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~Hikaru~

༻Chapter 20༺

⋅•⋅⊰∙∘☽✧☾∘∙⊱⋅•⋅

“What the absolute fuck are you doing, Hikaru?!? I told you, I told you, you can’t tell her shit! What about that do you not understand?! What, has every single ounce of intelligence in you gone to—”

On and on, she berates me horrendously as we walk. My head is throbbing…and because Suzette is still here, I have no recourse.

“Hikaru…Hikaru,” Suzette repeats softly, gently shaking me, “Perhaps we should go towards a more empty alleyway…you do not seem to be doing well.”

“I’d like that,” I reply quietly, as her and I turn off into some empty corner of the city.

“I need a moment alone,” I breathe, exasperated.

“We cannot,” she says, tugging my sleeve. “After what happened when we first came here…please, I do not want to split up again.”

She looks up at me, her eyes, her face clearly full of concern…I sigh. I hate being like this, yet…

“Remember when we split up in the forest?”

“Is this…for a similar purpose?”

“Yes—here,” I reach into my bag, bringing out the dagger again.

She only frowns even further at this, but reluctantly grabs the knife anyways.

“Please do not be long like last time, Hikaru…”

“I won’t, I promise,” I smile, and it seems to comfort her a little bit. So I turn around, and walk further down the alley and turn, to where I know I’m both out of sight and earshot.

Without even needing to say a word, Maiden Moon manifests in front of me, arms crossed. Although her eyes are a deep violet, right now they resemble a raging fire…

“I can’t believe you,” she says much more quietly than I was anticipating. “I should smite you right now.”

“I didn’t tell her,” I state quietly but firmly.

“No, but I bet that damned man gave it away because he’s not so dense as she is; well, assuming she’s not so dense to understand it.”

“Watch your words, Moon,” I growl, digging my fingers into my skin. Regardless of how our conversation goes, this is ending.

“Oh, I suppose I am undeserving of my full title now?” she spits back. “Remember you’re speaking with a goddess. You’re the one who better watch what you say.”

“I don’t care if you were the Shadows, I’m not going to deal with anyone speaking of my loved ones that way.”

“So I’m not a loved one now either—”

“Are you trying to misconstrue everything I say?!” I nearly shout, quickly losing my grip, “Obviously you are, or else I would have thrown away this damned necklace ages ago! Lately all you do is act like a jealous child—what, is this how you treated Maia too? Expecting her to just bow to your will, because you’re a goddess?”

Although her face remains in a grimace, shining tears fall from her eyes that refuse to break contact with mine. In spite of myself, guilt quickly washes over me.

“…That was unnecessary, Hikaru,” she croaks.

“P…Pšyku,” I sigh. “But, Maiden Moon—”

“You’re all I have,” she whispers too me. “I don’t have the luxury of socializing with whoever I wish, falling in love with whoever I wish—it is just you.”

“You know, we could share the necklace around, so you can meet people,” I suggest, “Perhaps even Suzette—”

“I want nothing to do with her,” she declares. “We are entirely incompatible…and letting others know too deeply about this necklace—there is too much risk. If someone hides it away so I will always be alone, or even destroys it…you know this.”

“But I don’t know anything else to help you.”

“Stay with me alone, and I will be satisfied.”

“…You know I can’t guarantee that,” I sigh. “For the first time in decades, I—"

“Hikaru,” she cuts me off, yet in the most gentle manner possible, “I don’t mean this to hurt you, but…do you truly believe she would ever return your affections?”

I say nothing…which surely says everything. She turns towards me once more, arms still crossed, face in a frown.

“Nobility only love the lower classes in faerie stories. Even if she abandoned that life, do you truly believe the hearts of nobility are so easily swayed?”

“Even when she was still a noblewoman, she never treated me with anything but the utmost kindness.”

Maiden Moon shakes her head.

“Are you so desperate to feel young, Hikaru?” she says in a pained whisper.

