“I’m going to the lake so that my mind may rest.” Soleil clasped her hands together and looked at her feet. Armin sighed and touched her hand, he knew there would be no stopping her. “Don’t stay too long, and please don’t drown in your thoughts.” He tried to force a smile, but his stomach turned and she wouldn’t look up anyhow. As he knew she would, Soleil wrapped her arms around him and dashed off without another word. Pacing absently, he pictured Soleil running to her lake, her golden hair flowing in the wind. He wished her safety, he longed to be with her. “Oh Soleil, please believe me.” His arms hung loosely at his side as he returned to working on the Grand Wall, a stone wall stretching around the city to protect the outlying land from the ever expanding town. Amaitochi, the surrounding land, was known for it’s sweet flowers and special lakes as well as the rolling hills which encircled the city of Hikari like the ripples around a stone which has been dropped into water. At the edge of the hills, great mountains surround the land, protecting it from the sea, breaking at bays. Armin grew up hearing tales of how the island seemed to have been formed especially for their city, apart from the rest of the world. Because of this, the people of the land intended to protect the outlying area, towns were built around the bays and the great city at the center. As Armin lay each stone into the wall, his thoughts were far away, with Soleil at the lake.
Soleil slipped through the trees, as the branches flew in her face, her mind grew darker and darker. She pressed on towards the lake, knowing it to be only a valley away. Her thoughts continued to twist into an awful darkness, smoke in her mind choked out the light and her eyes blurred as she ran.
You aren’t enough.
She gasped for air as the reached the edge of the forest. The hill sloped downward before her and leveled out to a soft valley filled with wildflowers. Their sweet smell pushed out some of the smoke from her mind and a tear slipped down Soleil’s face.
They’ll forget you. They’ll replace you.
She ran through the flowers and with each step they gently caressed her feet, but she hardly noticed at all. The words clawed at her mind and it ached with fresh wounds. Soleil fell into the soft dirt. Clusters of trees surrounded the lake, the shore was lined in little pebbles. A light purple hammock swung gently in the breeze, tethered to a couple cottonwoods. Soleil climbed into it and gazed at her lake. The water was stirred lightly by a southern wind, the small waves lapped quietly at the shore. She let her mind run free and the smoke started to fight.
You’re nothing special, useless, everyone will turn on you. Yes, even Armin.
For a moment her face went completely blank, she clenched her eyes tightly and bit the inside of her lip. Tears streamed down her face and she shook her head. “It’s not true.” When the water stilled she saw a thousand reflections, as if her mind had spilled onto the water’s surface. Her hands shook and she couldn’t stop the tears.
As Armin placed his last stone of the day, another one of the workers laid a hand on his shoulder. “She was chosen, you know.” Armin nodded and bit his lip, resenting the cold hand on his shoulder. “Yes, I’m sure you know… But you know what you don’t know?” Armin turned to face the boy, a good deal younger, quiet and calm-faced. “You were chosen to protect her.” Armin’s heart raced and he snatched his cloak off the ground and ran. His friend watched in silent understanding as he vanished over the first hill. Armin’s heart raced with every step as he sped over the hills and through the flowers. When his feet hit the soft mud, he saw her. She was bent over her knees by the water. He went to her and wrapped his arms around her, “I came as quickly as I could.” Her hands touched the water and color whirled through it, he could feel the warmth building in her arms. Her eyes reflected the clear, cool water and pain spilled onto the surface. Every thought on her mind, every feeling in her heart spilled onto the water. The darker thoughts, the anger, the guilt, the sadness, the confusion swirled in a mix of darkness attempting to take over the beautiful colors. Armin held her tightly and tried to whisper to her, the verses of their hope, the truth of his love, but was entirely unresponsive. As a last resolve, he kissed her gently and dove into the water, crashing into the darkness. At impact, he felt the pain of every wound she bore and the joy of every hope in her heart. He chased after her joys and brought them to the surface and fought off the sickening darkness until his energy was all but gone. When he pulled himself out of the water, he saw that she’d withdrawn from it and was resting in the little hammock a ways off. Amaitochi was safe for another year, but more importantly his sweet Soleil was safe. He ran to her and lifted her out of the hammock, “You’ve done it, you beautiful soul, you’ve done it.”
Soleil wept and smiled, for she had first swam in the lake many years before, but to be tested by it was another matter entirely. Not only was her heart still free, but her mind as well.