Echoes in the Dark - A Voltron: Legendary Defender Fanfiction
Chapter 5: Waking Dreams
For the past ten thousand years, my mind tortured me in my slumber. Rarely did I find a tick to myself where I was able to take a breather on what had happened. Not once did I find the time to take a deep breath and grasp that it all really happened.
"Kitsaki. What you did was not only foolish,
but could have cost your life as well as the Black Lion.
Do you understand that?"
It would force me to relive my mistakes, over and over until I was to wake up. I was strapped in my seat while the screen continuously played the same thing over and over as if I was missing something. I could almost recite every line was said and could time scenes down to the very last tick.
"I… I'm sorry… I… I thought I
could stop him…"
Not once did it allow me to have a break. It would play over and over in attempts to break my spirit and my soul. I wasn't permitted to have a moment to myself, to take the time needed to comprehend the memory after it was shown. It would just roll right back into it on an endless loop.
"As long as you are safe, my child.
I don't know what I would have done if I'd
known Zarkon had ever put a threatening
hand on you."
His voice still haunts me to this day. I was hoping that somehow for some reason that he survived. That for one reason or another, Zarkon allowed his long-time friend to flee with the rest of his people before he destroyed Altea.
"I… never meant for you to
worry… I really thought I
could… I thought I could avoid
all of this mess."
I wish it was a film without sound. At least then I didn't have to tear up at the sadness in his voice, or the way it would deep lower than normal to hide the fact he was upset. I wouldn't have to grind my own teeth at the way my voice was crack up or how it would waver in attempts to keep myself from sobbing.
"I know, my child. I… know. But sometimes
you cannot, no matter how hard you try."
It was a wonder how the King didn't call me out for my treason. I defied a direct order from him and engaged the enemy head-on. How he found himself comforting me in my time of despair despite his own worries was astonishing. Why he consoled me in such an hour will probably remain a secret that was sent to the grave.
"There shouldn't have been any try!
I could have stopped him there but
I froze… I was weak despite all the training
Zarkon himself gave me about showing my enemy
no compassion… How ironic it was him
I found myself a statue in front of…"
I allowed myself to be weak at that moment – I couldn't allow it again. It cost too much, something I guess I didn't see until now. I knew what I was doing when I confronted him, but yet I still found I couldn't bare to raise a defying hand to him. It was that mistake that cost everyone dearly.
"… You did what you could.
No one blames you."
Everything was against me as I analyzed the King's face. How his eyes crinkled with age, sparkled in the artificial light of the ship. The way his lips moved with words that meant nothing, but everything to me. His hand so rough from deca-phoebs wielding a sword but so soft as they caressed my cheek.
While I slept in the cryopod, not knowing what befell him kept the hope that he was alive. Now, knowing that the hand of his closest friend slaughtered him… it was an unbearable reality I now had to face.
King Alfor's face morphed in front of me as the Alteans behind him disappeared. The late-King suddenly looked much older, complete with sunken eyes and ashen skin. His soft features were hardened as his kind eyes regarded me coldly. He towered over me as he stood tall and rigid. His face was contorted in disgust as his eyes trailed down my body, calculating me distantly.
"I'm disappointed in you, Kitsaki," he finally said after a long period of time.
Suddenly I wasn't a young woman on the cusp of adulthood; I was a mere babe as his words sunk deep into my soul. I couldn't find my voice. It was sapped out of me and the only thing I could do was to stare down at his feet. I felt his eyes pierce through my skull.
"You could have ended this war. Before me, I see nothing more than a pathetic, incompetent child who values the bonds of her tarnished family more than the life of her own people."
Tears threatened to spill as I dumbly nodded my head he said word for word the same thing as Zarkon when I confronted him. I didn't know how he knew the words but it was true. All of it was.
"You killed me, Kitsaki. It may have been by Zarkon's hand, but you could have stayed it… but you didn't. You were too weak to stop him. You could have saved me, Kitsaki. You could have saved me. You could have saved your people. You could have saved Allura from having to face the war alone with incompetent Paladins. It's your fault this all happened. If you weren't so weak you cold have ended all of this when it was supposed to. But you didn't, did you child?"
His every word tore through another piece of my soul as he continued to berate me. I drank every syllable as if it was the only thing that could keep me alive. Despite the silence he left, my ears rang as his words replayed in my mind.
"I'm awaiting an answer, child."
The sternness of his booming voice caught me off-guard, but I held my composure as I slowly blinked. My mouth went dry as I struggled to find the words that would please him. Upsetting the King of Altea was a very hard task to do – he was such a kind and honest man. Seeing him in such a state using such a tone of voice… I suppose even good men have breaking points – and I just reached that of King Alfor's.
"Didn't what, child?"
