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~Suzette~

༻Chapter 32༺

⋅•⋅⊰∙∘☽✧☾∘∙⊱⋅•⋅

     Some minutes later we at last make it to the top of the steps, and I rest for a moment as my legs sting more than they have since Hikaru and I ran through Solzédniê…

     “How are you feeling?” Hikaru softly strokes my back, as I stand there quite dejected.

     “I am well…” I mutter, “W-Would you like to go along now?”

     “If you do, but—please don’t push yourself, Suzette.”

     “I shall be fine!” I reply, still a tad breathless, a chill breeze once more brushing past me. I shiver, yet still I take Hikaru’s hand. “Do lead the way.”

     He does so, gently taking me into a thin hallway which goes ever deeper into the castle. At last, we come across true rooms—and quite luckily for myself, I grow at ease at the sights. It is quite different from what I imagined…and strangely more pleasant.

     Miraculously, the rooms are indeed largely left alone, once elaborately painted furniture and walls now quite rotted and faded away, yet indeed they are still here. It is amusing; they more resemble what many now consider the art of the “common folk,” rather than the molding and inlaid details of the art and furniture of, say, Solzédniê. They are quite different from what I had always imagined; I assumed all castle rooms were like that of the entrance, impossibly large and intimidating—not unlike the royal palace, I suppose. Yet it is nothing of the sort. Rather, each room is more like that of an estate; still ornate, yet modestly sized. And, to make everything a little more comforting, each room has a window, allowing in the sunlight—though gray it may be, through the rain and clouds.

     As we walk along the rooms, rather than being quiet like he so often is, Hikaru makes many comments upon what we see. Some are guesses about how old this place must be, or what the function of certain rooms are, theories on why perhaps the castle was abandoned in such a seemingly hasty manner—

     After a while, I cannot help but chuckle.

     “What is it?” he says, confused.

     “I just did not know you were so knowledgeable about castles, of all things!” I chuckle once more, smiling.

     “I don’t know if I’d call reading a book about it once or twice long ago as being particularly knowledgeable,” he says.

     “It does appear to have interested you, though, has it not?” I say, “It is rather rare when you speak so much unprompted.”

     “…Is it bothering you?” he asks, his face growing clearly quite upset…

     “Not at all; it is quite lovely hearing you speak so much…” I whisper, pulling him close. “I am just a tad surprised, is all—I wonder why you never wished to become a scholar, such a thing seems it may suit you well too…”

     “I never really considered it,” he replies quietly. “With being a scholar you have to debate others—being a physician, you merely listen to them and attend to their wounds, give them a course of action…your interaction with others is more predictable, I guess.

     “And besides, I think you should know it well—when I was young I didn’t really have any interests aside from plants and the gods, and the latter was always for my personal sake, more than anything like an ‘occupation.’”

     “I suppose that is fair…” I reply quietly, a question forming within my mind that I am unsure I should ask. And yet—

     “Hikaru, may I ask…” I begin to say, suddenly remembering something he had told me one the day we went swimming; and so, I go to ask once more—

     “Hikaru, ah…what exactly drew you towards religious matters? I understand how you discovered it, yet why did you not scoff? Even though many followers of Lady Sun…look down upon you so heavily?”

     “That’s…why, actually. That’s the reason,” he whispers, coming to a stop within the long hallway. “Some of my earliest memories are from when I still lived in Asàshí. I’m sure my mother got tired of my questions, yet I couldn’t stop asking them—why other children didn’t look like me, why I had only one eye, why they would avoid me—

     “She handled it gently, and tried to avoid telling me the truth; but eventually she had to. And when she did, I…on some level I always believed I was damned, but I didn’t want to believe it. I wanted to believe I was as worthy as anyone else. I thought maybe some degree of devotion might save me too.”

     “And so then,” I say, “I presume this is why you, erm—became drawn to Maiden Moon…”

     “Yeah,” he whispers, “I was hesitant at first, but…with her at least, I’ve never worried whether I was secretly condemned. I—uh, I’ve always felt I have a good idea whether she’s displeased with me or not…but any dislike isn’t due to my very existence, at least.”