I can’t help but furrow my brow.

“It’s not like that whatsoever,” I huff. “There are men far older than I who marry women younger than her—”

“And they are either wealthy and powerful, or withering and unconfident—are they not? Do you believe that’s truly ‘love?’”

“You speak as though she’s barely a woman, and not already well past what’s considered a proper marrying age.”

“Does that make a difference?”

“Completely,” I frown.

“Incredible,” she shakes her head once more, this time looking away from me. “Only you would be so insistent on defending the merits of being with a fat little baker.”

“Shut it,” I spit, tone growing sharp, “You’re not going to say anything ill about her again. Ever.”

“Oh?” she swiftly turns around, “Was that at all untruthful?”

“I guess not, but—”

“Then what is the issue?”

“Maiden Moon.”

“You’re a fool, Hikaru.”

“And why’s that?”

“You truly believe she could ever love someone like you?”

I stop.

“T-There’s nothing wrong with me either,” I stumble, betraying my own doubt.

“You are correct,” she says, “Yet society are fools who think otherwise. And you, if you truly believe they will ever accept you…I’m sorry, Hikaru—then you’re a fool too.”

“She’s not like that at all—”

“Will you ever get it through your damn head?!” She finally loses it, “Fine, I didn’t want to go here, but now I must—she’ll never understand you Hikaru! Never!

“How can someone coddled in wealth and comfort ever understand what it’s like to be hated merely because the way you look, or because you once fell in love with a man? How could she ever understand what it’s like to lose almost everyone you love, to be alone and starve? To truly suffer?”

“…You think she’s never suffered?” I reply breathless.

“Oh, what did you say? She had a mean husband? Shuttered away in a house for a few years? Oh yes, because you were not alone for decades, and I was not alone for thousands of years—!

“She will never understand your pain—she will never understand you! You will never be understood, Hikaru! Not by some silly human!”

I stand as still as a statue, feeling as though a dagger’s been stabbed through my chest.

“And I don’t understand you, Maiden Moon,” I whisper. “I’m also one of those ‘silly humans.’ I don’t know why you think I’m anything but.”

“You can’t understand,” she whispers. “It’s something beyond your comprehension.”

I sigh.

“To think, you will throw away the love of you life, merely for a woman who will never understand…”

“…What?”

“Imagine that dear Alex of yours, discovering you gave your affections merely to a small, plain woman that will never truly love you, never truly understand you..”

My heart stops. My breathing stops. It appears as though the whole world around me stops.

“My, there’s no need to tear up, Hikaru.” I quickly look up to her, confused.

But she simply comes and wipes the tear which I only just now realized was there away, and pulls me into an embrace. I…don’t have the energy to either reciprocate or resist.

“Please listen to me,” she whispers into my ear, “If you pursue this path, that woman will ruin you. She will destroy your already battered soul. If this is what you really desire, then so be it—but never once say I didn’t warn you.”

“…Hikaru?” A new voice appears from behind, and my heart nearly stops. “It has been a while, is all well?”

I don’t respond. Maiden Moon, meanwhile, steps away from me.

“The choice is yours. If you wish to throw away that love of yours for a daft woman who will never understand then so be it, Hikaru.”

I gaze upon her, but still remain silent, only furrowing my brow. I don’t know what to say.

“Jéyu bon, Hikaru,” Maiden Moon says, dissipating with a slight burst of light. And this time…sometimes, although I can’t see her, her presence can still be felt, even if faintly. But now it’s nowhere to be found. It seems I’ve truly been left alone.

I stand there for a little while, head empty of almost all thoughts, lost in emotions I barely understand how to describe. Eventually Suzette strokes my arm, and I jump a little.

“What…happened?” she whispers, looking upon my face, “You appear as though you have seen a phantom.”

I chuckle a little, as I suppose that’s not entirely wrong.

“It’s nothing, truly.”

