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The guardian's protector

Chapter Text

“New arrival incoming! She’s coming any second now! Nobody panic, NOBODY PANIC!”

Bae’s shrieks were the first things Kronii heard as she lazily strolled into the council building. The small girl was running around the large mausoleum, getting everything ready for the council meeting later. For the embodiment of chaos, she is surprisingly orderly.

“Huh?” Kronii groggily asked, still in a daze from a long slumber, “What’s going?”

“Oh Kronii!” Sana excitedly ran up to her, startling her a bit. Her eyes practically lighting up with the strength of stars, but Kronii is used to that level of enthusiasm from Sana. “Did you notice anything different about the council room today?”

Kronii looked around. The council building was a magnificent white temple suspended in the deepest reaches of space. It’s opulence fitting for the meeting grounds of concepts that hold the universe together. The white marbled columns that surrounded the main room lead up to a tall ceiling, adorned by a mural with abstract depictions of the binding concepts of reality.  The floor was centered around a massive golden windowsill which overlooked the universe itself, like a collage of pinks, greens and blues, speckled with bright shining stars.

To any mortal, this place would have been the most breath-taking sight of their lifetime. To Kronii, it was a Tuesday.

Though there was one difference. Around the windowsill on the ground were the thrones each member sat in for each of their meetings, made of white marble and accentuated with gold detailing, they matched the magnificence of the people sitting on them. Normally there were only four chairs but today, there were five. With Bae’s throne in the middle and two on either side. The new one being added right next to Kronii’s. Flowers and petals were scattered around the feet of the new throne and ribbons playfully drape over the seat and arm rests.

“Wow, you guys are giving me two thrones?” Kronii exclaimed with a sly smile, really letting the sarcasm drip from her words. “How thoughtful of you.”

“Oh no, you still only have one.” Sana replied, the remark completely flying over her head. “But we’re getting a new member to the council!”

“AHHH!” Sana’s sudden excited shout startling Kronii out of her daze. “Isn’t it exciting? We’re getting a new avatar like us! I can’t wait to see what she’s like! I wonder what concept she’s going to be!? Science? Matter? Bread? Isn’t it exciting, Kronii!?”

“Yeah, exciting.”

I don’t have enough energy for this.’ Kronii thought to herself.

Though she was curious what concept the new member would be. The last member added was Fauna and Kronii already thought nature being added as a core concept was stretching it.

Coincidentally, Fauna arrived in the room in a flash of green light. In her hands was a beautiful bouquet of flowers loving arranged and wrapped in a bow. Her presence was calmer than the other two but her curled smile and wide eyes showed that her excitement was unmatched.

“Konfauna!” She cheerily greeted. “Here you go Bae, I got the finest flowers my subjects could offer.”

“Wait aren’t those flowers your subjects too?” Kronii questioned.

“Yeah, but they’ve been naughty so it’s fine.”

Kronii didn’t know how a plant could be naughty, but she just shrugged her shoulders and moved on.  She’s getting used to her slight psychotic tendencies at this point.

“Thanks Fauna, you’re the best.” Bae got the flowers from her hands. She looked at the slight celebratory decorations they put around the new throne and said in a small voice. “Do you think she’d like it?”

Fauna gave her a soft smile. “I’m sure she would love it.”

Suddenly, a bright light emanated from the entrance. A prismatic wall of light in the shape of a triangle appeared. The girls immediately knew what that meant.

“Omega’s here!” Bae excitedly declared. Her anticipation through the roof at this point. “They’re coming!”

And out they came. Even in a room filled with divine individuals, Omega still seemed other worldly compared to the rest of them. Their clothes were regal and pure white. One arm was purely mechanical. Their strands of hair defying gravity and floating around them. A triangle halo hovered over their head. But what differentiated them the most was their stare. A thousand-yard stare that was unfeeling, cold and blank. The emotion they conveyed wasn’t sadness, happiness or anything at all. It was just blank. Truly making them an enigma.

“Hello Omega!” Sana greeted first with a cheery grin and a wave. “Is the newcomer with you?”

“She is.” They responded in a matter-of-fact tone. “She is behind me right now.”

“AHH!” Sana couldn’t contain her excitement anymore. She called out to whoever was behind the portal “Newcomer, you can come out now! We don’t bite! We prepared so much for you! We can talk and be friends and- and-“

“Calm down child.”

“Right, sorry.” Sana adjusted herself to be more proper. Eagerness was still evident on her face, but she knew she shouldn’t get ahead of herself. “I’m just excited. Not every day a new person joins the council you know?”

“Understandable.” Omega stepped to the side, giving full view of the portal. “Step forward guardian.”

There was a moment of silence as everyone looked at the portal expectedly, but nothing came out.

“I said, step forward guardian.”

“Oh wait, that’s me!” a panicked voice came from the other side. “Sorry, everybody.”

And out she came. Dressed in a modest attire covered in a brown cloak, she had an innocent aura around her. Her long hair was tied up with two feathers adorning the top of her head. Her skittish yellow eyes showed a sense of wonder but also apprehension as they scanned the room. She seemed to be slightly quivering from nervousness as she made her introduction.

“Oh… hi.” She said in a shaky voice. “Nice to meet all of you. I’m a bit shy. My name is Nana – Nanashi Mumei.”

If Kronii had to describe her, she would say she was cute. But there was no way she was going to say that out loud.

Besides, the rest of the council will say her thoughts for her.

“CUUUTE!” the room erupted into a series of coos and compliments. The poor girl could only laugh nervously as she is showered with praise.

When the energy of the room died down (but not after a long while). Omega took the liberty of continuing the introduction. “She will now join you as a member of the council. She represents the concept of human civilization, and as such her duties are to-“

“I’m sorry what?” Kronii couldn’t contain her confusion. Her sudden outburst startling the new guardian.  “Civilization? Seriously? Is a concept like that worth being put in the council? Does humanity really warrant an avatar just because they moved out of their caves and thought ‘oh wowie, maybe if we actually sticked together we would have less chances to get mauled by the giant sabretooth cats’.” She really made sure to ham up that last part.

“Humanity has far moved past the point you just described.” Omega responded in the same monotone voice, unfazed by Kronii’s sudden aggression. “If you had paid any attention to the present of the timeline, you would have known that, warden.”

“Oh, you just got roasted, Kronii!” Bae just had to step in. Kronii just scoffed and rolled her eyes.

“Furthermore, her role is to chronicle the advancements and achievements of human civilization. For how volatile it is, it is of utmost importance to keep record, lest they be lost to the sands of time. Although she is not created by the gods themselves, she is just as vital to their plans as the rest of you.”

Kronii didn’t quite understand the rationale, but she didn’t understand much of what the god’s plans were in the first place. So she just kept her mouth shut.

Omega turned around and faced the portal as they addressed the council one last time. “Now that introductions are out of the way, I trust that the rest of you will properly educate her on the duties she is required to fulfill.”

“Not going to stay for longer?” Kronii had to sneak in one last snide remark. “You could properly guide her yourself instead of dumping all of responsibility on us but I guess we’re just not important enough for you to waste your time on.”

Omega turned their head to face her. Kronii swore they were giving her a side eye, but she knows there were no emotions behind those eyes. “I have matters to attend to.”

They promptly turned back and stepped into the portal, vanishing into the light. The portal disappeared soon after.

“You guys really have to learn to chill out when you’re next to each other.” Bae said.

“It’s not like they care much for us anyway.”

“Moving along,” Desperate to move from the topic, Bae went up to the shy girl, handing the bouquet over to her.

“Hi Mumei!” Bae greeted in a very sweet voice. Even though Mumei was taller, Bae’s upright confidence compared to Mumei’s meek stance made her seem much larger. “My name is Hakos Baelz, but you can just call me Bae.”

“The embodiment of chaos itself!” Her sudden shift to a booming voice made the other girl flinch. “And also a rat. Nehehehe…”

“Oh nice to meet you Bae.” Mumei spoke carefully, as if not wanting to overstep any boundaries the first few minutes they met.

“You’re so cute. I’m technically the leader of the council, but we’re all equals here. So don’t feel shy coming to me if you need any help or just wanna hangout.” She led Mumei to the rest of the council.

Fauna immediately took the opportunity to hold her close and nuzzle her cheek against the top of her head. Mumei had an intense blush from this sudden bout of affection. “Hello, hello. I am Ceres Fauna, and I promise to love you and protect you till the end of eternity. And don’t you forget that.”

“Oh…” Mumei was taken aback by the sudden declaration of love, not quite sure how to respond to that. “That’s… nice?”

It took a while before she broke free of her tight embrace. Just as Mumei thought she had a second to breathe, she was wrapped up in another deep hug.

“Ah! Mumei, you’re adorable!” Sana exclaimed with unmatched giddiness, “I’m Sana! Tsukomo Sana! I’m like your big, BIG sister. I can’t wait to show you around you the universe and we could explore the stars together!”

“Woah!” Mumei’s face lit up a little, garnering a big smile from the other girl, “That’s exciting…”

“Yeah, it is! AH! I’m so excited for that, but we have a meeting to attend to right now.” Sana turned to face Kronii. “Come on Kronii! Don’t be shy, Introduce yourself!”

Kronii just now realized that she was still in the far end of the room, isolated from the rest of the group. Honestly, she would have been happy if they just left her to sulk and pretended she wasn’t there at all.

Welp, might as well make a strong first impression.

“Hello, hello. I am Ouro Kronii. Perfection Incarnate.”

She extended a hand towards her, to which Mumei took a step back away from it. Her head pointed at the ground, shyness at all-time peak.

“I know someone as beautiful as me may seem intimidating to you.” She reassured her in a sultry tone. Taking her gloved hand for her and wrapping it around hers for a firm handshake. “But I’m sure we would get along just fine.”

Mumei looked up to face her and their eyes met for the first time. It became evident that Mumei was blushing heavily and for the first time, Kronii’s cool façade cracked as she dropped her confident smile and started to blush a little as well. They kept their eyes and hands locked like that before Kronii ripped her gaze to the side when she noticed the slight burning in her cheeks. She hoped to the gods the rest of the girls didn’t see that.

She definitely felt something there. She wasn’t sure what it was but it was something.

“Great! Now that Introductions are over with.” Bae stole the attention of the room back to her, much to the relief of the two girls. She faced Mumei again. “Anything, you want to say before we carry along?”

“Oh! It’s just…” she shyly scratched the back of her neck and gave an awkward smile, “I thought I was the only one like us, so this whole tasked with taking care of the universe thing, it’s a lot to take in honestly.”

“You’ll get used to it, trust me.” Fauna comforted her.

“Don’t worry about it. Mumei. We’ll be here to guide you any way we can.” Bae said warmly while heading towards her throne. The rest of the council followed suit and sat at their respective thrones. Mumei being the last one to sit after a moment of absentmindedness. “Now let the council meeting… begin!”

And so the meeting played out just like the every other meeting. With Fauna, Sana and Bae absorbed in their own private conversations while Kronii passively listens with a bored look on her face. Sana was going on about some new discovery she found in her exploration of the cosmos and geeking out about a new revelation of astrophysics.  Fauna was showcasing a new creation she made (some sort of weird duck beaver hybrid, Kronii kind of liked it just because of how stupid it looked.) And Bae discussing big administrative matters about the fabric of the universe that Kronii still couldn’t quite wrap her head around. All Kronii did was offer the occasional “Uh huhs” and the even more rare “Oh yeah.”

It’s not that she doesn’t want to converse with them, it’s just that she has nothing to converse with them about. For all the big talk she does, her life is awfully boring. Her job is to maintain the timeline, but nothing goes wrong with the timeline. All she does for the most part is sit around, contemplate life and wait for the eventual heat death of the universe. But she doesn’t want to bother them with her existential angst.

She glanced over to Mumei’s side and immediately felt a sense of empathy towards her. Whatever confusion Kronii was feeling was magnified tenfold in Mumei’s head. She spent the time playing with her fingers and she kept her head down. Kronii found herself glancing back at the small girl several times over the course of the meeting. Observing the way she flinches every time someone brings her up and how she responds to every question with aggressive nodding. Mumei noticed Kronii sneaking occasional looks at her and when their eyes met for a second time, Kronii jerked her head back to face the others. This was becoming a bad habit for her.

“Anything you want to say Kronii before we end off the meeting?” Bae spoke, knocking Kronii out of her little world. She was spacing out so hard she did didn’t even realize that the meeting was coming to a close. “Any updates about the timeline?”

“Nope, perfectly maintained, as expected of me.” Kronii said confidently.

Not that there is much to maintain on the first place.

“Sweet.” Bae continued, “Then I declare this council meeting… over!”

 


 

Kronii spent the rest of her day, just like all of her days, sitting around, bored out of her mind. She was at her domain, a giant steel clock tower in a void, separated from the rest of reality. It’s architecture gothic and grand, the centerpiece being the magnificent clock at the head of the tower, the border with gold and black roman numerals and each intricate gold clock face hand keeping track of the flow of time of the universe. Inside were the mechanisms that make the clock function, each one moving and humming in perfect harmony.

This tower was like an extension of her. When she came into existence, the tower came as well. Her being was tied to this tower.

From the top of the tower, the base was obscured by fog. From the base, the top would be obscured by fog as well. On the bottom, series of gold cogs and gears lead up the tower. Intricate machinery function in the middle, while staircases at the sides wind up to the top.  Pendulums swing in perfect unison and chains drag from the top to the bottom of the tower. Everything forming a sort of melody of metal clanging and ticking. Window panes are each side of the building, but instead of showing the outside, they project moments of the past long gone. Miscellaneous scenes play out, no rhyme or reason for their inclusion, constantly switching, only arranged by the period of time they take place in. It begins at the base with the big bang, constantly playing that scene over and over again, working its way through the past up to the present day.  This part of the tower is constantly expanding to accommodate the flow of time.

The head of the tower is the personal quarters of the warden of time herself. Part throne room, part living quarters, its design being more regal than the castle of any king. The whole room being illuminated by the massive clock face, intricate and beautiful, always turning to keep the flow of time. Royal blue carpentry and furniture decorate the room. In the center of the room, sat a gold throne entirely made of out of gears. The clockwork throne (or as Kronii exclusively refers to as ‘the chair’) is where the warden can utilize the full power of the tower and see everything that has happened, is happening and will happen, if she concentrated hard enough that is. Around the throne were various hourglass of different sizes, each one projecting a random instance of the happenings of the present.

The last part of the building was visible to only Kronii herself. Jutting out of the black spire roof was an ethereal tree. It was a ghostly translucent white and shone with a feint blue aura. On the branches were fruits, each representing a possibility of the future. Each branch led to more branches, than those branches lead to more. The top of the tree was obscured, but surely it kept on continuing.

The power of the past, present and future on her fingertips. Yet here Kronii was, angrily sweeping up the last specks of dust from her room.

The rest of the building worked so immaculately that the only imperfections were the dust that was occasionally scattered across the building. And that bugged Kronii to no end. Honestly, she feels more like a maid than a warden, keeping order by making sure the place is clean and tidy rather than some grand purpose. As she swept up the last vestiges of dust with her broom, she just wonders, why? What’s the point of all of this? Why is she here? What is her purpose? Why was the rest of the council given this grand duty while she was left in isolation? Does anything they do matter in the grand scheme of things? What’s the point to anything in this universe? Why-

You’re overthinking things again Kronii.’ She thought to herself.

She slumped back into her throne (bad idea considering it was completely made of metal.) As she reeled from the impact, she harnessed some of the power of the seat. Projections of the present start to fly around her. If she focused hard enough, she can focus in on a specific area anywhere in the universe and see what’s happening in the present. While anyone else would be enthralled by the wonders of the universe using this power, Kronii has already grown tired of it. She used to make use of it, she used to feel some sort of wonder. But that faded away when she realized a pattern, no a rule of reality. Everything eventually ends. Everything that is born, will die. Everything that is made, will be destroyed. Everything that happens, will stop eventually. It’s repetitive. It really made her question everything. That’s why she stopped keeping track of the present. Nothing interests her anymore.

Well that was a lie, she could think of one thing that interested her.

“You know what?” She said to no one, “Let’s check on Mumei.”

She didn’t have a particular reason for doing so. Maybe just out of boredom or concern for the newest member. She never really checked on the others too much, partially to respect their personal space, partially also that she didn’t really care that much. But at least it was better than doing nothing.

She thought of Mumei and a projection appeared in front of her. It showed Mumei from a top-down perspective. She was kneeling, picking berries from a bush. She already had a pile of them that were overflowing from her hand and some light berry juice was speckled around the side of her mouth.  She was humming a slight tune with a dumb smile on her face. Kronii thought it was a little endearing, especially after seeing her mostly as a nervous wreck earlier during the meeting. The bushes that she was picking from were neatly arranged in rows, many, many rows of berries. Fences surrounded the perimeter and-

Wait a second, is this a farm?’

She zoomed out and saw fields of roaming cattle and a farm house nearby.

She massaged her temples, stress getting to her. “Please don’t tell me the guardian of civilization is resorting to petty robbery.”

“STOP THIEF!” A booming voice erupted from the field. A large man in a straw hat rushed towards Mumei while wildly flailing a hoe in the air. A panicked Mumei shrieked and ran with the berries while the farmer gave chase.

“Oh gods…”

While Kronii did find it amusing seeing Mumei running around in the field, crying in fear while a mad farmer was in pursuit, she knew she should intervene. She did not want to be the one in the next council meeting to explain how they lost the guardian of civilization to a lowly farmer.

