heritage-wise with her older sister, but this was not a part of that. Even so, hearing how she spoke of it was an inspiration in and of itself. "When I look at one of the finished works here, I will bear your words in mind, nee-san."


"Come on then," Shirou added, "weve still got more to see!"


------------------------------


Later on, after their tour took them from the CBL to the cobbled streets of Temple Bar, and down past Westmoreland Street and across the bridge, the five found themselves standing in front of a certain monument at the southern end of arguably the most famous thoroughfare in the country.

The legacy of the Liberator lived on every day in the heart of Dublin. Here on Ó'Connell Street, which had been at the forefront of Irish history on more than one occasion, facing towards Ó'Connell Bridge leading over to the southside, stood a statue of Daniel Ó'Connell... who might have been surprised at the tall, thin metal structure rising from the ground behind him.

"That thing is crooked, you know," Rin pointed out, referring to the Spire of Dublin - the metal monument which now stood at the site of what had once been Nelson's Pillar. When one stands at its base and looks up, it looks to be swaying slightly to one side, though it's not noticeable when one stands further away.

"To be honest, the most crooked thing about that spire is that you can't go up it." When Nelson's Pillar had been there, one could go up and look over the city from a raised position. Nowadays, a smokestack at Smithfield has been converted into a viewing platform, but it wasn't the same.

"So, will we go and see the Spire more closely now, itoshii?" Sakura asked. There were other sites one could see nearby, too - not least the prominent General Post Office. Although, Seonac couldn't remember if the Cú Chulainn statue usually found there had been sent on loan to Belfast or not.

He couldn't help but wonder what the others would think of that.


But there was another matter to settle, before they continued.

This was the last day of normality that the five would go through before the final preparations were made. After this, none of them know how long it would be, if ever, that they could spend time like this again.

"There's something I'd like to do first, if it's okay," he responded.

The four agreed, and Seonac took Sakura's hand, standing with her beneath the statue's silent gaze.

"Sakura," he began, "as far as my family is concerned, the Liberator is one of our own - and even if he was not a blood relative, his example is one which generations of Ó'Conaills have followed... and still do."

"I believe he would be proud of you, itoshii," Sakura assured him.

"I hope so," Seonac answered, "and if there's any part of him out there, I hope he doesn't mind my choosing this place to do the following:"

Taking a small box out of his pocket, he knelt before Sakura and bowed his head. "Even in the days of dowries and match-makers, my family never agreed to such means of forming a lasting union. We take pride on never settling for anything less than the truest, most heartfelt reasons, when it comes to passing on this."

He held the box before her, and she gasped as she saw the intricately-carved emerald ring resting within. She could almost feel the provenance within, the generations' worth of feelings that had been imbued within.

"This ring has been in my family for a long time. Indeed, rumour has it that Daniel himself once held it, and passed it on with his goodwill." He looked up, and met her eyes, knowing that whatever her answer, these were the words he wanted to say.

"And so, I offer this to you, Sakura, because I love you, and I want to be with you for the rest of our days... and to entrust you with passing it on when the time comes."

"Itoshii..." Sakura was welling up, waiting to burst into joy at any moment.

She would not have to wait long. "Sakura... will you marry me?"

"Yes!" she affirmed at once, jumping over to hold him, in front of the eminently pleased trio watching this special moment - and the odd 'ye-hoo' and 'go on ya good thing!' from passers-by taking the chance to join in.


After Sakura carefully slid the ring onto her finger, Seonac turned and winked at Shirou. "So, my good man, do you have any plans I should be privy to?"


Shirou's cheeks turned as red as his hair, and they all burst out laughing.
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Crystal Valley - Part 2

Unread postby Nerroth » August 4th, 2009, 5:24 pm

Part 2


Where will Destiny take you?

- Promotional trailer for Stargate: Universe


BGM: Embassy - Gravity


The Beast lay slain.

A smoking tunnel was piercing through its skull, the remainder of which listing to one side as its slowly-dematerialising form bled into the aethyr surrounding it.

If one were to pull back one's viewpoint, one would find that its un-natural corpse lay in the midst of a scene of devastation. Burned-out wrecks of armoured vehicles, checkpoints and pillboxes were scattered around the grounds of the compound. To one side, one would find a once-proud manor house still standing, albeit in the process of being gutted by a blazing fire. A once-impressive stained glass mosaic, which had faced the courtyard from the flank of the manor, had been shattered into a thousand pieces lying on the ground below.

And if one were to pull even further back, to take in the ruins of the compound in one vista, one might see the one whose actions had brought this destruction to pass.

The silver entity, carefully nestling a human woman under its left arm, rode its halo of light as it circled above the grounds of the compound one last time, before lifting higher into the skies.


------------------------------


"Do you have anywhere safe to go?" the being asked, as it continued its ascent.