“Well,” she sighs, “I think you may want this,” she says as she hands me her already folded over napkin. Somehow, I didn’t notice at all she wasn’t wearing it, although otherwise she always is.

“Have the temples let out now?”

“I presume so, the streets have grown increasingly crowded. It is a bit amusing,” she chuckles, “More and more seem to not care about such matters, yet they still visit the temples regardless. Why is that so?”

“I guess even if they barely put stock in it, they still want to seem righteous—it’s just a large show.”

“I suppose so,” she replies as I take off my hat and cover my ears, and return the hat to its place.

Softly, she clasps my hand, preparing for the journey once more; and in spite of myself, I can’t help but hold it a little bit tighter. I never want to let go, I wish we could hold them forever through these warm summer days always. A childish dream, just like those days back then, although at least now I’ve the wisdom to know everything must end eventually, always much sooner than I’d like. I know I have never, nor will I ever, truly hold it regardless.

At that thought, I blankly stare ahead as we start walking again.

⋅•⋅⊰∙∘☽✧☾∘∙⊱⋅•⋅

For a long time Suzette and I casually stroll through the city streets; it appears even she realizes what a state I’m in, going more slowly than even usual. As the day goes on, although there are more people out, it’s still far from a ridiculous amount; I could probably do without the napkin well enough. However, the relative silence is somewhat soothing. At least, when I focus on it instead of these pounding of thoughts. Hmm, maybe just succumbing to the noise, even if it gets to be painful, might be better after all…

Eventually we finally make it, the large stone wall at least fifteen feet thick or more. I glance over towards Suzette to see her reaction; her eyes glisten in the sunlight.

The inner districts, the Solzédniê that she surely must remember.

I pull the napkin down around my neck, and turn towards her.

“Are you ready to see it?”

“Yes!” she beams, “Although…ah, I suppose I cannot enjoy it in the same way I did all those years ago.”

“Maybe someday you can return here, and have that be the case.”

“Ah, perhaps so,” she replies softly.

She and I circle the wall, until at last we come towards an opening, a tunnel filled with lamplight even during the day, and a guard stationed at either edge.

As we walk up to it we are greeted by an older, stocky man wearing the bright gold and white uniforms of the royal guard. As we walk up, he extends a large spear over the entrance, blocking it.

“Halt!” he resounds sternly, “Show your seal.”

“We do not have any…” Suzette mutters.

“Then what business do you have here?”

“Oh,” she begins, “We are just passing through—”

“For? You can easily go around the wall.”

“But would we not have to get a ferry?”

“That isn’t our problem.”

I look down, and glare at the guard—what’s his issue? Yes, at night they get wary about who’s in the inner districts, but it will still be daytime for numerous hours—have they begun shutting out anyone they see as inferior in general?

I grit my teeth, but say nothing.

“Please, is there any way we shall come through?” Suzette replies exasperated, “We do not wish any harm, and would even like to see everything again…”

At this, the guard laughs.

“See everything again? Just who do you think you are? State your names, and I’ll think about it.”

“I am Suzette Lebrun,” she says quietly, and for a moment the guard looks over her.

“Hmm…those clothes of yours seem to tell a different story, but that face—tell me, who is your family?”

“My parents are Armand and Analise Lebrun, my elder siblings are Elise Loup and Florence Lebrun; my father owns much land in the province of Justêre. Elise is the wife of Edward Loup, the governor of Justêre. She is thin and tall, with long, curled red hair and green eyes like mine—"

“All right, all right, I believe you are who you say you are,” the guard says. “And you?” he asks, looking towards me.

“I’m Hikaru Wakahisa,” I mutter. “I used to live here.”

“You lived here?” he scoffs, “What could you have been doing, then?”

I try to hold eye contact, for I know if you look away many interpret that as lying—and it seems he is already looking for any excuse not to let me through.

“I was a servant of Alexander Boucher, the painter who lived here for a short while. It was many years ago.”

The guard stares at me, stroking his chin.

