A Soldier's Life.
I. All the people that you know
Huber's mother is several decades younger than Gwendal's father and she didn't marry out of arranged marriages but out of love. Huber's father is a great soldier and a good Mazoku, but for ages Huber was unable to understand why his mother had agreed to marry him.
His mother used to sigh then, before giving him a smile.
"I hope, Huber, that you'll understand it one day."
II. The places that you go
Out of respect for Gwendal, the Lord he owes his direct respect and loyalty from being a member of the Voltaire family, Huber ignores Conrad most of the time, avoiding the remarks he wants to make about his lack of linage and dirty blood and keeps the contact at its minimum.
It's not until the half breed defeats him over a duel that he starts taking notice of him, and he hates him for that.
III. The lights are turned down low
The one defense Huber will never use for himself is that he truly discovered a few half breed conspiring to attack Shin Makoku. At first it was because he was unable to capture them. After because it didn't matter.
IV. All the things you've seen
It's during the war, for the first time in nearly two hundred years of life, after seeing so many Mazoku and Humans die, that Huber wishes he had someone to come back home to.
V. I'm slipping in between
Huber won't ever forget the way wine turned bitter when he heard that Julia von Wincott had died over the camp he had stopped protecting. It'll be a long time before he's able to drink it again.
VI. You and my big dreams
When the Maou told Huber that his punishment for disobeying orders and indirectly causing the death of lady von Wincott was going to be exile that would only finish when he brought back to Shin Makoku the Mateki, he thought it had been a too soft punishment for such a crime, but neither lady Cecilia nor sir von Voltaire were to heard any of his reasoning. That same day, in the middle of the night, he was escorted outside of Shin Makoku. He was given a sword, some water, some money, some food.
Five years after his exile, after having been in the brink of death far more times that he could remember, Huber didn't dare to stop himself to think that it might have been a too cruel punishment; Julia's ghost in his dreams, telling him that it wasn't time yet, didn't allow him to think that.
VII. Stand here in a patch of four leaf clover
First time Huber and Nicola meet each other, Nicola is a terrified ten years old human girl that has just slipped over a Sand Bear's trap. She's crying, frightened, trying to climb back up without being able to. Huber reacts rather than thinking; he jumps after her even before he takes notice of her wide and scared brown eyes, and he holds her against his chest as they slide down, whispering to her a simple: "Calm down. It'll be okay." The girl clings to his clothes and trembles in his arms, but stops screaming.
Once he manages to get them out of there and he delivers the unharmed girl to her worried parents (travelers, he notices, as the girl's mother holds her tightly, relieved) and her father thanks him profusely, he refuses any reward, accepts the precious water they're giving him out of need, and bows his head and parts ways from them, refusing their grateful offer of taking him anywhere he might want. The young girl follows a few of his steps, and then she's waving her hand at him, her childish voice calling after him: "Thank you, sir! Thank you!" and Huber hears her voices until it turns to nothing but a whisper and then nothing.
First time Huber and Nicola meet each other, neither of them is aware of the fact.
VIII. You can't stand to see me shaking
Huber doesn't doubt on killing the soldiers that were just about to bury an innocent baby to murder him more than he did on killing other humans during the war. He holds the baby against his chest and hides, realizing that he won't be able to save the woman they're taking. Keeping the baby safe, he walks towards the dirt and puts the piece of the Mateki he found there, since then it'd be easier to find once he finds the rest.
The woman's father cries when he gives him the baby, giving a feeble smile as the baby gurgles at him.
"Jiruta." The man calls the baby, and even Huber smiles when he hears him squeal. "I don't know how to pay you."
It's funny how many times he has heard the same thing now that he's unworthy of everything, but Huber doesn't say that. He just bows his head and gives the man a few coins.
"Keep your grandson safe."
IX. Could you let me go?
The second time Huber and Nicola meet each other, he's being chased down after the soldiers of the town discovered he's a mazoku, and he's twisting through the streets of the small and unknown village, hoping to lose them, but he's quite certain he's only disorienting himself.