The woman shook her head. "No... not anymore."

There was a pause, as if the being was trying not to recall memories from its own past. "I have somewhere you are welcome to stay at. Somewhere safe. Shall I take you there?"

She noted the tone as fairly matter-of-fact - or, at least, as much as one could be when one is in such a circumstance. But then, maybe such a tone was necessary in order to make sense of things.

In any case, she found herself more than willing to accept the offer. "I hope I will not be a burden, azukaru."

Though the currant visage had little in the way of recognisable features - save for those two piercing orbs of light serving as its eyes - she could almost sense a smile in response, as it assured her; "Not at all."


Arcing its flight path to one side, its speed increased, and the woman's hair fluttered in the wind as she was carried along in the rush.

Beneath her passed the twisting coastline, the waves from the ocean lapping onto the shore in the reflected moonlight. Both the land and water were dotted with the occasional artificial source of light, be they from scattered homes, toiling boats, fires lit in the wilderness or the beacon from a lonely lighthouse.

Above her sat the full moon, which looked wider and closer than she had ever envisioned it to be... as if she could almost touch it. Beyond sat nestled an uncountable number of stars, a wider and clearer array than she had stopped to notice down on terra firma.

Beside her, she felt the secure hold of the azukaru's arm, as she looked over and saw its right arm hang to one side, its long-barrelled extension somehow retracted out of view.

Despite how alien so much of it... of him... seemed, there were still no end of signs she could pick up on, to say that there was still a very human quality to his appearance.

She could imagine how easy it would be for someone to recoil in fright at the countenance of this being. Even so, she found herself to feel more secure in its presence than she had been at any stage of her life.


"Do you have a name?" she wondered.

"Once,"
he replied. "A name I was given at birth... before I became what you see."

She looked up to his face, or at least its closest equivalent. "And now?"

He turned to look back at her. "Now? I find myself still trying to answer who, and indeed what, I currently am."

She smiled. "The 'what' is less important than the 'who', azukaru."

It was the first time he had heard such a turn of phrase since his old life had come to an end.

He found himself suddenly hoping it wouldn't be the last.


------------------------------


Soon, his pace slowed as a dark and heavy gathering of clouds emerged in the distance.

"A thunderstorm," he told her. "I may have to fly around, or try to go over, or even -"

"Take me through, azukaru," she insisted at once.

"Are you sure?"
he asked, feeling uncertain. He had never done this before. "I don't know if..."

Her next phrase made her intent crystal clear. "I want to ride the lightning."

He nodded, and shifted his grip so as to hold her in both arms. In response, she held on reflexively, as he rushed beneath the churning clouds.

Streaks of light erupted from one end of the mass to the other, hundreds of forks and bursts of searing light echoed by a rolling cacophony of thunder. This tumultuous piercing of the darkness allowed the pair to witness the kind of sight that would impress upon any being how vast and primal the forces of nature could be.

Bolts burst from one patch of cloud to another, some arcing so close to the halo of light at their back that they could almost feel it.

She howled in exhilaration, any sense of inhibition or self-consciousness cast aside, her voice lost in the awe-inspiring flow of sound and fury, signifying everything.

Indeed, she was so lost in the moment that she failed to notice how the object protruding from her guardian's left elbow seemed to shimmer with an unusual dim light - or how the flashes of energy before her never seemed to quite get close enough to cause harm.


What she did notice was the eventual cloudburst, as enough space cleared for her to be carried into a clear moonlit sky.


------------------------------


Her view shifted from the bright full moon to the string of islands below - two larger than the rest, and each of those in a chain leading up to a peninsula alight with the evidence of human industry.

They raced high above Ilha de Coloane, then Ilha de Taipa, before making a circuit over the peninsula of Macau itself.

This place had been the first of its kind in China - a Portuguese colony present long before the likes of Hong Kong would emerge in later centuries. Perhaps it might even be the last to remain, one day.

After the circuit, the duo descended towards the Baia Praia de Grande, at which the woman expressed her first degree of anythign approaching concern. "What if they see us?"

"Don't worry," he reassured her. "They won't."

At this, he leveled off, and flew low over the waters, weaving its course almost instinctively towards landfall. Its halo dimmed, making it that much more difficult for anyone catching a glimpse of this sight to take it for anything other than the product of an over-worked imagination.

Away from the bustle of the city centre, the pair slowed as they came to a careful landing, on a balcony facing towards an enclosed garden at the back of a two-story house.

She tentatively stepped forward, securing her footing on the solid surface. A sigh was released into the air, as if in remorse at the loss of such a sensation as that she had just experienced.

She stepped back, as her rescuer knelt forth, retracting some of its other-worldly form to reveal a more human visage.

He turned to her, his human face showing. "Ladies first," he offered, as the door leading from the balcony into the residence opened.