     He gazes away from me, seemingly lost in thought. I do wonder what it is? But, as long as she may be watching, I know I cannot ask…so I simply let go of his hand, and pull him into an embrace. Even within this desolate and withering hall, with his warmth I feel quite comforted…

     “I surely hope you know now you truly are not damned after all…”

     To this he tenderly begins to stroke my hair with his free hand.

     “I know, Suzette—that you’re here with me right now is proof of it.”

     We stay in our embrace for a few moments longer, before once again traversing to the end of the long hall. And of course, at the end, another staircase, a spiral one no less…yet luckily, the steps of this one are much shorter, and it does not go nearly so high up.

     The next floor is much the same as the previous; yet soon, we come across something quite different—

     “A library!” we both exclaim under our breath at once, and immediately we both walk in.

     This room is longer than the others which we have walked by; and quite a bit darker, only having a couple of windows for such a large space. Yet it is clear it goes onwards quite a distance…and, though dusty and disheveled it may be, there are many hundreds—no, surely thousands—of books here.

     “I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many in my life,” Hikaru says in a near gasp.

     “I have perhaps once or twice, yet this still is…incredible,” I reply, similarly awed. “And I presume these were all handwritten?”

     “They had to be, I can’t imagine presses existed when this place was in use,” Hikaru says as he puts down his lantern, “Although I guess there’s only one way to find out.”

     “Perhaps we should find a few for your collection!” I look to him with a grin, yet he merely frowns.

     “I appreciate the thought, but I don’t think that’d be wise…”

     “…Even if they are abandoned?”

     “Who knows what the spirits might think,” he says in a hushed tone, “But hopefully they won’t mind us looking.”

     “Hopefully not…” I say, my hand lingering over a brown, half rotted away book sitting upon a table.

     Still, if I stumble upon something Hikaru may like…

     I open the book up—and cannot help but truly gasp at the inside.

     “What is it?” Hikaru asks, walking to me.

     “This book is beautiful…!” I mutter, mesmerized at the pages. Illustrations border the pages; and to one side is a portrait of what appears to be a king, done much in the same style as the tapestry of Lady Sun—yet, strangely enough, he appears less threatening than even she did…

     I gaze to the other page, upon the text, and focus for a moment. Though the calligraphy is more rich than handwriting of today, it is clearly still Soléiân at least; however, it is an undeniably bizarrely written. It seems most words have quite an unnecessary amount of letters, some of the letters are not even used anymore, among other oddities besides…still, I can parse the meaning of the text well enough, I believe. This appears to be a list of kings and their deeds, fittingly enough for the illustration. Still, I close the tome, and continue perusing through the library, and Hikaru does likewise. At least until, after a moment, I hear him mutter something.

     “…What the fuck?”

     “What is the matter?” I ask, coming beside him. In his hands is a small book, a deeply furrowed look on his brow, “What are you reading?”

     “It seems to be the journal of a diviner,” he frowns, the lines upon his face growing very dark.

     “…Like in the faerie tales? Those who consult the Shadows to see the future?”

     “Exactly,” he scoffs. “What absolute nonsense.”

     He almost closes the book—yet, before he can, I come and take it from his hands.

     “You cannot say such a thing and expect me not to grow curious!” I chuckle, attempting to lift his mood. Yet, he still seems unnaturally irritated…

     “It’s not worth reading,” he says quietly.

     Still, I cannot help but look upon the page. This one bears no elaborate decoration, yet is still written in the same, odd manner of the other book. However, I still attempt to read it—

     “On þe Fourti-Ferthe of þe sesoune of Âlounne, of þe yere of Our Ladie Seventene Fifti-Four,

     I haue sought counsele wiþ þe Shadewes and did receiue a most vile visione. After þe blodi werre whiche haþ made baraine our land, in my desesperaunce and necligence, I proposed a questioun whiche I do not belieue I truly desiren an answere—

     ‘Oh Shadewes, what shall become of man-kinde? What shall become of our biloued regne of Soléiâ?’

