016 Those who Watch the Sky - 16


16 – Children Left Under the Sky 7

The day dragged on for Link, Elliot, and Melody, each of them faced with their own trials shaped by the stress of Link’s condition. Though Melody had great instincts, hunting did not go as smoothly as she hoped and she was as much hunted by monsters that roamed the wilderness as she was doing any hunting. By sunset she returned to the pool by the waterfall unsuccessful in her attempts to find a meal for herself and her friends. Elliot’s day was significantly easier in contrast physically, but as the one left behind to watch Link as she struggled to take control of her body back from the Foreigner that possessed her he was subjected time and time again to the horrors of Link’s desperate battle. The emotional toll of being so helpless left him drained and exhausted leaving him wary of his own Foreigner infection. His was minor by all accounts compared to what Link had to deal with and time after time she was left convulsing on the ground voiding the nonexistent contents of her bowels, bladder, and stomach.  So forceful was her voiding however that though there was nothing to void she ended up voiding massive quantities of blood passing out on more than one occasion. She refused to give in however and where Elliot felt helpless and Melody was unsuccessful Link fought on and by nightfall had moved on from fighting just to wiggle a toe to walking herself into the pool to clean herself and her clothes thoroughly of the mess she had become over the course of the day.

“Link’s amazing, isn’t she Elliot? ~

“She is Melody, but I swear I feared she died more than once today…”

Kicking the excrement and blood left by Link into the dirt Elliot avoided looking in Melody’s direction as he spoke. Melody didn’t notice as she focused on watching Link clean herself while her ears twitched about for signs of any unwelcome guests at the pool. Deep down though she kind of hoped something would attack if only to sate her rumbling stomach. Seeing Link alive and on her feet again should have been enough to perish the thought but her earlier promise left her unsatisfied.

“But she didn’t Elliot, just like she promised… It makes me sad that I didn’t catch anything ~ We were supposed to have a feast for her when she finally got back on her feet ~ And I’m pretty hungry too ~

“Please don’t talk about food Melody. My insides hurt so much that the thought of food makes me feel sick and I don’t want to wretch anymore.”

“But Link we have to eat ~

“We can eat tomorrow, just please…”

“Li~nk! ~

“Melody, please!”

Elliot cold not help but smile as he listened to Link and Melody argue over the mention of food. Having watched Link’s violent battle with her own body all day he had no appetite of his own but could appreciate Melody’s desire for food. No matter what happened next they were going to need to eat to stay alive regardless of their ability to continue fending off their Foreigner infections. A loss of strength would not necessarily prove fatal but it could still cost them their lives in a different way.

“Elliot Hello Are you there

“Ah! Sorry…”

Lost to his thoughts Elliot had not heard Link calling him. Taking his eyes off of the ground which he had kicked up quite a bit to hide the trace of Link’s day he turned his eyes to the sky. The stars twinkled brilliantly before him on the black canvas and they were likely to distract him further if he watched them too long. Taking a deep breath he closed his eyes and turned his focus to Link.

“Did you need something Link?”

“Yeah, could you help me gather some wood for a fire and to put something together to dry my clothes on?”

“Help you…?”

Confused by Link’s choice of words Elliot turned curiously in her direction and spun around turning immediately fully red in the face and regretting having opened his eyes.

“L-L-L-L-Link‼ You j-just can’t walk around like that‼”

“I’d normally agree, but…”

Having stepped out of the natural pool holding her wet and as clean as she could manage clothes Link’s modesty was preserved only by her long wet hair. She was every bit as red in the face as Elliot but seemed determine to out blush him as she grew even redder as she continued talking.

“…the mess I made of myself today is so much more embarrassing. Making a mess of myself like that like I was an infant or something…”

“You were kind of cute like an infant learning to walk though from what I saw when I got back~

“Shut-up Melody!”

“Ah, ha, ha, ha, ha! ~

Assuring that Link would win the unintended blushing contest between her and Elliot, Melody burst out laughing as Link pouted at her. Link couldn’t stay mad at the harpy for long however but didn’t want to lose so held her pout as she turned her attention back to Elliot.

