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The Sea Between

Chapter Text

The silvery moon shone in the sky, its offspring stars twinkling around it like a gilded painting. They were so bright even though they seemed so far away. They guided many a lost soul, and they told wondrous stories of old.

In this world, light begot darkness and darkness begot light. One could not exist without the other; the sun and moon moved as a cycle ubiquitous and omniscient in all that ever was and will be. The cycle existed in the very hearts of all things, humans and seraphim alike. If one element were to go missing—if the sun had stopped shining or the moon stopped reflecting, the world would fall into a darker chaos than the blackest of midnight.

Once upon a time, such an event did happen. The double ouroboros that transcended the physical realm had come unhinged, and an all-encompassing nothingness began to bleed into reality. The Governor of the Six Evils who ruled over conceit, greed, selfishness, cowardice, lust, and obsession tore Himself from the perpetuating loop that kept His power in check. Monstrous was His power, and no one was strong enough to stop it. No one but one brave seraph—the Ever-Loving Silver Flame that continuously illuminated the world. Two sides of the same coin, these wills battled for the propagation of life. The dark forces wished to sunder emotion from the hearts of people and grant them a faux relief from malevolence that threatened the world every day while the light forces believed that without emotion, life was meaningless. To live without feeling and caring was one not worth living. The Silver Flame was aware that such an ideal also constituted suffering and pain, but were those not gifts of life? Did such feelings not remind people that they were alive? The counterforce that balanced the Six Evils decided to help the Silver Flame. Without the light, She could not exist. Without the dark, She was doomed to suffer for eternity.

“Some say that to this day, they are still fighting for the world we know today,” an old man told his beloved children.

Zenrus was a lightning seraph with god-like ability; however, his small, hunched, and aged appearance betrayed that fact. Without his tall sandals, he stood only about four feet tall. It was more than enough to tower over his children. He was never seen without his long thin golden pipe, and his bushy eyebrows hid stern but loving little eyes.

“That’s all for today, Little Ones,” he told the two boys.

“But Gramps!” the brunet whined.

“We want to hear more!” the head of aquamarine quarreled.

“Sorey, Mikleo—you know it’s time for bed.” Zenrus took up the candle that cast a warming glow on every surface of their bedroom. Save for the abundance of books scattered around on the floor, there was not much else to their cozy sanctuary. “You two are growing boys, so you need to rest. If you don’t sleep, you will stay small forever.”

“But what about the Silver Flame?” Sorey asked.

“And what if no one wins?” Mikleo questioned.

“I promise, you will find out tomorrow,” Zenrus abated. “Now, you must go to sleep.”

The two boys moaned and groaned. They were too excited to go to sleep. They needed to have their curiosity quelled now. The suspense was a creeping shadow on their minds, a hellion waiting to pounce on them when they least expected. What if the Six Evils was a hellion now? What were they going to do? They couldn’t fight them being so small.

The door clicked shut behind Zenrus. He had returned to his own room. They were free to do what they pleased until Sorey got tired since Mikleo didn’t require sleep and only did so because his friend often loved to cuddle at night.

They were very young, around five years old or so and still so entranced by the magic that existed within the many books that lined the walls. But no other tome held their imagination and wonder like the Celestial Record.

The one who read it most was little Sorey. Practically the embodiment of the shining sun that lighted the isolated world of Elysia atop its lone mountain, he was endlessly curious and adventurous. He was the one that suggested random excursions to the Mabinogio Ruins, and he loved what history had to offer. Growing up with the seraphim had left him untainted, his pure heart yearning for the great expanses he dreamt about after reading the ancient texts. For one so small and malleable, he was far more intelligent or even precocious than the normal child.

His partner in crime and the moon that glowed by his light was Mikleo. Only slightly older than him by a few months in human years, he was a seraph of water, as pristine and pure as his element and dearest friend. He clung to Sorey as Sorey clung to him; the two were inseparable even from birth. Calm and collected on the outside yet easily flustered when it came to their shenanigans, he trained every day under the tutelage of the village elders to hone his magic to keep Sorey—a lowly human—safe. Despite their bond, however, there were things that made the gap between them noticeable.

While Sorey had regular chestnut-brown human hair and regular shining emerald eyes, Mikleo had mystifying pale-aquamarine seraph hair and astonishing amethyst eyes that contrasted strikingly with his celestial porcelain white skin. Sorey had rather boyish features. Mikleo was more androgynous. There were even times that the former was afraid to hold his hand or hug him or play rough. To him, Mikleo was similar to that of a delicate artifact from the myths and legends. A single wrong touch could shatter him, and such an event played over and over in a series of nightmares that plagued him throughout his childhood.

