*~Secrets in Carmine~*

            “What am I ever going to do about the two..?”  Elixer muttered helplessly to himself as he stood in the hallway outside of his room, hand raised and half-turning the door knob.  The thought gave him pause as it continued to cross his mind each and every day, with greater and greater frequency… as well as urgency.  The two simply refused to work together over joint ‘ownership’ of the necromancer.  There was just no solution that presented itself to the Devic and Serath Problem, as he came to refer to it as.  Not for the first time, and definitely not the last, Elixer would just sigh and push it out of thought for the moment.  No point worrying about it now.  Even though it was one the more pressing issues, there were far more significant matters that required his attention.  Vortex, for starters, as well as the continued threat of whatever that was inside him breaking loose continued to take up his energies.  Far more pressing matters, indeed.  With that thought on his mind, he would turn the knob completely and gently push the door open, not prepared for what was awaiting him inside.

            “… Iro?” he asked questioningly, looking around the dimly lit room.  As far as the amenities offered went, it was pretty bare.  The door opened into a short landing on the left-hand side of the room, while two bunks were headed against the right-hand wall. There was a nightstand for only one of them, Elixer’s own, while a make shift pillow bed laid next to said piece of furniture.  Against the further side of the room was a desk cluttered with materials and writings, while a nearby shelf was similarly burdened.  On the wall closest to him, obscured by the angle at which the door opened, was where the dressed was housed.  Even though all his furnishings were present, it took him a moment to realize what was amiss.  There was no sign of his bovine daughter anywhere, until he looked in the corner obscured by the door.  She was silently pressed into the corner, staring distrustfully at something on his bed.  Iro was basically glowering at it, her indigo eyes narrowed as she let out some intimidating snorts.  “… Iro, it’s nothing.  Just an… overly frilly pink torn present box…

            “… Yeah. That’s not normal.”  The necromancer was observing at in an almost clinical matter, even raising a hand to cup his chin while the elbow rested on the palm of his other hand.  It certainly had to be a mistake.  After all, who in their right mind would send him such a present?  And an already open one at that.  Elixer could only turn to look at Iro with an expression of blankness, before he coughed into his fist.  “… Did you happen to see who it was, Iro?”

            “… Moo,” she grunted, raising a slightly trembling hand at something that somehow evaded his notice earlier.  There was a single teddy bear sitting on his nightstand, slumped over with a pitiful smile on its face, painfully sown on with the callous needle of the creator, uncaring and unfeeling.  The toy could only forlornly stare at the gift box that housed him during his exile to such a barren prison.  A prison with an overly protective jailor with the warden’s safety her utmost concern.

            “Haha…” he forced himself to laugh, not really feeling it in him to correct Iro.  Who knows?  Maybe the plushy was the culprit, since nothing in the Forest played by the rules that were written as law for other worlds.  Sure enough, once he turned back from patting Iro on the head, something was different.  Instead of having its head tilted towards the nightstand, it seemed to be looking at him now.  It had to have moved… surely.  Nothing else could explain what had happened, since there was nobody else to have brought about the change.  Sure enough, after staring at him for what seemed to be an inordinately long amount of time, the stuffed animal would smoothly stand before offering him a bow.  This only elicited an angry snort from Iro who protectively slid in front of her father.  At least, she would have if only she noticed sooner that Elixer somehow managed to get to the bedside, standing in front of the animate doll.

            “Who are you, and who sent you for that matter?” he said coldly,             already palming the pommel of his dagger.  Despite his laid-back composure, he was tensed and ready to dodge in case the “gift” proved itself to actually be hostile.

            “I am Deeks,” the toy bear replied with a slight sideways tilt of the head.  It seemed to be analyzing him, though the lightless, black plastic eyes did not move at all.  “There is no reason for you to be nervous.  I am also trying to understand why I am here.”

            “… Right.  Care to explain how you got in my room, then?  It can only be opened by people I allow.”  Despite Deeks advice for him to relax, it only caused him to actually clench the grip in his hand.  Being told to let down his guard only suggested that he should be doing the opposite.

             “Is it not obvious then?  Someone you allowed brought me in here.  Now, excuse me as I try to get back to where I belong.”  With that, Deeks deftly jumped off the bed and calmly walked his way.  Elixer managed to catch what appeared to be a price tag attached to his left foot.  He made out what seemed to be the store name: Sepia’s Pet Shop.