     And what I haþ biholden…oh, how woful it was! So very fer in to þe future, so fer whiche I can not fulli concieve of what I haþ witnesse. Yet, þis I knowe to be true—

     Soléiâ shall be consumen by flaume—it can not be auoided, þough dredeful it is, so do not seche to forsaken Fate! Ladie Sonne shall abaundone vs to þe fir… Yet still, we shoulde assai to ferde not, for Lorde Mone shall giden þe children of Mère Terre and þeir children as well into Folwêšiâ, in to þe relefe to continue to live.

     It is still foul to bihold, to imagine…þe destruccioun of our most wonderfulle land, reduce to ash and sorrowe. Þough I indede knowe our most blessed Ladie would frounen upon þese þoughts—I leven as þe lighte of þe Mone shine vpon vs pitousli, we may continue to haue a future. For as þe Sonne shall set on man-kinde, it is only resonable þe Mone shall arise…”

     After reading I pause for a moment, taken aback…

     “The…the destruction of Soléiâ? How dreadfully ominous…”

     “Yeah, it’s just—”

     “‘Lorde Mone’…” I breathe, before Hikaru finishes, “Lord Moon? Did…people interpret Maiden Moon as a man in the past?”

     “I’ve never heard of it, but I guess it’s possible,” he says, “It’s still—”

     “Or perhaps in the future, she shall decide to become a man?” I muse, fascinated by the bizarre detail. “I do not know why, yet—”

     “It’s not worth worrying about,” he says sternly, “That’s just proof all of this is rubbish, when they can’t even get her gender right, as though it hasn’t always been known.”

     “Yes, I suppose you are correct,” I say softly, “It is still a tad fascinating, though…”

     He sighs and gazes away from me, furrowing his brow heavily, and I frown as well…

     “My,” I sigh, “I…did not imagine you would be against something such as this, since you are involved with magical things…”

     “This…this is completely different from working with the gods, the fae, yourself,” he says. “Even if the uncertainty of the future is frightening, not even the gods know how it will go. To be a human, and think you can discover it…it’s almost disgusting. That…I’ve always been certain of.”

     “Do you believe no one can speak to the Shadows, then?” I ask, almost confused.

     Of course, as with all things, I had assumed the Shadows were just as unreal as the gods—the darkness before the gods, said to control fate, and who knows perhaps what else. Yet, with all I have witnessed, I have little reason to not believe now…

     Yet, does Hikaru not even believe?

     “I think they can…” he says after a moment, “But I’m sure it’s filling their heads full of absurd lies simply because it can. Like telling them their world was ending, and only the goddess—or, well, god—they hate most would save them.”

     “…Sâ pšyku, Hikaru,” I whisper, “I did not mean to make you encounter something so…repulsive to you.”

     He sighs and pulls me close as I set down the book.

     “You’ve not done anything wrong whatsoever—I’m sorry to get so angry all of a sudden,” he says. “It’s…simply something I heavily disagree with, is all—but it is ridiculous to get mad at people who lived well over a thousand years ago.

     “I’m just happy that shit ended long ago,” he adds.

     I nod and continue walking along the library, lost in thought…

     I wonder where Folwêšiâ is? It sounds quite like “folwêkhdin” and Soléiâ…a forbidden land?

     What do some of those words mean, and does it affect the overall character of the vision…?

     So many questions, and yet…not a single answer. And the one whom I usually consult on such matters is too upset at the mere thought someone may attempt to look into the future to give it another thought himself…

     After all his musings on the castle, I had believed he was more interested in discovering the past in this manner—yet perhaps not.

     For a moment longer I continue running my hand across the shelves, a horrid headache budding within me. But soon I feel myself drawn to a book—a tiny tome that fits my hand quite well. As I pick it up, I must keep myself from gasping.

     It is beautifully illustrated, just like the first book I had opened; yet, this one is entirely different. Rather than being a dull list or some such subject, it is rather a book of quite delicate love poems…

     When I looked through his books I did find Khroze Aosky, which is quite a sentimental novel, and he is my husband after all…yes, this is perfect!