"I didn't save you… I –"
"Look at your King when you address him, child."
My head shot up at his words. Allura had his eyes – vibrant azure eyes with a splash of magenta. But these were no longer the eyes I was used to fondly gaze into. These were hard blue orbs with drips of crimson red. These eyes weren't those of a just king who tried his best to run his kingdom – this was a vengeful tyrant who was out for blood… my blood.
I've never seen eyes as cold as his.
My lip quivered as I struggled to comprehend my words under his stare.
"I didn't save you…" I finally admitted loudly as I gazed directly at him. "I didn't save you because I was stupid. I should have killed Zarkon when I had the chance, but I didn't because I thought he could be reasoned with. I thought I could convince him to have a change of heart, but he didn't… and I couldn't end him. I couldn't kill the man who raised me, even though he was destroying everything I loved because I was too weak. I let you die. I let Altea die, and I'm the reason why the universe has been in turmoil for the past ten thousand years… why your daughter is left alone."
"That's right, child," he agreed in a low voice without an ounce of remorse. "This is all your fault… and you best not forget it, either."
I shot up with heavy breaths. My world was disoriented as I struggled to rid myself of King Alfor's heated gaze and right myself in the real world. My bitter words were still on the tip of my tongue as his harsh truths rang continuously in my ears. My heart palpitated rapidly as a hand clutched the thing fabric that separated my skin from the stale air. My eyes desperately darted around the room, trying to place my surroundings and look for any sign of the late king.
I caught the darkened shadows of my bookshelf, then of my desk. It slowly came back to me as the hand not gripping my nightgown smoothed down the familiar sheets of my bed.
I was back in my room in the Castle of Lions, I had to remind myself. King Alfor was already long dead, and thus wasn't just speaking with me. I was safe here: The Lions were in their chambers, Allura was possibly in her room resting or piloting the ship with Coran doing whatever he did at this hour.
Judging how exhausted I still felt – even if my sleep was restless – I assumed it was still late if no one came in to wake me up.
With a small sigh, I laid back down in attempts to get more sleep. I was still rattled with the truths that still pierced my soul, and my breaths still came in uneven pants. Every time I closed my eyes, I could see the darkness that King Alfor had surrounding him. Whenever I actively ignored the white noise of the ship, I could hear his every word reverberate into the quiet room. My hands gripped my light blankets tightly as I attempted not to tremble… even if I found I was failing badly.
After remaining lying down for what seemed like deca-phoebs, my mind raced wildly with all my faults and things I could've done differently… should've done differently.
My hands found my burning eyes, rubbing them harshly as I groaned. My thoughts weren't quieting themselves anytime soon, and my nerves were too far wired to head back to sleep right now. With a defeated sigh, I sat back up, a hand combing through my bush of light-blue hair.
My bare feet found the cold tiles of the floor. I fixed my white nightgown, making sure it properly covered myself before I untangled my legs from my blankets. The cool air tickled my bare skin, so I gently rubbed it with my hands in attempts to keep warm. After a tick, I stood up, before shuffling over to my dresser, and opening the bottom drawer.
It was odd to think that I knew where everything still was even after ten thousand years, even if it didn't feel like it. My hands expertly dove into the drawer, finding what I was searching for quickly. I pulled out a pair of Yellow Lion slippers, dripping them to the floor so I could put them on.
I acquired them from Gyrgan when the Paladins first got slippers modeled after their Lions. Gyrgan's slippers were too small for his enormous feet, so he gave them to me instead of throwing them out. He eventually got the right ones – after receiving a gigantic pair, then a pair that fit but happened to be the Blue Lion instead – but I was ecstatic to have slippers of my own.
I think that Yellow was happy I wore slippers with his head on them as opposed to any of the other Lions, but he never voiced it… but I wouldn't be surprised if the rest of the Lions were silently jealous because of it.
A quick exhale that simulated a laugh left my lips as I dug back into the drawer for a blanket to throw over my shoulders to retain body heat. Despite it being locked away for so long and was definitely going to be cold, it was too much work to tear my bed apart right now just for something I had stored away in my dresser.
I finally found the blanket I was searching for, unfolding it as I closed the drawer with my foot. The slipper hung precariously off my foot with the action since they dwarfed them in size, but it didn't bother me. I wrapped myself in the old fabric, shivering as the coldness touched my skin. I shuffled away from the drawer, happy that my feet weren't immediately being frozen by the icy floors. I suppose it could all be fixed if I just turned up the heat, but that defeated the purpose of sleeping with multiple blankets.
I decided it would be best if I left my room instead of just sitting on my bed alone with my thoughts. The best use of my time now would be to refamiliarize myself with the castle, and get a firmer grip on the reality I now faced myself in.
