Hearts and Spades
"Life is Like a Boat."
I am a Heart.
I am the Heart that has rowed many Suits to the other side for two hundred years.
And now, I have another customer today.
He steps on the boat, precariously and yet pompously as his feet touch the hard wood. He sits with a dignified air and a wide smile, yet there was a tinge of weariness in his features. It was the same expression my customers have when they go to the next shoreline.
His right and slightly drooping eye tells me he's a Spade.
"Can I take a ride, little gondolier?" He asks sweetly, which all I know hid nothing but disgust due perhaps to my appearance. I have sent many customers Out There who have the same fake smiles as his.
In answer, I simply let my pole push past the soft river bed. The boat then washes itself at the mercy of the weak current.
Off I go again.
Off again, to the other side- as I have done for two centuries.
"Nufufufu~" He chuckles darkly as he looks to his right and sees the tall reeds that surrounded us from Out Here, then to his left to see the dying sun pastel the sky in light purples. "This is all too much a quiet world. It's making me nod off to sleep already."
I do not answer as I continue letting my pole touch the riverbed and my boat to sail on.
"Different... outside the river... the world is all too different..."
I have heard it before. Almost all the Suits I have rowed to the other side tell me of a darker and more violent place far from Out Here.
A place, ravaged by war, prompting many to go to me and lead them Out There.
"What kind of place is it Out There?" He asks me, a question asked by the many people whom I have rowed to.
"I... have never set foot on it." I admit, the only answer I could give to all of them.
"Hmm... Why?" He asks, still looking up at the sky. "Haven't you sailed many Suits to the other side?"
"I am a Heart," I answer flatly, looking on ahead. "Hearts cannot cross the other side."
"A Heart?" He looks at me, and I see evil dancing in his eyes. "Nufu~ Aren't Hearts rare?"
I look at him, and crack a small smile. Perhaps this is the first time he has seen a Heart.
"I... am the only one left Out Here."
He looks at me beadily. I know what he's thinking. Perhaps he knows why I am the only one.
He stands up, and before I could do anything, he stabs me in the chest.
His spear managed to breathe far past my back.
He looks at me, smiling still.
In one quick motion, he pulls his weapon out.
The boat rocked in those ten seconds.
"Nufufufufu~ So what they say about Hearts is true." He grins, taking his seat again as if nothing happened. His blood-stained spear disappears. "Does it hurt by any chance, my little gondolier?"
I could only look at him; the blood in my mouth ceases to flow. The hole where his spear was earlier is slowly invaded by flesh. My breathing then becomes more stable.
"Even if my healing rate is higher than yours... I can still feel pain." I answer, controlling the boat back at its original direction.
"I see. I see." He continues to look at me intently, stinging me to no end. Almost all of my customers have the same gaze as him. "Then it is okay if I decapitate you or drown you? What if I burn you? Cut you up? Bathe you in boiling oil or perhaps hand you the most potent poison? Can you still regenerate after multiple assaults?"
"I am a Heart after all." I answer. "I cannot die that easily."
He continues to look at me with that phony smile. "Fufu... then how can you?"
I look at him stonily and inch from him. "A Heart keeps her secrets, much more if they're conversing with a Spade."
"Then perhaps we should get acquainted then. They call me Daemon. Yours, little gondolier?"
"I... don't give names to Spades."
I could see rage playing back and forth within those eyes of his. Instead of stabbing me again, he forces a simper.
"I don't give names to the Suits who hunt Hearts down." I continue, still not looking at him. We are now halfway through. Just a little more, and we will reach the shore and he'll be out of my boat once and for all.
"You are sharp, for a Heart-in-hiding." He smirks.
I row faster, intent of ridding him.
"I am sharp enough not to give my name to a coward like you, 1st Division General." I also add bluntly the moment I see his name inside my sea of memoirs.
His eyes grow wide for a moment and he brings his full attention at me.
"They told me- your comrades- about you. I never thought... that a Suit like you can sway them all." I face him also, trying to sound defiant, even though I am a little afraid. They tell me of a kind, patient person; not a scum like this man.
"But of course. Nufufu~" He sneers and before I can do anything, he grabs the pole and throws it aside before pinning me down, his eyes glinting. "I am, after all Daemon Spade." I try to struggle but he easily raises my arms and feet using his own. With that, he uses small knives to continue holding me down as he unbuttons my coat. "And I- fufufu~ often get what I want." He breathes hard against my face as I stare at him blankly.
He stares back. My coat unzips.
"Do it." I challenge.
He looks at me dumbly. The shirt is halfway done.
"You do not care, even if I take your purity away?" He leers, but his eyes reflect astonishment.
"Many have assaulted me in this boat. I will not fight back at you." I assure, helping him take off my jacket.
He smiles at me. Even I am fooled now if that smile is a real one. He slithers back, handing me the pole.
"Did you scream when they pushed you like that?" He asks as I let my pole run through the water.
"Even if I scream, no one will be able to help." I answer and look at him. I thought that he would ask me if I wanted to continue. He didn't do what they did.
We were almost at the other side.
