Gentle Warmth | String of Stardust

String of Stardust

~Suzette ✧ Chapter XXII~

༻Gentle Warmth༺


     {The days go on and on, each one melding into the last. I paint, visit Beaulieu, paint some more, attempt to socialize with Hikaru, and paint more again. Normally I love it, watching myself grow progressively better and better…but it is difficult not to feel increasingly worn down.

     My mother indeed allowed Hikaru to move in with us, but…the wound from his loss is still fresh and festering. Once he comes home from working, he usually lays down in his bed, sometimes sleeping, sometimes staring at the wall for hours at a time… Sometimes, I have to shake him to make sure he’s even alive—or awake, at least, like an old dog who is on the brink.

     All I want to do is make him happy again, see him smile again…but, what is there to do? I guess I’ve technically lost a parent before, but he died before I was even born—it’s not very comparable. I didn’t realize…how much Hikaru really is in my life, until he’s almost entirely out of it. Ironically, right when he moves in with me is when he becomes most distant.

     “Hikaru,” I whisper one evening, setting my hand on his side. He turns on his back and stares up at me, a dark bag under his eye. It seems he hasn’t been sleeping very well, in spite of being in bed so much…

     “Hmm?” he mumbles.

     “I’m going to have dinner with my master tonight, would you like to join me?”

     “…Hmph,” he huffs, and turns away. “I doubt he’d like me.”

     “Why’s that?”

     “I don’t even know why you like me.”

     “Hikaru…” I sigh, “How do you think your mother would feel about this?”

     “What?” he turns over again.

     “I didn’t know her that well, but…I think it’d make her awfully sad, seeing you stay in bed all day like this, not talking or socializing with anyone.”

     “I’m not good at that anyways.”


     He sits up, and looks at me, eye full of sadness.

     “I won’t make you go,” I say, “But…will you go with me one day? He really wants to meet you.”

     “He knows about me?”

     “Of course he does,” I smile. “He’s almost like a father to me…of course he knows about you.”

     Though it is very small, almost imperceptible, a small grin does indeed appear on his face.

     “Well…I don’t know, it might be nice to get out of the house for a little bit…”

     “All right, let’s get ready—!” I hop up, and swiftly put on my coat and gather my things.

     It worked!

     Hikaru and I leave the house into the dark, freezing night. The ground is covered in snow sparkling under the moonlight. But, it’s not snowing, windy; other than the temperature itself, the weather is quite nice—and admittedly, the cool, fresh air is refreshing as well. If there is any time to bring Hikaru out of the house, at least in this season, tonight’s surely the night.

     “I must warn you,” I say, “It’s a bit of a long walk. He lives out in the woods, away from everyone.”

     “He sounds smart,” Hikaru replies. “I’ve been to the park, but I don’t think I’ve been in the actual forest around here…”

     “Knowing you, I’m sure you’ll love it,” I reply. “It’s not really so lively, considering the season—but it’s still rather pretty, I think.”

     And so, he and I walk through the town, to the edge and beyond. Everything is so still and quiet…maybe a bit too much.

     “Everything all right?” I ask Hikaru after a while.

     “Yes, I’m just a bit nervous; I imagine he must be a great painter, to have taught you so well…”


     “There’s nothing notable about me at all…I mean, nothing good.”

     “You’re getting really good at drawing plants!”

     “I’m still not nearly so good as you…”

     “You know practically everything there is to know about the gods, all those old myths and tales,” I say.

     “But, that’s not really—”

     “Well, I think I’ve shown you I don’t know much about that.”

     “But lots of other people do.”

     “Even if you’ve not seen them, lots of people know how to paint too.”

     “I guess that’s true…”

     He and I continue walking through the forest until we finally arrive: a small, unassuming cabin, only surrounded by trees except neighbors. Only the faint lamplight shining on the snow outside shows there’s anything here at all.

     “This really is away from everything…” he mumbles as we walk up to the door, and I knock.

     “Who’s there at this unholy hour?” Beaulieu angrily shouts from within.

     “It’s Alex, I came to—” Before I’m done talking, abruptly the door opens.

     “Alex, my boy!” he exclaims smiling, as though his previous outburst never happened, and comes in to give me a large hug. “Pšyku, some rather unpleasant people have been trying to barge in lately, I just assumed they decided to try new tactics.”

     “Did you forget about us having dinner?”

     “Oh no!” he theatrically puts his hand to his forehead, “I thought that was tomorrow! Well, come in, come in!”