Yet still, Mikleo depended on Sorey as much as the converse. Without him, Mikleo feared he would have turned his back on humans. He was never able to fathom a life without human interaction, and he found them absolutely fascinating when the elders told him stories about their kingdoms and cities, their ships and voyages across the seas. Yes, that was something he wanted to experience with Sorey one day. To travel to every corner of the world with his best friend was a dream that coincided like a symbiotic lifeform with Sorey’s desire to bring seraphim and humans together.

As the years progressed, this symbiosis evolved into a debilitating codependence in their formative years. The separation anxiety either one experienced when the other was not within his field of vision was something that Zenrus and his people were not prepared for. It became as much of a problem as a characteristic of them as a pair, and it was only when Mikleo began to train seriously as a seraph and Sorey as something else that the issue was somewhat lessened. They still had to be with each other, but they learned that even if they did not persist in the presence of one another, they were still a permanent part of each other’s lives. Object permanence, as one elder liked to put it. When they outgrew the silly notion that they ceased to exist, living independently became easier.

Nevertheless, it was paramount that they still coexisted. Sometime in their adolescence, Mikleo learned that his adhesion to Sorey was not just because they had been raised together. The night he had learned his true purpose and why he had to remain at his side was the night that Mikleo’s heart was thrown into doubt. If his presence beside the only human to have contact with seraph was just a tool, then what was their childhood?

“Sorey is someone special,” Zenrus explained then. “He’s to become the next Oracle.”

Of course, what exactly the Oracle was was a long-guarded secret by the religious institutions among the humans. There was no explanation other than that the first Oracle had been a man named Siegfried who had been bound by a pact of sorts to a fire seraph wielding blue flames named Brunhilt.

One thing he knew for sure—this title was supported by the human’s ability to converse with the many gods and goddesses that kept balance and order in their world. Resonance, it was called, and Sorey’s was extremely high. Over the years, Mikleo tried to learn what becoming the Oracle meant. The only way he could think of it was a series of melodies and countermelodies that performed like a question-and-answer. Seraphim were the melodies, each with their own thoughts and feelings that shaped their ideas of their surroundings. To speak with them, Sorey had to become their countermelody. He was a flexible young man. While changes could come off as flippant and superficial, his heart remained sincere and true to his love.

By the time they were seventeen, Mikleo had come to learn what being the Oracle meant as far as society was concerned. His purpose was a secret, but his status was made public. Sorey’s birth was celebrated with festivities and food made by everyone in Elysia, but there was something of a bittersweet atmosphere permeating the gathered celestial folk. It was then that he had learned to fake his smiles and eagerness; Mikleo had known him long enough to tell when he was hurting and depressed.

“In a few days, it will be time to say goodbye to Sorey,” Zenrus had said. There was a quivering in his voice that was barely detectable if at all. “As the new Oracle for the Hyland Kingdom, he will embark on his pilgrimage. And to legalize his new status, he will marry their princess Alisha Diphda.”

The announcement had hit Mikleo like a sack of bricks. Marriage? The word floated and buzzed in his brain like hornets. Why did he have to marry someone he didn’t know? For what purpose did marriage serve?

“Zenrus, must we truly give into their demands?” one of the elders—a woman named Natalie—asked. “This isn’t fair to anyone involved.”

“I have to agree,” Zenrus’ right-hand Kyme spoke. “Given the bond between Sorey and Mikleo, this puts us all at great risk.”

“And we would be at greater risk if we were to violate our treaty,” Zenrus opposed. He puffed onto his long golden pipe. “I’m aware of how tragic this is, but our hands as seraphim are tied. If we don’t offer him as the Oracle, we may face a greater danger than pirates claiming our land for their own.”

The villagers of Elysia fell silent, hushed by the apparent logic they had been faced with. Their leader had spoken, and he had spoken with a gravity that pulled Mikleo and Sorey’s hearts to the very bottom of the sea that surrounded their mountain. The two boys had been prepared for the day that they would have to go their separate ways.

Which is why, after the party had ended and the seraphim had all returned to their homes built to acquaint Sorey with human habits such as shelters made from raw materials and eating and sleeping and basic hygiene for the night, they stole away to the forest around Mabinogio Ruins. The canopy of the trees were thick, but they were not so thick that the moon could breach and cast a solemn shadow on them with its borrowed luminance. They had time alone together so many times, reading and dreaming, but things were different now. The days of their youth were drawing to a close, and the dream that they shared to explore the world and teach their respective kinds about the coexistence they craved was not going to be realized. At least, not together.

