There was something about the forest that called to Nova. The sweet taste of the fresh air, untouched by the pollution of the cities leaking out into the outer villages. The sign of life around every corner, greenery surrounded her at every step, the noise of animals, whether it be the snapping of twigs or the constant tweeting of birds and the running water of a nearby stream. It enveloped one in the pleasantries of life, the beauty of it seemed to be never-ending when she was there. Forgetting the outside world, the reality, she, and everyone else, lived in was possible when Nova stood there, breathing in the delicious air with her eyes closed, bathing in the sunlight peeking through the leaves of the trees. It was like a dream.
But it was just that, a dream and nothing more. Because the truth was, the forest did have an end, and Nova was nearing it. And that end, the border would cross over to her hometown, the Weeping Hollow village. If you could call it that, it resided not too far outside of the luxurious city of Alvirie. However, the two places could never be more different. Weeping Hollow Village had been given that name for a reason. The pollution from the city, the lack of greenery, the worn out people and the constant suffering and need to survive.
The barking immediately brought Nova back down to earth. Her dark eyes snapped open and fell upon the source of the noise, a golden Shiba Inu, standing ahead of her, looking at her with curious eyes. At the sight of him, a smile quirked at her lips. There weren't very many reasons to smile in Nova's life, but the dog, Hami, was reason enough for her. And in the covers of the forest, she felt no reason to hold back.
"Alright, alright, I'm coming," Nova called out to help, her small smile growing into that of a grin as she trekked up to him. It was impossible for to understand dog language, but she could guess what he was probably saying. Now was no time to be lazing around, it was time for them to head home and finish their trade. They had more work at home to do and wasting their time outside was not an option.
They had spent hours, collecting herbs and scavenging just about anything that may have been of value. Not many others in the village dared to venture outside of their civilization. The forest carried too many things to be afraid of for them to even imagine taking a trip there. It was like sacred grounds, untouched by the war that tore the world they lived in apart. The dangers of wild animals, beasts, and other unknown things. Despite that, there were more reasons to go out into it, all the resources that could be found, the herbs, items of the old times, buried under moss. Nova was one of the few who had the courage to go out on under the employment of others, finding things for sale.
Though, she also went out because she wanted to. Outside the village, she was free to say and do as she pleased without any fear. There were eyes and ears everywhere in the village. And she sure as hell couldn't practice her magic there. The only safe place was the forest.
Hami and Nova walked until the finally reached the clearing. Unlike the rest of the woods, it not only appeared different but felt different. The air around them was always ominous when they crossed over the land. She was certain something big had happened there, a fight during the war, but Nova didn't know too much about the history of the war, it was only the here and now that mattered. "Let's take a small break here," Nova said to Hami who seemed happy to do so, but he looked anxious to take a break at the clearing, whining slightly. "Oh, shush." She patted his head to comfort him and it worked.
The two walked together until Hami ran off after a squirrel. Nova knew he would return as soon as he called out to her, so she sat on her butt and fixed the black cap over her head as she took a moment to breathe. Finally, alone, she took the moment to test her magic, something she rarely got to do. The only thing she ever did with it was hiding it as best as she could.
Holding her hand above the ground, she inhaled slowly, willing her strength, her power to pull a crystal from the ground. No clock was around, but she could hear the ticking of seconds go by in her head as she waited. And then, suddenly, she could see the glimmering tip of quartz weed of the dirt until a full, small stick of quartz stuck out, beautiful and proud. It wasn't her best work, but it was still something. Her face broke out into a grin, though, it died down when she came to realized she had no one to show it to.
The moment had been soured by that one fact. She was alone. And it would always be that way as long as she lived.
Nova stood back onto her feet and moved to walk away, but her steps halted by the sight of ashes. Did someone start a fire? Nova didn't walk the grounds of the particular clearing often or stick around. She was too apprehensive to stick around the place for long or even bother to take a look about. But they weren't old, no, they looked new, buried underneath, she could see the faint glow of embers.
Still, Nova crouched down and investigated. Reaching out a bare hand, she brushed away the ashed, they were warm, almost hot even. Yet, she halted at the sight of ... a closed eye? She examined closely, unsure if she was correct in what she was seeing before pressing her hand against the hot and soft skin. For a moment, she was unable to breathe before she decided to get down to the bottom of it. With another breath, she used both hands to unbury the face of the person underneath. He was breathing ...
It was enough for her to fall back and onto her butt, a panicked squeak escaping her mouth.
Foolish humans. They always thought they were so brave and invincible, that if the humans bundled up like wolves against prey that they would win. Honestly, he wasn't sure why he had bothered to listen to their spiel of peace and of harmony, of how they had ruined their kingdom and that this war would end in the "good guys'" victory. It made him sick. Humans were so quick to put labels like "good" and "evil" on everything, blindly believing in their cause must be the only right one. Praying to some "god" up above, as if they would grant them power, even if they exist they wouldn't care. Humans were selfish and had decided to attack him on their own as if their lives would put an end to the war, even if they had to die for it. Fools, even if they died in this battle, they would just become another lost pawn on a bigger chess board. Some would mourn for them, but in the end, they would only add to the pile of burning bodies that were already littering all across the land. Anyone who opposed the Supreme Queen Solai got punished, punished by her one and only "Crow" better known as "Blaize" the Phoenix with green flames.
"Today, you will die, beast!" A man called out as he pointed his silver blade towards the bird covered in its usual flaming green feather coat.
Funny, ironic. The brute with the sword was addressing Blaize as a beast. "Me? A beast? No, you who are waving your sword around like some child swatting off a fly is no better than a dumb mutt. The difference? Your loyalty is not as strong, and you scream a lot more when you burn!" Blaize called out before the battle between the human group and the Phoenix began.
It was a long and tiring battle, but an opening allowed the human to stab his sword right through his stomach, twisting it, to add some more pain to it.
"Not so smug anymore, are you?" The human asked as he twisted the sword again, causing Blaize to cough up some blood. The area around them had been covered in trees before they began, but now it was on fire with the green flames lighting up the entire area. Charred human corpses littered the ground as if they were leaves falling off a tree, blood tainting the soil as if it had just rained. And in the center of it all was now two humanoid creatures, one clad in iron and the other in clothes. One had a sword through his stomach, silver hair and green flames emitting from his body. An iron helmet hid the other's face, but he smelled of burned flesh, and some of his armor had begun to melt.
Blaize laughed through his bloody lips, hands grasping the sword stuck in his flesh. "You humans never cease to amaze me with your stupidity. It can always rise higher," he chuckled as he pulled the sword into his flesh, pulling the human closer before wrapping an arm around him. "Do you know what happens when a Phoenix dies?" Blaize whispered into the ear of the human. "They rise from their ashes again, a true sign of immortality," he sinfully whispered into the half-melted iron helmet. "But they don't just fall and die. Oh no, they go out in a much flashier fashion. You are about to witness it, O' Great Hero," Blaize smirked before he pulled himself a little bit away and then tipped the helmet up to take a look at the horror in the human's eyes.
"What?!" The human yelled in shock as he looked into eyes that were lighting up in the same green light that was beginning to engulf the silver-haired humanoid.
"You win hero, but what victory it is. Your trophy is a fiery burning death, that will be so painful you would wish you lost," Blaize smirked as he reached out and embraced the man while the flames only grew wilder and wilder.
"Congratulations on your victory,"
~~Several years later~~
It hurts. His entire body hurt, but especially his head. For some reason he couldn't move, and there was some darkness hanging over him, pressing him down onto the ground, but he wasn't cold; it was somewhat warm but so painful. There is a sound, something loud that causes him to open his eyes slowly. Brown eyes are glossy, and he needs to blink a few times before it clears up, looking at the girl sitting in front of him. She has long dark hair and matching eyes, fair skin and a pretty face. Who is she?
Pure instincts are what makes him force himself to get up, groaning in pain as he moves away from the massive amount of ashes that were covering his body, revealing the red and orange cloak of flames that is surrounding his body. Injuries show themselves as a long arm extends out from the cloak, his legs have plenty of bruises that are bleeding, his face much the same and his eyes are darting around the place as if trying to take in everything at once without getting much of a result. His hand was also injured, blood seeping from fresh wounds as the trembling limb was pointing towards the girl.
