CM: A thanks to Krajesh for the kind review. :)
Chapter 14: Oh Snow
The next morning it was clear just how bad relations had gotten. Axel didn't even greet her when she woke up but instead just motioned for her to follow him. She groaned knowing that meant he wasn't going to talk to her for awhile. "Man, this mission just got a whole lot worse," she thought in annoyance. "I hope we find that heartless quick or this mission is going to become unbearable."
They traveled around the forest, checked over the savanna again and then traversed over to a large mountain with wide passes running all the way through it. At one end they discovered what looked like a shelter made entirely of what looked like an elephant skull; tusks and all.
By late afternoon, they'd covered just about every area and hadn't found a trace of what they were looking for. Which meant they needed to move on to a new world. Thank goodness, Thorn thought. She was tired. Once again, she had a poor night of sleep, and the relentless hordes of heartless came one after the other. Between fighting them and checking the hearts they held, she was taxed.
"So where to next?" she asked Axel.
He didn't answered but instead opened a portal and gestured for her to get in. The silent treatment? Really? What are we, four? All this she wanted to say out loud but she bit her tongue. No sense making things worse. Still….she didn't like him not talking to her.
When they left the portal, they came out into a place filled with bamboo trees, grassy planes and rivers with intricate bridges stretching across them. "Wow...this place is kind of cool. Don't you think so?" Thorn asked wanting to seriously break up the silence. Not surprising he didn't reply and started leading the way towards a snow covered mountain. "Heh, sure your heat won't cause an avalanche?" she asked following his lead.
Again he ignored her. No matter what she tried, comment, questions, concerns, he didn't respond to any of it, and finally she just gave up. If she could she would have just left him, but without him she couldn't travel in between worlds and she didn't want to be stranded. Still, with all the silence, she may as well be alone.
By nightfall, they managed to make it to the base mountain area where they found a decent sized cave to sleep in. Thorn got a fire started since Axel didn't seem in the mood to do so himself. A wind began to blow outside, and Thorn used a gravity spell to move some rocks around the mouth to block out the wind but keep it to where the smoke from the fire would still be able to filter out. And then cold rain began to fall making the air even more chilled.
"Oh nature," Thorn thought as she sat close to the fire in order to keep warm. "Thou art a heartless wench."
The goth glanced over to Axel who had already claimed a corner of the cave to curl up in for the night. With his back turned to her she couldn't tell if he was sleeping or not.
She focused on the fire in front of her and rubbed her hands and arms to keep the blood flowing. Not a sound could be heard through the cave besides the howl of the wind outside, the falling rain and the crackling fire. Thorn could feel herself growing colder by the second despite all her efforts to stay warm and knew it wasn't brought on because of their surroundings.
"Ugh FINE!" she exclaimed getting to her feet and glaring at the red head lying still on the ground. "I can't take this silence any more. Look yes I was avoiding you...but no it did not have to do with me being upset at you. Just, quit with the silent treatment already. Jeez."
At first nothing happened, not so much as a stir. Then after a few moments Axel turned over so that he was facing her, wide awake. "Not so nice being ignored is it?" he said before sitting up. "Now are you ready to talk?"
"About what?" Thorn asked trying not to sound irritable.
"Let's start with WHY you were avoiding me," Axel proposed.
"Come on, can't you just be satisfied with the fact that I admitted you were right and move on?" Thorn groaned.
"Well, I could," he admitted before smiling a little. "But I have to admit I enjoy watching you squirm."
Thorn nearly recoiled. "You're… incredibly sadistic." So why was she slightly turned on by that fact?
"Heh, maybe," he said with a small laugh. "Now spill it, unless you want the rest of this trip to continue in silence."
She sighed heavily, her irritation becoming more and more obvious. "Alright, so the day I went on my mission with Marluxia...well, we got to talking and..."
'Oh, boy, I can already see where this is going,' he thought now finding the situation more amusing. Then he asked out loud, "So, what did he say to you?"
"He just answered a couple questions," Thorn replied hoping that would be enough...it wasn't. "He told me that the reason I was brought in was to be used as a tool. It wasn't really all that surprising but it did kind of hurt to hear it." Axel gave her this look as if asking if that was it and she sighed again. "Then he said that that's all anyone here was seeing me as." She left it at that feeling that she really didn't want to admit she was worried he felt that way too. She also decided to leave out the fact that Marluxia had assured her he thought of her as something more. The idea gave her the creeps and she didn't want to voice it.
Axel thought over all of this. He was definitely going to need to do something about Marluxia. The guy seemed to enjoy stirring up trouble for the sake of boredom. Now he believed he understood the reason why she'd been avoiding him. She thought, or at least, suspected, he saw her that way too, as a tool.
"You really shouldn't believe everything Marluxia tells you," Axel told her finally. "He may have a pretty face but he's really not as nice as he puts out."
"Yeah, I kind of suspected that much," Thorn mumbled rubbing her arms. "But it's not as if it's completely untrue either, right?"
Axel sighed and shook his head. "Well I won't lie, there probably are at lest two or three members of the organization who think that. But you want me to let you in on a little secret?" he asked getting her attention. "I really couldn't care less about what other people think. I stand by what I said before."
Thorn fought the urge to smile. "And what was that?"
"That to me you're a friend," Axel answered with a grin.
Thorn's face remained passive as she slowly turned away from him at that. He could hear her taking a few deep breaths and noticed that before her face completely disappeared from view her cheeks were turning red. He'd nailed it.
"Thank you...I suppose that's good to know," she replied after she managed to turn back to face him, face completely back to normal.
