The Painting
By: Manna



xOx…

Long ago, there was a man named Renier. He had five children, and he was saddened that he had no son. When his wife became pregnant with a sixth baby, he hoped and prayed to God for a boy, but to his great disappointment, a sixth baby girl was presented to him.

He could tell just by looking at her that she was beautiful, and would grow up to be a lovely woman. But his wife's health wasn't good, and he knew that he would not have any more children, so he gave his daughter a boy's name. Oscar, he thought, meant God and sword, and with God's blessing, she would grow up to become a military genius like himself. She—or rather, he, now—would do him proud!

Oscar grew, and General Renier de Jarjayes heard that Oscar's nanny's daughter and son-in-law had died. It was very tragic, everyone gossiped, because they had left their young son all alone in the world.

Oscar, despite all his efforts, acted too feminine to pass for a boy, and even separating her from her sisters did no good. So he invited this orphaned grandson to live with him. André, as the lad was called, was given a job in exchange for a roof over his head and food to eat.

Oscar.

The blonde-haired, energetic daughter of Monsieur de Jarjayes was little 8-year-old André's job. He had to watch over her, protect her, keep her out of trouble, get to know her, and then, when she became a stoic, perfect general like her father, he would know how to deal with her better than anyone, and could report back any problems, any changes, to Renier.

Some thought that the good general was too harsh on his daughter-turned-son. He beat her far too severely for things she had done wrong, he scolded and reprimanded and expected too much out of her. She was only a girl deep down, they would say amongst themselves. She had the heart and spirit and body of a woman!

But, the man thought as he watched his daughter grow, she didn't have the spirit of a woman at all. Certainly she had the body of a woman, though she was not well-endowed and could hide it easily beneath her officer's uniform, and her heart, though hidden deep within herself, was most likely one that felt feminine things, her spirit, wild and free and unrestrained, was that of a man.

Some would disagree with him, and others would shrug and go on their merry way. But it didn't matter if she was a boy or a girl any longer. His child made him proud. She put her life on the line for her duty, and she always thought before she made a difficult decision.

She tried very hard.

And André, the little servant boy, had grown into a fine man, always by Oscar's side, never leaving her. He never married, never courted, rarely asked for time off…and he protected her valiantly. Things were as perfect as they could be.

He noticed her weakening state, but he chose not to speak about it to her. She always seemed so sad, so distant. Guilt started to gnaw at him. Perhaps raising her as a boy was not the best decision he had ever made. So he gave her a choice; he would allow her to become a woman again by marriage. Surprisingly, many men wanted to get to know the woman who dressed and acted like a man, but Oscar would have no part of it.

And for the first time, he asked her about it instead of asking André.

She wanted to live stronger, she said. And because of how she was raised, she could heal her broken heart by doing just that. By becoming more of a man, by taking on a harder job, by not flinching no matter how much trouble she faced.

Renier felt terrible. If her heart had been broken as a woman, he told her, then shouldn't it be made whole again, too? But she would not listen, merely thanking him for the decision he had made shortly after her birth.

Quickly, her health deteriorated, but his love for her only grew. Even when she betrayed the royal family, he could not help but love her. Even as he held his sword to her throat, he couldn't help but love her. She hardly flinched at his action, and he wondered if he had raised her too well.

And André… Ah, that brave man. He protected Oscar, even from her own father. Oh, what had he done, he wondered, when he brought that orphaned boy to set a masculine example for Oscar?

His daughter commissioned a portrait to be painted of her, and Renier was surprised by her decision. It was rare that she would be willing to sit still for a painting, and it had been many years since the last one had been finished.

The portrait was beautiful; the blonde-haired child in the painting looked exactly like Oscar had when she was younger, when she was still sweet and innocent and didn't know the horrors of the world.

The days flew by, and Oscar's regiment was ordered to prepare for the upcoming Revolution. He never got to tell her that he loved her before she and André—always by her side—left, but he hoped that she knew.

No… He knew that she knew.

He spent much of the day of her departure standing in front of the portrait with his arm around his wife, wondering what the future could possibly hold.

Two days later, he met a man and a woman at his door. They brought with them the terrible news of not only André's death, but of the death of his own daughter.

Devastated, he stared at the painting. She had lived a good, fulfilling life, hadn't she? Of course she had! Years passed, and soon he was all alone. The painting of his daughter started to fade and collect dust, but he didn't have the heart to wipe it away. Whenever he walked by the room with the painting in it, he would gaze upon it and feel comforted, knowing that some day he would join her and his wife again. The dust was a testament to the time they had spent apart; the more dust there was, the less time he knew he had to be alone. Life on earth was, after all, only a short break between birth and death.

Soon, his time came, and he welcomed a newer, better life with open arms. He had no heir, his remaining children did not even reside in France any longer, and so, according to his will, his estate and all of the things within were to be auctioned off.

Men came from all over France, excited at the prospect of bidding on expensive jewelry and vases and statues for very little money.

The day of the auction arrived, and a young man stood up in front of the crowd. "First," he said, pointing to a cloth-covered frame, "is a painting painted of Monsieur de Jarjayes youngest son." He pulled the cloth off of the painting, and the dust-encrusted picture was presented to the men and women.

The people stared in astonishment. What a dirty picture! And did no one know the name of the artist? Who cared about this youngest son? Not they! They wanted to see diamonds and rubies and valuable statues! So when the bidding began, nobody spoke up.

Finally, after a long time, a blonde man stood. One of his arms hung limply at his side, but his other was in the air. "I knew this…son," he said. "And I know how much his father loved him. So I'll start the bidding."

This man's offering price was low, but because no one else bid, the painting went to him. He smiled sadly, and wiped at a few tears that collected in the corners of his eyes, disappointed that nobody bothered to care about the very first, very important item on the auction block. Initially, he wasn't going to bid on it, hoping instead for a picture of better quality, but there was something about it that drew him, and he knew that he just had to have it. He could get it restored, perhaps, or just keep it to gaze upon fondly in remembrance of times long past.

People stared at him as he walked to the makeshift stage to remove the painting; they noticed his choppy hair, his freckles and his pale blue eyes. He was probably a soldier of war, they whispered, and perhaps he had known this son because of the father. Everyone knew that Renier had been a general in the French military.

The young man handed the painting to the highest bidder and smiled. "That's all, everyone. Thank you for coming."

"What?" the people asked, outraged. Some had driven long distances, had paid to stay overnight in a nearby inn…and that was all? One painting? What about the jewelry that had belonged to his wife, his collection of swords and guns? The expensive rugs, tapestries, furniture?

"In Monsieur de Jarjayes will," the man began, turning to face the angry crowd. "It was stated that this painting would go up first, because whoever loved and accepted the son as the father did… would get everything."


xOx…

Author Notes:

Not only was this pointless, but it was full of symbolism. See if you can spot it all!

The man who bought the painting, by the way, was Oscar's French Guard François! I'm not sure if he died in the manga or not, but he was shot in the shoulder… His limp arm is therefore the one belonging to the shoulder that was shot (and rendered useless). But it's just a personal opinion of mine. I really liked the man and wanted to keep him alive.

Thank you for reading! Feedback is much appreciated!