The church and the cemetery behind it were completely deserted. It was a cool day, and several gray clouds hung over this particular region of the Planet of Endless Illusion. But there was no rain, which was good news for the two people passing through the tombstones, the only two visitors the dearly departed had.
One was taller than the other. With one hand he adjusted his hat; with the other he clutched a large bouquet of red roses. His companion also had flowers – pink and peach roses, to be exact. Their steps were muffled by the grass, and a slight breeze came and went, failing to blow away anyone's hat or mess up anyone's hair.
All the roses were laid before a single grave, and they joined a cracked portrait of a woman with long brown hair, a gentle smile and a clipboard, not to mention some wilted forget-me-nots, which were cleared.
And then the two of them stood in silence, remembering the person who lay six feet below them in a peaceful, perpetual slumber.
It was the day the wedding turned into a funeral.
Instead of a minister, a murderer awaited the couple's march down the aisle. The blushing bride was reduced to a bloodstained bride before ultimately becoming a cold corpse. The fresh blossoms used to decorate the church were laid before her dead body. The guests' excited smiles were reduced to tears and cries of despair. No bouquets would be thrown, no cake would be eaten, no rings would be worn…
But one thing didn't change.
The groom, saved through the reconstruction of his battered body, still pledged his love and said his vows – his vows of revenge. And after his beloved was buried, he went on his way, and would not return until the dark deed was done.
The wind blew past again, taking a handful of petals with it. The lady looked up from the grave, watching them spiraling and tumbling through the air before they were whisked away from sight. She glanced sideways at the man with her, who was obviously deep in grim reminiscence, his head bowed and his eyes nearly shut. But he never took off his hat.
She wanted to speak, but decided against it…for now. She knew that this was not just an answer to a question she had asked; it was also important for him. After all, it had been more than three years since the last time he had visited her.
It was only when he finally raised his head that she spoke.
"Helena," he whispered, staring skyward. "I did it…you can rest in peace, because I chopped that bastard in half, just like I promised."
The young woman was mildly surprised to see his lips curl into a faint smile that actually lingered for more than a second. Silence reigned once again, until she broke it.
"I remember when you first told me about Helena, about how she was really kind, and smart, and beautiful. I wish I got to meet her…if only…"
"The dead can never be brought back to life."
"I know. I really wish…I could have seen her…and if she were alive, you two would be living together happily." She sighed, not adding that she would have never met Van if Helena had lived.
"At least I avenged her death," said Van, noticing her thoughtful and somewhat downcast expression.
She nodded. "Van…do you think Helena would have wanted to meet me too?"
"When I first saw her, I was a tramp living by his wits on the outskirts of town, getting in trouble and causing trouble. And yet, she reached out…and gave me her hand. Like this." He gave her his hand to hold. "If she could love a man like I used to be, she would have definitely wanted to get to know you, Wendy. You two would get along."
Wendy beamed, clutching his hand tightly. But just as quickly as she had taken it, she pulled hers away, the smile wiped from her face.
"What would she say if she knew that we were…we were...you know." Looking away, she blinked back impending tears. "Don't you think that…taking me here would be like…an insult to her memory?"
Van knew exactly what she meant, and for a while, he had no answer. He scratched his head – the top of his hat, actually – before saying, "On that day, Helena and I were supposed to get married. I thought of nothing but the new life we would be living together, how happy we both were, and how we had waited for that moment. Then that idiot Claw had to show up and kill her." Here, he paused, his hands balling into trembling fists.
Before his companion could make a move, however, he continued. "Then everything changed. She and Gadved made me Dann's pilot. But she died shortly after. I buried her with my own hands and vowed to avenge her death..."
"Which you did," Wendy couldn't help interrupting.
"Which I did," he agreed. "I will never forget Helena. She was – and still is – a very important person to me. She showed me that there are good people in this world. But nothing, not even finally killing that Claw, can change the fact that she's dead. And…I think that she would have wanted me to never forget that not everyone here is stupid and pathetic."
"And do you think I'm stupid, or pathetic, or both?"
He looked as though he was trying not to laugh. "If you were, then why would you be here right now?"
At this, Wendy actually laughed, and her fingers intertwined with his again. But Van still had something to say as he dug his hands into his pockets.
"Just…don't think that you have to be exactly like Helena. You remind me of her especially when you wear your hair down like that, but you're both also really different. I loved Helena – and I still do – because of who she was. And…well…"
She didn't wait for him to finish, opened her arms, and embraced him, her face in his chest. At first, Van was taken aback by this sudden display of affection, but he decided to return the favor, one arm around her shoulders and his other hand in her hair.
Wendy had instantly figured out the point he was trying to make.
A/N: Fun fact for you all – while writing this (especially those last few extra-cheesy bits), I listened to Innocent Days by Kuroishi Hitomi (from the Code Geass OST) over and over again. It helped. A lot. I think the tune (and the title) sort of fit the theme of this chapter. Ah, the things you think of when your Internet connection is being stupid.
Excuse me while I go hit myself for writing something so freaking mushy. Even if it IS in-character for me.
EDIT: Oops, the format got a bit screwed there. hits self again