A Little Music | String of Stardust

String of Stardust

~Suzette ✧ Chapter XX~

༻A Little Music༺


     {Outside, the snow falls rapidly and harshly, so much so all that can be seen is a blinding white. I wonder if this is what Heaven looks like, a land of pure, radiating light…but I would imagine it’s supposed to be beautiful. But this is surely the furthest thing from “beautiful.” No; instead, everything is dim, empty…

     In my chest too, water falls incessantly, accompanied by endless sobs…

     “It’s okay, I’m here Hikaru…” I say, softly stroking his back, trying to do my best to provide some comfort. I don’t think it’s doing anything, but I don’t know what more I can do…

     He sobs a little longer before speaking again, his voice hoarse and jagged.

     “I-I’m sorry, Alex…I’m sorry for being ridiculous…”

     “…What on Earth do you mean?”

     “S-She’s not been gone very long, yet…yet I miss her so much…how dumb…”

     “How is that dumb?” I ask gently, a little baffled that even in this circumstance, he still feels the need to apologize for himself. “It’s your mother, that’s…that’s not dumb, Hikaru.”

     He becomes quiet, but slowly grips me tighter and tighter.

     “She was…one of my only true friends, a-aside from you…”

     “…I know,” I sigh.

     “What a horrible way to die,” he whispers. “Falling down the stairs…completely meaningless, completely avoidable, completely…”

     “But it was probably quick…so she didn’t have to suffer,” I say in the vainest attempt to look for a “bright side.”

     “I guess…you’re right…”

     I try to stay composed for him; he needs some kind of stability…but still, my own tears fall as well, but silently. Meanwhile, he completely shatters in my arms, like a glass set out in the snow…

     I didn’t know his mother well, but she always seemed so kind when I was over. Even I can barely believe she’s gone…so I can only imagine how he feels. She was his only family…

     As cruel as it is…I’m happy I can’t relate yet. I don’t ever want to experience so much sorrow…it’ll have to happen eventually, but I’m happy it’s not yet. Simply watching him is…rough enough.

     …But that means it’s even harder to know how to cheer him up. I have no idea what to do; I can’t really understand what he’s feeling at all. But maybe being here is all I can do…

     “Alex…” he says after a while, “What am I going to do? I know it’s selfish to worry about myself, but…”

     “What do you mean?”

     “I…can’t afford our rent by myself. I…” He pulls away from me, and stares off into nowhere. The tears cease, but his face is still a dark, burning red.

     “I…don’t have anywhere. I don’t belong anywhere…maybe I can stay at the temple, just in the back…” he sighs, putting his head in his hands.

     “You’ll find a real house, I’m sure,” I say reassuringly. But honestly, even I know that’s a lie. He’s only fourteen, and with his white hair, and being from Asàshí…even if he could somehow afford an apartment on his own, not many people would accept him. From what he’s said, the temple here would accept him…but they really would force him in the back, I’m sure. I doubt most of the worshippers would be very accepting of him.

     He doesn’t say anything, merely staying in place. Meanwhile, my mind goes wild, trying to search for any solution…as I imagine his is as well.

     Until, at last, I get an idea.

     “How would you feel about living with me?”


     He looks up at me with a look of great surprise.

     “I can ask my mother if you can stay here. If you keep working, you can use that as rent here.”

     “Alex, I-I can’t do that…”

     “If you don’t want to live with me that’s fine, but—”

     “It’s not that, I just, uh…I can’t, Alex…”

     I sigh.

     “Is it the other day?”

     His eye darts away, and he remains deathly silent.

     “I don’t mind, Hikaru. It’s okay.”

     “…Is it?”

     Although he tries to hide it, his eye lights up. Only a faint glimmer, but it’s definitely something.

     “If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t offer it. So would you like me to ask her?”

     “Mâzjêr né, Alex!”

     He buries his face in my chest, and holds me tight.

     “I’ll be right back,” I say, pulling away, and he nods his head excitedly.

     Even in spite of how he feels about me…I truly don’t mind. I know he wouldn’t do anything bad to me. And, I wonder… Maybe us living together will help me understand my feelings better. I mean, that’s what spouses do, right? And if it’s not for me, we’ll get older, and it won’t be a big deal. And if it is…

     Then it might be rather nice. Actually…I imagine it will be regardless. He is my best friend, after all.

     I suppose sometimes something good can come out of something horrible…at least, I hope.}


     I wake up slowly, still not feeling particularly well rested. What a wretched, wretched memory…

     Suddenly, I notice something else as well. Throughout the night, he and I drifted closer and closer…his head lies below mine, one arm around my body. Slowly, I begin stroking his hair…until after a moment, he speaks.