“Hmm…I might recall watching someone odd long, long ago. What did you do, while here?”

“Well…I’d often only come out at the later hours, when nobody was about. I might leave the inner districts, and visited an inn within the outer part of the city.”

“Yep, sounds right,” the guard comments, “I guess time hasn’t made you any less of a queer sort… But, it seems you both do have reason to be here.” Quickly he lifts up his spear, letting us through.

“Go in before I change my mind. I’m feeling generous today.”

“Mâzjêr né,” Suzette and I both utter, and begin walking through the tunnel.

“I do not remember the guards being so…rude,” Suzette whispers, “Although I suppose my family and I did have royal seals…”

“I don’t remember the guards blocking who even came in during the middle of the damn day,” I moan, not even caring who may hear. “I guess everything truly is different, now.”

“Sâ pšyku, Hikaru…”

“It’s not your fault. I’m just…glad I got out of here.”

Her and I make it to the edge of the tunnel—and to my surprise, I find a change that is actually pleasant. In various spots lies boxes holding trees and flowers and grass. I suppose the people here finally realized how horrid a place with so little nature really is.

Otherwise, everything looks more or less how I remember. Ornate, elegant buildings, street lamps everywhere, every road paved with fine brick, with none left dusty like in the rest of the city.

And all around, I notice them; men in fine suits and gilded canes, often with a women in large frilled dresses hanging on their arms. Some are followed by maids in dresses resembling more ornate, yet less colorful versions of Suzette’s clothes. And scattered about are a few people of even lower standing than ourselves, doing such things as tending the flowers, or cleaning the streets. It’s surprisingly quiet and peaceful—if it weren’t for all the glares given our way.

Suzette and I…yes, in just about every respect, we do not fit in at all. But we continue onwards, attempting to ignore it.

“I have never felt so unwelcome here, or anywhere like this…” Suzette sighs, “When I was young I felt rather comfortable here, but now…”

“I understand,” I answer. “I’m sorry you have to feel that way too.”

“I am the one who made this decision, and even with this I cannot say I regret it,” she replies with a smile, bringing me ease in return.

After a short while of walking, suddenly memories begin flooding back to me. Although my time here was generally very unpleasant—it’s hard not to have at least small pangs of nostalgia remembering my days with Alex.

“Hey Suzette,” I say, “Do you want to see where Alex and I always went? If it’s still there, at least…”

“Of course!” she chirps, more excitedly than I expected.

And so I lead her down the paths, through the increasingly winding buildings…and at last we arrive to a fairly small circle, with a fountain running in the middle. Now there are trees all around in front of the buildings, making everything more peaceful than I remember.

“Ah, this is…” Suzette trails off for a moment.

“I know, it’s not much—”

“No, it is lovely,” she says with a soft grin. “Would you like to rest here, for a moment?”

I nod, and her and I go to sit along the edge.

“Ah,” I mumble, closing my eye, “You can actually hear the birds here.”

“Yes, it is so peaceful…” she replies softly. “You know, Hikaru, I think you truly have rubbed off on me.”

“What do you mean?” I ask, now looking at her gazing upon the trees seemingly absentmindedly.

“My dream, ever since I was young, was to live within Solzédniê, start my bakery here…but while it is not without its pleasant points, I do not wish for that anymore.”

“Then where do you want to go?”

“I have not the slightest clue…but I believe somewhere small and peaceful, on the edge of the forests and valleys. I understand now why you enjoy such things so much.”

“I’m glad I could help you…I think,” I reply.

But soon, I myself become distracted…

Scattered people have come and gone throughout this circle, and of course I have tried not to pay mind to them. But one person has watched us nearly this entire time…

It’s a woman maybe around my age, wearing a bright blue and white gown that has more frills than should probably be legal. Though her hair is tied up under a small hat with a veil, long, curly red strands fall down. Her face is dark, and she stares at me with bright green eyes, wearing a look of both disdain and amusement.