In his hand red flames conjured themselves, creating a small ball of roaring flame that stayed put, but aimed at the black haired girl. "Who are you?!" The frightened male asked, voice raspy and weak. It is meant to be a shout, but it is barely audible. He didn't understand it, but for some reason, his instincts were screaming at him to protect himself, that he couldn't trust anyone.
The panic burrowed in Nova's chest evolved into horror which she was unable to conceal when seeing the flames the conjured from the stranger. That fear and horror spread through her body, making her tremble slightly, internally, she cursed herself for showing weakness. For her not was nearly impossible, though. He wasn't just some stranger buried in ashes, he was a stranger that not only held fire in his hand but dressed it in without his flesh being burnt to a char. If the heat was turned on her, there was no doubt that she would be scorched. Even from where she sat, she could feel the heat coming from him, warming her, and not in the sweet and comforting way.
Her body wanted nothing more than to flee, in spite of the fire, though, she was frozen in place, unable to move a limb nor look away. A million thoughts raced by in her mind in that one moment in seconds. Was he a magician? If he was a magician than he had to be Queen Solai's. Did her see her practice her power then? Would he kill her for not using her power for their one and only ruler? One fear after another piled on top in her head, making it nearly impossible to breathe. She took shallow breaths afraid that if she breathed too loudly, he would kill her without saying a word or letting her defend herself with words.
For a split second, she considered using her power against him and fleeing aftward. To do that would mean injuring him severely or killing him. Frankly, Nova didn't have in her to do either. However her planning was immediately brought a halt when the man, the magician spoke, or at least, she thought he spoke. The voice was so hoarse and weak, it couldn't have possibly come from the person standing in front of her.
Brown eyes finally focused properly on the person standing and not the flames. Almost instantly, the terror receded considerably at the sight of him, his state was nearly as terrible as the flames he held. Bruises, cuts, blood ... While Nova knew still be afraid for he was still an evident danger, but she recognized the fear in him too, which, arguably made him more dangerous when he held a ball of fire in his hand. But his weak state gave her a boost of courage and helped her to think rationally.
"Nova," her voice was quiet, so she repeated herself. "I'm Nova," as she spoke, the girl took the opportunity to slowly and cautiously scoot backwards, away from him. Without thinking, she licked her lips and asked as carefully as possible, "who are you?"
Her hand inched backward until it grasped the Crystal she had conjured earlier, her slender fingers wrapped around it, gripping the gem tightly. The feel of the quartz in her hand gave her added to her courage. Lifting her chin slightly, she made sure to wipe any sign of fear from her face and added. "I think it's only fair I know your name since I gave you mine." her tone was quite as confident, but it was something.
His hand was trembling, struggling to keep itself up due to the pain. His muscles were also numb which didn't help at all, body still sore from being buried underneath all of the ash. Thinking over it, standing up might have been a terrible decision as his legs were struggling to keep the rest of his weight up, knees bending down a little bit because of the strain they were resisting. The fact that she wasn't replying didn't help to calm him down, why was he laying there in the first place? Had he been there for long? Was she the reason he ended up underneath the pile? Could he survive a fight? Or would his better option be to flee? But even if he did, where would he go and how far would he manage to get? In his current condition, it wouldn't take a genius to figure out that he wouldn't make it far without some assistance, but he couldn't recall a single person that he trusted. Why? Why was his head filled with so many questions and no answers? They had to be there, inside of his mind, somewhere, right? These injuries, this pain and their location, he knew it all, didn't he? If he thought about it hard enough then--
It caught him off-guard, brown eyes staring at the girl that had ended up replying to him. The fact that she crawled back made him feel a bit better, if anything, she seemed intimidated. Good, if she was scared, then he had a better chance to flee. Nova, it didn't sound familiar. Who was he joking, of course, it wasn't going to be familiar! They just met, or did they? It hurt, his head was throbbing with pain and his vision was starting to become blurry again. No good, did he have an injury on his head? In his brain? Or was it magic? The flame in his hand calmed itself down a little bit as his thoughts scattered themselves before he focused again when the girl spoke up once more, this time returning the question to him.
"I'm--!" He began before abruptly stopping. He wanted to reply and in an obvious manner, but that was when he realized that he didn't hold the answer. Who was he? What was his name? Why couldn't he remember something so simple as his name?! "I--" He spoke up again, his voice still weak before he lowered his hand and the flame disappeared as quickly as it had appeared. ". . . I'm. . ." He added to the continuing mumble as he looked down at his hands. There was blood, it was still fresh too, some of it dripping down on the ashes that he was standing on. Brown eyes scouted next to the cloak that covered him and kept him warm, it didn't burn nor did it hurt, it felt safe. Reflecting on what he had just done, he stared at his hand again. Fire, why could he use those powers, and for them to feel so familiar to him when he couldn't even speak his name? How come it came easier to him than his own identity?! "I-- I don't know. . . Who am I?" He asked the girl back before his hands traveled to his head, grasping silver strands of hair, staining them with the dark red color of his blood.
"It hurts. . ." He groaned before falling to his knees, grasping tighter into his hair. "I can't remember. It hurts, my head hurts."
It was a trick. It had to be a trick. There was no other explanation, was there? He was a danger. A danger possessing a destructive magic such as fire. No one outside of the Queen's men and women was permitted to use magic and in her will. Looking at his worn-out body covered in wounds and bruises he obviously had come back from a fight, right? He was using his power so openly in front of her too, even if Nova couldn't find the mark of the Queen on his body his fire could have just as easily hid it from her. There was no reason for her to trust or believe a word that came out of his mouth. Now was the perfect moment to escape, he wouldn't be able to do anything to her in his state.
Yet, Nova did not budge even a little. Her body didn't still out of fear either. No, the fear she had harbored only seconds ago was no longer there. It was replaced with confusion, and admittedly, pity. She would be justified in leaving him with all the suspicions and risk that surrounded him along with the very fact he could be a loyal servant of the Queen. But it was just that, he could be a man of the Queen, not that he was. There was nothing about him that she or even he could confirm. The fire cloaked man, that was found under a pile of ash, was a complete mystery, which was arguably more hazardous in the day and time they lived in.
Nova couldn't help but pity him, though. Her grip on the crystal loosened as she softened, her guards remained up though. No matter how injured he was, he was still wearing flames, a complete stranger which meant he was unpredictable. The confusion and pain were very earnest, however, the only thing about him she was sure of. Licking her bottom lip, she risked getting on her knees instead and inching closer ever so slowly.
There were many questions Nova had to ask, too many. Though, he would never be able to answer them in his state. Her gaze fell on his openly bleeding wounds, making her grimace. Quickly wiping the look off her face, she dug into her pocket and pulled out her lace handkerchief. "It's not much, but it's something." Nova extended her hand, holding out her a prized possession of hers for him. Finding the right words for the situation was difficult, but Nova had never been good when speaking anyway. Her teeth sunk into the corner of her bottom lip. "I don't know who you are, but I can get you treated."
"Only if you promise me ..." Nova swallowed nervously, resisting the urge to shift and stand or even run away. Even if she wanted to run, it wasn't in her nature to leave someone in need. And this man qualified as someone in need. "You want 'cause me any trouble."
A throbbing pain kept on increasing in his head, as if the attempts to remember his own name and how he ended up here was causing it. Or maybe it was the confusion of not knowing or the horror it brought with it. He retook another glance at his wounds, staring at his hands that were still dripping with blood and now had a few silver colored strains of hair in them as well. Who did this then? How did he get injured? Had someone attacked him or was he the aggressor? And where were they? Did they get away? His gaze lifted itself to look at his surroundings, this time taking the time to survey everything instead of looking for an escape route. They were in an ashen wasteland of what had once been a forest, or what looked to have been a part of it at the very least. Trees were surrounding their every side, but for some reason, a clearing got created in this area, and he was standing in the middle of it. A fight? An explosion? Monsters? What happened?