I gasp. Yes, finally I would be rid of this person.
"Nufufu~ Turn the boat back."
I look at him. His hands were on mine as I cling on the pole. He then closes in on me, until his mouth nearly touches mine.
"Let's go back. I do not want to go out there yet. I find you too interesting to be left alone."
I stare down and push him away. I do not like him- him and that intoxicating breath of his.
"Is that the only reason?" I ask him, my body now facing the river as I obey him- he is a customer, after all.
He is silent.
"I can still remember what your soldiers said about you. They told me of how much a great leader you were- and how you would never fail for the sake of your fellow Suits... have you thought about that, by any chance?"
"To think about cards I can throw once their roles are over… Nufufu~"
"You are just afraid of facing your comrades on the other side again."
He doesn't reply back.
"As you were when you failed with your promise to end the war."
"You do not need to tell me that." He returns curtly.
"This... was not the response I expected from a phoney."
"Nufu. Even if I lie, you'll easily see through that I presume, my little Heart?"
"You know a lot about us, don't you?"
"The legends, I suppose. But this is the first time I've really seen one."
It is dark now. For a moment, it almost slipped my mind how I could steer the boat back. His words seem so melodic and so... tempting. I almost fall for his voice. He's beckoning me to sin- to let my body become one with him.
But I am a heart. I am supposed to be no fool.
"We've reached Out Here." I say, after a few minutes of silence.
I can only feel his coat brush pass me and here a soft sound of crushing plants as he jumps on the reeds.
"Until we meet again then, my little gondolier," he says, his voice being only my direction from the forest of reeds.
I look at his direction, and somehow, I see a glint of his fake smile.
Something that of a royal, a Spade, can do.
"It's Chrome." I answer from the darkness, and wonder why I, a Heart would tell her own name to a Spade.
I listen to his reply, but only hear the sound of guns and bombs and all the atrocity not from Out Here in the distance.
"Can I take a ride?"
I have the same customer today.
"Of course." I reply, a little vexed by looking at him.
He comes at the same time like yesterday. He wears the same expression.
For now, the boat paces back leisurely. Casually, his arms circle the ends of the boat as he examines me again.
"I apologize for what I did to you."
"What is done is done. You do not need to." I shoot back and continue rowing.
He lets out that disturbing smile of his.
"I wasn't mistaken of coming here again. I find you interesting. For you not to appeal to my charms…"
I want to tell him how mistaken he is- I can't even look at him straight.
"I am a Heart after all." I answer, with no more words to say.
"Nufufu~ you've gotten speechless then?" He teases to my annoyance, as if he read my thoughts. I continue rowing my boat, this time with the same energy I usually have.
"Yes." I admit irritably.
"And an honest person too… hmm, not bad for a pure Heart."
"I know." I reply, annoyed.
"Nufu~ and with a sharp tongue, I might add."
"Does it bore you?"
"Being the only Heart out here. Does it make you feel lonely?"
That question catches me off-guard. The pole falls from my hands. I look at him now, and see him expecting an answer.
I do not respond. Because if I do, I will surely fall for his charms. That is something a heart mustn't do.
"And you? Does it not bore you of wasting your entire life deceiving Suits?" I fire back after a moment. He chuckles because I avoided his question.
"Well, you are the only person who doesn't bore me."
I look at him and curse him silently.
Because when I looked at his heart…
… he was telling the truth.
"It will also be a waste of time lying to you, since you can read me."
"Of course… I find Spades easy to read." I brag, though half-heartedly. It's the fourth day since our first meeting and he stubbornly keeps on being my customer.
"Nufu~ but I am not a pure Spade, my dear poppet."
He smiles, but it is unlike the smile that he often gives.
"When you have the half the blood of your foe and half of your kin, it will be difficult to choose which side you'll take." He looks at me, and then plays with the tassel in one epaulet of his blue military coat. "Much more, if you have chosen the side that you will infinitely regret."
"You chose the Spade instead of the Club."
"Of course. 'A blue blood is mightier than a pheasant' I thought. But I was too conceited, since they hate me too."
I pause. "You… didn't lie."
He smiles back.
"I want you to know something about me; after all it doesn't matter because we are Out Here."
He doesn't need to flatter me.
"Does it bore you then? Your choice of becoming a Spade?"
"Yes." He answers truthfully as he now sits beside me.
I titter a little as I row back.
"My choice bores me too." I answer.
The irony is he is the one who made me realize it.
It's the seventh time he's my customer.
It's the first time that he didn't come.
I try to forget. He probably has deceived me. Of course... why should I believe him? It's already in his eyes... he lies.
I steer my boat. The man inside is sleeping; I care not to wake him. From his snores, I could hear his worries about his wife and children.
Suddenly he opens his eyes.
"Are you waiting for someone?" He asks. I quickly shake my head.
"I-It's nothing sir."
"I don't think so!" He teases. "He's probably a special person in your heart, right? (Just like my pretty Nana~)"
"N-no. We only know each other in short a time." I explain, which he waves off.