I had to come to terms that there's new Paladins of Voltron, and my old friends are long since dead. Even the Paladin of Old who still walked this plane existence wasn't the same man I once knew and had to be forgotten as such. The next time I see him, I have to be certain that I will not falter in my strike. He is no longer King Zarkon of Daibazaal, but rather a power-hungry tyrant who needs to be eradicated from this world.
The doors to my room slide open as I shuffled my feet into the hall. The lights were dimmed as a simulated nighttime but remained on as a way to guide lost Paladins to their dorms. My room was in the same hall as the other Paladins as well as many other empty rooms for others to be housed. It was eerily quiet as the white noise of the castle moaning and humming echoed.
I slowly walked down the hall, passing doors that kept their insides a secret. I knew not what door housed a Paladin, or any other passenger the castle may be harboring. I couldn't dictate any signs of life – such as talking, loud snoring, or movement from any of the rooms. No light seeped out from under the sealed spaces, although that might be because they are air-tight rooms.
If this was all before Zarkon became a mad emperor, I would see Trigel at times like these. She never needed as much sleep as the rest of us, and such always stayed up at weird hours in the night. She would always accept me with open arms whenever I came to her, distressing about a dream that terrorized me. She was a smart and patient woman, and always knew what to say at the right time.
Unfortunately, I didn't have that luxury anymore as I passed her room. The door remained locked tight and I didn't dare enter it in fear of one of the new Paladins taking it over. Even if that was the case, I wonder if they even thought of the previous room owners. Trigel had a lot of gadgets and personal belongings in there as that was the base of her operations. She moved to the library quite often to pursue research, but most of her epiphanies happened in that room. Did they throw her stuff out? Or did they move in alongside it? Did they just toss everything to the side and pretend it didn't belong to someone who risked her life to save this universe?
My breathing came in faster pants as I glared down at the floor. My thoughts were getting progressively more erratic the longer I wasted time on the subject, so it was something I had to drop. Whatever happened to her room would have to remain a mystery to be solved another day. There was too much at stake right now, and too many other things for me to worry about than a bunch of material objects of someone who's already dead.
I took a deep breath, calming myself as I pressed on. I wasn't sure where I was headed; I was just wandering the halls aimlessly as I blankly watched the lights as I passed them. Everything was so quiet in comparison to the old Castle of Lions that was always bustling with people and servants. I suppose that Coran or Allura haven't really had the time or money to hire people to make it livelier here – either that or they were all still enslaved by the Galran Empire.
Being lost in jovial memories of how abundant in population the castle used to have brought me to the kitchen in little time. I was almost startled when I finally blinked myself back into existence and before me was the dining area for the Paladins. There was a larger mess hall elsewhere for where guests and servants would eat their food together, but this kitchen was designed specifically for the Paladins to have a private meal together.
The lights blinked on as I entered the room, humming to life as the lights sparkled off the clean white tables. Nothing seemed out of place since the last time I was here – even the kitchen area that was used to prepare meals individually was wiped clean of any stain.
I was a little saddened at the thought. I could remember coming in here multiple times to see Gyrgan concocting a new recipe he received from the planets he visited. His appetite and love for food rivaled that of his love for the Gods and Goddess' he believed in. No matter what though, he always sent a prayer to those he believed in before every meal.
"Ah, little Kitsaki! Just the Altean I was looking for."
I poked my head around the doorframe of the kitchen, shyly peeking in. I caught a glimpse of the man who spoke out to me over the top of the table, but I was far too short to see anything more. I waited for him to gesture for me to come in, but it never came so I took his initial greeting as a sign.
My little legs slowly carried me into the room, rounding the high chairs that surrounded the large table. I could just barely see over the top of the table now, and I could climb into the chairs myself without needing anyone to help me – something I was quite proud of.
"Come here, my girl. I need help with something I'm making, and I thought you were the perfect candidate."
Helping Gyrgan was always a treat since I got to taste his creations in the making. A grin splayed across my face as I eagerly grabbed a chair from the table and pushing it towards the counter next to him. The Yellow Paladin made sure he held onto the back of the chair to prevent it from moving underneath me as I climbed into the chair, standing tall as I waited for his instructions.
"What are we making?" I asked excitedly, bouncing up and down.
The Yellow Paladin gave a gentle smile as he handed me a large blue bowl and a spoon. He wore an apron over his usual garbs of yellows, greens and blues. His large rusty-coloured hands were covered in a white substance I assumed was used in whatever he was making. "Mix this up for me, my girl."
I took the bowl from him, my tiny hand gripping the large spoon. Inside was a mixture of dark brown bits with a lighter brown batter. I followed his instructions with stirring it, although I found it very difficult to where it was so thick.