There were still so many questions to ask, and answer.

So many ways in which she had to come to terms with what she had lost.

Yet, here and now, Gedatsu Houri - alongside the man born by the name of Andrei Muraviev - could understand at least part of what she had presently gained.
Last edited by Nerroth on August 12th, 2009, 2:59 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Crystal Valley - Part 3

Unread postby Nerroth » August 4th, 2009, 7:30 pm

Part 3


"Nice, aren't they?"

Seonac had noted Shirou perched against an unassuming corner of the São Paulo Marriott Hotel. The five had landed at the adjacent São Paulo-Guarulhos International Airport earlier that day, and were using the next day or two's worth of time to try and adjust for the time difference. They would have to do so again on a later part of their journey, but only by another hour's worth.

While Sakura, Saber and Rin were in their hotel rooms trying to catch some rest, Shirou had taken the opportunity to go up to the roof... and try to get his first look at a Southern Hemisphere sky.

Seonac had followed suit, and was currently referring to two of the most notable objects one could see, the light pollution from the hemisphere's largest metropolitan area notwithstanding - the Magellanic Clouds.


"They are," Shirou nodded. He wondered what they might look like through a telescope, though. There was only so much a Reinforced eyeball could help when dealing with astronomical phemomena, after all.

Seonac sat himself across from Shirou, facing the red-headed mage, who seemed to be lost in thought. "Am I interrupting something?"

Shirou shook his head. "No, I was just... trying to get as clear a sense of this moment as I could."

The meaning was not hard to pick up on. "For Ilya."


When caught up in the ebb and flow of the Fifth Heaven's Feel, Shirou and Rin had not been able to learn more about the young von Einzbern than what they saw in a few relatively brief events. The girl had been a rival Master, albeit one who seemed to have a particular interest in who she referred to as 'onii-chan' - but Shirou had no particular reason to stop and ask why this might be. There were enough things for him to try and get a handle on as it was.

After what was to become her last stand, as well as that of her Servant, Berserker - who had desperately, but vainly, tried to block his charge from harm at the hands of Gilgamesh - he had seemingly been left at a loss as to her true importance.

So it remained until not so long ago, when Saber finally came forth, and told him about her true heritage.

"Saber said that even if she had survived the war," Shirou reminisced, "that she was doomed - that she would almost certainly only have a year or so to live afterwards."

"If that was so," Seonac sighed, "then I wouldn't have had a chance to meet her -"

"- and she would have missed out on being here with us, I know." Shirou wasn't one for holding in to regrets, but the missed opportunity to at least try to find a solution for his sister, or at least to make the most of the time she might have had if one was not to hand, stung more than he was quite ready to account for.

"But either way, I'd like to think that I'm able to carry a piece of her legacy with me, somehow."

Seonac nodded, understanding that sentiment well enough. "You know, one thing I saw during a certain event last year, in the recesses of a mind not worthy to hold such, was a glimpse, or echo... and it's something I've kept with me."

Shirou looked over at Seonac, and tried to wonder what it was he was referring to - but unsure of how to ask. There was another though, however, which sprang to mind. "What's it like, Seonac?"

"What is what like?" came the reply.

"Family," Shirou went on. "I mean, not a guardian like Fuji-nee, or a foster father like Kiritsugu, or a lost stepsister like Ilya. To have an actual flesh and blood relation to your mother and father, and to all of those in your wider family."

While it had been suggested that Shirou try some kind of DNA testing in order to find out about his biological parents, or indeed if there were any distant living relatives of his (or of Kiritsugu's for that matter) he hadn't shifted his focus from the people who were in his life as it stood. Whether it was out of dedication to his current 'family', or out of hesitancy to re-open that aspect of his life, was a matter for debate.

"You can see that for yourself, Shirou," Seonac tried to encourage him. "When you are in my parent's home, you're as welcome around the table as anyone - even me." Not least when Niall, Sadhbh and the others cottoned on to how good a cook the red-headed lad could be.

"It's not the same," Shirou pointed out. "You might not see it, but no matter how much at home your parents make me feel when I'm staying over, you are still their kin. You are the one they hold that connection with."

Even now, after all this time, it was still hard for Seonac to imagine that he was the one who had something Shirou could be envious of. "You know, I don't feel it as much right now, but for a long time I'd felt that it's you who are the one with all of the connections, the bonds, the..."

Now Shirou was the one to try and make an educated guess. "Because of Tohsaka?"

Seonac stopped, and lowered his head a little as he tried to say something he probably shouldn't have left un-addressed for so long. "Not just her. I mean, Saber's always had that strong bond with you, that kind of connection that I often couldn't help but feel I had no place being in the vicinity of. And then there was..."

