Adéle watched Tomoyo, as usual, as if she were trying to see what Tomoyo was like from the sole act of watching her like a hawk. Eriol really wondered if they would get along; to this point, they had been acting beautifully. Adéle. Eriol knew by Clow's memory and duty that he had to protect her, and nurture her though she had no need for it. Inwardly, he winced at the horrible mess that he had created. He was still kicking himself for simply leaving Tomoyo, but she had said nothing about that incident after the Illuminati's evening reception, a half fete, a half concert at all. When he brought it up, Tomoyo merely made a graceful half-gesture with her hand, to dismiss it out of hand completely.
He could never figure out if Adéle was in love with him or not. Sighing, he thought of all those long years in which she had waited, patiently and silently. Blinking, Eriol suddenly had a most vivid memory of Adéle and her pearls, once, when he was sixteen, speaking with him. It was already after he had broken up with Kaho. They two certainly hadn't lasted long. But this memory was so startling that every detail had been captured and held in his mind.
Eriol had just returned from a recent excursion to Amsterdam, Netherlands, and before that, Lisbon, Hungary, then before that, from Cologne, Germany. He was very tanned from Marseilles in the south of France when he had come to see Adéle. He had been only sixteen in that year, but of course, literal years meant little to him.
He remembered he had walked into the chateau unannounced and Madame Guillame, whom the servants that were only a year into their two years of service had called Madame la Guillotine. She had wrung her hands in distress that everything was not in impeccable order for the young Monsieur Eriol. She had snapped at the servants, and overreacted so badly that she had sent up an enormous cart, laden with silver dishes filled with delicate marzipan, liqueur truffles, lemon chiffon cake, petit fours, and all manner of sweets. Eriol merely laughed and told her that she had nothing to worry about.
For some reason, coming to this chateau always made him feel a bit excited, as if part of Clow's manner or habits had rubbed off on him. Eriol knew that since Clow had been excited, for a reason that Eriol himself did not remember, and now Clow had transferred that habit to him.
After the desserts, of which he took a paper thin slice of lemon chiffon cake out to the portico, he set his delicate Dresden-ware china cup, painted in delicate scrolls and swirls in gold and silver on a marble balustrade, he was thinking about why Clow had been excited to come here. He really did wonder. But it had been such a beautiful day that he looked to the gardens like Eden. No mere memory could capture such light and gold and sun in that day, one that kissed all that it touched and gilded it as if trying to cover it with gold. All manner of vegetation grew here, one that took a fortune to care for, but of course, he had that many times over. The flowers and leaves danced with the wind, then each other, then were righted again as the wind headed east and they were left to yearn evermore for the sun. He had been watching the birds swoop amongst themselves in that lifelong dance of life and momentum, when a cool breeze ruffled his hair and Adéle came to him, her little leather sandals clicking melodiously against luxurious Carrara marble and her beautiful dress the color of soap bubbles being ruffled in the wind like poetry.
It had been a pale cream dress, Eriol remembered, silk gossamer that whispered like the wind through trees. She had pearls laced through her hair that day, and yards of Chantilly lace, sewn with thousands of pearls. It was as she always was. The breeze had ruffled her ringlets, and made her eyes shimmer as the sun, or the ocean below the horizon does. Faint snatches of Bach's cello solos were carried from the columned veranda, and the sun made the red-glazed terrace sleepy with its drowsy intensity.
Adéle had given him a strange look and then seemed to steel herself. He had been quizzical. She sat in a low iron-wrought stool scattered with sumptuous silk-tasseled cushions in vibrant colors, and looked to the gardens, and the fountains who cast the water into their momentary glory, reaching for the sky, before they fell again, imprisoned from the brief freedom in the air. The thing about Adéle was her extraordinary stillness. She was almost like a French bisque bèbè doll. She was certainly as perfect as any of them might be. Then her voice sounded, but it did not intrude as any other voice might have had; her voice seemed almost part of that sleepy, sunlit, timeless afternoon. Eriol vividly remembered the bright sky and how in turn bright the world was. And of how Adéle's voice seemed to be the very voice of that sunny, sleepy afternoon. Timeless.
"I want to tell you a bit of something about me, and about Clow Reed, if it would please you." Her polite voice was in impeccably pronounced French, an aristocratic dialect that was rarely heard these days. Eriol answered her in French just as beautiful.
