What right do I have to be alive?
The thought struck me suddenly; thoughts are seldom brought into existence any other way, unless you're extremely bored.
The thing is, thoughts generally depart just as quickly, and let you get back to your worries about whatever trifle you were caring for a second ago.
This one didn't.
What right do I have to be alive?
I am of noble birth; of the Schezar line. I'm such a stunning beauty that I can admit it to myself, I've a voice that could make mountains dance, I'm gentle and polite and everything a woman of my rank and status should be.
But what right do I have to be alive?
No more right than he does.
That thought didn't pop out of nowhere; it was sulking around behind the first, waiting to be thought. The kind that must be surface eventually, or you'll be driven insane.
I have no more right to be alive than him.
In fact, I have less right. And I can admit it to myself now. There's no reason not to believe myself; no way to deny what I know is true. Not that I could ask anyone else, if I was unsure. The servants tend to stay away from me, brother's knights have no time between the next beer and poker game to answer a girl's foolish questions. As for brother himself, I know what he'd say. "What right do you have to- hmm, that's a good question. I'm sure it would have interesting philosophies behind it. Why-" and then, with a perfectly timed realization, he'd smile and say, "Oh, Celena, I just forgot. The cook needs tomatoes for her sauce, will you go get a few from the garden?" or "Oh, Celena, I almost didn't remember! The seamstress finished your gown today, you'd better go to town and get it." Celena, Celena, Celena- why doesn't he just call me Dilandau? We both know that's what he should be saying. For a knight Caeli, he can be so weak.
It's not only what he should be saying- it's what he wants to say. Trying to convince himself that his love for battle was a love for his baby sister, that she was what he wanted the first time he fought, that as soon as she was avenged he'd hang his sword in the armory? I know that he knows the truth- he didn't do it for me, not a damn thing. He did it because he enjoyed it. Every swing of the sword, every blocked weapon, every coup de grace- he did it all because he enjoyed it- enjoyed every second of it, from drawing his blade to hearing some poor lost soul scream as his spirit left to eternity. And I know that in his heart of hearts, he wants that again, and resents me because of it- resents me for keeping him from winning, from administering that final blow to Dilandau Albatou, his one secret dream- the one I kept him from fulfilling, try as he might to convince us both otherwise. I know, and he knows that I know, but he won't say it- as though keeping it locked up as some morbid secret between us two will make it alright, will make everything fine.
Dilandau Albatou. It's true, and I'd nearly forgotten about it while lamenting brother. I truly do have no more right to be alive than him. My body and soul were born female and christened Celena Rosemary Schezar, and remained that way- a frail little blonde girl- for five years. Celena Rosemary Schezar was a pathetic little tale, really- no friends to speak of, catching any sickness that came her way, loved only by her mother- yes, only her mother. And then one day she was Dilandau Albatou.
And Dilandau Albatou was another case entirely. He was a prince among boys and a lord among men- ten years of unrestrained emotion, brutal cunning and strength, with no weaknesses and no fears. An entire nation knelt at his feet, a million people adored him, a million people longed to worship him and serve him- and as for those fifteen lucky enough to do so, life was Paradise on Gaea. Every order meant that Dilandau Albatou had spoken to them. Every speech meant that Dilandau Albatou had confided in them. If they were slapped, or punched or kicked- Dilandau Albatou had actually touched them and they had never felt so lucky.
Things began to unravel eventually, of course. All good things do. Fine china will be broken someday, old masters will be ruined. Dilandau's life was exactly like a mirror, and when the King of Fanelia put that scar on his cheek, the mirror was cracked and paradise was forever lost.
In the end- in the Zone of Absolute Fortune- when little Celena Rosemary began to come back, and Dilandau began to fade- it was a constant battle, Celena pushing, Dilandau holding her back- she'd retreat, exhausted, then come back pushing harder. Just before the body became Celena's again, and Dilandau was forever banished, there was an eye to the storm- just for a second- when they were both there, both seeing and hearing and feeling the earth around them and each other. It was pleasure and pain, ecstasy and agony, heaven and hell- and they beheld both themselves and their enemy like neither had ever hoped or feared. They didn't see each other with their vision- they saw with their hearts, they saw in a way only those who had quarreled for a soul can see each other. Dilandau saw every sleepless night Celena had spent crying for her father. Celena saw Dilandau's utter, total fear of solitude. Dilandau saw Celena's terror of her brother's wrath. Celena saw the way Dilandau truly felt about Gatti. Every dream, every fear, every desperate, primitive desire- they were all bared and unhidden, from the thoughts on the surface to the urges deep in their souls. Celena tasted expensive red wine, Dilandau felt clover blossoms in his hair- and then it was over. Frail little Celena Rosemary had won. Dilandau was banished and could never reach her again.
Her, of course, is actually me. I am Celena Rosemary Schezar. I took my body back and I'm not in the least proud of it. What right did I have to it? I had nothing when the body became Dilandau's. I had no friends, the faintest ghost of a family, any beauty I might have possessed as a child buried beneath years of sickness- why, of course, I didn't even have my health. Dilandau had it all- adoration and love and beauty and strength. When it all comes down to it, of course I had no right.
"But Celena," I know brother would probably say if I forced him to talk about the fact. "No matter how incomplete your life was, it's still your life. Dilandau was utterly evil- you know the way he acted better than anyone else does. And I'm unbelievably glad to have my sweet little sister back." And that would be that. To brother it's not who had a claim to life; it's who deserved it.
And that's a fair thing to say. I might be comforted if it weren't for one thing I found hard to admit even to myself. For actually that moment of sharing my soul with Dilandau came twice- once as I said, in the Zone of Absolute Fortune in that moment when I became Celena forevermore- and the other time when I first sought refuge in brother- when I first comforted myself with his presence as he conversed with Princes Eires and I knelt beside mother's grave. Just before Dilandau pushed his way through and reclaimed my being, there was another one of those wonderful, terrifying moments when we shared our minds and our control of the body.
I don't know if what I'm about to tell you means anything. It's made me wonder and even fear, for myself mostly; but it may symbolize very little to you. You may laugh it off as the fears of a girl unsure of her destiny, or you may be as horrified as I was. I will tell you my guilty secret, and let you make of it what you wish...
As I knelt there, sharing myself with Dilandau and our hearts separate yet somehow unified for the moment before he took over...
Dilandau was the one who smiled...
But I was the one who crushed the butterfly.