“Justin…” Renee turned her head away from him once more as she steadied herself on the ledge she sat on. “I see your wounds have already healed.”
The general snorted, “That damned demon, he believes he outsmarted me.”
Renee scoffed as she sneered at the image of Minako cradling his shoulders within her mind, “Apparently, he had a more precious reason for fighting.” She began to laugh, “That certainly gave him a false power, pretending to battle for her love. How ridiculous.”
The general clenched his fist, “He will lose that power very shortly. I will follow them and claim his life myself. Perhaps I’ll make him watch me kill her first, then his loss will be filled with suffering.”
Renee snorted and turned back to him, “Oh, and what makes you so certain of victory?”
The general turned his back to the priestess, a slow smirk crossed his lips as the wind rushed past his face. “He is pitiful, don’t you think?”
“His power is so small, he fought me with his fists. A cardinal demon who has no real worth, who refused to fight me with his powers.” The general scowled, “Clearly, he only beat me by chance. He wasn’t worth more than my own fists.”
Renee shut her eyes, “Worthless, huh? But he beat you?” Worthless… A blurred image of Minako’s crying, worried face crossed her mind. Her tears looked so sweet as he held her hands, smiled gently at her, held her close, kissed her face...
“But he isn’t sickening! I love him!”
To love someone worthless… it must be difficult. Yet, she cried out when I called him a creature, held him closely, apologized to him… These creatures don’t deserve apologies, especially worthless ones... But then… if he is worthless… What does that make me? After I worked so hard to get her back, Minako used coming to save me as a ruse to return to that worthless demon. She had chosen something worthless over me. Then, am I below worthlessness? What’s below worthlessness? Nothingness?
The general lowered his head slightly as he turned back to Renee. “You don’t care for him, do you? Rubbing his victory in my face...” He shook his head incredulously, “There are plenty of emerald demons you can live out young maiden fantasies with. To desire something worthless at first sight... How weak.”
“Why would you believe in idiocy like that?!” Renee snapped. At that moment, the feeling came back in her cheeks. For the first time since Minako had first appeared, she noticed the streams of tears pouring down them. They flowed from the mouth of the river at her eyes, then past the hill of her cheeks, down a waterfall to land on her skirt. It was a never-ending river of tears. She put her hand to her mouth. Why am I crying? For her? She’s dead to me!
“Or is it…” the general paused and smirked, “That you do not really hate Pandora of the Sapphires?”
“SHUT UP!!!!” Renee’s hand was a rod, it gave only one blow, but a very powerful one. Her tears stopped abruptly as she gave the general an icy stare.
He returned her gaze intensely, but said nothing.
Renee clenched her eyes shut and leapt from the ledge. She landed on her feet and then ran quickly toward the nearest entry into the endless winding corridors of the palace. It was as though a sea of fire stood behind her--there was no reason to turn back.
The general smirked, “So… I am the enemy now, Lady Renee.”
The sweet smell of rain wafted through the open window as the passing wind fluttered the silk curtains behind her. She fingered them lightly as the blonde strands of her hair brushed against her face. It’s like the world is crying with me. The world was completely dark now. The room was empty except for her own body sitting on the ledge of the window and the ornate and opulent furniture in the dark. Low tables, canopied beds, mirrors… Only inanimate things. Emptiness… and darkness… Is that me now? She stared out at the clouded moon. The rain fell from the slowly moving clouds, almost seeming like brief splashes in a lake. If the sky was a lake, then the clouds were boats sailing across the lake and the moon was her face, nestled within the boats. She closed her eyes briefly and imagined the calm waves drifting beside her and sang a quiet song about a lake and boats drifting into eternity.
“A requiem for your lost love…” a quiet, feminine voice wafted through the air.
Renee turned around quickly, startled by the sudden intrusion into her dark and empty solitude. To her surprise, she faced a slender woman with blonde hair in an intricate bun. She wore a long, emerald gown with sheer sleeves.
“Who are you?” Renee recoiled and pressed against the curtains, trying to send her soul out the window.
“Justin attempted to introduce us earlier,” she smiled, “But it seemed as though you were in pain then…” She recollected the song Renee had been quietly singing only moments before, “Not that it seems the situation has changed since.”
Renee’s eyes narrowed as she glared at the woman, “Don’t assume anything about me!” Renee jumped from the ledge as her voice reached a heightened pitch, “DON’T ASSUME ANYTHING!!!!”
A smile spread across the woman’s face, “They misplaced you. I thought the priestess of Rubiihoppou was known for her temper.”
