Chapter Twenty Six: Final Goodbyes
Time: The Final Night
Location: The Grand Ballroom
Unfortunate fate, relentless destiny. What must be must be, I understand that. Still, no farewells must be said. All I can do is silently wish for the best as she gives me one last smile. The Lord turns to me again. A dark glare. Silence has him now. I can see it in his brooding countenance. The darkness will continue, and he will not but embrace it. Ah, if only she could know. Yet there is a darkness in this land, one that even the lifting of a curse cannot vanquish. The Lord is wise in his decisions, even if he loathes what must be. He is a being of solitude, as are we all. His heart is dead, and I fear it may grow even colder with her departure. Miss Rose truly was the light in this dark kingdom, and even as she has exited outside with Lord Katsuto, I can feel the shadows slowly taking their place once again. It seems this land will never be a happy one, yet how can a land be happy when it's history is built upon the blood and tears of the innocent? Once more I shall return to my duties and put this small glimpse of happiness in memory. I will have my hopes though, and who knows? Maybe there will come a time when Miss Rose will return. If so, I pray it is soon, lest this kingdom be lost to darkness' design and the Lord become the very image of his brother.
Lord Katsuto's Thoughts
And here in the night, this was the moment which I had been waiting for. The last chance I would ever be granted to express that which I could not even understand. The emotion within the darkest portion of my heart that threatened to consume my whole being at any given instant. I had, as we were exiting the ballroom, been careful to give a warning glare to Tuomas and the others. If any interruption was presented at this point, I cannot rightly say what my anger would do. Thus, it was with a trembling air that we made our way to the garden's depths. In my mind I had been careful to rehearse this speech down to the punctuation. Where to stand, what tone to use. Confound these mortal emotions! Must they infect even a kind so cold and heartless as I? There is not even tears enough left in me to weep, let alone enough blood to pour from an aching heart. Why then must I allow such tortures to wrack my very soul? In fact, had I any nerve left within me, I would have stopped this foolishness. I may well have done this, as I glanced back to the girl. Ah, but those eyes. Such a gentle spirit and deep concern showing through those lustrous spheres the likes of which have never been. A single glance, and my resolve was shattered. Why did she look thus? I was not myself, that much was true, yet I could not help wondering what she saw. What thoughts had formed in her mind of our journey back to the garden? I turned away again, pressing further to the deepest corner, a grassy knoll where the others would not find us, and interruption would not be a concern. Only then did I return my eyes to her searching gaze and take a drawn out breath for stalling purposes. The rest of the flowers had blossomed, the crimson petals delicate and silken in the light of the pure moon.
"Miss Rose... truly, I am eternally within your debt. I repeat myself yes, yet you have held true to your promise, and restored the land. Not merely this, all parts of the curse are no more. And the others...they were lively in your presence. I have seen smiles from them that have not been in centuries. You have changed us all. For the better I believe..."
My train of thought was failing under her patient gaze, so I attempted another vein.
"I'm afraid you cannot deny it, nor can I. You are the Rose, as surely as I stand here. Your blood..your power.... the land is full of it. And it is clear to others as well. My...my brother was only the first....and I have little doubt that others will follow in search of the blood, your blood and the power it contains. We cannot run from memory, for it will never fade. Nor can we hide who we are. I am deeply sorry for this, and I hope you will understand. There are worse out there. . those who will abuse, corrupt, more than I wish to burden your mind with. These entities are not like those of your realm. They will stop at nothing. They shall hunt until death, and I am not positive if I can stop them."
My pleading visage showed in her wide eyes, and to detail any further would be to frighten her unnecessarily. Even now I could see her tremble in the grasp of fear. I moved forward, wishing for nothing more than to embrace her, hold her warm body to mine and swear protection from all. There had to be a way. The strange guest may be wrong. I was strong enough, I could do it....
Again those accursed words: 'A union with the damned? No. The land is removed of it's curse, yet mine must forever remain...'
No.... I could not bind her to a life of suffering and constant threat. Still, I dared to pull her close, embracing the woman before me in a gentle form of affection. It was enough. I could offer no such grand promises as I had hoped. She still trembled in my arms for a few moments longer, and I cursed the cold of my flesh. Still, these shudders grew less pronounced with the passage of time before stopping altogether. I felt Miss Rose relax, leaning her head against my shoulder. All the events of that night seemed to have finally caught up with her, and I could sense a fatigue stealing over her as she rested. Placing my lips against her hair, I began once more in a whisper.
" I will keep your secrets, as will those that have met you, Miss Rose. You are very dear to us, and we shall defend you until the last. I took a gamble this night, not just with my life but yours as well. For that I am more remorseful than you could know. I could well have damned us both. I would not care for myself, for I am already one of the damned. Death and life are all the same to me, and yet.. you... I...."
My hand gently pulled her chin up as I leaned back to better see her eyes. She knew. I understood finally my own emotions and she already knew them as well as I. Her deep crimson eyes met mine, a few tears threatening to fall. Her pure heart, saddened. If my heart could beat, I know it would have then. I leaned down to meet her lips, pausing at the sweetness of her breath.
'Union with the damned.'
Pulling back, I touched my lips instead to her forehead and allowed my eyes to close.
"It is too late, for the path is chosen. Farewell, my Immortal Rose."
The winds picked up, the sad song of the dead as the petals swirled about us. A glow of my magic, and then she was gone. I had upheld my promise and returned her to her home.
Turning back once more, I beheld my Kingdom. Even in the beauty of new life, it was lifeless. Dark and menacing as it was meant to be, as I was meant to be. Yet all the same, I could not but close my eyes once more to keep the memories fresh. The petals still danced, as we had danced. If not we, maybe they could find happiness in our stead.