She harnessed her powers and dematerialized into thin air. On earth, Mumei could feel the fatigue setting in as the farmer was starting to catch up to her. Just as she felt she was doomed, a flash of blue light appeared behind her. She heard the farmer tumble to the ground, turning back to see the man turn heel and run in the opposite direction. In front of her now was the warden of time, in all her majesty.

“You seem to have a knack of getting yourself into trouble, don’t you?”

Still very startled, Mumei blurted out, “No Ma’am!”

“Ma’am!?” That surprised Kronii, nobody ever called her that before. “Do I look that old? Don’t call me that, it’s weird.”

“Oh its just that… you know, you’re the warden of time and all, and I thought you would have wanted to feel more respected –“

“Bah!” Kronii made a swatting gesture, “Trust me, that title doesn’t mean much. I mean it’s important but not that important. We’re teammates, right? So just call me Kronii, understand?”

“Yes ma- I mean Kronii!”

Kronii shook her head a little. “Come on, let’s get out of here before another human sees us.”

As they made their way through the field and into the forest, Kronii remembered something. “Wait a sec, I remember hearing from Fauna that you were an owl, right?”

“Oh yeah.” her voice was muffled as she was stuffing her face with berries, “I like to take the form of a barn owl sometimes.”

“Then why didn’t you fly away from him?”

“Oh right.” She replied embarrassingly, “I forgot I could do that.”

Kronii let out a defeated sigh. ‘This girl is going to be a handful.

When they reached a safe spot, Mumei extended the handful of berries to Kronii. “Want some Berries?”

“No, I don’t like berries.”

“Oh what a shame.” She placed another berry in her mouth, “I like berries a lot.”

“I can tell.”

“I do wonder why that man was chasing me though.”

“Wait are you serious?” Kronii shot a look of confusion at her, “You do know those berries are his, right?”

“They are?”

“Yeah. You took them from his farm.”

“What’s a farm?”

Another defeated sigh. ‘I can’t believe I have to explain concepts of civilization to the concept of civilization. I should just take her job instead.

“A farm is a place where humans grow plants that they want to eat later.” She made sure to explain slowly so she would get every single detail. “Because plants take a long time to grow, they leave it there and when it’s ready, they take it and eat it.”

“Woah.” Mumei looked at her with awe, “That makes a lot of sense actually. I should probably write that down in my journal later.”

Then a realization flashed on her face. “Wait, so these berries belonged to him?”

“Yes Mumei! You were stealing from an innocent old man!” Then again, Kronii wondered if she could consider a grown man threatening a little girl with a hoe innocent.

“Oh no. I should return these then.”

“Stop.” Kronii raised an arm to block her way. “It’s too late for that now. Besides, I affected his memory. He won’t even remember we were there.”

“Wow!” amazement evident in her voice, “You could do that!?”

“Of course I can. Since I’m the concept of time, I can also control concepts related to time. Since memory is just your perception of the past, I could alter that however I want.”

“Woah. That’s so cool.”

“I know I am very cool.” Genuine pride in that statement, her mastery of memory alteration being one of the few things she can say she truly mastered. It was a way to alter history without her having to do anything to the timeline. Ever since she first roamed the earth and learned that power through testing on humans so that they would forget she was ever there.

‘Wow that was a really long time ago’

“Anything else you could do?” Mumei asked.

“Well, I am related to chains, clocks and sand. But those aren’t really important. Probably other things too if I really tried hard enough. The rest of the council can affect things related to them too. Bae can manipulate fire. Sana could manipulate light. Fauna can control the weather, et cetera, et cetera.”

“Ooooh” Mumei listened intently, “I wonder what powers I can do.”

“I’m sure you’ll figure those out eventually.” Kronii needed to bring up something before something horrible happens later. “Actually next time don’t go anywhere near humans. You’ll only run into more trouble.”

“What? But it’s my job to observe civilization?”

“Yeah, you could observe from a distance. We shouldn’t involve ourselves with humans, they don’t deserve our time. Our job is to maintain the gods plans as much as possible, any human interaction is a surefire way to mess up that plan.  Now what that plan is, I don’t know. But we could sense when something is going wrong. And if the gods message us themselves, that means we’re screwed. Besides, you almost got killed by a human, and I’m sure you don’t want that. Or maybe you do, if so, that’s not my problem. The point I’m trying to make here is, the lesser chances to get involved with a human, the better. Got it, Mumei?”

Mumei’s head was bent down, focused on the berries while she stuffed her face with them.

“Were you listening to anything I was just saying?”

“No not really.”

Kronii let out one last defeated sigh, slumping her shoulders in resignation. Mumei offers the berries in her hand once again. “Berries?”

“Arrrrgh,” she begrudgingly took one, “Thank you ‘berry’ much.”

Kronii was surprised to hear snickering, she looked over to see Mumeis cheeks puffed up and lips tight, barely suppressing a laugh.

“Wha- Whats so funny?”

For some reason that was the thing the broke the dam and let Mumei’s laugh out in full force. She was laughing so hard it seemed like she was struggling to breath, her high pitched squeaks punctuated with sharp inhales. A large goofy smile was painted on her face as she doubled over laughing.

“Its just – it’s just-“ she struggled to get her words out through her laughter, “ you sounded so monotone. And that pun!”

“Sto – stop laughing.” Kronii feeling an onset of giggling coming too, Mumeis joy was just too contagious, she can’t help but feel her lips curling up into a smile, “it’s not that funny!”

Mumei managed a get out a sentence but in a very exaggerated tone. “Oh I think it was ‘berry’ funny.”

“No it’s not, ‘oak’-kay?” Kronii joked, triggering another wave of laughter from Mumei, and Kronii joined along. Her laughter came out more like croaks but her wide, open mouthed smile conveyed all of her joy perfectly. They stayed like that for a while, two deific beings, cackling like madmen, over plant puns.

And for the first time in a long, long time, all of Kronii’s worries melted away.

Eventually, they calmed down from their fit of laughter, though their cheeks still felt sore. Kronii spoke first, “Hey you want to go deeper into the forest? Someone will definitely see us if we laugh like that again.”

Mumei nodded and they carried onwards into the forest.

The forest was cool and open, sunlight filtering through the leaves of the evergreen trees. The ambiance was calm with the occasional skittering of forest creatures and the rustling of trees in the wind. Kronii took a deep breath, savoring the open air. It’s been so long since she last visited earth, centuries maybe even a millennia ago. The atmosphere was the complete opposite to the clock tower. The clock tower, for all of its grandeur, was cold and restrictive, this felt warm and freeing. Made slightly better by not being completely alone.

They walked in silence for a while, just enjoying the moment. Mumei broke the silence first with a murmur. “I’m sorry for what happened earlier in the council meeting.”

“Huh?” Kronii replied softly, “What are you talking about?”

“Earlier in the council meeting.” She frowned, speaking meekly, “you got angry at me because I wasn’t supposed to be in the council. I’m sorry if my existence offends you, I know I’m not much.”

That stabbed Kronii right in the heart, she felt awful. She was just confused, that’s all. But her blowing up earlier made Mumei feel she was unwanted, that she was insignificant. She didn’t intend for this to happen.

Dammit, Kronii. Why are you so stupid?

“No… no, Mumei, no.” she spoke apologetically, she gently turned Mumei towards her, holding her by the shoulders, making sure to look her straight in the eyes, “No, I should be the one apologizing. I’m sorry for whatever I said earlier. I just didn’t expect the next member of the council to be a concept created by humanity.”

When she found Mumei bringing head down low again, she cupped her cheek with one head and tilted her head upwards so they can lock eyes again. She needed to engrain the next part in her mind.

“Mumei, listen to me. Don’t you ever apologize for existing. You were put here for a reason. What that reason is? I don’t know. But one day, you will find out. For now, just know, you are part of the council. You are just important as the rest of us.”

“Understand?”

Mumei nodded her head.

“Good.” They broke contact and took a second to think about what just happened.

Kronii surprised herself. This was the most sincere she has ever been with anyone. She sort of just let her heart lead her mouth on that one. It was as if all of the consolations she was telling herself just came out. A message to not just Mumei, but to herself as well.

Mumei was just as surprised as her. Kronii so far gave her the impression of a strong, infallible person. Someone whose confidence was unmatched. But that moment showed a vulnerability to her. A soft side hidden inside the impenetrable armor she built around herself. Mumei wouldn’t mind if she saw more of that side.

Still, despite her kind words. She still couldn’t shake the feeling of inadequacy compared to the rest of the council. They came off so strong and confident in themselves. What was someone as pathetic as her to them?

Sensing that Mumei was still feeling sad, Kronii had to think of something else. She sat down by the shade of a tree and patted a spot for Mumei to seat next to.

“Actually, Didn’t you say that you had a journal earlier?”

Mumei seemed to perk up a little at the mention of her journal. “Oh! My journal? I use it to write down my observations about humanity. That’s my job after all, I think.”

“Can I see it?”

“What? you want to see it!?”

“Yeah, I’m curious.” Kronii spoke intently, “I would love to hear about what the humans are up to nowadays.”

“Oh wow! Okay!” she seemed to light up at the thought of someone wanting to hear about what she was doing.

She opened her right hand and a hard cover journal manifested right at her palm. “Well today, I was curious about how the villagers in this town got their water from. They didn’t get it from the river. The water there is too salty. Trust me, I tried some. So where did they get their drinking water from, I wondered.” She explained while flipping through the pages, “And then I found out!”

She presented the book to Kronii, to reveal an intricately detailed sketch of a water well. “This thing! It’s called a well.”

The first thing that struck Kronii was just how good the drawing was. Even though she never saw this thing before, the fine detailing gave an almost perfect impression of the real thing, all done through pencil lines. The second thing that struck her was that humans built something like that, she figured they would still be scooping up river water with their bare hands. “Wait how do they get water from that?”

“Well, it turns out if you dig deep enough, you could get spring water from the ground which is safe to drink.” She pointed to the bucket in the illustration, “so they dug a really deep hole and whenever they needed water, they used this thing to scoop it up by bringing it down and back up again, and now they have water!”

“Huh, that’s interesting.” Kronii was genuinely surprised. She never really paid attention to the humans of the present so this was new information for her. “Anything else you learned today?”

Mumei thought for a second, pondering what to show her next. She pointed off to a large structure in the distance. The stone structure was held up by many arches and had a flat top at a slight slope, it spanned from the mountaintops all the way over the fields and into the distance. “Those are called aqueducts.  I was curious about how else humans got their water so I kept looking and found that! There’s a lot of fresh, clean spring water in the mountains there. So humans figured out that if you built bridges that connect the water source to their cities, the water would flow directly to them! Isn’t that crazy?”

“Woah! That’s really cool actually!” Genuine excitement coming out of Kronii’s voice, her eyes lighting up as well.

“Really!? You think it’s cool?”

“Yeah! I admit, that’s pretty smart of them. What else could you show me?”

With that, Mumei continued showing off discoveries she made to Kronii for hours. Mumei eagerly explained while Kronii intently listened. A lot of the things they discussed where the mundane things of human life, yet they were fascinated nonetheless. For the first time in what felt like forever, Kronii was curious. She was interested in something in this universe.

That was a feeling she missed so dearly.

The sun began to set and as the sky was painted with orange and purple hues, Kronii figured it was time for her to leave. “Well, it’s been fun, Mumei, but I should really get going.”

She got up and started to walk away. As she was doing so, she felt a light tug on her sleeves.

“Wait...” she looked behind to see Mumei, looking at the ground to hide her blush, “Will I ever see you again.”

“Well...” Kronii deliberately made it seem like she was unsure, she couldn’t come off as too needy. “If you ever run into trouble again or if I feel really bored, I might come back here to see you.”

“So the next time I want to see you, I need to get myself into trouble?”

Kronii panicked, “Wait no! Mumei that’s not what I meant!”

Mumei playfully giggled, Kronii shook her head, mumbling under her breath, “Tsk, this girl, I swear.”

Before she vanished back into her clocktower, she noticed Mumei opening and closing her mouth, but no words came out. “You look like you want to say something.”

“Oh, it’s just that…” she took a small gulp, “Can I call you my friend?”

“Friend?”

“Yeah…” she said bashfully, twiddling with her fingers, “That’s what they call people who are close to each other right? I was just wondering if we are close enough now to be considered…”

She shook her head, “Sorry, that was a weird question to ask. Forget I said anything-“

“Of course we’re friends.”

“What-“

“I wouldn’t have spent all that time with you earlier if we weren’t right?” she said bluntly with a smile, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world, “So yeah, I’m your friend.”

“Oh!”Mumei exclaimed. Then she closed her eyes and gave a smile so precious, Kronii swore the world stood still.

“Then see you next time, friend!”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Kronii paced around her throne room in her clock tower, desperate to keep her mind preoccupied with something, anything. Anything other than whatever Mumei was doing right now. Last time they met, Kronii promised that she would come back if she was really bored. Well as expected of her, minutes after getting back to her domain, she got bored out of her mind.

The stale air was such a contrast to the open breeze and the confined space made her feel claustrophobic, even though she spent millennia here but only a couple of hours outside there. What was once normal like the ticking of the clock and the hum of the mechanisms started to get on her nerves. And Kronii couldn’t for the love of the gods figure out why.

It took every fiber in Kronii’s body to resist getting back on that chair and watch Mumei going about her day. One, she didn’t want to be a stalker. Two, she knows any glimpse of the outside world will tempt her to join Mumei in whatever she was doing. She tried her hardest to avert her focus by cleaning the tower over and over again. But eventually, the tower was completely devoid of dust and she was left with her thoughts. Egging her on to use the chair again.

There was another reason she wanted to use the power of the clockwork throne again though. Back on earth, when Mumei taught her about a lot of the little things about civilization, she felt excited. She wanted to learn more about humans and what new things they achieved since the last time she visited. Now that she knew that they were capable of great things, she wanted to learn more about what else they achieved. With that chair, she could learn that. Everything about human civilization, she could observe by using its power.

But she knows better. If she knew everything, things wouldn’t be interesting for her again. She wanted to savor this feeling, the wonder of not knowing.

At the very least she wanted to learn about it with Mumei.

“Arrrgh.” She cried in frustration, “Actually one peek at what Mumei is doing couldn’t hurt right?”

She sat at the chair and thought of Mumei, a projection appeared in front of her. It depicted the guardian, walking around with a map in her hands. The location around her was a desert, but not dry enough for vegetation to be unable to thrive. Palm trees dot the place and the river nearby had cat tails and lily pads on its surface. Mumei passed by traders, clad in thick articles of clothing fit for the desert, leading along camels carrying large quantities of various goods on their backs. She was too absorbed in the map to notice the people passing by her, a perplexed look on her face.

“Where the heck even is she?” Kronii exclaimed. It was so different to where she last saw her.

She zoomed out the view and in the distance sat a massive city made of sandstone. The standout being the large white palace in the center, with a huge water droplet shaped roof. Around the palace stood various buildings and towers of different sizes gave a great skyline of the city. Around the outside of the city are large clumps of small cube-shaped commoner houses, with a large stone wall encircling the border. Swarms of traders like the ones Kronii saw earlier filtered through the wooden doors at the front of the city.

“Woah.” She blurted out, temptation immediately getting to her. She took one look around the empty throne room. “You know what.”

“Screw it.”

 


 

Mumei kept looking between the map and her surrounding area, she swore her destination should be around here somewhere. As she scanned through her map again, making absolutely sure she was getting all of the details right, a flash of blue light blasted right in front of her. “AHHH!” she screamed as she toppled to the ground. When she got her bearings back, she saw Kronii standing over her.

“Whoa.” Kronii extended a hand over to her. “Did I surprise you?”

“Oh hey Kronii!” she took the hand offered to her and got back on her feet, “Were you getting bored?”

“What!? No!” That question flustered Kronii a little, “I just was just worried you were going to get yourself into trouble again.”

“No worries, now that you’re here, I know I’ll be safe no matter what happens!” she said gleefully.

“That isn’t reassuring at all.” Kronii replied bluntly, she took a glance at Mumei’s map, “Where do you plan on going anyway?”

“I plan on going…” she traced her finger along the map, until it landed on a small town along the river, “here!”

“Really there?” Kronii questioned, clearly disappointed by her destination, “Why not the big city like, right over there?”

“Oh, that one?” Mumei clutched the map in her hand harder, “There’s a bit too many people there. I’m kinda nervous. Something might happen.”

“But it’ll be more fun.”

“Yeah.. I guess…” then her face quickly shifted to one of confusion. “Wait, didn’t you say last time, the lesser chances to get involved with humans, the better?”

“Yeah but…” her mind frantic to come up with any excuse, “Past Kronii was dumb.”

“Besides, didn’t you say you feel safer now that I’m here?” she continued, nudging Mumei lightly, “If anything happens, I can just wipe their memories and it’ll be like nothing happened. Trust me, okay?”

After a moment of deliberation, Mumei nodded, “Alright… let’s go to the city.”

Kronii clasped her hands in excitement. She knew it was a bit childish but the city looked promising to her. The rush of being back on earth was thrilling to her. “Good, then let’s get going then.”

Kronii started marching forward before Mumei started screeching and flailing her arms about. “Wait, wait, Kronii, WAIT!”

“What, what is it?”

“Your clothes!”

“What about it? Does it look bad?”

Mumei thought the opposite actually. Her outfit was stunning, unlike anything on earth. The stark white clothing clashed beautifully with the black undershirt, sleeves and skirt. The few spots of exposed skin never failed to be tantalizing yet never excessive. Her black tights accentuating her long and slender legs. And of course, her strangest feature being the massive clock adorned behind her head. Constantly turning to fit with the time, its size honestly reminded Mumei of how halos are depicted in some artwork she saw.

