UPDATED 25 June 2008 – This story's been dead for ages, and I feel terribly guilty about that, but I've never forgotten about it. I am now attempting to work my way through it again. I started this years ago and my writing's changed so much that I feel I can't continue until I update what's already here. So, I'm going to work my way through each chapter and see if doing so rekindles my passion for this story. After I've updated a chapter, you'll see a note like this here.
For new readers, this is a Borus/Chris pairing, in case that influences your decision to read it at all.
And of course the disclaimer thing: I don't own Suikoden III or any of the characters, as much as I'd like to. I'm just a fan writing a story about them.
Wine And Roses
Chapter One: A Gift for a Lady
Late afternoon sunlight bathed the Vinay del Zexay marketplace in soft golden light. Busy market-goers bustled through the rows of produce, hurriedly finishing their Friday shopping before the evening meal. Vendors called out across the colorful sea of people, advertising all the exotic wares that graced a wealthy port such as this one.
Those few who were not so interested in pushing through the crowds rested on the many benches or trailed their fingers through the glittering water of the fountains. Beneath the shade of the trees, a trio of buskers performed for the crowds. Their merry music lingered in the cooling air, giving the market a festival-like feel.
The cool air was permeated with the carefree demeanor that always struck the thriving port town with the arrival of the weekend. Propriety had little place amongst the jokes and laughter of the market regulars, and so it was a fine place for one to escape the rigidity of the upper class.
It was for this reason that a young man dressed in the brilliant regalia of a Zexen knight wandered the streets today. His wild blonde hair glowed in the sunlight as he turned his head to follow the noses and movements around him. He had a pleasant expression about him, which those who knew him well would have said was a rarity. However the knight, too, was taken in by the gaiety of the market and so his usual frown had melted away, at least for now.
Scratching his ear, he stopped as he noticed a small cart displaying several pieces of jewelry, from gaudy pearl necklaces to elegant silver earrings inlaid with tiny glittering stones. A beautifully ornate rose brooch caught his eye. He had to squint for a minute to determine that it was indeed just a brooch and not a real rose.
Every delicate satin petal was pulled paper-thin and gently curved at the edges. The flower was perched on a slender green stem that tapered down to a point. Paper-thin saw-toothed leaves and tiny thorns traveled up to the base of the petals. Small beads of clear glass rested all along the flower, like dew after a morning rain.
Borus Redrum smiled. When he saw perfection in such a rose, it was difficult not to think of where he found it elsewhere. His mind guiltily wandered to the lady who often occupied his thoughts, and he wondered how this broach might look upon her breast.
He shook the thought from his head. What was he thinking? He had neither the income nor the courage to go through with such a thing. He knew what he stood to lose. For now, at least, he was free to wish, as no doors had yet been closed. It was safer to keep his thoughts to himself. As of yet, no one knew of his infatuation.
Something hard hit Borus in the back of his head. He closed his eyes and sighed.
Almost no one, anyway.
Borus turned around. His assailant had been a plump turnip lying limp at his feet. He looked up in the direction from which the turnip had come. There, confirming his suspicions, stood Percival, Borus's long-time friend and rival.
"Oh, how precious." Percival grinned. "Is the little lass out for her evening shopping?"
"If that's the case then what, may I ask, are you doing here?" Inquired Borus. Percival put a hand to his chest and raised his head in a regal manner.
"I, unlike you, am here on important business," he sniffed, with mock arrogance in his voice.
"What makes you think I'm not?" Asked Borus raising an eyebrow. Percival dropped the act and looked at Borus Keenly.
"Oh? You're on important business, too? And what business might that be?" he asked, a frighteningly large grin on his face.
"N-nothing," said Borus quickly, blushing. Percival noticed the blush right away and became eagerly interested in what his friend was hiding.
"Hm, what have we here?" Percival rubbed his chin, examining the jewelry cart next to Borus.
"Jewelry, eh? Purchasing a gift for a lady, perhaps?" Percival asked slyly as he stood up straight.
"No, Percy, I'm buying something for myself. I've always thought I look fetching in opals." Borus rolled his eyes.
"Aha, so then it's true! You are buying a token for someone!" Percival shouted triumphantly.
Borus inwardly winced.
"And just who might that someone be?" Percival pretended to ponder as he leaned on Borus's shoulder. "A lady, no doubt, but which lady?" Percival furrowed his brow with the pretense of concentration.
Borus grew nervous as Percival leaned against him. He closed his eyes, knowing very well where this was going. He wished Percival would just say it instead of dancing around the issue. Right now, his friend seemed more like a cat teasing his prey than a noble knight.
"Might it be someone I know?" Asked Percival, encouraged by Borus's reaction.
"Percival, stop," said Borus. Percival ignored him.
"Maybe she happens to be a knight as well," Percival suggested innocently, his voice barely a whisper.
