It is hardly ever a choice when to meet someone outside your understanding of reality, beyond the normalcy you got used to, unbridled by your perception of them. Lino especially believed so, as all people he ever met in his life fell into certain conformity to where he discovered them; you’d rarely ever be wrong to assume certain things about a person based on where they live, what their eyes say and the way they dress. But, for there is no absolutes in the world beyond the laws of nature that the latter itself cannot defy either.
Following the first day of the Annual Festival where major focus was on jousting, Lino spent majority of time walking through the empty streets of the Capital, barren in confound thought. He was lost, perhaps not of who he was, but of where he ought to walk now. Above him light brazenly radiated, beneath shadows tangled in an eternal waltz, and they fought a war, one deemed eternal and everlasting by nature of design. He had hoped walking aimlessly would settle his thoughts, which partially worked, until he met her - a complete stranger. She had strikingly silver hair, inhumane in a sense and a way, and rapidly swirling black eyes. She wore silk-woven dress, puffed at shoulders and tied tightly round waist with a belt-like strings.
She appeared beyond the corner and walked into his haze and shook him out of stupor. Beneath the veil of beauty Lino doubted many could deny, though, he had seen a mirrored reflection of himself, of his own conundrum, perhaps one burning even more brazenly and brightly. She, too, had been walking aimlessly, never spotting him, yet there was certain grace and elegance to her steps, as though she was floating above the dirtied concrete streets.
He didn’t wish to interrupt her thoughts, yet could hardly suppress the urge. She was clearly from upper strata of society - every inch of her being screamed that notion - yet he still wanted to walk up to her and ask her what’s wrong. Which is what he eventually did, making sure to do it carefully as to not startle her.
“... hi?” Lino mumbled, waving his arm in front of her, which finally seemed to have jolted her back to reality. Her eyes lifted up from the ground and looked into him, grated by invisible pain. “Yeah, hi. Are you lost? What are you doing here?” Lino asked with an honest smile.
“... you are the shadow.” the girl replied in a mellow, transcendent voice, tilting her head sideways and looking at him oddly.
“I’m... uh, I’m a what?”
“Not ‘a what’, but ‘the what’,” she corrected. “You are the shadow.”
“... not following.” Lino said, squinting his eyes.
“You cannot follow that which you have never known,” she said, smiling faintly. “Is that not the truth?”
“Want to take a walk with me?” she asked, passing by him and suddenly grasping at his arm, interlocking it with hers and dragging him along. “Are you confused?”
“No, of course not. Everything makes about as much sense as anything else in my life.” Lino shrugged his shoulders, carrying along with the charade.
“I imagine... that confusion is the least thing all have in common with one another. Who are we? Why are we? How are we? Where are we? What are we? Blissful ignorance offers a road of words, of thoughts, of pictures we deem worthy of our existence. Quite romantic, is it not?” she asked, glancing at him from the corner of her eyes.
“... I wouldn’t know.” Lino said.
“You do. We all do, whether we are aware of it or not,” she chuckled lightly as they took a left turn, arriving at a eastern gate of the city and easily passing through it as though they were invisible to the set of alert guards. “Quite unlike them not being aware of us.”
“... yup, you were right. I am utterly and completely confused right now.”
“My name is Freya, for starters,” she said. “And you are my shadow, Lyonel.”
“... how do you know my name?” Lino asked, tensing up.
“And when our shadow catches up to us,” she continued on, ignoring him. “It bids end to our time. A depressing fate, if nothing else, should someone ask me and ponder. Do you believe in fate, Lyonel?”
“... uh... no?”
“You should not,” she smiled. “It is a dog-breeding, foul, dishonest, corrupt, broken linen. But, for better or worse, it is there, however faint it may appear. All of us in this world bear twines knotted round ourselves, bounding sky and earth until finding their match. Yet, the twines hardly represent anything but potential. A chance. An option. Future is never set in stone, unlike the past. Everything can and will happen, regardless of our desires. But, twines bind two variables of equation and make them a constant. Do you find this confusing?”
“... who are you?” Lino asked as they suddenly stopped a few hundred meters away from the city gates, standing atop a small hill overlooking a vast field and a river.
“I am the other side of your twine, Lyonel,” Freya said. “As you are mine. You have come to this place for a reason, and though I cannot even begin to venture a guess as to what that reason may be, it is tied to me somehow, someway. However blurry the twines of fate may be, they do not lie. They are birthed from billions of years of patterns, of repeated occurrences between similar people, similar events, similar ideologies, similar states. They are not random choices. They are coldly calculated predictions, bound tightly in the intelligence’s habit of repetition. Umbra is odd, Lyonel. Has been odd for a few years now. And I am fairly certain you are here because of those oddities - or perhaps you may even be the source of them, I can hardly say. The reason you and I are bound by the fate’s twine is because someone else like us in the past has been bound, and someone else before them had been bound too, and those before them.”