     I gaze around to see if he is paying attention to me, and to my relief he is still walking around listlessly. Luckily, the book is small enough to fit within my own bag rather easily. I smile as I return to his side, although my head only continues to hurt worse and worse…

     “Would you like to continue onwards, Hikaru?”

     “Yeah…that’s a good idea.

⋅•⋅⊰∙∘☽✧☾∘∙⊱⋅•⋅

     Hikaru and I continue traversing through the castle, coming upon no more notable sights…that is, until we find a great hall with no doors—and is rather lined with numerous and very large paintings and tapestries.

     “This may be more incredible than even the salons of Solzédniê…” I say in wonder. “Perhaps it is not quite so ornate, and yet…”

     “Much less gaudy,” Hikaru says. “I can actually see why this would be considered fit for royalty, beyond just showing how much money they can waste.”

     “It certainly makes me wonder what the world was like back then,” I say softly. “I know every kingdom believed themselves to be the true head of Soléiâ, and yet I always assumed Solzédniê was always the most prosperous; yet now, you never find wealth such as this outside of the capital…”

     “I think there’s a lot more we don’t know than anyone admits,” Hikaru sighs.

     “I do believe so…” I say wistfully, looking upon all the artwork, so charmingly decorated even if it is not particularly realistic. Soon, I find myself drawn to one painting in particular, of a lovely woman wearing a simple gown and dressing around her head. What attracts me to the image, however, is the name written upon the bottom.

     “Eve…” I say, reading it aloud, “I always felt that would be a lovely name for—”

     Immediately I cease speaking, finding myself strangely embarrassed once again…

     “For a child?” Hikaru finishes my sentence, walking up beside me.

     “I-Indeed,” I stumble, “How would you feel about this?”

     “You’ve good taste,” he smiles, “It is quite a nice name.”

     “So you would not mind having children?” I ask, my eyes widening. “You have never quite seemed interested…”

     “By the time I was the age that you’d really start thinking about that, I was with Alex, so I knew that wouldn’t happen between us. But, still…

     “I don’t know if you remember him,” Hikaru continues, “The man we met at the inn in Solzédniê, Huan—he really was a very young child when I knew him. Watching after him, though…it made me open to the idea, if somehow I ever could.”

     “You do not just say that for my sake?”

     He chuckles, and pulls me close.

     “Truthfully,” he says softly, “A part of me has always wished I could help someone as much as my mother helped me, all that she did just to ensure I even lived at all…

     “Especially with you as their mother, I can only imagine what kind of wonderful life they’d have.”

     “You should speak for yourself as well!” I laugh, and pull him closer to me, “I am sure you shall be a wonderful father.”

     “I’ll at least do my best,” he replies.

     I sit there for a moment in silence, excited at the possibilities floating within my mind…

     A bakery, a home, a husband and children, even my brother and the kind people I encountered in Bydlin…

     What more could I ever possibly desire?

     “So…” I say after a moment, “If we have a daughter, she shall be named Eve?”

     “If that’s what you’d like too.”

     “Then, what shall we name a son?”

     He pauses.

     “Do you…want me to decide?”

     “Of course, it is only fair this way!”

     “I don’t think I’m good with names,” he slightly mumbles, and gazes away.

     “Oh, why are you so certain of this? Do you have any in mind?”

     “Hmm…” he thinks for a few minutes. “Alexander.”

     “W-Would that technically mean he would be named after myself?”

     “That just makes it better, doesn’t it?”

     I laugh, and grip him just the slightest bit tighter…

     “Alex and Eve…” I muse softly, “I hope we can use both, they are quite cute together…”

     “Me too,” he whispers, gently stroking my back. “Our own small family…”

     “It is a bit unreal; at least, it appears so to me…”

     “No, it’s not just you,” Hikaru nearly mumbles. “I never imagined the future might seem so bright.”

