There Are Only Ashes Here
Chapter One

'Existing'


In a near-empty space made of fragmented worlds, sparkling lights and shooting stars, Clair Vaux Bernardus drifts.

She supposes she should feel lonely. That seems only logical; after all, wasn't Shannon distraught when Battler never returned? Loneliness, like being lovesick, is a poison that plagues humans.

But Clair has never felt lonely.

She doubts she knows how.

Clair isn't a person, after all. She's not given the luxury of emotion.

To that servant girl- the clumsy one, who kept losing her keys in strange places because she couldn't pull herself out of her daydreams - Clair was little more than imaginary friend.

To the younger servants on Rokkenjima Clair was the phantom of the witch dressed in white, attired in an elegant dress with pearls in her hair, who wandered the corridors at night, opening windows so the cold air would rush in, biting through flesh and bone.

To the older servants Clair was nothing more than a tool; a device used (an old story, starting with wolves and ending with witches- wolves don't live on Rokkenjima, but how do you disprove an illusion?) to keep the younger servants and the Ushiromiya children out of the forest.

There are no witches in the forest.

There are other dangers, though; real, more tangible dangers, such as stinging nettles, poisonous ivy, or slipping off a sheer rock face into the churning cauldron of waves and rocks below.

There is no need for witches when the world is already saturated with dangers and potential deaths- and, in any case, humans can do the most terrible things when pushed into it.

Sometimes, they don't need to be pushed at all.

To everybody else in the world, Clair is nothing.

Clair isn't the spectral figure of a witch whose presence sends chills up and down the spine, because anybody with half a gram of common sense knows witches don't exist. The only 'real' witches in the world are latent desires that lurk in the hearts of humans.

Clair is nothing more than a doll; a missing piece from a chess board who has already been taken.

She was never given a chance to play in that girl's carefully orchestrated mystery novel to begin with.

Clair was created by that lonely, pitiable child. The child who, at first, wanted a friend.

And then that child wanted power.

But, finally, that child came to desire the one thing most humans search for their entire lives.

They wanted love.

Those feelings of love were too vast, too crippling, too painful for that child though, weren't they? Shannon waited on her island for years and years, like a princess in a castle guarded by thorns, for her fairytale prince to arrive on his white horse- because he promised, didn't he? In fairytales people always keep their promises and the good little princess who waits and waits and waits always gets her happy ending.

Isn't that how all the stories go?

But life isn't a story, and it didn't work that way.

The prince never came to rescue the princess.

All of Shannon's hopeful dreams, wistful imaginings and love, love, love- love so deep it twisted the heart and warped the mind and made that child cry into her pillow every night because it wasn't beautiful, it wasn't even tragic, it was just pathetic- was crushed underfoot, like a delicate flower.

It bloomed, and then it withered- but it never died.

Instead, that child tore out her feelings- pulled them from her chest with her fingernails, scratching at flesh and emotion until sores opened up and she bled pain and tears and bright red crimson- and forced them into the heart of somebody else.

That child made an illusion of a witch with a heart that pumped dust take her years upon years of piled-up hopes and dreams and misery and love- so much love- in her place.

But Clair had never been in love before.

She was a witch.

She wasn't designed to love.

Clair had been born from a small child's desire to be powerful; to be feared, and revered, and respected. That child had been so small, and sad, and pitiable; always losing her keys, always being scolded by the older maids. It was only natural she wanted to place herself on a pedestal- to try and become one of the witches or demons from old folklore, because then nobody would scold her losing her keys anymore.

That was Clair.

Clair was the person that clumsy servant girl had wanted to be. Clair was the image of perfection; her white dress pristine, as it floated eerily through the corridors like a shroud. Her hair was white, too, and laced with pearls so it shone with a ghostly aura under dim lighting. And yet, despite her elegance- her movements as graceful as falling snowflakes- Clair had been able to inspire terror in others, with her demonic laugh and eyes so intensely blue they burnt like the innermost flame in a burning blaze.

That had been Clair.

Except- no, it hadn't. Not really.

That had been Beatrice.

And that child hadn't been content with her grandiose ideas of witchcraft and magic and hiding poor Asune's keys for very long.

Because Ushiromiya Battler arrived.

And, all of a sudden, childish make-believe and delusions of power weren't enough anymore.

Witches weren't enough.

Beatrice wasn't enough.

So that child disposed of the old Beatrice- the ghostly Beatrice in white with pearls in her hair- and fashioned a new facet of her personality to be the living container for the madness and pain and misery that was love.

