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I sit alone in a dark corner of the smoke filled bar, although only a handful of others are here. Other lonely, pathetic men languishing in here, instead of sleeping for the work day ahead like everyone else. A fitting place for myself, I suppose.
Blankly I gaze down at the bottle in hand; already, though but a few minutes have passed, it’s halfway gone—though not for long.
I take a long gulp, the alcohol warmly burning as it goes down. All I hear is a quiet sigh coming from the one beside me, the faint glowing figure of Maiden Moon. But aside from her sighing, she says nothing, as she’s wont to do recently. It’s…bizarre, and incredibly unnerving. I don’t know if she’s ever had so many silent spells for as long as I’ve known her, and it only makes the loneliness more deafening.
“No comments, still?” I ask once my first bottle is finished, and I’ve already procured another.
“What am I to say?” she replies with an uncharacteristic gentleness. “And, also—you shouldn’t be talking to me like this in public.”
“Pfft,” I scoff and deftly take off the cap of the new bottle, “So, they’ll all think I’m mad, or maybe they’ll know? Not like it does much for me even when I play at normalcy.”
I take another drink.
“And, for what you’d say…fuck if I know, maybe something like ‘you’re better off without her,’ or some shit like that,” I reply, my speech beginning to slur.
“It’s been days, Hikaru,” she whispers. “In the twenty years I’ve known you, you’ve never binged for this long, straight through.”
“We’ve known each other that long, huh…”
“We have,” she sighs again, putting her hands against her head, gripping her veil. “And you’ve only known her perhaps a quarter of that, and were closer for but a moment…”
I stare down to the bottle in my hands, attempting to form a response.
“Yeah, yeah, I know. I’m a fool, no need to tell me.”
“That’s not what I meant. Just observing.”
“Hmph,” I go back to drinking once more. If I’ve not forgotten it, then this isn’t enough.
“Don’t hurt yourself,” Maiden Moon scolds with an eerie softness to her voice.
“Have I before?”
“…I’ve never seen you like this in all the years I’ve known you, Hikaru.”
“Yes you have,” I reply, “Remember when shit fell apart between us? I drank then too.”
“Because you were pissed, I’m not so ignorant I can’t see that,” she says. “But with this—it’s obvious you’re heartbroken.”
Before I even realize it, this bottle is almost empty too.
“I’m fine,” I hoarsely reply, my entire mouth stinging. “She’ll be safe now, so she can start her bakery and do wonderfully. Besides, she has her brother, it’s not like she’s—”
Immediately my words are cut off as a deep, stabbing pain rips through my abdomen. I can’t help but hunch over so violently, my head almost hits the table.
“Will you let me heal you now?” Maiden Moon asks with annoyance. For some reason, I suppose the familiarity of it, it almost feels comforting.
“Not a chance,” I huff, lifting myself up again. “My body’s already mostly healed, it can handle the rest.”
“You didn’t say that when you gave a piece of your own life to heal her.”
“She wanted help. I don’t,” I say, taking another drink.
For a few moments longer we both sit in silence, Maiden Moon unceremoniously hunched over the table, much like myself. She says not a word.
“Are you all right?” I now ask, “I’m not sure I’ve ever seen you like this.”
“Slow down,” she says, “At this rate, you’ll be boozed out of your mind.”
“That’s the point.”
“Is this what you plan to do, then? Drink all hours of the night and day until your mind or body finally give way?”
I don’t reply, and simply take another drink.
“God damn it,” she says, and swiftly grabs my wrist with her delicate hand. “What, do you think that’s what she would desire you do?”
“She’s not here, so what does that matter?”
“Aren’t you still sending her letters?”
“Yeah…but she’s still not here.”
Maiden Moon takes a deep breath and looks away with a frown, never once letting go of my wrist.
“Sâ pšyku,” she whispers. I think.
“…What did you say?”
“I said I’m sorry,” she hisses, “What is it with you people and never accepting my apologies?”
“Oh, you’re not satisfied?”
Her glare stabs me like daggers.
“You were an insufferable, lovestruck twat with her around, yet that’s much preferable to this shit.”