In the meantime, Gyrgan dipped under the counter to grab a pan from one of the cupboards. It banged against the countertop as he stood up with a grunt. He stepped to another cupboard where he rummaged around before finding a cooking sheet to place on the pan to keep whatever he was making from sticking to the actual pan.
The sheet was placed on the pan as Gyrgan sent me a smile and held up a smaller spoon. "Is it all mixed well, my girl?"
I nodded enthusiastically, although I wasn't sure how well I was able to. I was curious what his end goal with this mixture was, but it never ceased to amaze me when I got to try it.
"Perfect! We have to scoop out little bits and put it on the pan now. Then we need to put it in the oven for a few doboshes to let them cook."
I was handed the small spoon in exchange for my large one. I scooped out a chunk of the batter before plopping it on the pan. The Yellow Paladin used the large spoon I returned to him to smooth it out and into the position he wanted it in. Before long we were left with twelve dollops of the batter hastily placed onto the pan.
"Put it in! I wanna see!"
The Paladin laughed as he complied with my words, the smile never leaving his lips as he pulled the oven door open to place the cooking pan inside. He set a timer for when the oven was to turn off and allow us to take it back out.
I looked into the bowl, seeing that we were only half-way through what we had. "Couldn't we have made them any bigger? We still have a lot of it left."
"That we could, my girl. But that ruins the fun when you cook all of it," he chuckled as he dipped a finger into the batter.
He scooped up a large portion onto his index finger, making sure he got some of the specks of dark brown in his venture. With a cheeky smile he stuck it into his mouth, causing a gasp of surprise to escape my lips.
He laughed at my reaction, the tassels of hair resting on his shoulders bouncing with the action. "Try some, little Kitsaki."
Although hesitant, I followed his example and stuck my finger into the batter as well. It was warm to the touch, and my finger sank into it with a little bit of effort. I rolled it forward, also making sure I grabbed the dollops of brown as I balanced it onto my finger. It felt sticky to the touch and it broke off from the rest of it with little force. I opened my mouth wide, so I could stick the tip of my finger into it, my tongue peeling off the treat.
It was sickenly sweet – the batter was soft and moist as it melted in my mouth. The little chip of brown turned out to be a chocolate treat as I bit down into it. The chocolate was a little bitter in comparison to the sticky batter, but it complimented it in such a way that it wasn't overly sweet.
My eyes widened as I swallowed the concoction of chocolate and batter, grinning eagerly at the Yellow Paladin. "That was amazing!"
"I thought you'd like it. It's a recipe I learned a while ago from the planet Haiprah. It's a sweet treat they feed the younglings there."
"I really like it! What's it called?"
The native of Rygnirath laughed loudly, holding his belly as his hair bounced wildly on his shoulders. "What's going to come out of the oven are chocolate chip cookies. We just had some chocolate chip cookie dough."
"Cookies?" I repeated, testing out the word on my tongue.
"Indeed, my little girl. The cookies themselves are best when warm, and they taste just as good as the dough itself."
I placed the bowl on the counter hastily before climbing down off the chair. I must have startled Gyrgan with my sudden passing of his as he pushed himself back into the counter. I ignored him, pressing my hands against the warm window of the oven, trying to see if I could make out these "cookies" in the making.
I felt the Paladin lean over me and sudden a light appeared, making my quest possible. He knelt down next to me as we shared a smile, before settling into silence as we watched the cookies bake.
I opened my eyes and the warm kitchen and smell of cookies baking in the air ceased to exist. Gyrgan vanished from my sight, leaving an aching hole in my heart where he once was. I wrapped myself tighter in the blanket on my shoulders, figuring it was best I moved on from the empty kitchen before I reminded myself of something else painful of the same magnitude.
I quietly shuffled through the halls once more, expertly keeping my slippers from falling off my feet. It was a skill I developed so I could wear the slippers without having to keep fixing them when they fell off. I was quite proud of it – just shuffle them close to the ground and there was nothing I had to worry about. Blaytz snorted at my claims of the skill, something that brought a fond smile to my face.
The former Blue Paladin's face remained in my thoughts as I entered into the lounge where I spent countless hours hanging in. It was the most common place you could find all five Paladins at any given time – with the exception of the kitchen and the training room. Many laughs and joyous memories were shared in this room.
Now it was void of any laughter or warmth as the lights lazily shown down. They highlighted the chairs that were understandably deserted at this time, but still heartbreakingly so. I could see where the Paladins used to sit – Zarkon would be on the end of the couch with Alfor sitting next to him, deep in conversation. Gyrgan would have be next to Alfor with Trigel on his left as he folded his hands neatly in front of him as Trigel spoke of her latest creation. Blaytz would be on the other end, arms across the back of the couch in a lazy manor with an equally-lazy smile plastered onto his lips.