"No, on the contrary Madame, if it would please you, then of course." Eriol used the somewhat redundant phrase that was little used nowadays, yet he managed to pull it off without sounding pompous. Adéle only watched him for a moment, and she almost would have been a sixteenth-century French noblewoman in that beautiful silk gossamer and her pearls.
"Then I will narrate for you a story that is your own, though you will not remember it, I do not think." Eriol cocked an eyebrow. Adéle's elegant accent with its liquid dialect floated like the wind in the air, but disturbed nothing as the wind would have impertinently done.
"Will not remember, Adéle?" She nodded with a queenly gesture, and folded her little hands, sculpted by a master artisan, and began her story, as well as Clow Reed's.
"It was a long while ago, perhaps about the year 1859, and Clow had been young back then, young, yet still old, for those reasons which you must know. It was at a soirée held at the great Ludwig van Beethoven's, in Vienna, where all of the fashionable society were gathered. I of course, as his paramour, acted hostess. He was an absolutely singular, wildly fascinating man. But as I was young, I tired of him in my youthful vanity. Or perhaps we merely drifted apart, mon cher, as people are apt to do. I was quite so engaged in a petit tête-a-tête with the Baroness of Orczy, you know, the one who wrote the daring book called the Scarlet Pimpernel, yes?"
At then she had paused when Eriol offered her a cup of tea, Earl Grey, from the silver service that Madame Guillame had wheeled out. She took it with a graceful gesture, having done it every day at four o'clock for four hundred years, sipped elegantly, and continued.
"And then of course Clow Reed walked in. Everyone had quite so lost their minds after the young and dashing scholar from England. All the young ladies and filles were rather fascinated with him, that mysterious young man who could speak their tongue so well, even if he was British. They giggled quite madly, if you ask me, and he was so much the talk of everyone. So mysterious, he was. You have a question?" Eriol nodded.
"I thought you were born in 1647." Was all he said. Adéle nodded.
"Mon cher, you must remember that at the Illuminati I lived longer due to the gifts that they bestow. Do you not remember the Edicts?" Eriol nodded sourly. No wonder so many stupid immortals graced their ranks. They weren't even really immortal, chartered to live for only 200 years or so. A sub-par, mediocre breed, in Eriol's opinion.
"As I was saying, mon cher, he knew at first glance that I was a pseudo-immortal as he was, and we were quite soon quite in a conversation. Cher Ludwig was quite displeased with that, if I may tell you. And all the rest was history." Eriol found himself gaping as Adéle commented randomly on the superlative petit fours. The small cakes were delicately covered with an excellent raspberry icing and white chocolate shavings.
"Chèrie Adéle, do you mean to say that you were in love with Clow?" Eriol was aghast. How was it that he never remembered Clow being in love? How did he get randomly left out of such a delicious tidbit?
Adéle wrinkled her little nose disdainfully at the marzipan, then carefully selected a crème de menthe éclair with airy layers of crèpe. Eriol somehow refrained from asking if there was anything else about Clow's love life that he had been left out of. Adéle seemed to think that it was a trivial detail, as she was so immersed in her study of the desserts, each arranged beautifully on the center of large plates, yet the amount of food on that plate was tiny.
"Oh cher Eriol, must you be so un-egalitarian? He was also in love with me. There's no need for such belligerence. You have always known that male hubris has annoyed me." Adéle was looked at the damned cart again. She had polished off that morsel of crème de menthe éclair in a flash. Eriol felt his face go a bit purple. Good God, what else did Clow leave out of his memories? For all he knew, Clow could have been plotting to reincarnate himself another bloody time!
"Adéle, would you stop thinking about food for one moment and continue your story, please?" Eriol asked, exasperated. Adéle pointedly turned back to that stupid cart and took her time with the desserts. She was now considering the crèpe suzette. Shaking her head after she dipped a finger in her mouth laden with the clotted cream and blueberries, she was now regarding the tiramisu, soaked in cappuccino, the finest from Milan. Then she finally chose the coffee ice cream with tiramisu. Eriol was practically jumping with anticipation with the continuation with her story.
Carefully setting the silver tongs with which she had put the tiramisu and ball of ice cream onto a large plate to the saucer, Adéle ensconced herself back onto her stool and arranged a few cushions. Eriol felt his blood pressure go up another few points. Finally, she opened her mouth and continued with her story, in her unchanging French.
"In time, mon cher Ludwig passed away, and I was left to do what I pleased. Clow and I… we had a relationship. In this chateau is where we would rendezvous, and I think you still are excited to come here, because Clow was." Adéle's expression turned bitter.