The new Beatrice looked nothing like Clair. She was made to match Battler's desires; the Western look, the blonde hair, and the curvy figure. In comparison, Clair was too thin, too waifish- far too ethereal, with skin so papery-white her blue veins could be seen with alarming clarity.

And Clair- whose heart could not contain the maelstrom of emotion that was 'love'- was tossed aside, like an unwanted doll in her pristine dress with the pearls in her hair and the dust in her veins.

Clair was no longer Beatrice, the witch of the forest.

And, to that end, she never had been.

She was just a small child's delusion.

An imaginary friend.

An imaginary friend that child had grown out of her.

Clair couldn't speak unless that child gave her words.

Clair couldn't think unless that child gave her thoughts.

And yet, even so, Clair continued to exist.

Saying no words.

Thinking no thoughts.

Her heart pumping dust.

But existing, all the same.

Clair was sure (or as sure as she could be, with her stiff dolls' limbs covered in dust and her heart that ceased to beat) that, if she did have the luxury of emotion- as she had possessed once before, whilst she had been Beatrice- then she would have hated that child.

She would have hated the new, blonde, beautiful Beatrice.

And, above all, she would have hated Ushiromiya Battler.

That child cut open her heart and spilt all her pain- all her grief- into Clair. And Clair could have taken all that, and more, because she was that child's Pandora's box. Clair's body was filled with pride, her blood circulating arrogance, and she existed to be powerful. She was the strong, confident witch that child aspired to be; and was, perhaps, the side of her personality that child was afraid of.

Clair was the personification of that child's darker feelings; the feelings she wanted to distance from herself.

So Clair could have accepted the pain, and she could have accepted the grief. They were just two more secrets to be pushed into her carcass; just two more things to hide.

But, with that pain and grief, there came something else.

Love.

So much love.

That child had been so filled with love it was spilling out her veins, running from her mouth- washing down the drain.

And Clair simply couldn't fit that much love inside her.

Clair was a strong, proud witch.

Clair hadn't been made to love.

It was that love that had killed her.

There had been a blinding flash of white- a moment of pain, pain such as Clair had never experienced before, as though her ribs were been torn apart (something was trying to get at her insides, she was going to bleed to death all over her lovely white dress)- and then the cold, hard, uncaring fingers of an unrequited love spanning four long, long years took hold of her heart.

That love took hold of her heart and crushed it.

Clair collapsed, like a marionette with cut strings.

And now Clair was trapped. Trapped in this strange, lonely plain of fragmented worlds and shooting stars, still wearing that lily-white dress with peals in her hair.

But that child never called upon her again.

A new Beatrice took Clair's blue, blue eyes, and Clair's old demonic allies, and Clair's place in that child's heart.

A new Beatrice took that child's love.

And Clair was left to...

Exist.

Endlessly.

Forever.

Once upon a time, that child had needed her.

Now, Clair was nothing more than a dusty old doll, not even given the dignity of a proper burial. She had not been placed into a coffin, eaten up by the earth; instead, she'd been eaten by a storm of love so raw and acute it tore her flesh, and then thrown onto the floor when she couldn't cram any more of those feelings inside her ruptured heart.

Clair's limbs were still, and her eyes were unblinking, and her heart remained still- frozen- inside the empty cavity of her ribs.

Forgotten.

That beautiful white dress and the pearls, that were to signify her status as a witch- the ruler of Rokkenjima's night- were now nothing more than her funeral clothes.

And, as the years passed by, Clair Vaux Bernadus- that clumsy maid's imaginary friend, whose existence had only ever been as tentative as a candle's flame in a howling gale- realised something.

She was going to die alone.

She wouldn't scream, because she couldn't, and she wasn't going to be afraid, because she couldn't remember how.

So, maybe, it didn't matter whether she lived or died at all; because nobody cared.

Not that child.

Certainly not Battler.

...Not even herself.


a/n: I love Clair. A lot. She's so lovely and miserable :D I'm not actually sure if this is completely canon compliant, though :/ I mean, the rest of the fic won't be (Battler/Clair ftw), but I'm a little iffy over what happens to Clair when she was acting as Beatrice, and accepted Shannon's love. She might just have become Beatrice, but I decided to make Clair and Beato two different facets of Yasu's personality here instead. I hope this doesn't cause any issues? ;A;

This'll only have like four chapters, btw, and I'll get thru em pretty quick XD

renahhchen xoxo