In all the years of her life, Vivaldi had never seen roses this beautiful. As Queen of Hearts, she had her servants work relentlessly on her own rose garden, just so she could emulate such grand beauty. No matter how her servants cared for her flowers, how they fertilize and water them, they would always fail to match such magnificence.
"Enjoying the flowers, sister?" Vivaldi turned her head, seeing Blood Dupre appear by her side, offering her a large, crimson blossom.
She accepted the flower graciously and inhaled its sweet scent. "Undoubtedly. We swear these roses grow more beautiful every time We see them."
Blood grinned, "Why thank you. Anything for my dear sister."
"But taking care of this garden must take a lot of your time. Isn't it troublesome?"
The Hatter sighed and seated himself across from her. "At first, it was tough, but I believe all that hard work paid off, no?"
"Yes... We suppose it did..." Vivaldi released a sigh of admiration, casting her violet gaze around their surroundings. "It makes Us wonder how you first became interested in gardening. Even when we were children, you didn't show any interest in the affair."
Blood merely stared at her. He assumed the answer was plain as day. Did she really not know?
Looking at her wistful gaze, eyes sparkling with wonder, he was struck by nostalgia. He could still remember many cycles ago when times were simpler, when those eyes did not exist, when her eyeless gaze looked at these kinds of flowers with the same wonder.
She wanted to know how he became interested in growing these flowers? Wasn't the answer obvious?
He smiled. "The reason why I became interested in growing these flowers is... you."
The air was filled with the sound of laughter. A young faceless girl raced through the forest floor, scrunching the hem of her dress in her hands. Her feet ached. The heat of the sun beat unbearably down on her flushed skin, curly dark hair sticking to the back of her neck. She could not slow down now. Not when she was so close. Not when he was tailing right behind her.
Then she finally reached the end.
"Haha! I win!" she cheered and raced out into the opening, jumping in glee.
The other competitor of the race followed right behind her, his breath coming out in uneven bursts. "Yeah... That's because you cheated, elder sister. You started running before I even said go."
The girl dismissed such a fact off with an airy wave of her hand. "Details... Details... The point is I won! As the winner I declare myself as queen, and you are my lowly servant! Bow down to my royalness, peon!"
The young boy only stared. He scoffed and walked passed her. "Yeah right. I don't want your head getting even bigger than it already is."
She puffed her cheeks in outrage and raced after him. "Ah! You're so cruel!"
Her brother merely laughed, earning a playful hit to the shoulder.
These two faceless children were much closer than most siblings their age. While other brothers and sisters spent most of their time fighting with the other and demanding space, these two were virtually inseparable. Nothing could tear them apart. As long as they had each other, they believed they could survive whatever this violent world threw at them.
They spent every moment with each other, exploring the Heart country's vast forests, playing their childish games without a single care in their world. Once in a while, their romps would lead them close to the neighboring territory.
Both children slowed their paces to a halt. All laughter would cease. They would turn their eyeless gazes to the endless sea of roses. Looming in the distance was the territory's capital - the Castle of Hearts.
There was no denying this territory's roses were the most exquisite things they had ever seen. Every time they passed by them, they had to pause for a few moments to admire them.
The young raventte was especially mesmerized by the sight. She sighed dreamily and said, "Aren't they beautiful?"
"Eh. They're alright," he replied indifferently, finding his gaze drifting elsewhere. He yelped in pain when he felt her hand smack him squarely on the head. "Ow! What's that for?"
"For you being such a boy! How can you not see beauty when it's right in front of you?" the girl cried in outrage. "I mean I bet a real man would be able to tell these are the most gorgeous roses that they have ever seen. Is being faceless really affecting your vision?"
The young boy looked away, trying his best to ignore his sister's harsh reprimands at his severe lack of taste. He perked up and gasped. If he had eyes, they would have widened in surprise.
"Get down!" While his sister was in mid-sentence, he tackled her down to the ground, ducking underneath the high rose bushes.
"Hey, what was that for? Your queen for the day is not pleased!"
He settled himself beside her and replied with a loud shush. "Just be quiet for a moment and look."