The next thing he knew, the girl, who introduced herself as Nova, was suddenly much closer to him, close enough to reach out and touch if he had dared. Even more confused, he ended up just staring at the handkerchief that she extended to him, listening to her words, but not understanding why she was offering to help. If anything, this was a perfect opportunity for her to either attack or run. If she became the aggressor, then he wouldn't have the time to react nor retaliate. If she were to run then he wouldn't be able to keep up with her, she could lose him quickly in the forest that was waiting up ahead, mainly if she was familiar with the surrounding area. He felt much calmer now, safer, to know that neither of the two was holding any hostility towards each other. The instinct for fighting or fleeing disappeared, and he managed to calm himself down to the point that a smile reached his lips. Using the back of his hand, he gently shoved the handkerchief out of his reach, not wanting to spoil the delicate fabric with his blood when it wouldn't do much in the long run.
"Thank you, but it would be a shame when it gets covered in my blood," he smiled as he struggled to get himself up on his legs, stumbling a bit before finding his balance. 'Thank you' felt like a word he had never said before, or seldom did, because hearing it in his voice was also unfamiliar. Few things weren't, but he knew that his fire powers were normal, and protecting himself felt more natural than breathing, so it had to be something, right? "I'm sorry for threatening you earlier. . ." That was another word that felt foreign. 'I'm sorry' as if he had never said those words, or not that he could remember, but he didn't remember anything, so it wasn't much aid. "I don't know what came over me," he added as he decided against sharing that his instincts had screamed for him to attack her. It was evident that she had good intentions, so mentioning that he didn't have those only a few moments ago, was a bad idea.
"I promise. . ." He replied though he felt as if it would be somewhat hard to keep. He would do his best not to cause her any trouble, but if he didn't know who he was or how he ended up injured in a place like this, then who was to say if going with her was a good idea? In all honesty, he wasn't sure if she could be trusted nor if it was a good idea to go wherever she promised treatment, but what other choice did he have? Continuing like this only promised a slow death, if not something got attracted by the scent of fresh blood and easy prey. "Is it far?" He decided to ask since his entire body wasn't feeling for walking for several hours and his head was still attempting to explode itself from the inside, or so it felt like for him.
His smile took Nova by surprise, enough for her to physically be taken aback. Though it was small, it was still there and appeared to even be sincere? The gesture was more than a little shocking to her, not only because I moment ago he was threatening her with a fireball in his hand but because it wasn't something that happened very selectively in the village, in the environment she grew up in. Besides, most people were so miserable or even tired they barely had the strength to offer a smile to their own loved ones let alone strangers. Yet, it must have been peculiar to him when she instead stayed and offered to help him rather than attack him or run away. However, Nova had already come to terms with the fact that she was far from normal, she could embrace her strangeness, her magic, in secret. She'd be lying if she said that she wasn't curious and excited both by another magic user not underneath the Queen's control not that her fear had subsided.
Her eyebrow quirked slightly by his etiquette. While a smile was far from reaching her face, it did soften at his manners. Any remaining tensity left in her face and body whole has melted away. Nova had been right in assuming he was afraid, and she was glad she trusted her instincts. Slowly, she rose to her feet with him, watching him regain his balance before pocketing her handkerchief. Admittedly, she was relieved not to have soiled it with dirt and blood, but she wanted to staunch his bleeding at least. Her teeth sunk into the corner of her bottom lip, chewing on it lightly. Her mind started to wonder how on earth she was going to bring him into the village without raising any suspicions or trouble. He was literally covered in fire and total outsider. He looked nothing like the people of Weeping Willow.
"I'm sorry for threatening you earlier. . ."
Once again, her eyes met his and this time the corner of her mouth actually quirked, almost smiling, but not quite. Nova shook her head, dismissing his apology. "It's okay, you can never be too careful here." And that was the truth. The danger was around every corner. The pretty things were the least trustable, she had learned that the hard way. Hopefully, he would not, or maybe he already had. It was seriously doubtful considering he had no memories of how he ended up there or his own name. Besides, she herself had pondered on acting on the ill-intentions she thought of not too long ago.
With his promise confirmed, she took off the cap on her head and dusted the top, thinking of their plan. Nova was well aware that he would not go unnoticed, especially since she planned on taking him home like a stray pup. Something she had literally done with her dog, Hami. He was bound to catch the eyes of others, whether he was dressed in flames or not, So, there was only so much he could to keep his promise and she was aware of that. But she only needed to know he'd try, and that was more than enough. Nova would take care of the rest.
"No, it isn't far at all." Answered the girl. It was a good thing too. They both knew he wouldn't be able to stand for so long in his condition. "I was actually on my way back before I ... found you." Clearing her throat, cautiously she reached over, stepped on her toes lightly to and placed the cap over his head of silver hairs. Then she proceeded to shrug off her sweater. "You can't walk into the village wrapped in flames. In fact, you can't ever show your power in the village." Her voice took a heavier, somber tone.
Throwing the sweater over her arm, she moved on to her bag, searching for anything that would work as pants. Lord behold, she found pants, they were raggedy and holey, she had originally planned to cut them up into cloths, but now they had a more suitable purpose. "You can put these on!" Nova held out the makeshift outfit. At least it was something. Attaining real clothes would be impossible until they actually made it to the village.
The tension that he had undeniably created disappeared now that both of them had lowered their guards. He was still confused why Nova hadn't left or attacked, as if he expected to be attacked on sight. Eyes scouted the ashen wasteland again, but there wasn't another person anywhere close. A part of him wanted to dig through the ash to see if there was someone else there, another person that had similar injuries to his own or a weapon to create his ones. However, if Nova hadn't found anyone, then the likelihood of someone else buried underneath was small. Was he truly alone? It felt so weird to wake up, injured and scared, and not know anything. What day was it? He didn't even know such a simple question; if he didn't know better, then he might as well have been born today. A somewhat violent birth, considering how walking wasn't just difficult, but also painful.
A sigh of relief escaped past his lips when Nova said that the village was close by, that meant he could probably walk there. He cast a glance up to the sky, seeing the sun in the distant. It was still day, but it was growing closer to the night. There was a feeling growing inside of him, telling him that if his feet were useless, then he could take to the skies. It was instincts, but they disappeared when a hat got placed on top of his head. "Why? What is wrong with it?" He asked as he gazed at her curiously, looking at Nova rummaging through her backpack. He didn't remember anything, but he had feelings and instincts that were strong, but so far they all seemed to be wrong as well. His first instinct when he saw Nova was to attack, the second was to run or flee, and the third was to use magic if he could. Nova was telling him the opposite, that using magic was shunned.
He took the sweater she was wearing, granted it was too small for him to wear, he managed to shrug it over his body with a little bit of difficulty. It was small, far too small, it didn't even cover his stomach, but it did cover his chest with the cloak of flames draping over the new fabric that clung to his body. "Why the hat?" He asked, curious again, as he saw nothing wrong with his hair. He turned around, the cloak spreading itself to create a screen of fire before he stepped into the pants. Unlike the sweater, the pants were a little bit better. They were still too short for his legs, but they didn't feel like they would rip if he moved too much. His hand reached up to carefully touch the cap, adjusting it a little bit, before the cloak disappeared, the flame sizzling down to become embers on the ground. His feet were still bare, but most of his body got dressed.
One question after another, each of which had obvious answers. At least they were quite clear to anyone and everyone who lived in the country that they did. And at the same time, the question of why magic was prohibited was something that Nova asked a multitude of times in her young age before instantly being shushed by her guardian and adults alike. Like the man in the ashes, she hadn't understood the dangers and depth of her questions. Now, grown and fully aware of the conditions and harshness of the world she lived in, it became quite obvious. To know that he would have to lean too, was saddening. That innocence and ignorance was bliss, but if one was to survive, they'd have to cast it aside for a quiet and decent life. Well, as decent as one could have in the Weeping Willow village or as any lower class plebe life.
Instead of giving that answer to him, Nova answered his less troubling inquiry first. Pointing a slender finger to the hat atop of his head before the silver strands of his hair and then face. "You're a stranger. You don't look as if you belong to my village, especially with your silver hair." There was no doubt he would stick out like a sore thumb. So unlike the people of the village, busy, bustling, many with worn and tired faces. Many with darker, natural hair colors. They'd assume him to come from the city, a noble class or even a creature of some sort. They were, after all, all humans. It was rare for any non-human to visit "It's also to help cover your face." Eventually, he'd be noticed, it would be impossible to hide him forever. But Nova didn't want his existence to be discovered just yet. No, not when he was so clueless about everything and injured. It would only result in deep trouble for them both.
