Chapter 4: Making Sense
Her legs trembled, unable to support her weight; the world seemed to lurch and spin beneath her like the roiling of some great creature just wakening from sleep. One thing she knew: she was no longer walking in the waves of the sea. The sun did not shine bright here, only an ominous gold-green glow through a canopy of dappled leaves and twisting vines and it seemed as if the very grass (was it...purple? Like the last shades of dusk...), the very bark itself glowed in a steady silver-blue pulse. As she continued to stare in benumbed daze, she saw that thin threads were strung from the trees and riddling along the ground in eddies and pools; thin threads, as delicate as a spider's web, wove their way through the circle, sometimes catching and sparkling in the dim light like fine metal-
They were the same color of the waves just before the sea had exploded in incandescence.
But she was no longer near the sea. She could see the thin rivulets of water creep down her legs, seeping into the tall grass, so she knew that she had been somewhere near the ocean...Hadn't she?
She clenched her eyes together, almost desperately wracking at her memory, but the proper images wouldn't appear in sequential order. All she remembered was the whisper of voices, hypnotic, caressing, the sea, water seeping through the flannel of her clothes...then light; light that flared across the clearing like in a fire-burst, eagerly consuming, racing around her as if it was alive. She could still feel the burn across her skin like a fiery brand, drawing the water around her (suffocating...) until the pressure had made her want to scream from pain. Unconsciously, a shudder went through her frame and she muffled a low keen, biting down on her lower lip until she tasted the salty tang of blood.
Nothing made sense...she prided herself on being a logical person but nothing made sense!
But there was no time to make sense of anything; from beneath the heavy golden fall of her hair, she saw strangely garbed people slowly slumping to the ground in boneless heaps of exhaustion, not even a murmur arising from the clearing. But for the slow, patient rustle of the leaves They wore heavy robes of white, threaded with careful stitches of gray and black that formed an archaic, almost wild pattern of shadow and light, as if they themselves were only ephemeral beings that came and went with the mist. Their hair was braided loosely with small shimmering beads and bangles hanging from simple thongs and strange blue markings touched their cheekbones and traced across their forehead.
She shrank away from them as one, presumably the leader, straightened his robes and began walking purposefully towards her, his pale blue eyes sparkling coldly like slivers of ice. Instinctively she knew that his was the voice she had heard before, cold, commanding...emotionless. That very lack of emotion made her wish to run, but almost as if the one holding her head sensed her fear, immediately she felt the arms around her tighten in comfort, a murmured breath against her ear. "R'lina...soya-na...it's alright."
The embrace was as intimate as a lover's, coaxing, one would say cuddling...as if the man that held her was reaffirming their relationship with each slow, possessive stroke of his fingers at the base of her spine. A tingle of feeling shivered through her, centering on the feel of his fingers at her back, and for a second, she took consolation in this stranger's strength, leaning against him before she stood up straighter, tilting her head up defiantly at the approaching man with the long, blonde hair.
He stopped a few scant steps away, gaze roving scrutinizingly over her, taking in her bare feet and soaked clothing. Inexplicably, a small smile drifted across his face, one that was on the verge of being genuine, and he opened his arms elegantly, the cloth draping gracefully over him in neat folds. He took one step forward, and raised his hands until the tips of his fingers touched lightly on her cheekbones.
"R'lina, my sister...my youngest sister." In the dim light, it was difficult to tell whether the ice in his eyes melted at all when he smiled. "You have grown these three years."
Relena resisted the urge to pull away from the chill touch of his hands, merely looked up at him with wide, distant eyes...and tried to ignore her knocking knees. His coloring was a little lighter than hers; with his pale platinum hair and bleached skin tone that contrasted so easily with her own vibrant honey-gold locks and healthy rose flush. But still, it was almost like looking into mirror into the future; he had the same high patrician's nose and high cheekbones as her as well as the stubborn lift of his chin. But it was impossible...if she had a brother, she would have known. Especially a brother such as this...someone would have told her, wouldn't they?
But you were an orphan, Relena. They found you as a child...
That's right! She had been a baby, a child when she had been taken to the orphanage...there was no way he could possibly recognize her, especially not with his slip of having seen her three years ago. This was some kind of game...some kind of dream, not reality...and yet there was still a twinge of disappointment that flared in her chest. It would have been so wonderful...had it been true.