"Pshaw. Young people nowadays..." He mutters. I try not to giggle because I know I might be a hundred or so years older than he. "Why can't you just admit that you like him?"
I row the boat hastily. "I- well- I still don't know how to 'like' somebody..."
"Oh. You blush hard for a Suit." He remarks, handing me a cookie with a big booming laugh.
I look down, now unable to look at him.
"You've gotta let those feeling out, girl! You look a puss when you don't tell him you'd give your heart to him."
"If you visit me Out There, you should at least tell me then if you've at least told him what you feel!"
"Sigh. Young people are really shallow. But promise me when you see me."
"U-umm... all right."
I bid him farewell as he tells me that I give him news about his wife too.
It's the seventh time that he's my customer.
It's also the fourteenth time that he failed on attending.
It's also the time that I thought I should not fall for a Spade's promises.
My pole sifts past the current as I ferry my six customers to the other side.
"Say," asked the Diamond in his black-spotted suit. "What can we see when we reach that place."
I smile and pat its head. "You'll see soon enough."
I look at the child, and notice its other arm was missing. I look at my other customers. Some had lost either an ear or a leg. Others had burn marks on their faces. The children were fearful while the adults continue to play like everything's going to be fine, even though I can read the dread on their faces. They would cradle their children or give them the ample food they have.
"Care to have some dearie?" asks the short-haired woman as she handed me five pieces of biscuit. I refuse and suggest that she give them to her underfed children instead.
"Dear me, but you're skin and bones already!" She gasps as she gives me the biscuit.
Politely once more, I didn't take it.
"I do not need to eat. I am a heart after all." I assure, perhaps to her disappointment.
"Sometimes it's better if you taste luxuries like this once in a while." She grins. "Especially at a hard time like this... we were lucky enough to escape the explosion. It completely blew up our town."
"Is it the war?" I ask. There might be news about him since he is a high-commanding Spade officer.
"It's getting worse and worse day by day." She nods sadly. "Just two days ago my husband Iemitsu was trading with some Spades when his shop was ransacked by Clubs. I haven't heard of him since."
I remember him. He became my customer the day before yesterday. He often inquired if I have heard any news about his wife, Nana and their toddlers Lambo and I-pin.
"Don't worry. You'll see him Out There." I assure. She simpers.
"I'm glad that Suit told us to come here. You are very kind."
I stare at her.
"No. He was right. That Spade officer told us to come here when we lost our homes. I'm glad that I listened to him."
My heart skipped a beat. A Spade told her that...
"He told me that you should wait for him. He promises he'll come around." She says, holding my left hand. "Are you worried about him?"
I smile reassuringly. "No. I think he can do it. He promised it." Though I am doubtful of my words. He had promised, but there's a prickly feeling in my gut that tells me that he might not visit me.
W-wait... this cannot be. I shouldn't be worrying about him. I'm a Heart. A heart should remain solitary and not mind about the other Suits- especially Spades. What am I thinking?
He- he- for me to think about him- is he thinking I am just a toy he could play around and toss aside once I'm no more fun?
He said too, that I do not bore him.
Probably now I have.
I try to forget. Of course I will bore him. This place is too suffocating- too quiet. It is far- far from how he usually lives his life in. Also... I am a Heart. Yes... a useless, aloof Heart and the only thing able to do is row.
Yes. He is a Spade after all.
"Goodbye." The Diamonds say as they leave the boat and walk far from me, waving as they do. Their small silhouettes the things I could see as I depart.
They'll begin a new life Out There.
While I... I'll remain Out Here- ferrying Suits until the end of time.
Yes. That's what a lacklustre Heart is supposed to do.
I continue rowing. There's a tide. It's far easier to navigate the boat when the waters have risen.
It might also wash this pain I'm feeling right now.
I got wronged again.
Maybe this is why Hearts should remain solitary for the rest of their lives- because they end up hurting when they open up to a Suit.
Yes. In their small knowledge of the big world they are dwelling in, they end up being duped.
The sun continues to bathe the sky in fire the moment my boat has touched the other side. I then hop down the boat as I look at the slowly rising waters.
I sit, my knees hiding my face as I stare at the reeds blowing in the wind. I then wait for my next customer.
I sigh. Of course I bore him. Even I bore myself.
I feel it- warmth coursing through my entire body from my right.
I feel it- some kind of a good feeling that I cannot explain swelling up inside me.
I feel it- but I don't see- his hand is there on top of mine.
I try not to look at him. I try not to show that I could feel some kind of happiness when I see him. I try not to show that he is someone else- someone who has made a mark on me that makes me not forget him.
I try not to show him that I miss him.
I am such a foolish Heart... because I look at him anyway.
His hair is unkempt- and seemed that way for days. His garments are drabber than what he wears when he becomes my customer. His eyes aren't the diamonds that I often see- they seem hollow and tired- very tired.
But there's his alluring smile. Still I couldn't feel it- probably because when I read his heart, there was a portion I can't see.
He is hiding something from me.
"A family of Diamonds told me what you had done for them." I say, turning my back on him.
