There was a chill in the air, which was to be expected considering the typical atmosphere of Flanoir. Emil shuddered and held his arms more closely to his chest to retain the little bit of body heat he had generated. He also had a feeling that it was not only the weather that was causing him to shiver, but general discomfort caused by the unusual circumstances that he had gotten himself into. It had started off as an innocent enough task; go down to the lakebed and investigate the odd noises. He knew then that he really shouldn't have gone down, but he felt inexplicably drawn by the haunting call of the monster, as if it was somehow his destiny to follow it's beckoning howls. He didn't regret his decision, he had grown up because of it, but he still had to take a time out every once in a while to clear his head and figure out how he had gotten here.
He recognized the voice instantly, and turned to meet the gaze of the beautiful young woman who had walked alongside him and guided him down this path for so long now.
"Oh. Hey, Marta."
"Why are you still up?"
"I just needed time to think about things, you know? So much has happened lately. Half the time I feel… lost."
There were a few moments of silence before Emil looked up at Marta. She looked disheartened-no, downright depressed. She was gazing absentmindedly as the blanket of snow beneath them and shuffling her feet, creating a miniature snow angel.
"M-Marta? What's wrong? Are you… crying?"
"No. I'm fine, Emil. I'm just sorry you had to get caught up in all of this. I mean, it's my problem and I just dragged you along thinking that you could make everything better just because I liked you. You didn't ask for any of this, and I never really considered what you were thinking. I just set these ridiculous standards for you and I wasn't willing to see you for who you are. I'm sorry, Emil."
He winced as he saw a tear slink down her cheek, shimmering by the light of the half-moon. Without thinking he reached out and tenderly brushed it from her chin before it had a chance to fall. She looked up, her vivid blue eyes sparkling, looking sad and forlorn, but as full of hope as they were with regret. Realizing what he had done, he abruptly pulled his hand back and shoved it into his pocket, turning sheepishly to the side.
Emil directed his gaze back to the frosty night sky, starting up at the stars and the swirling snowflakes as he spoke, partially because it really was beautiful, but mostly because he didn't want to see the pain on Marta's face.
"It's okay. I'm glad you chose me to be your knight. Without you, I probably still would've been alone. It's been difficult, but I think it's the best thing I've ever done. "
"Who knows? I mean, you don't have the best memory," Marta said jokingly.
"Oh no. Emil! I didn't mean it like that!"
"No, it's okay. I'm not mad or anything. I just… I wonder why everything seems so hazy, you know, from before I met you and Tenebrae. I feel like I don't know who I am sometimes. And, I don't know, it just feels like it's getting worse. I don't even remember half of the things I've been doing lately. And I know it's always stuff that's happened while I'm in Ratatosk mode, but that doesn't explain why I can't remember things from before I had even made a pact."
"Well, I feel like we're getting closer to finding an answer. I mean, it's hard to know what's really going on right now, with anyone, but I do know we can figure all of this out together."
Emil glanced back down at his confidant who was smiling. She looked overly optimistic and he could see that she was just as worried as he was underneath her perfectly manicured expression, but it was one of the qualities he liked about her; she always tried to greet tragedy with a smile. He smiled back sheepishly, an automatic reaction. He noticed a slight change in her face as the smile became more relaxed, more genuine.
"Yeah. We'll get through this. Do you think it'll get better once we wake up Ratatosk?"
"I hope so."
"I know Richter is supposed to be bad and everyth-
"Supposed to be bad? He's trying to kill me…"
"Yeah. But there's just something about him. I don't know. I just feel like he's not really a bad guy. I want to trust him. There are so many times that he could have killed us, where he could've gone after you, and he didn't. There has to be a reason for that, you know? Even if he is part of the Vanguard, I think there's gotta be a good reason for everything."