 It was elegant and magnificent and that was exactly the problem. No human dressed like this, it was a miracle no one passed by and saw her like this yet. She didn’t know much about humanity, but she knew that if they strolled into the city like this, they would accidentally start a religion and be hailed as gods or something. And Mumei was not ready for that level of attention today.

“No you look perfect.”

“Why, yes, I know.” She smirked.

“Humans will definitely notice you!”

“I want them to notice me.” She smirked harder, “Besides I’ll wipe their memories afterwards anyways. I just want to see their reactions.”

“Kronii, pleeease.” Mumei whined.

“Ugh, fine.” Kronii conceded, can’t bearing to see her pout for any longer. “Let’s just get going already.”

She snapped her fingers and her body was engulfed in a blue light. When she emerged, she was wearing a black corset with a white undershirt similar to Mumei, only difference being that her skirt was blue. She was covered in a large dark blue cloak with gold trimmings similar to her usual cape, the underside being a royal blue layer. All fastened by the same blue ribbon on her chest present in her normal attire.

“Hrgggh! We match!” she squealed in delight, a wide, goofy smile on her face. “Oh, that’s so cute!”

“I just got the blandest outfit I could think of.”

“Oh.”

Kronii chuckled. “Just kidding. Now let’s go already.”

They started to approach the large wooden doors that barred the city from the outside world. Around them were many traders from different lands, each with vastly different clothing and culture. This was a popular hotspot for people around the globe to converge as it was in the middle of two important trading routes. They were talking amongst each other in various languages and dialects that the two of them did not understand. As they got closer however, their speech morphed in their minds into English, and now they can clearly hear the chatter of everyone around them.

“Woah.” Kronii was impressed, “I’m guessing that’s one of your powers.”

“Yeah, it’s so I can better understand every civilization. As a bonus, everything we speak now, they will hear us in their native language.”

“Well that’s going to be useful.”

They made their way through the outer area of the city. It was populated mostly by run down mud brick houses that were at most two stories high. Some of them were damaged and lacked complete roofs, patched up with colorful tarps. It was clear that this district was reserved for the lower-class citizens, yet no matter the poor condition of the area, there was still plenty of life here. Children run around in groups playing kickball while their parents cheer them on at a distance. Elderly women balance woven baskets on their heads and gossip to each other as they made their way back home. Food stalls occasionally line the road with meat being roasted over an open spit, a heavenly aroma lingered around the area.

“I feel kind of bad that these people have to stay in a place like this.” Mumei commented while they passed through. “They probably had to build all of these houses themselves.”

“Pfft.” Kronii scoffed, “Just build better houses.”

“Kronii, I don’t think it’s that simple.”

“What do you mean? They could have at least made it out of something other than hardened dirt. I could one hundred percent build something better than that.”

“Alright, Kronii.”the brunette decided to humor her a little, “If you were going to build a house, what would it be like?”

“Oooh, well.” Kronii’s tone shifted to eagerness. She didn’t admit it but back in the clock tower, she spent way too much time fantasizing about her ideal house rather than the steel box she was stuck in. “Well, first off, it’ll be underground. The sun irritates me. I’ll be alone and nobody will come bother me. Secondly, I want a farm. A huge farm, with every plant known to ma-“

“Don’t you need sunlight to make a farm?”

“I’LL FIND A WAY.” Kronii insisted aggressively, way too passionate about this topic. “Anyway, thirdly, cats. Lots of cats. They’re cute. I want one, no several. Maybe a fox also. Then I’ll be happy, inside my perfect dream home underground.”

“Would a house built underground be technically made out of dirt?”

“No, because…”

She thought about it for a full minute before responding.

“Shut up, it’ll still be one hundred percent better.”

Mumei chuckled to herself. Kronii gritted her teeth. ‘I’ll get her back for that later.’

They kept following the flow of the traders before reaching the main attraction of the area, the bazaar. The affluence of this kingdom attracts traders of lands all over, guaranteeing that goods of all types and sizes were available here. Several Merchants have set up makeshift stalls and tents with their items put on display in front of them. Their voices nearly being drowned out by the hustling between customers and sellers around them.

Kronii was expecting a crowd, but the amount of people here was starting to overwhelm her a little. She pulled Mumei towards a quieter spot so they can talk.

“Mumei, we need to come up with a plan before going in there again.” She discussed. She didn’t want to leave here empty handed, but she also really didn’t want to leave here a criminal. “Do you have any money with you?”

“Oh, yeah right…” she reached into her satchel and fumbled around a little before pulling out four gold coins. “Here!”

“Please don’t tell me you stole those.”

“What?” she said with innocence, “Why would you think that?”

“Then where did you get them?” Kronii interrogated, clearly not buying her bluff.

“Some people just gave me these to me after they found me rummaging through trash.”

“Why were you rummaging through trash?”

“To find out more about civilization.”

“Wha- You know what, never mind. What do you want to buy from here?”

“Hmmm” she looked over the busy walkways of the bazaar. The number of choices made this very difficult. Four gold coins could get them plenty from here. “Let’s go around to check.”

“Okay but follow my lead.” They blended back into the crowd, “We can’t get distracted. Or else we’ll be here forever.”

“Don’t worry, I won’t get distracte- Woah!” Something caught Mumei’s eye and she ran off to the side. Begrudgingly, Kronii followed and found her gawking in front of a cart pulling a bunch of chickens in cages. “Chickens!”

“Cluck, cluck, cluck” Mumei playfully mimicked while Kronii just rested her hand on her face, exasperated.

What am I going to do with you, Mumei.

 She had to drag along Mumei by the hand to get her out of there. She likened Mumei’s enthusiasm to that of a puppy. Every single remotely interesting thing, Mumei spent some time marveling at it. Kronii was marveling at those things as well, just not outwardly showing it.

Some notable things they came across were a man playing a flute to lure a snake out of a basket. A man selling various bug and spiders stuffed in bottles (apparently they were meant for eating, but Kronii was wondering what kind of mad person would eat those). And some scantily clad woman coming up to them, offering to do a special ‘dance’ for them for money, Kronii hurriedly pushed the smaller girl along, her cheeks burning from the encounter. Mumei on the other hand, had no idea what that meant but she was tempted to pay just to find out.

As to not lose each other in the crowd, they had to hold hands. Kronii tried her best to ignore the rapid beating of her heart at the contact of their skin, but at points she felt herself holding on more tightly. Mumei was unphased by this and led their way, pointing out fascinations around her. Kronii subconsciously cherished these moments, just her and Mumei exploring the world.

After hours of roaming, they still haven’t found anything to spend their money on. All Kronii wanted was something to bring back to the clocktower as a souvenir from earth, but nothing really met her standards yet.

“Man, it’s really hard to find anything to buy here.” Mumei complained, “There’s too much stuff!”

“Yeah, everything here kind of sucks.” Kronii said loud enough to cause several merchants to glare at her direction. She then saw something in the corner of her eye that interested her. “Oh? Never mind I found the perfect thing.”

“Really? What is i- oh.” Her enthusiasm immediately dropped when she saw what Kronii was in front of. A stall filled with mirrors.

“Well would you look at that.” She praised herself as she posed in front of a mirror. She turned around so she could appreciate every angle of herself. “The outfit doesn’t quite suit me but I still look perfect nonetheless.”

Mumei watched as Kronii twirled around in exaggerated poses in front of the mirrors. She completely understood why. She thought if she looked anything like her, she would be doing the exact same thing. But if she didn’t stop her, they would probably be here for hours.

Good thing she was starting to understand a little about how Kronii ticked.

“Kronii, we can’t get that.”

“Why not? It really shows off my perfection.” She winked at herself in the mirror.

“Do they really? Look at this.” She pointed at the frame of the mirror, criticizing its build. “The woods already chipping. All of these are too shabby for you. At least get something that’s gold plated!”

“Hmm, you’re right. Come on Mumei, let’s get out of here.”

Mumei sighed a breath of relief. She saw the vendor stare daggers at them and she swore if they stayed for any longer, he would have stabbed her with an actual knife.

As they passed through more rows of stalls, Kronii was getting more and more weary of their aimless wandering. She asked, “Mumei, what do you even want to buy?”

“Hmmm…” Mumei pondered the question for a bit, “I’m not sure actually.”

“Okay, then you can give me all of the coins and-“

“Wait, I’m not done talking.” She said bluntly, “I still want to buy something. But I want something that will help will me learn more about civilization.”

“Learn more about civilization you say?” A grizzly voice hollered behind them. They whipped their heads around and saw a large, burly man emerge from the opening flaps of a nearby tent. He had a big bushy beard and wore a wide toothy grin. A turban was wrapped around his head and his long robes consisted of shades of reds. He held a pipe in his hand and took a huff of it in between his sentences. “I think I might have what you ladies are looking for.”

“Really?” Mumei perked up, “You do?’

“Oh I think you would find my wares most peculiar.” He advertised himself with a mysterious tone, “Come inside my tent if you want to see goods beyond this world.”

“Mumei, no.” Kronii whispered to her, “Let’s keep going, don’t bother yourself with people like these.”

“But he says his wares were peculiar. That must mean something.” She replied childishly, “Come on, it’ll be fine.”

They entered the tent and were greeted by a piece of an ancient statue. Mumei gasped in awe a little after seeing it even though it was only a fragment of something larger. It was an idol of a woman, only complete from the waist up, its face obscured by a mask and its head covered in a cat like cloak, all cast in a light brown sand stone. Only one arm is intact and, in its hand, it’s clutching a mysterious orb, multilayered as if it was comprised of many rings orbiting around a central point. Mumei could draw no parallels to any culture she knows and it was alien even to Kronii.

The seller who lured them in earlier stood before a counter, his hands steadily planted on its surface, ready for a sale. Around him were other similar oddities on sale, also only pieces of something much bigger.

“Woah!” Mumei exclaimed, her eyes wide as she ran up to it and analyzed every detail, “Where did you get these sir?”

The man crossed his arms and gave a hearty laugh. “Do you really want to know Missy? Nobody believes me when I tell my tale.”

“Do I!”

“Well…” he leaned in closer to them, his voice now hushed, “Out in the far reaches of the dunes, past the point where life can possibly live, if you go through the raging storms of the desert, you will find an ancient city completely covered in sand.”

“Woooah.”

Kronii rolled her eyes at his theatrics. She stayed a distance away from the two of them, just eavesdropping while keeping an eye on the seller. She was very much still apprehensive about the man and whatever babble he was going on about. An ancient city completely submerged in sand that no one knows about? Sounds like a scam to her. But if Mumei was interested she wouldn’t break her away from it.

“How much more for it, sir?”

The man smiled and revealed with no fanfare, “One hundred gold coins.”

“Eeeeh, yikes.” She reeled a little after hearing the price, “We definitely can’t afford that.”

The man chuckled, “I wasn’t expecting you to.” He took another huff from his pipe. “I just figured you girls would be the type to want to listen to the ramblings of an old man.”

Mumei pulled out her notebook, eager for another way to record this encounter, “Can I at least sketch a drawing of this statue in my notebook?”

“I can’t see how that can hurt. Go on ahead.”

“Thank you so much mister!” she turned back to her companion, “Kronii you could go ahead. This might take a while.”

“What? Mumei are you sure? I mean I could stay. “

“It’ll be fine.” She smiled reassuringly “Maybe you will find something we can actually buy.”

Kronii gave the don’t you dare do anything funny look to the seller and he nodded. When she left, the vendor gave a small laugh. “What a beautiful woman. Is she your mother?”

“Hmmm?” Mumei’s head was down, attentively drawing in her notebook. “Oh no, she’s my partner.”

“Oh.” Then his eyes widened in response as if he stepped onto something taboo. “Oh okay…”

Outside, Kronii’s interest was caught by a stall promising to sell weapons. She always had an affinity to blades. Alongside the clock tower, she was born with two ornate blades that looked like clock hands. She doesn’t quite understand why they are a part of her. But she knows she wants to be damn good with them.

Entering the stall, she was greeted by the seller. He was more lanky then the other one and he had a skinny moustache on his face. He flashed her a toothy grin, yet he looked at her with slanted eyes, as if trying to discern how much she was worth from how she looked. Kronii already didn’t like him.

“Welcome Ma’am.” He stretched out his words flirtatiously, earning a grunt from Kronii, “Are you buying something for your husband?”

Again with the ma’am?’

“No.” she flatly says while looking at what he’s offering, “Just for me.”

“Well, regardless. I’m sure you would find the greatest weapons the world can offer. Even kings would be jealous of the items on this table.”

“Really?” she raised an eyebrow at him. Looking down, the blades look like regular swords like scimitars and broadswords, but their handles were hastily dipped in gold leaf paint to make them appear more regal. Analyzing the blades themselves reveals that they were chipped and blunt in some places, surely made by some amateur blacksmith. Looking at the price, it was obvious what his intention was. She mumbled, “I wouldn’t even want my enemies to have these things. They’ll never give me a good fight with this garbage.”

“I’m sorry.” He replied bitterly, getting annoyed by her brazenness. “But I assure you these weapons are of the highest quality. You’re lucky that your enemies do not have these.”

“Really?” she asked more sarcastically. She dragged her nail across the hilt of one of the blades, much to the shock of the vendor. She chipped off a line of gold leaf, revealing the plain, dull metal underneath. She brushed off the gunk that accumulated on her glove and looked dismissively at the man. “The only thing I’m worried of dying from is paint poisoning. That or just from how awful these designs look.”

The man is getting red in the face, sweat started to pour down. He raised his voice. “Ma’am I’m going to need you to leave.”

“What. I’m just giving honest feedback.”

“You come into my stall and insult my products!” he was full on shouting by now. “Who do you think you are! What do you know about craftsmanship?”

“Oh?” she lit up a little, finding a new way to mess with him. “What do I know? Well…”

‘I’m going to blow this mortals mind.’

Behind her back, she spawned one of her blades, unceremoniously dropping it onto the table. The man couldn’t help but stare slack jawed at its magnificence. “Where did you-“

“Oh these, it’s just something I made myself. Isn’t it perfect?”

“It’s… beautiful.” He stared at the blade with awe. There truly was no other blade like it. Instead of a hilt, it had a circular handle. Only someone as lithe as her could hold it properly and only she knows the techniques to wield them effectively. The gold blades split outwards then curve back in to make a truly a beautifully intricate design. The silver tip being adorned by a blue gem in its middle. Kronii could understand his fascination. Even she finds them very strange. Yet she feels a certain kinship to them. Something only she can ever possess.

“How much do you want for them!?” the man suddenly started to beg, “This blade is too valuable to pass up!”

“Hmmm… I don’t know.” She said dramatically. She wanted to try this haggling thing humans were doing, see how far she could push it. “I thought I saw another stall outside also selling weapons. Maybe he would be a better seller.”

“Please I beg of you! I will sell off all the items in this store! I have some more valuables back at my house! Please I need to have it!”

“Really?” she smiled deviously, enjoying seeing how desperate this man was getting. Even if he did get it, she would just make it dematerialize later. What she would do to see the look on the mans face then. “Well…”

“STOP THIEF!”

A booming voice erupted from the marketplace and knocked Kronii off of her composure. She immediately rushed out of the stall, despite the man’s pleas.

‘No, no , no, no. Please don’t tell me it’s happening again.’

When she stepped outside, a figure whiffed past her. From the cape and the incoherent shrieking, she could tell it was Mumei. She took  a quick look back and saw the city guards hot on her tail. With an exasperated cry, Kronii sprinted after her companion.

“MUMEI! WHAT DID YOU DO!”

Catching up to her, she saw a bunch of berries around her palm and Kronii immediately felt a sense of dread. Mumei managed to get out some words while sprinting through the crowd. “I accidentally stole some berries!”

“How do you ‘accidentally’ steal something!?” Kronii shouted to her while they dodged and shoved through unsuspecting customers. Several guards behind them were hindered by the crowd of people.

“I forgot you had to buy them!”

“DANGIT MUMEI!”

They whipped past a corner to an empty alleyway, breaking sight from the guards. Kronii found an empty stall front selling pots and vaulted over the counter, Mumei following her. They crouched silently as the guards passed by them.

“Mumei.” Kronii whispered to her, “We need to come up with a plan to get out of this.”

“Alright.” She replied back in hushed tones. Then she snickered a little. “Heh, ‘Owl’-right.”

“Mumei, now’s not the time for puns!” Kronii scolded quietly, though she did admit it was a good pun.

“Right, sorry.” She thought for a second, “What if we just stayed here and hope they don’t find us.”

“Mumei, that’s an awful plan.”

“Hey, it’s a plan.”

Kronii shook her head and peeked over the counter, she saw a tower off in the distance that was secluded and far away enough that it might be a good enough hiding spot.

“Okay Mumei, you see that tower over there?” Pointing at the tower in question, “We wait it out there. Then we could see the entire city and see when the coast is clear for us to leave.”

“Woah, that’s smart.”

“I know I’m very smart.” She whispered confidently. One last group of guards pass by, signaling to Kronii that now’s the time. “Alright, let’s go. But we need to move very quietly.”

“Don’t worry. I’m a master of stealt-“ then Mumei knocked over a pot that toppled over another pot which toppled another pot. The sound echoing through the alley as the pots rattled on the ground.

Kronii couldn’t help but facepalm so hard the impact also caused an echo.

“Okay that definitely gave us away.” Mumei commented.

“I’M THE ONE WHO GAVE US AWAY!?”