"And magic is banned unless used under Her Majesty Queen Solai." Nova's voice took a more stern tone, wanting him to understand heavy and important it was to remember. Forgetting it could - would - result in death. "In fact, magicians and other magic creatures are practically dead if they don't work for Her Majesty." Her brown eyes met his only for a brief moment before she looked away to examine his whole figure. Stepping back a couple of steps, seeing how he was taller than her, just so she would be able to get a better look. Disappointment crossed her face temporarily when seeing how small the sweater was on him. Nova would have thought it was it fit better on him with how loose it was on her. Sometimes, she forgot just how small she was, though. still, it was good enough and would have to do for the time being. The only problem she could detect was lack of shoes. Sadly, she had none in her bag.
Nodding her head in approval, she added, "if you remember that, you should mostly be fine." Fear the Queen. Obey the Queen. Kneel for the Queen. All that she had been taught from a young age. Lately, Nova had only been feeling anger toward the Queen in spite of the horror stories she had been told. It was because she had never met her person or faced her wrath, that was what they told her.
They were all about set to go, Nova decided. She would explain and drill other facts into his head on the way there. Though it was a short walk, it was still long enough for him to learn the basics. It then dawned on her, she nearly forgot about her the dog, Hami. "Oh! There's another one accompanying us, Hami, he's a dog." Forewarned Nova, and just in time as the dog came galloping toward them. She didn't want the creature to burn to a crisp with his fire magic.
On a closer inspection, Nova did have a point in his silver hair sticking out in comparison to her black, though he had never imagined that it would have been a problem. There was so much that he did not know, not only about himself but this world in general. Sticking out was a bad thing, he needed to blend in with the rest, and since he had already promised Nova not to cause her any trouble, he ended up nodding and tucking a bit more of his hair into the cap, to try and make it less visible. He had no better way to hide his face, but he figured that he would try and focus on the ground or something of the like, avoid eye contact so that his face could remain hidden. He gave his hands another quick glance along with his body, seeing the injuries and the blood that was beginning to dry, hopefully, they would not catch too much-unwanted attention to where Nova was escorting him to. He knew too little of the world, but undoubtedly, he had to come from this place too. His eyes cast a glance upon the ashen wasteland again, wondering if the confused young man had been there for long, and if so, why no one found him before, or why he did not wake up earlier. It felt like he was waking up from a long slumber, his body sore from both the injuries but also from lack of use, or so he guessed.
"Banned?" He asked before noting the Queen's name. It was familiar. The name sparked something inside of him as if he had heard it before as if he should know who she was. "Solai. . ." he murmured, tasting the name on his tongue. Yes, it was familiar to him. However, Nova's tone suggested that the Queen was not someone who should be spoken fondly about, especially since she had banned magic and appeared to kill those who refused to work for her. Perhaps he knew her name due to all of the negative rumors surrounding her, but if she was as bad as she sounded, then why would she be Queen? Was she too powerful to be taken down? "Okay, I will try to remember," He nodded to Nova before she gave him a quick glance. She did not seem too happy with the result, but it was what she had to offer. It was better than having to walk into town wrapped in flames, especially with the dangers magic seemed to bring with it. His eyes traveled over to the dog when it came rushing over to them, smiling at the cute four-legged companion before the two of them began walking.
The trip back to the village was mostly in silence, with only a few questions coming from him as he was curious how it looked and what it got called. Weeping Willow village, which was a dreadful name but he kept his opinion to himself, and he was told that it was far from a posperous place. The village's inhabitants were humans, which he understood that they did not typically have silver hair, and most of them were non-magic users or had the capabilities to use them, but dared not underneath the Queen's reign. Those who lived there were the lower class of the society, workers with little pay but held some of the more important jobs, such as mining and blacksmithing, though the conditions, from what Nova told him, could be far better. She had gone out to the forest to gather herbs and plants, though the forests were dangerous, so few dared to do so. He wanted to ask why she would go if she said it was dangerous, but it felt rude to pry too much into who she was when he was unable to give any information back about himself.
Arriving at the village was still a shock. He had expected the town to be in a somewhat poor condition, but what he saw was still surprising. Some of the buildings were threatening to fall, most of them had some holes or cracks in the walls, roof or both. A lot of them had some planks hastily hammered over them, some support beams created with what they had to the keep the roof up. In the mildest way possible, the village was in a horrible condition. He didn't realize he was staring until his eyes were forced to blink due to the dryness that was building up, eyes traveling down to the ground to stare at his feet. He had to try and not attract attention to himself, hide his face and not use magic. It sounded straightforward, in theory, but for him, it was going against everything that his instincts told him as if lowering his head, hiding and not using magic was something he would never have done with all of his memories.
To say the village, Weeping Willow, Nova's hometown, wasn't as bad as it looked would be a blatant lie. The name of the town was horrid too, but no one could deny that it was fitting for the pathetic looking place. The inhabitants made it work somehow, and a home was still a home, no matter how poor it was. And it was poor, with its shabby buildings, lack of greenery, and moderately rough roads. It was far from beautiful, there was no denying or sugarcoating it. Any outsider, who had never been to or from a place such as it would have been taken aback. Which was why Nova assumed surprise was what the young man behind her must have been feeling when she peeked a glance at him over her shoulder. Watching as he peered around curiously before lowering his head. She followed suit not long after, drinking in the details of the road more than usual. Noting ever dip in the ground, the loose gravel and stones on the path, Nova felt rather guilty for not having any shoes to give him.
Him. He. Stranger. The Man. It finally dawned on her once again that he had no name, and referring to him as "the stranger" or "man" wouldn't do. Calling him by anything that came to mind when she looked him also wouldn't do. The fact that he lacked his memories, including his own name, also didn't help. Nova was determined to call him by something, they would have to have a name for him before they reached the house of the town's doctor. If possible, she wanted to keep most of the details about him arcane, though, there were a few people she would not be able to hide it from.
Hami's barking brought Nova back to earth, she nearly halted when looking at the dog only to realize he was barking at a group of playing children at the nearly rundown orphanage, only a house or two down from the doctor's house. The very place Nova had grown up in half her childhood before being kicked out at the age of sixteen. Some days, she went to visit the other children, bearing gifts. Hami was as fond of them as she was, often leaving home to play with them and today was no different as he ran off to tackle a scrawny boy to the ground. His arrival alerted the children of Nova and even the man behind her.
"Nova's back!" They waved and joyously called out to her. If there was anything sweet and beacon of innocent light in the village, it was the children. On occasions, one would encounter children who lost their innocence and happiness, but many happy ones still remained. They were the one's that always got a smile out of her and had her waving back nearly as enthusiastically. "Who's that?!" A girl called out curiously, pointing directly at him.
And they were oh so curious too. Sometimes too much for their own good.
"A friend! Now go play!" Was all she could think of to answer, before stepping back so that she was standing beside to him. Gingerly, Nova held on to his arm, keeping him close for safety and continued their walk, ignoring the children. They were practically at their destination, but she halted once again outside of the scruffy house of the town doctor. Honestly, it was one of the better-built buildings in the village.
"What do you want to be called?" Nova asked, dropping her hand from him. "I know you don't remember your name, but we should call you by something, right?" They should at least have a name to give the doctor. She could craft a story about how he came to the town, but not without a name.
His eyes wandered around the ground, wondering if he would stand out more since he was not wearing shoes, but tried his best not to bother giving it a second thought while Nova was escorting him through the sad town. He tried his best not to overthink about everyone else in the town nor its condition. Instead, he focused on walking and standing upright while keeping his head low. It was much harder than he thought, his body felt tired and numb and the soles of his feet were starting to grow sore from the lack of shoes and change of terrain. His body had already been in poor condition when Nova found him, but walking around injured had not helped those injuries heal. They were no longer bleeding, not as excessively anyway, but there was still dried blood that had begun turning solid and dark red against his skin, some of it even flaking off. Usually, it would take longer for blood to dry, but due to the extra heat that emitted from him, the blood dried much faster. Nova was in the front, so he ended up mimicking her behavior, walking and behaving like her, as to not attract any added or unwanted attention to himself. She said it herself; he was a stranger, which was not as welcomed in this town.
