The weather was truly beautiful for a trip to the zoo like this. The sun was high in the sky, bright and warm, alighting upon the heads of those on the ground so their smiling faces shone. Crowds of families could be seen everywhere; young children staring at the assorted animals in amazement, their little faces glowing with happiness, whilst the adults laughed and tried to pretend they weren't reverting to similar child-like states of awe and amazement, too.
There was just something about seeing such a wide array of interesting animals that brought out more relaxed, carefree sides of people like this. The sound of cheerful laughter filled the idyllic scene, mingled with the noises of various animals and the sound of footsteps on the ground.
And, of course… weather like this was perfect for having light, icy refreshments too, wasn't it?~
"Wow... I-I've never had it like this before! I didn't even know it could be eaten in such a way!"
The wonder in the young woman's voice was soft and innocent, not a hint of sarcasm to her words. It was very endearing- but the way stared at such a mundane sight, blue eyes wide, mouth open in a small 'o', was slightly ridiculous, too. Rosa couldn't help but giggle at this, even if she did feel like a bit of a bully for it. It wasn't at all how she had imagined Beatrice, the witch of the forest, would be; not at all!
"H-hey... …What are you laughing at?"
"O-oh, nothing, nothing," said Rosa lightly, smiling. "I-I just thought the face you were pulling was a little bit funny, that's all, a-ahaha~"
"H-hm…? Me, funny?" Beatrice asked, scowling. "T-that's impolite! I was just stating an observation, I-I don't see how such a thing is amusing! Muu… … How disrespectful, a-and to say such things to a person like me, too... The servants would never dare."
Well, Kumasawa had teased her just a little bit this one time, telling her that sprites lived inside the oven that made it hot, and that was why she should never, ever touch it without gloves on- b-but that was all! It was okay if Kumasawa teased her because she was her mother figure, but when a person like this brat did…
Muu… … I-it was just a little aggravating!
"Ehehe~ Sorry, sorry," said Rosa. "It's just surprising. I've never met anybody who acted so surprised over ice-cream served in a cone before."
"Well, I've never seen such a thing! I didn't know humans had invented other ways to eat ice-cream, instead of in a bowl... But, aah, I see, I see," Beatrice said; accepting the frozen treat from young Rosa's hands. "The cone makes it easier to hold when walking?"
"Of course! That's what it's for." And, although Rosa managed to hold back her teasing, light-hearted insult (it seemed Beatrice wasn't well-versed in being teased like this), she couldn't help but add inside the safety of her own head, 'dummy~'.
"Hmm... W-well… i-it's a good idea," Beatrice said, somewhat begrudgingly. "I… I like it. It's quite ingenious, really... Humans become very creative when it comes to food, ahaha~"
"Well, I'm glad it's up to your high standards. You should eat your ice-cream, though. It'll melt in the sun. Look."
Rosa pointed one finger at Beatrice's ice-cream, making the young woman look down. Indeed, it had started to run; the plain vanilla mush of melted dessert in danger of oozing down the cone, dribbling onto the floor.
"Hee~ Surely having sticky fingers would be unrefined for you, right?" said Rosa playfully. "Eat it. It won't bite, see?"
And with that, Rosa licked the chocolate ice-cream she held in her own hand.
"Hm...? A-ah, yes...! I-I see... Don't patronize me!" Glaring, two pink spots appearing on her cheeks, Beatrice muttered, "I became too preoccupied appreciating this new sight, so I forgot about the melting properties of the ice-cream... I-it's a simple mistake that could happen to anybody…"
Hee… Rosa smiled, shaking her head; not voicing these thoughts (which would undoubtedly ruffle Beatrice's feathers), but still revelling in them all the same. Well, if you say so… but personally, I think you're just scatterbrained~
Bending her head, golden curls fluttering slightly, Beatrice proceeded to press her pink tongue against the frozen treat; swiping it along the mound of ice-cream hesitantly. After the first lick, however, her sea blue eyes lit up; sparkling.
Evidently, it wasn't poisoned, as she started to eat it more appreciatively; a smile on her face with a sweetness to rival the ice-cream's.
And this woman, who was so simply enjoying her ice-cream, was meant to be older than Rosa?
Rosa still couldn't quite believe that.
