The Legend Of Kingdom Hearts.
It was the same as it always was. Nothing ever really changed in this town. He smiled though, it was peaceful.
"Shita! Shita, there you are!" called a young woman with long, creamy silver hair and bright green eyes. She ran up the stone pathway to meet her friend as he shook his dark hair out of his blue eyes.
"Hey, Ayan." Shita smiled. "How are you today?"
"Wait up Muko!" A child cried as a fire-clad dog ran towards the young adults. Ayan caught the puppy, and handed it to the child who came up. "Thank you…"
"Keep an eye on him now. Losing a familiar isn't a good thing to do."
"I know." The boy put Muko down, and the pair ran off happily. Shita smiled at Ayan.
"You always help others, don't you?" He asked as they made their way down a side street. Ayan smiled.
"It's what I love to do. I don't have a familiar, so I try my best on my own." Ayan said. Shita nodded. He didn't have one either. Only about 10% of the village had a familiar. He was trying as hard as he could, like so many others, to find his though. He had ventured out many places as a child trying to find a loose one in the wild. Many people died trying to find theirs, as the desire to have someone with them for all eternity was hard to resist.
But now he felt he had found someone. Ayan wasn't a spirit, but if she truly loved him the way he loved her, he wouldn't need a spirit guide.
"Shita, you are spacing out again." Ayan said, smiling. He was like an older brother to her, and she enjoyed teasing him. Shita laughed, smiling sheepishly.
"Sorry. We're nearly there, aren't we?"
"Yup. Ah! Miia!" Ayan ran the rest of the way down the alley and into the clearing on the other side, hugging her friend. "It's been so long! Where did you and Kyani go?" Ayan asked as she pet the dragon.
"We were locating the nests of wild spirits. We were only able to get there because Kyani can fly." Miia said, hugging her wingless, serpentine dragon. He hummed happily, nuzzling her face. Miia matched her dragons colorations perfectly. She was pale-skinned, had teal eyes, and bluish hair.
"Kyani doesn't seem to like his human form, does he?" Shita asked as he sat down, also petting the dragon.
"Nah, he doesn't. Buts he's cuter this way." Miia said happily.
"Hey! What are you slackers doing over there!?" The three turned to see what appeared to be a teenager with acid green eyes and a shock of lemon yellow hair.
"Greki!" Ayan said happily. The lizard then seemed to regret his yelling out as Ayan glomped him. Shita, Miia and Kyani laughed and headed over to Greki and his human, a young man by the name of Oran with brown hair and eyes who, to this day, had no idea how he came to be connected with such a vibrant familiar. Several others soon joined them, and they settled into their weekly routine when all four got together. Ayan loved this time the most, because she felt so relaxed, and could sing at the top of her voice with no fear.
Her songs were enchanting to many who heard them, sung in another language she refused to teach the others. Her mother had been from a distant land, from the tropical islands in that area. It was their native language she used to enchant those about her and ease their fears.
She just happened to enchant more than those in the clearing with her that day.
Shita looked down the road for Ayan. She was late, and soon either Greki or Kyani, the only familiars in their group, would come looking for them. He almost looked past a couple coming down the street, passing them off as outsiders. He had never seen someone with such vibrant red hair. But Ayan's laughter alerted him to her presence beside the man.
"Is that so?" Ayan asked, looking up at the man beside her. "I had no idea you could live for so long!"
"If we are killed, we rise again from the ashes." the man replied. "Though one person has found a way to kill us permanently, luckily they have been dealt with. We can now focus on restoring ourselves."
"Ah, right, you were fairly common up until several centuries ago." Ayan said, she turned to look ahead of her, a smile spreading across her face when she saw Shita.
"Shita! Meet Ex-"
"Ayan, why not save the introduction until later? Are you not meeting other friends?"
"Uh, sure!" Ayan said. "Come on Shita!" She said happily. Shita gave the man a wary glance. He really had never seen such bright red hair, and it looked like it had natural golden highlights. His eyes were odd as well, a golden yellow, like molten gold itself. Ayan carried the conversation herself with no problem all the way to the meeting place, chattering happily, ignorant to the tension behind her.
The mans sudden appearance shocked the rest of the group as well, reliving Shita. He had been afraid he was the only wary one. Once the familiars got over their initial shock, they hurried and bowed, Greki quickly changing back into his original form.
"Well, well well!" Miia said, smiling suggestively. "Who is this hunk? And why is Kyani acting this way?"
"I'd like to know the same about Greki." Oran said, staring at the red-haired man warily.
"Everyone, I would like you to meet my familiar, the phoenix, Exodous." Ayan said happily, and the odd features fell into place. No human could look like that. Exodous bowed to the group.
"Greetings. Do not bow your heads, my friends. I am the one imposing upon you." Kyani and Greki looked up, then Greki changed back, grinning.
