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~Suzette ✧ Chapter X~

༻Rainy Daze༺


     The next morning, I awake deep within the dark, dry cave which had become our accommodation for the evening. As I arise, I am soon struck by a stabbing pain within my throat before a strange sensation washes upon me; frigidness overtakes my body as though it is autumn, rather than well into spring. Unfortunately, it appears even that rain was enough to truly make me ill… Slowly I arise, groaning along the way, wishing I were still soundly asleep.

     “Ah, sâlêzj,” Hikaru greets, “I was beginning to wonder if you would ever wake up.”

     “What time is it?” I ask, slightly upset. I suppose this journey does not have a set duration; yet admittedly, I would prefer not to spend too much time simply laying about, making no progress at all. Yet, in the state I am in at the moment, there may not be another choice…

     “I’m not sure, I’ve been a tad busy,” he replies to me, holding up…a mortar and pestle?

     “Where…did you get those?” I ask, still in a bit of a daze.

     “My bag?”

     “I shall never understand how you fit so much in there…”

     As I say this, it seems he chuckles; yet it is so low, perhaps it is merely my mind playing tricks upon me.

     “Only everything I need.”

     “Is a hurdy gurdy truly necessary?” I retort quietly.

     “It’s nice to see you’re awake,” he says with a seemingly annoyed tone, and yet he smiles as he does so.

     Slowly I nudge my way closer to him. As I do, I notice numerous plants scattered about him, all in dainty little bottles the color of molasses.

     “What are you concocting?”

     “A tonic for you.”

     “I do not see why, I am perfectly—” Before the sentiment may even come out, however, a scratch in my throat suddenly births a rather great coughing fit.

     “I am fine,” I reply, voice now hoarse.

     “With all your sneezing and shivering last night, I figured you wouldn’t be doing too well today. Unfortunately, it seems that was right.”

     “Perhaps I am a little ill, yet I shall be fine enough to continue on,” I say.

     Truthfully, the longer I am awake, the weaker my body becomes, as though the life is steadily draining from it…and yet, regardless, I wish to continue onwards. We have already become a tad behind, surely, from our foray to the bakery yesterday.

     “It won’t be too long now before I’m finished—would you still mind taking it? Just to be sure you’re well…”

     “I suppose so,” I reply, yet it does appear a tad odd that he wishes for me to have it so much. I do not believe he would intentionally harm me, lest he would surely have done so by now; yet, he could  be overeager, wishing to be helpful yet not knowing quite what he is doing—

     “Hikaru,” I begin, “I know you know much about herbs and such, yet have you ever created medicine before? You understand the ingredients’ effects, and how they may in turn affect each other?”

     “Of course…” he answers, voice trailing off. “This was to be my profession at one point, after all. But alas.”

     “You were to be a physician?”

     I attempt to not sound quite so shocked; and yet he does not at all appear to be the type to do such work. So solitary, disconnected from society—not especially helpful traits for a physician that must always see patients, and be around others even in the most wretched states. Yet he does often try so dearly to be helpful, and surely his botanic knowledge would be very useful in such a profession, so…

     “I studied for many years…” he speaks softly, “Especially on how to make medicine. I had dreams of being some great healer; but clearly, that’s not what fate had planned out for me. So, I suppose I just…hold onto the knowledge, using it every now and then, when it becomes useful.”

     His entire demeanor is different now. He moves more slowly, if ever so slightly, his gaze merely aimed at the mortar. Though I know it may be better not to ask…

     “What had happened?”

     “Not enough people would accept care from someone like me. Many believed anything I created was cursed and would harm them rather than heal them. And my social skills—well, that didn’t help the matter,” he sighs. “Trust me, I’m much better now than then, believe it or not.

     “But occasionally I’m able to sell to merchants that couldn’t care less about such things,” he adds. “Otherwise, it’s just another broken dream, I suppose.”

     For a moment, I sit there in silence, rolling my finger a little in the dirt as I grow lost in thought.

     Every time he tells of his life, it is always rather wretched…

     “…Does anything good ever happen to you, Hikaru?”

     A small smirk appears on his face.

     “I met you. That’s surely something.”

     I glance up towards him, pulse beating faster—

     “A-And, I’ve made it this far. I like to think that’s worth something.”

     “Living at all is an achievement in its own right,” I say softly, smiling.

     He grins gently yet again as he gazes down upon his work once more. “Ah, maybe so.”

     For a little while longer I watch him steadily working, appearing quite contented; it quite reminds me of how I become when I bake, perfectly at peace with all the world. Yet, it is not long before I find myself within another coughing fit.

