❯ Crossing of the Rubicon – One-Shot
Author’s Note: This story refers to the events of the first Bastard!! novel. I mean the book, not the manga. If you don’t understand what’s going on, read the summery for the first Bastard!! novel on the Bastard!! Nation web site. Also keep in mind my previous fic, Requiem for the Innocent, because the events from that story will be mentioned in this fic. The fic itself is set sometime after the 5th or 6th Bastard!! manga volume or the last episode of the anime. I combined the manga and the anime for my own purposes.
Something that always bothered me about Kall’s attitude in the series was that he allowed Abigail to use the Blue Nail Curse of the Accused on Arshes. I mean, they grew up as brother and sister. You may be angry with your sibling, but you would never wish them harm, right? So what the hell was Kall thinking?! So this fic explores the aspects of their relatinship as adults.
Crossing of the Rubicon
By: Silver Spider
This has been one hell of a week, Ninja Master Gara looked up from his book. He wasn’t really reading; exhaustion and pain from his injuries prevented him from focusing on the words. Closing the novel and placing it next to the candle on his night stand, he sighed and looked out the window. His eyes narrowed when he noticed a shadow in the court yard. Someone was outside. The figure was slim and holding some sort of weapon, most likely a sword. It moved swiftly and fluidly, but Gara didn’t think it was an attacker for the person remained in one place, almost as if he or she was sparing with an invisible opponent.
Curiosity took over, and the ninja master swung both legs over the edge of the bed and walked over to the door. The halls of Metallicana’s capital castle were silent. Everyone was asleep; even the knights and ninjas who had spent most of the night in the town inns, drinking and celebrating their victory, had returned to the castle to sleep of the alcohol. Quickly descending down the spiraling steps, he passed the first three floors before finally stepping onto the ground level. The entrance to the court yard lay just a few steps to his left. He could see the shadow clearly now. Judging by the shadow, unless one of the young stable boys had taken up the practice of the Hariken Swordsmanship School, a friend of his was not sleeping at night.
« A bit early for a sparring scion, don’t you think, Nei? » he casually leaned against the outer wall of the court yard, folding his hands over his broad chest. Crimson red eyes flashed in the darkness, and Thunder Empress Arshes Nei emerged from the shadows, the sword set heavily on her right shoulder.
« Then again, » Gara continued, « who can sleep after they’ve had their guts cut open by someone they considered their friend, and then a few days later had those same guts impaled by a cyclops while trying to help that same friend. But, hey, » he shrugged his shoulders, « who’s complaining? »
The half-elven woman didn’t respond, merely placed the tip of the sword on the ground and entwined her fingers over the hilt. Gara regarded her for a moment and sighed, waving his hand in a sign of dismissal. « Anyway, it was not my intention to make you feel guilty, Arshes. I’ll go now. » He turned on his heal to walk back into the castle.
« Wait, » she called after him, and the ninja master slowly turned around. She sighed deeply then spoke. « I’m sorry, Gara. Your friendship has been the only positive constant in my life for the past fifteen years, and I would hate to loose it. »
« What makes you think you’re going to loose it? » he raised an eyebrow. She opened her mouth to reply, but he let out a short laugh. « Oh you mean that whole thing this past week? Nah, I’m not mad at you for that. I understand what it means to be in a war. In any case, what do you mean ‘the only positive constant?’ What about Kall and Abigail? »
« Kall and Abigail? » she laughed, but there was no humor to her voice. Arshes walked over to the closest bench and sat down. Gara remained standing next to her. « Abigail scares the shit out of me most of the time. He and I were never friends. As for Kall-Su… let’s just say that his magical specialty isn’t the only reason he’s called the Ice Lord. »
« I see, » he sat down next to her and leaned forward on his elbows. « So what has you out here so early? Are you upset with Schneider? »
« Upset with Darsh, » another humorless laugh escaped the Thunder Empress. « I probably should be for something, but after over a century I’ve learned to get over it. No, it’s not Darsh that’s bothering me right now. »
« Then who? » there was no reply. « You can’t function like this, woman. I know you haven’t slept in days; you’re hardly eating. This thing with D.S. is bothering you, but there’s something else. What is it? »
« It’s… it’s Kall, » she replied in a whisper.