"Oh- they have...?" I can't hear the intonation that he had asked a question. It is now dark- and I cannot even see his face properly now.
"Was it some kind of stunt or you just had the heart to help them?"
"Nufu~" even his chuckling seem tired. "Have you not realized I have no heart?"
I shake my head. Old habits die hard. "You lie. You are aware that without a heart, you cannot even survive." I smile at him, though faintly. "Even that... applies to me."
He chuckles. "You tell me that you can die if you have no heart?"
"I am a Heart after all." I laugh.
I'm supposed to be mad at him. He's late in coming. He made me hope all these times.
But there's a voice in my chest that tells me it is worth the wait.
"Do you want to take a ride?" He asks- his fatigue evident.
I nod and stand up. Then I stop. For my senses urgently begin their work.
I smell blood. I hastily look at him. There's darkness, but I can see the large wound on his left foot and a wound just near his chest. His breathing too, seem so shallow.
"No." I say, trying to make my voice not crack. This...for him to see me in such a state... I am such a fool.
He looks at himself and smiles again. "You saw."
"Are you trying to ask me if you want to die in my damn boat?" I thunder and pretend to be mad at him. My expression betrays me.
He is such a fool.
"This hindered me a little. The battle was long, so I didn't have an opportunity to go."
I slam my hand on the boat. To be wounded like that... and to still see me...
"You shouldn't have come then. You shouldn't have wasted your time visiting a dull and tiresome Suit like me."
I then kneel down beside him and careful not to hurt him further, helped him up, his busted leg in the middle as we staggered to walk.
"Where are we going?" He asks, for the first time tinting surprise in his voice.
"To your place. I can't heal wounds, but there must be someone in your world who can."
He is silent. His head then bows a little as I wave back the reeds that persist on barring our way.
"It was right not regretting to fancy you."
"You fancy me?" I try to laugh off.
"I do. A lot." He says.
I grin. "Look at what fancying does to you." I admonish him, but I can't hide the worry in my voice.
Since he didn't lie as he said those words.
"It's so quiet here." I say to him, when I for the first time set foot upon the land from Out Here.
"The raids won't be coming today. The enemy has suffered quite a loss from my troops." He explains with a tinge of pomp.
"Then let's find a nice medic." I suggest as I walk to help him. I look everywhere. Almost all the houses or shops possess some kind of mystique and arrogance with their shades of purples and blues. Small lights adorn every sign or window. The town, even with the lack of people walking seems so alive. I look up. The lights in their own glory make the stars pale in comparison.
Just as I am supposed to take another step, he holds up his hands to block me.
"That won't be necessary." He mutters, now looking all around and grips me tightly. "Shops have ears in this town. If they see you..."
"Why?" I ask him. He then places his on my head, completely covering my left eye to where my Heart mark is.
"I won't be able to protect you if They come." He warns, his voice a whisper.
His tone is fully tinted with apprehension- the first time I hear him to.
"We're here." He declares, after the long walk from the town and into a small village. A large iron gate encircles the village and gives the houses an isolated feeling as we walk inside. All of them comprise of stone and mud as well as small, being as tall as the trellis that each house seems to possess.
"Where is your house then?" I ask him.
"Nufu. We have to walk a little more. We just came here for you to see how half-breeds are managed in Spade lands."
And just like that, a loud and chilling yell split the silence of the night air.
He just holds my arm and we walk.
"I hear screams like that in my home. That one must be the Espadas. They execute half-breeds who commit wrongs- even the littlest such as spilling food on a pureblood's shirt. In the eyes of their family too, if that person did something that tarnished his name."
I walk faster. It is not my intention to see blood in my first visit here.
"It's still quite a long way to my house." He titters a little, as the people visiting ignore us and walk to their homes. The screams are still present, but they become more like mournful wails. Things like this must not be new to them- and probably a part already in their everyday lives.
We now pass the other side of the village and inhale the wind as fields of heather greet us. The moon is nearing its full and seems close as to kissing my face. It's such a haunting sight.
"Did your parents face the same end?" I ask him, as we pass the heather and now climb up the slope of a large, barren hill.
He closes his eyes and smiles at me. Just like in the town, I read the opposite.
"They drank poison when I was born. They didn't want to be ostracized of having a son like me."
I want to ask him how he managed to survive that. But I know better. There's some kind of pain enveloping him. That pain isn't the only pain the eyes can merely see.
"I-I'm sorry." I say, the only thing I can do.
"Nufu~ to say such words... are you by any chance trying to comfort me? A half-breed isn't worthy of things like that, I'm afraid."
We then stop on top of the hill. There lies his house, made of the same materials as the others, but luckily, seem to be bigger than most of the houses I had seen in the village, it having two floors.
"Shall we go in?" He coughs and I snap back to help him go past the small, wooden door.
Inside, the floor composed of dully-furnished wood. A small table lies on the far side, while on left of the wall is a large, ash-ridden hole. A cramped staircase is on the right, the end of it shrouded by darkness.
"There is wood beside the fireplace." He informs, pointing at the small heap of wood beside the hole. I notice (how stupid of me) that he's shivering from head to foot.
