Disclaimer : I do NOT own the manga but I DO own this story...
Summary: How will Hiromi comfort such a low-spirited Lili?
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The Moon shone brightly. The news about Ayumu's death had spread to the whole city, and it seemed that it was the work of Canopus again, a group of assassins that had been terrorizing and killing every place they set their feet upon.
Ayumu, and many others, had been sent to Spica, a nearby prosper city where merchants from every corner of the world came to trade. Spica was badly attacked that its lord could not bring it back to its original state by himself. As the capital of Lyra, Sirius could not just stand and watch. The King needed to act, sending Ayumu and many others, pharmacists and fighters, to Spica's aid. But no one knew that someone was waiting for them there.
Hiromi was opening the library's door. He looked around, his torch held high, but Lili was nowhere to be seen. He sighed as he closed the door again. He had been searching for her for hours. He had checked Lili's room, the dining room, the kitchen, the throne room, the gardens, the courtyard, everywhere, even the library. He hesitated at first upon opening the library's door. The library was Lili's least favorite room, and his heart was already telling him that she's not there, but who knows?
Hiromi was worried about her. Since the guards escorted them back into the palace, Lili had fled away into the courtyard, practicing her sword fighting skill on her own. Her eyes were still red and filled with tears, her expression was filled with rage, and she hit everything with her sword. Lili fell on her knees, with hands gripping the sword's hilt, and she cried and yelled. Hiromi wanted to go to her and comfort her, but he guessed that the princess needed some time alone.
"What are you doing at this hour, Hiromi-kun?"
Hiromi turned to see a guard addressing him. "Umm… have you seen the princess, by any chance?" he asked the guard. "I can't seem to find her anywhere."
"The princess?" the guard said. "I'm sorry; I haven't seen her since this morning."
"Oh, well, OK then, thanks," said Hiromi. His shoulders slumped down in disappointment and he continued walking along the corridor.
"Have you looked there?" the guard called to him. "The place the princess always goes to when she's down," added the guard, answering Hiromi's puzzled look.
That idea struck him like a bolt of lightning struck the ground on the dark rainy night. How could he not think of that? It was the most obvious place to look for the princess. After thanking the guard, Hiromi ran along corridor. After many detours, he finally reached the princess' bedroom.
There Hiromi walked toward princess' bed. He crouched down beside the bedside table and pushed his hand against the wall. Immediately the wall he touched slid open, revealing a dark, big-enough room with a spiral staircase.
Hiromi entered it and the wall slid closed. He held his torch high as he scrambled to his feet and climbed the spiral stone staircase. Right at the top was a wooden door and beyond it was the roof where Lili was lying on her back, staring up to the star-strewn sky, with several small humans, the astral spirits, floating above her. The astral spirits were talking, saying encouraging words to the silent princess.
"Princess?" Hiromi called her.
Lili glanced at Hiromi briefly before staring back at the starry sky. "It took you long enough," were the only words she uttered. Her voice wasn't cold, but it had no warmth. It was empty. Hiromi was worried as several of the astral spirits floated to him: Aries, the spirit of Aries; Antares, the spirit of Scorpio; Praesepe, the spirit of Cancer.
"How's she doing?" Hiromi murmured to the Astral Spirits.
"Not well," answered Praesepe. "She hasn't said a word since she summoned us. We've done everything we can, and she still won't say or at least do anything."
"I know we've been fighting a lot, but she's still my master and it's just not right to see her so crushed and empty like that," said Antares.
"We'll … we'll crush them for sure," said Aries, her eyes burned with determination. "We'll crush those guys who made Lili like that."
"Yeah, we'll go tonight to their hiding place. They won't know what awaits them there," said Antares, joining Aries' plan. She flew to Aries' side and they began talking in low murmurs. Malicious grins spread across their faces and they were already drawn in a conclusion when Hiromi said, "No way you'll do that!"
"What?" said Aries, facing Hiromi with her still-fiery eyes. "You want us to just leave her like that?"
"Why did she summon you?" Hiromi asked the two of them. "It's because she wanted some company. The news struck us unexpectedly and the Princess got it bad since she was so close with Ayumu-san. I want you guys to stay beside her, to comfort her, not searching for some unknown group. Besides do you even know where they are now, or even what they look like?"
Antares and Aries fell silent, but with a pout on their faces. "You can do something, can't you, Hiromi?" asked Praesepe. "After all, you're her best friend, aren't you? Maybe she'll talk to you."
That question caught him off guard that he didn't know what to say. If the Astral Spirits couldn't cheer her up, how could he? Before he knew it, he had agreed with Praesepe and was walking to where Lili was. He lay down beside her. They were silent for moments.
"You know, there's nothing you can do if you're like this," Hiromi said, breaking the long silence. Hiromi heard Lili grunt and he went on, "Being like this you'll only hurt yourself. Say something!"
As the silence stretched on, Hiromi watched the sky. He realized why Lili loved that place. From there they could see the clear sky. Looking into the endless sky made him feel as if he were flying in that star-blotched sky. It could really make him relax.
"I've told her not to go," Lili said several moments later. "But she wouldn't listen to me, and now look at what it brought her to."
"She couldn't really disobey the King's orders just because of you, could she, Princess?"
"You're not being helpful!" Lili said, frowning.
"I'm sorry. What I meant was would you leave those people injured?" Hiromi said.
Lili fell silent. "Hey, can you spot Sirius?" she asked, several moments later.
Hiromi searched the sky. Then he found it: the brightest star in the night sky, near Orion's Belt. He pointed it with his finger and said, "There! Sirius," – he laid his hand back on his stomach – "the brightest star," he added in a murmur.
"The brightest star," Lili repeated. "Do you know why this city is called Sirius?" she asked Hiromi. "It's because our founders wanted us to shine brighter than any other. They wanted us be the brightest star there ever was: prosperous, wise, generous, strong, intelligent. We've worked hard to achieve that goal, and I think that we have.
"I get your point. She couldn't have disobeyed Father. It's her duty, everyone's duty, to obey him. You're right. She couldn't possibly leave those people to die out there, with their city in a mess. I've always wanted to be of some good to this kingdom, but I never knew how. That's why, from this day on, I want to be stronger, for this kingdom, for Father and Mother, for Ayumu-san, and for you. When the day comes, I will be strong enough to face them and I will avenge her death."
Lili stood up. The moon shone down upon her, showering her with cold silver light. If wings sprouted from Lili's back, Lili would look like an angel sent down by the heavens. Her face looked straight at the sky with a strong gaze that it seemed nothing can waver it.
Another fragment of wing sprouted in Hiromi's heart. A feeling he had not known grew and he felt the urge to protect her as she grew stronger. He could not leave her alone now. Who knows what troubles she would get herself into if no one watched over her?
Hiromi stood beside her. Grinning, he followed her gaze. It led him to Sirius. It was small, yet it was the brightest star and it could give Lili the encouragement she needed. He wondered if Sirius would always be there beside them.
"Come on, then," said Hiromi. "It's already late."
Hiromi was already heading for the wooden door when something unexpected happened. Lili took his wrist as she murmured to his ear, "Thanks, you're a true friend."
"What – Princess?" he said, turning around. He blushed as he saw Lili smiling at him. "Come on, let' go!" the princess said, taking Hiromi's wrist, leading him to the wooden door and down the spiral staircase.
To Be Continued
Hope you've enjoyed reading this chapter
Coming up in Chapter 3
Title: Duty Calls
Summary: They've got back to their old lives and Hiromi's found himself a rival
What plan does the king have in store for them?