     “Here,” he says as he grows close to me, bringing the concoction.

     “Ah…” I look down at it, a curiously boiling tea. It smells and looks…positively disgusting.

     “It won’t be pleasant, but it should help you. Just try to drink as much as you can handle.”

     If he is saying it is unpleasant, when he can find even rather unagreeable tastes agreeable…

     I hold my breath and take as large of a gulp as can possibly be mustered. Immediately, I cover my mouth to keep from vomiting it all.


     Once I finish it, I end up coughing even more, despite myself.

     “Are you okay?”

     All I can mutter is a small moan…I believe I would rather shear my tongue and toss it into a fire before ever doing that again.

     “That was…repulsive…” I mutter. “I am ready to leave when you are.”

     “Yeah…” he replies quietly and begins gathering his things before we continue along our journey.

     Once we leave the cave, we travel through a large forest, still damp from the previous night’s downpour. The weather is cool and pleasant, as is the scent of the rain. It is truly lovely…and yet, my limbs are still weak, and every once and again I begin coughing once more, or my nose begins to run… Even with this beauty, it is difficult not to remain miserable.

     “Suzette,” Hikaru says after a time, “Would you like to rest? You still don’t seem to be doing very well.”

     I sigh. I wish to keep going, and I would rather not appear so weak, and yet…

     “Yes, that would be nice.”

     And so, the two of us walk a little longer before finding a drier spot near a tree to sit down.

     “When is the medicine supposed to take effect?”

     “You should be better by tomorrow,” he says, “But until then…”

     As he says this, I merely sink down the side of the tree, defeated; very soon after, his arm lightly brushes my shoulder.

     “Pšyku, Suzette…” he whispers to me.

     “It is not your fault. It is not as though you can predict the weather, or how one may react to it…”

     “Well, normally it isn’t so difficult to predict, but I wasn’t paying attention. So, it is my fault, in a way,” he says with a self-defeated sigh.

     “How does one do that?” I ask looking up towards him.

     “‘Red Sky at night, sailor’s delight; red Sky in morning, sailors take warning,’ is what they say. I find it’s usually correct.”

      “Well, the only reason you did not see is because I was distracting you…” I reply absentmindedly

     In this wretchedness, it is quite impossible not to be at least a little upset…and yet, as I sink further by his side, it feels as though his warmth melts away all ill emotions. Even so, I wish to shoot upwards, turn away abashedly…

     Yet being ill, chill, and shivering—surely anyone would wish for even a slight respite from that, yes? And he is the only source of such relief at the moment…

     “Suzette,” he whispers gently, sending a shiver down my spine, “Do you want to go somewhere to rest?”

       “Right here is fine…unless you wish to move,” I mumble, closing my eyes as drowsiness steadily sets in.

     “Then this is good,” he replies almost inaudibly. As he does so, I can feel his body loosen, and fall down a little against the tree. I too sink further down until my head rests against his beating heart, and a soothing scent of lavender envelops me.

     And with this, the two of us drift off into sleep.


     {Quietly I sit on my bed, staring up towards the ceiling, head empty of nearly all thought. I should be sketching, or reading, or doing something useful—but instead I lay here listlessly, completely bored out of my mind. Just as I begin to doze off, however, my mother slowly opens my bedroom door.

     “Alex,” she says, “That new friend of yours has come to see you.”


     “…Yes, that one.”

     Swiftly I dart up, and rush to the door.

     “Jéyu bon!” I greet, and he smiles brightly in return. We have spent time together a few times now, and yet even still he always seems so happy to see me.

     “Where do you want to go today?” he asks.

     “I’m not really in the mood to go out…just want to come to my room?”

     “Y-Your room?” he asks, oddly flustered.

     “Is that okay?”

     “Yeah, it’s just, no one has ever invited me into their house before…”

     “There must be a first time for everything, right?” I reply with a smile, attempting to reassure him.

     He slowly nods, a small grin appearing on his face as well. And with that, the two of us go.

     “You paint in here?” he gasps once we reach my room, looking at the mess of canvases and various other supplies strewn about everywhere.

     “Where else would I go? Well, aside from my master’s studio I guess, but that’s off in the woods…”

     For a moment he does not acknowledge me at all, instead looking upon my most recent work, sitting half-finished against the windowsill.

     “This hardly looks like a painting…” he comments under his breath, “It’s like he’s about to speak to you any second.”

     “Oh, I’m really not that goo—”

     Before I can finish the sentence, he speaks again.