It wasn't something he felt anymore, but he could feel something of an echo of what he might have felt in an earlier time. Memories never did quite fade out of their emotional context entirely. "I mean, if you had done things differently, you could have been the one to settle down with Sakura."

"You think it's that..." Shirou tried to respond, but couldn't get his head around it.

"You say that I've got this bond at home," Seonac went on, "but I would have answered by saying that my family is stuck with me, through a quirk of biology. You have been able to land yourself at the centre of attention for people who chose to involve you in their lives, because of who you are, and what you have done."

"What are you talking about?" Shirou asked.

"Come on," came the reply. "How many people you know can call a Reality Marble their own, and list the title of winner of a Holy Grail War to their credit? I'm surprised more people aren't trying to get you a matching cape and mask."

"Look, it's not that..."

"I would have asked myself, for the longest time, what right have I to even try..." he was getting a little too close to those old feelings for comfort, "when I would always be compared to you, and found wanting?"


There was an awkward silence, which the not-so-distant sound of aircraft traffic seemed to do little to dispel. The two had almost lost the point they were trying to make, if indeed there was any point to all of this in the first place.


"Those people back in the Clock Tower," Shirou said, trying to get his thoughts on track, "they don't see me as a hero. They don't want someone to cheer on, or hang out with, or form any kind of proper relationship towards."

He tried not to let the anger he felt at what they really wanted bubble forth. "They are only interested in figuring out what makes me tick - in getting the chance have me lying on a dissection table, so they can root around and try to find anything worth sticking in a petrie dish and writing up in a lab report."

The thought of his body being used as some kind of garish display piece at the Association headquarters made his stomach churn.

"And of those who might not be ready to carve me up, how many of them are only trying it on just to try and get at Tohsaka?" He thought of the heated rivalry between Rin and Luvia Edelfelt, and was annoyed at the though that her calling him 'Shero' and trying to act in any way nice to him was likely a ploy to get at the woman he had made a commitment to.

But then, that commitment had trouble enough on its own. "And I don't need to tell you that I've had trouble with Tohsaka, and with Saber, too." There was a time after Saber's disclosure concerning Ilya that Shirou took, before he felt that he could face the rest of what she had to say. In that time, Seonac had felt caught in the middle, as he tried to help Saber on the one hand, and to help bring Shirou around on the other. It hadn't been easy, but it had led to a stronger set of relationships once they were able to confront it together.

Something of a lesson, perhaps.

"And as for Sakura..." Shirou sighed. "Maybe you're right, and maybe I could have noticed things earlier - both in terms of how she felt, and in what she was going through."

That, too, was something he was not entirely comfortable trying to account for. "But even then, there's no way I can say that things would have worked out any better than they are right now, for her and you."

"Well, I did say that this is what I would have said," Seonac told him, "but I guess it doesn't come across all that differently by me saying it now."

"Then what would you say now?" Shirou pressed.

At that, Seonac's expression softened. He smiled as he felt a wave of understanding return - the kind of wave that he found himself more able to call forth these days. "That letting myself live in the shadow of an impossible ideal won't get me anywhere."

Shirou noted those words closely. "Impossible ideals can do that."

"I can't be you," Seonac said. "No matter what I try, I can't go back and live the life you did. I can't be in the places you have been, fight the battles you have fought, and build the connections that you have built in your time."

While that thought might have had a heavy effect once, it didn't at this moment. "But that's okay. As you say, it's not like you can live the kind of life I've lived up to now, even if I'm not overly sure you'd really want to."

"All I can do is be myself, to learn my own options, to make peace with my own failings, and be the best Seonac Ó'Conaill that I can be."

Shirou smiled at that. "You know, I'm really glad to hear that. You're my friend, Seonac - you have as much a place in our group of friends as anyone. And more, I'm proud of what you did to help Sakura. You helped her in a way that I couldn't do, took a risk that could have left you losing everything, and came out on the other side with a legacy that, well, is the reason we're sitting here on top of a hotel in Brazil!"

"And I might add," Shirou pointed out, "you're no less important to Saber and Tohsaka as well. Although, I'd hope I don't need to tell you how Sakura ranks you in the grand scheme of things!"

"That one I think I got all by myself." With that, Seonac stood up and walked over to where Shirou was propped up.

"Look, before we go on," he offered, closing his eyes, "if you want to have a swing at me over what I did back then, I'll understand."

Shirou stood up, and offered something else instead - his hand. "To be honest, I was due that one anyway. And besides, I doubt I'd do worse than what Tohsaka landed you with!"

The two of them laughed at that one, as they shook hands, re-affirming what they had been building from the start, despite getting a little side-tracked here and there.

A friendship of equals.

"We should have had this kind of conversation a long time ago," Seonac said.

"I know." Shirou wondered whether their friendship would be only really starting now. "But better late than never!"