The bark from Hami, Nova's pet dog, caught his attention, making him raise his eyes a bit and stop dead in his tracks. He had no idea why, but he found himself unable to draw any closer to the kids that were playing outside. As if his presence would scare or hurt them, so ended up withdrawing himself to the back while averting his gaze elsewhere, though glancing at them from the corner of his eyes. He wanted to greet them, but something inside of him screamed at him to keep his distance. When they asked about him, he shrank a bit from the little range he had created between himself and them, eyes wandering off in the opposite direction of where they were. He was glad that Nova took the initiative to talk because he found himself speechless. It was sad that kids had to grow up in these conditions and it was even more tragic that they seemed perfectly okay with it, it was hard to demand something better when they did not know of it. Then again, he did not know either. He just figured that "Weeping Willow" did not have the best to offer for these kids, and if he was correct, then they were probably orphaned too.
He had thought of agreeing to Nova's statement, but never got that far when she suddenly turned on her heels and grabbed his arms to yank him along to their destination. The closeness was, surprising, as she was not just holding his hand or the sweater, but clinging to his arm. Nova's gesture forced him to lean a bit more on his right side, but nothing that did not look too awkward as she continued to drag him through the town.
When she did stop, he had a better opportunity to take a look at the building. It was bigger than most of the buildings in town, and even more surprisingly, it seemed to be standing just fine. There were no holes, none he could immediately see anyway, and the windows appeared to have no cracks in the glass. The paint that was chipping off and several large cracks in the walls gave away how old the building was, and how it too, like the rest of the town, needed some renovation. However, in comparison to the other buildings, this building was in its best condition so far.
"Huh?" He asked when Nova asked what he wanted to get called. That was right; he could not go in there without a name. The town did not seem friendly nor welcoming strangers, so walking in there and asking for treatment when not knowing if the stranger were a friend or foe would be foolish. They did need to think of something, which thankfully Nova was going to do for him, but he did need a temporary name. "A name. . ." he murmured to himself before his head began throbbing again, causing one of his hands to touch his head as if it would ease the pain.
"What are you doing?" It was a woman's voice. It sounded cold, almost distant in a way as to how it was talking. It felt familiar, yet again, but he could not place a name. He could not see a face either, the only defining factor to her gender was the light and feminine tone to her voice.
"I am thinking of flying," that was his voice! He was speaking, but who was he addressing? And what was he saying? Flying? Where and how? If magic were forbidden, then he would not dare to do so from the danger of being found by the Queen, right?
"Where are you going?" The female voice asked him.
"I don't know. Somewhere, far away from here. I want to explore the world. We are just myth and legends to most; it is not as if they will know I am not one of them," he chuckled and then faced the woman. Again, there was no face, nor defining features. It was only a shadow, but he could tell that whoever he was talking to was someone who knew him and he knew her.
"It is dangerous out there. If you do anything reckless then--"
"Stop worrying. I will be fine," he dismissed her. "I do not need it. I can do fine on my own," his voice sounded cold now, distant, like hers. Unlike how he was talking now, it seemed so much different, as if words were only a weapon to get what he wanted.
"Fine, do as you wish. However, do not come crying back to me!" The female lightheartedly joked, which earned chuckles from her.
"Are you crazy?" He asked. "As if I would cry! After all, I am--"
"--Zekiel," he said as he opened his eyes, unaware that he had closed them for a moment as he withdrew both of his hands from his head. "I- I remember now!" His eyes lit up as he looked at Nova. His hands placed them carefully on her shoulders as if a rough touch would break her smaller body before a wide smile spread across his lips. His eyes seem to light up with energy, a small ember emitting in dark brown embers that lit up as a small flame would. "It's my name! I'm Zekiel!" It was, perhaps, silly of him to get so happy and excited about such a small fact, but it felt like the biggest breakthrough he had ever had. Zekiel, his name was Zekiel! That was who he was; he was Zekiel! The rest was still a blur; he could not remember who the woman he was talking to was, or what he was talking about and for what reason. He figured "not like the rest" meant his magical capabilities, but beyond that, he had no other clues. It was a memory, something which gave him just a piece of him back.
"It is my name; I remember it so clearly now. I'm Zekiel," he gave them some distance, keeping his smile as if he was a child that had just gotten a treat.
"Are you - " Nova had begun to ask "are you okay" when he used a single hand to rip his head. It was clear to see that he was in some sort of pain. But what an obviously dumb question that would have been. Of course, he wasn't "okay". How could he be, when he was covered in cuts, bruises, and blood, though must of it had dried, she could still see he was bleeding. He had barely been able to stand when they left the woods. Frankly, it was shocking that he had even made the trip back without a single hiccup. With his minimal coverage, she was frightful that his open wounds may have gotten dirty, either by herself or the environment. If that happened, infections were bound to come next and more pain followed. It was all the more reason to hurry and get him treated, especially seeing him now, obviously hurting and detached from reality.
Before another word could exit her mouth or launch into action, his eyes opened and he was speaking again. "Zekiel?" Repeated Nova quietly, tilting her head to the side slightly in confusion. Was that the name he wanted to go by. His hands on her shoulders alarmed her for a moment, breaking her train of thought. Under normal circumstances, her first action would be to remove them from her body. As he was still a stranger, but how hypocritical that would have been considering that she just took him by the arm only a minutes ago. And whether they were familiar or not, they would be eventually after she had decided to aid and take him in. During their entire walk, Nova had wondered if she had made the right decision, but it could have been out of character for her not to. Lastly, he attention had been snatched away as soon as she understood what he was saying.
"Zekiel .." Nova said once again, this time slowly, enunciating each syllable carefully as if tasting the name for the first time. It was a unique and lovely name, one that wasn't common to her knowledge. At least it wasn't in the parts she had been to and lived in. His excitement was strangely endearing and she couldn't help but smile herself. After all, he had recovered a piece of his memory even if it was one thing, it was his name, and that was beyond important and of value. He reeked of a childish innocence in his elation, not letting her guard down was impossible for her to do. "It's nice to meet you Zekiel." Extending her hand, she grabbed his own gently and shook it. Her smile softened before she took her hand back and placed on the knob of the door, inhaling and exhaling slowly. "Let's get you treated now." He had waited long enough. There was so much more she wanted to discuss with him, but it would have to wait.
Removing her hand from the knob, Nova knocked onto the wooden firmly until she heard rustling and creaking of floorboards from inside. Her smiled gradually faded until it was replaced with a blank face just before the door swung open revealing a gruff and tired looking middle-aged man, openly glaring at the culprit who knocked on his door. "What do you want?" His voice was just as brusque as his mannerism. Any other day, Nova would be as rude to the grumpy older man, but she had a favor to ask. And annoying as usual would not do.
"I brought your herbs." The girl raised her bag as a gesture to which she only received a grunt as a response. His eyes shifted from Nova and to Zekiel in a split second, his scowl deepening behind his glasses. Without missing a beat, she spoke again."I also brought you a patient." Ignoring his raised eyebrow, conveying so many questions at once, she held onto Zekiel's hand and pushed past the doctor and into his house. Having been to his home and house of practice so many times, she knew the place like the back of her hand. Though it wasn't big for he usually went to the patients home for treatment, however, there were a few beds lined up in a room not far from the living room. It was the same room that Nova led Zekiel as the doctor followed behind them, clearly very annoyed.
"Sit here," Nova directed him to a cot, happy that the room was empty and surely that meant the house was too. Good, the fewer people, the better.
"Who is he?" The doctor finally asked, still looking very much in a sour mood but also clearly suspicious.
Nova had weaved a story for Zekiel on the way to the village. She didn't like to think of herself as a liar, but in truth, that was what she was. And she was pretty damn good at it too. Her whole life, she had to hide the fact that she was a magic user and no one suspected her of being one. Not one person hadn't in years. However, she didn't have to lie about his name. "This Zekiel, Zekiel, this is Dr. Godfrey." Casually introducing the two, Nova at on the end of the same cot. The cushion wasn't very fluffed or comfortable, but it was still something. "As you can see, he needs to be treated." She added, hoping to hurry along the process. "You can have the herbs for free as my payment." Of course, Nova knew if his wounds were more severe than she assumed that she would have to give him actual coins too.