Beatrice's golden hair might have been tied up in an elaborate bun, a single red rose tied very neatly in the side of her hair, but little of her expressions and actions complimented her refined apparel. She had the curiosity of a kitten peeping into a well, and the eager enjoyment of life rarely seen sparkling across the faces of adults.
Yes... ... in a word, Beatrice was childish.
She certainly wasn't anything like one of the ethereal, magnificent, terrifying witches Rosa had read about in stories. This Beatrice seemed no more capable of summoning fearsome demons from the pits of hell and stealing babies from their cradles than a sea otter would've been. Nevertheless... it wasn't disappointing.
Rosa was glad the witch of the forest could be a friend, rather than something else to fear. To Rosa, friends were even rarer than frightening things- so this experience was more surprising for her than meeting with a cruel witch.
No witch could be as cruel as her sharp tongued siblings, anyway.
Rosa didn't find Beatrice poor company at all. Instead, the young girl was... just a little bit happy that they could talk like this. For too long had Rosa been looked down upon, scorned, tricked and abused by her older siblings. Because Rosa was their weak, clumsy, useless baby sister, they had no qualms about pushing their own misery onto her. At home, it was... like being trapped inside a red ant nest. No matter where Rosa went or what she did, her frail skin was always being bitten, scratched, irritated; and that was only if her family remembered she existed at all.
Nobody took her seriously.
Nobody listened to her.
Nobody... even seemed to like her, very much.
But Beatrice was different. This young woman, whom Rosa had been so frightened of first, sat under the arbor in Kuwadorian in her skirts, sipping her black tea like a princess... was, in reality, more like a little chick; clinging, eyes wide, to Rosa's hand.
Beatrice... needed Rosa.
She... liked Rosa.
And Rosa couldn't help but smile, as she thought how very satisfying it was... to be wanted and needed by at least somebody.
"Ehehe~ You like your ice-cream?" asked Rosa, puling herself out of her thoughts with this simple question.
"I-it tastes good!" was Beatrice's earnest, wide-eyed response; dropping her witch pretence in surprise. "Just as good as the kind the servants used to bring me in a bowl, when I sat outside in the sun! It seems the cone does not impact the flavor at all...!"
"Well, it wouldn't, silly. It's still just normal ice-cream. Don't get so excited about such small things, ahaha~"
"Muu... ..." A childish pout. "I can't help it. The luxuries of the human world are exciting. Stop teasing me. I-I've never been spoken to like this before, i-it's trying my patience…"
"Oh?~ But if being spoken to so casually is a new experience, too, then shouldn't you try to enjoy it more?"
Beatrice turned her head away from the mischievously smiling Rosa, her soft blush intensifying just a little bit.
Sticking out her lower lip, she said huffily, "Humph. Well, it doesn't bore me... B-but, be quiet and let me eat my ice-cream..."
"Of course. If it started to melt all over your dress I'd feel bad. It's such a nice design, too," said young Rosa, smiling softly, as she looked Beatrice up and down. "Like an illustration from one of my fairytales... ... I've never seen anything so pretty…"
"Ahahaha… Well, being praised is nice. It makes the ice-cream taste even sweeter. You can compliment me as much as you like, Rosa~"
"I will, if you remember to eat all of that," said Rosa, in motherly tones that seemed humorously out of place, considering she was a skinny little girl, just turned a teenager, whilst Beatrice was at least a head taller than her, and a fully grown woman. "Don't waste it now."
"I-I wiiiill!" was Beatrice's whiny response. "I'm going to eat it all! As if I would pointlessly waste something so delicious! Mou, look? I'm eating, I'm eating, I-I- ooh... ... kuuu..."
Perhaps Beatrice had been eating a little too vigorously, for a few seconds later an expression of pronounced discomfort crossed her face. Beatrice winced, pressing a hand to her cheek as though she had a toothache- though maybe the simile was, in actuality, correct. Another one of her pouts captured her lips, flushed cheeks puffing out slightly like a squirrel's, which was flecked with little bits of ice-cream from her over enthusiastic manner of eating.
Well. That would teach that greedy witch to eat her food so quickly, wouldn't it?
Maybe the smile on Rosa's face was a bit vindictive… …
The giggle didn't help her seem any more caring, either.