     “Me either, Hikaru…”

     We stay close together for a moment; yet, as we do, I notice something…although the castle was cold before, it has steadily grown more so, so much that it is nearly as chilly as winter. I gaze behind us—and my heart nearly stops—

     All around us they stare, dozens of ghastly figures…men, women, youths and elders; some dressed elegantly, others dressed as servants—they watch us with sunken in, near-blackened eyes, translucent bodies which bear almost no color…

     A quiet mummering begins to swell. I hear scattered words of it, though it is thick with what must be an ancient accent; yet still, I can parse the general meaning—how nice must it be to be alive; oh, to not be abandoned in such a dreary place…

     “Hi—”

     “I know,” he whispers.

     “W-Will they hur—”

     “I don’t know,” he cuts me off quietly, quickly. “Stay close to me, just like this, and follow my lead.”

     With this, the two of us turn around, and steadily step back to where we came, my arm around his waist, his around my shoulder.

     I cannot help but continue to gaze upon their faces as we walk by, some disappearing and then reappearing, their movements appearing to grow steadily more erratic…

     I feel ridiculous; when we arrived I did not worry of phantoms, even though I knew they likely roamed here. Yet now, the sight of them like this, appearing precisely as they do in those dark stories you whisper in the late hours of the night—I begin breathing swifter and swifter—

     “Look down, Suzette,” Hikaru whispers, “Look down and watch where you are going, and don’t look up; think of nothing but your own footsteps.”

     I do so, and yet it only marginally helps. Already did I feel sore, my legs especially aching, and my head still slightly doing so as well.

     We traverse through the halls at a steady yet somewhat slow pace, because of myself. With each flight of stairs we go down, my legs hurt ever more, to the point I simply wish to collapse and fall into tears—yet I am sure we cannot stop for anything.

     “Hikaru,” I whisper, “Why are they doing this…?”

     “I think they…” his voice tapers off, and he pauses. “I…think they’re just curious, but—”

     “Do not lie to me.”

     He sighs.

     “From what I’m hearing, I think they want our life energy, or our bodies…”

     “Hmm?!” I go in a near panic.

     “Souls rarely become phantoms unless they’re in great pain,” he mutters, “I…even a place like this, I can’t imagine how there would be this many restless souls—something incredibly horrific must have happened here. And so, after festering for at least a thousand years…”

     “They wish to live again?”

     “It seems so. What a sorry thing,” he sighs, “After that long, they’re entirely corrupted—they can’t live again…”

     “…Ever?”

     “Not like this, no; I don’t think they could even so much as possess us, they’re so…broken.”

     I frown and tense up further—what a horribly tragic thing; yet also, how utterly terrifying… So they are not simply dead humans, but something else entirely…

     “Will they cease stalking us and rather attempt to hurt us?” I ask.

     “I don’t think so; we’re not alone.”

     “Hikaru, that is the issue—!”

     “No, Suzette,” he says emphatically, “We’re not alone. Have faith in me.”

     I take a sudden breath, as I realize what he is saying. Yet, I am unsure how much it comforts me, for she is a bit frightening herself…

     Yet, he did say to have faith in him, which I can do. Or, at least…I may certainly try.

     After a time, at last, we reach the first hallway we traversed, and then finally into the entrance, down the most dreadful flight of stairs of them all. As we go down and I nearly collapse, I notice the phantoms do not follow us down the steps, into the pure darkness—strangely enough, from what I have heard about phantoms.

     Hikaru and I proceed down the stairs, the sound of our walking reverberates outwards into the inky blackness. We at last reach the bottom as I nearly reach my limit. I gaze behind me, although I know it is a poor idea. It is not to be sure the phantoms have stayed behind, though luckily it appears their specters have now disappeared. Rather, it is born of an urge I cannot explain—

     I gaze up to the tapestry of Lady Sun, her Sky blue eyes shooting lighting into my soul. I take a deep breath at the unnerving image, and turn around as we step outside into the courtyard, into the damp dusk air. We still remain close, hugging the other’s side as we step through the courtyard and across the slippery, lonely bridge. Hikaru leads us into the woods, and soon finds an overhang where the ground is not quite so wet.

     He leaves my side, and at last I truly collapse completely, and become a mess of tears.