     “Who is this a portrait of?”

     “Beaulieu, my master—he’s the one I study under,” I reply. “It will be his birthday rather soon, so I’ve been secretly sketching him and working on this.”

     “So, he hasn’t posed for this? You made it up?”

     “Not exactly, but something like that.”

     His face completely lights up.

     “That’s so neat!”

     “Ah…” I trail off, a tad embarrassed, “It’s really not that much.”

     “Well, I can’t do anything remotely like this…” Hikaru answers somewhat dejectedly.

     “That doesn’t mean you can’t do anything, right?” I say plopping down on my bed, looking up at him. But although I’m trying to cheer him up, he instead looks away, out the window.

     “Maybe…I don’t know.”

     “You know a lot, don’t you?”

     “Do I?”

     “You’ve told me a lot about what you’ve learned at the temple, and all those notes you made about the plants at the park.”

     “I guess so,” he mumbles, sitting down beside me on the side of the bed. “But that seems different from doing something.”

     Abruptly I shoot up, and immediately rush through my various drawers, all haphazardly stuffed with any and every supply I might need.

     “Is everything okay?” he asks; but before he finishes talking, I shove a sketchbook and pencil into his arms.

     “What is this for?”

     “You said you want to know how to do something, so we’re going to go do something. Follow me.”

     “But I can’t draw…”

     “Have you ever tried before?”

     He stays silent.

     “Don’t be nervous,” I smile, putting my hand on his shoulder. “I’m sure you’ll be fine! And even if you’re not, you’ve never drawn before so it doesn’t matter anyway!”

     Seemingly in spite of himself, he continues on with a slight, nervous grin.

     And off to the park we go. So much for not being in the mood to leave.

     It’s not long before we make our way down the large hill that makes up most of the town to the park below. It’s not very large; near the entrance there are some rows of flowers, and a single path leads to a small cluster of trees. But it’s still quite a luxury regardless. Even few cities have parks, so I wonder how a town as small as Pšêkse has managed it…but it’s surely quite nice we do regardless.

     I look around the flowers and trees, seeing if anything is a particularly suitable subject. Soon my eyes are drawn to a long row of lilies in bloom, their white stark against the dark green.

     “How would you like to draw those?” I point over to them.

     “Those lilies over there? They’re pretty, but that seems complicated…”

     “Well, I can teach you! That’s why I’m here, right?”

     “…I’ll try,” he mutters, clearly unconvinced.

     The two of us go over and sit by the bushes and ready the supplies. For a moment, Hikaru stares hard at the flower, contorting his pale face in concentration. Abruptly he switches task to the drawing below; his movements are quick and clumsy, the lines wobbling together into something…somewhat resembling a flower.

     “It’s so bad…” he says with utter defeat in his voice. “See, I said I can’t draw.”

     “Not with that attitude, you can’t.”

     He sighs.

     “Here, see the petals, how they look like long, round triangles?” I say, and he nods. “Pretend you’re not even looking at a flower, but instead a random assortment of shapes that meet certain points and turn in certain ways. Draw like that and take your time; and don’t be afraid to look up as often as you need to, you don’t have to draw it all in one swift motion.”

     “All right,” he mumbles, and begins drawing the flower again at the top of the page. This time his movements are much slower, more concise. As he grows closer to finishing the sketch, I notice his eye growing wider and wider.

     “That’s much better!” he beams.

     “See, I told you!” I exclaim. For a moment afterwards, he merely stares at me.

     “Alex…would it be okay if I tried drawing you?”

     “If you want,” I reply sheepishly. No one has ever asked to draw me before…admittedly, it’s a bit flattering.

     I sit still for perhaps twenty minutes, watching Hikaru go back and forth from the sketchbook and looking at me. As he does so, he slowly pushes the book upwards so I can no longer see what he’s drawing anymore.

     “Hmm…” he mutters after a while, “I guess this is the best I can do…”

     “Can I see?”

     He turns the book around, showing me the portrait of myself. It’s in a style that’s sort of a mix between folk art, and what you might find at a temple; my face is actually stylized quite nicely, and dozens of lilies surround me, perhaps like you might see from a painting of Lady Sun…

     Even if it’s clear he’s not especially experienced, I still look on it with genuine admiration.

     “Hikaru, that’s wonderful!”

     “It’s not very realistic, though…”

     “Don’t say that! You can always just say it’s stylized! That’s the fun thing about art, it does not necessarily have to fit real life. Either way…I think it’s great.”