            “… I’ll have to have a talk with Kikari later…” he mutters to himself as a mental note, before laying back across his bed, the teddy bear’s temporary home right next to him.  He just covered his eyes with an arm, before he felt two warm somethings press against his arm.

            “…Moo?” Iro asked tentatively, noting his somewhat frustrated demeanor.  Even though it really should not have had much importance, the identity of whoever gave him the gift troubled him.  Out of the small pool of people that had access to his living quarters, aside from Iro, only three potential candidates came to mind: Devic, Nyka, and Serath.  Only the latter two seemed plausible, since there was no way Devic would be caught dead buying something like this.  True, that explanation would extend to maybe Serath, but he just had some sort of feeling.

            Resolving to pursue the tentative guess, he moved his arm away from his face and promptly got a face-full of Iro’s bust.  Elixer spluttered, gently pushing Iro out of the way as he felt his face get warm.  “… Iro!” he scolded gently, hurriedly sitting up before giving her a quick hug.  “How many times have I told you not to do that?”

            “…Moo,” she answered sullenly, frowning slightly as she detected the slight hint of anger.  Iro slumped over, sulking over what in her mind was just her trying to help.  She did not see anything wrong with what she did.  After all, she was just getting a closer look at his face to make sure Elixer was alright.

            He sighed, wordlessly giving her a pat on the head to show he was not angry at her.  “Just… be good until I return.”  He stood up, pulling the hood of his cloak up over his head as he went to seek out Serath.  He closed the door, back turned to the room interior causing him to miss Iro’s jealous glare as she sadly stared at the floor.


“… Moo,” she answered obediently, when patted.  “…Moo,” she answered obediently, when he gave her the command.  “…Moo,” she answered obediently, as she saw him leave once more.  “Moo,” she answered obediently once more her eyes following his retreating form until it was hidden behind the door.  She would wait for him to return, only to leave here all alone again, once more.


            Panting slightly for breath, Elixer had to pause to wipe the sweat from his brow as he leaned back against a tree trunk, sliding down it as he sank into a sitting position.  His unkempt black hair was matted to his forehead, the sweat causing it to clump into strands.  The muggy air only served to make it worse, the moisture clinging to his cloak and making the general heat that much more oppressive.  The several hour walk through unchanging greenery was probably a pretty stupid idea, considering that he had no idea where he was going.  All Elixer knew was that he was looking for Serath, but starting in a random patch of forest was a stupid idea.  Still, it had the benefit of letting him be alone with his thoughts, something that was uncharacteristically welcomed.  It only served to strengthen the conviction that maybe, just maybe, it really had been from Serath.  Were there not times where she had done things that were more than what just a friend, no matter how strong the bond was, would have done?

            ‘I… really should get going… again…’ the tired man thought tiredly to himself, the constant heat and gentle buzzing of the wildlife around him serving to drag him into sleep.  ‘… Just… after this nap… then…’  The last thing he would remember before gentle blackness overtook him was the sensation of leaning back and feeling his head rest against the solid wooden trunk.

            Elixer woke up to the sensation of firm, yet gentle hands shaking him on the shoulders.  There was no undue roughness in the action, so he probably was not in any undue danger.  “Wake up, necromancer,” a voice, presumably from his waker judging by where the sound came from, trailed into his ears.  He knew that voice, he thought as a wave of excitement crashed over him.  It was exactly who he was looking for… Serath.  With that, he opened his eyes, the crimson tinted lenses looking right into Serath’s own.

            “I’m awake…”  Elixer grumbled, annoyedly noting the time of day.  It seemed to be late evening, the sky reddening as the sun began to set.  So much for just a quick nap- he must have been asleep for hours, at least!

            “Slept like those you command,” the demoness smirked, revealing her pointed shark-like teeth.

            “… I was looking for you,” he could only mutter defensively, as if it was some kind of excuse for his behavior.  It really was stupid, considering how much it must have worried his friends.  Even though Vortex was targeting Devic, he would have no qualms with collecting Elixer’s head while it lay resting on a silver platter.

            “Don’t put the blame on me!” Serath retorted, straightening up and dusting herself off of some forest detritus that managed to clings its way onto her clothes.  She held out a hand for Elixer to help himself up with.

            He did as he was offered, similarly dusting himself off as he continued to gaze into Serath’s eyes.  It must have been a more intense gaze than usual, since it actually caused her to shift with some sort of… embarrassment?  “… What were you even looking for me for?” the demoness asked, using the question as an excuse to look out over towards the forest.  Elixer picked up some slight ticks of nervousness, but it just as well could have been his own imagination making him see false details.