She pouted and complied, proudly peeking her head above the rosy brush. She froze in her place and stared. Standing several feet before them was one of the role holders of Heart – the King of Hearts.
She quickly ducked down and released a breath of relief. "Okay, so perhaps your queen is pleased after all."
He sent her a pointed look, inwardly rolling his eyes. There was always this catch in their games and many adventures. If they ever ventured too close to territory lines, they had to remain out of sight at all costs. Trespassing in the territories was a high crime, one with very serious ramifications and punishments. Considering the state of their bloody country, it would only be safe for them to assume trespassing meant death. They both glanced over to the other and silently agreed to return home.
Before they could crawl away, the King released a languorous sigh, freezing the two in the place and catching their attentions.
"Really? The Queen's health is not getting any better after all?"
"No, my lord. Unfortunately it seems her condition is worsening."
Then there was another sigh. Struck by curiosity, the two crawled back and peeked through the rose bush.
The King's shoulder slumped over slightly, dismayed by the thought. "But I thought that doctors said she would have more time. She would be able to recover some strength if she just rested…"
"Unfortunately, it seems it's not enough. Our queen's illness is not getting any better. It would only be a matter of time before she…"
The card soldier allowed his words to die at his tongue. Both men dropped their gazes to the grassy floor.
The two children were intrigued by the statement. The boy noted quietly, "I did hear the Queen of Hearts is seriously ill, but I never realized it escalated to the point that she was dying."
And in need of replacing. The weight of thought hung silently over the air, cruelly taunting the two Heart residents.
The solider gravely added, "I have already formed a search party to keep on the lookout. I suggest you return to her majesty's side to comfort her."
"Yes, I will. Thank you." The King's youthful face seemed to have sagged and fallen, telltale signs of wrinkles appearing over his smooth countenance. The man then followed the soldier back towards their castle.
Once the two were sure they were far enough away and that no one else was in the premises, the young girl released a loud, dreamy sigh. "Oh, how splendid it would be to be to replace the Queen of Hearts!"
"Why do you say that?" he asked. "I think the territory would fall apart if they have you as their queen.
The young girl ignored him. "Well, how fantastic would it be to be a real queen once I got older? It'd be the most elegant and grand occupation ever!" Her cheeks flushed a light pink as she glanced back to the place where the solider and role holder stood. "And I certainly wouldn't mind if that handsome king was still by my side if I became queen."
"Sister, be realistic. The man is so much older than you. Try looking for someone closer to your age, and then we'll talk. I can't even utilize my brotherly over protectiveness around a guy like that," the boy said blandly.
The young girl growled, "Silence! I am fantasizing here!"
Her gaze then was attracted to the roses. "Just think of what it would be like if I was older and became the queen… I could see these beautiful red roses every day! That would be wonderful." Her countenance softened, her fingertips tracing the edges of the scarlet petals. "And I'd even have a real face too, with a set of real eyes. Then maybe, I'd actually be considered beautiful like the queen…"
She sighed again wistfully, a dreamy smile tugging at her lips. She was infatuated by the thought, enrapturing herself in her sweet daydreams.
On the other hand, her brother did not seem to like that idea. He frowned, and his gaze drifted morosely towards the ground. "You're fine just the way you are, sister. There's no need for you to change. Plus, if you do become a role holder, I'd miss you too much. I'd never see you again."
She snapped out of her reverie and turned towards him, watching his face fall at the sudden onset of melancholia. She smiled softly and wrapped her arms around him.
"That's nonsense! Even if I become a role holder, I won't let that happen! No matter where this game takes us, we will always find a way to be together. You're my brother, and nothing – not these roles, these games, or anything – can change that." Her brother met her gaze and her smiling face. "Now, you got that?"
The young boy nodded his head. The girl smile widened, and she jumped to her feet. "Now, let's going. We are hungry, and you will escort Us back home for supper!"
The boy scoffed and wiped his face, even though he doubted he could cry real tears anyway. "Jeez, a little too early to be using the 'royal we', isn't it, sister? Well, at least you got the bossy part already…"
"Silence, you insolent peon!"