"Hey! Well if it isn't little Kitsy!"
A smile made its home on my face, although I did feel my cheeks light up at the nickname.
The Blue Paladin smirked before jostling his body forward to give him momentum as he stood. "Well, I guess she isn't so little anymore. You've grown quite a lot since I first met you!"
I found myself unable to find the words I wanted to say as he approached for a hug, taking it without my consent. I wasn't complaining though, since I returned it in as much force as it was given.
"So how does it feel to be another year older, Kitsy? Ready to fight whatever the world throws at you?"
"I'm pretty sure I was ready to do that anyway… and it's not like I feel any older. It's just like any other day."
The Blue Paladin snorted, "Your old man's got you ruined."
"Hey now Blaytz. That's our leader you're taking about," Gyrgan chastised lightly from behind him.
I peered from behind Blaytz to spy Gyrgan and Trigel hanging on the couch. King Alfor and King Zarkon were no where to be seen, but I knew that already. They were talking about the recent affairs that have been troubling both planets regarding the quintessence-portal on Daibzaal that they needed to get settled.
"If only you paid as much attention that came out of your mouth as you did with the women around you," the Green Paladin sighed, although her tone was teasing.
The Paladin in front of me merely tutted his tongue, turning his attention back to me with a smirk. "Speaking of flirting – I do have a fundamental gift for you, Kitsy."
I raised an eyebrow, curious how he went to "flirting" to "gift". "Is it a book about the relationships of ancient cultures?"
"No, not quite. Well, actually it isn't a book. It's more of an oral tale, if you will."
"You mean advice, Blaytz," Gyrgan supplied.
The Nalquod native gave him a pointed look of disapproval. "I didn't ask you, big guy… but you're right. It's sort of more of a how-to though… as in a how-to in flirting."
Everyone fell silence as we waited for Blaytz to finish with the punchline. He just stared back at me expectantly before I realized he was being serious with this. My cheeks grew much warmer than I was used to as my eyes widened.
"You can't be serious, Blaytz! She's just a little girl!" Trigel voiced, moving to the edge of her seat.
The Blue Paladin spun on his heels to face his teammates. "Of course, I am. And she's not so little anymore. She's almost a grown woman, and grown women need to find someone to love, right? I'd rather teach her the basics now and have her practice on doing it properly for when she finds the person of her dreams."
The lack of an argument from the other Paladins was unsettling as my thoughts began to race. How could Blaytz teach me anything about flirting? Why did he feel like he had to teach me this? Didn't most of his escapades ended in failure? How much did I not already know about the art of flirting? Are there specific things I need to know – like rule of thumb sort of deal?
"Relax Kitsy. You're starting to look like I just signed your death sentence…" the Paladin laughed gently, placing a warm hand on my shoulder.
"I uh, I appreciate the offer Blaytz… But I don't think that it would be really necessary for that. I'm sure I'll make it…" I tried to let him down gentle. While I appreciated the offer, it felt weird coming from someone who knew me practically my whole life. He was like an older brother to me – I wasn't sure that this was something we should be discussing.
"Oh, come on… Just hear me out… You'll make me feel bad that I haven't gotten anything else for you…"
He flashed me a pout that melted my heart. He always had a way he flattened the fins close to his head as he stared at me with a small frown. His eyes worked in his favour as I struggled to stay strong, but a long sigh finally fell from my lips.
And immediately he was back to normal. His blue fins straightened back out as his lazy smile returned. He swung an arm around my shoulder, tutting his tongue. "To think you'd actually beat me at that one of these days."
"Anyway… you were going to teach me how to flirt…?" I felt silly saying it. Such words didn't feel like they belonged on my tongue but, yet I was forced to say it to keep the Paladin happy.
He let me go, standing in front of me once more with a genuine smile on his face. He regarded me softly before he closed his eyes with a sigh. "Well, many people think that flirting is an art that takes years of practice to master. I mean, for someone to get as smooth as me? It should take a lifetime!"
Despite how radical his claims were, Blaytz was known to cause a lot of girls to blush. Even if he wasn't always successful, and possibly turned potential suiters away due to his odd approach to things, he did have a good track record of wooing those he liked.
"Well, it doesn't."
The bluntness of the statement caught me off-guard, and I found myself searching for the answer in his dark eyes. It even seemed to catch Gyrgan and Trigel off-guard as well as they leaned in to catch what secrets the notorious flirt held.
"I mean sure, it does take a while to get used to it and all… but it really isn't all too hard."
I found myself eagerly awaiting his answer as he casually explained himself. He made his smooth takings a breeze as the cheeks of those he was interested in glowed a bright red. If there was a fundamental secret to his success, I found myself very curious to hear the answer.
