Nervously, Yuuya peered into the nestbox. Maman was half-asleep, but unfolded one wing to beckon him up to join her on the nest pedestal. "So you've come home from boarding school tonight," she whispered. "I've missed you, mon chou."
"The housemaids told me that the egg hatched a few weeks ago," Yuuya whispered back, fluttering up to perch beside her. "Is it true? Can I see him? What is his name?"
Maman's smile was a strange blend of sorrow and steel. "I've named him Sakuya. Monsieur Le Bel was not entirely pleased, but in the end he agreed to it."
"Sakuya? But that was the name-" Yuuya stopped himself from saying any more, before he came too close to those unspeakable memories. Instead, he simply said, "Sakuya is a good name."
"Your father thought so too." Carefully, quietly, Maman stood up to let Yuuya peer at the bottom of the nest. "Look, here he is. It's almost time to feed him again, so it should be fine to let him wake."
"He's so pink and fuzzy."
"Yes, his pinfeather roots are dark because they're still growing; when they've stopped, the blood will withdraw back into the skin and they'll turn white." The nestling stirred, blinked open his great dark eyes, and abruptly nudged at Maman's body with his mouth gaping hugely open. "Ah, mon petit cochon, you are such a greedy little thing," she crooned, and cupped her beak around his to feed him crop milk.
Sakuya seemed oblivious to everything else while being fed, so Yuuya tentatively reached out with a wingtip to stroke his pinfeathers. "Where is Monsieur Le Bel right now?"
Maman tried to answer, but Sakuya wouldn't let go. She shrugged, smiled as best she could, and enfolded Yuuya in both of her wings until Sakuya, abruptly sated, fell asleep again.
"Monsieur has gone out for supper," Maman said at last. She preened Yuuya's neck. "He'll be back at dawn to sit on the nest for the day. He doesn't want you and Sakuya to become close, so don't try to see them without me. I'm sorry, mon chou. You can still come to talk to me whenever I'm here. He has no right to forbid that."
Sakuya had no real feathers to preen, but Yuuya leaned down to rub his beak against the awkward stiff fuzz. "Maman, if you're already hungry, you can leave the nest while I keep him warm."
She studied him carefully. "You're not jealous of him, are you? You would never... harm him?"
"Never. I give you my word, Maman."
Her strange, steely smile flashed out again. "Then I believe you. Stay here with him while I take a short flight around the garden. I am not hungry yet, but I would like to stretch my wings. Arrange your feet carefully and don't step on him. There you are- now sit down, and fluff your feathers to keep the draft out."
Maman flew out the balcony into the moonlight. Yuuya sat quietly on the nest, feeling Sakuya's pinfeathers prickle against his feet. The sleeping chick was soft, and warm, and much larger than the egg he had hatched from. "Sakuya," he whispered to his baby brother. "I will never harm you. No one- no one will ever harm you while I am here. I promise you that. I promise."