« Kall? » Gara repeated. « What about him? »
« I… I miss him. »
« Why? I thought you said that you two weren’t friends. »
« Not recently, » she agreed. « But then on the grand scheme of things, you’ve only been with us for a short time, Gara. Kall and I used to be very close, like brother and sister, until our friendship went to hell. »
« And how did the two of you manage that? » he inquired.
« Who knows? » the half-elf shrugged, leaning back onto the bench. « When Kall first came to be with us all those decades ago, he was just a frightened little boy who didn’t know how to control this great power he possessed. He hurt a lot of people, Gara, and their voices haunted him, but despite that, he never went to Darsh for help. Instead he came to me. I’m younger than he is, you know, and back then the difference in our age was apparent. Still I comforted him as best as I could, and from that we forged a bond stronger and deeper than any blood could provide. »
« But then, » she continued, « those children that used to be us died, and in their place rose two very… angry young people. I think that, on some level, we always competed for Darsh’s attention, like two siblings for the love of a parent. »
« Which you obviously won, » Gara interrupted dryly.
« I did, » she agreed. « Though sometimes I wonder if it was worth it. Don’t misunderstand me, I do love him, but because of that love, I lost the only real family I knew. After Darsh and I became lovers, Kall-Su seemed to drift away somehow. That’s who I miss, Gara: not Kal-Su, the Ice Lord, but plain and simple Kall, my brother. »
There was a silence between them, then Arshes took a deep breath. « The first time Kall came to me after his nightmares, we swore to always take care of one another, even when Darsh didn’t. But for the past few decades, it seems like all we do is hurt each other. »
Gara was about to ask how, but then he remembered. « The Blue Nail Curse of the Accused. »
« He let that bastard Abigail poison my body! » silent tears were streaming down her dark features. Arshes bit her lip, nearly drawing blood, and quickly got up, walking across the court yard and wrapping her arms around her body. She refused to cry in front of the ninja master or anyone else, for that matter.
« But that’s not all, is it, Arshes? » her elven ears barely picked up her friend’s hushed voice from the other side of the yard. Allowing for a quick glimpse, she saw that Gara was staring at the ground, his fingers gripping the edge of the bench. « Otherwise, » he glanced up at her, « why would you be spending your tears on him? »
Realizing that she was discovered, Arshes quickly brushed away the droplets with the back of her hand and turned away from him. « What… what makes you say that? »
« Come on, woman, I’d like to think that I know the person I almost sacrificed my life for well enough. I’ve never seen you cry over anyone other than Schneider, so I’m guessing whatever Kall did must’ve been a lot bigger than letting some creepy old cleric give you a bad manicure, » the ninja master rose and took several long strides towards her. The Thunder Empress stiffened as he placed both hands on her shoulders. « Arshes, you don’t have to tell me anything, but as your friend, I would like to help. »
« You want to help? » she scoffed, still refusing to face him. « What if I told you there was nothing you could do? What if… what if I told you that he tried to rape me? »
She could feel Gara’s hands begin to shake. Pulling back, he clenched his fists so tightly that his knuckles turned white and walked to the outer wall, bracing his body against it. She could hear him taking a deep breath then whispering. « I’m sorry, Arshes. »
« For what? » she couldn’t help but wonder.
« For letting it happen, for not seeing your pain earlier. I’m sorry that you suffered so much. Most of all, I’m sorry that every single man in your life, weather supposed friend or lover, has been such a disappointment, » he rubbed the bridge of his nose as a sudden wave of exhaustion washed over him. Gara slid down the wall and came to rest on the ground.
« Well not every single man, » Arshes came to sit next to him. « You’ve never disappointed me, Gara. You’ve always been my friend, » he regarded her with a look of disbelief, but she gave him a reassuring smile. « What Kall tried to do was actually slightly encouraged by Darsh’s actions, but as bad as it was, it made us realize that we will never be like him. »
« Like D.S.? Of coarse not, » Gara frowned at her. « I could’ve told you that without attempting rape. To be like Schneider, you’d have to become a soulless, uncaring whore, which you’re not. I used to think Kall-Su wasn’t either. »
« I know, » Arshes nodded in agreement. « That’s why I miss who he used to be. I hate what he’s become. » They sat in silence, until she finally stood up and gently pulled the ninja master to do the same. « Come on, Gara. I think we can both get some sleep now. Thank’s for letting me sort out my thoughts. »
« Fine, » he rose to his feet, and the two began to walk back twords the castle, « but you’re going to have to face him eventually. If niether of you dies during this war, you’ll have to talk to him. I refuse to defend his actions, but I believe that if he was a good man while you were growing up, he can become that man again. »
« That’s what I was hoping for, » she said thoughtfully more to herself than to Gara.