     “Pšyku vrémond, Suzette…” Hikaru says shakily, sitting down beside me. “They shouldn’t follow us out here…”

     “I-It is not that…” I reply as I pathetically shuffle to put my head in his lap. “My head, and especially my legs…I-I did not know it was possible to feel a pain within them such as this…

     “Ah, I should truly be the one apologizing to you, that you have such a pathetic wife, with such terrible ideas…”

     “Shh, don’t say that,” he soothes me, stroking my hair. “I think we were near, or to the top of that wing of the castle when we left—I was quite impressed.”

     “Truly?”

     “Sincerely,” he says. “And…I wouldn’t say your idea was terrible. It was certainly interesting.”

     “Indeed…” I mumble, and snuggle further into him. Exhaustion washes over me; yet, if nothing else, I at last feel quite at ease. At least, until I hear it. A quiet voice—not so because it is hushed, yet rather it sounds distant, like someone calling out from across a house. Still, I hear it…I hear her. I know it is. She speaks sharply—

     “God damn it Hikaru, do I even need to say it?”

     “No…” he whispers in such a manner that seems to point to him believing I am asleep…

     “Actually, I think I should say it,” she continues, “I’m beginning to think you’re the dumbass here—you knew what a place like that might have and you went right the fuck in regardless!”

     “You’re right,” he replies, voice growing more hoarse. “I’ve nothing to say to that. You’re right…”

     I attempt not to visibly wince at his words, at her tone—why, why does she insist on being so harsh with him? Ah…

     And why…why am I now perceiving her? I wish for nothing to do with Maiden Moon, she appears so unpleasant…already I caught a glimpse of her once, her violet eyes looking at me with what appeared to be great disdain. And now, I hear her as well…

     Why must this happen when I am not the one wearing the necklace?!

     Yet, also, I suppose…if Hikaru and myself truly are two halves of the same Star, this would surely mean that, to an extent, we are indeed the same person. So perhaps the closer we become, the more we “align,” the more I begin to perceive what he does; for in truth, we are not terribly different…

     That would almost sound lovely, if not for this—!

     After a few minutes of silence, Maiden Moon speaks again.

     “Well, it seems I have a lot of work cut out for me,” she sighs. “It’s probably going to be a while, so…I’m begging you, please don’t be an idiot while I’m gone. I may not be able to come and save your ass.”

     “Where are you going?”

     “…To the castle?” she replies in a confused tone, “Would you rather I leave those poor souls rotting in there for the rest of eternity?”

     “I never said that,” he replies, “I just didn’t think you’d care that much…”

     She sighs once more, this time sounding quite dejected.

     “Gods…” she says in quite a sad tone, “You truly do think I’m a monster.”

     “If I did, we wouldn’t be talking right now.”

     “I’d have to be a monster to leave those people like that, when I am the only one that even has a chance of purifying them. At least…I’m sure as shit my sister won’t do it, and who knows what has become of my mother now.”

     “Yeah…best of luck to you,” Hikaru mumbles even more quietly. “There’s so many, maybe even hundreds…”

     “Mâzjêr,” she now whispers, “I’ll need it. I’ve…never tried to purify souls that were this decayed before, if they even existed when I was still around. It’s…it’s so baffling,” her voice shudders just the slightest bit; yet, I notice it. It sounds as though she is on the verge of weeping…

     “What has become of this world?” she says, her voice growing increasingly unstable, “Even if my sister’s vile, how could she even allow something like this to happen? Letting so many people rot not just for a few hundred, but a thousand, a thousand and a half, perhaps even more years?

     “…Forget about it,” she tosses in at the end. “You’re just a human, I know, you wouldn’t know any better than I.”

     Hikaru takes a quick, strong breath; I feel his body shake as he does so.

     “Interesting…” he says, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you like this.”