"Fireplace? That's how you call that big hole?" I ask him as I prepare the wood inside the so-called hole."
"Nufufuhahaha!" He laughs, surprising me. I have never heard him boom such a voice before. "Haven't you got a fireplace in your home? It must be pretty cold out there."
"I- actually I don't have a home." I titter, looking down. "I- I'm sorry but I don't know how to-"
I didn't notice that a piece I placed on the fire rolled down making me lose my balance and make me fall on my knees. I cringe a little because he was looking at me the whole time.
"I- I'm sorry again!" I say, my eyes shut as I blindly fumbled for the flints to light up the fire. I hastily make one. Sure enough, a kind yet roaring blaze came to life after a few more minutes.
And then I notice his body fall like a loose marionette by the doorway.
"Fufufu." He chortles weakly as I look helplessly at him. "Such naivety... I never thought a Heart could so know little about the little- changing world... There's a small cupboard upstairs, if you do mind. Then there are some blankets. If you want, we can play by the fireside when you finish cleaning."
Even he still has the energy to tease me- such a strong man.
I let him sit up straight beside the fireplace before going upstairs. The moon is bright enough for me to notice a small cupboard beside his bed of heather. I take the blankets neatly folded in the corner and then going down, after heating a pot of water (in his instructions), I then began nursing his wounds as he lies down on his bed of thick blankets (I noticed also a quilt upstairs).
"Why did you live here by yourself?" I ask him as I place more bandages on his shoulder and on his abdomen (to my horror also had a gaping wound). "Don't you think it might be better if you can easily call others for help than be here without anyone?"
"This is a price for having a half-breed serve as a Spade soldier." He replies, still looking at me and saying how blessed I am when I told him of my immunity to the cold. "They usually remain neutral on such things. They're true buffoons to let their thick-headedness get the better of them; their neutrality doesn't ensure their longevity."
"This is the Spades' doing? You living here?"
"I decided to have a house built where I can eye the town properly." He chuckles. "What about you then? Why don't you even have a house?"
"I do not have the time to be idle Out Here." I smile. "It is my duty as a Heart to row them Out There, so I won't be able to have any rest."
I am almost finished bandaging his leg.
"It's the same as me then. War continues to take its toll. This is the only time in two months I'm able to return home." He winks. He motions me to come lie next to him. I shook my head. "Fuu~ I can't get any better if you don't come and sleep here. Do you sleep, by any chance if I may not be too rude to ask?"
I continue to stand.
"I have never tried." In all my two hundred years, I haven't slept a wink.
"Then come here, my little gondolier." He beckons, cracking that soft smile that he gives me whenever he's not letting his other side talk. "It's a serene feeling... when you drift off to sleep. You'll feel very refreshed when you wake up."
I hesitate and look at him suspiciously. When I read him clear, I crawl then to the bed and lie beside him. The fire warms up my feet, and his eyes are now just to my left, watching my every move again.
"I fancy you more now." He says, as the fire crackles a little. "I have never thought that such a cute little gondolier like you would even neglect her duties for the sake of a customer's health."
"And I never thought a troublesome customer can be wasting his time thanking a dull Heart like me." I snap back, still looking at the flames.
"I had never told you thanks." He chuckles, enjoying our small talk.
"Well, your heart is telling me what your mouth can't."
"Well you then know that I never described a Heart to be dull." He replies, snorting. "I never thought of someone I fancy that way."
"Then the things you fancy are sure lucky." I turn around and let my back face him instead.
"Of course. The only thing I fancy is you. How lucky of you."
I look at him. He smiles back quite invitingly, but I don't turn away.
"You are such a kind person." I murmur, returning his smile. "People often pity me, and never call me lucky, much more a Spade to call me that..." Yes, they often talk behind me about what a poor, poor person I am of rowing people to the other side until the end of time.
"Nufu~ I do not deserve of being called a kind person. I have killed many of my fellow Clubs in the war."
I squeeze his hand. I am such a selfish person. I am the fool here, not him. I often badmouth him because I never give a damn about people. All I often gave a damn about... was me.
I never thought about him. All I thought about was getting rid of him for my sake. I never tried asking him why he continues to become such a bothersome customer.
"I think you deserve it... since you often tried to visit me whenever possible, even to the point of risking your duties as a soldier for a moment."
"No." He whispers putting his left hand on top of his eyes. "I am such a coward, I'm afraid. I often want to go there because it helped me escape from the ugly world I'm in. I often had contemplated on going to the other side, and if you weren't there I would've."
I then hear a soft sniff. He remains there, silent after.
"Everyone can be scared." I squeeze his hand tighter. "All of us look at what's out there, and stay out here. Then you do what most couldn't- instead of just stepping Out There to begin anew, you decide to turn back and continue where you left off."
Oh. Why? Just why now?
Why should I be saying this now?
"But I often continue to go Out There and then return." He protests.
"That's what makes you so brave." I tell him, my smile widening because I am realizing something I'm supposed to not. "You fail many times, but then you continue pressing forward instead of leaving it all behind; you fall, but when you're about to give up, you get back up again."
