It was strange to say the least, seeing their Highlander without layers of thick clothing and armour. Instead, she had sky-blue coloured cloth wrapped around her torso, which exposed a lot of her stomach, and a long teal skirt with three navy-blue stripes along the edge that entirely revealed her left leg. On her upper arms, thighs, and attached to two ponytails at the back of her hair were symmetrically patterned metal tubes, and she had a couple of bells attached to metal hoops around her wrists and ankles. Even her thick brown locks were free from their usual thick plaits, cascading all the way down to her knees.
She stood completely still on the round stage, eyes closed and breaths controlled. Above were the three boxes in which the spectators sat, looking down at her from their perches. Chieftain Visil himself sat in the middle one, on a throne-like armchair, high-ranking members of the Radha to his left, and the guild Seekers to his right.
"I've seen her sing and dance before," Raquna suddenly admitted.
"What? When?!" Arthur exclaimed angrily.
"During our week camping in the Primitive Jungle. I woke up for my watch on the first night to this beautiful singing. And when I opened my eyes, a saw her dancing"
"Why didn't you tell us?" Ricky asked the older woman dejectedly.
"Shizuka wouldn't have liked it if I did. Dare I say she was pretty embarrassed for having been caught!" Raquna explained to the younger blondes.
Simon pushed his glasses a little further up his nose, leaning forwards to look at her from across their row of seats. "And what was it like?"
The redhead grinned smugly, and tapped her nose. "Why don't you just wait and see, eh?"
As if on cue, the lighting dimmed, and the first sounds of bongos could be heard. The four members of guild Seekers leaned forwards to the edge of their seats, and all sounds of conversation ceased.
The normally quiet, stoic Highlander, Shizuka, started singing,
"Black as the night..."
To the beat, she framed her face with her hands, eyes snapping open, before opening her arms as trails of glittering azure light flowed from her fingertips--her life force.
"Is the path in sight,"
She turned sideways to the audience and thrust her hips out towards them several times, arms raised, accentuating the fast movements, and bells playing along to the rhythm.
"In the distance, the white throne abandoned,"
She fluidly undulated her torso, crossing her hands in front of her face, palms outwards, before revealing herself again, narrowed eyes framed by the streams of light. Her powerful voice filled the entire hall just as much as the amplified music.
"Then comes forth a blackened heart,
Who'll only damn us all...!"
She shimmied her hips as she walked backwards, spun and isolated her shoulders, the light following her movements and even pouring from her hair, before being reabsorbed into her body.
"By spinning a little white lie,
The sun, standing black in the sky,
Will soon meet its end...!"
She bent down, before quickly twirling her arms upwards as she stood straight again, the trails swirling. She isolated her ribcage, almost as if entirely detaching it from her spine, and rolled her exposed abdomen.
"Much like the start of the night,
You alone like the dark, kill the light...!"
She pirouetted, and the torches in the room went out. The only remaining source of light was Shizuka's life force, floating suspended around her at waist height, rippling like water.
"Bodies and souls of the dead,"
She threw her upper body backwards, arching her back and dipping into the pool of light. Her words seemed to bounce off the walls in the darkened theatre, echoing in the audience's minds.
"Bound by their blood, mirrored on the oceans ahead,"
She opened her arms to the heavens as she straightened. The light gathered into her hands, then stretched in between them, until it formed the shape of a glowing azure spear. She held it upwards for a moment, then slowly lowered the tip to the ground in front of her. When it touched the obscured floor, a single circle of light spread from the epicentre, like a gentle ripple on the surface of water.
"Rise with the traitorous tide,"
She violently spun, twirling the spear in her hands as the life force that had created it released itself from that form and spiralled around her, filling the entire stage with swirling, glittery azure light, with the woman in the centre.
"And in the end,"
The energy still twinkling in the air, Shizuka placed her right palm over her heart, glowing from the release of energy, and undulated her torso, left arm outstretched, fingers curling.
"You'll have nowhere to hide!"
She spun again, and reabsorbed all her life energy at once, leaving them in an almost palpable darkness, with only truculent tribal music as company.
The four members of her guild suddenly heard Visil groan harshly in pain on the other side of the partition. Alarmed, they stood up and ran out the door to assist the older man in whatever ailment was troubling him.
When they arrived beside the chieftain of the Radha, as Shizuka continued her spectacular performance, they heard Visil get dangerously close to screaming in pain. He had a white-knuckled, iron grip on his armrests, and his entire body spasmed as in agony.
"Lord Visil!" exclaimed Subaltern Quinn when he and the other Radha members entered the box. He turned to face Simon, face pale. "What's wrong with him?"
"I don't know," answered the medic. "But we have to get him to where I can treat--"
"That won't be necessary," interrupted a deep voice. They turned to see Visil slowly pushing himself up from the chair, as if nothing had occurred, and continue to watch the dance.
"Black as the night," Shizuka sang aloofly.
"Or bathed in white?
The choice falls to you and you only,
Look towards the sun, our chosen one,
Who'll doom or save us all...!"
He frowned lightly, then briskly turned to leave. Simon stepped between him and the door, arms apart, his own brows lowered.
"Forgive me, but I cannot allow you to even be walking in your condition," stated the man, stern even in his defiance of authority.
"Get out of my way," Visil growled. When the order was not obeyed, he roughly pushed the medic aside and left, slamming the door behind him. A pregnant silence stretched between the guild and Radha members, the music seemingly muffled in the distance.
"What was that all about?" Frederica whispered, but received no answer, as the performance that had grown dark finally came to a close.
. . .
The next day, the members of Seekers learnt from Raquna that the Highlander had not sung anything like that before. Her previous song had been soft, peaceful, and even elegant. The one they had experienced had been harsh and aggressive, the words leaving a portentous feeling in their wake.
Shizuka kept her silence on the matter.
The next day, after defeating the guardian bird Iwaoropenelep, Seekers came to find that Visil had disappeared into the Yggdrasil Labyrinth.
. . .
Deep down in the earth, in remnants of a past era, a man, whose eyes glowed crimson, could not banish the echoing words from his thoughts.
"And in the end, you'll have nowhere to hide!"