     “So this is how far I’ve fallen…my only companion, my only priest doesn’t even know…

     “I guess it’s hard for you to comprehend, but I always took my duties seriously, you know,” she says growing so quiet I almost cannot hear her—yet, I do. “Even if it was innumerable millennia ago, I still remember the day I was born like it was this morning. Even my own mother looking at me with disappointment, that I was so tiny and dull compared to my brightly shining sister…”

     As she continues to speak, my heart begins racing ever faster. How dreadfully familiar…

     “To grow so sorrowful,” Maiden Moon says, “To fill a world with your tears, because from the moment you’re born you know you’re a blight…why would I want anyone to feel that kind of pain?”

     “Moony,” Hikaru says gently, “Maybe you should focus more of your energy on this. On helping others, instead of just…”

     “You do not understand how lonely it gets, Hikaru—you can’t understand. Nor would I want you to. To be used up and thrown away by all the world, constantly—”

     “You still think I’m doing that?”

     “Well, you’re holding that woman in your lap, and yet you’re still talking to me…so I suppose not.”

     The two grow quiet for a moment, before she exhales deeply.

     “She does look quite sweet, sleeping there…”

     Did…did Maiden Moon just compliment me? I thought she…

     “Oh, finally change your mind?” Hikaru replies with a lightness in his voice. “That’s…definitely not what you said before.”

     “Maybe I was pissed before,” she hisses. “Seeing her with you these last few weeks, though; yes, even I can admit she is quite lovely and pretty. I…I was wrong. She is a much more suitable match for you…”

     For a moment, it is as though my mind simply becomes blank.

     I caught a glimpse of Maiden Moon—it seems she is as tall as Hikaru, with long, elegant, delicate limbs, adorned in a beautiful dress and veil befitting of the most prestigious noblewomen. Though she frightened me, her face too was truly lovely…

     And of course, I had already known she was not fond of me—so for her to say something like this, in a tone that certainly sounds quite genuine—

     “I’m happy you can accept it,” Hikaru returns me from my reverie. “And I’m happy you still know I love you, even if—”

     “Yes, you don’t need to say it again,” she replies dryly. “And perhaps you’re right; I knew the world was in a dire state, but not…this severely.

     “To think, those people clearly honored my sister, and yet she ignored them as though they were flies, completely abandoned them. Maybe that’s what that strange vision you read was referring to.”

     “Hmm…I guess their ‘Lord Moon’ is about to arrive, after all…”

     At this, Maiden Moon chuckles darkly.

     “How dreadful that they thought me a man,” she scoffs. “Well…not that there’s anything wrong with being a man, but—”

     “I dislike when people mistake me as a woman just as much,” Hikaru replies, “So I understand.”

     “Must just be another one of her rumors…”

     “At least people know now you’re not a man, right?”

     “Yes, now they can hate me properly, I suppose…

     “I need to get going,” she changes topic abruptly, “This will probably take hours, so—just stay right here, both of you. Don’t do something stupid.”

     “I won’t,” he laughs a little loudly. “Vwârdnie, Moony.”

     “Vwârdnie, Hikaru,” she says softly, before all goes silent once more.

     “Suzette,” Hikaru shakes me gently, yet still, it startles me, “Can I lay down?”

     “Nn…” I mumble, “Y-Yes…”

     I sit up for a moment as he lays down where he is sitting and positions himself—then he pats the ground beside him. I shuffle over to him, my body still dreadfully sore. Yet now, laying upon his breast as he puts his arm around myself, I almost genuinely fall asleep…if it were not for my flurrying thoughts.

     So this is her, this is the damned goddess, Maiden Moon…

     I must admit, perhaps…perhaps I am not sure I can say I dislike her after all. She is harsh and crass, certainly, and yet…my, it really does appear we are not so different. It appears her heart itself, at least, is not cruel; yet rather, the thousands upon thousands of years…

     Ah, I can only imagine what a few centuries of such torture may do to someone, never mind thousands. I believe I can see why Hikaru cares for her, even if she can be difficult. It does appear that she cares for him—and possibly even myself too? Likely simply because he loves me, yet still…

     Perhaps it is strange, yet I cannot help but ponder the thought as I drift off to sleep: perhaps, if the circumstances were correct, she and I may get along as well…

⋅•⋅⊰∙∘☽✧☾∘∙⊱⋅•⋅

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