I look at him and grin so hard it hurts. "You also made a coward like me do one brave thing."
I close my eyes and pretend there are no tears. I have just realized it, and despite holding it back I can't. I try to reason it out. I try to tell myself that I am so stupid. So, so stupid.
But now I do not mind.
"You made me fall in love with you."
Even if it's something a Heart should never do.
He twists his hand around mine.
He warms me even if I feel him ice cold.
I come closer to him, feeling a wave of happiness surging through my veins, something I was not able to feel before.
He smiles at me. I smile back.
"Thank you... Daemon."
He just looks at me, refusing to let go of my hand.
I let my head nestle at his uninjured shoulder. He doesn't mind.
"I want to take a ride tomorrow." He whispers at me.
He continues holding my hand. I giggle a little.
"I only said I fancy you... and for you to tell me that sooner... nufu..."
"You lie again." I point out.
And I love him for it.
My mind is telling me to just give this up now. But my heart won't let me.
I stare at them all, the moment my eyes open and they are inside our home, and he is behind me, telling me not to panic.
Then my eye patch that I made the night before burns into flames. I scream. And then out of the shadows comes out a blonde man. He seems to be a man greatly respected as well as feared; for even Daemon bows low at the sight of him.
"G-Giotto-sama..." He whispers fearfully, and I could only look at him. He looks so majestic and yet so terrifying that all I want to do is hide behind and let the shame I have of loving a Spade take over me and let me come clean.
But I do not- because I know that if I do- he will die.
And to my horror, I find that my mind is probably right.
Because I see- I see the trouble I plunged myself into.
The home we were in last night has already burned to ashes. Even the fireplace... nothing is left except for our bed, to which we are lying now.
"Daemon..." he whispers, shaking his head like a letdown father. "G. and Asari has told me of what you have done with this... Heart. Of how you often leave after a battle, and not appear in your own home but in an entrance to a place called Out Here. I know about the legends of the last Heart that our forefathers have hunted in vain... and for you to lie down with her..."
"I-I won't hand her to you even if it costs me my life, My King." He says back. I look in astonishment. Just in front of me is really the King of the people who killed my fellow Suits.
"Still... I would want you to meet someone." He smiles in a friendly manner that almost makes me purr up to him.
Here is another person, this time a boy. A boy with dark brown hair and in his neck, the crest of a Club. It cannot be... this person-!
"The Boss of Clubs, Sawada Tsunayoshi..." Daemon's eyes also grow wide in amazement. He has turned white, and now shaking.
"Tsunayoshi-kun and I... have talked about some things last night. The night when someone has noticed you bring a girl to your home. What is suspicious about it is that you appeared at the exact same place where it is hinted to be the portal to Out Here. Am I correct?"
He doesn't answer and he looks at me, his expression that of a man unable to choose.
"So we negotiated of conducting a permanent ceasefire. In the end, the war you worked hard to finish has now been shut."
His hand is clasped more tightly on mine.
"According to legend... I know you have little understanding of this Daemon-there is only one way to put a Heart out of its misery, correct?"
I had been dreading this moment. They know. They really know. And they're here to act.
I get up. He also stands, I still beside him.
They do not move, however. The King of Spades continues to smile pleasantly.
"And that is...?"
He lost it. Immediately, he brandishes his spear and is about to strike the King when a man with a long sword immediately stabs him on the stomach.
He sinks to his knees and lets go of his spear.
"That is quite a reaction, Daemon. I am just asking you a simple question." He waves off. The other men he has with him then encircle Daemon and point their weapons at him. "Since you do not want to give an answer, I'll then give it to you. You take the heart out." The father-act in his last sentence suddenly vanishes. He now smiles somehow like a twisted child- a demonic grin.
I backtrack. He is coming forward, and before I can run, he's in front of me. His scary beam disappears as he examines me. "You take the heart out-" he points at my chest. Daemon bellows as he tries to rush by my side only to have himself getting stabbed some more. "And from the heart is an elixir enough to feed the whole Suit nation. We won't need a Heart to ferry us Out There, won't we?"
"But..." I try to sound as toneless as possible, but the sight of seeing him getting more wounds from the King's men makes me falter. "The consequence of drinking it will be the inability to travel Out There."
"Oh, I know." He continues to talk in his fair voice. "But I really, really want to rule this Kingdom forever- as a whole nation, just like my forefathers before me had. I've yearned to make that wish come true and now since the dream is almost reality, why should I give up?"
Finally, he grabs my hand. I try to wrestle free, but his formidable strength made my own energy leave me.
"Do not worry. I will let you live today. Tomorrow morn will be the day you die. Acknowledge my mercy for you." He then whispers to my ear. "If you consent without a fight, I will assure you Daemon's safety. A half-breed doesn't interest me after all. I promise he will be the first to drink if you follow me without fuss."
Reason tells me to comprehend this situation. It begins chastising me for my foolishness. If I didn't help him and we continue with our boat ride, then I would be safe now. If I didn't go anywhere but Out Here I will still have my heart.
