That unshed wind
There were times it seemed the wind must speak. When it spilled from the sky it's pitch varied as it caught the edges of blockish buildings and scrapped its belly against the unending, varied stripes of road. Never mind the brackish coil of chemical, the smothering slant of smog. He turned to the passing gale. Twirling even, and to that it's center tugged at his shirt and pants as it passed him by with teasing, translucent, hands. Then it was gone, the pull and the tug, the pitch, it had left him behind.
And those things he'd "never minded". The smother and the coil to say nothing of the sounds, it all rushed back in. Stifling and thick. Opening eyes he'd scrunched his hands slipped into the sanctuary of his pant pockets. The moment was gone, and its attendant euphoria faded as he folded back into himself. He went so far as to hunch his shoulders, though he wasn't cold. There was something inherently subdued about his regular posture.
Not quite whipped, or hung dogged. There was nothing of agonies remembered, or burdens carried about him. Though fond of responsibility and holding to duty it wasn't a burden, not yet. Rather, his folding had something of containment to it, as he silently smothered in the pressures of the everyday. Bending to the inevitable weight of reality. Letting out a soft sigh, he wished for blue skies, with cotton clouds. A glance on high confirmed what he'd known before.
Grey and grit, blockish pillars sliced the sky, hiding the sun amongst their leafless bulk. Still, he spent some time looking. Long wistful moments, where his blue eyes combed heaven seeking that invisible source of illumination. Above and behind him came a cherry ding, above and ahead red became green. Dropping his gaze to more mundane matters, he forsook heaven to better consider the cars all lined up in a neat row. Their engines were roiling and rumbling in discontent, still they were still, and that was enough.
Sneakers thunking on gravel and grit he crossed the street, leaving school and all its complications behind. The tick tap of his book swollen back pack smacked against him and made him correct himself. Not all its complications were to be abandoned when he quit the building. Like everything else, the worst of the worst followed him home.
Sometimes he used a skill, some leaping attack that while grandiose, satiated his need to get a taste of flight. Still, without wings, such sorties into the sky were always far too short and ended in a sharp descent. His fall was made all the sharper by the fact his descent was led by his blade.
Blue light, pale as sky, subtle as moon light, stained the lines and angles of his gauntleted arm. Cast in wholesome hues long forgotten amongst the real, he held his weapon tight, steady. The gentle illumination became a gush of water as his blade scored a hit along the massive skeleton's rib cage. Sent spinning, side slick by the Azure Sky's strike, the diabolical bones staggered back.
The monster was forced into the waiting arms of the Azure Sea. His blade looking hellish in red, Orca struck, the underhand slash spat out a thick tongue of flame that illuminated the violet swells and pulsates that serves as roof, wall, and floor, of the dungeons in nearly wholesome hues. Wreathed in steam, sparks of fire dancing about the monster's edges, the undead devil swung a clawed hand. Orca was closest, and so claws scrapped against the raised sword that the Blade Master wielded in his own defense.
Without thinking, only feeling the urge to fly, be free, protect, he leaped. And descended. Such was the way of all leaps. White cape clapping before him like the flap of some vengeful angles' wings, water poured from his blade, smothering steam and snuffing out embers. And, perhaps, in that water there was something of ice. Hit with cold, than hot, than cold again, the bone's had shrunk than swollen, and at last shattered at that final slash of cold.
Lip less mouth sagging into a soundless scream, the undead monstrosity slumped on one side, half its ribcage exploding with a sound akin to nothing he'd ever heard in the Real. Throwing an arm over his eyes to better block out any stray shrapnel, Balmung flinched back even as the beast toppled. And, even as it fell, the malice that served the devil for AI lashed out.
Unable to see he couldn't dodge the thrown out arm. Swatted aside like a troublesome gnat, Balmung only knew he'd been sent flying after the fact. His first hint was the horrible bruising pressure at his front, like taking a battling ram to the chest, the second hint was the sickening crunch as his armored back crashed into a wall made of... whatever. A... whatever... that pulsated and shifted, that was swollen and bulbous and... Purple.