“Anyway Elliot, stop being embarrassed so that way this is less embarrassing for me.”

“I just can’t stop being embarrassed Link!”

“Why not

“Because it doesn’t work that way! In case you’ve forgotten I’m a boy!”

“But this is me and you Elliot. We’ve known each other forever so seeing me naked shouldn’t be a big deal. Besides, I may be your everything but you don’t look at me in that way do you…?”

“Ah…!”

It was not sadness that weighed down Link’s voice but her tone was still melancholy and Elliot found himself at a loss for words. He also still found his face burning with embarrassment and lacked the power to not be embarrassed as demanded of him.

“Ellio~t…”

“Can’t I at least offer you my tunic Link?”

Reaching for the collar of his tunic Elliot was too desperate to get a good grip to actually try removing the garment. Before he could attempt to manage a better grip however Link’s dripping wet hand landed on his shoulder from behind. Knowing that Link was completely unclothed behind him Elliot became as a statue if statues were wont to tremble.

“Do you see the problem with that Elliot? I need to dry off myself before I can put anything on.”

“You could always ask Melody to help dry you off. She’d have you dry in an instant.”

“I’m too mad at Melody to ask her for help right now. The nerve she has making fun of me after my day!”

Looking back at Melody perched on a rock by the water Link offered her an angry pout. Melody in turn laughed cheerfully at Link.

“But you were so cute Link ~ Though maybe you shouldn’t be so stubborn right now. If don’t you dry off you’re likely to get sick and we’re not really in the best place for that…”

“That’s why I need Elliot to help me build a fire!”

Blatantly blowing off Melody’s advice and offer to dry her off Link turned her attention back to Elliot. Tightening her grip on his shoulder Link made sure to remind him that she was still there.

“Link, you’re going to hurt me if you grip any harder.”

“Don’t act like this is any easier for me Elliot. I’m the one on full display–”

“Do you have to phrase it that way

“Yes I have to phrase it that way! Now stop being mean and just accept it! I’m showing myself to a boy who isn’t even interested in me the way everyone thinks and I don’t even know if I will ever have the chance to show myself like this ever again!”

“Link…!”

The meaning behind Link’s words was not lost on Elliot and combined with the emotion behind them a sense of urgency descended upon him. Pulling away from Link’s hand Elliot turned around and looked down at her feet as she took a step back from him. His eyes widened as he took in the sight of the shadows that replaced Link’s skin and the flames that marked their end having spread over her knees and were threatening to soon climb her thighs.

“Link…”

Breathing Link’s name in soft shock Elliot did not try to hide his concern or his fear for her. That she was standing at all after just fighting to move her toes when she came to that morning was amazing to him, but he felt only helplessness as he looked upon her now. Shifting her legs anxiously Link reminded him that she was still indeed above the shadows that marked the Foreigner’s takeover of her flesh. Not sure if he remembered or not Link took another step back as she spoke to make sure he did.

“You see… I’ve taken control back, but I haven’t stopped it. I don’t know how long it will take either… or if I can do it on my own. I know there are stories of Sa·B·ers claiming the Foreigner’s power for themselves without the help of the Cardinal Church… but even those who have been helped aren’t all always so fortunate as to fend off the transformative abilities of the Foreigners. You saw them Elliot, some of the Sa·B·ers that would be with church envoys or accompanying salvagers and merchants that visited Cross. Asides the Sa·B·er in red just how many of them do you recall not having some sort of monstrous trait like Cliff?”

There was no need to answer that question as Elliot knew that Link already knew it. She was just forcing him to think about it and he hated doing so. He did not want to imagine the girl who gave his life meaning with her dreams and energy becoming a monster and he gritted his teeth and clenched his fist tightly. For Link that motion ended up being an answer anyway and she smiled softly.

“That’s not like you Elliot… It’s more like you to smile no matter the hardship… so please… look at me and smile… please.”