Haven’t I heard a description like this before?

“Suze—”

“My, my, look who has arrived!”

Before I can finish speaking, her sharp voice pierces through the circle.

“Elise—?!” Suzette swiftly turns around in a panic.

“You are alive after all!” Elise walks over, laughing. “Although, perhaps ‘alive’ is not quite accurate, you look positively wretched. What in the heavens have you done to your beautiful hair? And those clothes—before, at least your manner offset that pudginess of yours, but now it seems that is the only thing noticeable left about you. Dreadully embarrassing.”

“I…” Suzette mumbles, and just looks down, shrinking further than I have seen her do in the presence of anybody.

“Who do you think you are?” I snap at her.

“Hmph, I should be asking that of you,” she says, suddenly pulling a fan to her face. “I am her dear sister, and I presume you are her kidnapper, yes?”

“I was not kidnapped…” Suzette whispers, before suddenly facing her and speaking louder. “I left of my own accord.”

“Hmm,” Elise huffs again, before staring me down. “Wait a moment…are you that one tramp whom she always was so eager to convince everyone was ‘just a friend?’”

Now she holds her hand back, and gives a loud, almost snooty laugh.

“My,” Elise chuckles, “This is truly hilarious! And here we thought something ill may have happened to you, but it was only you being an imbecile like always! Whoring around on your dear husband, with someone who has nothing—”

“We are not together!” Suzette exclaims. “I was always faithful to Marc, even when I begged him for a divorce and he did not give it, I never—”

“And that only proves how much of a fool you are, Suzette,” Elise replies. “That man is an absolute saint for not throwing you out himself. If Lady Sun truly is real, he surely deserves a spot in her heaven.”

“He always controlled me, scarcely let me have friends, scarcely let me eat, scarcely—”

“Well of course he did, obviously you cannot be trusted to make your own decisions,” she sighs with a feigned sadness, “You are a fully grown woman, and yet look at you…”

Meanwhile, I dig my fingers deep into my arms, nails scratching intomyskin. My patience has already been worn more thin today than it has in a very long time; it feels like all I can do to not instantly punch her right in the face. But obviously, that won’t help anything…so I sit quietly, seething.

“Why do you insist on coming over here and torturing her?” I heave, trying to control myself, “What the fuck did she do to you?”

“I was hoping toperhaps bring her back from this nonsense, if she even has an ounce of a brain left in her,” she spits, and then turns towards Suzette. “Yet I suppose one with such grotesque breasts would not have any development left for their mind, and is only good for pathetically seducing men. Yet you could not even snag someone worth having…my, what a farce this truly is. I cannot believe even no, you are still so sad and disgusting.”

I gaze over to Suzette, who is looking upon Elise with a face of utmost seriousness. But, I still see it…small, glistening tears at the edges of her eyes, like rain piling on a leaf.

“Suzette…” I whisper, putting my hand on her shoulder. I decide to focus on comforting her, instead of doing something we’ll likely both regret.

“I-I am well,” she whispers.

But the truth is obvious.

“It truly is a shame,” Elise says, “To think, we did our best to shutter Florence’s letters away, keep away all influence, so perhaps you may turn out to be a fine woman…and yet somehow, you still became just like him. My, how is it possible that only one child inherit all the intelligence?”

“…What?” Suzette asks, eyes growing wide. “Florence…never sent any letters.”

“My,” Elise rolls her eyes, “You truly are that idiotic. With as much as he doted on you while he was around, you truly believed he would send you nothing?”

Suddenly Suzette shoots up towards her sister with a ferocity I didn’t even know she had in her; even though she is much shorter than Elise, she still backs up regardless.

“Are you…serious?” Suzette seethes.

“Now, now, Suzette dear—"

“So for well over a decade I have lived in loneliness, without the one relative who actually gave a whit about me, all because you want to control me?!?” Suzette screams, and my all my breathing—and, it seems, time itself—stops.

