Chapter 46: Quieter Than Wind

Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 1172


Lance looked up at the expansion of black. It was calming, seeing all those stars decorating the sky. They reminded him of city lights.

The quiet rush of cars and traffic floated up as Lance looked ahead. Zidane and Zooka were close by, bodies pointed in opposite directions and heads beside one another, the flat landscape of the rooftop allowing them to lie down and look up at the night sky. Lance wasn't surprised by the fact both of them were there; if anything, he was softly comforted by it. The buzz of the traffic below them suddenly vanished, the sound fading like a tide moving pulling back from the shore.

"You're not an alien, right?"

"No, Zoo." The smile in Zidane's voice was unavoidable. "I'm not an alien."

"Good." Zooka's head rested against Zidane's, her stare still on the sky. "It'd be weird if you had extra fingers."

Zidane let out a single, quiet laugh. "My tail doesn't count?"

"I like your tail." Zooka reached up, Zidane's tail rising to be held. "It's soft."

Zidane's eyes shined even against the darkness.


Lance noticed a smile of his own on his face, not bothering to cover it up. He had seen too much, experienced too much, to ignore the relief.

Zooka turned her head a little bit, enough to see Zidane's eyes out of the corner of her own. "Where'd you come from, then?"

"Um..." Zidane thought hard. "Really, really far underground."

"Oh." A moment later, she spoke again. "Why?"

"It's better that way," Zidane replied after a brief pause of his own. "It's safer."

"Can I go there?"

Zidane shook his head and Lance could tell the gesture was painful for him.

"Not right now." His mouth opened again, then closed, whatever words he wanted to add remaining unspoken.

The silence traveled into seconds and then, quietly, Zidane spoke again.

"There's parts of it you'd like," he said. "There's animals you've never seen and foods you've never tried. The sky's different, too."

Lance felt the smile on Zooka's face. "I like our sky."

"I like our sky, too."

Lance felt drawn to look back up again. He ignored it, staying focused in front of him, taking in the light feeling the moment brought. Everything seemed weightless, the city perfectly balanced between a sky of black and the glow of lights below.

Zidane sat up, his tail pulling away from Zooka's grasp. He turned around, a crinkle in his eye as he smiled at Lance.

"This memory doesn't count. Personal side-note."

"Yeah, that's fair," Lance said with light sarcasm. He grinned, the memory's atmosphere drawing him to his surroundings again. "I can see why you picked it, though."

"It's one of those moments I've always cherished." Zidane turned, looking over the city. "Everything was on pause for a while. There wasn't anyone else up here; no one I had to hide from..."

Keep your guard up for, Lance added.

"Yeah." The thought must have been loud enough for the crossbreed to hear it. Lance felt the smile come onto Zidane's face as he spoke again. "Maybe that's why I'm so willing to go through everything else that's happened in my life. I know moments like these are coming up."

Another emotion came; a light feeling that Lance could only describe as bliss. His attention came back to him, stare moving up to see Zidane had turned back to face him.

Pale blue eyes fell to the ground in response, their color slowly draining as he spoke. "So, if it's alright with you I'm going to skip ahead a little bit. It's just—the memories I have after this are fairly personal. Zooka, she taught me a lot... about a lot of things." A small, tremble traveled up his stomach, but the emotion spilled over into a grin. "She still does."

Lance managed to nod, trying his best to detangle a knot in his stomach. He fought back the feeling of discomfort, listening as Zidane continued on, his voice leveling out into a casual seriousness.

"Since the orphanage closed down, Kazuo didn't have any work. Any savings he had went to keeping the kids healthy and happy, so when it shut down we were living off money from his friends and those that worked in the orphanage before. He'd get these checks in the mail, but eventually they stopped coming. I did what I could to help, but there wasn't a lot because I wasn't thieving anymore."

Lance thought back to the memory with the necklace, and Zidane smiled at his surprise.

"So you were completely done?" Lance asked. "How'd you get out of it?"

"Oh, I was definitely still in. We didn't travel outside much, but during the times that we did, I guess someone recognized me and told Arzo I was back. He showed up, didn't ask any questions, and I went back to breaking into people's houses. I wasn't stealing, though. Not in the literal sense. Back then it was tough for me to clone anything; whatever I tried to duplicate wasn't good enough to pass for a total copy. So I had to spark the people I took the food from. Make them come up with another way to get more money, or give them an idea on how to take better care of their kids." He shrugged, eyes dimming a little. "It was a tradeoff, I guess."

Lance thought about Zooka. "Is that something she taught you?" he asked, finding himself unable to say her name directly.

Zidane nodded. "It's one of them. I still hated taking everything, though."

Quieting, Lance wondered if Zidane was still thieving at his current age. But he'd already asked that question, back when Arzo had first been introduced. He hadn't gotten an answer.

"So what do you do now?" 

"I clone," Zidane answered. "Make a copy of whatever I take, keep that copy active until it's been eaten or used up." He raised a hand, rubbing an eye with his palm. "It takes a lot of energy, but there are ways around it."