"But then the Illuminati feared that Clow was getting too powerful, and revoked their immortality Edict from him and he knew that his time grew short. But at that time, our relationship had been deteriorating and I knew that it was because of his impending death, because of how so very much he was obsessed with it. Did I tell you he knew the exact moment of death? When, where, how? But he was so much more powerful than anyone had realized, if you will remember. He did not fear the end of life because he knew that it would come to him again, and to ensure that he would never be burdened with such power he chose a heir and to divide his soul, like two channels, into two souls."
Adéle's soft voice was laced with bitterness and regret. A momentary breeze ruffled long, shimmering black locks and cast a sheen to the pearls. She looked out to the gardens. Then she began to speak again.
"And I knew that he was so apart from me, that I was loosing him as irrevocably as mortals age, and die. I wouldn't have it. I knew that he still loved me, and so I decided that I would share that next life with him."
Eriol stared at her. Adéle's face was resigned, even gentle, as she continued her narrative.
"So decided that I would grant myself immortality, without edict, so that I might meet Clow again when he was reincarnated. I did not have the power to reincarnate myself, but I did have the power of granting myself immortality, forever. But it had never been tried, and of course I did not consult with Clow, and did not know the penalty of immortality. But as you can see from my present image, this is the price that I paid."
Adéle seemed as if she were only a spectator of her very own life, a life that had lasted so long, all for Clow, that it did not even seem to be her life any longer. It was great irony that such age would carry the mien of a child, the most enchanting, mesmerizing child in the world. There was the most peculiar expression on her face, one such expression that humankind has not yet assigned to an emotion nor name, that particular state of releasing regret and only remembering with a sort of defeated humor, yet a quiet and elegant acceptance.
Eriol walked out of the car and gently lifted Adéle out of it. The Louvre was so magnificent as to be horribly intimidating, yet it was a favorite of Adéle's and he took her there often. The curator himself was waiting for the "Monsieur Hiiragizawa and his darling Adéle" to come, and perhaps donate another extravagant sum for the Greek or Byzantine exhibit, perhaps. The curator had never learned what sort of relation Adéle was to Eriol, yet this one had not asked. Eriol frowned. He would have to erase the memory of this curator, too, after a while.
Monsieur Montesquieu, with hair the color of fine oak and dignified streaks of gray, wore an impeccable black three-piece suit and Italian tie. He very much had an air of scholarly dignity and exuded the knowledge of art. His refined French was a relief after hearing so many foreigners abuse it. They were ushered into a plush, luxurious room done in the Louis the Sixteenth style, and he politely informed them of the itinerary that he had prepared, and if they wanted any changes?
Tomoyo did not look impressed. The imposing articles and orifices and buttresses with their elaborate classical, baroque and Art Noveau Roccoco décor was rather dull after a while, Eriol had to agree. Monsieur Montesquieu[no relation to the better known Montesquieu], the curator, was delighted at Tomoyo, whom he called "a veritable objet d'art whom by right and grace belonged as queen goddess of the greek exhibit". And no, she was not Madame Hiiragizawa, as so many people assumed, only a close friend. Quelle domage, the curator said with a shrug, for such a belle fille was there only one in this world. Tomoyo laughed gracefully at flattery, and Monsieur Montesquieu ushered them in, ahead of lines, tickets, and even the red velvet ropes that kept the rest of the populace from breathing too closely to the art. Throngs of people, native French and tourists glared at them after they had superceded another line, yet many recognized the curator and only gave speculative glances at who had so much power as to command the attention of the curator himself.
Monsieur Montesquieu was especially gracious towards Adéle, the "brilliant jolie petite fille of art" and was such a charming girl, too. Adéle executed her curtsy, and the ever kind Monsieur Montesquieu, who repeated that he doted on Adéle, had a chocolate cheesecake brought into the museum where no food was allowed, because she was such a darling. Eriol only watched as Tomoyo smiled with a fond, motherly indulgence, proud that her Adéle commanded so much power with the grown people of the world. Perhaps they would not end up trying to destroy each other, Eriol reasoned. But females were unpredictable and sometimes made him slightly nervous. They made him twitch when they had that "don't be silly" or that "I am female and you are male, therefore you are wrong" looks. He couldn't figure them out for the life of him and remembered Clow giving up a while ago, while trying to desperately apologize to a stout matron about a comment made on her dress that she was not supposed to hear. It wasn't even Clow who said it, anyway. Women. Huh.