Before I realize it she has Elise by the collar, pulled far down towards herself. I remember what kind of strength Suzette can muster when she is determined enough, like when she found me in the woods—

“Suzette,” I panic, “Maybe we should, or I should—”

“I can handle this, Hikaru,” she whispers.

“L-Listen to him, S-Suzette! It seems he—”

“Tell me,” Suzette whispers.

“…What?”

“Tell me where Florence is, he would not have sent letters without saying where they came from, even if only on the envelope.”

“The last letter he sent was years ago, he may not—”

“Tell. Me,” she breathes right in her face. “And do not lie.”

“Y…You…You are t-terrifying,” Elise’s voice shakes and trembles horribly. I look around, and to my horror, a few people are indeed watching us.

“Suzette, I think the guards might—”

“Tell me right now Elise!” Suzette commands her.

“T-The last we heard he was in Bydlin! I-It is a small town n-north of here.”

“Hikaru,” Suzette turns to me, “Have you heard of this town?”

“It is in Mârsêl!” Elise exclaims. I think for a moment, trying to remember.

“I think I’ve passed by there before, yes,” I reply quietly.

“If he is not there, ask the locals, they should know where he has gone, surely,” Elise breathes, gaining a bit more composure.

With that Suzette throws her down, and she unceremoniously crashes to the ground.

“Suzette…” Elise moans while on the ground, “You are not just disgusting; you…are a monster.”

“Says the woman who kept a child from the only person who loved her for half of her life, who barely even put on airs of caring for her. You are positively disgusting.

“…Let us go, Hikaru,” Suzette says calmly, turning to me. But I, meanwhile, stand up rapidly.

“I…think we have more pressing things to deal with.”

Suzette looks in the same direction as I, and sees them—at least half a dozen guards or more, surrounding half the circle, and a few frantic people pointing our way.

“Don’t move!”

“Hikaru—!!!” Suzette swiftly turns towards me once more, nearly crying again—now for entirely different reasons than before.

“Come!” I grab her hand swiftly, pulling her close.

“We said don’t move—!” A guard yells as they rush towards us, spears in hand.

“Vodyu—!” I shout thrusting my arm out, not having time to finish the full incantation; but luckily, they understand my intention immediately, as water suddenly rushes out from the fountain and surrounds each and every guard, instantly hardening into solid, thick ice.

Now, I pull Suzette with me, and we begin rushing through the streets at a full sprint, as fast as either of us can possibly muster.

“W-What was that?!” Suzette heaves between breathes.

“Do you have to ask?!”

Her and I continue running, and running, and running; bumping into people left and right, looping, trying our damnedest to escape this city—but still, we are in the inner districts after all.

We…might have no choice other than to be arrested.

But just as the pain in my shoes becomes like stabbing knives, suddenly Suzette and I both trip and fall—rolling and rolling, over…rocks and grass.

At last, I land on my back, and look up at the Sky…it’s clear and dark, full of thousands of Stars. There’s…no buildings here. No people here.

It’s not day anymore. We’re no longer in Solzédniê.

Soon, a familiar, angry pale face of a softly glowing figure comes over me.

“Maiden…”

“Do you know how incredibly difficult that is for me to do in this state, Hikaru?!” she barks, but I stare up at her blankly.

Every part of my body hurts terribly. I can barely move, barely speak. Everything’s spinning.

“I knew she was trouble, look what she almost did to you! You would have gone to prison, lost your freedom, lost me, lost everything!”

“Mâ…zjêr,” I mumble hoarsely.

She stares down at me…and to my surprise, tears well up in her eyes.

Gently, so much so that it doesn’t seem to be her, she lifts me up, and pulls me into an embrace.

“Please…” she says softly, “Don’t scare me like that again.”

“I’ll…try…” I whisper.

Softly she sets me back down on the ground, and sighs.

“Even in spite of this you still love her, don’t you?”

I say nothing.