A rumbling emerged from Seonac's stomach, evidence that it was ready to get over the inconvenience of having to avoid the less-than-ideal airline food on the flight in. "God, I'm starving."

"Me too," Shirou agreed. He couldn't stand airline food either. "Come on, let's go eat!"


Seonac remembered one of the other reasons he was up here. "Oh, I still have to write something."

"Write it at the restaurant," Shirou said. "There should be enough room at the table for a pen and paper run-through."

Seonac thought of what the intended recipient might think of the letter being penned in the middle of a meal, and figured it couldn't hurt to find out.

"Will do," he affirmed, as the two headed down to eat.

"That friend of yours still writing to you in Italian?" Shirou asked. He hadn't met Seonac's pen pal in person, but had heard a thing or two.

"Yeah," Seonac answered. "I'm still trying to work out what language to send my latest reply in."

Shirou had an idea. "Why write in just the one?"


Seonac let a grin loose in response. "Now there's an idea..."
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Re: Crystal Valley

Unread postby Nerroth » August 15th, 2009, 5:55 am

Part 4


*KA-CHOOM...*


The sudden burst of thunder shook Houri from her rest, and she stirred with a jolt.

After taking a moment or two to re-orient herself, she looked around and saw herself in a room she hadn't remembered visiting, lying on a rather comfortable mattress. The other side of the bed lay undisturbed, though as she took the room in, she found a note placed on the small table near her side of the bed.

She picked it up, and found herself smiling a little as she read it:

Dear Houri,


I hope it's not an inconvenience, but as my guest, it seemed ungentlemanly to leave you lying on my couch.

By the time you read this, I may be either asleep on the couch myself, or up and about doing... I dunno. Something or other.

In any case, take as much time as you like.


Thank you... for trusting me.


Andrei.



She remembered it now. After he had let her in, they had just about spent enough time to give each other's names before he went to try and get her some tea. By the time he came back, she must have fallen asleep - the events of the day finally catching up with her. She wouldn't have minded being left where she was, but was grateful for the act of chivalry.

She yawned a little as she stretched her arms and legs. She got up, and noted there was a few sets of spare clothes and other items resting on an armchair.

On them was another note:

I had a few pieces delivered over. I didn't know what size to go for, so I asked them to send some different options. If you like, the ones that aren't suitable can be returned. Oh, and I asked them for some things to help you freshen up, since I don't make much use of ladies' toiletries.

Bear with me - I'm not quite used to this sort of thing!


She chuckled a little at that.


------------------------------


"Доброе утро - good morning," Andrei offered. He was stepping out of the kitchen on the ground floor as Houri made her way down the stairs. She had managed to freshen up, and was wearing one of the changes of clothes he had ordered. "Did you rest well?"

"Hai," she nodded. "Thank you for letting me use your room, and for going out of your way to make me feel welcome."


He waved his hand, dismissing the need for such comments. "It's not a problem at all. It would be nekulturny of me to treat a guest lightly..."

He stopped for a moment, as she stood before him. "...not least given the circumstances."


Even though there was still a lot to talk about, she could well appreciate that last sentiment.

But, before they went onto the more serious business of things, there was a more immediate matter to attend to. "So, where can I go to make myself some breakfast?"

"That," he smiled, "is already taken care of."


------------------------------


"Mama, look!" the young boy called out, gasping as he pointed his finger out of the train carriage window, and towards the awe-inspiring sight beyond.

The Circum-Baikal Railway was a marvel of engineering prowess, a ribbon of iron which had taken the efforts of thousands to build. Part of the greater Trans-Siberian network which ran here all the way from St. Petersburg in the far west of the Russian Empire, and as far east as the Pacific port city of Vladivostok.

Andrei and his parents had boarded the train at Irkutsk, a place where his Decembrist ancestors had left European Russia for generations earlier. Little Andrei had never been this far east before, and marvelled at the sight of the Blue Eye of Siberia. Lake Baikal was the oldest and deepest freshwater lake in the world, with more water than all five of the North American Great Lakes combined. It had been a focal point for life in this part of the world for a very long time, and its deeply rich colour and sheer size never failed to draw the eye of those who laid eyes upon it.

"Isn't it amazing, Mama?" Andrei asked his mother again, tugging onto her arm with his right hand.

She smiled over to him, looking out onto the lake herself. "Yes, my little
Andryusha - it's very special."

At that, he turned and drew himself in, looking up at his mother's face. He didn't need to look at it to know how she was feeling - since birth, he had possessed the secret gift of mind-sight which always told him this. Yet, even so, as he tried to learn the rituals of self-control, he found himself having to get more used to understanding her thoughts and feelings through her words and expressions.

"Why do you look so sad, Mama?" he 'asked' her telepathically, remembering his training, careful not to broadcast the message to anyone else around him.