"And all it takes is confidence."
Of all the things to say, I wasn't expecting that answer. Swagger, skill, patience, dulcet words – anything other than "confidence".
"Oh, don't look so lost, Kitsy!" the Blue Paladin laughed, placing both hands onto my shoulders this time. "But trust me when I say it's true."
"But… I don't quite understand. How does being confidence make me flirt better?" I blurted out, not caring if Trigel or Gyrgan were in the room anymore.
"Confidence goes a long way, Kitsy. And I don't mean arrogance – honest-to-goodness confidence in yourself, and your words and actions. Confidence is attractive to pretty much anyone – it's a sign of a good leader and a genuine person. Being overly-confident and cocky tends to bite you in the behind, so be careful with it. But even if you stumble over your words, or you look like Gyrgan over there," I heard a "hey" from the Yellow Paladin in retort, "you can really give a good impression to someone. It's a very good characteristic to start out with, then all the honeyed words and suave gestures just come along after."
"So… I just need to be confidence to find someone?"
"That's right… Well, that and one other thing."
"That's to be true yourself. Confidence is one thing, but to be yourself is another. There's no reason to lie about who you are if you're planning to spend the rest of your years together – or even just a few moments together. It's important for you to stay as yourself so they can experience the real you because there's no one you can be more confident about than yourself."
I vaguely remembered the conversation that followed, but Blaytz advice always stayed with me. It weirdly made sense and I started to pay close attention to his actions after his advice. Sure enough, the Blue Paladin remained confident and more importantly, remained himself for every venture he had. I could chalk it up as him being just a smooth guy in general, but part of me wanted to believe it to be true.
The gentle rocking of the castle ship reminded me I was still in this plane of existence, and not the one where my memories lived. I stayed standing in one spot for so long that my legs felt like they were locking up on me, so I decided to traverse some more. I still didn't feel ready to fall back to sleep, so I decided to check out more of the castle.
So far, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. All the halls lead to the same room that seemed to have been locked in time for the last thousands of years. The only differences so far seemed to be the inhabitants that lived here – some familiar faces much wearier than the last, as well as young new faces that don't seem to comprehend exactly what they're getting themselves into.
I forced myself to push the latter thought out of my head as I convinced myself to think of something else.
One thing that might've changed would be the library – something I was eager to check out. If anything were to have been changed, it would have been the countless data housed in the castle's library. My shuffling steps quickened as I travelled down the artificially lit hall. I felt anxiety starting to fill as I imagined the library being void of any knowledge.
I didn't want to ever see the sacred library destroyed because of some stupid war. History is one of societies greatest treasures, with knowledge and having access to said knowledge being one of its greatest weapons. To destroy that would destroy the culture. If we don't have hard copies on how a society lived and thrived, then there's no concrete evidence it ever existed. All their secrets and mythos would die with them if that was the case, creating an gapping impression in time where something should be there, but is no longer.
"Well, that's the last of them, little tyke. Thanks for the help," Trigel grunted as she put the last stack of her books on the desk.
I placed my one hard-cover book on the desk as well, grabbing a chair to climb up into as I stared at the Green Paladin with wide eyes.
I helped her collect all the books she needed for her latest project, and we were finally done with setting them on one of the many desks in the library. She had three tall stacks of dusty tomes based around the topic she was researching, plus a few more scattered across the table from when she placed them on it in passing.
As the Green Paladin sat down, I turned my attention to the book I dragged over. My eyes grazed the cover dully as I tried to comprehend the scribbles inscribed into the leather. I didn't recognize them from any of the languages I knew, adding to my confusion. I didn't think that it was from Trigel's native planet, so I wasn't sure why she would bother with such a dusty book anyway.
I pouted, trying to figure it out on my own as the Green Paladin thumbed the pages in the tome she was looking through before pushing it far out in front of her. Another tome quickly replaced it – equally as dusty as the first.
Not wanting to disturb her, I quietly opened up the book I had, covering my face as the dust accumulated into the air. A subtle sound from Trigel's direction implied that she saw it happening, but her eyes were glued to her book when I gazed up.
Pursing my lips, I narrowed my eyes as I quietly traced the scripture with my fingers. They were unlike something I ever seen before, even if I was still so young. The penmanship of the symbols was pleasant to study and flowed neatly across the page. I flipped open to a random page, only to find the same penmanship was kept throughout the entire book.
"Oh wow… Did someone sit down and write this entire book by hand?"
"Yes, little tyke. All of these were done long before you were born… Long before I was born."
"Longer than Father was born?"
That brought a small bout of laughter, "Yes Kitsaki. Way long before your Father was born."
"That's really cool… Did one person do all of these?"