“Well…I am patient. But…god damnit Hikaru,” she nearly growls.

“Why,” she adds with a whisper, “Why do you never learn?”

I stare up at her blankly.

For the same reason as you.

But I don’t say that.

“I shall be resting for a while, that used up much more out of me than you can realize,” she says. “Nykhte bon, Hikaru.”

“…Tsiâ mo,” I mumble.

And the night becomes black once more.

For a long while, I lay there quietly, attempting to piece together everything that happened.

Eventually I hear Suzette moan and shuffle, and I lift myself up as well.

Did I somehow bring her with me, or did Maiden Moon deliberately transport her here as well, in spite of everything?

Perhaps I’ll never know.

“Hikaru…” she whispers, “Where are we?”

“We’re outside the city now. We’re safe.”

“Are they…going to come find us?”

“I doubt it,” I reply. “You didn’t even really assault her, I’m sure they have actual criminals to busy themselves with instead.”

“If…you say so,” she says, voice steadily shaking more and more.

“Sâ…sâ pšyku…” she mutters, slowly turning my way. “I do not know what came over me, I…I have never been that way in my entire life, I…”

“You have much to be upset about. I understand.”

She looks up towards me; in spite of the darkness, it seems her eyes glisten like shimmering green jewels…it would be so beautiful, if in this moment they weren’t filled with such sorrow.

“Hikaru…” she says before falling into me, holding her hands into my chest, her loud sobs filling the night air. They are so much, and so deep, occasionally she heaves deeply, hardly able to breathe.

I try to remain quiet, as to not add onto her sorrow…but still, I cry with her while slowly stroking her back. Slowly but surely, she falls deeper and deeper into me…

“Fifteen years…!” she croaks barely audibly, “It was fifteen years ago when he left…over half a lifetime ago! Over half a lifetime…I did not have to be so lonely…that I could have had family…that I…”

“Sâ pšyku…I’m so, so sorry, Suzette,” I whisper.

Although the meaning is genuine, the words feel so empty. I can’t truly express anything to assuage her sorrow. There are no words for it.

“Hikaru, can we…”

“Of course,” I reply before she even finishes her sentence. “This journey is for you, after all. We’ll find him again.”

Slowly she squeezes me ever tighter, and now her sobbing subsides to silent tears. Without thinking, I begin rocking, and she leans so far into me…it almost feels as though we’re one.

“…Mâzjêr vrémond né, Hikaru.”

“It’s truly no problem, Suzette.”

For a time I continue rocking, and after a while, I almost believe I hear her mumble something.

“What was that?”

“It was nothing,” she replies a bit more clearly. “I am just a bit tired, is all…”

As I continue holding her, my mind begins wandering…

It almost sounded as though she said…“Lêm sâ tsiâ né, Hikaru.”

But, perhaps I am merely mishearing things…it has been an awfully long day.

⋅•⋅⊰∙∘☽✧☾∘∙⊱⋅•⋅

~Suzette~

༻Chapter 20.5༺

⋅•⋅⊰∙∘☽✧☾∘∙⊱⋅•⋅

“You are what?!”

“I am not marrying. I refuse,” Florence said sternly. Although I could not see him, I imagine he looked really serious…

“Who the fuck do you think you are?!” Father shouted, and I gasped at his foul language—why are you speaking like this, Father? Why are you yelling so?

“I am my own man, and I refuse to bow down to your will any longer.”

“So this is what you do to us? We give you everything you ever wanted, even allow you to choose a wife, and marry her at your leisure—and you refuse?”

“Yes,” he said. “There’s nothing you can do to change my mind.”

Suddenly I jumped as I heard the crashing of broken glass—

“Then get out of this damn house!”

“Now Armand—” I heard Mother begin, before Father interrupted her.

“You will not talk me out of this, woman!”

“I was not,” Mother said with an air of annoyance. “I was going to say, at least let the boy pack his things properly and leave. He is still our son…

“But, Florence…words cannot express how disappointed I am in you.”