"Here!" A soft woman's voice whispers suddenly. Huber turns around and finds himself looking at a young woman with short hair and kind brown eyes that's motioning over towards the alley she is. Huber has but a moment to doubt her before her small hand wraps around his wrist and she pulls him over, pushing him behind some boxes and making a shushing sound, giving him a smile and a wink that translates as 'Trust me' before she runs to the middle of the street and screams bloody murder.
"Help! A demon! Help!" The young human shrieks; Huber has a moment of panic before he notices she's pointing towards the other side when some soldiers run towards her. She's quite convincing on acting terrified. "He went through that alley!"
The second time Huber and Nicola meet each other, they think it's the first. They don't know yet it'll also last a lifetime.
X. You don't want to be here in the future
He finds out that the young woman lives in a one room house that's scarcely decorated. She says that she has lived in the town barely for a couple of years; only since her parents died and it's only until she gets enough money to travel again. Nicola tells him that he can stay if he wants, at least until the night, where the soldiers will be infinitely more distracted.
"Why did you help me?" He asks, not knowing what to do of her warm smile or the way she has helped him.
Nicola shrugs, hanging her coat over a wall. She moves to the small kitchen and hands him a Desert Apple: water is too precious in a desert town to give it. "I owe it."
Huber asks nothing more but he thinks that he'll only stay a few hours; just enough for the sun to fall and so he can finish the search that he already knows won't bring anything up.
He ends up staying for two weeks and, when he finally decides to go, he surprises even himself when, rather than saying goodbye, he asks her to come with him, Nicola blushes at his words but her smile feels like a sunrise and she nods immediately.
"I'm glad," Nicola says while they're leaving the town she has been living on for years. Huber had thought that it was a little bittersweet the fact that most of her life could fit over a single backpack.
Nicola smiles again, tilting her head, hands behind her back as she skips a step, looking at him from over her shoulder. "That you asked before I did it."
XI. The present's
just a pleasant interruption to the past
Huber never tells Nicola how grateful he is that she has never been scared of him being a Mazoku, or of the way she gives him her friendship; instead, he tries to smile around her a bit more because he knows it makes her happy, and he offers her shelter of the merciless sun as much as possible, even if it means that she has to walk beneath his cape and press close to his side.
Quite soon, he discovers that he doesn't mind the closeness; even more, he likes it.
XII. You don't want to look much closer
It takes him six months to kiss Nicola, six months in which he has worried about their differences, the main one being that he's a criminal, a murderer that won't be able to offer her anything rather than the fact that she's a human and he's a mazoku. In six months, Nicola has turned not only into his best friend, but also the one reason he has now to hope to find the Mateki and reach forgiveness.
He tells her: "Being with you makes me think that I might forgive myself" and he notices the blush over her face.
It's also due to the fact that Nicola, with the sunset over her, had leaned against his arm and had brushed her lips against his, soft and hesitant, eyes wide and fearful of what might be his answer after that.
XIII. Find out all the hope
Huber and Nicola had shared a room from the beginning.
"It's safer like this," Nicola had said, even though he had noticed that she was avoiding his eyes. "A couple traveling is less conspicuous than two people not related doing so. And it's also cheaper."
He knew it was true so he never said anything against it; he had always given her the bed even though she had always complained, saying that they should trade.
After the first kiss, Huber woke up when he heard her tiptoeing to his side. He had kept his eyes closed, breathing even, and then had been silently surprised when she moved to lay by his side, timidly moving her arm over him and resting her head against his shoulder.
The next day, they both sleep over the bed. Huber watches her sleep for a while and then softly moves his fingers through her bangs and over her sleeping face, smiling when that makes her snuggle closer to him. "You give me hope." He whispers to the sleeping woman, and he's touched when she smiles.
For the first time in almost twenty years, Huber truly rests.
XIV. I'm sleeping in your living room
"Shin Makoku," Huber whispers to Nicola's still flat belly, resting a hand against it even as she's stroking his hair. "Will be your home. You'll run over its green grasses, climb its trees and gaze upon the infinite blue sky over its hills. I'll show you and your mother everything that there's to know there. You'll both be safe there."
"We'll three be safe there." Nicola murmurs lovingly. Huber doesn't agree nor disagree since he doesn't want to upset her over a promise that might or might not be true, so he just keeps his hand over Nicola's stomach and tries to see if he can feel the soft beating of their child's heart.