            “I have questions.  And you better have answers,” he said bluntly, not really caring if his gaze was making her uncomfortable.

            “… what about?”  She regained her composure, looking back at him levelly, neither of them blinking.

            “A package I found in my room.”

            “… And?  What does that have to do with me?”  She seemed to be a slight bit louder than usual, as if she was forcing herself to keep up the front.  Checkmate.

            “The bear.  It was from you, wasn’t it?”

            “… Cut that shit out,” she said flatly, causing him to be taken aback a bit.  Maybe he had guessed wrongly.  “Ask yourself why the hell I would give you something as utterly and completely stupid as that.”  He paused with an expression of dumb surprise, before Elixer tried to stammer an apology.  This only caused Serath to raise a hand in a gesture of silence, cutting off his train wreck of words.  When she next spoke, it was unusually subdued, almost as if she was grudgingly admitting something she would rather not.  “…Did you think why?  Why I would give you a gift like that?”

            And this was the confusing part.  The necromancer really had no clue as to why someone like Serath would get him a gift, something so… He was not quite sure how to finish off his thought.  Gentle?  Tender? …Intimate, even.  It bewildered him, only leaving one option for him.  He shook his head mutely.

            Serath had an expression of hurt, her own pair of red lensed eyes surprisingly gentle, for once.  “Do I really have to spell it out for you, idiot? It’s because I love you, Elixer,” she said in a quiet whisper, turning her back to him.  “I love you.  I can’t hold these feelings inside me, anymore.  Being with you in battle, or on our journeys together… it isn’t enough.  I don’t want to be just friends, travel companions, anymore.  I want more.”

            Good thing Serath’s back was to him, else she would have seen his gracelessly shocked face, struck dumb by the sudden confession.  Finding the present, ruined by its own contents, was surprise enough for him.  Now this… this was just going beyond.  It had to be some sort of joke, or prank, or something.  It had to be.

            “… Elixer?” Her voice was pained as she tentatively called his name.  She half-turned, looking sideways at him as tears slowly made their way down her cheeks.  “I… I understand if you don’t feel the same…” she closed her eyes, regaining her voice lest she let a hoarse croak.  Swallowing first, to steel herself, Serath continued on.  “… You already have Devic, and… and it might not really be my place… my place to put this other burden on you.”

            He sighed, not really knowing what to say.  His fists were clenched, as he angrily gritted his teeth, looking down at the ground.  Black hair served as a veil, hiding his face from view.  “Shut up.”


            “Shut up,” he growled, trembling slightly.  He looked up, looking more annoyed than anything else.  At her.  “Shut up,” he repeated, his shoulders shaking slightly with the weight of his emotions.

            Serath could only steel herself, waiting for his inevitable condemnation of her feelings.  To her surprise, this was not the case.  “… Why didn’t you tell me sooner?” Elixer’s voice cut through the scared voices in her mind.  She was able to find her voice again.

            “I… I didn’t…”

            “Damnit, Serath,” he sighed, the anger dissipating.  It was then that she realized the anger was not at her.  It was directed at himself, anger for not noticing her feelings for him sooner.  “I…” he took a deep breath.  Nothing could have prepared for him the words he was about to utter.  “I… I love you too, Serath.”

            It was her turn to be in shock, as her mind raced to comprehend what she was hearing.  Wordlessly, she stepped forward as she felt Elixer’s arms embrace her.  And in that moment, a wordless agreement passed between them.  To be forever by each other, to never part unless they were to part with their very lives… and maybe not even then.

            “That… that fucking bitch!” a green shadow cried to itself, from where it sat perched on a tree overhead.  Scars covered its body, but those held not even a candle to the hell he was enduring now.  Every word spoken between them, every longing gesture pierced into his heart with pain even Vortex’s claws could not inflict, no matter how hard he tried.  And it was this very pain, physically at least, that the shadow inflicted to the helpless figure in his claws.  Every stab to his heart, he replicated on the tattered remnants of a teddy bear.

            “I love you.”  Rip.

            “I love you.”  Tear.

            “I love you.” Maim.

            “I love you.” Rend.

            “… I love you.” Destroy.

            “… I love you, too, Elixer…”  And in the cold moonlight, the doll’s pained frown turned into a smile.