“Sa pšyku,” Florence replied. “That is…unfortunate.”

“Pack up and leave by morning,” Father spat, “I better not see your face when I awake.

“Unbelievable, how can you be so selfish? Who’s to carry on the Lebrun name—the bastard? This family is falling apart, utterly fucking unbelievable.”

I paused at the odd word—what is a “bastard”? I never heard the word before, yet something about the way he said it makes it sound…bad.

But soon the door beside me slammed open, as Father stomped his way through.

“Ah!” I quickly yelped, scrambling even further to the wall.

Father abruptly turned towards me, his old wrinkled face scowling terribly.

“What are you doing up?!”

“I-I heard noise, and—”

“Go back to bed. Now.”

“Yes Father!” I answered, and ran back to my room as fast as I could.

Now I lay in the darkness, clutching tightly my little rabbit…Mother says I shall soon be too old for him, that I need not be so childish, yet—yet right now, I want someone to hug…

Is Florence truly leaving? Could it be true?

I try to fall asleep, and yet I cannot; I am so worried for Florence…

Eventually, after a long time, I hear my door creaking.

“Suzette?” Florence’s voice shoots through the shadows.

“Ah, Florence!” I quickly shoot up, smiling widely, “You are here!”

“Yes…” Florence sighed, “I am here.”

“Is…” I trail off, not entirely sure what to say, “Is…what Father said true? Must you leave?”

“…Yes.”

I pause.

“When will you come home?”

“I…I am not, Suzette.”

“…You will not return home?”

“No…I am so sorry, Suzette.”

Suddenly in the darkness, everything begins to spin, like I have been spinning round and around in circles…

“You will eventually though, yes?”

“Suzette…” he sighs, “No. Probably not.”

“W…Will I never see you again?”

In spite of myself, I start crying…

“Of course you will,” he smiles in the faint light of the door crack, wiping away my tears with his hand. “It may be a while, but I know we’ll meet again. And until then, I will definitely write you letters.”

“You promise?”

“I promise,” he says, pulling me into a tight, nearly painful hug.

“Lêm sâ tsiâ né, Suzette.”

“Lêm mo sâ tsiâ né, Florence…” I mumble as I squeeze him even tighter. I never knew…a hug could be so sad.

“There’s something I must tell you,” he says while pulling away from me, looking me in the eyes.

“Yes?”

“Whatever your dreams are…don’t ever, ever let anyone stifle you, Suzette.”

“What do you mean?”

“What would you like to do when you grow up?”

“You should know!” I am at last able to chuckle softly, “I am going to be a baker! Maybe I can be one for the royal family or something…!”

“Then you do that,” he smiles, “Become a baker, and do not let anyone stop you. Or, if as you become a woman you decide you would rather do something else instead—pursue it. You understand?”

“I do!” I chirp.

“With as passionate as you are, I know you will do wonderful at whatever alights your fire,” he says while ruffling my hair. “Please Suzette, never let others define your fate for you, even if in this world of ours…many will try.”

“I will not!”

“You promise?”

“…I promise, Florence.”

“Lêm sâ tsiâ né, Suzette,” he says again, while patting my shoulder. “I will send you a letter as soon as I am able.”

“All right, then!”

Steadily he stands up in the darkness, and goes to the doorway before pausing.

Suddenly…my happiness drains from me. All I see is the image of him, of his shadow against the faint light…and soon realize this will be my last sight of him for possibly a long time…

“Vwârdnie, Suzette.”

“…Vwârdnie, Florence.

Softly, he closes the door.

I lay down…and I feel as though I am going to vomit. He is gone. My brother, my best friend in all the world…he says we shall meet again, but when?

He is gone, gone…

I cuddle up to my little rabbit once more…the poor thing becoming soaked with my tears.

⋅•⋅⊰∙∘☽✧☾∘∙⊱⋅•⋅

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