     “Suzette…” he mumbles, voice hoarse. I look down at him, and see a red, tear-stained face… So it appears our dreams are still linked after all.

     “It…seems like you had a rough dream last night.”

     “Yeah,” he whispers. “Is…is it okay if I stay here a moment?”

     “I do not mind,” I reply, pulling him closer. Simultaneously, his arm holds me closer as well, and we remain together as one…

     For quite some time, we remain in place. Although I am overcome with pity for him, admittedly, I cannot help but smile…it was not long ago before something such as this would cause him to quickly rush away, embarrassed and worried—as would I be, truthfully. It appears our discussion last evening has broken some hidden barrier between us.

     After some time, he finally arises, as do I. As we gather our things, I hand him my napkin, folded tightly just as before.

     “Are you ready?” he asks, and I nod yes.

     Once more, the two of us descend into the city.

     Today, however, it appears he did not need my napkin at all. There is a distinct lack of people wherever we go, aside from a few wandering souls like ourselves. After a while, Hikaru pulls the folded napkin down around his neck.

     “This is a tad eerie…” I mutter. “Should we be out right now?”

     “Do you know what today is?”

     “A few days past the Solstice? If you mean weekday, I ceased keeping track of those long ago…”

     “That must be it,” he says, “Everyone must be at the temples right now, or staying at home as there’s little else to do.”

     “Ah,” I sigh with relief. “I think I may prefer it this way…why, that surely sounds cruel to say.”

     “Well so do I; so, maybe we’re both just cruel,” he replies, and the two of us laugh, one of the few sounds in the empty streets.

     For some time, he and I walk peacefully through the barren streets. However, after a while, I hear the faint sound of music—although, it is not merely any music…

     “Do you here that? The music, it sounds like…” I trail off, attempting to listen more closely. “This is a strange question, yet—may we go find it?”

     “I suppose so,” Hikaru replies, appearing a tad puzzled; yet nearly as soon as he ceases speaking, I take his hand and begin leading him, the two of us following the heavenly sound.

     Around the corner of the building, I find it…upon a bench sits an elderly man, playing music as though he is the only one in the world. Steadily, back and forth, he pulls the bellows of the instrument to create a lovely sound…

     “An accordion…” I whisper breathless, “For so long I have wished to hear one again, yet it appears it is only particularly popular here…”

     “That new instrument?” Hikaru comments, before immediately retracting his statement. “Well, I guess it’s not too new now, is it?”

     Admittedly, I am too enthralled to pay too much attention to his words.

     I watch the man play as though I am under a spell. The last time I have heard an accordion was here, in Solzédniê…my parents had dismissed it as a silly thing, a beggar’s instrument—yet, its unique and rich sound enticed me…

     Abruptly, the man ceases his playing, and gazes up to our direction.

     “Enjoying the show?”

     “Y-Yes…” I reply, “Is that all right?”

     “Of course!” he grins widely with an uneven smile. “It ain’t often somebody hears me play.”

     “Do you only play when everyone’s at the temple?” Hikaru asks this time.

     “Yeah, I don’t want to annoy anyone with my racket,” he says.

     “Well, I think it is lovely…” I reply.

     “Mâzj né!” he thanks with an almost exaggerated bow. “So, you two traveling around here? My memory’s bad, but I think I would remember you.”

     “Oh, ah—yes, we are going north.”

     “Hmm…” the elderly man puts his hand to his chin, thinking for a moment. “You there, in the purple…you some kind of bard? I know there ain’t much of them around these days, but you have this aura about you,” he says, flaring out his hands for emphasis. I gaze at Hikaru, and he looks a tad perplexed that the man would speak to him at all.

     “Not exactly, but…” he looks away crossing his arms. “I’m a wanderer, and I have a hurdy gurdy, so…”

     “No,” the old man says with a sudden gravity. “Do you really, now?”

     Hikaru pulls his bag over, and quickly rummages through it, bringing the instrument slightly out of the bag.

     “Well I’ll be…been a long time since I seen them around; a long, long time. Used to sell them at my store when I first started, but even then, nobody wanted them,” he sighs. “I always found them nice, but never got around to learning myself. Only when these came around did I ever bother to actually learn anything,” he says, patting his accordion.

     “That’s how I found this one,” Hikaru replies. “I liked it beforehand, but also—it was affordable because no one wanted it, and the road gets lonely…although much less so now.”

     Suddenly, my face grows a tad warm…

     “Can I hear it, young man?” he asks, looking intently. Subtly, but still noticeably, Hikaru smiles and sits down at the other end of the bench.