“There you are!” The guards from earlier turned around and surrounded them. Kronii raised her hands in resignation, a dead look on her face. Mumei blindly copied her. They made their way out of the alleyway while the Guards trailed them from behind. Outside, the fruit vendor who Mumei stole from confronted them.

“You.” The man pointed a finger at the small girl. “You’re the thief who stole my berries!”

“No I didn’t!”

“Then how do you explain the berries in your hand right now!”  a guard questioned her in a stern voice.

“I bought them.” Mumei answered plainly.

“No she didn’t!” The seller shouted.

‘Mumei’s never getting out of this herself,’ Kronii thought to herself disappointedly, ‘Welp, time to use my powers again.

She concentrated and reached the deepest parts of her mind. Harnessing the power of the clocktower, her memory extended further than her own and she could reach into the memory of everything that came before this moment. She could have looked into the far edges of the past if she wanted to but all she needed right now was a collective memory that happened a few minutes ago. She concentrated, focusing her vision until she saw the moment she was looking for.

She could see Mumei absentmindedly reaching for a berry at a stall run by the man in front of her. That was the truth of the moment.

Mumei stole the berries.

So, Kronii thought of a different outcome. She thought of Mumei, passing a few coins to the vendor. She thought of another girl, not really specifying her face, just that she was wearing a cloak similar to Mumei’s and every other detail was obscured. That mystery girl sneaking her hand to snatch the berries. With that she implanted her own thoughts into the collective memory of the universe.

Mumei paid for her berries.

Mumei A different girl stole the berries.

She returned to the present to see the man still confronting Mumei about stealing berries.

“What do you mean? She did pay for those berries.” Kronii interjected.

“No! She –“ Then a dumbfounded look flashed across his face. “No wait. I’m sorry.”

“What’s wrong sir?” a guard asked the man.

“This – this is the wrong girl.” He admitted weakly, “I was wrong, there was a different girl with a cloak.”

“Then that means the real thief is still out there!” The guards stormed out of the alleyway, starting their search for a girl that did not exist.

“Right.” The vendor gave one last look back at the two. “I’m sorry for everything.”

He ran off, leaving them in silence.

“What just happened?” Mumei stared back at Kronii.

“Hmm? Oh right you’re not affected.” Kronii’s sure if she focused hard enough she could use this power on other concepts, but she never really tried and doesn’t think she’ll ever have a reason to. “I used my power on them.”

“Oh right the memory thing.” Mumei responded, they started walking through the market place again. “That’s awfully convenient.”

“Yeah well. Can’t use it all of the time. Those guys are probably pulling their hair out right now finding some girl I made up and he’s short of the couple of coins that you didn’t give him.”

“Yeah…” she said meekly. Her head bent down, kicking a pebble along the way.

“Hey, what’s wrong? If it makes you feel any better that guy looked pretty wealthy so I’m sure a few coins is nothing to him.”

“Oh no, it’s just that-“ she stared back at Kronii with a frown, “I’m supposed to be the guardian of civilization, yet all I’ve done is steal from people. What’s worst is that I don’t even get punished for it.”

“I mean, I could like stop erasing people’s memory if that’s what you want-“

“Oh no keep doing that, I don’t want to go to prison.” That earned a laugh from Kronii, making Mumei smile a bit. It quickly faded and she brought her head down low again. “I just can’t shake the feeling that I’m going to do more harm than good, you know?”

“Well. At least you still have the memory of what actually happened.” She replied softly to reassure her, “The best you can really do is learn, move on and hopefully not make the same mistake again.”

“Yeah but what if I forget?” she looked back at Kronii , her frustration evident through her voice, “I did the same thing as I did last time because I forgot my lesson.”

“Yeah, I’ve noticed you have a habit of forgetting things.” Kronii playfully kicked another pebble. “Well, I guess it’s up to me to remind you if you ever forget.”

Mumei whipped her head to face Kronii, “You would do that?”

“Of course, I would,” Kronii gave her a confident smile, “We’re friends right?”

“Oooh, Kronii.” She squealed with delight. She had to look away to hide her blush. “My heart feels funny.”

Kronii was giggling a little, finding the reaction adorable. “Speaking of remembering things. We still have those coins to spend.”

“Oh, right.”

They took a look around but realized most of the stalls were packing up for the night already. They didn’t even realize it was evening already. Too much was happening today. In the search for anything to spend their money on, they came across a pair of orphans. They were begging and malnourished on the streets. Their pleading eyes were tugging on Mumei’s heartstrings. The guardian gripped the gold coins tightly, knowing what she had to do.

Kronii caught on what her intention was and stopped her, “Come on, Mumei. It’s not our fault they are homeless.”

“I mean I am civilization, so it kind of is… I think.” She said confusingly.

“Here you go guys.” Mumei gently placed the coins in front of them, their eyes widening at the sight as four gold coins for them was able to get them meals for days. “Stay safe, okay?” Upon getting the money, the two scurried off around a corner. Faint laughter could be heard as they ran off.

When she reached back with Kronii, she raised an eyebrow back at her. “You really used up our gold coins for that?”

“They need it more than us anyway.”

“Their just going to waste that money in a few days anyway.” Kronii dismissing the plight of humans again. “There are millions of other people like them. A few coins won’t change anything.”

What she didn’t tell Mumei was that she knew those coins wouldn’t amount to much. Around her, she could feel the chains of destiny tied across every single mortal. The chains of those two children were running short. Signifying their time was almost up. She figured that was the case anyway. Two lone children left to fend themselves on the streets? So many things could go wrong that would lead their lives to tragedy.

Those two lives will probably end soon anyway. No matter what we do.’ She thought inwardly, her nihilism creeping in again. Everything was bound by fate. If it was their fate to die soon, there’s nothing they could do about it.

“Yeah but there is a small chance their lives could improve from this.” Mumei kept up her optimistic attitude. “Four gold coins can get a lot for them.”

“I mean we could have used that money to buy a gold plated mirror, but no we had to-“

“Hey! They still need that money you know?” Mumei affirmed to her, her sudden vigor shaking Kronii a bit. “As a guardian of civilization, I need to look out for everyone, even the smallest of lives.”

Kronii looked surprised. She can’t believe she was being stood up to. But she kind of liked that determined look on Mumei’s face right now. “Wow, I can’t believe you’re actually doing your job.”

“Yeah! Well.” Mumei still on the adrenaline rush of standing up to Kronii, “It’s not like I ever see you guard time or whatever-“

Then she faced Kronii, perplexed, “Wait, what do you actually do?”

“What do you mean?” Returning the look back at her.

“As a warden of time, do you like guard time or do you like – make… time.”

“Mumei, that doesn’t make any sense.”

“You don’t make any sense.”

Dismissing the remark, Kronii had to think carefully about how she answered that question. She didn’t want to admit to her that all she did in the clock tower was laze around and sweep floors. Mumei would never look at her the same way again, she had a reputation to uphold as the ‘cool’ one of the council.

“For your information, I control the flow of time. Because I say so, time proceeds, if I so wanted, the flow of time itself will stop, heck if I tried hard enough, I’m pretty sure I could even reverse the flow of time. Without me, the universe would come to a standstill and-“

“Then why didn’t you do that earlier?” Mumei interjected.

“What?”

“When we were running, why didn’t you stop time or something?”

“Well…” her eyes widened as her mind scrambled for a response to that question. If she answered truthfully, she would say she forgot in the heat of the moment. But that would be embarrassing to admit, especially to Mumei. So she answered pridefully, “I wanted to give them a chance, you know? It was more fun when we’re on equal terms. And I still won anyway, so … you know… I’m good…at running.”

A moment of silence passed between them.

“Did you so happen to forget?”

“What no!?” Kronii was getting flustered again.

“It’s okay Kronii, we all tend to forget things sometimes.” What’s worse for Kronii was that there was no hint of slyness to Mumei’s smile at that moment. She still maintained that same blissful poise that she always had.

“You’re one to talk.” Kronii replied defensively.

“It’s okay, I’ll just have to remind you if you ever forget.” That actually left Kronii at a loss for words. She just used her own words against her. She was just left struggling to get a reply out as Mumei kept walking onwards past the emptying streets of the city. She didn’t know if she felt offended, impressed or intimidated. For now, she just feels confused.

They made their way past the gates of the city, back into the outside world. Large fields of wetland crops plaster the environment around them. The sky was steadily shifting from light blues to warm orange. Walking along a barren path, Mumei suddenly stopped in her tracks. When Kronii turned to ask her what’s wrong, she just pointed to a sight not too far away from them.

Across a path parallel to them, there was a line of slaves being pushed along by traders behind them. Each one, emaciated and hands bound by chains linked to each other. Bloodied wounds etched on their backs. The crack of whips ripple through the air as the slave traders jeer at the poor souls. It was a truly abhorrent sight.

Yet, Kronii didn’t really see what was so special. “What? It’s just a bunch of slaves.” She stated plainly, “You could see them anywhere.”

“Yeah exactly!” Mumei was getting heated, “It’s messed up that they are everywhere!”

“That’s because they’re effective. Making people work without having to pay them? And with that many slaves? You got to respect their management skills.” She praised the traders instead, making Mumei grimace a little.

She doesn’t blame her. Kronii was an eternal being whose seen so much compared to the meager amount of time Mumei spent on Earth. Something like this was nothing to the cosmic scale that Kronii was accustomed to. She also gets why slaves were even here. It pains her to admit, but a lot of the achievements currently done were only possible through slaves. No matter how cold Kronii was being, in a way she was still right.

But just because she understands, doesn’t mean she can accept it. Maybe because she is the concept of civilization that she feels responsible for everyone. Both the slaves and the traders. She feels awful that the slaves have to suffer and horror that the traders are able to sleep at the night doing these things. In her mind, everyone is the same, human. So why are they treating each other like this?

In her travels, she has seen this sight over and over again. But it affects her the same every time. And every time, she felt too weak to intervene, both physically and mentally.

Then a flash of inspiration struck through her head. She may be weak, but there was someone with her who was strong.

“Yeah, they’re actually doing a really good job.” Mumei half-heartedly agreeing, “A much better job than you actually.”

“I’m sorry, what?” Kronii baffled by yet another slight against her.

“You’re supposed to be the warden of time, right? And the chains of time are binding us all together, right? But I feel rather free right now. But those guys aren’t going anywhere. The traders have a pretty good hold on them.”

“Oh I see what you’re doing here.” Kronii’s signature tone of superiority returning, thinking she was ahead of Mumei this time. “You’re trying to make me free those slaves for you. Well it’s not happeni-“

“Is it because you can’t do it?”

“What.” Kronii baffled again.

“Do you feel intimidated by them?” she replies again calmly, still very much on top in this situation.

“Of course not! I’m the warden of time and they’re just peasants!”

“I didn’t see anything that impressive from the warden of time yet.”

“Oh!” Kronii having an idea, not yet realizing she was being played with again, “You want to see something impressive?”

“Do I!” Mumei answering excitedly, both that her plan somehow worked and that she gets to see Kronii show off.

“I’ll show you something impressive, Mumei!”

Using her powers, she felt herself grasp the flow of time itself and halt it. Now, she was in her state, where nothing moved except for her. Her companion was frozen in place, Mumeis face stuck in a big dumb grin. Kronii kind of like it stuck like that. Around her, dragonflies stayed suspended in midair and everyone else was posing like a statue. Frozen in this moment. Kronii walked casually up to the slaves, having all the time in the world.

In her hands, she spawned both of her blades. She didn’t feel the need to use them on the traders, no mortal was worth tarnishing these blades for. But she needed to break these chains somehow. With one clean strike, she effortlessly slashed through a link in the chains. Sparks flew up but stayed in place after some distance. The chains stayed afloat with only the slightest gap between the two ends. No sound was made as no air can travel. Running through the line of slaves, she broke through every single chain binding them. When she was done, sparks floated around the slaves like pausing a fireworks show. Feeling the need to give the slaves a head start, she kicked the legs of each of the traders. The impact causing ripples in their clothing but their legs only travelling a fraction of what they should have.

After admiring her handiwork, Kronii resumed time. Large snaps filled the air instantaneously as the impact of everything happened at once, every chain falling slack in unison. The traders fell to the ground after being struck by an unknown force. There was confusion among the slaves at first, but upon realizing their chains were broken, they made a mad scramble towards the horizon. The traders could only groan in pain as they watched their commodities escape.

Mumei was clapping in glee after seeing that. What she just saw defied reality, just as she expected from Kronii. The warden gave a playful bow back to her. But stuck in that position, she didn’t notice the trader behind her throwing back their whip.

“Kronii look out!” she tried to call out, but it was too late. A loud crack shot through the air as the tip snapped down and –

Kronii wasn’t there.

“You didn’t really think that would work, did you?”

Terror flashed across the man’s face as he turned back before a flying leg knocked him back to the ground. Kronii stood over him, her lips curled in a smug smile. Another man charged after her, bringing down his fist while her back was turned. Suddenly, pain erupted in his ribcage as a fist connected. He looked up to the see Kronii above him. In a panic, he swung his other fist at her direction, but only swinging at air as another punch tore through his face, knocking some teeth out as he fell.

Another one down, Kronii looked back to see two brutes rushing towards her. Much larger than her, but Kronii wasn’t worried.

Mumei watched in awe as Kronii effortlessly dodged and blocked each of their attacks. One second, she was deflecting one of their blows to the side, the next she was roundhouse kicking their gut, causing them to fold over. No one could lay a hand on her as she practically warped around the place. Her new cloak flowed with her movements beautifully as they end abruptly as she ended up in another location, pummeling her opponents in strikes from every angle. Mumei had a good laugh as one man tried to do a full blown tackle towards her, only to run into his buddy, knocking them both to the ground.

Kronii was having just as much fun toying with them but she knew it was time to put this to an end. After the two men struggled to get back on their feet, Kronii paused time again. She launched a flurry of blows on each one, like hitting a wall, none of them budged. Yet the impact ripples tell that every hit was registering. Before she resumed time again, she noticed a lone purple flower by the side of the road. Seeing one more opportunity to impress her companion.

In Mumeis vision, just as the men stood up, they were sent flying as all of Kroniis punches happened at once. They landed in the wet farmlands with a loud splash. Mumei then saw Kronii, right in front of her, with a flower in her outstretched hand.

“Flower for you.” She said suavely, looking off at the side to make herself seem more cool.

“Woah, that’s smoo-“

“Smooth? I know.” Before Kronii could continue flirting, the man she sucker punched got back up. “Oh wait, there’s still one more.”

The man clutched his stomach as his other hand fumbled for the dagger on his hip. The woman walked calmly towards him, and utter terror filled his entire body. What she was doing was impossible. He couldn’t even comprehend what she was doing. She was beyond speed; she was disappearing and reappearing all over the place. With trembling hands, he raised the dagger towards her and-

“Wow, you guys really are stupid.”

He stared at his hand. There was nothing there. He looked back at the woman and there it was. His knife in her hands. That was it. He stumbled back in fear. Whatever he was fighting wasn’t human. He made a mad dash away from her, he sprinted as hard as he could. He didn’t know where he was going, just anywhere but here. Suddenly, a figure appeared before him. He couldn’t even let out a cry before he blacked out.

“Alright let’s go.” Kronii brushed some dust off her shoulder, signifying a job well done. The bodies of the men were scattered about the area. “I’m sure they’ll be fine.” She assured Mumei. “I think.”

Mumeis mouth was still agape as she struggled to find the right words to express her awe. “That was the coolest thing I’ve seen in my entire life.”

“Well I am the coolest person you know.” Reveling in her own feat. She never really got to show off like that to anyone, her reputation being held together only by her own big mouth. It felt great to feel proud of something she just did and see someone feel great with her. “Hey let’s find somewhere to rest.”

They found a nearby hill for Kronii to collapse on. After a day like that, she was exhausted, physically mentally and spiritually all at once. Using her power like that took a lot out of her, it was like holding a pull up but instead of her body it was the timestream that she was holding in place. The sand beneath her was course but made for a good enough cushion. Mumei sat cross legged nearby her head.

There was another thing bothering her, however. Messing with those mortals earlier altered their destinies severely. Those slaves were now free and those traders got plenty of new broken bones. The timeline itself giving her a headache, alerting her that something was wrong. Luckily for her, she knew that fate had a way of course correcting itself. Those slaves would probably get captured by some other group and those trader’s wounds will heal and they will go about their usual business eventually. Mumei probably thought they did some good that day, but Kronii knew better. It was futile to resist destiny. Kronii would never tell that to her face though.

They watched as the sun descended on the horizon with layers of orange turning to purple. Just like the day they first became friends. The sun perfectly framing the city, golden rays filtering through the towers and palace. It was a picturesque moment. Yet Mumei wasn’t focused on that, her eyes were solely on the purple flower Kronii gifted her earlier.

She noticed this. Too tired to come up with anything witty, Kronii turned to her side to face her and simply said one word, “Flower.”

“Flower.” Mumei repeated.

“Flower.” She said more monotone.

“Flower.” Mumei’s lips curling up to a smile.

“Flower.”

“Flower.” And that did it. Mumei began on another laughing fit.

They kept this up and before she knew it, Kronii was laughing as well. She knew it was stupid but that didn’t stop her.

Dare she say it, in this moment, she was happy.

After a while, they calmed down. Enjoying a moment of silence between them, Kronii was the first to speak up. “I had a lot of fun today.”

“I had a lot of fun too!” Mumei echoed her thoughts, which made Kronii glad.

“You better not forget today.” She demanded half jokingly, half seriously.

“I don’t think I can ever forget that!”