     “Actually, I brought someone too…”

     I look back towards Hikaru, who has a blank, bug-eyed look on his face. He seems a bit overwhelmed, like he has no idea what’s going on, or what to think of it.

     “Oh, is this Hikaru?”

     “You know my name?” he looks at him, now even more flabbergasted.

     “I’d hope so, with as much as Alex talks about you.”

     Suddenly his face turns bright red…and I imagine mine does too.

     “If you’re a friend of my boy,” Beaulieu says, “Then you’re a friend of mine as well. So you come in too!”

     And so, we both go into his cramped little house.

     “There’s so much here…!” Hikaru exclaims, likely referring to the vast array of paints, canvases, sketchbooks, and nearly any other sort of art supply you could ever imagine, for anything except sculpture perhaps.

     “Well, sorry for the mess,” my master says, “It tends to stay this way. I actually live back there, where it isn’t quite as much of a wreck.”

     The next room at the other end of the house is incredibly small; inside, there’s only a little table with a few chairs, a few worn cabinets, a tiny wood stove, and one small bed—his entire living space in a room as large as my bedroom back in my apartment. But I would be lying to say it isn’t one of my favorite places to be. Especially with the smatterings of lamplight, and Hikaru here with me too…

     It really does feel like home.

     “I don’t mind, it’s cozy…” Hikaru says, echoing my thoughts precisely.

     “I’m still sorry it’s nothing fancy,” Beaulieu apologizes again, while stirring a pot of beef stew on the stove. “My work is a bit more glamorous than my own life.”

     “I think I like this better than an estate or some such thing anyways,” Hikaru mumbles. Beaulieu smiles, quite pleased with this.

     For a long time the three of us sit, eating, talking; and for the first time in what seems like ages, Hikaru smiles and laughs. For a moment, at last, he can forget all his troubles…

     “So,” Beaulieu says after a while, “I know my boy’s becoming a painter like me, but what about you? What do you want to do when you get older?”

     Suddenly, Hikaru becomes very silent.

     “I…I don’t know. I haven’t really thought about it. Erm…if there’s anything I can do, at least.”

     “Nonsense,” my master says, “Everyone can do something.”

     “Not someone like me,” Hikaru sighs, looking down and away from everyone.

     “With that attitude, maybe. Look here son,” he says putting his hand on Hikaru’s shoulder, who slightly jumps from the gesture. “My father was a beggar and my mother was a whore, I was left to fend for myself when I was younger than you. But I became determined to become a painter, and look where I am now.”

     “I’ve…had thoughts of becoming some kind of physician,” Hikaru blurts out, to my surprise. I didn’t even know this…

     “I really like plants…” Hikaru continues, “I’ve tried learning how they work, maybe someday I could combine them for medicines—”

     “That’s wonderful!” Beaulieu exclaims, “Why wouldn’t you be able to do that?”

     “What if people don’t want medicine from someone like me?”

     “Now that…I can’t say,” my master sighs. “Then you have to find something else. There’s a million things in the world, everybody has their place somewhere—remember that, and you’ll be fine,” he smiles.

     I wonder if that place is—

     “Well, I suppose I’ll try,” he replies with a weak grin.

     We continue eating and talking, having a good time; although, from that point onwards…Hikaru does seem a little more distant.

     “It’s been nice, boys, but I really need to get my sleep, I don’t got so much energy as you.”

     “Mâzjêr né!” Hikaru and I thank at once, and I can’t help but chuckle a bit.

     The two of us finish saying our goodbyes, and exit the warm house, back into the even more frigid air. But now, the full Moon hangs high overhead, giving a cool glow to all the world, making the snow shine…although the air prickles the skin, the beauty remaining more than makes up for it.

     “Your uncle is really nice,” Hikaru comments once we’re out the door.

     “My uncle?”

     “Well, however you’re related to him—”

     “We’re not related at all…” I trail off, looking at him with complete confusion. “Why do you think that?”

     “Oh, you just look so similar, I assumed you must be related.”

     “I mean, I know eyes like mine aren’t that common, but I’m sure lots of people have them…somewhere,” I add, thinking back to that…I’ve never seen another person with similar eyes to mine, not brown or even light brown, but more of a golden hue. I’ve heard they’re out there somewhere, even if Beaulieu is the only other person I’ve seen with them…

     “I mean not just your eyes, but also your curly black hair, light tan freckled skin; your faces look really similar too. I thought it was only your painting that looked a little like you, but you look even more similar in real life.”