Axel grinned knowing exactly what had just happened and feeling rather proud of himself. He yawned, stretched, and then lay back onto the floor with his hands behind his head. "Well, it's late and we have a lot to do tomorrow so, goodnight," he said the slightest hint of triumph in his voice.
"Night," Thorn replied taking to bed in a spot close to the dying fire.
Even though it was still chilly in the cave, she felt warm inside. She closed her eyes and slept a little more peacefully that night.
The next day, both Axel and Thorn would agree the time spent was far more enjoyable than the first two. Things were more relaxed and they were able to talk casually without tension or strain. They began their search in the more green areas before working their way up the mountain where snow had fallen. The higher they went the thicker and deeper the stuff got. The slightest breeze was a sting on Thorn's cheeks and she had to pull up her hood to keep her ears from freezing off. She felt the slightest bit resentful towards her red headed companion who seemed completely unfazed by the frigid terrain.
"What are you, ice proof?" she demanded.
"Far from it," Axel replied with a laugh. "But I wield fire so I can keep the colder elements at bay."
"That so?" Thorn suddenly got a wicked idea. While Axel wasn't looking, she gathered up a bit of snow and pressed it between her hands. Then she casually meandered up next to him.
"What's up?" he asked noticing she was acting funny.
"Nothing," she said reaching up. "Just thought I'd give you a present."
He raised an eyebrow in confusion until she dropped the packed bit of ice down the back of his cloak. The moment it hit his skin he jumped three feet in the air. It took awhile for him to get it out of his cloak and when he finally did he turned toward his assailant to find her with a hand covering her mouth as her entire body shook. Her eyes were dancing with amusement as she tried with all her might not to fall over. "You should have seen your face!" she exclaimed unable to hold it in any longer. "I've never seen anyone jump so high. So much for keeping the cold at bay."
"Oh, so that how it's gonna be, huh?" Axel said getting a wicked grin on his face. She turned to run, but he was quick and he caught her. He easily hoisted her up onto his shoulder, kicking and shouting, before walking over and dropping her into a big pile of snow.
She squealed as the snow crept into the openings of her cloak and she jumped up trying to brush the stuff off. "You jerk," she shouted with a laugh before picking up some snow and throwing it at his head with superb accuracy.
He dodged the shot and threw one of his own nailing her right in the face. The impact made her fall back into the snow and she quickly jumped back onto her feet to avoid the cold melting into her clothes again.
"Okay, truce," she said holding up her hands. She had been cold to start with and now she was freezing. She really didn't want to risk getting any colder out there.
Axel held off on the snow ball he was about to chuck and approached her with another triumphant smile on his face. She rolled her eyes trying not to show her shame at giving up, when something caught her eye at the top of the mountain. She stared at the shape for a moment unsure of what it could be until she noticed the tell tale sign of a heart. It was a heartless. She turned to alert Axel to its presence when the thing began to jump up and down. From all the way down the mountain, Thorn could feel the vibrations and in moments an enormous amount of snow was dislodged from the top.
Thorn had never experienced one before, not where she lived. You never got stuff like this in the big cities. However liked most things, she'd read about it. The thunderous noise and the grow rumble that signaled death and disaster approaching: An avalanche.
"We need to get out of here," Axel told her as he too recognized the danger they were in.
Thorn was just about to agree with him when she spotted something down below them. A number of meters away down the mountainside were a caravan of travelers. Several men women, and a few children traveling with their horse pulled supply carriages. They didn't even realize the danger they were in.
"W-we have to help," she muttered turning back toward the careening wave of snow. "I can stop it long enough...just long enough." With that she dashed toward it a few feet ignoring Axel's voice and held up her hands. She took a few breaths to calm her nerves as she gathered her magical energy then all at once released it. "Stop!" she called making the avalanche slow to a stop a couple hundred feet from her.
"Thorn what are you doing?" Axel demanded. He could see her holding it still and had to marvel at the amount of power she held. But he could also see that her arms were shaking with the effort of holding it in place. She wouldn't be able to keep it there for long.
Axel debated on just grabbing her and pulling her out of there by force, but he knew if he did the people below would be buried. She would hate him for that. Cursing their luck, the Nobody teleported behind the caravan while staying out of sight.
"Avalanche!" he shouted at the top of his lungs.
It did the trick. The people at last seemed to notice the snow coming after them. The only thing keeping them from harm was Thorn who was forced to hold back more and more as it kept rolling down the mountain. The people driving the carriages snapped the horses' reins to urge the, forward while those who remained on foot ran for it.
Axel watched the group hurry as fast as they could, willing them to go faster. His eyes continually flicking up to make sure Thorn was still in sight. He prepared a portal that would take him directly to her the instant they were out of harm's way hoping she'd last long enough to do so.
Meanwhile, Thorn's arms were beginning to shake from the strain of holding up the large amount of weight that continued to grow with each passing moment. Her feet were beginning to slide in the snow pushing her slightly down the slope as there was nothing firm for her to get the good footing she needed. Her breath was starting to come in gasps and she knew she wouldn't be able to hold it for much longer. Wanting to know if the people she'd seen were out of the way yet, she slowly turned her head to look down the mountain. They were almost there. She sighed in relief only to start focusing even more as snow started to slip from her spell and drip onto her clothing, hair and into her face making her task all the more difficult.
The world tuned out, the rumbling of the sound was muffled out, and black spots began popping up in her vision of white. She blinked and shook her head trying to be rid of them. Thorn held on for as long as she could, trying to stay conscious. She wondered if everyone made it, as she slipped away. The last thing she felt was being buried by cold.
CM: Oh noes! Sorry to end it on that note, but we felt this was the best stopping spot for it. Hope you enjoyed and stay tuned for the next to see if Thorn survives.