Reason... hmm... I now notice that all it can do is scold me as I nod my head. He must be listening- since he continues struggling and calling me out as he's dragged away.
I walk with the King and the Boss. They talk in hush voices.
I continue shuffling my feet and not let this situation break me.
Reason doesn't understand this- sacrifice is always present when I disobey the one and only commandment of the Heart and obey what my heart is telling me.
Yes... even if love is such an unreciprocated emotion too complicated for a Heart like me to comprehend.
I have predicted that one day, this will happen.
Life is cruel- it let that premonition come true.
And yet I now don't blame him for it. He didn't make me love him.
I chose to love him- and I should uphold my decision, even if my life will be the price.
Daemon, forgive me.
Somehow, Death seems so comforting, and yet still frustrating.
From the stone slab I use as a bed inside my underground prison I lie- and then hold up my left hand.
This is the hand were I felt his cold touch that feels so cozy to me.
I grin. Probably I won't remember him when I open my eyes the second time tomorrow.
Time... I wonder why it's so fickle- it passes quickly when I don't want it to- and now that I do, it trickles too little.
That is just one of the things I learned when he had opened me from the closed world I had only lived in.
And it'll probably be one of the last ones I will learn now that I am going to die.
Two hundred years... why has time make me feel so old?
And still... when he became a customer- time makes me feel so young?
It's really the moment that I should be gone now from this world, and probably to see the world at the next.
Dammit. I feel such a coward.
I can never be like him. I just can't.
All I can do now is trust the Spade King's words- nothing else now that I know his life rests on my shoulder.
I want to take that burden away. As I have always whenever I row my customers Out There to loosen even just a bit of my duty from my shoulder.
And for me to take that burden away, I need to be selfless, even just this once.
I wonder if I can remain selfless once my prison door opens.
I curl my hand into a fist and let it hide beside me and close my eyes.
I'm such a bad liar.
I'm really afraid. Very, very afraid. I have never, in the entire long and wasted years of my life have I experienced this- and probably won't ever experience it again all too soon.
-open my eyes.
The door has opened.
There is blood dripping from the stump where his left hand was.
His eye where the Spade mark was has been covered by a loose bandage stained in red.
He no longer has a right leg.
He, with his roughly-hewn stick continues to limp at me, his wounds continuing to drip. The faint light from the outside helps me see how these weren't the only wounds he has.
His body is bathed in that murky color.
I look at him and want to ask him why he's here. I know if I do, then he'll probably be unable to talk anymore. Uttering my name made dark liquid bubble from his mouth.
I stand and stare at his battered visage.
"I- I don't want to do this." I murmur, knowing that he's here for one reason only. "I… if I do come with you then you'll be-" I don't want to tell him that horrible word. It is better if he leaves. If I just die and hold onto that King's promise- even though I know Giotto will kill him anyway.
He smirks. "Nufu~" He laughs blood flowing from his mouth. "Are you afraid that we'll fail?"
I look at him, trying to make sure that I won't break. "No. I'm afraid that if we succeed, then I won't be able to see you again."
With his remaining cut-up hand, he holds mine and then pulls me close to him. I sniff his still-intoxicating breath, tinted in the smell of blood and grime. "I already told you that I often get what I want. And the little diversion I did will make our escapade a little... exciting."
"You are such a fool." I tell him.
"And you are such a pessimist, my dear poppet." He points out and this time, leads me out the door were a large blaze of deep blue flames greet me, roaring out to the night sky. "You don't fail in loving, fortunately."
As two soldiers notice us and point their guns to our direction, we run- back to that place. They open fire and he tries to shield me. I wave it off and stand tall behind him, enabling their bullets to hit me instead. They seem stunned when I did not fall and die. My jacket and skirt is now punctured in holes and soaked in that dark shade of incarnadine as I got back up and ran, now supporting him as more soldiers open fire at us, I being his shield as my garments protest and give way.
Another bullet is about to puncture his head when I let my own get hit. He smiles a bitter one at me.
"I trust you." I say to him, even if I know that my heart is screaming the opposite as his steps slow down in a short while. "I trust you, even if I know you made me choose the wrong thing."
Yes, because I love him.
I cannot fail because of it.
I only fail... if I hold it back.
I have the same customer tonight.
His name is Daemon Spade.
He is a Spade.
I am a Heart.
A Heart who has made a promise- a promise to lead him to his final trip.
The river is serene, and now I understand why he says his hellish world is far too inferior to this one. Up, up at the sky puncturing the darkness are the stars and the moon, already full and giving off its luminescent glow. The boat and the people in it are draped in the silvery light.
Everything... is so peaceful. Like it always is.
But now I realize that it is heartless at the same time.
He is here with me, breathing shallowly as his head is supported by the boat. He is lying down, his eyes up at the black firmament above, a smile written on his blank mouth.
I find the river so spiteful, because I know that this wrong decision might be the right one.
I cannot find the words now to talk to him. The cold peace is stabbing me. I don't want to remember that I am a Heart.