"Man, one of the last, eh?" he asked, Kyani rumbled. Exodous nodded as he sat beside and a little behind Ayan.
"If I am correct…" Shita ventured, "A phoenix chooses its human. Why Ayan?"
"She speaks the language of my hatching grounds." Exodous said, blinking as if it had been obvious. Shita scowled, but relaxed soon after.
"Right! The best way to get to know someone is to party!" Miia said with a smile. "Kyani!" Kyani hummed happily, then shot into the air. The party started as it normally did, and soon moved on to where Exodous was included without a second thought even by Shita, though it was a bit awkward on the phoenix's part. Then Ayan stood to sing, grabbing her tambourine as she went. Everyone sat back to relax, closing their eyes as the island music filled their ears.
Then there was something that they didn't quite expect. A deeper voice joined Ayan's in perfect harmony. They opened their eyes to see Exodous standing as well, his eyes closed, face turned upward, hands held in front of him, bent at the elbows, palms facing upwards. He was singing also, his voice rising and falling smoothly over the words, as if without a thought.
After the pairs performance was finished, they sat again, Ayan blushing at having been able to sing with such a rare familiar. The other six were silent, still taking in what had just happened. Then Miia tackled Exodous.
"That was awesome! Where did you learn to sing like that?"
"I'm a bird." Exodous said, trying to pry the girl off of him. Shita lead the rest in laughing, leaning over to help Exodous out.
"You need to ease up on the hyperactivity." He said, still grinning. "You'll get used to her, don't worry. We're all a bit on the loopy side."
"Thanks?" Exodous said, running his hands through his hair, possibly trying to straighten any ruffled feathers. This caused another round of laughter, and soon Exodous was again the center of attention, questions were shot back and forth, the phoenix answering those he could and asking his own questions.
When the sun began to set, the group of seven broke, Ayan, Shita, and Exodous walking back towards town. At the square, Shita hugged Ayan goodbye and shook Exodous' hand. He watched the two walking away, a little sad. He was honestly happy for her, having found her familiar. Maybe he would speak to Miia about the wild familiars in the woods.
Ayan woke slowly, she had a day off of work today, and she was glad she did. Working at the local market at the farmers stands was a hard task, and even though times had accepted women working and living alone, it was still odd that she hadn't wed yet. Sitting up slowly, Ayan realized the fact that she had a familiar was going to be all over town by now, not to mention the fact that it was a rare one. According to Exodous, he was one of maybe 200 in the world. Gathered, 200 seemed like a lot, but spread out, it must be lonely. Ayan stood and dressed, walking out to the kitchen/eating area softly, so as not to wake the bird perched on the pole now sticking out from the wall.
He was gorgeous, with his fiery red plumage tinted with gold, and swan like neck, the long beak curved slightly at the end, his ivory talons gripping the perch, and the fluff of feathers swept back from his face, up onto his head. Though the large perch was about four feet from the ground, his tail swept the floor, his wing tips even reached halfway to the floor, boasting an incredible wingspan. Exodous' neck was doubled up, so that he could hide his beak in the feathers on his back, his black eyes shut in a relaxed way, his head rising and falling softly.
Blushing lightly at her good fortune, Ayan walked out of the small home quietly to tend to her few chickens. The sun had just barely risen, so the world was still in a state of darkness. She started singing as she approached the pen, and the birds inside came fluttering out of the tiny shack they slept and nested in, eager for food. Ayan fed the birds, then leaned against a post to watch the sun rise.
Just as the top appeared over the hills, strange bird song erupted from the house behind her. Ayan, scared that something was wrong, sup around to see Exodous perched on the roof, his neck stretched out as he sang his greeting to the new day. He then flew off of the roof, amazing Ayan once again with his wingspan as he flew about the area, his long feathers fluttering out behind him. After the large bird finished, the alighted on Ayan's shoulder, crooning softly. He was so light, and so warm, it was hard for her to believe that he was actually heavier than a swan.
"Good morning, Exodous. What would you like to eat?" Ayan asked, petting his plumage. Exodous changed to his human form, leaning on her shoulder slightly.
"I have not eaten for centuries. I see no reason to now." He said. Ayan gave him a surprised look. No wonder he hadn't eaten the previous day.
"Well, that can't be very good for your health! Come on, I'll get you some toast." Ayan said, gripping his hand and leading him back into the house. She sat him at the table, and set about retrieving the toaster. Exodous stared at the appliance in wonder.
"Ayan, what is this?" He asked as he got up to take a closer look at it.
"Ah! This is a Toaster. See, you put the bread in like this, press the handle down, and let it go. When it is done, the bread will pop out. You probably haven't seen many modern appliances, have you?"