"Hmm… I don't believe so. They may be old, but some are older than others. This one, for example, pre-dates most of the ones in the pile to the left. I doubt someone would waste their entire life to writing a bunch of books like these."
I blinked in response, allowing her words to sink in. It was interesting that the books could be so old that they're older than the people I knew. I couldn't help but wonder how old they really were, and who wrote them. What was so important they spent years pouring their lives into these pages that I couldn't even read.
"Why are we looking at these books? I mean, there's a bunch of cool stuff on our computers that we can read… I don't even know what this one says."
Trigel placed the book she was scouring down, and it was only now that I noticed she had at least four books laid out open in front of her. Her face remained stagnant as she pondered my question, her brown eyes regarding me.
"I suppose that is true. There's thousands of modern books that we could read on topics that we're already familiar with, or even unfamiliar with. And its all laid right into the palm of our hands… but where's the fun in that?"
The Green Paladin's lips curled up into a smile. "Little tyke. These tomes before you hold secrets you could never begin to imagine. Myths of lost treasures, stories of ancient heroes and their quests to free the world from the tyranny of villains. These books are gateways into civilizations that no longer exist – and these remain as the few remaining windows we can use to cement ourselves amongst them."
I could feel my excitement grow with her every word. I looked down from her and back to the tome before me, my fingers grazing over the aged paper with a sense of awe and wonder.
"But… how do we do that if we can't read it?"
"We decipher it, of course," she gestured to the book she was holding. "Not all civilizations have books such as these left around for us to utilize, but it's always fun to work backwards and find out what something means and why it does. Sometimes you have to translate a bunch of different languages to get to the one you were intending to reach."
"That sounds like a lot of work…" I mumbled, my awe fading away fast.
"I never said it wasn't, little tyke. But in the end, it's rewarding figuring out what was important enough for those who sat and wrote these out to do so. Things that were recorded as such had to have been very special to the person who spent all this time doing it. It's only right that we take the time to appreciate their hard work."
I still wasn't convinced as I thumbed the page of my book. My eyes darted down to the scribbles set into the page, finding that Trigel's words were echoing in my mind. She brought up a good point – what was so important that it had to be written down?
"Knowledge is a very important thing; you already know that, Kitsaki." My head nodded automatically in agreement. "But as a society, we can't move on from things we've already done if we don't first understand what it is that we have done. It's important to not only be well-versed in the present day, but the past as well so we understand where the last culture went wrong so we can build upon our mistakes."
"I… I'm having difficulty understanding…" I admitted softly.
"It's similar to how you would train – you learn from your mistakes. You understand where you went wrong first: why you were hit instead of avoiding the attack. You revaluate what you did, or you review the tape to catch the mistake. Perhaps it was because you bent your knees a little too much, or the way your feet were placed. You catch the mistake and you work on it for next time so that you don't get hit. Or even brushing up on some old moves to make sure you aren't getting rusty, for instance."
Having her explain it in such a way made a lot more sense to me now. While it was important to learn more moves in battle to help you keep going, it was always good to make sure you still had the basics down pat. And if there was something you weren't sure why it happened, or it happened when it shouldn't have, you just review your progress and pick up on where it went array.
"Huh… that makes a lot more sense now…"
The Green Paladin smiled at my words, gently gesturing to the book I was still thumbing. "Now, why don't we dig out a translation book and see what secrets you have in that one, hmm?"
The library was dark when I arrived, and it took a moment for it to come to life. To my relief, the lights revealed rows of bookshelves still filled with the books I spent countless hours thumbing through and studying.
I didn't know if all the tomes were still left in tact, and I doubt I'll ever truly find out unless we still kept a record of what was in the library, but it wasn't something that was of immediate concern. On the surface, everything seemed in order, so it was good enough for me.
A yawn slipped passed my lips, signifying that it was probably best that I get back to sleep. My body seemed to agree with me, as it started to lead me into the direction of the dorms. While they were on the other side of the castle, it actually wasn't that long of a walk if I didn't pay too much attention to it. It was easy for me to lose myself in thought since I used to do it all the time as a kid.
I passed the control room of the training deck before I stopped in my tracks. I backed up, peering into the room and noticed that all the lights were on. It was an odd thing, since the time of night and that I was far enough away not to have triggered them. Despite my growing fatigue, I stepped inside to take a closer look to make sure the castle wasn't starting to bug out.
To my surprise, I found that a Paladin and a Gladiator occupied the training deck. Said Paladin was lacking any sort of armour as he fought fiercely against the robotic foe. Intrigued, I leaned over the control panel, so I could take a closer look, but not before fiddling with some of the buttons so I could hear what was going on.