“You’re mocking me!” She tried to run from the room, but the woman stopped her.
“Certainly not the passive Topazuseihou priestess either.” She smiled, “Perhaps brooding though… Maybe more sensitive than she’s willing to admit.”
Renee turned her head quickly and scoffed, “Do you think you can change the subject so easily? I’m none of those things!” She sat back down on the ledge and took several deep breaths, trying to force calm back into her voice and expression. “Hey… Who are you anyway?”
“Are you a demon?”
“No… I am the emerald oracle.”
“Oracle… One who serves a deity, especially as a medium for prophecies.”
Christina smiled, “You certainly are intelligent. Perhaps that is why you are the priestess… It would do well for one of them to be intelligent and have the ability to solve problems.”
Renee gripped the curtain again. “Stop insulting me and then trying to praise me. I know what I am…”
Christina frowned. “I apologize. I thought perhaps you needed reassurance before completing your duties, especially in light of the other priestess’s journey...”
“Where is Minako?” Renee interrupted Christina with a solemn tone.
Christina blinked and turned to the priestess resting upon the window, “What was that?”
Renee turned to face her. Her eyes narrowed and a small grimace spread across her face. A chill filled the air. “Where is Minako?”
Christina’s eyes gained an almost pained look. For a moment, they resembled glass. “I feel my sister seeping into Rubiihoppou.”
Renee turned back to the window, “Where is Rubiihoppou?”
Christina put her hand to her face as she crossed her arms, “You certainly are intelligent… But, no one has told you of the origins of your quest?”
“Of course not. Justin is more concerned with those other creatures these days rather than the creatures that should be here with him.”
Christina took a seat beside Renee and took in a breath. “The past was ruled by an age when the anguished cries of men filed the land and their blood gave it sustenance. Within this age lies the origins of the era of the warring states.”
“Who won in the end? Which clan is the supreme ruler?”
The wind brushed past Christina’s shadowed face. “None.”
Renee turned to face the window, “So… They are all equally weak,” she let out a small, low laugh, “That’s pathetic.”
“There was no need. God quelled that conflict with the demons.”
Renee pictured the tall, blonde general. He was merciless and arrogant. And of course, he was happiest when his hands were stained with blood, it was as if the mere scent aroused him. She chuckled to herself, “Demons bringing peace… You must be joking.”
Christina’s eyes flashed emerald, “There is no need to joke.” She turned toward the rain clouded sky, “Demons were born from the sky to be saviors. God placed them on earth and into the royal palaces in order to usher in an age of peace. But, even their peace could not last forever. In fact, it was merely a peaceful interlude in the era of the warring states. The people feared them, then the land blazed with fire and stank of rotting corpses once more. The demons were tortured and killed one after the other… However…” she turned to Renee, “They learned how to live off the blood and suffering of others. The demons who were created to bring peace, brought only death, destruction, judgement, blood, and darkness. I doubt there are any demon clans who still hold power in any country.”
Renee shrugged, “It doesn’t really seem out of character. Demons are supposed to be ruthless murdering machines, after all. That’s what they’re all like, constantly covered in someone else’s blood.”
“Not when they were created for peace. When they were created for peace, they should have brought mercy, justice, change, light, and life.” Christina clasped her hands, “God was infuriated. He gathered the four maidens and requested of them the most potent sutra.”
“Maidens?” Renee frowned, “You mean the priestesses.”
“Certainly not. The priestesses did not exist then.”
Renee narrowed her eyes, “Then, do you mean oracles and not maidens? What are you?”
Christina’s eyes briefly flashed emerald, but she ignored Renee’s question. “The maidens did as they were told and chanted the powerful binding spell.”
The wind blew across Renee’s face as her eyes grew wide. Staring directly at Christina, she could feel her heart pounding. The wind whispered in her ears, almost seeming to chant the binding sutra. Her chest grew tight as her breathing slowed.
“The sutra, this spell, created a means to seal the vicious power of the demons… It created the Holy box!”
“The Holy box… You mean Pandora’s Box!”
A wistful smile spread across Christina’s lips as she closed her eyes slowly. “No one priestess has laid claim to the box, so it is merely the box of the priestesses’ dreams. How bold of the emerald nation to call it Pandora’s Box.” She opened her eyes and faced Renee directly, “The priestesses were then created to subdue the weakened demons. In return for her service, the one who did claim the box would receive three wishes. And at that moment, God would reclaim his demons and do with them as he willed.”
“What about the other three priestesses?!?!” Renee jumped from the ledge suddenly and turned back to Christina, “What happens to them?!?!”