Doctor Godfrey stared at Zekiel longer than what made Nova comfortable. There would be more questions to follow, but he broke soon after, gathered his tools and got to work. Obviously, his job as a doctor prioritized over everything else, much to her relief. So, she gave him the story that she had made up while he worked. "I found him in the woods like this," that part was true. "I suspect he was a traveler or something of the like and was attacked and robbed by bandits. He doesn't remember anything except his names."
"Really?" He grunted, looking not at Nova, but Zekiel.
The pure joy of hearing his own name, and recognizing it, from Nova's voice was tenfold more than just remembering it. There were still so many questions that he needed answered, but Zekiel brushed all of those aside as he focused on Nova's smile and extended hand. It took him an awkward moment of staring at it before he reached out and took her hand back. He was careful as if holding her hand would break her, before shaking it. "It is nice to meet you too," Zekiel replied back before giving her a nod to the upcoming treatment. The confusion and adrenaline had taken most of his attention off his terrible state, but now that he had calmed down, he could tell that his balance was off again, making him sway a bit more than with each step, and vision was becoming somewhat blurry, but it corrected itself with a few blinks. Zekiel waited outside the door after Nova had knocked on it, shifting his weight from left to right to not make his sore feet hurt more than they already did. Brown eyes that had focused on Nova's smile sank to the ground, keeping his head low, as ears tuned in onto the creaking floorboards coming from the inside before a 'click' rang out and the door opened.
Zekiel lifted his gaze a little bit to take a peek at the man, curious to see him but at the same time trying his best to keep his face hidden. He looked somewhat old, which was what he had guessed since the man was a doctor, or so Zekiel presumed, and like the rest of the town, he looked as gloomy as its name. Once again, he let Nova do the talking while he just listened to the annoyed man greeting her. For a brief moment, their eyes met, and Zekiel's instantly darted away and instead focused on his bare feet and the dirt and ashes that still covered them. A part of him had thought they would get rejected, but the gentle grasp onto his hand and the yank that made him stumble forwards, made the two of them push back the unwelcoming man in the door and into the building. Nova led him past what looked to be the common living space before he lifted up his gaze from the creaking floorboards. It was a small room, beds lined up against the wall which was big enough to house a couple of patients. Currently, there was no one else there, but Zekiel's eyes still wandered around to the other beds as if he expected someone to show up at any moment.
He had no memories of how a hospital should look like, but he had imagined it to be bigger. However, considering the state of the town, this was plenty of big already. Zekiel sat down when prompted to do so, his entire body relieved at rest he was given when he got to sit down. His feet were no longer screaming in pain, and his head stopped overworking itself by having to balance his entire body. The doctor, evidently displeased by the whole ordeal, had followed them into the room and Zekiel swore he heard him grumble to himself before asking about his identity. Zekiel drew a nervous breath as he didn't know what to reply, but thankfully, the answer was directed at Nova and not him. "Nice to meet you," he said with a meek smile, lifting his gaze up from his lap for only the introduction before it lowered itself again. There was no way that Zekiel could not feel the intense stare that Dr. Godfrey was giving him, as if he was examining him from head to toe and uncovering his entire backstory before Zekiel could remember it on his own. Thankfully, he stopped staring and stepped away for a moment only to return with medical supplies.
A relieved sigh escaped past Zekiel's lips as he extended his hands out to the doctor that began cleansing his wounds. It burned, which was a strange sensation, but Zekiel bit his lip and held in the pained groans as much as he could, though occasional whimpers escaped him when the cotton swab covered in alcohol got into the deeper parts of his injuries. Fortunately, though unknown to both Nova and him, the worst of the injuries had already begun healing thanks to his own healing magical abilities. They had kept all infectious bacteria out of his wounds, burned them whenever they dared to get in contact with his injuries, and also begun closing the more severe wounds but had stopped now that they were receiving treatment. His attention snapped back to Nova when she spoke up again. It was surprising how she managed to speak mostly the truth, even the guess of him being attack by bandits or something of that kind was likely. Though, though she didn't lie, she also didn't say everything that had happened during their first meeting nor where it was. He figured it was for the best, which was why he didn't speak up until Dr. Godfrey spoke up and met his gaze again.
Again, he spent a few moments in pure silence. Even if Dr. Godfrey was looking at him, Zekiel had expected for Nova to reply. A few more seconds passed when he finally realized that it was him that the doctor was addressing, which caused the injured male to jolt up and look at the old man who was still waiting for his confirmation. "Y-Yeah," he stuttered as Dr. Godfrey continued his treatment, causing the young male to let out a hiss. "Nova found me unconscious before I woke up," Zekiel had to continue, or add onto Nova's story, without giving away more than the girl would feel comfortable for the doctor to know. "I only recently recalled my name, the rest is completely blank," he added with another hiss as the doctor continued to cleanse and treat his wounds. Zekiel was curious as to why Nova wasn't telling him everything, but he figured that it was for the better. Everything Nova had done so far was for the sake of helping him, a stranger, so there was no reason for him to start doubting her decisions now.
A proud smile snuck it's way onto Nova's face, like that one a pleased parent would give their child after after seeing them do well. It could have been viewed as a bad thing, of course, withholding information as it could be another form of lying, but in the world, they lived in both skills were a requirement. And while Zekiel was still clueless as to why, he was still a quick learner, something Nova was grateful for because he would have to learn a lot of things and fast if he was going to survive. She only hoped he would gain his memories back, that would be much better than anything else. It was something they both wanted but whether they would get it or not was the question.
Until then, unconsciously she had already decided to look out for him. It would be a lie if it wasn't also for selfish reasons. He was another magic user, one that didn't work under the queen and abuse their power. The mere knowledge of it excited her, she would have someone to talk to and be open with, to practice with, someone who could understand her, someone she didn't have to hide from. More than anything she wanted to reach out and his unique silver hair underneath the hat, instead, she opted to nudge him playfully but an affectionate gesture all the same. He did well.
The smile on her face was wiped away once she noticed the doctor was looking her way again, narrowing his eyes in suspicion. Which to be fair, he had every right to be. Once again, he only grunted in response to both Zekiel and Nova and continued to clean his wounds. The smell of rubbing alcohol stung her nostrils, he said nothing, however, watching as Dr. Godfrey inspected his injuries once more gauzing them. "None of your wounds appear to be too deep or severe, they'll heal over time I would dare to say they already have started to. Keep them clean and covered." He directed, looking him over once more.
"Really?" Nova asked, taking it upon herself to scrutinize Zekiel's wounds, peeking underneath the bandages, gently peeling them back. He had appeared so much worse and ragged when she found him. Was he really going to be okay? She would take no answer but "yes", but she had to be certain. "You're not being stingy with the medical supplies are you?" She frowned, knowing that the Doctor always waited and see until he "absolutely had to" use some medicines. He claimed that way when they really needed the medicine it could be put to good use. Granted, it was sound logic, but Nova didn't want to take any chances of the firemancer getting sick because the doctor was being close-fisted with his provisions.
Again, he grunted, a sound Nova was really getting sick of constantly hearing. Standing from his seat, he removed the rubber gloves he had put on before treating him. He didn't even bother to answer her, only speaking to Zekiel. "You're dirty," he remarked, "I don't of any of the dirt getting into your wounds, I'll prepare a bath for you. I have better fitting close for you too ... and shoes." His eyes shifted to his feet once. "I'll put it on Nova's bill."
Internally, Nova groaned at the thought of having to actually pay money to the man, especially when he was so rude and grumpy. If that was the price she had to pay, though, so be it. Besides, she didn't have the nerve to make him walk back dirty, still injured and in ill-fitted clothing. It was morally wrong when he could have better and now. Once Zekiel was healed, she was sure he would be able to work, make money and pay her back anyway. For now, she would help with his recovery. "I'll help with the bath, wouldn't want him to ruin all the hard work you did on his bandages.
"You're not a nurse and if you can't be embarrassed then please just be respectful of his privacy," Godfrey snorted, shaking his head at her. He gathered his equipment and left the room presumingly to put away his things and get Zekiel's bath ready along with prepare clothing.
Honestly, Nova didn't see what his problem was, she wasn't squirmish, she grew out of that a long time ago. Not to mention, she kind of already saw him unclothed, then again, he was covered with flames at that time. Not that she could bring it up because then she would have to explain why Zekiel wasn't covered in burn marks too.