He merely laughed. The two then began their way back to their home. From the corner of his eyes, he noticed his sister walk almost reluctantly away from the Heart territory, looking longingly at the gorgeous expanses of roses. A defensive part of him arose from within himself, and he tightly grabbed hold of his sister's hand.
There was no way he would lose her, not to this bloody game. He refused to lose her to anyone. He was determined to make these ideals disappear from her head, brush these longings aside and make her happy where she was.
He glanced back to the roses, the ones his sister so dearly loved. An idea popped into his head. He knew what he had to do.
He had thought growing flowers would be easy. Simply put some seeds in some soil, water it, give it some sunshine, and eventually it would sprout.…
He couldn't be more wrong. The young boy stared sadly as yet another rose had died, adding to his growing list of failures. He dared not even think about how many times he tried; it seemed too pathetic to count. What did he have to do to grow a decent rose? He was sure the weather was just right, and it had the appropriate amount of water and sunlight. Now he only had one little sprout left. With his luck, it would wither away as well. What's the point of even trying anymore...
"Oh dear… another one died again?" The young boy jumped up and turned around, hiding his dead plant behind his back. He sighed in relief when he noticed it was just his mother. "Well, I'm sure that the next one would turn out better! Keep trying, dear. I'm sure once one is fully grown, she'll love it!"
The young boy dropped his head, hoping for the same thing. He had started gardening in secret, wanting to surprise his sister with a rose that could put the ones in Heart Castle to shame.
'If sister sees this kind of flower, she'd probably die of laughter…'
Still, he never gave up. He was almost thankful that she had been feeling ill lately.
"Now why don't you take a break from this and go check on your sister? Then once you get back maybe I can help you out here," the woman said kindly.
The young boy nodded his head and rushed back into the house.
No one really knew what was wrong with his sister. She claims to be so sick that she can't leave her room, not letting anyone even get close to her to properly diagnose her illness. Her family respected her and trusted that the girl really was sick. All she needed was some time and space to truly recover.
That was why he was even more determined to grow the perfect rose. He hoped that showing something even more glorious than Heart's roses would make her healthy again.
He slowed his pace to a walk and sauntered into his sister's room. He stood there for a moment, staring at the darkness in the room. "Hey, are you okay?"
He turned the lights on. The young girl yelped, ducking her head beneath her stuffed bear. "Go away! I'm trying to sleep!"
"Well, Mom told me to come in and check up on you, so I am." He walked closer to the young girl. "Hey, are you feeling well enough to have a doctor look at you yet… or perhaps to at least let Mom cut your hair? Since you let your hair grow out, you're starting to look like a sheepdog! How can you see?"
"I can see just fine!" she snapped. The vehemence in her voice took him aback. She released a low sigh and peeked out, letting her hair fall over and conceal her face. "I'm sorry… I didn't mean to yell at you. I'm just… just really tired. Can you please let me sleep?"
The brother complied and smiled, playfully ruffling his sister's hair. He then headed out, closing the door behind him.
'Elder sister must not be really feeling well…' Such a thought sparked a fire into his clock heart. He was going to grow the perfect rose no matter what it took. He vowed it. With renewed resolve, he bolted back outside.
Little did he know what was wrong with the girl, what truly ailed her. Thinking about it made her sick to her stomach. Looking at it made her feel like she would pass out. She was far too frightened for anyone to know the true reason why she would not let anyone near her.
She turned her head, reached for her mirror, and stared once again at her face. She supposed she should have been more careful with what she wished for. She barely recognized her reflection anymore.
In the reflection, peeking out of the veil of ebony locks were a pair of sparkling amethysts.
He could not believe it. It was one of those rare times of his life that he wished he had eyes; he'd love to blink them in a time like this.
He had never expected all that hard work – the watering, the fertilizing, all that sweat – would result to this! A great success. A single rose.
He stared in wonder at the flower, gaping at his accomplishment. It was not as impressive or as large as Heart's roses, but it was still vibrant shade of red. Considering it was his first success, it was wonderful.
'And ready for my sister! Wait until she sees what I did!'
Overjoyed, he picked his flower up from the pot and raced around towards the front entrance.