     “Do you think it will be too loud?”

     “Oh no, services ain’t going to stop for hours, we’s more than fine; or at least, you’re not the only one making a racket,” he replies.

     And so Hikaru nods, looking a tad perplexed, yet happy. He begins playing a familiar tune, the one which he sang for me that one day. I cannot help but smile, and sing along in a whisper…somehow, I still remember every line.

     The elderly man sits back a little, eyes closed, wearing a large grin upon his face.

     Once Hikaru finishes, the elderly man straightens himself once more, and looks towards Hikaru.

     “Thank you so very much for that, sir…and a fine choice of song as well.”

     “What would it sound like if you both play together?” I ask, and the two men gaze towards me. “It appears you both know this song, so I am curious how they would sound together.”

     “I don’t think I’ve ever played with anyone,” Hikaru says.

     Meanwhile, the elderly man readies his accordion, and looks to Hikaru expectantly.

     Hikaru begins slowly, and soon begins playing along…and it is not long before the two make a gorgeous harmony. As I had thought, the hurdy gurdy and the accordion have a similar character—a slightly rough, but pleasant sound, each accompanied by the soft clanking of their keys. They complement one another perfectly.

     Scarcely without thought, I begin singing the song along with them, hoping they do not hear. Eventually, the song comes to a stop once more. Hikaru gazes to me with a look of great surprise.

     “You truly have a lovely voice, Suzette.”

     “I thought it was too quiet to hear—!”

     “I don’t mind it,” Hikaru says quietly.

     The man, meanwhile, simply laughs.

     “Well, thank you both for amusing an old geezer like me! But…” he looks down, gripping the accordion, “I suppose I really should go back to the shop and set everything back up. These things don’t sell themselves, unfortunately.”

     As he says this, a thought appears within my mind…

     “Hikaru,” I say, leaning over the back of the bench to face him, “Would you like to go to his shop?”

     “I don’t mind.”

     Meanwhile, the elderly man laughs once more.

     “You’re too kind, but you really don’t have to keep amusing me!”

     “Well…” I look away, “I have desired an accordion for quite a long time, so perhaps—”

     “We can play together,” Hikaru smiles, finishing my sentence.

     I cannot help but grin in return…

     “Well then!” the man exclaims while springing up with a surprising energy, “I’ll take you there, then!”

     And so Hikaru and I walk through the still rather empty cobblestone streets, talking to the man whom we learn is named Piotr. Hikaru and I stay close, to be sure nothing ill happens…although truthfully, it would be quite difficult for him to do much against us. And indeed, it is not long before we arrive at the small shop, the sign eschewing words and instead decorated with notes and simple illustrations of instruments.

     “And here she is!” he says as he unlocks the door. As we enter, my eyes glow at the shop, far larger than the small windows betray…

     Along the walls are shelves and shelves full of nearly any kind of instrument one could imagine; of course the accordions, yet also violins and violas, lutes and flutes, even a large, grand piano sits at the edge of the shop, dark and pristine.

     “Do you make all of these yourself?” I ask Piotr, and he merely laughs.

     “Oh gods, no,” he replies, “I just go around and find as many used ones as I can and sell them. You’d be amazed how quickly rich folk will throw a perfectly fine instrument out if it ain’t the fanciest anymore. They really don’t care about nothing!” he laughs once more.

     “Yes,” I chuckle lightly, although in truth feeling a tad uncomfortable. Considering I was rather wealthy and abandoned it all, perhaps that could be interpreted as “not caring”…yet, I suppose one could say I simply care for my happiness more.

     I gaze around, yet quickly become lost at which to choose; there are so many accordions, yet few which I may afford…

     “Suzette,” Hikaru says, nudging my shoulder, “What about this one? I don’t know why, but it seems like something you might like.”

     He points me to an accordion with simple etchings of flowers along the silver colored edges. Compared to the flowers and stripes and other details upon his hurdy gurdy, it is almost plain; although, regardless, they do quite remind me of those on his instrument. Yet, for myself…it is perfect. A small paper to the side says the price: five or.

     I believe I have more than this, certainly that is not too much—

     Our journey has continued for so long now, I have entirely forgotten how much money I have brought with me.

     Looking into my bag, I count all I have brought…it scarcely amounts to two or. It appears I only brought the minimum, I presumed, to sustain myself; which I suppose is wise…how was I to know Hikaru would have a bottomless bag on his person? Yet even this relatively reasonably priced instrument is still too expensive to purchase. Ah, I think this was ill planned out…

     I suppose I could ask Hikaru, yet he has already spent so much on our journey, and has not made any of it back. I truly wonder how much he still has now…it cannot be terribly much.