"How do you feel? If something still feels off, I'll make sure that cranky doctor takes care of it." In the end, he was the biggest judge of his own health.
The smile that Nova gave him, made him return it instantly. It made him feel very happy that, despite not knowing anyone, which included himself, that there was someone he could trust. Obviously, Zekiel should trust the man that was treating his wounds, but he trusted Nova over him. The young girl had escorted him all the way to town and even offered him clothes and now treatment, which was plenty enough to gain Zekiel's trust, even though he didn't know who he was yet. His name was a beginning, but it wasn't across the start-line yet. The fact that none of his wounds were bad made him feel better, giving his injured body a few pokes and stretches since it did make him feel much better. The fact they were cleaned and now bandaged was also nice, it as if his entire body got refreshed. "Okay," Zekiel replied as the doctor told him to keep the wounds covered. Nova took a quick peek at them too, though Zekiel didn't know what the girl was looking for before she questioned the doctor about medical supplies. Right, Zekiel hadn't thought as far as that costing money.
A part of him felt guilty for having Nova pay for him, but he had no money or belongings. He didn't even have clothes. "Huh?" Zekiel asked when the doctor suddenly addressed him again, coming with a rather rude and bold comment to boost. "Ah um... thank you," Zekiel thanked as the doctor offered him clothes, bath, and some shoes. It was evident that Zekiel couldn't pay for it, especially with their story of him being attacked by bandits or the like. The sound of a bath was pleasant; he almost took the hat off to ruffle his hair, get some ash out, but instead pressed it further down on top of his head. He didn't want to reveal his silver hair if it was going to grab unwanted attention. Nova was working hard to keep his presence in the town as secret as possible, so it would be terrible to waste it. Though, when Nova said she was going to help him in the bath, he flushed a little bit. In hindsight, she had seen a lot more skin than necessary when he had awoken surrounded in flames, but the fact that he was going to take a bath and she wanted to join, made him feel very bashful all of a sudden.
"H- Hold on! Nova!" Zekiel began before the doctor seemed to catch the drift, making him sigh a bit of relief before Nova asked about his injuries. "They feel fine. I'm a bit sore and tired, but I don't feel as dizzy as before," he smiled to her as he attempted standing up, though the room began spinning the moment he attempted to do so, prompting him to sit back down. "Guess I'm still a bit dizzy," he chuckled weakly before giving his joints a few more stretches. "And um. . . . You don't need to help me in the bath-- that's a bit-- embarrassing," he murmured as he fidgeted a bit with the pants that were too small while tugging at the shirt that only covered the upper parts of his chest. "And are you sure it's okay? The money? I don't have any way to pay you back, I'm sorry for causing you so much trouble," he added as he felt guilty over having nothing to repay Nova with and currently only bringing her troubles. Hopefully, there was something he could help her with in the nearby future, to lift the feeling of guilt off his chest a little bit.
Clearly a bit guileless to how brazen her offer had been, Nova only blinked in response to Zekiel’s flustered denial. In her mind, especially the moment she said it, her assistance would have been nice. She simply didn’t want him to black out or reopen his wounds while in the tub. Only an hour or so he had been ready to keel over, who was to say he wouldn’t now? As if to prove her point, even as he stood up to show how much better he was, the silver-haired individual sat back down almost instantly. So, he wasn’t entirely better, she could only purse her lips.Her own offer only appealed to her more, Nova had helped some others bathe. Then again, they were all children and he was a full-grown man. As the doctor suggested her to, she would respect his privacy even if she was concerned for him. At least his wounds weren’t too severe, something that still was a surprise to her all things considered. It made her more than happy to see him no longer covered in blood, bruises, and wounds. Granted, he was now covered in bandages, but that meant he was healing, a vast improvement from before.
“Oh, sorry, it sounded like a good idea in my head,” Nova nearly laughed at the awkward situation she had nearly put them in.Though, laughing would have made thing awkward anyway. Seeing him fidget with the pathetic clothing she had given him made her realize she should also be embarrassed. Even if he had more of a reason to be that she did, once again, an awkward and shy laugh almost escaped her mouth. But she smothered it by place the sleeve over her hand over her mouth. The change of subject he brought was more than welcomed to Nova, however, this time she did laugh, but for a new reason. The laugh was more of a sweet bubble showing endearment. The previous predicament was no longer on her mind as it was now replaced with Zekiel’s kind worries.They were actually reasonable, but after all, he went through,”don’t worry about that, you should be more concerned with yourself.”
The smile came easily because it wasn’t only there to reassure him but genuinely came about because of him. “You don’t need to worry about that anytime soon. I may not be very wealthy, but I’m well off and I can always talk that grumpy old doctor into giving me a cheaper price. You need all the help you can get right now. Just worry about yourself, okay?” After all, he still hadn’t recovered yet from whatever or whoever it was that hurt him. One step at a time was how they need to proceed. And the first step was to have him be healthy again. “Besides, I actually don’t mind that much, if it’s the price I have to pay, then fine.” Shrugging her shoulders she soon after added.”You really have no idea how happy I am that I found you. You are worth more than any of the money I have. There is a lot that we’ll have to discuss.”
“But until then,” paused Nova, standing back onto her feet. She extended her hand toward Zekiel.”At the very least allow me to help you get to the bath.”
It still didn't sit right with the injured male that Nova was going to pay for his treatment, even if she did manage to get a discount, she would still be losing money. If Zekiel's assumptions were correct, then she was from Weeping Willow, which meant her wealth was no greater than the rest. "I'll try," Zekiel said as Nova's kindness kept surprising him. They had only known each other for barely an hour, but he still felt very close to the girl. Perhaps because she had not killed him on sight, or held his threat against her the moment, he had returned to consciousness. It might very well be the fact that she didn't feel scared of him despite his memory loss. He had remembered his name, but that was all he did remember. How old was he? How long had he lived and what had he done all those years? Was this his actual personality? Or was what he felt back then-- Who was he? The moment he had laid his eyes on Nova, his body had jumped. He was injured, and his head felt like a ticking bomb, but he had every single attention on fighting her, even if that meant death. Zekiel might even have been ready to kill her; the mere thought made his heart sting. What had he been? And would that person still be friends with Nova? It scared him to think about it; perhaps it was better to leave his memories be lost.
"I'm happy too," Zekiel murmured a bit more bashful than Nova had. "I'm happy you found me, I'm thankful it was you and not someone else," he smiled before nodding to Nova wanting to help him to the bath. He didn't mind, and apparently, he had no choice. The injured male needed assistance to move, standing up had made the entire world rock like a boat on stormy seas, it was a miracle that he collapsed on the bed and not the floor.
"The bath's ready," doctor Godfrey returned from the bathroom as he looked at the two of them before gesturing Nova and Zekiel to follow. "I got him some clothes, but I don't know if they fit. We'll have to see after your bath," he added which Zekiel only nodded in response.
It was all thanks to Nova's help that Zekiel got to the bathroom without hitting something on his way. In comparison to the rest of the makeshift hospital, it looked elegant and even a bit classy. The floors had tiles, and there was no chipped-off paint either. The bathtub looked clean, perhaps hardly used as well, with steaming water in it and bubbles. It looked inviting. "Nova," Doctor Godfrey said as he shooed the girl outside the door. "Wait out here; we'll be back soon," he said before closing the door.
Only a few minutes passed before the door opened and a running Zekiel came to grab Nova and use her as a meatshield. "Nova!" Zekiel called out while glaring daggers at the dumbfounded doctor that was still inside of the bathroom. "He's trying to take the hat off!" The injured male whined out loud as he used one hand to hold onto Nova's shoulder and the other one to pull the hat down over his silver hair. "I told him, no, but he kept trying to take it off!" Zekiel added as he hunched himself down to hide behind Nova, despite being way taller than the female.
Speechless, Doctor Godfrey sighed as he finally found his voice again. "I told him to undress and get into the bathtub, he asked if that included the hat and I said yes, which made him freak out as I tried to take it off," the more sensible man replied. "Now, come back here so I can wash you, and don't move so much! Your wounds are going to re-open!" The grumpy doctor scolded him, making Zekiel's grip on Nova's shoulder tighten as he continued to hide behind her.