He paused in his place, staring blankly at a carriage. Who could that be? Were they expecting guests? He was sure that his parents never said anything...
His clock heart almost stopped in his chest. A group of Heart soldiers filed out of the house... followed by a dark-haired girl.
He placed the pot on the ground and ran forward. "Hey! Where do you guys think you're taking my sister?"
The soldiers and his sister halted in his place. Before he could reach them, yank the girl from their grasps, his mother restrained him, wrapping her arms tightly around him. He still thrashed his limbs, struggling to liberate himself and reach for her.
"Let her go! Why are you taking her away? Why...?"
Then his sister raised her gaze from the ground to look at him. His movements stilled. All he could do was stare. His sister's hair was finally cut short, revealing her pale face, a pair violet eyes. He was rendered dumbfounded. He wasn't sure how to react.
'How was this possible? Is my sister really...?'
A card soldier stepped forward and explained, "Several cycles ago, the Queen of Hearts passed away. We have been searching for ages for our replacement... and it seems the games have chosen her as our new Queen."
He felt cold. He stood there numbly, struggling to absorb the information. His sister - his sister - was chosen to be the Queen of Hearts.
The cards jostled her forward, escorting her into the carriage. The slam of the door jolted him out of his stupor. When he saw the carriage lurch forward, he raced after it.
But carriage moved too fast. The boy skidded to a halt.
At the sound of his voice, she glanced out the window. Their gazes locked, her bright violets staring straight into his empty ones. She smiled sadly and waved. He found strength within himself to wave back.
As the carriage rolled out of sight, he felt his heart grow heavy, dropping his gaze towards the floor. In the end, he couldn't keep her, he couldn't stop the game from taking her away from him. With a heavy heart, he had believed he'd never see her again. He had failed.
He walked numbly back toward his rose, his bittersweet success. All that effort and time going to waste... What was the point of this?
Then he was taken aback, watching something that he never knew possible appear. He noticed something cold and wet roll down his cheek and splatter onto the flower petals.
"U... Us?" Blood snapped himself out of his nostalgia, returning back to the present, to the woman in front of him. Her usual eloquence and poise shattered, reducing her to a dumbfounded state. "We don't understand. What do you mean?"
Blood smiled. "Did you know, before you were taken away, I was trying to grow you a rose?" Vivaldi fell silent, shaking her head. "As children, you always loved the roses at Heart Castle. I was once afraid that those flowers would steal you away from me, whisking you away to their territory. I was determined to grow a rose to make you stay."
Which in a sense, his premonition had been right. No matter what he did, Vivaldi still left him.
"After you were taken away, I thought everything was useless, that all my hard work was for naught... Then I realized something. Though my roses failed to stay, perhaps they could bring you back to me. That was one reason why I kept growing these roses, even after I was declared Mad Hatter, in hopes these flowers would be able to reunite us again as siblings."
"Because no matter where this game takes us, we will always find a way to be together. You're my brother, and nothing – not these roles, these games, or anything – can change that," Vivaldi mumbled, her expression wistful.
Her eyes widened as he affectionately placed a flower in her hair. "And it did. Now I continue to grow these roses for your happiness. After all, I do recall other than being your brother, I am also your servant. As your servant, all I want to do is please my queen."
The two smiled at each other. Moments like these were far and few. Most of the time they were forced to put their feelings and relationship aside for the glory of this bloody game. They cherished their time together in this private sanctuary.
Underneath the comforting scent of roses, they were able to forget and act as they should: as brother and sister.
A/N Notes: Sorry if there's lack of accuracy, but I just had to write this. A few things here:
I never bothered giving the two names. I wasn't entirely sure if Vivaldi and Blood were their original names (though why a parent would name their kid Blood is beyond me) or if they were names that just kinda happened when they received their roles. So I just kept referring to them as brother and sister. Sorry if it's confusing.
Plus, I'm also assuming that it took them little while to find Vivaldi after the Queen of Hearts died. Idk if gaining a role immediately alerts everyone of who and where you are, but I was going with the former. Again apologies if there's any inaccuracies in this fic.
Anyways thanks for reading~