“Good.” For Kronii, she’ll be sure to etch every detail in the back of her head. When she was in isolation, everyday seemed to blend together. Nothing to anticipate except the end of everything. But today was different, every moment was a new experience and she had so much fun. She felt wonder. She felt annoyance. She felt joy. She felt something. And she couldn’t have done it without Mumei there alongside her.

Watching the sun descend, bookending this perfect day. A desire arose within Kronii. A desire for everyday to be like today.

“Oh wait a minute!” Mumei stood up suddenly, waking Kronii from her bliss. “I just remembered something!”

“Wait what?”

“Fauna is waiting for me!”

“Wait what!?” Kronii felt way more awake now, “Fauna!?”

“Oh yeah, I live with her now, I forgot to mention that.”

“Since when!?”

“Sorry Kronii.” Mumei said hurriedly, itching to leave, “But I really need to get going by now.”

She turned her back towards Kronii and engulfed herself in a bright light. Her shape condensed itself until it emerged into the form of a barn owl. Her feathers the same shade as her hair. She raised her wings and took flight. As she flew off, the flower floated towards the ground. Before dropping right in front of her.

And Kronii was left alone again.

 

Chapter Text

Fauna watched as Mumei frolicked through fields of flowers, and she knew this was what serenity feels like. The small girl danced around, causing petals to fly up and float around her. Her eyes were closed, giggling sweetly as she spun around the field. Just as she was about to leave the flower patches, Fauna made sure to spawn another bed of flowers at her feet, making splashes of reds, yellows and whites flow through the vibrant grass.

“Look Fauna! Butterflies!” Mumei cheered as swarms of bright butterflies flew through her, her cloak rippled in the wind.

“Oh wow!” Fauna feigned amazement. Of course, she was the one who commanded the butterflies to make a show for her. But if Mumei was happy, she was happy.

The girl spun around so much she got dizzy. She lost her balance and fell flat on the soft ground.

“Mumei!” she shouted worriedly. But she didn’t need to worry, Mumei still had the same bright smile on her face.

“Come lay with me Fauna!” Mumei encouraged. Fauna obliged, lying sideways to face the girl as she stared at the sky.

Actually, Mumei didn’t even know if what she was looking at was the sky. They were at Fauna’s domain, an underground garden that was her personal playground. It was impossibly large, seemingly going on forever as horizons stretched with lush forests. Since they were underground, there was no way that glowing orb above her was the sun. But it felt like the sun. It was always the perfect temperature and it only rained when Fauna wished for it. Even night time only came about when Fauna went to sleep. There must be some sort of nature sorcery going on here. She thought maybe Kronii could ask Fauna for help if she ever did build that underground house she wanted.

“Aren’t you tired, Mumei?” Fauna asked concerned, “You’ve playing about for hours.”

“For hours!?” Mumei exclaimed, “I guess I’m just having too much fun.”

Fauna gave a small laugh, it was brief but sweet. “That makes me very happy. I wanted to make this place somewhere you would love.”

“I do love it! Thank you so much!”

Fauna inched closer towards Mumei, until her body was practically pressed against hers. Mumei could feel her heart try to break out of her chest as Faunas arms wrap around her, pulling her closer. She could feel her breath against her ear as she whispered, “I do all of this because I love you, Mumei.”

She felt tingles go through her entire body. Her cheeks were burning as she nervously squeaked out. “Ooooooh, thank you Fauna!”

“Anything for you, my angel.” Fauna planted a small kiss on the top of her head, causing a small shiver of glee in response. Fauna giggled at her cute reaction.

They kept this warm embrace for a while. Fauna nuzzled her cheek on her head while Mumei just laid idly, enjoying the presence of another person. Fauna could feel herself subtly influencing the environment, making the blades of grass lightly tickle their bodies and making sure the warmth was just right. The keeper of nature just wanted to make this moment perfect for the both of them.

“Why do you love me so much Fauna?” she asked genuinely.

Fauna smiled, “Do I need a reason to love you?”

“There has to be a reason for everything.”

Fauna couldn’t help but laugh softy. That was one of the reasons, her boundless curiosity. Going about the world with a veil of innocence like a child. It was adorable to her. She didn’t want to give her a straight answer though.

“It’s because you’re the cutest thing in the world!” Fauna complimented, “And you’re an owl. So you’re part of nature as well.”

“Oooh, that makes sense.” Mumei replied, satisfied with that answer.

That was only part of the truth however. Fauna would be lying if she said she didn’t feel at least a bit of responsibility for the guardian. Before Mumei came along, Fauna was in charge of taking care of humanity. So she felt a certain kinship with her.

But she truly did love Mumei unconditionally as well. There was a certain charm to her that Fauna cannot put to words. All she knew was that her being here made her feel very happy.

Their peace was broken by a grumble coming from Mumei’s stomach. Fauna smiled at her. “Are you getting hungry?” In which Mumei nodded.

They got up and left the field for the forest area. As they walked, the trees themselves seem to shift out of their way and their branches extended over each other to provide the perfect amount of shade. They reached a small clearing in the middle of the forest and with a flick of a finger, roots sprouted out of the earth and twisted together to form a table. Soon after, more roots sprouted at each side and bent into the shape of chairs. Mumei looked at this with amazement while Fauna maintained her gentle smile.

After sitting down, Fauna waved her hands again and the table itself sprouted berries right in front of Mumei, much to her joy. An entire banquet of fruits and vegetables appeared on the table. A flock of doves flew to them, lifting a teapot and cups by their beaks, gently placing them on the table to drink. As they ate, a group of woodland creatures sat at a respectable distance from them, ready on standby for the beck and call of their queen.

They ate in silence for a while, both of them enjoying the feast laid before them. Mumei was the first to speak up. “I think I should be getting back to the surface soon.”

Fauna kept blowing on her tea. “Why do you say that?”

“Well you know.” Mumei talked in between bites of fruit. “I’m the guardian of civilization and all. Its kind of my job to be on the surface.”

“Don’t you worry about that, Mumei. You are safe down here.”

“I know I’m safe but…” Mumei took a solemn look down, “Will anything bad happen if I don’t do my job?”

That question broke shook Fauna a little, causing her to drop her smile. She didn’t know what the consequences would be. She never had the guts to deviate from her mission her entire life. The only member of the council she thought of who strayed away from their path was Kronii. Back when she stayed a prolonged period on Earth and not in her clock tower. She remembered when she would see her roaming around the planet for a time, until she just left one day and stayed in her tower for a millennium. She suspected there was some form of divine intervention that happened to force her back to the tower, possibly from Omega. But she didn’t know.

She put her tea down. Even if she didn’t know what could happen, she didn’t want Mumei to return to the surface. She looked over to the small girl. Her hazel eyes looking back at her expectedly, shining with brilliance and innocence. She didn’t want to lose that.

She knows what humans are capable of. They were the only species she was scared of. She understands that living things sometimes have to do bad things in order to survive, but humans didn’t want to just survive. They wanted to live. And she knew they will do all sorts of atrocities to their environment, other creatures, even their own kin in order to achieve those goals. There was a darkness within them. A darkness too much for a little girl like Mumei to bear.

With a resolute look in her eyes, she smiled back at Mumei, her confidence returning to her. “If anything bad happens, I’ll be here to protect you.”

“Oh okay.” Mumei replied simply. Fauna laughed softly, she did all of that thinking while Mumei’s head was still up in the clouds. She honestly loved that about her.

Before they could keep eating, a crow landed by the arm of Fauna’s chair. It squawked and immediately Fauna understood what it meant.

“What’s wrong?” Mumei asked while she pet a rabbit that rested by her side.

“Oh nothing,” But her frown told otherwise, “I just have to attend to something real quick.”

She got up and rushed towards the entrance of her domain. She’s got a visitor and she already knows who it was.

 


 

“Fauna, come out I just want to talk.”

Kronii’s voice was lost in the cold breeze of the forest. She felt rather silly calling out to empty space but she knew that she was in her domain. The problem with that being there was no one entrance to her garden, every forest on earth was a possible way to access it. But of all places Kronii could have chosen, she chose this nearly freezing wasteland. Snow blanketed the ground; the trees losing all of their leaves and being left ominous grey spires that jut out of the ground. The sky was a gloomy grey.

After minutes of dead silence, Kronii was about to leave and try again somewhere warmer. Until the ground beneath her began to rumble. A cavity formed in front of her, eventually widening enough to become a tunnel. Inside was the keeper of nature herself. She maintained an easy-going smile, but her furrowed eyes told a different story. Wherever she walked a patch of grass grew at her feet. She stepped up to the surface, even in the frigid snow, she was still surrounded by warm grass.

They stood there at a standstill for a good minute. Fauna standing in warm, green grass while Kronii stood with her feet partially submerged in snow, the wind causing her cape to wave around violently. Quite a distance between them. Their eyes were locked but no words came out.

This was the first time since forever where it’s just the two of them. No other council members, just them.

“So… hey.” Kronii tried to break through the awkward silence with an even more awkward greeting.

“Hi Kronii,” Fauna greeted in her usual sweet tone, but there was a layer of apprehension beneath her words. “How are you doing?”

“Oh. I’m…” Kronii struggled to find the most appropriate thing to say in this moment. “good.”

“Oh… good.”

The cackle of the wind was the only thing breaking the void of noise the two found themselves in again. Normally, Kronii would say the earth itself was laughing at her. But she was staring at her right now, and she was very much not laughing.

“What are you doing here?” Fauna asked, though it was a redundant question. She already figured what she was going to say.

“I heard that Mumei was living with you.” Kronii answered, “I didn’t see her outside in a while.”

“Yeah.” Fauna smiled a little at the mention of Mumei, memories of them spending time together filling her mind for a bit. “She’s back there in my garden.”

Kronii noticed that slight smile, and she didn’t quite know how to feel about it.

“Can she come out?” Kronii asked sternly, masking her true desire to just hang out with Mumei. “She hasn’t been doing her duties lately.”

“Yeah about that..” Fauna’s eyes pointed at the ground, she bit her lip a little, dreading telling her this. Taking a deep breath.

“I… I don’t want her to leave.”

“What?” Kronii sounded perplexed, but she had to maintain her put together stance, “Fauna, you can’t do that. You can’t keep her caged in your domain.”

“What!? Caged!? No, I’m not keeping her prisoner.” Fauna reacted defensively, “She wants to be here with me.”

Kronii didn’t fully believe that. Sure, she would probably be fascinated with her surroundings for a while, but she saw the look of curiosity constantly in her eyes when they were at the city. She was a born explorer and Kronii knew she couldn’t stay in there for too long. “Or is that you want to her to be there with you.”

“Ok fine.” Fauna admitted, “Maybe, I’m coaxing her a little bit to stay with me. But I’m doing this for a reason, you know?”

“What reason?”

“I just…” Fauna’s mind scrambling for a way to put her point across in the most straight forward way possible. “Don’t want her to be around humans, that’s all.”

“Isn’t that like her entire job?” Kronii’s usual snark surfacing a little.

“Kronii, you know what I mean.” Fauna’s speaking pace picking up a little, slight frustration arising, “I know you were at that city with Mumei last time, You’ve seen how they are like first hand.”

“How do you know tha-“

“Mumei told me.”

“Of course she did.”

“Point is…” Fauna’s tone became more grave, “I don’t trust humans. I know what they are like. Theres an evil inside of them that Mumei can’t be exposed to.”

“You can’t be mad at them just because they’re not part of your kingdom anymore.” Kronii rebutted.

Fauna scowled a little at that response, clearly taking offense from that. Kronii knew that was probably the wrong thing to say. “This isn’t about me. Humans can do awful things. They kill. They rape. They enslave. They defile everything that they get their hands on. You’ve seen them Kronii! You know what they are like!”

Kronii thought back at all the humans she encountered so far in this modern era. That farmer really tried to kill a little girl over a few berries. All of the traders and sellers in the bazaar couldn’t stop swindling each other out of their money. She’s pretty sure the first trader was trying to scam Mumei with his ‘ancient lost civilization’ rubbish. The second trader actually tried to scam her so she hated him. She still couldn’t believe they dispatched an entire troop of guards to catch a petty street thief, that concerned her about how other paupers were treated. The slave traders… well, there was a reason she so viciously broke them down during their encounter. There was a part of Kronii that understood where Fauna was coming from.

But then she remembered the two orphans on the street. They were so vulnerable, clutching each other like the only things that they had in this world. And there was a good chance that they were. She recalled how their expression changed from fear to hope after Mumei gave them the money. How could those kids be evil? She remembered the slaves she freed. When they ran for their lives, one of them tripped. The others could have left that one behind, but they helped them up. Making sure all of them ran away together. Can any of them be evil? She thought of the people living in the lower-class areas of the city. That place looked utterly miserable to live in, yet in spite of that, they looked happy. Are any of them evil?

Dammit, Mumei, you’re rubbing off on me.

“Ok fine, they kinda suck but some of them are good.” She surmised.

Fauna sighed, “You haven’t seen enough Kronii. If you’ve seen the things I’ve seen, you’ll understand.”

“Look regardless of whatever you think about humans. You need to let Mumei leave. She can’t stay there forever.”

“What. Why!?” Fauna’s pitch getting higher. She was getting more and more frustrated with Kronii’s stubbornness.

“I mean she’s a bird, right?” she continued with her usual dry tone. “Mumei needs to be able to spread her wings and fly. Birds don’t behave well when trapped in a cage.”

“Kronii, this isn’t the time for jokes.” Fauna flatly stated.

“Right, sorry.” Her attempt to diffuse the situation failed. The wind seemed to howl through the environment as their conversation kept escalating. “But you get what I mean, Mumei should be free to make her own decisions.”

“Mumei doesn’t know what she wants!” Fauna insisted, “I know what’s best for her, I can keep her safe!”

Kronii felt that she was underestimating Mumei a little here. Looking back at their little outing last time, Kronii realized how many times she got manipulated into doing something without even realizing. She kind of liked having someone that could bring her down a peg or two. “You’re cutting her a little short here, she’s way smarter than she looks.”

“You’re not getting it. If she goes out there, she won’t be the same.”

“What makes you think that you should stop Mumei from fulfilling her duties.”

“Duties?” Fauna breathed.

“Don’t you remember what Omega told us. Her place in all of this is just as important as the rest of-“

“Since when have you ever cared about duties?”

It came out almost like a whisper, yet it added so much more weight to this situation. Kronii found a lump catching in her throat. Her composure breaking bit by bit. Things just got personal.

She knew what she meant by that. Back when she stayed on earth, she remembered boasting about how she was shirking off her responsibilities as warden of time to be here on earth. About how she didn’t care about the consequences. About how she was doing this because she wanted to. And she also remembered who she told this to. The only other concept constantly on earth.

They spent a lot of time in the past together. But one day, they had a falling out.

“Look.” She said seriously, their eyes locked on one another. “I know you’re probably still mad about last time but-“

“Mad?” Fauna choked that out, “You think I was just mad? I was furious!”

“Yes I know!” Kronii raised her own voice as well, before lowering back down, “I… I just wanted to say I’m sorry.”

“Sorry? So that’s it?” she raised up both of her hands in resignation, “I’m just supposed to forgive you after all those years?”

“Well what else am I supposed to do?” Kronii exclaimed in a defeated tone. She feared about this moment for so long and it’s going as poorly as she expected. “Just tell me Fauna.”

Fauna broke eye contact for a second as if she was hesitating. Then she gave a sigh. “Fine, then just tell me why.”

“What? Why?”

“Why you left.”

Another lump got caught in Kroniis throat. The truth was that she didn’t choose to leave earth. She was forced to. By Omega.

Omega intervened after they realized that the warden of time was missing for a long amount of time. Kronii refused to go back and they engaged in combat. Kronii didn’t just lose, she was humiliated. It was the most painful moment of her life. Nobody in the council knew about that moment and Kronii will make sure it stays that way. To tell anyone would be to expose a vulnerability of hers. And her pride forbids her from doing that.

Instead, she said the first thing that came to her mind.

“I just got bored of earth.”

A deafening silence fell upon them and Kronii instantly regretted that answer. Fauna glared at her, those eyes sharper than any dagger.

“So it’s as simple as that, huh.” She scoffed, words laced with venom. “Tsk. That’s just like you.”

“What do you mean, just like me?” Kronii questioned.

“You don’t care about anything, Kronii.” She kept up her offence. That one hurt Kurt Kronii a bit, all because it’s kind of true. For so long she didn’t care about anything when her life was in isolation. But now she found something to care for, and she was not about to lose it.

“I care about a lot of things, Fauna!”

“Oh? Really?” Fauna said sarcastically, “So are you doing this because you ‘care’ about Mumei?”

“Of course I am! I want her to be independent and be able to make decisions for herself!”

“Do you now? Or is it that you just see her as another toy.”

Again, Kronii was at a loss for words. “Wha- What?”

“Don’t play dumb with me.” Fauna accused, “I know you and Mumei had lots of fun the other day and I’m happy for the both of you. I really am. But don’t act like you’re doing this for her sake rather your own selfish desires!”

“I’m not selfish!” Kronii cried out. She was getting heated, feeling genuine anger, something she hasn’t felt in a long time. But only because Fauna somehow managed to hit it on the nail again. Kronii did care about Mumei, but she would be lying to herself if she said that she wasn’t doing this to escape her own solitude. She honestly started to believe that if she stayed in that tower for any longer, she would go insane. She tried roaming around the earth alone, but she would just be left with her own intrusive thoughts to accompany her. Mumei was the only respite from the mental hell she was caging herself in.

“So how long do you think it would take? Before you get bored of her too.” Fauna scowled.