XV. Please don't think that this was easy
When the soldiers of Suberera drag him away and Huber's looking over his shoulder towards where Nicola is kneeling, arms crossed protectively over her midsection even as she cries, Huber is ashamed to realize that one of the things he is going to regret the most isn't Julia's death, but the fact that he's not going to be able to see his and Nicola's child grow up.
XVI. 'Cause we both know what its like to be alone
"Who are you?"
Huber opens his – now single – eye and takes notice of a quite possibly female small blurry form sitting over the floor in front of his jail. Slowly, he sits down, keeping a hand against the side of his head to try and soothe the headache that the fever has brought and tries to focus again.
The definitively-female-who is a small girl wearing a dark blue dress, who has curly reddish hair with dark skin. Her wide, confused brown eyes cause him a bit of heartache that he doesn't allow grow more.
The young human is still looking at him confused, and just as she's opening her mouth to speak again, Huber does so.
"Huber. And you?"
The girl smiles. "I'm Greta!"
XVII. We don't have much room to live
When he sees Greta, he thinks of the baby he will never hold and the woman he won't ever see again and smiles at her, even though it always ends with Greta asking him: "Why do you seem so sad?"
After learning the girl's story, he promises that he will take her to Shin Makoku, and the one reason he breaks free from his prison is to help her (he doesn't care about the Mateki any more. A piece of it rests over a tomb and he knows Nicola will hold unto the other one for life), and while they travel, as he shelters her from the desert, feeling her arms around his neck, he tells her about his life and about Nicola and about all the things that she will find in Shin Makoku.
There's just a brief feeling of nostalgia as he looks upon Shin Makoku, but he doesn't stay long enough to feel anything more. He smiles at Greta, prays for her happiness in the land he had wanted his child to grow and goes away again to wait for the death that a ghost just doesn't want to gift him with.
XVIII. Doesn't she look good?
Huber kills a man wearing a strange uniform over a district near Cabalcade and he barely blinks. What he does get is the feeling of failure and of life yet again: He still hears Julia's voice telling him 'not yet, Huber. Not yet'. He's a dead man walking, just waiting until a ghost tells him that he's allowed to die. He doesn't put resistance when more men wearing the same uniform drag him towards a brightly lit casino.
The man dear sees him for a while, and Huber answers that yes, he had killed the other man in a monotone. The man takes notice of the scar covering his face, of his sword, and then smirks.
"If you crave death so much, become my bodyguard."
XIX. It doesn't get me anywhere
When he finds Conrad Weller again, Huber hopes this is the way Shinou found out to end up his life: dying by the hand of the man he defamed and dying by one of the two who loved Suzanna Julia the best.
So that's why he thinks he's able to hear Julia's laugh when the young king tells him that he's forgiven. It's like the first breath of air he has had in twenty years.
XX. It's to dying in another's arms
Holding his daughter for the very first time, with his wife's hand over his arm, Huber promises them in silence that, from now on, he will live for them. As if she has heard the promise, the baby makes a gurgling sound and moves her tiny hands, finally closing them over his fingers. Huber smiles too.
XXI. I'm not your star?
Huber knows that, when Nicola dies, he'll keep on living. He will, perhaps, entertain the distant thought of joining her, will feel that it's his duty and his right. He will also, however, see their children, hear their voice and their laugh, and he will gather as many memories as possible so, that when he is reunited with Nicola, he'll be able to tell her everything she wasn't able to be there to see.
XXII. My Konstantine
Huber will die an old mazoku, gray and wrinkled. It won't be the death he always thought he was going to have, a soldier's death, surrounded by glory and everlasting fame after you died by helping to protect your country and your king.
It won't be the empty, solitary death he once thought was going to be his future while he was exiled, either.
Huber will die an old man, sitting in the garden of his house, underneath the shadow of the tree where Eru, when she had been nothing but a child, had loved to climb, hearing his grandchildren playing in the distance, thinking of Nicola and the way her small hands had felt over his so long ago.
He will close his eyes, give a deep breath and let go. It'll be a much better death he never thought he'd get.