"No." Exodous shook his head. "I have not concerned myself with the passing of time. The last I remember, was a time of a great war in my hatching grounds. I came face to face with He Who Found The Way To Kill A Phoenix, but barely escaped." Exodous said sadly, watching the red wires in the toaster. Ayan looked at her familiar in sympathy.
"You saw a lot of them die, didn't you?"
The toaster chose that moment to pop the toast up, startling Exodous, and sending Ayan into a bought of laughter.
"Okay, off gloomy topics, okay? Here, I'm not sure what I have that you would like, so is the toast okay for now?"
"Uhm sure." Exodous said, staring at the browned bread as Ayan prepared a few more slices, setting the butter out on the table. "We should go out and buy some fruit, you'll eat apples and things like that, wont you?"
"I'll eat just about anything if I have to."
"Well, that's good." Ayan giggled. Exodous smiled, it had been so long since he had seen someone with so pure a heart. He could fully relax, and be himself.
"Ayan. May I say something?" Exodous asked as he watched the tiny woman select several apples.
"Well sure. You don't need to ask." Ayan said.
"In several months, there is a gathering for the remaining Phoenix. It is mandatory, so I really have no say in the matter of going or not."
"Really? Would I be allowed to attend?" Ayan asked, looking up at him.
"You are my human. It would be foolish not to take you along."
"Yay!" Ayan spun in a circle. "This is going to be fun! Is it a formal gathering?"
"Yes, it is. Why?"
"I can make our outfits! They can match!" Ayan then seemed to forget about her grocery shopping, and dragged him off to the fabric store, the basket of goods left behind. Exodous was shocked at first, but then smiled softly, his hand tightening around hers.
One week later
"A gathering?" Miia asked as Kyani, Greki, and Exodous chased each other around through the trees. The other two spirits had somehow gotten the phoenix to revert to his normal form, and join in their game of tag.
"Yup. He said it takes place in a few months. We wont be leaving until about a week before it starts because he can fly so fast."
"You going to make your clothes/" Shita asked. Oran stood after that, scolding Greki for something or another.
"Yes. I am. They're turning out great."
"Anything you make looks awesome and holds up for years. I still have that jacket you made me for my 20th." Oran said, sitting again.
"Really?" Ayan asked, surprised. Oran gave her a look.
"Why would I throw it out if it's still good?" He asked, Ayan blushed at this, smiling happily. Shita's face softened, she was so beautiful like this. The familiars rejoined the group of four humans, Exodous thrilling in his throat as he rubbed his head against her shoulder. Ayan blushed deeper, petting his head.
"Glad you started to loosen up, Ex." Miia smiled. "You can't be all aloof with this group. Friendship is the best!" She ruffled the tuft of feathers on Exodous' head, making him shake his head in surprise. Shita laughed.
"Told you she was on the loopy side." Exodous trilled again, opening his wings a bit at Shita in mock agitation. A moment later, his human form was sitting beside Ayan, an arm around her shoulders.
"You have any idea where you are going to look next for your own familiar?" He asked.
"Nope. Not a clue." Shita said, shaking his head. "Seems I've gone almost everywhere."
"Don't give up hope, Shita!" Miia said, hugging the man. Greki and Kyani were curled up nearby in a pile, sleeping.
"Thanks, you freak." Shita laughed, shoving her off. He and Shita started to bicker playfully after that, making Ayan, Oran and Exodous laugh. Exodous looked down at Ayan, smiling at her softly. Oran glanced over, cocking his head at the look being exchanged between Ayan and the Phoenix. He didn't say anything, only looked away before they could notice.
"OH! We need to go! I am so sorry!" Ayan said, leaping up as she looked at her watch. Exodous chuckled and stood, waving goodbye as Ayan ran off, waving over her shoulder. The remaining three watched Ayan and Exodous vanish, the phoenix walking at a steady pace behind the jogging woman.
"There's something going on between them." Oran said suddenly. Shita and Miia looked at him, eyebrows raised. "when you two were fighting, I noticed that there was something different in the way they looked at each other. Something in their eyes."
"Do you think that they might be falling in love?" Miia asked.
"Or have already." Oran added. Shita mentally shook his head no. It just couldn't work, a human and a spirit couldn't be together. They were from two different worlds, and the hardships they would encounter he wouldn't wish upon either of them.
It couldn't happen. Could it?
"Okay! Shopping is all done!" Ayan said happily. She and Exodous grabbed the last bags, heading back to her house.
"Are you sure this won't go to waste?" Exodous asked, looking at his two armloads.
"You don't know yourself very well do you?" Ayan laughed. "One thing I found out about men, is that they eat a lot."
"I'm not a man."
"Close enough!" Ayan said, nudging the phoenix. "You'll still have the appetite of one!" Exodous gave the back of her head a look, shaking his head in a silent chuckle. He helped her put the food away, and watched her make dinner. So far she had made mostly vegetarian dishes that had turned out great. Even Exodous wasn't sure what things he would like to eat. He barely remembered what his mother fed him when he was in the nest.