Kronii couldn’t take this anymore. Fauna’s slander towards her cutting open her heart over and over again. She was starting to lash out. She could feel something primal arising deep with her.

“You know what Fauna!?” she pointed a finger towards her, “You think you’re all so high and mighty when all you’re doing is keeping Mumei locked in just because you can’t accept that she could have a life of her own!”

Kronii could see beads of tears forming at the sides of Fauna’s eyes. She felt guilt when seeing that but that feeling was overshadowed by the high of emotions she was on right now. Fauna shouted, a first for this timid girl. “So what if I just want her to be safe!”

“So what? Fauna did you ever stop and think about the consequences of what you’re doing?”

Tears started to pour down her face, but Fauna remained as resolute as ever. “Every day Kronii! I’m terrified. But I’ll do whatever it takes to protect her!”

“Even stand up to Omega? Because one day, they’ll realize we’re short of a guardian and they’ll come barging around the place, what will you do then!”

“Then I’ll fight them!”

It took a second for Kronii to even register what she just said. Fauna, the most soft-spoken member of the council, the one who never had a rebellious bone in her body, is willing stand up to Omega. Someone equally revered among them. Kronii had to ask again . “What!?”

“If Omega is going to take Mumei away from me, then I’ll do whatever it takes to stop them!” Fauna was practically belting out her words now.

“Why would you go that far, Fauna?”

“Because…” Fauna said the next part adamantly, “Because I love Mumei! That’s why!”

“Oh, so you ‘love’ Mumei now, do you?” Kronii said incredulously.

“Yes! Because I’m actually capable of love! Unlike you!”

Something inside Kronii snapped after that statement. Something deep within her very being arose. She started to step forward, her impulse taking over. She jabbed a finger at her direction. “How dare you-“

Fauna’s eyes widened; her mood drastically shifted from rage to fear. A black aura appeared around Kronii, unbeknownst to her. Fauna had a creeping suspicion of what that meant. She raised her hand to stop her, “Wait Kronii, listen-“

“No! You listen!” Kronii shouted. Getting closer and closer to the grass patch with each step.

“Wait Kronii! Don’t step on the grass!”

But it was too late. Her foot reached the grass and the grass around her started to change. It went from bright green to an arid yellow, then to a deep black. In a few seconds, the dead grass started to crumble away and it’s remains were blown away by the wind. The effect of decay happening to fresh plants in the matter of seconds. This effect spread across the grass until it stopped just shy of Fauna’s feet. Kronii jumped back in shock. “What- what just happened?”

Fauna looked at this with solemn resignation. “I figured something like this would happen.”

“You figured-“ she snapped out of her confused state, “Fauna explain!”

Fauna gave a deep sigh. She stopped crying but her cheeks were still very red, “I realized something about the both of us. We’re total opposites of each other.”

Kronii still looked perplexed, “Wha- what do you mean by that?”

“I mean everything about us. Our personality, our positions, even our very outlook on life. It’s too… different. I was sure that meant our very being was opposed to each other.”

“I still don’t get what you’re trying to say.” Kronii said shakily.

Fauna shook her head lightly. “If nature is related to the concept of life, then time is related to the concept of…”

“Death.”

“Time brings everything to its eventual end.” Fauna looked back at Kronii, a melancholy expression on her face. “Isn’t that what you once told me?”

Kronii still couldn’t find the words to express the mess of emotions she was feeling now. She never knew she was capable of something of that. Time was always a powerful concept but to be tied with the concept of death itself. But she could feel something within, gnawing at her. A part of her that was neglected for too long. It was a lot to process. Her mind scrambled for its meaning.

Fauna turned her back towards her, she couldn’t handle being here anymore. “I’m sorry Kronii. I need to go.”

“Wait Fauna!” Kronii pleaded, “Can I at least talk to Mumei.”

Fauna turned her head slightly, just enough so it was evident her tears came back, “I’m sorry, Kronii. I don’t know if I could trust you.”

She descended the same entrance she came out of. The opening closing behind her. It was almost like she was never there. Yet Kronii stood there for a while, just contemplating everything that just happened. The snow beating down on her, none of nature’s warmth left.

 


 

Fauna brisked through the outer part of her domain, struggling to keep another onset of crying from coming. The wave of emotions from their argument still not subsiding. She kept thinking back at what she just said. She kept recalling the look on Kronii’s face when she told her that she couldn’t see Mumei. She knows Kronii has difficulty expressing her own emotions but she could tell the depths of sadness she was experiencing at that moment.

She hated that she made Kronii feel that way. She loved Kronii. She loved all of the council. Maybe that was precisely the problem. She loved everything too much. When any of her creations die, she felt grief every single time. She wishes she could keep up a strong face, be as strong as Kronii, but she couldn’t. The truth of the matter being everything here will die, but Fauna could never quite accept that.

She does her best to prolong the inevitable. Keep all of them well fed, meet perfect conditions, do everything within her power. But sooner or later, they all have to meet their fate and go to the great beyond. She feels like she is constantly fighting against the flow of time, like a single salmon swimming upstream, desperate to grasp on to everything that she loves before they are taken away from her.

She kept walking until reached a familiar landmark of her garden. Her workbench. A single wide stump on the ground. On it were several lumps of clay, vaguely resembling the form of creatures that Fauna has yet to develop. She sat on the ground, ready to continue on her next creation.

She needed to keep her mind away from the matter for a while. The best she could do was keep creating new life like she has always been doing.

She fumbled with the clay for a bit. Melding antlers to attach onto it. Sculpting fur onto the clays surface. She started to think about what the creature needed. Should its tail be long or short? Does it need more fur? How big should it be? She then started to rethink her decisions. It’s a herbivore, so why are it’s eyes pointing forward? She needed to fix that. Why do it’s legs look off? She needed to fix that. Why is it that nothing she does with it makes her feel satisfied? She needed to fix that.

She kept messing around with the clay, kept reworking it. Her frustration only growing with every change. Her thoughts going wild, anger from earlier seeping through again. Even if she does finish this product, it’s just going to end up like all of her other creations anyway. They’re either going to be hunted down to extinction by another species, be forced to cultivate for human consumption or become the thing that oppresses others anyway. Everything she does to make this thing in her image is futile. It will be tainted eventually.

Her hands kept on meddling with the clay until it was unrecognizable from its original form. Then why should she do anything at this point? It’s like Kronii says, everything ends. So why should she even bother anymore? Everything she’s done will go away. Every experience she’s making will end. She’ll end up tarnishing every relationship she has eventually. What else is there to keep going on? Why-

Suddenly she felt arms wrap around her to pull her into a warm embrace.

“What’s wrong Fauna?” Mumei’s gentle voice calming her mind, “You looked like you were crying.”

She looked down and found a ball of clay in her hands. Touching her cheek, she felt it moist with tears. She looked down to see Mumei clutching her close to her body. She looked so small, but when she looked up at her with those amber eyes, Fauna couldn’t help but give her the same gentle smile she had always given her. Her emotions were still a wreck but if it was for Mumei, she would keep smiling for the rest of eternity.

“Nothing, Mumei.” She lied, “I’m fine.”

“You don’t look fine.” Mumei affirmed. In her arms, she could feel Fauna shivering. Her cheeks were red and her eyes looked puffy. Mumei rested her head on her shoulder, holding onto her even more tightly. She didn’t know what was wrong, but she did know that she should be there for her.

“No, really Mumei, I’m- fine.” She choked out those words. Mumei’s sudden contact making her feel more sensitive. Again, she was failing to put up a strong face.

“It’s okay, Fauna.” She reassured her softly, “I’m here for you.”

That was the breaking point. Fauna returned the embrace and clutched on to her as if she would lose her right there if she didn’t hold on tight enough. She started to sob on to Mumei’s shoulder, releasing a wave of emotions she has been suppressing for so, so long. Her wails reverberated through the forest and is if in response, the skies darkened and rain started to pour.

“Mumei.” She cried out to her in between her deep sobs, her voice almost drowned out by the sound of rain around them, “I’m… I’m…”

“Shhhh.” Mumei whispered while patting her back, “Just let it out Fauna.”

“I’m… so… scared.”

“I’m here, Fauna.” She kept on soothing her, “I’m not going anywhere.”

Fauna softly stroked the back of Mumei’s head, she took deep pants in an attempt to calm herself down, but she knows this moment will last for a long time. And deep down, she wanted it to stay like this forever.

Mumei’s care for her made her want to keep crying all over again. This was a moment she has never shared with anyone else. She had such a gentle soul and Fauna didn’t want to lose that. She knows it’s foolish of her to expect destiny to be kind to the guardian. But her mind conjures up the most vile images of what could happen to Mumei on the surface. Possibilities that she knows humanity is capable of. Furthermore, her powers haven’t even developed yet. The poor girl doesn’t even have a domain. She’s far too weak to govern something as brutal as civilization and Fauna knew that. If she wasn’t dead, she would be changed. Changed to be as jaded as her or Kronii. Fauna couldn’t take that. That thought was just too much to bear.

But for now, she was with her. Mumei was safe in her arms, and Fauna was safe in hers. That’s all she could ask for right now. She knows one day, she has to leave her. But for now, they’re safe.

 

 


 

Kronii knew this was an awful usage of her time, but it felt like the only worthwhile thing to do. She descended the stairwell that went on forever. Looking over the edge showed a bottom less pit in the middle with machinery all around. She didn’t go down far. Just right by her new favorite spot. Sitting on the blue carpentry that cascaded down the steps, she laid a hand on one of the windowpanes. It was depicting scenes that happened not too long ago, maybe everything after the start of the year.

Concentrating, she caused the scene to transition to the day of her and Mumei’s trip out in the bazaar. Not that she needed help remembering, but it felt so much more different watching the past in third person. She paused at a point when they were looking for something to buy. The moment froze and Kronii saw herself, mid-sentence berating Mumei on how they can’t buy what she wants. Across from her was the owl girl smiling widely as she held a pig in her arms and argued that it was a good financial investment. Kronii just stared at the way she smiled, there was something about it that even now gave her butterflies in her stomach. Involuntarily, Kronii smiled as well, just enjoying this still moment of Mumei.

She let the scene play out a bit. Past Kronii shut her mouth and her facial features shifted from annoyance to absolute endearment. She saw herself smile back at Mumei with a glint in her eye. Normally, she would make some quip about how good she looked. But something about seeing herself smile so deeply made her feel… empty.

In so many years, centuries, even millennia, she has never seen herself like this. She honestly looked happy. Even now, the only semblance of joy she found in this desolate place is replaying this perfect day for her over and over again. A part of her is terrified of that fact. Because that moment was over.

She didn’t know if there could be a day like that again now that Mumei is with Fauna. There’s a part of her that understands her reasonings. The world was a dangerous place after all. But the selfish part of her wants to have another day like that, no matter the consequences. No, it’s wrong to say she wants a day like that. It’s more so she needed another day like that.

She couldn’t handle this isolation anymore. The monotonous sound of the clocktower was drilling into her head. The closed walls of her chamber were starting to become suffocating. Doing the same thing over and over again made her realize why that was the definition of insanity.

She knows it’s all in her head. For so long, she never even minded this. But now things changed. There was something she wanted. Something she desired. Not Mumei herself specifically. But that feeling of letting your worries melt away. That feeling of being excited of what’s coming next. That feeling of wanting a moment to last forever.

‘I just want to be happy.’

She let out a deep sigh, resting her back on the steps of the stairwell. Closing her eyes and throwing her head back, she couldn’t help but think of a simple question. ‘Do I really deserve that though?’

There were reasons why she was reminiscing about her moments with Mumei and not the ones with Fauna so many years ago. She remembered when she was on earth and Fauna would show off her creations. The certain shyness Fauna would always display around her. Especially the time Fauna introduced to her what a cat is, that’s where that sweet spot came from. But she always felt a sense of detachment during those moments, something she realized that was all her fault. Her ego was at all time high then. She genuinely thought everything on earth was beneath her and she experienced those moments not appreciating them to the fullest. Her pride was haywire until it all came tumbling down.

She couldn’t look back at those moments with fondness. She messed up. Her relationship with Fauna was ruined because of her. She could feel the hatred radiating from her eyes earlier. There’s a scar between them that may never heal.

That’s the thing that terrified her the most. She had the clarity now to know that she could do things right with Mumei. The terror was in the fact that even that could end. She knows full well she is more than capable of messing things up again. That or some other external factor that ends their relationship. But she was betting her own mistakes in the future would be their undoing.

Another deep sigh.

Why am I like this?’

She leaned forward and rested her head on her arms. Bringing her legs up and curling into a ball. She knew this was a pathetic sight for the warden of time, but she was alone right now, and she couldn’t help herself.

That moment earlier kept nagging on her mind. The concept of death? What did that mean? Her mind was drawing blanks at the answer but there was something there. Deep within her. Waiting. Of course, she understood that death and the end comes about through time. But what did that mean about her?

The implications made her shudder. The whole being a concept of a fundamental part of reality has never really fully sunk in for her, and she doesn’t think it ever will. She’s supposed to be some sort of all powerful being, so why doesn’t she feel like one? Cynically, her own theory is that they are just byproducts of whatever concept they are tied to, at least for her. Time doesn’t need her to function, just to keep watch over in the slightest chance it messes up. Since as long as she can remember, she masked her insecurities with her pride of being the warden of time, joy at seeing her fellow concepts amazed by her apparent power even though she knew it was meager. But deep down, she knew that simply keeping watch was her real duty.

You are the warden of time, and that is all you will ever be.’ Words that are not her own kept echoing through her mind.

No matter how hard she tried to forget, that memory is etched into her mind. The day she was forced to leave earth. She was bloodied and bruised, deep in agonizing pain. Kneeling before Omega, the tip of their blade grazing her neck. She was panting for her life as she was forced to look them in the eye. The worst part about the whole thing was that Omega showed no emotion doing all of this. No pride of victory. No disappointment. Not even pity for the loser. Just nothing. It was as if Kronii was so insignificant to them, that their battle meant nothing. It was the weakest Kronii has ever felt.

After that, she was dragged back to her domain. Forced to play the role of the warden of time. Even now, she was sure Omega is monitoring them. Making sure the council doesn’t deviate from the script of the grand play that was the god’s plan.

Kronii looked around her surroundings. This metal box was her prison. She was no warden. She was just as much a prisoner to fate as everyone else.

Taking one last look back at the glass pane, and she saw Mumei, happy and free. Even if it was only in that one solitary moment. It was enough to give her hope that someday, she may experience those feelings again.

‘Wait for me, Mumei. We’ll be free again one day.’

Chapter Text

“Uuuuu, Mumei look! Mumei look!”

Fauna exclaimed excitedly as she pulled the owl girl by the arm. The girl in question had a mystified look on her face, excited as well but in the dark about what’s going on. Fauna pointed upwards towards a branch. She gestured for it come closer and the whole tree bent and lowered its own branch so that it was at eye-level with the two girls. From here, they could clearly see a bird’s nest resting on it. In it were three eggs, cracks forming at their tops.

When the eggs started to move a little, Fauna squealed in delight. “They’re coming! They’re coming!”

The top of one of the shells broke open and out emerged a tiny beak. It kept pecking it’s way out of the shell, until it toppled over and the baby chick wiggled it’s way out of there. It’s eyes were closed and it’s feathers were matted. The first noises it made were high pitched squawks that rung out far.

“Aren’t they cute, Mumei?” Fauna loved them nonetheless.

Mumei thought carefully about what she said next. The sight she was seeing was pretty cursed but it was also one of Fauna’s work and she didn’t want to offend her. She said innocently, “It’s cute in a terrifying kind of way.”

“Terrifying? No…” She scooped up the little thing with both of her hands and brought it near her face, “this is the beauty of life.”

“Well life is terrifying.” Mumei said in the same tone.

Fauna giggled lightly, “Well that is true. Life can be terrifying sometimes, but we all have to do it.”

She gently placed the newly born back into it’s nest. From the side, a small blue jay landed by the edge of the nest. It chirped heartily at it’s kin. It placed it’s own beak into it’s baby in order to feed it.

“Ew.” Mumei expressed her disgust.

Fauna simply giggled again, “Why what’s wrong, Mumei? This is how birds feed their children.”

“So if I ever have kids I have to do that!?”

“Ewww, nooo.” Earning a slight laugh from the owl girl. Fauna shook her head, “I don’t think us concepts can even have children.”

“Oh that’s a bummer.”

She flicked her finger and allowed the tree to revert back to it’s original spot. It creaked after shifting it’s entire weight upwards. They stood there for a while, watching the mother bird tend to it’s children.

“What is it like to have a mother?” Mumei asked pitifully.

Fauna opened her mouth to answer but she couldn’t think of what to say. The closest thing they had to a parent is Omega, but they were too cold and distant towards them to feel any intimacy for. Fauna only ever saw them as some sort of oppressing force in their lives. She did ponder that question sometimes, all of her creations had parents. She envied them in that sense. The feeling of being loved unconditionally. With that thought, she figured out what to say.

“I guess it’s like the feeling you have when you’re with me.” She explained cheerfully.

“But you’re not my mother.” Mumei looked confused.

The Kirin gave her a gentle smile. “No. But I hope you feel like you have one.”

She truly meant that. Her first years on earth were confusing and disorientating to say the least. It took a long while before she could she was comfortable in her place in the world. She hopes that by being there for Mumei, she could help her find her own place.

“all you’re doing is keeping Mumei locked in just because you can’t accept that she could have a life of her own!” Kronii’s scathing remarks echoed through her mind once again.

