Our trainer pushed us, and we made no struggle. We had to become the strongest, the fastest, and the most gutsy in the worlds; it wasn’t for any purpose, nor was it out of selfishness. We just wanted to be better than we were. We never stopped. Our training took us away from our families for months on end. This time, we were going to be missing the holidays for the first time, and our trainer decided we would train all day on the night when the old year died and the new was born.
I raised a hand and gripped a rock above me. A few experimental tugs showed it could support my light weight, and I pulled myself up until my feet found a hold. My upper body strength was growing, and I was sore all over. I looked up for another outcropping, and found one. I reached for it, and it held. Progress was slow, but I couldn’t let my rival beat me. He had been slow in the beginning, but was almost caught up to me. I forced extra speed into my throbbing limbs, and hauled myself up the steep face of that high plateau.
The climb took hours and sapped my strength. Soon, it was no longer a race. We were both just trying to finish the climb. Our trainer called down from above us somewhere. “Hurry up! You’re on a timer!” He sounded excited. The two of us looked to each other. My rival’s eyes looked as dead as I felt, but a burning ember of determination was still present. We nodded, then began to help each other up. We pointed out hand-holds, and when we arrived at the top, he pulled me up with his arms that must have felt made of lead.
We sat there, on the edge of the mountainous table, and looked ahead stupidly for a while. Icy water splashed my face, and awareness shot back into my being. “Ack! Master, what was that for?”
“Sit still too long, and you will be useless!” he scolded. “Stretch out to cool off.” The man smiled at us, and we began to help each other with stretches, then stood tall in front of him. We felt refreshed.
His large, strong hands rested on each of our heads and he smiled. “Now, I know you miss your families today, and that you miss your gifts, too.” He laughed and lifted his warm hand from my hair, only to wipe the top of one finger along the bottom of his nose. It was a silly habit of his to scratch his nose like that when he was being crafty. “So, I decided to be extra hard on you, and to prepare a present you had to work for!” He stepped to one side and pointed up. It looked like there were two moons in the sky!
“Wow!” I exclaimed as I stared with wonder. My rival tapped my chin up, and I closed my mouth. “I thought we only had one moon on this planet, Master!”
My rival laughed. “You’re seeing a planet, sis, not another moon. That planet is four planets away, but it’s so big that it looks like another moon.” He grinned as his eyes shone in the bright starlight. He always loved astronomy. To me, it was all pretty silly– at least, until I saw that giant planet next to the moon. I reached for my cell phone, then lifted it to take a photo of this phenomenon.
Before I could snap the picture, a big hand snatched my phone away. “I’ll take a picture of the two of you, along with the pretty moons. We can send it to your families, to reassure them that I’m not going to get you two killed.” He laughed, and my rival put an arm around me. We both smiled broadly, and the click was followed by a low flash.
Master handed the phone over, and I looked at the image. It was perfect! The moon and planet were just low enough that they seemed to be shining down on just the two of us. The planet was mine, and the moon was my rival’s.
A sudden crack of a branch echoed, and the three of us turned our heads.
“Get the hell off my rock!” shouted a voice from the shadows.
“The rock is owned by the state.” Master replied. “Care to join us for something to eat?”
The voice was silent for several long moments. “I tell you to go away, and you invite me to dinner? Are you stupid?” The rough, gruffness was gone from the voice, replaced by surprise.
“Maybe. Come, join us. We have plenty more than we need, and today is a holiday.”
“Is it, now?” The man emerged from his shadowy hiding place. In the starlight, he looked too beautiful to live alone on a tall rock in the middle of a desert, even if there was an oasis up here. His hair was long and pale, and his skin was more smooth than mine could ever hope to be. He had full lips, and even his wry amusement made my knees weak. He spoke again, his voice much more clear. “I believe I will take you up on your offer.” he decided.
Inside, I felt much more thankful than I logically should have been. An elbow rammed into my side, and I looked sharply to my rival.
“Sis, calm down. You’re going to embarrass yourself.” he warned. He turned to look at our master and spoke up. “Where is this food at, Master? We haven’t seen it yet!”
“That’s because once you two see food, you don’t see anything else!” he responded sharply with a laugh before he shoved a camouflage aside.
Behind it, a table was stacked with all of our favorite foods, and then some! My mouth watered, and just as predicted, I saw nothing else until the last dinner roll was gone. Only then, did I notice who sat in front of me. The pretty man was staring at me in shock. My face turned as red as a koji pumpkin, and I wanted to die right there.
Instead of showing disgust, the man laughed! I wanted to die even more. He surely thought the worst of me, now. However, his words were gentle as he spoke. “Well, it’s good to know some girls are willing to eat their fill in this world!” His grin melted away my worries, and I smiled back despite my shame.
Master’s smile was far too smug as he looked at us, and my rival looked confused.