“I doubt I can smile now Link… but… but…”

Digging deep into himself to find the strength he needed to overcome his own inhibitions Elliot wrestled with himself to grant Link her wish. It was not an easy battle for him and his emotions swirled in turmoil but he could feel Link’s hopeful and pleading gaze upon him and he knew he could not disappoint her now of all times. Taking and holding a deep breath he closed his eyes and raised his head with tremendous effort. As he breathed out slowly he opened his eyes and saw Link’s bright smile despite her glowing red face.

“See, that wasn’t so hard.”

“Link…”

The words Link spoke did not agree with the obvious embarrassment that she was feeling but she still used shifted her clothes to a single hand so that she could pull her wet hair over her shoulders. Her efforts were not so much a reward for Elliot though whose utterance of her name held a sadness she couldn’t understand. Trying to keep smiling for his sake however she took a step towards him and dropped her clothes to the ground so that she could take his hand in both of hers. He offered her no resistance and she spread his fingers and pressed his hand into her bosom. Impressively she turned even redder as she did and looked down at his hand on her as she spoke.

“See, I’m flesh and blood just like you, though having your hand here I never realized how much softer than mine yours are. It’s like you’re the girl here and not me.”

“Link… don’t say that.”

Link had begun to laugh at herself but stopped in response to the pain in Elliot’s voice. Drawn by that pain Link looked into Elliot’s eyes and was washed over by the sadness and pain within. Realizing that she had dawned an expression of surprise Link closed her eyes and smiled as she focused on the sensation of Elliot’s hand in hers and upon her bosom.

“Thank you… I know for a nice and proper guy like you this is probably so hard… but…”

“It’s not what you think Link… I just… I can’t be who I want to be for you… or for me…”

Opening her eyes again Link locked her large sea gem green orbs on Elliot’s emerald green eyes and tilted her head playfully.

“That’s not true Elliot… you’re my friend and that matters more than who or what you are… It’s why I refused to lose you no matter what the laws of our world tell us. It doesn’t matter what you turn into as long as you’re still you inside…But right now, in this moment while we’re both still who we’ve always been… I expect us to change Elliot and I don’t know by how much but I expect it so right now… right now I just want to be able to remember what we feel like before we do. Tomorrow is the start of our adventure. You, me, and Melody just like we always dreamed of. We have a Foreigner or two along for the ride now too so we’re going to have to come to terms with them… but they won’t be the only things that change us going forward. Unless we’re some of the really special ones we’re going to need the Cardinal Church to help us and they don’t treat Sa·B·ers as well as Sister treats Cliff. We’ll only be as well treated as our ability to defend others so we’ll have to change. We’ll have to stop being dreaming children and become something more…”

“You’re wrong Link. We won’t have to become something more, just different… We’ll have to become children who live our dreams no matter what the world throws at us… It’s the only way we’ll be able to live the lives that await us, and to that end… I’ll live for my dream. I won’t lose to this infection. I’ll strive to be who and what I want to be… and like that I will be able to still wield my sword for you and your dreams. That’s what my sword exists for Link, and as long as you can pursue and live your dreams I can hold on to mine… no matter how impossible or painful it is.”

“Then in that case Elliot you’re going to have to trust in the strength of your dream so that way you can rest. No matter how afraid you are you can’t keep fighting if you don’t rest at least a little. So don’t worry about the firewood and rest now Elliot, and be there for me in the morning. We have a long road ahead of us.”

There was no preparing for the blow even as Link’s words gave away her intent. Her hand slid away from Elliot’s and an instant later her fist struck him hard and just below the sternum. The blow was as fierce as it was unexpected and as the air was forced from his lungs he blacked out as much from shock as pain and exhaustion. In his last moments of consciousness he saw Link speaking but did not hear her. He didn’t need to hear though to know what she said. They had known each other for so long he recognized the words just from the movement of her lips and made the same promise as he fell, refusing not to keep it.

See you tomorrow…

~ The gentle moments that they shared.
They were no different.
Clinging onto their humanity it didn’t matter to them that they were.
If all that made them different was sharing their flesh with another then they must still be human.
For that reason, like icaran, nāti, chimeric and all the other names they use;
to me Sa·B·er is just another name for human. ~



Copyright © 2019 Joshua D Tarwater

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