Seeing Gold

Just look at the flowers.

In the Gerlii Talba, the Field of Light, the roots of the flowers grow strong and stable.

They waft gently in the breeze. Their stems catch the bright rays of the midday sun, and stretch carefully towards the horizon.

Their petals are gold. Like Narantse’s eyes.

Nara runs across the Talba. Her bare feet patter against warm grass, soft and lazy from the morning rain. Her ears are filled with the sound of cicadas humming in distant trees, shifting from branch to branch as if searching for a place to call home. The wind sweeps across the meadow, and the flowers turn to face the light of the sun. They can barely hope to shift away from Nara, whose feet are wild, virulent beasts plowing through shoots of grain. She is a tiger chasing gazelles through the jungle, a mountain lion bearing down on hapless goats under the pass.

She stumbles, falling to her knees. Dirt dots bronze skin, spreading muck over her heels and dripping murky water down towards her soles. The liquid pools between toes, which in turn dig into tufts of grass with surprising strength.

A fly buzzes near her ear. She swats at it with stained fingers, narrowly clipping a single wing. It falls helplessly to the ground, wallowing in pain, before slowly, uncomfortably, choosing to die. It was not a quick death, but one marked with suffering. What is mere moments to a human being is hours of agony to the insect below.

Nara does not notice this. She is focused instead on a particularly beautiful prize.

She stumbles up to her feet, kicking the gunk and dead flies around her in her hurried frenzy to reach it. Her legs get ahead of her, and by the time she reaches the goal, it is impossible to slow her own velocity to an acceptable level. Nara drops clumsily to the ground again, her hair tossing over both shoulders from the sudden shift in momentum. She stares.

The blooming rose stands proudly among an otherwise monochromatic background. Sea-foam blue contrasts the golden array before Nara’s eyes, and seemingly causes a mischievous glint to form in the corner of her iris’. The girl watches it for several moments, chewing the inside of her lip even as the rose sways deliciously in the breeze, before deciding to go in for the kill.

“Now, how do I…”

Her people had always believed in a simple duality to the way the world moved: the earth was stable. Feral plants and cultivated crops grew, and their cycles of death and rebirth nourished the essence of the world. The sky was violent, untrustworthy. It changed its mind often, and could not be predicted quite so easily. Even when the earth changed in sudden ways, such as the Great Quake she could barely remember from her childhood years, it gave opportunity for new things. Within the soil, there were riches to be discovered. Within the sky, there were none. It was empty, and filled only with wind, that inconstant force. And from the wind, there could only ever be violence.

The clouds were moving above — it would be evening soon. Mother had told her not to play for too long in the fields, all alone without anyone to accompany here; the night could bring frightening things out into the open, and she would be powerless against them. She needed to act fast if she was to bring this beautiful rose back home.

Both hands shot out past blades of grass, latching onto the prickly green stem before her. Nara bit her lower lip painfully at the protruding thorns digging into her palm, but did not cry out. She could handle this little pain. A little pain was a small price to pay for such beauty.

A rumble in the distance, somewhat high above the clouds. The atmosphere was growing dark and moody, the humidity seemingly swelling to strange proportions. A storm was brewing.

Nara managed to pluck that gentle growth from the ground, her eyes shut in the pain of it all. It’ll pass, she told herself. This was worth it. And besides, pain would pass, would it not? Her mother had told her it would.

And it would.

Something strange whistled along the darkening breeze. Narantse turned to face the setting sun, releasing one hand from the rose. Thick droplets of blood fell from her soft skin, nourishing the soil below. Her palm raised, Nara squinted at the irregular darkness pushing out from the sky.

The sky was growing malevolent. The light was fading. At home, mother was likely frightened for her little girl. As she should be.

From between the storm clouds, crackling with dark, brutal energy, something was protruding.

A massive hulk of steel and lightning, covered in red and white, drifted into view. Its engines breathed smoke and ash into the atmosphere. Its weapons, aiming low from the mast, seemed to be shaped like the throats of great beasts.

There was a sound. Narantse heard a great, overwhelming rush of wind and fire. A shrieking hiss accompanied it, growing louder and louder, threatening to deafen her entirely.

The rose fell from her other hand, laid to rest in a field of gold.

In the Gerlii Talba, the roots of the flowers lie dormant and dreary.

They waver uneasily in the breeze. Their stems catch the crimson mist of the twilight sun, and twist weakly away from the horizon.

Their petals are red.

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