There were many things that were left unsaid that night. Their hearts swelled with sorrow, and they only thing they could do to remedy it was to hold each other in their arms and breathe in what may have been the last time they indulged in their flowery scents. Sorey’s sunflowers and Mikleo’s anemones blended in their memories as a small bouquet.

“Sorey, please don’t forget me,” Mikleo asked of him tearfully, hands gingerly holding his fingers. “You’re my best friend, and while I can’t bear the thought of never seeing you again, knowing that you’ll remember me makes me happy.”

“I won’t forget you,” Sorey promised him earnestly. “Even if I have to marry the princess, my heart will always belong to you. One day, Mikleo, I promise to come back and be by your side. Even if it takes years, I’ll come back.”

It was difficult for either one of them to put faith into the promise. They could not see into the future, yet if they did not believe in that, everything they told each other would have meant nothing. Sorey was smiling sincerely at Mikleo. Perhaps he did believe in it, and it was why he could say it so fervently.

The tightness of their embrace was their binding contract. They knew that there was no one else in the world that could love them like they did each other. No princess, no seraph—they only had each other even when they were destined to be miles apart.

But was this all really enough? In the pale moonlight, their forms were washed with a revelation. Was there something that they could do to solidify this bond more than just an ephemeral touch?

“Sorey, can I share a secret with you?” Mikleo asked with his face partially hidden in his shoulder. His slender hands lay gently on the taller boy’s back, relaxing as a small gap opened between them so their eyes could meet. “I learned my true name, and I was told not to tell anyone what it was unless I absolutely loved and trusted them. You are my one and only, so I want you to know it.”

“But that’s breaking the rules!” Sorey gasped. “Mikleo, you can’t!”

“But I want to!” He pulled him close to his body again. “There’s no one else that I wish to know what it is. Will you let me tell you?”

It was a gigantic leap of faith, but there was no arguing that they felt the same about each other. To tell one’s true name to another was a sign of trust, faith, and love. Among seraphim, it was a taboo only to be broken when two individuals could leave their well-beings in someone else’s care. It was in the ancient tongue, and thankfully both of them knew it.

Mikleo leaned closer to Sorey’s ear. The golden feathers that sprung from the ear cuff tickled his cheek, and he would miss it dearly when they held each other like they did now. Swallowing the nervousness of offering a declaration to him, the water seraph’s breath trembled.

“My true name is…” he started. Heart pounding, his body burning with anticipation that someone would find them, he hesitated for only a moment. “Sorey, my true name is Luzrov Rulay.”

Sorey understood the meaning behind the name thanks to his studies of the ancient tongue. He had to wonder if Mikleo was given this particular name or if he had chosen it. Luzrov Rulay meant “enforcer”. He was far from the rough-and-tough guy; he was small and thin and vulnerable when casting his magic. It was only when Mikleo admitted that he was hoping to be the guardian of the precious heart that quietly beat in synchronicity with his that the name made sense.

Over the next few days, Sorey and Mikleo spent as much time as they could together as requested by Zenrus. With the advent of his departure encroaching on the sanctity of the secret deep love they held for each other, it was of most importance that they stayed in each other’s company until the very last day.

They never did much more than sneak swipes at each other’s hands when standing close together. At night, Mikleo was implored to sleep under Zenrus’s roof while Sorey rested in his own abode. It had been a calculated effort by the elders to ween them from each other unknowing of the promise that they had made, of the transgression that Mikleo had committed by telling Sorey his true name. It mattered not, for when the fated day arrived, as tight-lipped as they had been, they could not hide how horribly broken-hearted they were.

The soldiers that hailed from the Hyland Kingdom sailed from the canal city of Ladylake, shoring their ship on the white sands that skirted the Aroundight Forest below Elysia. A woman of high caliber was the first to disembark from the ship. Her primrose hair contrasted with the royal blue that represented her king and princess. She was a busty woman, yet men in her company knew better than to ogle her for it wasn’t a sign of beauty but of strength. She carried herself as a skilled warrior and the right-hand of her princess. Before guiding the soldiers to the arch that served as the threshold between the human world and the seraphic world, she strapped her sapphire spear to her back with a thick leather belt that was consumed by her cleavage.