     “Well…” I mumble, thinking of his reasoning—I guess if I was older and had a beard, we would look almost exactly alike… “As far as I know, my mother’s my only relative. She doesn’t have any siblings or parents, and I don’t think my father did either. Or at least, he’s from far away.”

     “If you say so,” Hikaru acquiesces, clearly not that convinced. Now, I wonder a bit myself…maybe I’ll have to ask him sometime.

     He and I retread our steps, the imprints in the snow still as clear as they were when we came. In spite of myself…I keep finding my eyes drawn to him.

     His hair and skin shine softly under the moonlight, perfectly matching the sparkling snow around us. His eye is like a ruby nestled within it, gently glistening…

     “Alex,” he says after a time, “Is everything all right? You keep staring at me…”

     “Y-Yes, everything’s fine!” I stumble, completely caught off guard. I thought I was being discreet, but apparently not.

     “Hikaru,” I say quietly, although not another soul is anywhere around, “You always say all these bad things about yourself, but, you know…you are really beautiful.”

     “Y-You don’t have to say stuff like that—” he looks down, face instantly flushing red. “You don’t have to pity me.”

     “I’m not pitying you, it’s true. You look like you’re shining…”

     He chuckles.

     “Well, I guess that’s what my name means…my mother said she chose it because of my hair, but I always thought—”

     “It’s fitting.”

     “If you say so…” he says with a small grin, although simultaneously, he still looks a little nervous.

     He and I continue walking quietly for a short while; eventually, the sound of my heartbeats overwhelm the sound of my steps. I find that I can’t stop looking upon him, I can’t help but be drawn to him—

     “There’s some things I need to tell you, I think…”

     He merely side eyes me without saying a word. I have absolutely no idea what he’s thinking…and it’s a bit frightening.

     “I’ve been thinking a lot lately; I’ve realized, I really…I really can’t stand seeing you miserable, more than anything.”

     “Pšyku…” he mumbles, and starts twirling around the edge of his scarf. “It’s so hard…I’m not trying to inconvenience you, I’m sorry, I—”

     “You don’t have to apologize to me—why would I be upset at you for being depressed? For everything that’s happened?”

     “You said you don’t like me depressed—”

     “That’s not what I mean.”

     “Then…what do you mean?”

     He gazes up at me with a wide eye.

     “All I want to do is make you happy…all I want to do is see your wonderful smile again. I miss it so much.”


     Gently I turn him around to face myself, and now his face becomes perhaps even more red than his eye. For a moment, I can’t speak a single word—I lose myself in the sight of him, lost in my own confusing feelings…

     “I…I don’t know what the future will be like,” I say, “But…”

     I come close to his face, so close our breaths intermingle, becoming a single, warm cloud in the cold night, and I whisper in his ear—

     “Would this make you happy, Hikaru?”

     For a moment, he merely stares at me, expressionless. His breathing stops entirely.

     No, have I made a—

     But before the thought can even finish, he pulls me down in an embrace, into a tight, warm, clumsy kiss.

     I become entirely paralyzed as chills run through all my body.

     As abruptly as he started, he pulls away, a look of panic overwhelming his face. I…merely stare.

     I’ve kissed Ines innumerable times, but it was…nothing like that. Not ever. Not even my first kiss.

     Is…that what they’re truly supposed to feel like? Or maybe it’s better?

     “Pšyku! I know that’s probably not what you meant—!” he quickly turns away; but, I grab his arm, and pull him towards myself yet again.

     “It is,” I say, “You don’t have to second guess yourself so much…you’re right more often than you think.”

     Now he doesn’t say anything, but merely turns around and buries his face in my chest, gripping me tightly… I return the gesture, and soon we’re surrounded by an aura of warmth in the dark, cold night.

     “I think…lêm sâ tsiâ né, Hikaru. I love you so much.”

     “Truly?” he mumbles within my chest, “Or…am I just going to wake up from this as always?”

     “Well…if you do, then so will I. And perhaps we can continue this then.”

     He laughs lowly.

     “I guess so.”

     We soon continue our trek through the woods, back home. This time we stay close to one another, shoulder to shoulder.

     “Alex, we can’t tell anybody about this, under no circumstances—”

     “I know.”

     “Do you mind? Do you mind…keeping a secret like this?”

     “I’ve never had to keep many secrets…” I say, “But I can learn. I don’t mind.”

     “You really are too good for this world…” he mumbles, seemingly assuming I can’t hear him. In return, though I know he isn’t looking, I give a slight grin.