I’m doing this because I want to protect her.’ She had to convince herself, this internal argument happening over and over again.

They walked through the magnificent landscape Fauna has crafter. Talking about nothing in particular, the various animals that caught Mumei’s eyes, fun facts they found out about certain plants, laughing about stories of Fauna’s favorite pets out of many. It was peaceful. Just as Fauna liked it.

Though that peace was short-lived. As they strolled through the area, Fauna suddenly started coughing profusely.

“Fauna!” Mumei worriedly exclaimed, this not being the first time she doubled over coughing like this. “What’s wrong!?”

Between her rugged breaths, Fauna tried reassuring her but her voice was still husky, “Nothing Mumei, I’m fine. Thanks for asking.”

But that was a lie. This was starting to become more frequent and Fauna feared what that meant. Nature itself was hurting. She suspected it’s due to human behavior that the environment of the world is being damaged as a whole. With all the expansion humanity has been doing, it was a fair assumption. Since she is tied to this concept, she feels every piece of the damage inflicted. It hurts but she couldn’t tell this to Mumei, her only companion. It would only break her heart to hear that she was the one hurting her, in an abstract sort of way. But she knows that somehow she’ll take it as her fault.

The only way to remedy this is to go into a hibernation phase where she becomes one with the earth itself. Then she could heal nature manually. This has happened before and she never minded then. But now things were different. She had Mumei to take care of now. This process could take years, decades, worst case scenario a century. She had to leave her alone and that thought terrified her. For now, she’s just bearing with the pain.

Mumei nodded silently, but her concern was still visible.

They came to a stop on a small clearing with a fallen tree to act as a bench for them. They sat down and Mumei pulled out her notebook. She diligently started sketching on it, catching Fauna’s interest.

“What are you drawing, Mumei?” she asked curiously. She really did love her drawings, each portrait of an animal being a masterpiece that never fails to take her breath away.

When she leaned in to sneak a peek, Mumei turned the book to the side to block her view. “It’s a secret!” she teased.

Fauna pouted, she really didn’t like secrets. As Mumei scribbled her pencil inside the book, Fauna tried to imagine what she could possibly be sketching. She knows that Mumei needed a reference to be close by because she couldn’t visualize images in her mind. But looking around showed that there were no animals anywhere around them. Realizing this, Fauna’s curiosity peaked.

As a ploy to see it, she called on some small canaries to mess with her a bit. One landed on her shoulder and nuzzled itself on the girl’s cheek, causing her to turn and laugh at it’s direction. Using this opportunity, Fauna snuck in a glance and saw-

“Kronii?” She breathed out, being caught off guard.

Mumei squeaked and slammed the book shut. A heavy blush forming in her cheeks. There was no mistaking it. The sharp jawline, short hair and signatures bangs could not be mistaken with anyone else. Just lie every other of Mumei’s drawings, it’s truly beautiful. But there was a certain added tenderness to this portrait.

“I’m sorry! I know you have a problem with her but – but!” The flustered girl tried to explain herself.

Fauna smiled deeply, “That was a really beautiful drawing, Mumei.”

That seemed to calm the panicked girl a little, she said in a meek voice, “Oooh, thank you.”

She was being truthful, being glad that Mumei could make such a beautiful drawing, but a part deep within her still felt a bit of a sting seeing Kronii in her journal. She hasn’t even seen her for a long time yet she is still in her mind. What did she give Mumei that she can’t provide?

“Do you…” Mumei muttered, “Do you still have a problem with Kronii?”

A bead of sweat dropped from her brow. There was too much history between them to dump on the girl. Even now she’s still trying to decide whether or not she still resented the warden. But the lingering feelings are still there, the good and the bad. Though right now, she needed to give her a straight answer.

“No, no. Mumei.” Fauna explained calmly, “I’m just surprised you can still remember her so vividly.”

“Yeah…” Mumei said sheepishly.

It was truly an accomplishment. The owl girl’s memory was still very poor. There were times where Fauna would catch her forgetting things that happened minutes prior. She was slightly concerned by it but she loved her regardless. Her being able to draw something without a reference right in front of her was a feat that needed to be celebrated.

But… there had to be a reason why she could so vividly remember her.

After a minute of silence, Mumei muttered under her breath again. “I miss her.”

A lump formed in Fauna’s throat. She said in a somber tone, “Wow, that day must have been really special to you.”

She simply nodded her head. “It really was.”

Another a minute of silence passed between them. Not tense but calm and contemplative. Mumei’s head hung low, clearly in deep thought. She was the first to speak up. “It’s funny. I so often forget all the experience’s I had if I don’t write them down in my journal. So many days I’ve lost track of when I was alone. I don’t even know why, but when I’m with Kronii, I can recall every single moment.”

She looked down at her drawing. It showed Kronii smiling and Mumei smiled back. “Her face is the one thing I’m sure I would never forget.”

A sinking feeling appeared in Fauna’s chest. Deep regret started to settle in.

‘Mumei really cares about Kronii, huh?’ she wondered to herself.

“Do you-“ Mumei stuttered, “do you want me to stop?”

“Stop? No, no, no. Continue on.”

With the allowance, Mumei continued to scribble on her notebook. Refining it until she felt that if Kronii saw it, she would be satisfied in her image. Which considering Kronii’s ego, Mumei needed a lot of time on this piece. A soft yawn escaped Mumei’s mouth.

“Are you tired, Mumei?” In which she responded with a hearty nod.

Fauna gestured for her to rest on her lap and she happily obliged. A notion the two have grown comfortable with in the time they have spent with each other. Before long, Mumei was snoring sweetly while Fauna patted her head gently, humming a soft tune. As she was doing so, she realized that Mumei left her notebook lying by her lap.

Curiosity got the better of Fauna, and she took it and flipped through its pages.

The pages of the notebook were in a sort of yellowish paper, each page populated with immaculate doodles of the various findings Mumei has found across her travels. They were all equally interesting but Fauna was only concerned about the more recent happenings in her life. She looked at the date conveniently placed on the corner of each page, until she found what she was looking for. The date of the first council meeting she has been apart of.

Woah! Today was crazy! I was just going about to another town when this guy lady person showed up right in front of me and said ‘come with me, guardian of civilization’ or something like that I forgot. But then a huge triangle appeared behind him her them and they told me to go through it. It was probably a mistake but I went through anyway. Then I was transported to this huge building in the middle of space.. yes SPACE and met four of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen!

Fauna had to take a second to stop herself from blushing profusely before she continued reading.

They were called the council and they’re concepts like me. I was really scared but the smallest one calmed me down and gave me some flowers! Her name is Bae, couldn’t remember her full name, she was also a rat and the leader of the group … apparently. Also she was chaos, but I don’t get how you can be a leader but also be chaos so I doubt that. Next one I met is Fauna. She was pretty, really pretty. Her voice is so calming and nice.”

Again, Fauna had to take a second to recover.

She was nature and I could really tell! She said she is going to love me forever but I kind of doubt that too. I mean what is love anyway? Doesn’t it have to be with someone you have met for a long time? I still don’t get it.

While Fauna was reading, she couldn’t help but crack a smile, ‘Oh Mumei, you still have so much to learn.’ She thought to herself.

Next one was Sana. She was so nice! She was space and I think I saw stars in her eyes. I didn’t even know that was possible! I want to get to know her better too! There was one more in the back and her name is Kronii. I couldn’t even look her in the eyes because of how beautiful she was. My heart felt funny looking at her. Though she was a little scary. She said that I shouldn’t have been part of the council because I was unworthy compared to the rest of them. I guess she’s right.”

Fauna grimaced a little, of course that little blowup by Kronii was internalized by Mumei as her being worthless. Again, Kronii’s impulsiveness has hurt someone.

Though she was so confident in herself. I wish I was like that.”

Fauna pat the sleeping girl’s head. ‘One day, Mumei. One day.” She whispered.

She kept on reading along the events of their first meeting. Feeling a sort of nostalgia recalling the various conversations that they had. It wasn’t very long ago, but she did truly cherish the moments where all of them were together. The journal kept going past the meeting, over her daily journey through civilization. Thankfully she was only going through a small rural town that day, less likely for her to get hurt. It was a little fascinating to see the little discoveries she was making and all of the illustrations detailing it.

Then she flipped the page and another time, a familiar name unexpectedly popped up in Mumei’s encounter.

“I can’t believe what just happened! So I was just minding my own business, picking some berries when a farmer started chasing me! I really thought I was going to die when Kronii saved me! Apparently, I was stealing or something. Whoops. I met with Kronii and she was really nice actually! Hilarious too! She told me that I shouldn’t apologize for my existence and I’m just as important as everyone else on the council. That was nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me. We talked for a while and I think we became friends. I want to see her again.”

Fauna was shocked. Kronii said that? Even when they spent time together, Kronii always seemed cold to her. She never expected her to be so candid. Maybe she did change. Maybe she really did care about Mumei.

Knocking her out of her contemplative state, she started to cough heavily again. Her heaves were harsh and painful, searing her throat. She could feel herself getting weaker. Sooner or later, she had to go into hibernation or else either the earth starts to wither away or her body gives out entirely.

And again, the creeping fear starts to settle in. The fear of Mumei being alone. Even if she stayed here, Omega will come for her eventually. She took a second to consider her options but her mind could only think of one name.

Kronii.’

She was reluctant to call upon her for help, but she had no other choice. If there was anyone willing to stand up against Omega, it would be her. Besides, she started to have hope that maybe Kronii did change for the better. And even so Mumei cared for her, and that was enough.

Other than that, she could reinforce her garden. Build fortresses out of the thickest bark she could conjure. Set her strongest creations to stand guard. Make it so that nothing could get in or get out. Then Mumei would be safe.

But would she want that though?

Fauna brought her head down low and sighed deeply. Even just scanning through her journal showed how enthusiastic she was to go through civilization. Maybe that was her true passion. Not something she begrudgingly does out of obligation but something she genuinely wanted to do. It made Fauna reconsider everything she’s done. What if she was actually harming her this entire time?

Taking her eyes off the ground, she looked up to see another bird’s nest, with the mother taking care of her young. The fledging bird raised its wings, presumably for its first flight with the mother standing by. Just as it jumped off of the branch, it plummeted straight to the ground. Fauna was tempted to run there and pick it up from the ground, but she sensed the mother’s feelings. It wasn’t worried at all. The little bird quickly got back on it’s two feet and started to navigate its way back to it’s nest. Ready to fall again.

Watching this simple act of nature made Fauna think. Why was the mother so willing to let her child fall like that? The answer was pretty obvious to her. One day, the child had to leave it’s nest, grow up and start a life of their own to continue the species. It was a basic aspect of nature. But more so, she was the confused how the mother could not feel any pain seeing their own child get hurt.

Realizing this, she had a small laugh. Look at her, mother nature itself, baffled by her creations. Maybe she didn’t understand living beings that well after all. She looked at the little bird currently resting on her lap, snoring gently. She was starting to wonder if she was really doing the best for Mumei.

The only one who decides what’s best for Mumei. Is Mumei.

Yes. That was the conclusion Fauna decided upon. Not her. Not Kronii. Not even the gods. She needed to let Mumei decide for herself what she wanted in life. If she wanted to stay here, then let her stay. If she wanted to leave, then let her leave. As long as it’s her choice, she’ll be happy.

She took one look back at the sleeping girl and planted a kiss on the top of her head. Even in her sleep, this caused her to smile. Fauna couldn’t help but laugh softly. She’ll confront her about this later. But for now, she was with her. And that was she all wanted. No matter what the future holds, for now, she was happy.

 

Chapter Text

Kronii took a deep breath, it has been a while since was last on earth. Finally having an excuse to get out of that metal box again. After the last time, she begrudgingly settled back into her routine. Biding her time by coming up with some insane scheme to break Mumei out of Fauna’s domain. She didn’t think too far ahead yet, but it involved luring Fauna out with some sort of peace offering, stopping time and carrying Mumei out of there and into the other side of the planet. Ignoring the fact that Fauna would literally be aware of any of their whereabouts on earth or the fact that she can appear anywhere on the planet instantaneously. She didn’t even know if she can hold on to the timeline for that long, so this entire plan might be a huge fluke. But other than the glaring faults, she thought it was a great plan.

Before she could proceed any further with this asinine plan of hers, a crow appeared flying around her domain. Considering that the tower was disconnected from the rest of reality, this shouldn’t have been possible. But if Fauna needed to send a message to the rest of the council, she could manifest a living being directly to them. In it’s beak was a letter addressed to her, asking her to arrive at a specific location on earth.

This time she got a place that was actually warm. A lush forest surrounded her, sitting by a lone stump on the ground. The chirping of birds above her formed a sweet tune as she waited patiently for Fauna. She noticed that the season was just right for ripe fruits to grow from the branches of the tree. She was sure Mumei would like that very much.

Dammit, you’re thinking about Mumei again.’ She scolded herself.

She really tried to avoid thinking about the owl girl while stuck in her tower, but it’s hard to ignore the only joy you have in your life.

The ground started to shake beneath her and she knew who was coming.  A tunnel appeared before her and a ray of golden light shone from within the entrance, barring the view inside. Yet, the keeper of nature didn’t appear for a long while. Kronii was honestly getting a little worried before the soothing voice of Fauna echoed through the newly formed cave.

“Hold on for a second, Kronii. I’m coming.”

“Don’t worry, it’s not like I have any where better to be.” Kronii said dryly.

Fauna finally emerged from her domain but Kronii could immediately tell something was wrong. She was practically limping towards her. Her steps were slow and labored, even from afar, she could tell she was panting heavily.

Even still, she still kept up that same smile.

“Hey Kronii. How you doin-“ Her greeting was cut short by a profuse bout of coughing. Kronii ran up to her side and aided her to seat by a lone tree stump for support. She smiled weakly back at her in gratitude. Though her sunken eyes and pale complexion showed how bad her condition has gotten.

“Fauna! What happened to you?” Kronii sitting beside her for her to lean against to act as a support.

“Oh nothing, Kronii.” She tried her best to remain easygoing, but her intermittent coughs interrupt her cadence. “I’m just feeling abit under the weather that’s all.”

“Yeah sure, Fauna, but seriously what’s wrong?”

Fauna looked up at her with pitiful eyes, “I think I need to go away for awhile. The earth isn’t doing so good and it’s my job as the keeper of nature to make sure it gets healed. But for now, I’m like-“ She gestured to her frail body. “this.”

Kronii nodded, listening with concern. Any negative emotion between them dissipated in exchange for the simple concern for each other’s well-being. She knew that Fauna sometimes had to go into hibernation, but it was never this bad. Though a simple conclusion plagued Kronii’s mind.

“Is this because of the humans?”

“I’m afraid so.”

Kronii nodded. It was as she feared.

“Does Mumei know about you going away?”

“I told her… and she’s a bit… heartbroken.”

Kronii understood. Even without seeing her, she could tell Mumei would care deeply for Fauna. But she did wish she could comfort her as well.

Fauna continued, “Though she is taking it better now. But I don’t know if it’s fully sunken in for her yet.”

A soft silence fell between them. The obvious question weighing heavily on their minds. Kronii was the one to vocalize this.

“So what happens now?”

“Well… I’ll go into the earth and rest for a very long time. And for Mumei…” Fauna paused for a second. “I don’t know.”

“You don’t want her to stay in your garden?” Kronii asked.

“No. I still do. But whatever comes next is up to her. She can stay or leave whenever she wants to.”

“So, what does she want.”

Fauna looked to the ground with glazed eyes, “She doesn’t know. She’s still indecisive at the moment.”

Kronii nodded again. Allowing another steady silence to fall between them. Before Kronii remembered something.

“Wait, why did you call me down here?”

Fauna heaved a little. “I have a selfish request to ask of you.”

“Selfish?”

“When I’m gone, there’ll be no one around to protect her.” Fauna looked back at her. Her eyes pleaded with hers. “Could you protect Mumei for me?”

The rustle of tree branches filled the atmosphere as Kronii had a minute to think. Her eyes drifted to the ground. “Does she really need protection?”

Fauna sighed, “I still don’t trust them, you know? Outside there are humans to worry about. With all of their wars and petty mis grievances, they can do a lot of bad things. As for inside…”

She furrowed her brow towards Kronii. “There’s Omega to worry about.”

Kronii gulped, “Why are you worried about Omega?”

“I’m just scared that they will drag Mumei out of my garden since she’s not doing her duty.”

The atmosphere between them suddenly became a lot more tense. Fauna’s expression was unreadable as she stared blankly back at Kronii. She said with a firm tone. “Be honest with me, Kronii.”

“Did Omega take you away last time?”

Kronii stood perfectly still. Her gaze not directed to Fauna but forwards. She could have told her the truth right there, admit that she had lost to Omega, finally clear up all of that misunderstanding between them. But she didn’t.

“No. I just went back by myself.”

Fauna nodded, though she squinted her eyes a little. Then her lips curled to a trusting smile. “So if Omega came down here, would you fight them to protect Mumei for me.”

Her eyes widened a little at that request. But she quickly reclaimed composure, she smirked, “Of course, I could. I’m me after all.”

All of that bravado was basically auto pilot at this point. She didn’t know if she was strong enough to take on Omega again. There was not even a chance of winning last time. But deep inside, there was a part of her rearing to have another reason to fight against them. If only for the foolish hope of mending her broken pride.

And a part of her that wanted to protect Mumei, no matter what.

Fauna giggled softly, “That’s the Kronii I know and love.”

Kronii kept up confidence and simply replied, “I mean who doesn’t.”