The trek up the mountain to the gate of Elysia wasn’t arduous. The seraphim, as protective as they were of their home, had made the path easy to climb with their oldest members of society in mind. Despite the hazy darkish purple scenery of the Aroundight Forest, it offered a calming mysticism that the soldiers were unfamiliar with and even criticized. The curtain of trees opened up tantalizingly slowly to the majestic apex where the bright blue skies met with the grass-covered rocky tops of the mountains.

“So, this is the true appearance of the lost island called Elysia,” the fearsome woman whispered to herself.

The Hyland Kingdom’s forces were not to be trifled with, but they prided themselves in being less barbaric than their enemy to the northeast—the Rolance Empire. Unlike them, they had somewhat more amicable relations with the celestial race, boasting that they were worthier of their pacts with them; hence their arrival to deliver the Oracle to the kingdom.

When Mikleo first saw the woman in blue, he felt a knot twist in his stomach. If she was simply an official, who was the princess that Sorey had to marry? A wall-like girl with the appearance and resilience of an ogre? He would never know. He, as he had been taught, was never to leave the mountain unless he most certainly wished for death. That was also why he was so nervous about Sorey leaving with these people. He had been kept pure and safe on Elysia. Surely, if he were to venture out into the world of humans where war was common and pirates sullied everything and every place they went, he would lose the bright white light that shined in his soul.

Even when this woman bowed before Zenrus and Sorey, poised and dignified and bound by his duty, there was a tension that no one could describe. She introduced herself as Maltran the Blue Valkyrie that represented the Hyland Kingdom and aided the princess. She had come for the Oracle Sorey, who was now of age to marry Alisha.

“Must I marry someone I’ve never met?” he asked with a straight face like a diplomat. “Wouldn’t such an act compromise the purity that has been cultured within me and lead me into temptation?”

“Marriage is simply the bond between the next in line for the throne and her guide through life,” Maltran explained to him. There had been a hint of irritation with his rather presumptuous concern; however, there was also the semblance of jealousy in her garnet eyes. “This is to keep peace, and as such, it is imperative that you follow through.”

Mikleo, who had night before told him his true feelings, waited for him to say something to counter this archaic idea. Alas, Sorey said nothing. It was as if he was accepting that this was his fate. There was no turning back as he conceded, wished everyone a happy everlasting life, and joined Maltran and her soldiers down the mountain and through the forest back to their lavished ship.

Sorey had been groomed as a young man of simple tastes. Cut off from the rest of the human world and its vices, he had to question the piety of the ones spiriting him to Ladylake. What was life like with all these fancy doodads and unnecessary decoration to display their religious belief? Admittedly he was naïve, but he still had his principles. The life of a royal, he already knew, was not one that he wanted.

Life in Elysia had gotten quiet now that Sorey had left for the city. Mikleo waited for the day that he would return, his nose upturned to the modern-day commodities and novelties. But that day never came. Days passed. They turned into weeks then into months and years. Sorey never came back, and the water seraph could only believe that he truly forgot their promise. He had been married to the princess-now-queen. So long he had waited that he simply let his body grow and develop. His aquamarine hair that felt like masses of clouds had become an avalanche down his back, and while he was still slender, his body became slightly more masculine. His shoulders had broadened, and the androgyny of his face evolved into the suave handsomeness of a foreign prince. His cerulean clothes had gotten too small for his developed stature, swapping for white adventurer’s clothing and sextuple capes that flowed behind him like the water he commanded.

It was not the only thing that had changed about him. In the days after Sorey’s departure, he had become isolated and depressed; he had lost the other half of his heart when he left. Zenrus’ solution was to simply take his mind off of it. He asked Kyme and Natalie to train him.

“He should learn to defend himself in case things don’t go as planned,” he mentioned to them.

Mikleo was definitely hesitant at first. What point was there in harming things when there was no one to protect? But he grew to understand the importance of learning how to fight. So he sharpened his skills under Kyme and Natalie. He learned how to control his water and conjure up spells from the former and how to fight with his staff from Natalie. In time, he developed his own style. Instead of using currents, Mikleo froze the water to create needle-sharp projectiles and shields from ice. Instead of using his staff to deflect attacks, he learned to dance out of the way of his adversaries and use it as a club. He wanted to learn to fight; he had to learn to fight because if he could fight, he would find his way back to Sorey.

Time made him cold and reserved to the world. He loved everyone in his village dearly, but his motivation stemmed from seeing Sorey’s smile again. He trained his body and mind to become the epitome of the sentinel. He had become the perfect bodyguard for the one he had always loved.

Eight years after the Oracle had left the Mountain Village of Seraphim on the lost island, he was ready to set out into the world. He had to find him so he could forever stay by his side.