     I hope I am…then maybe I can give you the happiness you deserve.}


     I awake with a large smile, joy filling me like the glowing Sun…yet immediately, soreness and pain from the day before flood my limbs. Quietly I lay as it all returns, and I truly begin remembering the day before…the sunny memories of the past are washed away with a disheartening speed, and all that remains are the sorrow-soaked circumstances of the present.


     The one friend I ever had, the only one who did not treat me as though I were an aberration—the only one who treated me as worthy as himself, a child deserving of love and care like any other…

     I suppose…I should be happy to know he did not forget or abandon me as I had thought. He sincerely tried; his efforts were merely thwarted…

     And yet…something about this burns even more severely. Everything did not have to be this way.

     And yet, of course, it was.

     Instead, I was merely left with the rest of my “family”…Father, perpetually absent, away with his friends, or on “business” of varying levels of legitimacy. Mother, who always seemed terribly exasperated by my mere presence—always upset that I was not quiet enough, meek enough, proper like a true lady…

     And lastly, of course, my other sibling, Elise…much like Mother, yet with harsher words that always cut more deeply, perpetually lamenting the pathetic state of my entire existence—that I was a short and stout little thing, clumsy and inelegant, spending my time with “lowly” pursuits such as baking…

     Florence was the one who would spend time with me, play with me in the way all children regardless of sex prefer to. Who would spend time with me, encourage my dreams, whatever they may happen to be; that someday, I would be surrounded by love in all forms…

     These dreams did not die entirely after he had left, yet…slowly but surely did they wither into brittle, brown leaves, easily broken at the slightest provocation. Especially once my fate was set, and I was not afforded even the dignity to choose my own spouse, as my siblings had been…

     At least now, the world is changing—the bright light of love shines up above. These dreams need not try to flower in darkness, at least; although the light is faint, it still has come to envelop them so…

     But, ah…I still wish the path here was still a little different, nonetheless.

     I lay upon the ground, staring at the bright, brilliant blue Sky above, listening to the songs of the birds, of the wings fluttering to and fro, just as my thoughts are.

     “Oh, are you awake?” Hikaru says after a while, and soon his face is leaning above my own.

     “Yes…please forgive me, I am a bit exhausted still.”

     “You and me both,” he sighs. “I can say, Solzédniê truly gave me everything I thought and more.”

     I chuckle as I sit upwards, still leaning unevenly as even this much feels like a great exertion of energy.

     Hikaru tenderly comes to my side, and softly places his hand upon my back, slowly rubbing back and forth.

     “How are you feeling today, Suzette?” he asks in perhaps the most mild tone he can manage.

     “I…do not know. There is so much…”

     He pulls me closer, and I cannot help but lean into him…yet as much as I would love to relish in this moment, my mind remains elsewhere.

     “Do you mind fetching your map?” I ask him.

     “Not at all, although…” he sighs, “I don’t know where we are. I can probably find the general area, but the specifics…we might have to find a town and ask the people there. Fae tend not to know the human names for areas.”

     “Ah, I am so weary of civilization…” I complain, and now he laughs loudly.

     “Well, I think a break for today would do us well; although, I think having some idea of what we’re doing shouldn’t hurt.”

     “I agree.”

     He brings out his old map and spreads it out upon the ground, perusing it carefully.

     “Huh…I guess I have been by Bydlin before, although maybe not in it. It’s in Mârsêl, just as she said. And I think we’re about in this area,” he says, circling his finger around the upper part of Képtâwe, Solzédniê’s province, where it meets with northern Soléiâ. “So it seems it should take a few weeks for us to get there.

     Looking at the map, Mârsêl borders this province to the upper left, so it truly is not terribly far at all.

     Swiftly, a lightness overcomes my chest. Although I know Elise cannot truly be trusted…I desperately wish to believe she is telling the truth. And should this truly be the truth, that he is still there…

     “That is lovely, that is truly lovely…” I whisper, glancing over the page.

     “It is,” Hikaru smiles in return. “Maybe you can even spend some time with him, and our journey will not even be too much later than before.”

     “I sincerely hope; that would be wonderful,” I sigh wistfully.

     For a moment, however, my thoughts begin going to a different subject…

     “Hikaru, did we…run through the entire city? I only remember when the guards began to chase us, and then the next I remember it was evening, and we were out…”

     “Yes. We outran them,” he replies firmly.

     “Is there something the matter with me, then? Forgetting so much—”

     “It was…a long day; don’t worry, you’re fine.”