"It's so quiet in here. In such a short time, I seem to have forgotten how it was like. Nufu..."
I cannot tell him the silent noise is pounding in my deaf ears.
"...You are not going to contradict that, like what you always do?"
I shake my head, still unable to tell him that I can help him choose. So he can still live.
"Fuu~ you are too unpredictable, my little gondolier."
I want to tell him that he is wrong. I am all too much predictable, even for him.
But I can't anymore. Because I know if I do tell him, then he'll realize I will compromise this all.
Or perhaps... I am just selfish.
I just don't want to be alone now.
"It's a high tide." I whisper to him. He looks at me as I row. "It'll be much easier now to lead you Out There."
I then point at the water. Slowly, the emptiness is replaced by blue shimmers. Then, the edge of our boat and the water itself glistens with small lights.
"It also introduces small water plants that dwell only when the water of the sea is high on such waters as these." I continue, unable to lock my eyes from him and just gaze at this simple beauty as they twinkle on like small periwinkle stars.
"Who knew little wonders like this could exist?" He asks, tittering.
"Who knew... really..." I question also my eyes trying to plant itself on the sight when finally, I can't contain it any longer and look at Daemon.
"You seem tired." He remarks once he looks at me again.
I shake my head. "It's fine." I assure him, even though my voice is cracking. "I- I can still steer you there."
He smiles at me and his stare hurts further. "I think it's better if you don't. Because you know that if you do lead me Out There, you'll land on the shore."
He is too wrong about me being unpredictable. He has completely read me.
"Is this what you really want?"
I stare at him, dazed at his words.
"No." My eyes are almost close to looking away.
His hand is now holding mine feebly with the limited strength he has.
Immediately, I toss my pole and hold it with both of mine.
I have to tell him.
"Do you want me to give my heart to you?" I ask, trying to sweeten my voice like he always has with me. I ask him, letting him choose instead. "To save yourself."
Even if I know that if he chooses me to die, he'll then be a Heart forever.
He titters a little and then embraces me.
"I do not need it. You gave me yours already."
I do not protest. I know that it is his answer. And I needn't be selfish.
Since I know what he meant when he said those words.
"It doesn't matter..." He also adds, now murmuring to me the words, having not much strength to talk. His body also sags as he fully lies down, his eyes still fixed on mine. "If this is my final journey, or if I return and earn possessions of obtaining immortality, as my forefathers have only to have it taken away. It doesn't matter now... what matters, is the Heart standing beside me till the very end."
He beckons me in and as I do, his lips and mine are one now. It's such a bittersweet sensation.
"The journey Out There will be long and arduous." I whisper as we part lips, now forcing a smile as he breathes less and less as I lie him down in the boat again. "You can close your eyes now, and get some rest. I'll sing a lullaby." At least this way, I can do a real selfless act.
I take the pole again and begins to row.
I have lied to him. I just want him to close his eyes to not see me cry.
I smile, amidst my choking hiccups as I began to hum the tune I remember my mother giving to me before she left me Out Here on my own. And then, finally I burst out the song.
He remains there still, as he breathes a little more.
I then began to look at the horizon as I sing. It will be soon now- daybreak.
Yes... and soon I will be able to see Out There.
I shift my gaze at him. He merely looks like a fragile being as he sleeps. In a short while, I won't be able to see him like this ever again.
Time is so short.
The darkness is now washed over by the pale blue sky. The lights from the waters are slowly disappearing.
It's a new day.
The signal of the end of the flight- for the both of us.
"It was such a wonderful journey, Daemon." I whisper, my tears ceasing to fall as I do the final push.
My boat shakes one last time.
"We have now reached the shore." I bid him adieu.
He didn't open his eyes.
I place my hand over his forehead, as I kiss him. His body then I let land on the dry shore and utter one more goodbye.
In the end, we remained true to each other-
I then row back as I steal one more glance at him- remembering his smile.
I am a heart.
I am a heart who has loved and lost- but is still true to this Spade.
-Even to the point of letting go.
~Hearts & Spades: Fin~
-Katekyo Hitman Reborn! is a creation of Amano Akira, in case you forget.
-Written for Dior Crystal-san's Angst Writing Contest. The pairing is Dae96 and the prompt is 'heart', which you've probably noticed by now.
-This took me more time to think about than in the 2nd round due perhaps to Dae96 being a het pairing. It took me four ideas, three drafts of choosing this idea and a whole lot of out-of-bounds typing. This might be too melodramatic I admit, and I almost gave up writing. Spending almost all my busy weekends typing though, should be enough to make me not give up. This might be also my third and last entry if someone asks for another extension. By April I will be out of my PC's arms studying somewhere out there for the sake of passing in a decent university.
-This is a romanticized approach to Dae96. Utter fail. D: As for Chrome's OOCness, blame it on her being TYL Chrome. (Long hair and all that, but with an upgrade in the Kokuyo uniform.) You might be turned off by how cheesy everything is- but this is a fairytale-like setting where love blooming like that can be possible. I admit that I just can't write ANGST!
-Feedback is greatly appreciated!