He and Tomoyo trailed a bit after the curator and Adéle, with the curator ordering museum guards to clear out people and red ropes in the gallery which they happened upon, one of quite excellent Monet and Renoir, and a bit of Manet. The curator spoke ceaselessly of this piece of art or another, with Adéle contributing her random little comments, which the curator beamed at and would often reply, what a brilliant little darling. Tomoyo would often give that little smile of hers, which Eriol had become uncomfortably fond of, and murmur that of course the curator was correct, and give some comments on the art herself. The curator pounced on Tomoyo, albeit in a dignified manner, and they two were in a discussion about the merits of Manet over Monet. Adéle looked contentedly at them. Then she turned to Eriol with her appealing, innocent eyes that she so used to get her way, and said,
"Hold me, Eriol." Eriol smiled fondly at her, she was quite amazing, and carried her to the next painting.
Adéle turned to regard him seriously. She was watching him as intently as she had watched Tomoyo, and seemed to reach a conclusion about something. Then she spoke.
"Eriol, I have been thinking." She said in her little voice, the one she used around others who did not know her age. Eriol looked at her inquiringly.
"What is it, chèrie Adéle?" He asked. Adéle pursed her rosebud lips, and watched him carefully.
"I have been thinking that I have lived for too long, Eriol." She rushed on before he could open his mouth.
"I want to remove my memory, and live out my life at normal pace as a normal girl. That's what I want, and that's what I want you to help me with." Eriol gave her a hard look.
"Why now, Adéle?"
"I had always wanted a normal family, and now that chèrie Tomoyo has come, I wanted her to act my mother, and you my father. This idea did not just occur to me, Eriol. Sometime during 1934, I believe, I tired of this. But then when you were reborn, I thought I had hope, but…"
Adéle trailed off with an expressive shrug. She waved a little hand in a gesture, as if saying that the rest was self-explanatory. Eriol studied her.
"So you are saying that when I was reborn you thought that you loved me but I was a poor replacement for Clow Reed?" Eriol asked bluntly. Adéle gave him a withering look.
"Belligerence, Eriol, belligerence. You and Clow as well, have managed as much of it as kings with armies at their backs. Really, Eriol."
"Are you saying that you don't love me at all?" Adéle gave a frustrated sigh.
"No, I didn't say that, it was just that I realized that you had loved me, you, not Clow, but it could never work. That is all that I am saying, Eriol." Eriol was about to protest, but Adéle shushed him with a little finger to his lips.
"Our love is ill-fated. Have you not learned over all of these years? We cannot hope to have a relationship in this straited manner, and it will not work by nature or by ourselves. Please Eriol, you must remember this."
Eriol felt the downward spiral that he was so accustomed to, when Kaho too, had broken it up with him.
"Eriol, please, did you think that this would work? It could never have been. So I am giving you something better than myself; I am giving you Tomoyo. Do not bother to deny that your feelings have grown for her, and her likewise. All you two need is a little push, and that is all. I relinquish you to her now, and bless you both. There is no need to make a scene."
Eriol heard himself give a strangled grunt. Pass him over like a discarded dress, or a package? Women! You could never tell up from down with them at all. So he might as well surrender himself to their insanity.
He shrugged expressively. Adéle gave him a look that might have nailed another man to the wall.
"Eriol." She said warningly. "You know that I loved Clow, and you are not Clow. Perhaps you are half his reincarnation, but you are not him. That is all. We have both been foolish to not realize that. I do this for your sake, as well as my own."
Eriol suddenly felt idiotic again. Of course he shouldn't expect her to love him; he was hardly the same as Clow. He had been overreacting, but not to the degree that she described. Make a scene, indeed!
"I think that you are correct, darling. How would you like to see the Renaissance exhibit?" Adéle nodded mildly, still with that look in her eyes that said she was watching him carefully to see if he would act irrational. Irrational. She still held her firm belief that men were always predisposed to being irrational. Women.
When he reached the Renaissance exhibit, he felt a degree of familiarity come over him. He adored the Renaissance, when the human intellect truly blossomed. And so many beautiful things had come of it. Gozzoli's The Procession of the Magi, Botticelli's Birth of Venus, and the epitome of the Renaissance, da Vinci's Mona Lisa. And the more beautiful works, La Pieta by Michelangelo, Primavera by Botticelli, the Virgin by da Vinci, so many beautiful triumphs of human intellect.