Cracking open an eye, he groaned, then nearly gagged. Grey slime trickled down from the... whatever... wall. The stuff slicked his cape and shoulders and dampened his hair. It's smell went well beyond that piddling description of "unpleasant" or "odoriferous", it had something like bad eggs, was generously mixed with stale sweat, and there was just an under scent of unclean socks just to round it all out. But it was worse, much worse, for being on him. All he had to do was turn his head just a little and the smell would all but be stuffed up his nose.
Running a tongue over his lips, half expecting to taste blood, find broken teeth (or worse find out what it tasted like) Balmung dared one breath. When his guts didn't come up and his ribs didn't slash his lings to cheerful ribbons, he dared another. Then, daring done, he got back to breathing and tried not to cry from the pain of it all. He wanted to puke, the smell was that bad and vomit might obscure the scent, but he wouldn't. Confident that he was in control he stood, pointedly ignoring the "sluck" as the wall grudgingly gave up its hold over his armor.
The near musical scrape of sword against bone being all the prompt he needed.
Clutching his side, sword still in hand, the Azure Sky growled a curt "I'm coming" never knowing if Orca would hear him or not.
Never mind if Orca could hear him, or would take heart from it. It had to be said, he had to act. So he did, staggering back into the fray.
Orca always got the Golden Grunty. Balmung's prejudice just wouldn't let it be any other way. So, bubbling over like a little kid (only more so) the warrior capered about, pleased with his prize. He happily showed it off to his audience of one (who wasn't surprised, and his distracted "that's nice" hadn't been very heartfelt) until some sense returned. Realizing how silly he was, Orca sobered, just a teny tiny bit. Not only did Balmung Not Like Grunties, he'd been present from dungeon's starts to cataclysmic battle with the devil bones finish. Deciding to find a more appreciative audience he could brag at, Orca had warped out and made Mac Anu his first stop.
Knowing Orca, Mac Anu would likely be his first stop of five. He'd hit every city before logging out, or being forced to log out. And, to that, Balmung smiled. One sprite ocarina and a recorder stop later and he'd logged out.
And after logging out he took a shower, a nice long hot one.
Something of the smell lingered, in his memories if nowhere else. So he cleaned up grateful that the shower could purge him of the ghost sensations a World ago. Stepping out of the shower, idly drying himself off with a rough towel, the Real came back... took him back... in stages. Exchange cool confidence for uncertainly, check that off. He'd nearly slipped on a span of wet tile, and that mere accident had set his heart to racing. A glance at the history book waiting for him in his bed reinforced more mundane uncertainties. Just the sight of it brought forth the fact he was merely Satoshi and what dreams and powers he held as Balmung were long behind him. Going back to a duty deferred, he started that history essay he'd been putting off. And another facet came back. Though he wished it otherwise there was a frustrating, creeping, knowledge that he didn't know enough. Not enough to breeze through a class that "should have been" easy. Just read and write; to quote the teacher, that's all that was expected. Still, it was always a struggle, that writing part, and he muddled along forgetting both Real and World and became immersed in familiar frustrating effort. Done, at long last, he set pencil aside with a grateful sigh. He had no plans at all, just wanting to lounge for a while.
A tap at his door made him start. And the last and darkest of realizations settled in place. Even as mother than father trooped in he faced the most hated yet utterly true epiphanies. Balmung was powerful, capable of taking his own destiny in his own hands and doing... whatever needed to be done. What was right, always that, always ethical, a bit cautions mind, but there was no sin in that. Regardless of what restraints his honor put on him Balmung could act and would if needed.