* * * * * * * * * *
A cool wind blew through the graveyard-like barren desert. It used to be a village or maybe even a small kingdom, but after Dark Schneider and his army had leveled it to the ground, it never fully recovered. Most if the kingdom’s inhabitants had moved on to find new dwellings, leaving everything behind. Only marshes and ruins remained.
A foot sank into the wet mud next to an abandoned rotting building. Kall-Su, a young man only in appearance, shivered. He usually preferred the cold, but the ruins had an eerie feel to them that chilled him to the bones. His violet eyes glanced at his surroundings.
« Do you think they’ll ever bother to fix this place? » he addressed the woman who came to stand next to him, without bothering to face her. She knew that his question had more than one meaning.
« Some day, » the half-elf said wistfully. « Maybe when the world starts to heal. »
Kall-Su didn’t say anything, instead took a few steps forward and looked around again. « What is the point of this illusion, Thunder Empress? Why have you brought me here? »
« This isn’t just an illusion, » Arshes bit her lip, wincing at the formal title. « This is the place where it all happened. »
« Do not play mind games with me, » the Ice Lord warned her her.
« This isn’t a game, Kall. Look, » she pointed behind him at the gate of the collapsing building. Kall-Su turned with some degree of reluctance, and for a split second, hiss eyes widened in surprise.
Coming from the ruins of the building was a very annoyed-looking Dark Schneider. He didn’t notice the Ice Lord or the Thunder Empress and literally walked through them. Kall-Su was once again stunned, but Arshes Nei didn’t seem at all surprised. The blond haired man was about to follow Schneider on his way back to the castle, before the half-elven woman raised her hand to stop him.
« He’s not very important, » she explained. « Look there. »
The Ice Lord turned his attention back to the building and saw two small figures emerge from inside: children. The girl had long dark blue hair that framed a pair of slightly pointed ears. She appeared to be about six or seven years of age while her companion, a boy with platinum blond tousled locks, looked about ten or eleven. The older child’s eyes were cast down as he and the girl walked after Schneider, but Kall-Su knew full well what color they were. When all three ghosts of the past disappeared into the castle, he turned to Arshes.
« Why do you insist on tormenting me with these… specters, Thunder Empress? »
« Who’s the specter? » she shot back. « I prefer that boy over what he grew up to be. Back then we used to be as close as siblings. Look at you now; you don’t even remember my name. All that seems to be left are meaningless titles. » She sighed, « What happened to us, Kall? »
« You slept with Schneider, » came the cold reply.
« Why does that bother you so much? » she demanded. « I know we always seemed to compete for his attention, but… »
« No! » he violently cut her of. « This has nothing to do with his attention! Is it possible that just maybe I thought you were better than one of his whores! Maybe I thought that you were better than him! »
« Gods, » she whispered through clenched teeth. « What in the seven gates of hell made you think that? »
« Because, » his voice was quiet now. « You were the first, and one of the very few, person to show me admiration and caring without a single hint of hatred, fear, or desire for my powers. » They were both silent, then Kall spoke again. « After being tormented for most of my life, do you have any idea what it was like to have an innocent little girl crawl onto my lap and… » he laughed at his own thought, « and tell me that she would take care of me? »
Tears were running both Arshes’ dark cheeks and Kall’s pale ones. « And then, » he continued, « try to imagine watching my only friend grow up and be twisted from that innocent little girl, who was the only one to ever make me smile, to a woman, though seemingly powerful, with no will of her own. You bound yourself to him, Arshes. You think you hate what I’ve become? Try looking in the mirror one of these days and see if you can recognize yourself. »
« Is there no way we can be friends again? » she asked through her tears.
« I don’t see how, » he admitted, and Arshes choked back a sob. « But… maybe one day after the war, when this plsce is rebuilt, maybe there is something left to salvage. » His image shimmered, and he began to fade, « Good bye, Arshes Nei. »
« Good bye, » she whispered as he disappeared into the darkness. « Good bye, my brother. »
Author’s End Note: I absolutely love exploring relationships between characters, especially if they have such a complicated one, like Kall and Arshes. The problem is that there’s no black and white here; they both have good points to their arguments, but neither one of them is exactly a saint. So who’s right and who’s wrong? Well I leave that up to you.