Quietly, she replied, "My name is Relena. Re-le-na Dorlain." Her smile was bittersweet as she added, "I have no parents that I know of, much less a brother."
He froze, his hands dropping away. "What?" When she didn't respond, he jerked away, the beginnings of anger mingling with confusion on his aristocratic features as he demanded, "What do you mean?"
A woman with cropped black hair hurried to his side, laying a hand against his arm in a pleading gesture before gazing at Relena with a hesitant smile on her lips. "R'lina...it's Lu. Lucrezia Noin. I looked after you as a child...and I know it has been long. Years since..." The woman's voice broke slightly, and pressed her lips together, unable to continue the thought, "But you're home now...and...and I am so glad..."
Lucrezia made as if to hug the younger girl but Relena shook her head once, hands immediately going up in a warding gesture. She would have moved to the other side of the clearing if she could have if only to get away from them. They were looking for someone else, someone with her face. But she wasn't it...couldn't be that person. She was Relena Dorlain from the Dorlain orphanage and top student at Evania University. For a wild moment, she wondered if she was still dreaming about the chase and the trip through nothingness...because it had been a dream. It had to have been a dream...
Because nothing else made sense.
Relena closed her eyes, clenching her jaw until her teeth ached but someone else was turning her around, a callus, scarred forefinger slipping under her chin to tip her head up, refusing to let her hide. "R'lina."
"No." She whispered, shaking. She could feel her limbs trembling as she tried to fold within herself, tried to wake up. "I don't know you. I'm sorry but..."
Why don't I know them? They seem to know me...they look at me as if they know me very well. But who are they? I-
You will not question! You will forget! There was a roar of power in her mind, making her clutch her fingers to her temples and she bit back a sob, unwilling to show tears in front of total strangers. Pain seared her mind as if someone had set up a wall of flames in her mind, viciously exhorting more pain from her body until she could think of nothing else.
Something in her rebelled; who the hell did he think he was? Bad enough that these people were trying to make her into someone she wasn't, this...this...thing was trying to order her around as well! Stubbornly she bit her lip, eyes slitting furiously as she fought back, forcibly pushing the entity away from her. Get out of my mind!! I'll remember when I'm good and ready!
A different voice was talking to her, the hand under her chin tightening almost roughly against her skin. "R'liina, open your eyes!" R'lina tightened her lips resentfully but nonetheless peered up beneath her eyelashes, anger and fear making her eyes dark and turbid.
He was not clothed as the others were, did not wear the robes of sable and white, only a simple leather jerkin and comfortably loose pants. Tumbledown bangs draped across his face in careless abandon and a scar marred the right side of his face from cheekbone to forehead, cutting across his eye...his bright, Prussian blue eyes. She choked.
"No!" Her shrill scream pierced the air and she shoved away from his arms, ignoring the grappling, supporting hands of other people as she tripped, almost falling to the thick loam of the forest floor. She pushed into the wall of bodies, trying to put as much distance between her and this man as possible, a strange, unreasonable terror striking through her heart. "You're dead!"
"I saw you die!!" Accusation glowed in her shimmering azure eyes, but Relena was barely aware of what she was saying; it seemed as if her body, her mouth was moving of her own accord. She felt anger at him, although she knew not why, but beneath that...a flicker of recognition that warmed the ice in her veins, that made a part of her want to throw herself into his arms. But...
"Who are you?" She glanced around her, eyes resting over every singularly unfamiliar face, straying listlessly towards the unfamiliar greenery and wild, unpruned trees. She raised pleading eyes up at the man and unconsciously raised her hands, fingers spread wide a gesture of appeal. "I don't understand what's going on. Where am I?" Relena ignored the shocked murmurs that made their way through the men and women as they listened to her speak, she had only eyes for him. Somehow, she knew that he was the key to her answers, would be able to explain what was going on as no one else could. Amidst everyone else, it was he who she could trust. "Who are you?"
Shocked silence and then the clearing burst into accusations and counteraccusations, the angry, argumentative voices pounding through her mind as a hammer would an anvil.
"Damnit, what did you do??!"
"Something in the transportation lock-"
"-She doesn't remember?!"