     I sigh…something about his manner appears off. I wonder how he has kept so many secrets, as it seems over time that he becomes ever worse of a liar, if he was ever especially skilled at this regardless. Perhaps that is not an ill trait…

     He folds his map and puts it away, and thus he and I begin our normal routine after days of being within Solzédniê. Together we walk in the grass as we are bathed by the warm sunlight; he asks the faeries where we may find some food, and he does a little tracking of his own.

     Now, away from the city, the contrast is startling—the sounds of birdsongs are infinitely more numerous, small butterflies of every color and other insects too can be seen fluttering about. Occasionally, even rabbits and other small creatures scurry through the grass. It is just as lively as Solzédniê; no, perhaps even more so—and yet, it is sincerely far more delightful. I truly do stand by my previous comment…I believe I would adore to live in a place more similar to this.

     For perhaps a couple of hours we go about, gathering quite a little feast for ourselves—onions and peas, plums and all manner of berries, even a few large mushrooms, bright and white. We refill our flasks with water, truly fresh water: my most missed item from the wilds. Luckily, in a short period of time, we have all we need to face the day, and even more.

     “Do you still want to rest for today?” Hikaru asks, and I slowly nod. I would adore to find Florence as soon as possible…yet, I know if I do not rest after yesterday, I will surely regret it. Especially for him perhaps, with as terribly as the city can overwhelm him…

     And so, the two of us find a soft patch of grass in the shade of a small gathering of trees, and quietly eat our breakfast.

     “Suzette,” he says after a little while, “Would you like to try playing your accordion? You haven’t said anything, but maybe—”

     “Oh, of course!” I exclaim, entirely forgetting we ever got it at all. Oh how wonderful, something good did happen yesterday, that is right!

     He gently brings it out of his satchel, handing it to me as though it is a treasure. In truth, to me…it is.

     Carefully I move the bellows, playing around with the keys to decipher what each of them is. Yet soon, I begin playing a simple melody as Hikaru watches on silently.

     “Well, that was quick,” he comments after a while.

     “Oh, it is merely a simple melody, not much…”

     “Can you play other instruments?”

     “Hmm…” I pause, thinking, “I can play piano, harp, violin, flute—but mostly piano.”

     Now he looks at me even more dumbfounded.

     “Then it sounds like you need no help from me!” he laughs. “I can only play my hurdy gurdy. Alex could play the violin too, I always would watch him…but I never bothered learning an instrument until after he passed.”

     “I can only play music because I was forced to…” I sigh, gazing down. “A sad woman such as me needs as many skills as possible to attract a husband…I suppose I was still rather bit poor to merely earn that, but alas.”

     “No, Suzette…you say I’m too harsh on myself, please don’t do it too.”

     “Elise was correct; not precisely, yet—”

     “Not at all. She’s full of shit.”

     I cannot help but chuckle; perhaps it is not amusing, yet seeing him grow so uncharacteristically harsh so suddenly…well, perhaps it is slightly.

     “She is in many ways, indeed,” I say, “Yet unfortunately not everything she said was a lie. Once I was—ah, well, I suppose you remember, yes? When we met, I was an embarrassing sight…”

     “What do you mean?”

     I gaze away, lightly tugging at my sleeves.

     “I was so horrendously large back then…well, I suppose I still am, yet—ah, perhaps I have not changed enough for it to matter regardless…”

     “Well, I never thought that made you embarrassing…” he mutters. “I was attracted to you—”

     “You were…attracted?”


     “You said you were attracted to me…”

     “Oh no! I meant—well—” he entirely stumbles after himself, his face growing more red than a sunset.

     “You are well,” I reply with a slight laugh. “I know you had misspoken.”

     Yes, that is what it is…right?

     “W-Well,” I now stumble, “I appreciate the sentiment…”

     He looks away from me towards the ground; his eye appears to glaze over. It is a tad strange…he almost looks more sorrowful than embarrassed.

     Still, I soon return to my instrument, and begin pushing and pulling, pressing the keys once more. I hope to overwhelm any stray thoughts with the sound of the music which, although perhaps it sounds a tad conceited to say, only becomes more lovely.

     However…it does not work, not quite.

     Attracted…what other word could he have possibly meant? And why would that be the word which he had spoken instead? Of course, everyone misspeaks occasionally, yet…I suppose it is difficult to shed such a mistake as that from my mind.

     Either way, I smirk.

     “Are you enjoying it?” I ask him, ceasing my playing. He unsteadily nods.

     “Yes…it’s beautiful.”

     “Mâzjêr né!” I chirp, and a small smile comes across his face. Yet, he still does not look at me.

     Regardless, I return to playing, smiling all the while.


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Lovingly created by [James Margaret Rose].