"So you never got out."

Zidane let his hand fall, and in the moment where his eyes turned black, his voice came to Lance's mind.

"I still have a reason for staying."

The scenery in front of him was swept away, a small kitchen taking its place. Lance sat at the head of the table, Zooka to his left and Zidane to his right. Across the table near the sink, scrubbing a dish with a small amount of soap, was Kazuo. Zooka got down from the table, taking her half-eaten plate with her. A few feet away from Kazuo, she stopped walking.


"Yes, Zooka?" Kazuo turned around, the plate he held dripping with water.

Zooka lifted her plate up to him. "You didn't eat anything."

The caregiver gave a weak smile before turning back. "I'm alright." He grabbed a nearby rag, drying the plate. "It's important for you to eat."

"But I saved some for you..."

"I'm alright, my dear."

Lance's focus was drawn to Zidane, who stared down at his plate, flattening the last piece of broccoli with his fork.

"So our living conditions weren't great," he told Lance. "This went on for a little while; we survived for another month until Kazuo sent us somewhere else." Steel blue eyes met his. "You've noticed that jacket I wear, right? You've seen the symbol on it?"

It took Lance a moment to retrace, pull himself out of everything Zidane and shown him and go back to his own memories. He remembered seeing a glimpse of the symbol, when Zidane rose from the cabin's couch and began walking towards the connected kitchen.

"Some kind of medical symbol, right?"

"Half right." The symbol Lance was trying to remember appeared in the air; the one with a rod and two snakes twisting around it, wings displayed proudly at the top. The symbol began shifting, morphing into something else. The rod was replaced with a slim rifle, the wings becoming larger and more frayed. Even still, they were presented proudly. Fiercely.

"MOCT. I told you a little bit about it. Back when you didn't trust me."

Lance barely matched his grin, feeling a little bit of guilt touch his stomach.

Zidane rubbed his hands together, continuing on. "So, basically it's a training system that takes every medical profession—doctors, nurses—and puts them under well-rounded combat training. And takes every profession that has to do with combat training, and puts them under medical training."

Lance leaned back in his chair, trying to figure out the point. "Creating the perfect soldier, right?" he asked, remembering.

"Yeah, exactly, creating a perfectly-balanced soldier. Someone they can pick up and say, 'Hey, you're doing surgery' and maybe a few days later use the same person and assign them to go to combat." Zidane waved a hand. "Supposedly it's a better war tactic. I don't ask too many questions."

"So how'd you get put in there?"

"Well, before Kazuo was a caregiver, he was a medic. He was one of the first people to test the system out. I'm not sure how deep he got into the combat side of it besides doing what he had to do for his training, but he's well-known enough to ask for some pretty big favors. We didn't have anywhere else to go, so he got us in a few months after this." He gestured to the table—the scene—around them. Lance looked to Zooka, more than a little concerned. His attention went back to Zidane. "You guys were what, ten?"

"Eleven," Zidane corrected with a grin. "And we didn't start the actual training until we were around fourteen. Everything before that was going through a general education program with a bit of an introduction into our fields."

"Can't really imagine her being there," Lance said, speaking a little more to himself as he looked to Zooka again.

"I know." With his elbows still on the table, Zidane pushed his hands through his hair; his ears were exposed for a moment, the odd shape of the rounded tear-drop point putting a twist in Lance's stomach. Zidane's hands passed and the hair fell back into place as he continued speaking.

"She instantly went to the medical field. Wasn't sure what she wanted to do but she knew she wanted to save lives instead of take them." He reached one hand out, and it was then Lance noticed there was a flower sitting in a vase. Oddly enough, the flower hadn't bloomed, its petals shut tightly into a small bud. The back of Zidane's finger brushed along the flower, his skin barely making contact before the petals windmilled out, exposing a soft-looking center that was surrounded by the large wings of petals.

Zidane's hand rested below, resting on the table. "I went into SWAT. My trainer introduced me to it, said I'd be a good match." He drew back his hand, straightening his slumped posture and looking down. He gave a weak shrug. "I was fine with it. All of it's just a convenient way to blend in. Pretty long training period, too, so it's a good way to kill time."

"What's after the training?"

A sad smile came to Zidane.

"That's something I'm still working on."

He faded away, both him and Zooka reappearing on opposite sides of the kitchen table. Zooka leaned forward, having to stand up in her chair for her fork to reach Zidane's plate. She stabbed into his eggs, earning a smile and a playful fight with forks. A sudden thud hit the window.

As the scene faded, voices came to Lance. Zooka, her's a light whine.

"It's gone, Kazuo... Can we fix it?"

Through the darkness, Lance saw silhouettes standing outside a tall apartment complex. The tallest figure shook its head.

"I'm afraid not, my dear."

The second-shortest figure looked up, Zidane's voice appeared out of a white mouth. "Can we bury it?"