“That’s unfortunate,” I mutter, and go to take another drink, finishing off the bottle—but instead, her fingers claw into my skin, forcing my arm in place. Even with my frail state, her arms are still perhaps half the size of my own…yet, I suppose you truly can’t best a goddess.
“There’s time, you know,” she says. “She might not be that far—or, you know where she’s going regardless.”
“…Did you not hear a single thing I said?”
“Oh, I heard it,” she replies, “And you are a massive dumbass.”
“Why do you care so damn much?”
“Gods, do I have to repeat everything?” she raises her voice, “Look at you! You’re going to drink yourself to death, and for what? Because you want to be a fucking moron?! Just go find her if you’re still so damn depressed! There’s nothing stopping you!”
“You say I’m the moron, when you still don’t get it.”
“What is there to get?!” she now shouts, “Why are you doing this to yourself? What the fuck’s gotten into you?!”
I bite my lip and quickly scan the surrounding bar—I’m not alone, of course I’m not. I simply inhale and sigh, attempting to calm myself before speaking in a harsh whisper.
“I’ve been here before, Maiden Moon. I’m not letting this shit happen again.”
“What are you talking about?”
“It…certainly is convenient Alex died hardly a year after we moved here, isn’t it?”
“You are actually joking,” she says.
“Didn’t you say he died of an illness?”
“Yes, he did.”
“Are you saying he got an illness simply from being around you?! Are you that much of a dumbass?!”
“It’s obvious I’m cursed, and if you of all people can’t see it, you’re blind!”
At this, she finally lets go of my wrist—and instead lands a swift, piercing slap across the side of my head.
“You get everything you fucking want in life, and you throw it away because of one bad day.”
“That ‘one bad day’ almost killed her…again.”
“I guess so,” I reply blankly.
As though that matters nearly as much.
She puts her head into her palms, and I notice her shake slightly, almost erratically.
“…What has come of you?” I ask quietly, after a few moments, “It’s almost like you want us together…”
She remains quiet for an almost uncomfortably long time.
“Out of all the decades I have known you, I have never seen you so happy since you were with Es—” she cuts herself off abruptly.
“I-In a very long time,” she stutters, a strange hint of tears in her voice. “Maybe it’s actually a bit nice to see you truly happy for once. And that woman…is clearly what makes you happy.”
“So you should understand.”
She puts her hands on the table and stares towards me, a look of utter seriousness on her face.
“You really think this is bringing her anything but misery?”
“Like you said, there’s still the letters…but now I’m not getting in the way of her life.”
“Hmph,” she huffs, “I once found you intelligent, but you certainly have a thick skull.”
“Whatever you say,” I reply, going to finally finish off my drink—before she swats the damn bottle out of my hand, making it clatter to the floor below.
“You’re done, Hikaru. I’m not letting my one and only priest make even more of an ass out of himself.”
Suddenly, before I can even blink, she appears behind me and buries each hand into my shoulders, unceremoniously pulling me through the tavern like a marionette. Though it doesn’t seem I drank that much, already I stumble, and the world becomes a nauseating blur around me—I simply follow the unseen force guiding my way.
After being drug through the darkness, I find myself laying on the forest floor, just barely keeping myself from vomiting. Chills overcome me as I break into a cold sweat in the frigid autumn air.
I close my eye and simply sigh, my abdomen beginning to hurt once more.
“Please just…kill me, Maiden Moon.”
“…I’ll find someone else, clearly somebody can take this necklace and be responsible with it; so—”
“No,” she repeats far more emphatically. “I will never kill you.”
I sigh and simply hold my head; even in the darkness, it feels like everything is spinning around me. Even now—
“I still see it,” I whisper softly. “That man on top of her, his knife to her throat—”
“You were there to stop it,” Maiden Moon replies quietly.
“You know as well as I do they wouldn’t have bothered her if I wasn’t there. And—” I add, before she can interrupt me, “I asked the winds to look after her. The fae can protect her better than I ever could…she will be safe. And she can live in society just as she desires.”
“…It seems you have thought this through,” she sighs.