     He smiles more widely than I think I have ever seen him do.

     “Alex, is it okay if I take this book home with me? I-I’d like to keep practicing, I think.”

     “Go ahead, I have tons of these.”

     “Mâzjêr…” he says quietly, holding the sketchbook as if it’s some kind of treasure. “And thanks for letting me draw you…”

     “Hmm…” I mumble, “This isn’t exactly fair.”

     “What isn’t?”

     “Let me draw you now.”

     “Why would you want a picture of me?” he asks with a frown. “Even if you’re a good artist…I think the more accurate it is, the worse it’d be…”

     “You’re awfully hard on yourself,” I say with a frown.

     “Only as much as I deserve,” he replies.

     In turn, I let out a small “hmph.”

     “Well, I’ll show you why you shouldn’t be. Sit up.”


     “No ‘buts,’ except yours sitting right there!” I reply a bit more sternly. “Now sit nice and tall, we’re making you a portrait!”

     Quickly he does so, seemingly a bit startled by my sudden assertiveness—even more so than before, I guess. All the while he stares at my sketchbook, pale face growing redder and redder. Soon, I lift it up to where he can’t see, just like he had done before.

     For a long time, I sit there, sketching and studying him. It feels very strange. Of course, I’ve noticed him before—indeed, that’s how we even became friends in the first place—but, it really is a different experience paying deep attention to something you hadn’t before. Things that are familiar can become rather different.

     The longer this goes on, the more I wonder why he’s always so hard on himself. I guess with that white hair and the eye situation, he’s probably treated rather badly. But, he’s not at all what someone would call “ugly” otherwise—no, rather…he actually is very handsome. If only he were able to see it—}


     “Suzette…” A deep voice disrupts the entire scene. “Suzette, please wake up.”

     “Nn…” Slowly I open my eyes to endless darkness. The only sensation which I feel is his arm holding me close, his soft breast beneath my head…yet, in my barely cognizant state, I forget who “I” even am. It still feels as though I am in a dream.

     Steadily I turn my gaze to him, who in turn is looking down upon myself. Even in the darkness, I notice the lines on his face, the stark presence of age that was not there merely a moment before.

     “Hikaru…” I whisper, “Are you well? You appear so haggard…”


     Suddenly, my wits return to me, at the worst possible time.

     “I—!” I exclaim, violently lunging free from his grasp, frantically gazing away. “I, uh, mistook you for someone else, I believe…I was dreaming.”

     “Right…” he replies, clearly unconvinced. Considering his name was said, it is a sad lie…yet one can only do so much half awake.

     “Anyways,” he changes the subject, “We’ve slept for quite a long time now; we should probably get going again—at least, if you’re feeling better.”

     I lean forward slightly and gaze ahead, staring at nothing in particular. Now that he mentions it, I truly do feel much relieved from the illness. Had he not mentioned it, I may have entirely forgotten I was ill at all…it appears his disgusting concoction was legitimate after all. And so with his help, slowly I arise, stretching out my still well fatigued limbs.

     “I am ready as you are, Hikaru.”

     He nods, and simply continues walking along, and I follow.

     Of course, as we continue our trek, my mind lingers towards the dream… I am coming to accept that this is merely the way life shall be from now on, although it scarcely feels any less strange. Peering into the lives of strangers like this, although fascinating, it is certainly rather…illicit. Yet I suppose if I was that man, then these are merely my own memories, yes? And Hikaru is not a stranger…although so much has changed, it almost seems as though he is.

     I must admit, however, despite the oddness of it all, last evening’s memory is rather amusing. It would appear they had not known one another terribly long, and yet Hikaru was already gaining softness in his heart for Alex…and yet I—erm, I mean, and yet Alex had barely noticed at all. Yet they were young, and besides—if a woman had fallen in love with me, even if she wore her desires upon her sleeve as freely as he had, unless she stated it clearly, I am certain I would concoct all manner of explanations for it, just as Alex had.

     Thinking upon it, occasionally it almost appears as though Hikaru might feel a similar softness regarding myself—no, that is a ridiculous thought! If his fondness lies with other men, would he even be able to love a woman the same as well? Perhaps that would explain why he keeps himself more effeminately, in many ways, and easily treats me like any other friend, unlike most men with the opposite sex—to him, I am certain that I would not even register as a potential partner. And if any woman were to sway him, I am certainly not the one to do it. Ah, that surely would explain much…

     For some inexplicable reason, however…the thought also gives me a faint sense of sadness.


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Lovingly created by [James Margaret Rose].