"Percy, no, don't say it," Borus pleaded. Percival gasped.
"Oh no, surely it couldn't be…Lady Chris!"
"Percival! Don't say that so loud, someone might hear you!" Borus hissed, jumping away.
"I'm not the one making a fuss," Percival pointed out calmly.
Sure enough, as Borus looked around, he noticed several startled faces staring in his direction.
A few minutes later, Percival reclined on a bench looking out above the market while Borus leaned against a nearby wall, a dark expression on his face.
"Why do you always do that?" Demanded Borus, still fuming.
"If you must know," said Percival, examining his fingernails, "It's because you take it so poorly."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Borus asked angrily.
"Must I explain everything to you?" Percival sighed, "What I mean is that you're a perfect target for it. You're teaseable."
"Oh am I," Borus growled.
"See what I mean?" said Percival, pleased.
The two stopped talking for a while, Percival merely taking in the sights, and Borus trying to prevent himself from exploding with anger.
A large boat slowly sailed into the harbor and lowered its great wooden plank. The last sunlight caught the giant sails as they were slowly furled. Sailors busily rushed on and off, carrying large and heavy crates to shore.
"How did you figure it out?" Borus asked Percival, watching a sailor tug uselessly at a particularly cumbersome barrel.
"Figure what out?" asked Percival, looking over at Borus.
"You know," said Borus, irritated.
"No I don't," said Percival innocently.
"Pardon?" Asked Percival, cupping a hand to his ear.
"Borus, Dear, any day would be nice."
"ThatIfeelforLadyChris," Borus spat quickly, wincing.
"So he finally admits it," said Percival quietly.
"It's really quite obvious, you know."
"W-what do you mean?"sputtered Borus.
"You're not very discrete about it. Any fool could figure it out, the way you follow her around."
"I do no such thing!" Exclaimed Borus.
"Don't deny it. I'm surprised I'm the only who's noticed." Percival leaned back on the bench, tapping his fingers against the wrought-iron handle.
"Yes, you're lucky that our captain is as dense as she is."
"Chris isn't dense," Borus said quietly.
"There's no need to defend her. She may be brilliant when it comes to battle but she lacks all skill in the world of love." Percival smiled sadly, his brows knit with the tragedy of it all.
"No she's not," Borus muttered, knowing full well that she was.
"You'd actually make a perfect match, the two of you." Percival laughed, "Both making outstanding military achievements but stumbling about through the thorny realms of romance."
"Percival," Borus cooed, "Tell me again why you chose to become a knight and not a jester?"
"Ah yes," said Percival still musing, "The only couple who never-"
"Shut UP!" Yelled Borus.
After he had calmed down, Borus turned to Percival again.
"So, why were you at the market anyway?"
"Oh right!" Said Percival sitting up; "I came to tell you that Salome wanted to have us all meet at the Purple Moon for dinner."
"That tacky little seaside café?" Borus asked, surprised. How like Percival to forget.
"It's not tacky, it's romantic," retorted Percival. "Salome thinks it's healthy for us to spend time together, even when not on duty."
Borus chewed his lip. Percival stood up, raising his arms above his head in an impressive stretch. For a brief moment, Borus was envious of the freedom Percival had out of his armour. Borus rarely left his nowadays.
"Let's get going, Borus. We don't want to keep them waiting!"
Percival began a jaunty pace down towards the sparkling ocean and Borus ran quickly to catch up with him.
It only took a few minutes to reach the café. It was a small, ivy-covered building with dark windows. A number of delicately patterned tables and chairs sat outside on the patio, surrounded by a black wrought-iron fence. Above the door, an old sign swung in the breeze. A purple crescent moon was carved into it above thin golden letters announcing the name of the place.
Leo stood at a nearby table, his arms crossed tightly. Upon seeing Borus and Percival, he straightened up.
"Good, you're here. Salome's just inside. I'll go get him." Leo turned and walked into the building.
When he returned, he was followed by Salome and Roland. Salome spotted Percival and walked over to him.
"Ah, you found Borus I see. Please sit down, the waiters will be with us in a minute."
"Sorry, am I late?" asked a female voice to Borus's right.
The hair on Borus's neck prickled. He slowly turned his head to look over his right shoulder. His heart thumped. Standing there, very near him, was Chris. She turned to look at Borus, her violet eyes observing him.
"Hello Borus," she said, "It's good to see you again." Her tone was devoid of any obvious emotion, as usual.
"And you, my lady," said Borus, dipping his head in a small bow.
"Oh, for Goddess' sake, Borus, lighten up," chimed Percival, thumping Borus hard on his back.
"Ouch," Borus gasped, "That hurt!"
"Well, let's sit down, shall we?" suggested Percival brightly.