She traced the tip of her finger against his forehead, and tried to soothe his now-worried mind.
"Don't worry - your Mama is going to be fine. I promise."

"Okay," he accepted, before turning back to look out at the shimmering waters the train gradually passed on its journey.


------------------------------


"So that was the first thing you remember," Houri asked. The two were seated in the living room, and had started to talk.

"Yes," he answered. "I can't remember much of Irkutsk itself, but I don't know whether it was something I have only recentl forgotten, or just never really thought of that much."

She listened to this, as she took a sip of her green tea. "Why did your family leave?"

"My family had heard news of the troubles further west, in Moscow and St. Petersbu..." he still defaulted to the city's original name, but grudgingly deferred to the new name it had been given just five years ago. "...Leningrad."

As a child, he had known little of the horrendous war that the Empire had been fighting against the Central Powers, or understood the repeated tides of unrest and revolution which had been catalysed in its wake. "We decided to move to Vladivostok, where they thought it was still safe - and from where it would be easier to leave the country if it came to that."


------------------------------


While it was no secret that the port city of Vladivostok, lying as it did at the furthest terminus of the world's largest railway, resting at the gateway to the Pacific Ocean, Few of its inhabitants could have foreseen the role that it found itself playing during the Russian Civil War.

The sight of Allied troops marching through its streets, Western soldiers posing for photographs with Russian schoolchildren while taking time away from garrison or expeditionary duty, or propaganda lithographs in foreign languages extolling the cause of 'interventionism' against the Bolshevik forces seeking to transform the Russian Empire into the Soviet Union...

...it was a lot for a precocious young boy to take in.

Andrei passed through a crowd of mingling Allied soldiers, on his way down Svetlanskaya Street. His mother would have been furious to find him out by himself like this, but he couldn't resist what to him seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.

He liked to try and play a game, based on what he heard being spoken, and what he found while carefully peeking into the thought processes of the array of foreigners. He didn't quite understand their various languages, of course, but that was part of the fun - to try and piece together all of the things they were both saying, and wishing to say.

He felt like quite the little spy.

"So yeah," he heard one foreigner - Canadian, according to the uniform - talk to another... who looked like he was American, "you getting your bags packed yet?"

The other one smirked back over. "Yeah - they're finally going to let us get the hell out of here."

Andrei was suprised, when he realised that some of the man's thought processes were... Russian! He hadn't thought of finding a foreigner who thought Russian before, but his train of thought made it clearer.
"After all the trouble I went through to get out of this blasted country, the amerikanskiy bastards put me in a uniform and send me back over! Chush' sobách'ya..."

If Mama didn't know already, Andrei realised he'd have to tell her. Withouut the somewhat intemperate language, of course.

Across the street, Andrei noticed a group of other foreign soldiers marching. They looked very different.

The Russian-American didn't look impressed. "They don't look like they'll be going anywhere. "

"Well, to be fair," the Canadian offered, "Their home's a lot closer to this place then ours are."

"Feh," the other retorted, as he started to turn away. "They're welcome to it."

While the Canadian might not have realised it, Andrei could tell that the other one was somewhat more conflicted about the whole situation than he was letting on.


He didn't like to think he'd feel the same someday.



------------------------------


"The Japanese stayed on for another few years," Andrei explained, "but we left just as the Western troops pulled out, in June 1920. Of course, at the time, it didn't quite dawn on me that I'd never see the place again..."

Houri nodded silently. As it happened, some of her extended family had a son posted in Russia during the intervention, and she knew that the city was now off-limits to foreign citizens. She felt that was a shame - it sounded like it was an interesting place. "So your family came to Macau?"

"Not quite," he replied. "My mother brought me to Hong Kong, while others we knew scattered to places as far as Canton and Macau, Shanghai and Taihoku. Most of them went over to North America or on to Europe, however."

"I wonder if my own family ever met one of them in Taihoku," she offered. Her own parents had moved to that city - which was still known to many as Taipei - from Hokkaido in her youth, before trying their fortune in Hong Kong in more recent years.

Alas, fortune can be fickle.


"Do you have any family you'd like to contact there?" Andrei asked.

She shook her head. "Not at the moment, azukaru."

He noted that even after learning his name, she still chose to use that term for him. In a way, he was glad for this, since that name almost had more meaning for him now than Andrei seemed to.

At least, so it seemed ever since his life was set on a new, irrevocable course.

"While I had the mind-gift from that time," he explained, "it would only be later on that I would become... the being you have seen."

She could tell that referring to whatever had happened was something he was struggling to come to terms with. Perhaps this was the first time he had even tried to. But she was in no rush. "Take your time, and tell me what you are ready to say, when you are ready to say it."