Paladin Keith violently slashed at his enemy who narrowly escaped the arching swing. It took a jab at him, which the Paladin managed to avoid by tucking and rolling to the side. He barely gave himself time to steady himself before he sent himself launching at the Gladiator.
His grunts and the sound of their sword-clashes filled the air of the control room. It was almost deafening after being casted into silence after so long, but it was something I oddly welcomed. I had to double check the time to make sure that it was still late at night rather than the early morning, but it was still hours before the early birds rose from their slumber.
Why Paladin Keith was still awake at such an hour was a mystery… why he was training in the dead of night was another.
I knew I probably should leave him here to finish what he was doing in private. Clearly, he was here to be alone, or else he would have asked someone else to spot him. He was obviously a capable warrior who could handle himself, but my inquisitive brain couldn't dare move me from my position.
Instead, I took the time to fully analyze his form and compare it to what I faced earlier on.
As I already figured out, the Paladin was a fiercer in comparison to that of an Altean soldier. The way he wouldn't allow his enemy anytime to strike back, and the power behind his swings matched more of those with Galra descent – which of course made sense considering he was part Galra himself. Although, the way he moved to avoid the strikes instead of just blocking them suggested otherwise in the fighting style, as well as the fact he didn't take any dirty blows and thus had a sense of honor.
It was a weird amalgamation of the fighting styles of both an Altean with the wit and honourability, paired with the strength and intensity of the Galra.
Such a claim seemed to be very audacious of me all things considered. I was making connections to thing that probably didn't exist. I was using biased stereotypes to describe his fighting style even if it made little sense. There was no reason why his fighting reminded me of an Altean when the Galra were just as honourable and witty as Alteans.
Even if, statistically speaking, there seemed to be some truths in my first assumption.
But even more so, the agility he had as he avoided the devastating strikes of the Gladiator was astonishing. Alteans were, statistically, more into defending the strike rather than avoiding it entirely, and the bulky masses and armor of Galrans made it much more difficult to avoid such attacks as well.
I wouldn't be surprised if the Paladin could move just as agile with his amour on as he did off. He seemed well versed in the art of dodging as he gathered time to catch his breath to deliver another round of attacks to his sparring partner.
I supposed said agility could be a trait of his other half that I have yet to study. All these new Paladins seemed to be of the same species, so I do have a small sample to work with to test my theory. While again, I could be making a stereotypically judgment call, I was excited to run some private tests on my own to prove myself right or wrong.
Just as I was getting comfortable, the Red Paladin finally felled the Gladiator with a final thrust of the sword through the chest. The robot sparked shortly before disappearing as the simulation ended. I expected the Paladin to go for another round but instead he dropped to his knees in a heap, his heavy breaths coming through the speakers in loud pants.
I blinked, my brain wondering what I should do now. I felt like I should probably go down and help him back to bed – or at least to the showers – but I held my spot. I couldn't find the will to move my legs to help the Paladin out as my eyes stared at him, awaiting his next move.
With a groan, the Red Paladin slowly climbed back to his feet as his bayard-sword disappeared. He groaned softly, rubbing sore muscles as he stood in place for a tick.
"I really need to find a better way to deal with these stupid nightmares…" his low voice came in over the speakers.
The confession caused butterflies to flutter in my stomach for unknown reasons. Maybe it was because we were both up for the same reason, although we had two entirely different ways in dealing with them. It was a weird idea that I wasn't the only one up at such a weird hour in the night for something my brain decided to concoct for me to sleep on.
Paladin Keith sighed once more, rolling his neck in a way to stretch it, but in doing so looked up into the control room. I didn't see it coming, so I was certain he saw me as our eyes connected for a moment. Fear of being caught for watching without permission, I quickly slinked out of the way of the window, clutching my blanket tight and hoping he didn't actually see me. I was half expecting his voice to come over the speaker and call me out on it, or he'll come barging into the room to see who was spying on him, but it never came.
I didn't feel safe to stay in there for too long, just in case he did come up to check, but as I went to leave the room entirely, I found he was no longer in the training room. This brought an ounce of fear as I quickly left, keeping my shuffling slippers as quiet as possible as I departed from the area as quickly as possible.
Despite nearly being caught for spying, it was a rather relieving that I wasn't the only one being plagued. To know that some one else also faced their inner demons at night was comforting to say the least, although it meant someone else was suffering because of it.
What was also interesting I noticed was the fact that Paladin Keith would rather deal with it alone. He didn't seem to rely on his team leader Paladin Shiro for help when it came to dealing with something like this, and instead exhaust himself back to sleep. Or perhaps he came here to relieve the pent-up energy and frustration that built up from having such intense dreams.
If there was one thing I knew for sure about the new Red Paladin, it was that he was definitely a lone wolf on a team that was suppose to act as one.