The tallest figure nodded, placing a hand on Zidane's head. "That, we can do."

The street and its occupants faded, a small fully-colored yard coming into view. Lance walked forward, stopping a few feet away from the makeshift grave. Zidane stepped forward, placing the bird's limp body into the hole as Zooka turned in towards Kazuo's leg, sobbing into the denim.

"Death touches all of us differently," Zidane told Lance. "Kazuo told me that after the burial."

Lance nodded solemnly, watching the grave as he saw Kazuo turn to Zidane.

"Would you like to say a few words?"

The crossbreed simply shook his head, eyes dimming significantly. For a moment, the jawline, the nose, the eyelashes—everything reminded Lance of Kyrene. A sick twist wrung his stomach, and he swallowed it all down.

Kazuo bowed his head, leading the two in a Buddhist prayer. Lance found himself listening along, head bowing and eyes eventually closing.

"May Buddha take this life and transform it," Kazuo finished.

Lance's eyes opened, mind only seeing Kyrene's bloodied face. Her limp body. This wasn't fair...

Another memory came back to him. Zidane's voice, his words.

"Trust me when I say my life gets better. I need you to remember that, okay?"

When? Lance returned, the word almost slipping from his lips.

An energy began to drift into Lance's realm of feeling. A force that gently pulled his stare up, directed it at Zooka.

"It's always been her. She's my beacon of light, no matter what happens; no matter how dark it gets. She's the light that keep shining."

A tension curled Lance's stomach, but he did his best to ignore it. He just simply nodded, and the scene changed yet again.

He stood at the front of the house this time, turning around to see the door was wide open, the three standing at the entranceway. Kazuo looked especially sad, and Lance barely had to look in Zooka's direction to know she was softly crying.

Zidane stood beside both of them, eyes cast down to the porch beneath his feet. His sneakers shifted, baggy pants swaying at the holed knees, and his hands slipped into the pocket of his sky-blue hoodie.

Lance's stare shifted, going to Kazuo as he bent down, hugging Zooka. He saw Zidane's gaze flick to somewhere behind Lance, and upon turning the human noticed a black SUV pulled up to the curve, a man clad in sunglasses standing beside it.

Zidane was next to hug Kazuo, and the caregiver's voice drifted to Lance, amplified by the mind he was in.

"Never forget your strength."

Zidane's eyes dimmed, cheek pressed against Kazuo's shoulder. A blink, and Lance nearly expected tears to float to the surface of navy eyes.

They pulled apart, small hands dropping from weary shoulders, and with a muted groan, Kazuo stood once again.

"Take care of each other."

The children nodded, Zooka keeping her hand by her mouth. A mouth, Lance noticed, that was set in a shaking frown. His heart tore, and he muted a sigh from his nose, shifting his weight to one side. Nothing he could do, he told himself.

Zidane's foot stepped back, body and face turning towards the parked SUV. Lance turned with him, seeing the bodyguard in front of it shift a little, clearing his throat.

It was time to go.

Zidane looked up to Kazuo, and the caregiver only offered him a smile in return. Putting a hand on his hair affectionately.

"You'll do well," he said, already convinced of this fact. "You both will."

Zidane simply nodded, the motion slight, his eyes downcast.

Zidane and Zooka both stepped out, descending down the steps. In his older voice, Zidane spoke to Lance.

"Kazuo passed away a few years ago, when Zoo and I were about fifteen." Sadness edged his words, a choking grief that rode underneath his voice. They started down the walkway, and with a heavier emotion, Zidane added, "She's still taking it pretty hard."

At the thought of wanting to get nearer, Lance was moved past the steps and began walking towards them.

"Was it sudden?"

"Yeah, a little bit." Zidane's voice grew hoarse; he cleared his throat. Lance waited for him to continue on, but only the sounds of his and Zooka's footsteps came.

There's way too much pain...

Lance stopped walking. He looked away, feeling the air against his skin, trying to come up with any other thought besides that one. When he spoke, his words were quieter than wind; light, unable to truly be much use against anything.

"I'm sorry..."

Zidane and Zooka stood at the end of the walkway, their feet at the start of the sidewalk. The memory continued on. Lance was teleported to a better angle, standing off to the side of the car. He could see Zooka's face, the worry etching lines between her brows. She looked back, and though Kazuo gave a kind smile, Lance could see his worry as well. Zidane straightened his posture, glancing at her hand before he took it in his.

"It's okay."

Zooka's hand responded automatically; her five fingers taking hold of his as well. She looked to him, the worry barely fading from her face. Despite the blue in Zidane's eyes fading, and despite the slight smile on his face, he leaned over and reached out his other hand, wiping the lines between her brows with a thumb as though it were a smudge on her face. Zooka laughed, using one hand to cover her mouth. Zidane's eyes brightened, his hand giving hers a light, reassuring squeeze.

Submitted: December 04, 2019

© Copyright 2023 Meaghan Kalena. All rights reserved.


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