Author's Note: Yes, there's a change in tense partway through. That's supposed to be there. ^_^
"She loves you, Kurei," I told him.
We were standing on the balcony outside the library of Mori Kouran's manor.
He was looking at the stars.
I was looking at the maid in the garden below, who was taking one of the guard dogs to its nocturnal post.
Nonsense, he said. Although his gaze never left the sky, he seemed to know of whom I spoke. Perhaps it was a sign that, deep down, he had recognized the emotion after all.
Very little got past him.
He placed his hands on my hips as he stood behind me. Squeezing gently, he added some remark about how improbable it was that such a thing would ever work out, and that Neon knew better than to entertain such schoolgirl fantasies.
I turn to him in mock indignation. Did that demote my own feelings to the level of mere adolescent puppy love? He smiles and laughs-- such a pleasant sound coming from him! I return the smile, and we resume our stargazing.
Rather, he gazed at the stars.
My eyes were still upon the maid.
As much as Kurei would like to deny it, there was no refuting the fact that Neon was devoted to him, heart, soul, and body. She had already sacrificed the first on her altar to him-- the second and third would be easily surrendered without a moment's hesitation, if asked.
Perhaps I should hate her for it. Perhaps I should feel jealous of her presence. Yet why? In her own way, she works so hard to assure Kurei of his comfort and happiness, just as I do in mine. It warms her heart to see his smile, just as mine is. She revels in kind words from him, just as I do. She would live, breathe, and die for him, just as I would. For someone with such a parallel goal in life, and something as noble as the happiness of another-- especially in this other, one whose life was nothing but a morass of sorrow and cruel fate. How could I begrudge her the desire to be an oasis for the desert in his heart?
Perhaps I should pity her. The poor dear would have no chance at all at ever approaching our Kurei as anything more than a servant, a tool, an underling. Yet Kurei views me as an equal-- and sometimes, I even suspect-- he looks up to me as his better. For I can smile and warmth radiates from my whole person; I can laugh, and the sound is pure and untainted. Yet when we first met, smiling was foreign to his lips, and his laughter held bitterness and derision. Even now, he still has trouble unlearning the harsh experiences of his past. I hope with time and persistence, I can mold him into a happy man. I see potential, if only I can clear away the blackness which tarnishes his soul.
And yet... and yet... Am I really so much better off than the maid? Mori Kouran adopted me. Though I am not Kurei's sister, nor is he related to me in any way, he feels the need to keep our relationship a secret. Not because of society, or the opinions of others-- for to Kurei, such things are less than insignificant-- but because of a more sinister reason. One which Kurei refuses to explain to me, yet I can guess the consequences will be severe if we are found out.
And so I keep the secret, if not for my sake, then for his. Yet, I am no better off than the maid until he can love me openly and honestly, and forget whatever cold shadow looms over us.
The goosebumps rise on my arms, despite the warm sweater I wear. "Perhaps we shouldn't be outside like this," I say, gently disengaging myself from his embrace. "Someone might see us."
Someone had seen us-- the maid, as she walked back towards the house, having placed the dog on duty. I could tell by the way she stopped for a moment to watch us, as we were clearly silhouetted against the light coming through the French doors behind us.
I wave my hand cheerfully at her, acknowledging her presence. Although I could not see it, I could sense it happening-- the surprise of having been spotted, the embarrassed flush rising in her cheeks. She hesitated, then raised her hand in a return greeting.
"Let's go inside," I suggest, gently tugging Kurei's hand. He grumbles about how he was enjoying the peace and quiet outside, but very well.
Before I shut the French doors behind us, I look again to where the maid had stood. Again, that cold feeling sends chills down my spine and the heavy lead weight settles once more in the pit of my stomach.
A premonition of... what?
I close my eyes. If anything ever happens to me... please, Neon. Take up my unfinished task and complete it. Please.