Three tall pines trees stretched upward towards the heavens like three sentinels standing guard over the valley. Beside the trunk of the center sentry stood a familiar figure clothed in a heavy linen cloak over a fine dress. He silently stood for a moment as he watched the soft shadow. “Haruko,” his voice was barely a whisper as it carried on the wind.
She turned towards him and the moonlight made her opalescent eyes shine in the soft moonlight. Her hood had fallen away leaving her lovely face unadulterated by shadows. “Markos.” The way she said his name made his breath catch as he closed the distance between them. “I was afraid you weren’t going to be able to make it tonight.’
He pulled her into a warm embrace and held her in his arms. “How could I not?” The weight of her body against him, the warmth and feel of her heart beat made him almost forget that this wasn’t real. They were in the game and the augmented reality engaged all of their senses. He wondered how they captured the scent of her and her perfume so perfectly as he had remembered it. “This is the only place where I can be alone with you.” He wanted to add “It is the only place where we can touch,” but he didn’t want to ruin this moment with the truth.
Haruko took his hand and held it against her cheek. She smiled as their eyes met. “Tomorrow, I’ll be there beside you. I have the approval to assist as one of the Meadow Wing medics on duty during the tournament. Then… there’s the masquerade.”
Markos remembered what Andris told him of the conversation with their father. The thought of never being able to touch Haruko chilled him. But here she was, in his arms with him the only way they could be without the curse. “Tomorrow, I will announce my intentions to you, to our parents and petition my father, to remove the curse. I will do everything in my power so that we can be together like this in person.” He traced her bottom lip with his thumb before gently tipping her chin up to kiss her.
He distantly heard the knock behind her. She pulled dreamily away. “I have to go. I love you, fight well tomorrow,” she murmured. Her form grew paler and lighter in his arms.
He stood there for a moment holding the air. He frowned as he looked down on the valley, the sky had shifted to dark blue as dawn threatened to break. “For you, I would fight the Gods.”