He thought that Tomoyo appropriately belonged in the Renaissance exhibit. Her picturesque and perfect form and face could have been the crowning achievement of Michelangelo, had he sculpted her, and her hands were the very hands of da Vinci. He could always tell that a painting was by da Vinci, by those remarkable hands, and the perfect mouth.
"Tomoyo, may I speak with you?" Eriol didn't know what had come over him, only that nothing could ever convince him to change his mind. Tomoyo did not blink at him calling her by her first name, even without the –san honorific at the end, but smiled to encourage Adéle to keep the curator company. She fell in line with him, they two trailing Adéle and the curator. Tomoyo gave a questioning look.
"Yes, Eriol?" So she was done with formalities, too.
"About last night…" he trailed off with a significant look. "I thought that we should discuss it now."
Tomoyo gave a look of annoyance, not even marring her crystalline beauty.
"Why should we do that, Eriol?" she asked mildly, her voice reverberating through marble halls, more beautiful than the delicate music of a Virginal, or even the violin of Bach. The voice of spring indeed, as the curator had proclaimed. Her large, brilliantly violet eyes settled on him, so very expressive. He for an instant wondered if he had lost his wits completely, before discarding the thought in favor of watching Tomoyo.
She was wearing a delightfully fresh little dress of a very pale lavender silk taffeta, one whose harmonious and classic lines somehow suggested the diaphanous robes of a Greek statue, as well as the statuesque beauty of perhaps a Napoleonic styled woman. The neckline was rather low, by her standards, and at this time Eriol cursed himself for knowing her standards, but did not show even a hint of cleavage, yet prominently displayed her back. It was cut just below the knees, with a slit in the back, and a stunning strand of black pearls encircled her slender swan's neck closely brought forth her unusually long neck, rising gracefully from sloping shoulders.
For the first time, Eriol realized that her effortless grace and poise, not only her beauty, caused so many to stare. There were women who were naturally beautiful, but lacked that graciousness and classic poise to accentuate that beauty, and thus the beauty was lost.
"It was really Adéle's idea, Tomoyo, but I thought that she was very clever in seeing it before either of us."
Tomoyo nodded, to prompt him into continuing as he cut off to stare at a portrait of Napoleon.
"Adéle has told me that she has tired of her immortality, and wishes to be erased of her memories, and live out her life as a normal child, in the place that she has always loved. And she has chosen a mother and a father who would understand her wishes.
Tomoyo gave him a questioning look, but he saw the confirmation in her eyes before he spoke.
"She has chosen us. And she told me that we both love each other, so there is no conflict."
"Would you marry me?" he asked softly. Large, expressive violet eyes glowed, but she turned to look at yet another painting.
"Why do you ask now, Eriol?" Her voice was hushed, quiet, but intimate. Eriol had a sudden, overpowering urge to run his fingers over that unusually tall neck, to pull the black pearls out of smoky black hair and feel the silky length through his fingers.
Eriol saw no reason to mince his words now, nor make flowery speeches about love.
"I was foolish, and I didn't realize that I loved you until I left you this morning. I was confused." Tomoyo nodded slightly. She spoke, in her still, soft voice.
"You know, I was once very small when my mother took me to a great, large park somewhere. It was such a windy day, but I laughed at the wind. Then I saw a little bird, that my mother later told me was a swallow. It was trying to fly against the wind, north, yet the wind kept on tumbling it back. Finally, it lost its strength and was blown back."
Her voice seemed to belong to the quiet, sun streaked hall, mellow and dignified in its years.
"For a long time afterwards, I had always thought that I was the swallow who wished to fly against the wind, but now I find that the wind is blowing north, like me. And now fate, the wind, has finally sent me to my journey's end."
Tomoyo turned from a Vermeer, strange geometrical shapes and wild lines.
"Hiiragizawa Eriol, I would be honored to be your wife, for now and forever." Her voice was warm, her expression radiant. It was as if some unknown light had suddenly illuminated her face intensely, but with a soft brilliance.
Up ahead, Adéle spoke with Monsieur the curator about the merits of Bramante and Raphael. Primavera had always been her favorite. And yet, there were others who rivaled it for beauty. Gracious women in flowing robes yet flew in the sky, or ran over wide, undulating plains, and statues yet kept their graceful forms, untouched still by time. The inviolable air held by great art was held still, housed in a magnificent palace meant for kings, ordained by God himself. Golden sun streamed onto works that were formed over years, the child, wife, and mother of their creators. Their footsteps echoed gently through walls of marble and glass, and for the last time, Adéle could look upon the paintings of Botticelli, and remember them being painted.