Admittedly, Nova was a tad disappointed when the doctor halted right outside the bathroom door. Oh, so he was serious? While the reason were made known, she was still witless as to understand them. And were they even a big deal all things considered? All she wanted to do was to help Nova huffed a sigh and let go of Zekiel’s arm before Dr. Godfrey all but pushed her out of the bathroom and into the hall where she was to wait for who knew how long. She had turned around on her heels just into time to the door slam on her fist. Left alone, standing in the empty hall, Nova sighed once more, crossing her arms over her chest and glaring at the door. What was she supposed to do in the meantime? Naturally she could have left them, but, she thought against it, not exactly feeling all too secure leaving Zekiel and the doctor alone. Staying by the door, within his reach would be the safest option, so that was exactly what she did. After all, she would never know when he would need her. And she had never been more right when five minutes later, he came running out of the room and attempted to hide behind her small frame. She nearly fell backwards from surprise and the moment he grabbed her shoulders.
Nova looked over her shoulder at Zekiel before her gaze feel back on the doctor and his explanation. The girl would have thought the man had planned to stab Zekiel rather than the truth being that he wanted to remove his hat. Nova nearly burst into laughter at Zekiel’s childish actions and the exasperated look on the doctor’s face if they both weren't so serious about it all. One could say she was possibly the one to blame because she was the one who had told him to keep it on his head. “Okay, calm down.” Nova said to Zekiel, turning her head so her cheek was facing him. “The doctor is right, you’ll re-open your wounds.” And probably faint, but she left that part out no matter who true it may have been. “You will have to remove your hat, I can only imagine how dirty your hair must be …” He was buried in ash after all, every inch of him needed scrubbing.
“See!” There you have it,” Dr. Godfrey exhaled, as he calm down steadily with Nova’s supporting words. He fixed the glasses perched on his face, his eyes slightly narrowed from behind them. “Now,” he gestured to the door from which they came, “get in the bath, with everything, including that hat, off.” groused the already annoyed again and tired doctor.
“Well, don’t be so mean about it!” Nova huffed, annoyed herself too even as he gave her a look of disbelief. “They him a break, okay?” He was injured and hurt and frankly he didn’t have many people to trust. Nova did not appreciate the doctor’s attitude toward him, but she didn’t say anything more because she was grateful for the patch up job he had done. “Look, I’ll give him the bath.” She declared, hands on her hips and nearly rolling her eyes at the scoffing Dr. Godfrey. Oh, he was scoffing? None would be going through this right now if they had gone along with her offer in the first place! There was no room for embarrassment, something she lacked anyway.
“Nova, “ began the doctor, but she shut him down with a raised hand and and a shake of her head.
“You’re tired and done enough work, please, sit down and have a cup of tea or something.” Twisting her body around, she removed Zekiel’s tight hold on her shoulders and took his hand. “And you trust me, right? So, there’s nothing to worry about. “ She insisted, even going as far as to give the okay sign with her free hand just before leading him back to the bathroom. The doctor seemingly had already surrendered or just didn’t care anymore as they passed him by. “Hmm,” Nova hummed as she took in her surrounding, particularly looking at a shelf where all the grooming products were placed. She wondered if the doctor would charge her more depending on what she used and how much she used. Ah, well, he didn’t have to know.
Plucking a bottle for the shelf, she opened the top and smiled when smelling the scent of herbs. This was bound to be more expensive, with all the benefits it brought. But it made her smile knowing it was made with the very herbs she spent hours picking out in the words, and even growing at her own home. She closed the top onto it and grabbed a sponge. “Okay, we’ll use this to shampoo. So, are you ready?”
Zekiel was still hunched over, staring at Doctor Godfrey as if he was the enemy. Nova had told him to not show his hair because it made him stick out, which was why he had decided to wear the hat. They had already kept things hidden from the doctor, and despite not knowing why or how much was okay to share, Zekiel didn't want to waste Nova's efforts by being careless, which was why he was hanging onto his hat for dear life. Not to mention that the injured male didn't trust the doctor. He was grateful that he treated his wounds, but that was about it. Doctor Godfrey wasn't someone that Nova trusted, which made plenty of reasons why Zekiel also should not entrust him with the truth. "Okay," he complied when Nova told him to calm down. Zekiel didn't let go of her shoulders, but the injured male did stop glaring daggers at the dumbfounded man in the bathroom, and no longer hid behind the female. "It's probably not that bad," Zekiel said, but he couldn't find any reasoning why it wouldn't be. He had woken up underneath a pile of ashes, covered in injuries and blood, he also touched his head, so there was probably some blood there from his hands. The moment that Doctor Godfrey spoke up again, Zekiel glared daggers at him again and then shook his head. It was a terrible decision as it caused him to get a bit dizzy, stumbling a bit to the left, but thankfully catching himself before he fell to the floor.
A smug look spread across his face when he looked at the doctor and Nova denying him helping him clean up. That's right! There was no reason for him to get all high and mighty! And, even if Zekiel said he wanted the doctor to help him first, but he now changed his mind. It was better to have someone that he trusted so close to him in such a vulnerable position, especially since Zekiel couldn't use his powers around the doctor. Apparently, only those under Queen Solai's command was allowed to have magical powers and use them, and from what little he had gathered from Nova, it was a bad thing to get caught using magic and being alive. "Of course I trust you," Zekiel replied quickly when Nova asked, even quicker to follow her back into the bathroom, but only after he had given the doctor a quick wave as he closed and locked the door. That would keep the pesky and grumpy doctor out! He huffed at the door, satisfied with the old man out of the way before he took his hat off and gave it to Nova. "I'm sorry. It's probably filthy," Zekiel apologized as he dusted off some ash from the top of it. His hair still showed off strands of silver, but most of it had been dimmed down due to the ash. Both sides of his head had large dark red stains on it from when he touched it earlier, thankfully it had dried before Nova had plopped her hat on top of his head, so it had escaped becoming bloodied. Thank the Heavens. Otherwise, it would probably have been tossed away.
If he had known how hard it would be to take a bath with Nova around, he might just have let Doctor Godfrey stay.
"Don't look," Zekiel said as Nova was currently staring right at him. The injured male feeling somewhat bashful as he began tugging at the shirt that was too small for him, but Nova had given to him earlier. "You're looking!" He whined. "Turn around!" He added before watching Nova turn around completely. Zekiel didn't want to distrust Nova, but he didn't feel comfortable standing naked in front of her either. He let out another sigh and then took off the shirt, shrugging it off before he looked at the girl with her back to him again. "How many fingers am I holding up?" He asked, just to make sure she still couldn't see. Unexpectedly, Nova turned around to face him again.
"I promise I won't look! Please! Continue!"
"Close your eyes and cover them!" Zekiel insisted, now that he couldn't trust Nova wouldn't peek.
"Is this really necessary?"
"Fine." Nova sighed, but thankfully, she did as Zekiel insisted.
"Are they covered?" Zekiel asked as he turned his back on Nova, wanting to hide what he could as he put the dirty top away.
"Are you sure you're not looking?" Zekiel asked as he put his hands on the hemp of his pants, peeking bashfully over his shoulder.
"Oh my god! I'm not looking, can we hurry this up?!"
"Okay," Zekiel replied as he took the pants off as well, putting them together with the dirty top, and as he sent a glance over to where Nova was standing, the girl was peeking in between her fingers.
"NOVA!" Zekiel bashfully shouted as he hid his more delicate parts behind a towel in a hurry.
"I-- Uh, I got soap in my eyes."
"You are a liar and a pervert!" The red Zekiel called out the girl before heading over to the bathtub. He ended up stepping into it with the towel, soaking the entire fabric, before taking it out when he had stepped in, and the bubbles hid his modesty.
"What?! I'm not a pervert!"
Zekiel only scoffed in return, as he could not find that excuse suitable to rid her of her newly gained title.
"I'm just curious. . ." the girl added, though it did not help her case.
"You said you wouldn't look! You promised!" Zekiel whined as he sunk a bit deeper into the water. The water had been warm before he entered, but now it was steaming up from the bathtub, almost boiling, but not quite to that point yet. Zekiel's heightened body temperature heated up the water. On the bright side, if Nova kept this up, then the water would never get cold.