“I’ll do whatever I must…” I trail off for a moment, the spinning of the world growing too great, “Whatever I must to protect her. Whatever might hurt her must be discarded…
“So if I’m attracting that—”
“Enough,” Maiden Moon says, “I’m exhausted from hearing your raving. Go to sleep.”
“Fine,” I whisper, and the night becomes still and silent, until, after a few moments, Maiden Moon speaks.
“…Nykhte bon, Hikaru.”
“Somêl amé, Maiden Moon,” I mutter, before drifting off into a dark, dreamless sleep.
The next morning I awake to a horrific, pounding headache, the Sun glaring down to me in burning beams…and a finger continually poking my face.
I look over to the source; Maiden Moon sits to the side of me, leaning over with a blank expression on her deathly pale face.
“What on Earth are you doing?” I ask in a gravelly voice.
“It’s past noon. Get up,” she says again, once more shoving her nail into my cheek.
“Why are you being this way…”
“It awoke you, didn’t it?” she says. “You shouldn’t sleep all day; we should be on our way.”
“Anywhere but here,” she says with a frown. “I don’t care where—but you will not be languishing around like some pathetic drunkard.”
“You think too highly of me,” I sigh, and put my arm over my face; that is, until she roughly pulls me upwards.
“There, much better,” she states matter-of-factly while I merely lean over and sway slightly, mildly nauseous and deep in a daze.
“Will you please—”
“No,” she interrupts me, “I will not stop, and if you wish to take off that necklace, then you can deal with the consequences of being alone.”
“…I wasn’t going to take it off,” I mutter. “I just have a hangover.”
“Oh, do you?” she says snidely, and all I can do is take a deep breath.
“Yeah, I do.”
Still barely even half awake, I simply close my eye even while sitting up, still feeling as though I’ll fall over at any moment. Soon, however, I hear what sounds like Maiden Moon rummaging through my bag.
“What are you doing n—”
“Here,” Maiden Moon says flatly, handing out to me a tiny book.
“What is this?”
“I’ve no idea…but it seems like it was important.”
I take the tiny volume from her hand and inspect it. The outside is dull but ornate; faded gold embellished Stars on an even more faded background. It seems like it was meant to be red at one point, but now only the faintest hint remains. When I open the book, however, I can hardly believe it—this is clearly one of the books from the castle, its numerous illustrations and calligraphy making that incredibly clear. Just as I do this, a few folded papers fall out from between the pages.
Gently I set the volume down, and pick up the papers with a deep hesitation. I take a long breath, knowing what it must be—a suspicion soon confirmed by the familiar, delicate cursive upon the pages.
Please do forgive me for taking this volume, though you had said it may be unwise…I could not help but wish to give something to you for once, and this had seemed so lovely I wished for you to have it. Now, I cannot help but wonder if it is for this misfortune has fallen upon us—and, if this shall bring you further troubles, do not hesitate to throw it into the fire, or whatever you must do to rid yourself of its curse. Yet please, if you will, keep this letter at least…
I suppose I shall begin with the negative—I am so utterly furious with you, Hikaru. To change your mind so suddenly—I am attempting to understand, and yet I still do not believe I can… Yet, I suppose, in the end, it also leaves me with a deep sadness as well. I had thought, perhaps, at last, you had learned to view yourself more softly, to not view yourself so wretchedly…yet, it certainly appears that I have failed. That in spite of everything, I could not help you…
And yes, I do believe I know what you may say to this, that it was never my duty to help you—yet how could I watch the one I adore be so endlessly cruel to himself, and not wish that were not so? That you may see yourself with simply a modicum of the fondness I see you with? Ah, this may be what frustrates me most…regardless of all, I still love you dearly Hikaru. Even in spite of your terrible stubbornness…perhaps it is simply a residual from when I was Alex, I do not know—and to be quite truthful, I do not know if I particularly care. A part of me wishes to loathe you, to never forgive you for mending my soul, then shattering it like the Stars…yet I simply cannot bring myself to do so… I heard how you wept as well, in the dark hours when you were “alone”…it simply makes me wish I could have done more, yet I suppose, in the end, I am but a small, sad woman, unable to change even my own life for the better, always requiring the help of another. Yet, that well leads into what else I wished to say—