She moved over on the couch closer to him, and placed her hand on his forearm. Her touch was delicate, as if trying to pass through her own support and understanding through her fingertips. "You are there for me, azukaru... and I will be here for you."

He found himself blushing, as he looked into her eyes, truly realising her achingly beautiful features as if for the first time. Yet, he then turned his head aside, not ready to let himself see her in such a way, or even sure if he had any right to. "You should know that I... that even as you see me now, I am no longer fully... human."


She leaned her head over, her eyes still looking at his turned face. It looked human enough.

As she placed her hand against his cheek, she discovered that it felt human enough, too.

"You are still fully you, azukaru, and that is what matters."

He turned back to look into her eyes again, and found himself shedding a tear as he heard her words...

...and realised that for the first time, he could believe them.
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Re: Crystal Valley

Unread postby Nerroth » January 16th, 2010, 4:21 am

(The formatting was meant to be different, but it didn't work. Oh well.)

Part 5


With a near-silent click from a card-based lock, the door to the already-dark hotel room was opened slowly. Seonac had taken a little time making up for lost meal time alongside Shirou downstairs, before both young men decided to try and get at least some rest before the group's ongoing journey later that day.

Seonac stepped into the room carefully, trying not to make any noise - or, at least, not enough to disturb his partner's sleep. After entering the room, he breathed slowly as he eased the door shut. Once done, he slid off his shoes and put them beside one of their bags.

Reaching into the bag, he plucked out the nightclothes sitting on top of the otherwise tightly-packed clothes and other items within. Scooping them under one arm, he put the folded piece of paper in his hand to one side before reaching into one of the side pockets for an envelope. It was somewhat awkward trying to fold the letter away with one-and-a-half arms' worth of limbs available, but it could still be done. He sealed the envelope and placed it onto the nearby counter top, though as he did so he wondered if he might have been better off waiting until they got back from Brazil before mailing it.

Well, Seonac, if the worst happens to you on this mad adventure, it won't send itself, he thought in reply. He didn't want to think about that eventuality, but no matter how confident he felt about what was to come, he could not ignore the risks involved.

He left the envelope on the counter.

That matter out of the way, he quickly stepped into the bathroom with his change of clothes in hand. He had been wearing the same outfit since boarding the connecting flight out of Dublin, and wanted to try and freshen up before getting changed. Once inside, he waited until the door was closed before putting the light on, hoping he hadn't disturbed Sakura's sleep already.

Several minutes later, he stepped out again, feeling more refreshed than he had in a while. Putting the other clothes away, he looked over to see how Sakura was doing. In this light, he couldn't tell too much, but could at least see her outline. Her back was turned to him, or rather to the empty half of the bed lying in wait.

Before he climbed in, he took a moment to take in the sight of her lying in rest, her body moving almost imperceptibly as she breathed in and out, her hair falling across the side of her pillow in the half-light.

I could watch you sleep all day, my love, he thought to himself, before the yawn he promptly found himself stifling told him otherwise. Duly taking the hint, he slid under his side of the cover and tried to settle in.

While he wanted to lie facing her, he reminded himself that neither of them were immune to the effects of air travel. So, he turned to the opposite side, and focused on trying to settle into the mattress.


His eyes had only just closed before he felt her gentle hand resting upon his back. "Welcome back, itoshii."

His smile was interrupted by another yawn, one he had more trouble trying to stifle. "I hope I didn't disturb you, Sakura," he tried to whisper through the yawn.

Mercifully, she got the message. "You should know by now..." she assured him, as she snuggled closer, wrapping her arms around him as she cosied herself against his back, her lips resting against the back of his head before moving to rest her forehead there instead. "I feel the very opposite when you are with me, my love."

"My pleasure," he answered her, clasping her hands in his. It really is.

"Did you get your letter finished?" she asked, correctly guessing one of the reasons he had been away from the room. While Seonac had talked about his correspondence with Caren before, Sakura had not met her, despite the two being in the same city for several months.

Seonac nodded slightly. "I did - and I was able to have a long-overdue chat with Shirou in the process, too."

He couldn't see her face, but he could still sense her smile, even without the insight which their close mental link provided. "I'm glad to hear that, itoshii."

"You know," Seonac realised, "we could invite Caren to the wedding, if you like. I'd probably try to ruffle up invites for Mike and David, and a few others, so the more the merrier."

Sakura squeezed his hand with her own at the idea. "That sounds good! I would like to meet her, as well as... your mentor?"

"Mike, yeah," he replied. "You'll like him. I don't know his brother David that much, but he seems like a good guy too."

"There's someone I like very much already," she whispered.

"Well," Seonac whispered back, "I'm pretty sure that someone likes you very much too... Sakura."

"Hee hee," she giggled, squeezing him closely as she lifted her head, turning it to press her cheek against him.