Christina’s face became shadowed by the billowing curtains as she stood silently before the emerald priestess.
Renee’s shocked face slowly became stained red as she clenched her fists. She opened one slowly as it trembled and rose it to the shadowed cheek of the oracle. The trembling wind broke the endless silence. “TELL ME!!!!”
Christina’s eyes narrowed as she stepped back. “The quest for the box is an endless battle where the priestesses test their strengths and face their combatants with their wills. The strongest among them is the only one to survive.”
Renee let out a low maniacal laugh, “In other words… Might makes right. The weakest die.” Her laughter grew louder and filled the room with its eerie rumble. “So… All four of us will come together to fight for the box.”
Renee’s laughter ceased. “No… But, you said…”
“For all four to come together is impossible.”
“Why?!” Renee barked, “Are the other priestesses cowards?!”
“The priestesses of Rubiihoppou and Topazuseihou are dead.”
Renee shrunk back, “Dead? What? WHY?!”
Christina turned her head. “They arose… some years before you and the Safaiananpou priestess were prepared to accept your duties and descend into this world. They met in combat and a vicious battle ensued between both priestess and their demons. In the end, neither claimed the box.”
“How did they die?” Renee’s voice trembled.
“It is… unclear…” Christina’s voice wavered as well, “All demons lay stained in blood. Both priestesses lost their will to fight. Thus, the other oracles were sealed… All who could recount the terrible ordeal have had their lives stolen and buried in the years since.”
Renee stared at the floor, a turbulent storm began rising in her heart. “Then, to be a priestess means the certainty of death.” She sat back on the ledge and stared out into the rain, “Minako is a coward, she will not chase after that box when she is fraternizing with those creatures. So then, we have no reason to meet. I can take my time.”
“You are alone in that thinking.”
Renee growled and turned back to the oracle.
“As we speak, she is in Rubiihoppou. Do you forget? I told you that I felt my sister seeping into Rubihoppou, a country my sapphire sister should not be in.”
Renee laughed, “Heh. There is nothing in that country.”
“You are mistaken. Rubiihoppou, the northern country of blood and ice, is the location where the priestesses took their hearts and thrust them at each other.”
“Their battle means nothing.”
“It was the location of their battle because it is the location of the Holy box.”
Renee stood abruptly. “Then she is chasing after the box!” Renee sneered and sat back down, “There is no need to worry, she cannot achieve much with only two demons.”
“My sister’s power is growing in reach. There are four and it appears they are nearing the fifth if she can seep into Rubiihoppou.”
Renee blinked, “Then she will get the box first… She will not suffer at all when I only have Justin beside me…”
“Justin must have told you the method to procure the demons. If not him, then the emerald monarch.” She thrust her hand toward the open window and the rain, “Leave this sanctuary of sadness, become strong, and find them.”
Renee clenched her fist as she let out a low growl and narrowed her eyes. Minako has stained my heart with darkness. She… must suffer. If she doesn’t suffer, then my existence is null. She already placed me below worthlessness. “What an impossible task! Find them? You say that as though they are easy to find.”
“When you remain shrouded in shadows, nothing is easy to find unless it finds you. When you shine light on your search, things become illuminated.”
Renee gripped the curtains. “Ridiculous. I’m not going on some adventure to find the creatures who are keeping me from my home. I don’t want to see her again.”
Christina sat on the ledge again, “As you know, the priestess who claims the box receives any three wishes that are in God’s power to grant. Perhaps returning to your home is one you can request.”
Renee clenched her hand around the curtain, “What a ridiculous thing to say! Of course I will return home in the end!” It is not enough. If I become part of this world, then those wishes will have to be enough. “Can God’s power permeate my world?”
Then I can wish for assurance on my college choices… “Do they need to be kind wishes?”
“It is unclear…”
Minako… If we are to meet in the end, our destiny is to die. You need to feel as much pain and sorrow as possible… Your blood has to be spilled on the floor… Since you’re searching for your creatures, you obviously believe that you should live and that I am supposed to die in agony, forever alone in this hell. That I should be the one who succumbs to fate and destiny while you will live and return to our world alone. She clenched her fist. “No. I will not let her.”
Christina frowned, “Priestess?”
Renee began to glow with emerald light. As her anger reached its peak, she emitted a large flash of emerald aura, “I WILL NOT LET HER!!!!!!”
Renee fell from the window and collapsed on the ground. Demons… I will call you that instead of creatures... Do you hear my heartbeat here in the dark? I’m not able to go and find you, but... If you follow its sound… then I will repay you… with my own blood…