"This changes everything! How can she defeat Mordrid if she does not remember-"
"Can she still perform the Luminarous? She must-"
The words swirled about her in a mixture of high, turbulent emotions and keen frustration; the phrases that she caught did not make much sense to her tired mind but for now that did not matter. The man in front of her stared at her, moving back one step, then another. Anger and perhaps another emotion (pain? hatred?) slowly replaced the surprise and confusion on his face, making the scar at his cheek tick and his hands curled into fists at his side until she could see tiny rivulets of crimson drip to the forest floor where his nails had cut through the skin. Then, without another word, he pushed past her, striding away quickly. She saw a blonde man detach from the group, trying to soothe him but he bit out a single harsh word and moved away. The blonde hesitated, then determinedly followed his friend into the trees.
Relena's hands were still outstretched and, suddenly feeling too tired, she dropped them, wrapping her arms around herself as if she was trying to physically hold herself together. Dismally, she realized that this self-embrace did not strengthen her as his did and she closed her eyes, a half-remembered name whispering through her mind.
The tree branches snapped at his arms, raking across his face but Hiiro growled, pushing through them. He heard several crack behind him and knew that Quatrus was still following him tenaciously, determined to help his friend whether or not his aid had been asked for. Reluctantly, Heero shortened his stride, then stopped, feeling adrenaline course through him as if urging him to get as far away from her as possible. He still wanted to but ever since childhood, he had known that Quatrus was far frailer of body if not mind. Quatrus had taken a childhood disease that should have left him half-crippled, but he had refused to accept this ultimatum, refused to accept his handicap and he had walked again, despite all the doctor's predictions to the contrary. But still, hard physical labor still left him gasping and weak; his body's condition could not quite match the demands from his mind.
Quatrus stopped as well, immediately leaning on a tree as he struggled to catch his breath. Hiiro glanced at him measuringly but the other man merely smiled, a small quirk of his lips. "I could never keep up with you," He said cheerfully, "It's lucky that as children, you and..." His voice faltered, then a look of apologetic determination crossed his face as he continued obstinately, "you and R'lina were always willing to wait for me."
Anger flickered in Hiiro's eyes, "Don't say that name."
Quatrus crossed his arms, "I will. I haven't said it in your presence for three whole years and I'm saying it now. R'lina. R'lina. R'lina." When Hiiro turned his head away in rejection, Quatrus persisted, "She's back, Hiiro, she's home and she's alive. What are you doing here, alone now? We've been waiting-"
He was cut off by a single bark of harsh laughter, "That girl is not R'lina."
"She is not R'lina!"
Quatrus reached out a hand in a gesture of helplessness and consolation. "Hiiro, she might be different than before. But her soul is the same; I can feel it."
Prussian eyes flashed dangerously but ever perceptive, Quatrus saw the pain that lurked past the anger. The anger of waiting and living, living for someone and having that person not even try to love in return...not even remember. Perhaps that was the largest part of the agony, losing even that feeble thread of hope that had bound them once so closely together.
"It is not her soul I want," His voice was low, laden with emotion, even as he turned his back on the young minstrel. "I want her heart, her love...her memory. Did you see the fear in her face when she looked upon me? I've never seen such fear...That was not what I wanted." He shook his head suddenly, a forceful expletive exploding past his lips in a surge of powerless rage before his shoulders slumped and he leaned wearily against the tree trunk as if quick burst of fury had enervated him.
"What did you hope for?" Quatrus prodded gently.
"Nothing." His voice was barely a whisper; he was talking to himself more than he was addressing Quatrus. His features settled into a caste of stone as if he was able to distance himself from the pain...barely. Just barely able to hide his emotions again behind the façade of a warrior's indifference. "Iie, it is foolish to yearn for what once was."
"She is alive," Quatrus reminded, more distressed than he could say. Hiiro's grief thrummed through his empathetic perceptions until he felt his own heart that aching, as if the helpless fury he felt was his own.
Hiiro shook his head sharply, rejecting that statement. "No. Mordrid's men killed R'lina that day two years ago. This woman that we brought back is nothing to me. Nothing but a doll, with the face of a woman I once loved. Now there is nothing left except..."
Quatrus shuddered at the look of reckless apathy in Hiiro's eyes as he raised his head; it was the look of a man that had nothing to lose and simply didn't give a damn.
One word. "Revenge."
Quatrus looked away, his glib tongue failing him for the first time. "Hiiro..."
Soya-na: don't worry