They lay comfortably like this for a while, both tired but not ready to sleep, neither rushing to do more but take in the warmth and comfort of the other's soft embrace.

However, after a while, her hand started to feel somewhat less steady, he breath a little less relaxed than Seonac would have liked.

Eventually, the silence broke, as Sakura said two words which felt like they had waited a long time to be said. "I'm sorry."

There was a sense of weight, of loss, of pain in those words - the kind Seonac had never wanted her to feel for any reason, least of all for his sake. He turned around to face her, stroking the side of her face with his fingertips. "What is it, Sakura?"

She could feel tears welling in her eyes, as she pushed on to the rest of what she wanted to say. "I... I wasn't good enough... I... I..."

The groundswell of emotion tipped over, flooding across the mind-link between the two. Seonac gasped as the meaning behind such difficult words broke through.

He sat up in the bed, cupping her face in his hands as she followed suit, looking as deeply into her rich blue eyes as he had ever done. "Nothing in the universe could convince me that you are 'not good enough' for anything. And nothing ever will."

"But I..." she wept openly now, looking back into his emerald eyes, somehow seeming as if she could see more of the colour, of the blue and hazel flecks racing in thin streaks across each iris. "If I was able to...to manage... to be a better... then maybe..."

The very though cut through him deeply, the wounds made worse by the fears he himself found mounting in his mind. "Sakura... what if it was me?"

"What?" she gasped in shock at the very concept that her lover would blame himself.

"You... you saw the kind of thing that's been happening to me." He saw the image in her mind - the sight of him hovering above the floor in her sister's apartment, wreathed in an unearthly glow, his mind sent racing across the face of the planet and back again.

She shook her head, refusing to accept that. "That was months after, itoshii. It could not have-"

"-but that was not the first time I had felt... something... contact me. Affect me. Change me." The tables had been turned the tables on that monster Zouken, bringing the hateful one to its knees before the final blow was struck. Seonac knew, now more than ever, how much he - they - owed that victory to a force unlike any other.

The force he knew awaited them at this journey's end. "And it's not over yet."

"Itoshii..." Sakura felt the weight of burden in her mind shift, but it was scant comfort.

"You are the one who were poorly-served by me, Sakura." If I were a normal human being, we wouldn't be in this mess.

If you were so, you wouldn't be the man I love. The words he thought had been kept to himself had crossed the bridge between them - as had her words of affirmation.

And there were more to come. "You wouldn't be the man who could give so much for me, who would have done all that you have done to save me... who should have the chance to show me the kind of life I want to live."

"Even if it leads you to a place like this?" he asked, despite himself - despite everything he could see in the link they shared which told him the answer.

"No distance is so far," she assured him, "to not be worth it."

Once again, she had astounded him. Her sheer depth of resolve, her astounding capacity for love and compassion, her gift at turning despondency into determination.

When they were together like this, he felt there was nothing they could not overcome.

"Sakura," he started to say, his mind turning to viewpoints he had not seen clearly before this point. "It may have been neither of us - we still don't know why things went as they are.

"In any case, we haven't lost. What we made together is waiting for us, to be brought home and cherished as a couple. As a partnership.

As a family."

She nodded, smiling again, looking forward to that future. Yet, the loose hand she stroked against her abdomen spoke of a wish left unfulfilled. "I know, itoshii. But still, I wish..."

He lifted one of his hands from her face and down to the one she held to her lower torso. "I know. I wish we could have done that, too."


Suddenly, a thought flashed through his mind like an electrical storm. "But you know what? I have an idea."

Sakura sensed that she was about to hear something she was going to like. "Tell me."

"Well, when this is done, and whatever's been going on with me is done and dusted, we can look and see if things are, if not back to normal, at least stable, or something.

Once we do that, we could... you know... try again."

Sakura smiled coyly at that one. "I thought we were going to settle for now with just the two, weren't we?"

"Well, yeah," he went on, "for the time being, anyway. But maybe, three to five years from now, once we're a little more settled in, maybe, if you want..."

"If I want..." she answered, hinting in her tone that by then, she just might do.

Seonac felt a wave of encouragement. "And then, we could be together, through it all - the way it ought to be."

That idea sounded about as appealing as any she had ever heard in her entire life. "We just might try that, itoshii!"

"Oh, just one thing." He thought of a matter his mind raced to, as he followed the internal logic of such a flow of events. "Promise me that , when the delivery comes, you won't ask me to wait outside.

"I want to be there."

She chuckled aloud at his request, knowing precisely what she would want in that situation. "I would not stand for you to be anywhere else, I promise you."

"That's good," he answered - noting how he had exhaled more heavily than he might have expected, given this was still a mainly hypothetical situation. "Just be gentle with my hand when you squeeze it, okay?"


With that, she almost whooped in laughter.

"No promises!"
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