The Day Before The Mission
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A One-Shot of the events that took place before "The Half Moon Personified", which is in Red Curtain.
I sat alone, up on my usual branch in the usual oak tree that overlooked the street and playground. With my keen eyes, I saw everything that happened below. The kids in my class were in groups of two or more, talking or play fighting or reading magazines. On the street, two little cubs (Demons under the age of four years) played with their babysitter. Their mother had left on an errand; I'd seen her leave a few moments ago. “Hey, Caroline!” I looked down to see six of my classmates looking up at me: Brian, Max, Nick, Sharon, Zach, and Adam. “What d'ya want?” I called down. “We're gonna cause some trouble again,” Zach said, “Wanna come?” “I ain't got nothing better to do,” I said, shrugging my shoulders, “Count me in.” I leapt out of the tree and followed the others as they snuck into the school. Looking quickly around, Max unlocked the door to the janitor's room and came out with five cans of paint, each a different color. “I told the janitor we'd take all the blame if he helped us,” Max explained when he saw my questioning look, “So don't worry about it Kay.” “It's Caroline, you mouse-brained dummy,” I said, playfully socking his arm. “Let's go,” Adam said, “Before someone sees us.” We ran upstairs and went into the second floor auditorium. Max showed me a picture of the principal, Mr. Faroun, sticking his tongue out and saying, “Me no speak good.” “We're painting this on the wall,” Max snickered, “We'll be regular heroes!” “Or regular deadmen,” I said, rolling my eyes, “Let's get started.”
Sharon and Zach had already assumed their Demon Angelic forms, and were flying a few feet off the ground. The rest of us followed suit, and soon we were flying around painting our “masterpiece” on the wall of the auditorium. In about fifteen minutes we were done; Mr. Faroun's butt-ugly face was even more hideous as it looked down on the auditorium. “The likeness is uncanny,” I snickered. We laughed for awhile, then rushed to get out of the auditorium. We'd just finished putting the paints away when the janitor showed up. “You'd better not sell me out, Max,” he warned before taking his keys back. “Hey, no worries,” Max said, “I won't sell you out, old guy.” The janitor nodded and went back to his daily duties. “I'm so gonna sell him out,” Max snickered, “That guy is so gullible!” “But you gave him your word,” I said, confused. “I didn't exactly say `I promise', Kay.” If he betrays the trust of an older person, he might end up doing the same to me, I thought, sadness sitting like ice in my stomach. “Listen, I gotta go, okay?” “See ya later, Kay.” I didn't respond as I turned and left. My next class was the Arts; perhaps that would take my mind off of things for a while. I sighed and shook my head; would I ever find someone I could trust? In art, the only thing I could come up with was a picture of myself walking away from an unknown girl. In the middle of the picture where the words, “Forgive me, but we may never meet again.” I drew tears on both girls to emphasize grief and loss. “Very moving,” the art teacher said, “Excellent job on their faces, especially.”
After school I went to my mother's grave to pray and ask for her guidance in the Guardian Exams this week. I always came here, at least once a day, sometimes more. I came to pray, to ask for help, or to simply sit by her grave for a while. In the presence of those who lost their lives, I always feel comforted and calm. It's not Goth, psycho, or Emo; it's just the way I am. With my ability to speak to spirits, I believe that I am truly strong and truly brave. Say what you will, but there are times when the only beings I trust are animals and spirits. Mother, I thought, you were wise and kind. Help me as I face the Guardians Exams this week. It was Monday; the Guardian Exams would start on Wednesday and end on Sunday. Five days for four different tests. I'm embarrassed to admit it, but… well, I was scared. I didn't know what would happen in the Exams, and it felt like I was headed into danger without any chance of coming back alive. With my promise to kill Rantu'ono still good, I had to survive no matter what. But it wasn't the surviving I was scared of. For the first time in my life, I was terrified of how much pain I would have to endure in order to survive. I'd experienced pain thousands of times before, but the description the Elders were giving about the last Guardian Exams was a little… unnerving, to put it lightly. Their tales might have deferred, since the last Guardian Exam was held about five hundred years ago, but they pretty much agreed that the last Exam killed all but fifteen of the participants. And the last participants were adults who were at least twenty-one years old. The Ninth Year class was always eleven-to-thirteen year olds.
I sighed and stood up reluctantly; it was getting dark, and I would have to trust my mother's love would help me. After all, it was that love that had let me live when I'd tried to fight Rantu'ono myself. I was only four then, and I sometimes wonder if my interference was the cause of my mother's death. As I walked along the dirt path that led to the village, I thought about how gentle and forgiving life had been before Rantu'ono's betrayal. It wasn't his entire fault that I had become the way I was now, but most of it happened because of his decision to betray us. Though, I reflected, is it really right for me to blame him for everything? He only did what he thought was best. I stopped, shocked and terrified that I had thought something so rebellious and idiotic. “No,” I growled firmly, “Rantu'ono is a murderous traitor who must be killed at all costs. I will not even begin to pity that bastard!” To make sure I never broke my promise, I instead placed my hand against the trunk of a tree and gave it three hard punches, snapping the bones and forcing myself to focus on the pain. No pity. *snap* No mercy. *snap* No broken promises. *snap* The torturous moment over, I relished in the seething pain, forcing myself to understand that this pain would attack my entire body if I showed mercy on the day I killed Rantu'ono. This may be seen as Emo, and I won't deny that at any other time my actions would be the same, but it was my way of training and forcing myself to stay in that hardened, battle-ready state that I must always maintain. I wrapped my hand in medical tape and continued on towards the village. Sweat from the immense pain I felt drenched my hair and back, making the walk home very uncomfortable in the sticky heat. The sunset was gold and beautiful, and I allowed my pain to be soothed by the feeling that somehow things would look up tomorrow…
“You're a soldier now,
Fighting in battle.
To be free once more,
Yah, that's worth fighting for!”
(Spirit: Stallion of the Cimmeron)
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