Salome and Roland had already seated themselves and were now talking seriously about battle strategies. Borus observed them for a moment, somehow not surprised that even ap lace like this oculd not divert their usual thoughts.
"What say we sit together, old pal?" said Percival, elbowing a startled Leo.
Borus realized in horror what Percival was trying to do.
"What?" Asked Leo, confused.
"This way," said Percival through clenched teeth as he pulled Leo with him.
Borus rubbed his temples in exasperation. Chris eyed the two knights suspiciously.
"They're certainly acting strangely tonight," she commented.
"Indeed." Borus agreed, trying hard to act uninterested.
Borus brought his mind back to his current predicament. He looked at Chris nervously out of the corner of his eye.
"Well," he said, pulling out a chair, "Care to have a seat?" Chris smiled.
"Thank you," she said quietly.
She pulled her chair in as Borus rounded the table and sat down in his. He rested his chin on the backs of his hands and nervously looked up at Chris. To his surprise, he met her gaze and quickly looked away.
"So, how have you been?" he asked her, looking out at the golden ocean.
"I've been well; you?"
Borus hesitated. His turmoil was probably an inappropriate topic at the moment.
"Fine," he lied.
As a cheerful waitress sidled up to them, Borus stole a few glances at Chris. The lady knight was intent on the specials being listed and paid him no heed. She looked like a goddess, sitting there against the orange sky, her silver hair catching the sunlight.
Borus breathed out slowly. How long had he felt this way about her? It seemed to him like forever. He sat watching her through half-closed eyes, silently begging her to look at him. But of course, she didn't.
She never did.
But then again, why should she? She didn't need Borus. He was nothing but a love struck, renegade knight with a fiery temper and a penchant for rare wines. What could his silver captain possibly ever see in him?
"Sir?" The waitress's voice cut through his thoughts.
"Yes?" he asked, snapping out of his trance.
"Would you care for an appetizer?"
"Uh, no thanks," he replied. The waitress looked at him and then at Chris, who also wore a puzzled expression on her face.
"Shall I give you a moment to think about what you want?" The waitress asked wisely.
"Yes, please," said Chris, smiling at the waitress. The girl smiled back and hurried off towards the kitchen.
"Borus, are you all right?" Chris asked, concern in her voice.
"You seem…stressed. Is there something wrong?" she inquired, tilting her head slightly.
"No," said Borus tentatively. Chris didn't look convinced, but dropped the subject.
Borus surveyed the surroundings. He smiled. Aside from Percival casting him a mischievous wink every few seconds and Leo slurping his soup, this could almost have been a date. He decided he liked that idea and went along with it for the rest of the evening.
The two looked over their menus in silence.
"Not many meatless dishes are there?" Chris commented, discouraged.
Borus looked up, surprised.
"Are you a vegetarian?"
"Yes," she said, a shy smile on her face.
"Hmm," replied Borus, "I didn't know that." He
Borus blinked, his focus resting back on the waves in the harbor for a moment. He wondered why he'd never noticed before. What else did he have to learn of her that was hidden behind that calm face?
They ate in silence. The cool breeze carried the cry of gulls as they wheeled above the harbor. Gradually stars began to appear in the dusty purple sky. Salome paid the waitress for all six meals, explaining it was a gift, and Borus was touched by the older man's solemn generosity.
Eventually, Leo and Percival rose from their table. Salome and Roland were already standing nearby.
"Well," said Borus, turning to Chris, "Should we head home?"
"Yes, I'm ready," Said Chris.
Before Borus could stand up, she placed a delicate hand on his.
"Thank you for sitting with me, Borus. I had a wonderful time tonight."
Borus's heart thumped again. He prayed to the Goddess that he wasn't blushing.
To Borus's disappointment, Chris stood up with no further gesture. The absence of her hand made his own feel cold. He wistfully watched her go.
Later, as Borus and Percival walked up the broad, cobbled streets, twilight descended in full. Their way was lit by the stately old street lamps. The bright windows of houses they passed cast squares of light onto the cobblestones.
"So, how did it go? Did you charm her into submission?" Percival teased after a long stretch of silence.
"What do you think?" Borus asked irritably.
"Tsk, tsk, Borus; I'm disappointed. You're not the knight in shining armor I thought you were."
There was silence for a minute, then Percival grinned.
"Pardon the pun."
"Percival, no more," groaned Borus as he reached his doorstep.
"All right." Percival suddenly grew serious, "look, I know that you're discouraged, but don't give up just yet."
"Am I getting support from you?" Borus asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Of course, but just remember that if you don't make a move soon, I want a go."
Borus glared daggers at him. Percival laughed.
"Just kidding," he called in a singsong voice.
Borus smirked. The last thing he heard before he shut his door was Percival's laughter on the air as he made his way down the street to his own house.
So, updated chapter number one! I did my best to revive it…I never realized how bad it was. Oh well. On to the next!