     “Do you not have enough?” Hikaru asks quietly, apparently noting my disappointment. I merely shake my head in reply. “I’m sorry, I don’t have enough either—but if we combine it, perhaps—”

     “No, no,” I reply, “We should keep our money for food and supplies, should we need them…this can wait for another day. Please forgive me for bringing you here…”

     “So you don’t got enough, hmm?” Piotr says, coming back around towards us. “I think we can arrange something—that is, if you’re willing.”

     “How so?” I ask, glancing at him, unsure of what to think.

     “That bag of yours,” he begins, turning towards Hikaru, “You do that yourself?”

     “I don’t know what you mean—”

     “My father was a priest,” he says. “Often let me run around, help him in the temples. I know a sigil when I see one.”

     What little color Hikaru has drains completely.

     “What’s that one do?”

     “I…” Hikaru begins quietly, “I can’t give this away. It holds all I own.”

     In return Piotr just laughs, as he always seems to do.

     “Well of course I ain’t going to take your bag! But,” he becomes more serious for a moment, “Could you put a sigil like that on anything, and give it that same power?”

     Hikaru pauses, clearly unsure whether he should answer.

     “Yes,” he says, thinking for a moment. “I could make whatever kind you might need. But, I don’t know why you’d want…” he grows quiet again. “You can…probably tell who it comes from, can’t you?”

     “Of course, you don’t hide it very well, son,” he says. “But I don’t rightly care who you deal with, how you even managed to find her. You can probably tell I don’t got loyalty to any of them—but still, I’ve seen what those things can do. Protecting temples from vandals, chests that go on forever and ever; you can’t quite just ask any old priest to make one for you. But clearly you aren’t any old priest, are you?”

     “I wouldn’t say so,” Hikaru answers nervously.

     “Then,” he puts his hand up to his chin, “You willing to make one of them for me for that instrument there?”

     “I don’t see why not,” he says, but then…he looks out, past Piotr. Although it is only for a terribly short moment, his gaze shifts away, and he gives a small nod seemingly to nothing, to no one. Yet just as suddenly, he smiles and returns his gaze towards Piotr. “So, what would you like me to do?”

     “Hmm…at least once or twice a year robbers come through here, always taking a bunch of my wares with them. Think you can put a sigil above the doorway to stop that?”

     “It wouldn’t be hard at all,” Hikaru says, “But—I’m going to have to carve it. Even if you have paint somewhere, if it wears too much, your building won’t be protected anymore.

     “Above the doorway would probably work well,” he adds.

     Piotr pauses, and shrugs.

     “Well, if you say so. I’ll go get a chair for you so you can reach—although you barely need it!” he adds with a laugh.

     “You do not have to do all of this for me…” I say softly, walking up towards Hikaru. “I do not wish to cause you trouble. You always do so much…”

     “It’s no problem at all; if you were causing me trouble, I wouldn’t do any of this,” he says, “And besides, it should only take a few minutes. You can repay me with the beautiful music you’re going to make.”

     “Well, I can do so,” I reply with a small smile.

     Piotr returns with a chair, and simultaneously Hikaru takes off his bag, rummaging through it and finding the dagger he had given to me not terribly long ago…although it is difficult to believe that was perhaps scarcely a week ago. I suppose much has changed since then…

     I gaze up and watch Hikaru as he carefully scratches the strange symbol, so small that it is quite unlikely any would notice it. Although, perhaps this is the idea, after all. Soon Hikaru descends down once more.

     “So,” Piotr says, “How am I supposed to know if it works?”

     “Stand back,” Hikaru replies.

     “All right, but I don’t—”

     Suddenly Hikaru holds back the dagger, facing the blade to the door—!

     “Hikaru!” I exclaim, “What are you—?!”

     Swiftly he stabs at it, making a large crash all the while. But, instead of the dagger becoming fully wedged within the wood, it merely bounces off entirely, not leaving so much as a scratch behind. Hikaru, meanwhile, stumbles backwards, clearly putting all his force into the blow.

     “That’s what will happen if anybody tries to get in here through violent means,” he huffs, while straightening himself out. “The same goes for the windows; nobody can get in here any way aside from walking through the door. If it’s locked, then it won’t budge. Only its proper key will open it.”

     I look over to Piotr, who for a moment merely stares at the door with his mouth agape; yet soon, it turns into a large smile.

     “Absolutely magnificent!” he laughs, patting Hikaru on the back. Hikaru appears a bit startled by this gesture, yet still smiles gently all the same. “You two can have whatever you like, the money I’ll save and peace of mind I’ll have more than makes up for it.”