“... riiight,” Lino said, wriggling his way out of the armlock and distancing himself slightly from the beautiful - yet slightly morbidly odd - lady standing in front of him. “That’s, uh, great and all, but, you know, I’m not really into religion and, uh, no offense or anything, I’m just, you know, not that type.”
“There is darkness budding beneath our feet,” Freya turned toward him, her gaze tranquil, pure and serene, sober of confusions. “Yet, why is it that I fear more the light scorching toward the earth from the high sky, than the darkness hiding in the shadow beneath the crust?”
“...” Lino froze for a moment, unable to reply. A round of thousands of thoughts ran through his mind, most connecting her with one form of test or another. “You’re imagining things.” Lino replied in the end. “Just... just go back home and live on. Nothing’s gonna happen.”
“Something is happening all the time,” she said, looking toward the horizon. “Big or small is, in the end, irrelevant. From the slightest sway of butterfly’s wings, devouring winds may be spawned as the end-time consequence. It is never a thing being born out of nothing, or of a single choice, Lyonel. I do not ask you to tell me the truth of what is happening, nor do I have particular desire to hear it. I have seen the chaos birthed from knowing, and I have lived it. I do not need--no, I do not want the truth. Let it all remain much like you were just an hour ago - a mere shadow looming over me eternally. But, we are twined for a reason, Lyonel. What that reason is... I am not wise enough to know. Perhaps it is up to me to stop you, or to aid you, or to do nothing at all and just watch. In the end, choice is still up to me, not up to fate’s twine.”
“... you really have a particular way of speaking.” Lino said, relaxing slightly while chuckling. “Why do you dress up a single thought so much?”
“... it is just how I am.” Freya replied.
“No,” Lino shook his head, smiling bitterly. “It’s who you were made to be.”
“... perhaps. Does it matter?”
“... no, it just sounds nice.” Lino said, sighing. “It’s like talking to someone from an entirely different world.”
“Do you envy me?” Freya asked, tilting her head slightly as she glanced at him.
“... I do.” Lino said, smiling. “You’re dressed nicely, you smell even better, you have proper manners-whatever the hell that is-you can speak well... I may not be the smartest kid out there, but I even I can tell you aren’t exactly a commoner.”
“No, you are right. I am not. Does that make me better or worse than you?”
“It does.” Lino said. “Doesn’t make you wrong for it, though. We are all children of circumstances, after all.”
“No... you are children of neglect,” Freya said, turning around and beginning to walk back toward the city. “You should have been taught to speak the same way I do, to carry yourself the same way I do, to eat and drink and sleep the same way I do. Do not excuse us through circumstances Lyonel,” Lino followed shortly after her, walking by her side. “That is not how you scrutinize a monster.”
“... I can’t say,” Lino said, chuckling lightly. “You don’t seem that bad to me.”
“... I don’t know. You remind me of someone I used to know, I suppose.” he said.
“I am flattered. Who was she?” Freya asked, looking at Lino.
“... she... she was a friend from a long, long time ago.”
“What happened to her?”
“... I don’t know.” Lino said. “I just know she’s better off wherever she is.”
“...” Freya looked at him deeply for a moment before averting her gaze. The two entered through the city gates shortly after, still completely ignored as though they weren’t even there. When they returned to the place they met at, Freya paused and glanced at him yet again. “Though you have a right idea to go to the girls for knowledge, you have scared them. Should you ever need to know anything about the city, go to Melinda and tell her you want to see me. Until next time Lyonel. I truly hope my shadow will not cast darkness over this city. However broken it may seem, it still has good people in it, people fighting to change it for better. I will be seeing you.”
Lino stood at the spot for a long while, slightly amused. He could venture a guess as to who she was --as the name of the only Umbra Kingdom’s Princess is Freya -- though he couldn’t be certain. What he found amusing - and slightly hopeful - was that the girls he had ‘hired’ could go to her without fear. They are really similar, he thought as he looked toward south. Though they probably wouldn’t be able to stand each other should they meet... hmm, speaking of meeting people, I really should go meet those girls tonight and give them a piece of my mind. I expect trust when I deal with prostitutes, dammit. How is anything in this world fair anymore now?