Fauna laughed and Kronii joined as well. It was sort of nostalgic, reminding them of the days before the fighting, before the miscommunication, when they were together. Though those moments were long gone, though the feeling was not quite the same. It was nice to have it again.

The sat there in a silence they have grown accustomed to. Both of them knowing that the other were never the most talkative, and just enjoying the peaceful ambience of the forest surrounding them. There certainly still was a tension between, but for now, that could take a backseat.

Fauna was the first to speak again. She spoke apologetically, “I know this is a lot to ask of you. I’m basically asking you to abandon your post as warden of time to accompany Mumei.”

Kronii shrugged her shoulders, “It’s fine. It’s not like being the warden of time is that important.”

“That doesn’t sound like something you would say.” Fauna remarked.

“Oh don’t get me wrong. It’s perfect for a perfect being like me. You know only I could do it after all. But… it does grow to be boring after a long time.”

She noticed that Fauna grimaced a little. Realizing this probably wasn’t the best word choice, she elaborated further. “I mean don’t you sometimes wish to not be the keeper of nature? Maybe do something else in your life?”

Fauna considered that question. It was hard to answer because that was all she has ever known. She did love some of her duties. The thrill of creating new life never left her. Nature was beautiful to her and she cherished every little subject in her kingdom.

But to be burdened by this unsurmountable responsibility, it was a lot of bear. Even now, she feels the weight of the world’s pain. All of the damage done to the environment is affecting her as well. She had to wonder. Was that fair to her? Sometimes she did find herself wishing she was just a mortal. Animal or human, doesn’t matter to her. But they were free in her eyes.

Not really knowing how to answer, she just said what’s on her mind. “I mean I love my job, but it could be nice to maybe actually get to explore the world a little.”

“I’m starting to think you’re just jealous of Mumei’s job.” Kronii joked.

Fauna smiled softly, “I could see now why she likes being out there so much.”

That reminded Kronii about something, “Hey, Fauna? What made you change your mind about letting Mumei leave?”

Even in her weak state, Fauna managed a bashful smile, “So I might have taken a little peak into Mumei’s journal.”

“Oh? What did you find?” Kronii asked, curious about its contents as well.

“Oh not much, I just looked at her entries during our first council meeting together. She called all of us the most beautiful women she’s ever seen you know. And I saw someone helped out Mumei afterwards…”

That earned a slight blush from Kronii, which Fauna definitely noticed and giggled at. Kronii said, “What? I’m just helping a fellow council member out.”

“Sure Kronii.” Fauna rolled her eyes, “But thanks for telling her to never apologize for existing.”

“Yeah, whatever.” She replied in a small voice.

“Though there was another reason I decided to let Mumei leave…”

“Oh?”

“I want Mumei to have her own life. It isn’t fair to her that shouldn’t be able to go out there and make her own mistakes. Then she could learn from those, you know?  Be able to spread her wings as you would say.”

“Wow. Since when did you become so wise?”

“Since I realized a long time ago, I once went out there, got hurt and learned my lesson from you.”

“Okay Fauna. You didn’t have to do me like that.” Her voice tapering off to a laugh at the end.

“What, it’s true.” She said back playfully. Glad the both of them could just joke around about the past at this point.

Just as Kronii thinks that the two of them could keep talking for a while longer, Fauna started coughing profusely again. Sending the both of them straight back to reality.

Calming down from that fit, Fauna muttered, “I don’t think I can stay out for much longer.”

“Wait, Fauna.” Kronii stammered, “One last thing before you leave.”

Fauna waited for the response as Kronii scrambled her brain to word this. She needed to know this.

“Do you… do you still hate me?”

Fearing the worst, Kronii braced herself. But instead she felt gentle arms wrap around her shoulder, turning to face her, she saw the same smile Fauna always wore.

“Oh Kronii, I’ve never hated you.”

Kronii reached out an arm to reciprocate the notion, but Fauna’s arms quickly retracted back by her side. Fauna looked away with slanted eyes. “But that doesn’t mean I’ve forgiven you.”

The warden could only sigh. After everything that happened, it was to be expected. She whispered. “I understand.”

“Hey cheer up. Let’s just let the past be in the past for now.”

But Kronii wasn’t listening. Her head was brought down low in contemplation. Ready to start another bout of self-loathing. And Fauna could tell. For as strong of a front Kronii puts up at all times, there were still points where Fauna knew the infallible warden was doubting herself. She didn’t exactly know what was going through her head right then. But she did know how it feels to be so deep in your own thoughts that you feel like you’re drowning.

And there was only one person who really helped her out of that ditch.

“Remember last time, you asked me if there was anything you could do to make it up to me?” Fauna continued, “Well I just want one thing in this world right now.”

Kronii looked back up at her.

“When I wake up. I want to see Mumei again.” She turned to face her again. Two desperate eyes looking back at each other.

“Can you promise me that she will be safe?”

Kronii nodded. “Of course Fauna.”

Fauna spoked hushed. “I’m honestly scared. So much time could pass before I wake up again. So many things can happen to her while I’m gone. But if you’re with her. Then I can at least have some peace of mind.”

“You can trust me. I hope you know that.”

“Good.”

Fauna got up after a bit of struggle, Kronii offered to help but she was politely declined. She hobbled her way down back to her domain. Before completely leaving, she turned back one last time.

“Kronii? One last thing.”

“Hmm?”

“Listen to your heart, okay?”

And just like that, the entrance closed behind her. Leaving Kronii alone, and confused.

“Wait Fauna! What is that supposed to mean!? Fauna explain!”

 


 

Fauna sat by a tree near the entrance of the cave where her final resting spot was. It’s entrance was ominous as it lead down into the belly of the earth, nothing but pitch black the deeper it went. She really did try to prolong the inevitable as much as possible. But the aching throughout her entire body and her labored breaths signaled to her that it was the end of the line. Her mind was deep in thought about the inevitable just as she saw the owl girl running up to her.

“Fauna! Fauna!” she carried a pile of flowers in her arms, “I’m sorry I’m so late.”

“It’s fine, Mumei.” She reassured her through her pants. “What do you have there?”

The guardian looked disappointed at the mass of flowers overflowing her cradled arms. “Oh… I just wanted to give you the prettiest flowers I can find… but I only found these.” She offered them to Fauna who wholeheartedly accepted them. “I just wanted to give you a gift like the one you first gave me.”

Even in her broken state, Mumei still somehow found a way to melt Fauna’s heart.

“It’s still beautiful Mumei, just like you. Thanks.”

She gestured for the smaller girl to sit right next to her, Mumei immediately slumping her head by Fauna’s shoulder. Placing the flowers by their laps, she wrapped her arms around Mumei and Mumei wrapped hers around Fauna. It was a tender embrace, somber but loving. Fingers interlocked as they cherished their last moments together. Melancholy washed over them but Fauna did her best to keep herself together. By now she should have been a wreck, but knowing Kronii will be there for Mumei when she’s gone fills her with some hope.

Mumei whispered. “I don’t want to say goodbye.”

Fauna tightened her hold, “This isn’t a goodbye. I’m just going away for a while. I’ll see you again someday, I promise.”

“So why does it feel so sad?”

Fauna planted a small kiss by the side of her head to console her. Seeing Mumei like this broke her heart, but she had to stay strong.

“Hey, keep your chin up! This garden will have plenty of fruits growing all the time and many animals to keep you company. And if you want to go outside again, I’m sure you will make many more great adventures while I’m gone. It’s up to you.”

“What do you want to me to do?” Mumei asked.

“I just want you to be happy.”

Mumei weakly nodded. Her eyes still off in the distance.

“Actually…” Fauna continued, with all of the optimism she still had left, “I have an idea. How about, when I wake up. You tell me everything that you put into your journals starting from when I left.”

“You want to see my journals?”

“Of course I do! Mumei, your drawings are some of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. The things you write in your journal are so funny and lively. It would be an honor to hear what has happened in your life. Then I will feel like I’ve never really left.”

Mumei nodded but tears started to fall from her eyes, Before Fauna could inquire, she was pulled into a deeper hug by Mumei. She could feel her tears falling down her shoulder as she gripped her onto her tightly.

“I’m sorry.”

“What are you sorry for?”

“I’m sorry for doing this to you.”

The realization hit Fauna, Mumei knew all along.

“No, Mumei, no. This isn’t your fault.”

“Of course it is!” Mumei raised her voice, “I’m civilization, right!? Civilization destroys to expand! I know that. The people I’m supposed to be guarding are the ones hurting you! I couldn’t protect you and… and…”

“Mumei, listen to me.”

She cupped the sides of her head with both of her hands. In Fauna’s hands, Mumei looked so small, so delicate. Yet her wet eyes told so much more. Dark yellow irises that have seen so much already. She might be naïve at times, but she is knowledgeable enough to know what humans are capable of.

Fauna spoke assuredly,

“You are beautiful Mumei. Don’t you ever forget that. Just because there are evil humans does not make you evil. We are given this duty, but that doesn’t make us who we are, okay?”

Mumei sniveled and nodded. Fauna brought her head down so that their foreheads met. Closing her eyes, she said.

“I understand if you are scared of humanity. If so, you can stay in my domain for as long as you want. But if you go out there, I hope you can find some beauty out there in all of the madness.”

Mumei held her back, her tears overflowing at this point. Fauna shed a single tear as well, but a blissful smile on her face.

“I will…” Mumei choked out, “I will! I’ll show you all of the great things about civilization when you come back!”

Fauna laughed softly, “I would like that very much.”

Staying in that embrace, Fauna made sure to savor this. Her time was coming soon. She needed to go.

“I’m…” Mumei said in a pitiful voice, “I’m scared I will forget you.”

Fauna only smiled in response, “Even if you forgot everything about me, I’ll still love you all the same.”

That struck a chord within Mumei. For years, she had travelled the world on her own. Living as a nomad who had to scrape to survive. Then one day she found out she had some sort of grand purpose all this time. Fauna let her into her home and took care of her. She listened to all of her ramblings and showed her spectacles no mortal will ever see. All while asking for nothing in return. She truly felt grateful but there was something else she was feeling. Something that she never quite pinned down until this moment.

“I love you too Fauna.”

“That makes me so happy.” Her voice getting shaky. A single streaming down her cheeks. “You are the best thing that’s ever happened to me, Mumei.”

Fauna got up. It was time. She limped over to the entrance of the cave. One last reassuring look back to the girl.

Even though Fauna had to leave Mumei alone now, at least now she was assured that someone will come to take her place.

‘Kronii. I’m trusting her with you now.’

That was the last Mumei saw of her. Her smiling back at her, the same smile that Fauna always wore, before the entrance of the cave abruptly closed behind her.

“Goodbye, Fau… No.” Mumei weakly said, “See you next time, Fauna.”

 


 

 

Mumei strolled through the lush forests of Fauna’s domain. Multiple animals that she has grown familiar with line her path. She knew they were there to aid with anything she needed, but now they were bidding her farewell. She passed through the fields they used to play around, the tables where they had dinner and the gentle clearings they had conversations in. She even made a slight detour to see the workbench Fauna frequented. Remembering the times Fauna should her process of creating new life and the awe she felt every time she saw it. She made sure to take in those places one last time, reminiscing because she knows that once she steps out of this place. Those fond memories will fade away.

Still, she needed to leave. She promised Fauna that she would show her the beauty of humanity when she got back.

She stood by the exit of the garden, a cave passage that will lead her back to the outside world. But a wave of hesitation passed by her at that moment. She knows how weak she is. She could bleed. She could get hurt. She could die. What happens to civilization after that she has no idea but she figures they’re probably screwed. Fauna’s offer to stay in the garden tempted her.

“Oh Fauna.” Mumei talked to herself. “What do I do?”

‘I just want you to be happy.’ Fauna’s words echoed through her mind.

She thought about that. What did make her happy? Going through her limited memory, she remembered times with Fauna but she was gone right now. A lot of memories are already long gone. But then she remembered Kronii and their adventure together. Did she feel happy at that point? Yes, she thinks. Will Kronii be there with her? She doesn’t know. But for the chance to even get that feeling back. She needed to go outside. She doesn’t think she’ll be very happy here all alone.

With a deep breath, she stepped back into the outside world.

 


 

Kronii sat at the clockwork throne. It’s cold sting on skin a familiar feeling to her sadly. She sat with a projection in front of her, showing the last place Fauna and her met. The ground having a noticeable scar that denoted where the entrance to her domain was. Eagerly waiting for Mumei to come out. If she does. Even still, it was now her new duty to keep watch over her, warden of time be damned.

Though she did consider something. If Mumei stayed in Fauna’s domain and Kronii joined her. Both of them would not be doing their job. Surely then Omega would surely take note and come for the both of them. To be safe, she’ll just accompany her if she does choose to go outside. If not, then she would just keep watch for them until they eventually come looking.

‘Why the hell are you so scared.’ She berated herself. ‘We’re going to end up fighting them one way or another.’

That thought filled her with both trepidation but also anticipation. There was a part nagging her that there was no way she would win against Omega. If she lost once, she would lose again and this is pointless. But another part of her longed at another go against Omega. This was what she has been waiting for. Her pride never recovered from the damage left by their last confrontation. Her stubbornness told her that she could do it. Call it foolishness, but she would rather call it being self assured.

Before she could debate with herself any longer, the scar opened revealing the guardian coming out of the garden. Immediate joy filled Kronii upon seeing her again. But more than that, it was joy of seeing a new life in front of her.

One last gaze around the clocktower she begrudged called home. She was grown tired of these walls.  No more breathing in of the stale air. No more menial housework. No more being confined to keep watch of a worn timeline she cares nothing about. She was going outside and be with Mumei to protect her. That was what she promised Fauna. That was what she was going to do. It was the least she could do for her.

A feeling of excitement filled her and she hasn’t even left yet. It was cathartic. She knew what she was doing defied the gods, and honestly she liked that. If it was part of the gods plan for her to be locked up in a tower, then she didn’t want any part of it. Even if that meant having to fight against Omega. She wasn’t going to be a prisoner any longer.

If she had to fight for her happiness, then so be it.

With one last resolute declaration, she vanished from her tower and left for earth.

 

 

Mumei looked around her surroundings. A lush forest in the middle of nowhere. She has no idea where she is. But she’s sure she’ll figure out somewhere to go to. She always does. Suddenly, a bright blue light and shone behind. Without even turning around, she already knew who it was.

“Oh hey Kronii.”

“Hey Mumei.”

“What are you doing here?” She turned back to face her, a sense of relief coming back to on seeing a familiar face.

“I want to accompany you.”

“Did Fauna ask for you to come with me?” She asked.

“What, no…” Mumei squinted at her, and Kronii sighed, seeing as her bluff failed. “Okay yeah, Fauna asked me to come with you.”

“Oh Kronii.” Mumei said incredulously, “You don’t have to come with me you know. I can handle myself out there.”

“Really?” Kronii side-eyed her. “Last time I checked you nearly got imprisoned for stealing a few berries.”

“I could have gotten out of there just fine, I’ll let you know.”

“Sureeee.” She dragged out her words in sarcasm. “Whatever you say, Mumei.”

“Don’t you have important duties as the warden of time to do?”

“Well you know…” She answered. “I much rather be here than in there.”

“Wow! Did you miss me that much?”

“What!? No!” that flustered Kronii a little bit, a slight blush on cheeks. “I just… like it here, that’s all.”

Mumei kept up with that same curious tone. “Is it that boring in there?”

“Yeah… kinda. Doing the same thing over and over again. It gets tiresome, you know.”

“Hmmm. Not really.” Mumei answered cheerfully, “Everyday, I try to do something new.”

“And that’s precisely why I want to join you.”

“Are you sure about this, Kronii?” Mumei asked her gently.

Kronii took a deep breath. To abandon her post as warden of time to accompany Mumei in her adventures across the world? It was the most irresponsible thing she could do. But also the most fun thing she could do. Besides, she had a promise to keep.

“If I don’t come with you, you’ll probably land yourself into trouble again.” Kronii said confidently, “At least I can be there to get us out.”

The soft laugh Mumei responded to her with assured her that this was the right choice.

“Well, let’s get going already. The world’s a large place after all.”

Mumei raised her arms to block her gain. “Wait, you know you can’t go looking like that.”

“Why, because I look way too good?”

“Why yes, you look truly beautiful.”

The blush returned but Kronii managed to keep her cool. “I knooow. But you’re right, it’s a little much.”

With the snap of her fingers, she flashed with a blue light, When she emerged, she wore the same attire similar to Mumei that she wore last time. With a modest attire with a big dark blue that nearly covered her entire body. The last traces of her warden of time being her gloves, boots and the signature ribbon straddled on top of her chest. Like this, anyone could tell that these two came together. Mumei couldn’t help but smile slyly.

“I thought you didn’t like that outfit?”

“I mean, I look good in anything.” Her confidence persisting, “But I admit this outfit is starting to grow on me.”

Mumei simply shook her head playfully. “Should we get going?”

The former warden gestured infront of them, “You lead the way.”

“Oh I have no idea where we are.”

“Neither do I, but I guess that’s what makes it an adventure right?”

“Yeah, you’re right.” Mumei rubbed her chin a little while she scanned their environment before resolutely pointing to nowhere in particular. “Lets just keep going in that direction until we run into something.”

Kronii shrugged her shoulders, “I mean that’s one way to do it.”

They walked forward a few steps before Mumei stopped in her tracks, changing direction to her left. “Hmmm. Actually maybe that direction.”

Then she kept walking and turned around again. “No… no… ok that direction final answer.”

Watching this, Kronii can’t help but think.

Oh no, this is my life now.’