"S-shut up!" Beatrice snapped. "B-be quieeeet…"
"Pft... ... Ahaha~ Sorry, sorry~ I never thought I'd see a witch eating snacks so happily, though!~"
"Hm, well… … R-right now, I'm not a witch," said Beatrice, still nursing her aching teeth; cheek cupped with one hand. "I don't want to be something like that."
"Oh? But you seemed strangely prideful a few moments ago," said Rosa, finishing her own ice-cream with one last swallow and wiping her hands on her handkerchief. "Sometimes I've thought it would be nice to be a witch... That way, when big brother Krauss used to bully me, or break my toys, or tear up my drawings, I could turn him into a frog or something... At least then he couldn't insult me… … I-I've thought about that, a little bit..."
"H-hn... Your brother did that to you?" asked Beatrice.
Beatrice's eyes were even larger than they had been when she had stared up at the giraffe enclosure with Rosa and babbling excitably about how tall they all were- 'how'd they get their necks so long? It must be magic!'
It looked like she was coming to a rather sudden realization about the human psyche; in the middle of recovering from brain freeze during a trip to the zoo, no less. The placement of this kind of conversation was poor, like putting a human head as a centrepiece on a dinner table in a fancy party inside of a bunch of flowers. Rosa knew she was being selfish, talking about such things- but at this point, she couldn't hand wave it with a laugh and carry on.
Somehow, she felt compelled to keep talking…
"Yes. Krauss did such things… … So did big sister Eva. Even Rudolf, a little bit- and he was always the nicest to me. But that's because... I am the youngest. And they always said I was a girl of no talent... ... They didn't like me so much..."
"B-but, that… that… T-that... that really is too cruel!" Beatrice suddenly said; voice filled with indignation. "You might be a little bit rude, but you're not a girl of no talent! You know all sorts of things about giraffes and pandas and lions!"
"Hee… Well, thank you. I feel my relatives don't feel that way, though…"
"T-they're idiots, then- all of them, helpless blockheads! I don't have any siblings, but I always heard 'family' was meant to be a very, very beautiful thing... But you make it sound scary...?"
"I think it depends on the family. Mine is... pretty scary, though. You know… that's why I found you in the first place- um, so maybe it's not all bad? At that time, when I was dashing through the forest… I just wanted to leave my family behind… I wanted to run away."
Beatrice's expression hardened at this, and although her voice wavered, she was clearly becoming more and more pronounced in her resolve; like a teacup slowly being filled with tea.
"W-well, I, too... have also run away... ... But, I… I am… … not going back. I don't want to go back. It was horrible."
"Yeah…" Rosa nodded. "Being in a cage for so long must have been lonely, right...?"
"It was. It was... very lonely... Kinzo was the only family I had... He was like my father, but, he... h-he did a lot of things I don't understand... o-or think fathers should do... a-although, he did buy me nice dresses, and black tea, and ice-cream, so maybe I should be thankful, but..." Beatrice bit her lower lip; looking down at the floor. "But I still don't want to go back. I don't want to be 'Beatrice', I don't want to be a 'witch'. People are scared of witches, right...? So, if I'm going to have a lot of fun with everybody else today, a-and see all the cute animals- e-even the wolves, although I don't like wolves, b-but behind bars it would be... okay...?- and then I-I'll be a normal human! I want to be reborn as a human girl who can eat lots of delicious ice-cream in cones every day, and go to the zoo, and even go on rollercoasters at theme parks, a-and have a lot of fun! Being a witch means being trapped in that cage in Rokkenjima, like a flightless bird... And I don't want to go back to that cage ever, ever again."
A soft wind, colder than it should have been (and perhaps it felt colder than it truly was) danced through the trees, making the canopy of leaves above them sway. Rosa's pigtails were tugged gently in this softly swirling rondo; as were the gold wisps of curly hair that fell from Beatrice's bun.
Never before had Rosa noticed it, but... ... Beatrice looked… melancholy, didn't she…?
Standing there under the tree, with the wind wrapping round her, the sunlight shimmering down through the green leaves and peppering her face, hair, skirts... she looked somewhat ethereal. Hauntingly beautiful; more like a portrait than a real person.
And yet, at the same time, with those ethereal, distinctly un-Japanese looks…
…she seemed very out of place… … and incredibly lonely, too.