At this moment, facing those he loved best, he found himself braced. Fighting against their expectations, tensed for their displeasure, Satoshi knew he was frozen. He couldn't act, not against their wishes, not even for his dreams. If he dared otherwise he'd shatter as real world and law met and left him bereft of opportunity. And... if he broke, all would break thereafter. Shivering just a bit as that long known but newly acknowledged truth hit home he didn't smile. He couldn't. Though they must expect it of him, and never mind how it's lack would worry them...
Setting his pencil aside he took up a pen. Homework compete, he waited for their judgment, for their condescending words bracketing an acidic anticipated refusal. Little did they know how it would break his whole world. He wanted this, almost as much as flight, only more so. Considering the sky was part of his bargain it made this moment doubly important, doubly painful. The standoff was tense, father half in the room, mother lingering by the door. He drew a breath, and then promptly forgot how to breathe. Again, it came to waiting, as he expected the worst and prayed for something like Balmung's courage to face it down when it came.
For him, there was no hope, I just… wasn't allowed.
"We've considered..." Mother began, tentative, soft, soothing.
His heart sunk, he knew that tone.
"What's it to you?" Father cut in.
Startled, he stared, his lungs recalling how to breathe they picked up their end again even as his heart quickened its pace.
"Don't... for God's sake Satosh, don't look at me like that." Father snapped. "I asked you a question."
His traitorous heart shimmied up his throat, squeezed his voice box with pulsating fingers. Closing his eyes, his hand clasped over the pen, his mind imagining greater things. Perhaps he held the hilt of Excalibur, Masamune, or some other legendary blade. Then his eyes opened, and even from the corner of his eye he knew. They pen was just that, a pen, and nothing more.
"Bah." Father snorted, turned away. He ignored Mother's soft noise to call him back, more than willing to bull past her to leave, his disgust made them both nothing in his eyes. "Must mean nothing to you if you can't even-"
To that Father stopped, Mother stared, for though his voice quaked his tone was firm, the word so... final it shook them both.
"The way you talk." Father half turned, face studiously blank. "I could understand it if you were talking about some girl, or work, or a profession, perhaps."
"The World, it's everything to me."
"The World." Scoffing father tuned away. "Pft. Call it whatever you want ills a game, and games grow old, people grow up, and it'll all be forgotten in a year or two."
"Maybe, maybe not." Satoshi shrugged. "Right now it's what I want."
Striding towards the door, Mother moved aside at Father's approach. At the threshold however, father stopped, played with the door knob. Literally one step from storming out Father stared at the air in front of him, as if it meant more than his son. Then, after a moment Father swallowed, in the silence about them Satoshi could almost hear it. "Satoshi, try to grow up, just a little, alright?"
Mouth as traitorous as his heart, it opened and a truth spilled out. "I'm not the one who's looking away."
The crash of the door slamming shut set planes and birds to swaying on near invisible threads.
For a while there was only that primitive clatter of wing against wing. Above and beyond, framed by the wall, shadows chased shadows, clashing silently over his head. Falling back on his bed, all to better watch the silent swaying, Satoshi said nothing. He'd said enough, perhaps too much.
"He said yes, you know." Mother noted. "Not because he thinks its right, or even best, but because..." To that mother sighed.
"Because you said yes?" Satoshi prompted.
"No." A chuckle, soft and brittle, like the crackle of a breaking wing. "Because out of all we've tried, and all you've done, this is all that's made you happy. The only thing." A soft sound, much like a muffled sob, to that he rolled, looked up at her in concern even as she looked away. "That scares me, more than just a little."
"Mother," he struggled to sit up, the softness of the bed making it something of a fight. "I-"
The words abandoned him, all of them. Finally, when it became apparent he had nothing to say, Yuki sighed. "Sleep well, my little white knight."
The expected "goodnight mother." never came, it wouldn't come. He'd been more than abandoned, he'd been betrayed. The words clogged his throat, and at that obstruction the expected was lost. And that loss was best told by the glimmer about her eyes that marked her unshed tears.