All the while, they played twenty questions with each other. Both were eager to learn more about the others world, and about each other as well. For the past week, conversation hadn't run thin, as new questions popped into their heads at an alarming rate, so they could barely answer a question before they were asked another. These moments usually ended in laughter, and a repeat in the cycle.
After that, the dishes were done, and they sat talking at the table until Ayan was yawning wide enough to break her jaw. Exodous smiled at the routine as he helped her to her feet to send her to bed. Ayan gave him a hug, then vanished into her room, leaving the phoenix standing in a slight state of shock. She had never done that before. He sat in human form on his perch, pondering this late into the night. He ended up standing in her doorway, arms crossed lightly, watching her sleep. Smiling, he thanked his good fortune that his territory had covered her village, or else he would never have found her.
Shita looked up from the box he had just set down. Why on earth did the sun have to be so hot today? It was mid summer, of course. He looked at the calendar visible through the office window of the stocking company he worked at, and smiled. Ayan was coming back today. She had been gone for about a month now, at the Phoenix gathering. It must be something to see, 200 of the last phoenix's doing whatever the gathering was for. And according to Exodous, there were only 10 people, including Ayan, connected to a human as the phoenix's have vastly large territories, and search for the purest heart in the area.
"Hey Shita! Shower and clock out!"
"Sir!" Shita called, and walked towards the showers in the back of the building, wiping some sweat from his forehead. His day was finally over, and he could see Ayan again in the weekly gathering of friends.
Once out in the street, he headed straight for the food. He was starving and he hadn't brought anything with him. Shita did a double take as he walked by some of the stands on his way to his favorite, solidifying the fact that Exodous was there in the market, without Ayan.
"Exodous! Hey!" Shita called. The phoenix turned, and waved. "what are you doing? Where's Ayan?"
"She's, not feeling well. I came to get something for her." Exodous said, not quite making eye contact with the man before him. Shita cocked his head a bit, a little confused.
"Uh, okay. Tell her I hope she feels better, I'll let the others know."
"Thank you." Exodous then thanked the woman at the counter of the tiny pharmacy, and hurried off, the small paper bag in his hands. Shita looked after him, not liking the birds obvious discomfort and avoidance. Something wasn't right.
"Are you feeling any better?" Exodous asked, coming into Ayan's room.
"A little. Thank you for going out."
"It wasn't a problem." He leaned down beside her, and brushed some of her bangs out of her face. "There you go. The woman at the booth said she wouldn't tell anyone. A promise to a Phoenix is binding, she couldn't tell even if she wanted to."
"How many times have you told me that now? I got it the first time." Ayan laughed. Exodous smiled at her.
"I'm sorry. Rest, you'll need it if you want to meet with everyone next week."
"Alright, don't burn the house down if you try to cook."
"Enough." Exodous smiled.
Ayan was better within a few days, and by the time the next get-together came around, the other five were asking questions that they couldn't answer. Shita was the first to notice when Ayan and Exodous came around the corner, and he fought from going pale. They were hand in hand.
"Ayyyyaaaaaaan! What is going on?" Miia asked, standing up with her hands on her hips. "Huuuuuuuuuuuuuh?" At this, she leaned forward, coming even with Ayan's blushing face.
"I want tell everyone something." Exodous said, clearing his throat awkwardly. "The gathering that the Phoenix's have every two years is one of several reasons. At them, we count how many of us there are, how many hatchlings, and how many have a human. It is also where a mating ritual takes place for those willing. We mate for life, so this is important. And, well, Ayan an I…"
"We married that night." Ayan finished. Both were blushing a spectacular shade of red, their hands gripping each other tightly. "And we, we're expecting…." He voice failed her here, but the point was gotten across. Miia squealed and glomped the smaller woman, and Shita understood why Exodous hadn't looked him in the eyes. The pride in them was unmistakable.
Shita suffered through the meeting, hoping he was acting normally. Miia, as expected, was ecstatic over the situation though she berated the pair for not having invited their friends. Kyani had blessed them, Greki's tail had formed, and was twitching in excitement the whole time, a grin on his face. Even Oran, quiet Oran, had smiled.
Why was he the only one that saw?
He only felt safe once he was in his small garden. He hurried over to the trash can, glad his neighbors were out. What was wrong with him? Why did he feel this way? He felt, he didn't even know how to describe it. Whatever it was, did not feel good. They were his friends, and he wanted the best for them, so why this bitter hatred of the bird? Why had it turned out this way?
To this, Shita had no answer. He stumbled inside, washed his face, and went to bed, resolving that he would ignore this, and gat on with life. He wished the pair the best, no matter how it pained him.