From the depths of my soul, mâzjêr vrémond né, Hikaru. I simply do not know where to begin. For taking me on this journey, perhaps, guiding me to freedom from that suffocating life I once lived into a more fulfilling one. Traveling so many months together, to give me much of your wealth—and I know you did not do this to use me, to woo me, yet simply out of your own kindness…which is why, I suppose, “moving on” shall not be such a simple endeavor as you seem to believe. It is not that no one has never done anything so kind for me before; I do not believe anyone has ever simply had the faintest desire to do anything even a quarter as kind. I do not believe you realize how much it means…
And perhaps even more importantly—thank you for helping me in the manner which I was not able to help you. That is…it has never been so severe as what you have dealt with, no; yet, even so, all my life I have been treated as this dreadful, unlovable thing. More interested in something so base as baking, and being altogether pathetic in the arts that make a proper lady; so small and embarrassingly plump, an image of stunted growth and failed restraint—ah, if I am truly not a bastard child, is there any wonder why the suspicions have forever followed me? Yet, miraculously, I find I am not so terribly bothered by any of this anymore. Certainly, thinking of how others may perceive me is upsetting; yet, knowing the one I love could so genuinely adore me so…yes, this matters far more to me than the words of cruel, artificial people. Even with you gone, I believe I may truly keep this perspective…at least, if nothing else, in those hours when I become lonely, and feel just as sorrowful as before, I may remember once someone loved me so—and that is enough to alight the future. Thank you for helping me thus, even if I could not do the same for you…truly, thank you, Hikaru.
Sâ pšyku, I know this letter is quite long enough, so I shall attempt to finish. I know by the time you read this letter I have certainly already broached the subject with you, yet I would like to say this again—you must visit me once more, and you have no reason not to, if you could still visit me while I lived with that evil man, and still be quite fine. Until then, if you ever wish to think of me, please read the poems within the book I have put this letter within, as long as you have it; while you were ill I was able to read all of them, and they reflect my heart quite clearly, yet with more sensitivity and skill than I am sure I can muster. And…once more, please forgive me for giving so little to you, while you have given all to myself. I am so dreadfully sorry for once more failing Alex’s wish…yet I shall say, if you do ever wish to once more try again, to find that shining, beautiful life together…I am still here, my Star shall always welcome you home. Just return to Bydlin, and if I am alive, I shall surely be there. Ah, I believe that is all I have to say, and so…lêm sâ tsiâ né, Hikaru.
Your dearest wife,
It’s obvious that this was written before we decided to still send further letters, at least—but even still, I put my hand over my face, quaking as tears blind my vision…
“Damn it, what have I done?” I mutter under my breath, before my mind soon produces an answer.
What’s best for her.
In addition to everything else, look at this pain you’ve imposed on her already…you don’t deserve to even speak to her, even in letters.
You don’t deserve to even live at all, Hikaru.
I set her letter down slowly…and finally fold in on myself, weeping more pathetically and profusely than I have in nearly thirty years.
How much time passes, I can’t say—no longer do I have any thoughts or perception of the world around me; instead, my mind is only a sea of emotion. Sorrow, regret, shame, swelling and permeating every fiber of my being until, in the end, only one thought remains—
I’m sorry you had ever met me at all, Suzette.
And with this I take a deep, uneven breath, calming myself enough to look up to Maiden Moon. Maybe it’s just my imagination, but it seems like she winces slightly at the sight of me.
“I’m ready to go,” I mutter curtly. Like an automaton, I simply gather my things with a slow, calculated motion, and get up in the same manner.
For a minute I stand in place, thinking about where on Earth I can possibly go.
Nearly all of Soléiâ I’ve traveled with her…the only province I’ve never visited is Plênšnov, but freezing to death in the middle of winter is not how I want to leave…
Suddenly, it hits me—the perfect destination. The furthest I can get from her, from memories of the life I was foolish enough to ever believe I could have.
And with this I continue onwards, an uncomfortable stillness washing over me. But an uncomfortable stillness is stillness nonetheless.
“Do you know where you’re going?” Maiden Moon asks, a hint of concern in her voice.
“I do,” I reply flatly. “I just need to go east. Sooner or later, I’ll arrive.”
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