     Immediately my mood lightens, and I cannot help but rush towards the instrument. Tenderly I grasp it, lifting it to myself and chuckle quietly.

     If my family saw this, they would surely mock me for my ridiculousness, for fawning over a beggar’s instrument; yet now, I am free to learn whatever I wish, do whatever I wish…

     “Thank you for your generosity,” I look up and say to him, yet he waves me off.

     “Even if I could pay a priest to do this, I’d hate to see the price—I’m making off far better than you two out of this.”

     “Either way,” Hikaru interjects, “…Mâzjêr. We’re certainly going to enjoy this.”

     We shall enjoy this…

     My heart cannot help but flutter at least slightly.

     “Well, you two have a good day now!” he says cheerfully, although that soon fades. “Has your trip been well so far?”

     “I believe so,” I reply, looking towards Hikaru, “Would you say so as well?”

     “Yes, for the most part.”

     “That’s good,” Piotr nods, “But…just be careful out there. I know it can be rough for people like you.”

     “Mâzjêr,” Hikaru says with a sad smile, and then turns to me. “Would you like me to put that in my bag for now?”

     “Yes,” I reply softly, thinking of his words…

     And with that, we all say our final goodbyes and leave the shop. Luckily for Hikaru and I, the streets, while slightly more lively than before, are still surprisingly sparse. And now, out of the shop…I cannot help but let my excitement flow over.

     “Oh, mâzjêr vrémond né, Hikaru!” I exclaim, giving him a large hug. “I have always wished for an accordion, and yet…!”

     He gently pats my head in return as I gaze up to smile at him.

     “It’s no problem,” he says as kindly as always. “I think I may have gotten something too,” he adds as he and I begin walking down the street.

     “Did you? I did not see you get anything…”

     “No, nothing physical,” he replies so softly I can scarcely hear him. “That man—even though he knows the tales of the gods, that his father was a priest himself—even so, he still treated me kindly…”

     “It appears most we have met have been kind,” I say, thinking to the man who ran the inn.

     “Yeah, you’re right,” Hikaru replies, “Although he did know me once before. It…feels odd having a stranger treat me so generously, view what I do as valuable…” he trails off.

     I look upon him, lightly holding his arm all the while.

     “The whole world truly is not so cruel, even if you…” I suddenly trail off, abruptly remembering something odd Piotr had said.

     I know I should remain silent; yet by now, it appears an inevitability that I must satiate my curiosity…

     “Hikaru,” I begin, “Did you…discover Maiden Moon, like he had said? You do not truly need to know her to work with her magic, yes?”

     As I say this, however—while it is clear he is attempting to keep his composure, Hikaru noticeably winces, just as he did when I touched him when he became overwhelmed by the city streets. Yet, it is not terribly crowded at the moment, and I have seen him deal with worse than this…

     “That’s…just—that’s just what he thinks,” he mumbles. “Usually with Lady Sun’s priests, they do know her in some capacity if they wish to work her magic, but Maiden Moon—Maiden Moon is different.”

     Though he keeps his gaze forward, I stare at him with large, wide eyes. He is…lying. I have never seen him lie so blatantly, although it almost seems as if it physically pains him to do so. Or maybe…is it the truth that physically pains him?

     “I see,” I mutter, looking forward, mind swirling in a blizzard.

     What an odd reaction, what a terribly odd reaction…

     Is there any way…this could be his other secret? Yesterday evening, I assumed he truly opened his soul, all the little secrets he keeps hidden within: his dealings with the faeries, his relationship with Alex—yet could that truly be the very last one? That he knows—that he has found—Maiden Moon?

     I suppose that would indeed explain why it appears that when we speak of her is when he becomes most distant…as strange and severe as things such as talking to faeries and marrying a man are, those truly cannot compare to that.

     I once found such things little more than nonsense, yet with all that has happened over this journey, I am much more open to any manner of strange possibilities…

     Could he truly know a goddess…?

     I cannot say why, yet for some reason a deep, pervasive dread fills me at the thought. I assume she must not be quite so terrible as the devotees of Lady Sun shall say, for I know quite certainly Hikaru is wonderful, and he does not appear to me the type to deal with others’ unpleasantness for long.

     Yet, I still cannot discard this feeling that if she truly is real—I would rather nothing to do with her. Just seeing him wince now…I am not sure if I could trust her, even if she is a goddess…

     I only hope Hikaru shall be well regardless…that he and I shall both be well. Perhaps it is only my own ignorance which causes me concern…perhaps there is nothing to this at all.


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Lovingly created by [James Margaret Rose].