She wasn't just a naïve girl excited to be outside, was she...? She was... a tragic woman... ... who still didn't know who or what she was. She had never been allowed to form her own identity, because everything she was had all been forced upon her. Even her slightly arrogant, self-important style of speech, like that of a noblewoman, wasn't truly hers'. She was… acting a part, wasn't she?
Trying to become the witch Beatrice.
The witch Kinzo desired.
She had been locked away in the forest, unable to talk to anybody else, unable to see the outside world. It must have been... ... awful. Rosa couldn't even imagine how awful it must have felt... ... A-and she, selfishly, had been feeling happy Beatrice had nobody but her to rely on... b-but wasn't that kind of thinking twisted?
Wasn't she being manipulative?
Was Rosa simply happy because she had found a new toy to play with; a toy that her siblings couldn't snatch from her (as they had done in the past) because Beatrice was her secret, and hers' alone, like raising a pet kitten in a box...?
Maybe... Rosa hadn't been a very good friend.
She hadn't been acting as a friend.
All this time, she had been gloating… because she had found somebody who needed her, and relied on her, so completely… … but no friend would find happiness in another's misery, would they?
She was being just as cruel as her siblings… … wasn't she…?
Rosa felt something hard welling up in her throat.
She had to apologize, somehow.
"Hey... It's okay. I'm not going to force you to go back," said Rosa softly, earnestly; using the same tone of voice that could sing a baby to sleep. It was a mystery where she had learnt that kindness. It certainly hadn't been from her mother, father, brothers or sister. "I-I… um… I-I was lonely, too, you know... S-since I always got called useless by my family, I-I… I think that way a little, about myself, so… it was hard making friends at school, and I was always teased a little… Yeah. I was thinking it was nice that you needed me, b-but... I-I've never had any real friends, or a close relationship with my family, so... s-so... ... I'm happy I have you now, too... ..."
There was a small silence.
Rosa stood there, toes curling up in her shoes in agitation, fretting; frightened that these happy memories she was trying to make with Beatrice would turn sour, like curdled milk- gone rotten and bad, all because of her own selfishness.
Because she was a terrible person.
On Beatrice's face, there was... ... a very small, and very delicate smile... unfurling like the petals of flower, and looking like it could be blown away at any second- but it was a smile nonetheless.
"I-I... I am happy have you, as well, Rosa. You're… my first friend, you know? Kuu…" a complicated expression rose to Beatrice's face; almost one of pain. "It is embarrassing for me to admit, and I've never had such cause to say sentiments like this to anybody before, but… you are my first friend. And, although I haven't known you for very long… my best friend. S-so, ah… you don't have to feel lonely anymore, either. Let's stay together. That way, if two sheep are together, the wolves can't harm us, right? Just like one of those puzzles you showed me... o-ohoho~"
And so it was with a nervous laugh that Beatrice crossed the short distance that had opened up between them, and pulled young Rosa into a warm embrace.
Hm, well… maybe it just felt warm because of the light pink that began to dust Rosa's cheeks.
Nobody had held her like this before; not even her own mother. It felt... so soft (that impressive chest was solid proof Beatrice wasn't a child, even if she acted like one sometimes, and it was enough to make Rosa feel foolishly jealous)... ... and, unbidden, Rosa's heart was beginning to beat just a little faster...
Rosa couldn't bring herself to tell Beatrice that, if they were the only two sheep, there were far, far more wolves in the world that were ready to devor them and spit out their bones. Kinzo, her mother, Krauss, Eva, Rudolf... ... there were lots and lots of cruel people out there with monstrous instincts, who wouldn't have hesitated to destroy this small fragment of happiness in an instant.
And yet... at that moment, Rosa didn't care.
She truly didn't care.
She was overjoyed... that she had found a friend... ...
"Mou... Don't sound so startled, I-I'm only showing my affections... I-I think this is how it's typically done...?" said Beatrice; her own cheeks pink, as she buried her head in Rosa's shoulder. "I-I am a novice with having 'friends', so I may be mistaken, though...? Maybe I look foolish…"
A small sniff; a sound of obvious embarrassment.
Heh… Beatrice sounded quite cute when she did that.
"A-ah... um, n-no... It's fine... ..." said Rosa tremulously; tumbling over her words. "I'm very happy? That's why I'm smiling… ehehe…~"
"H-hn… So, I'm doing it right? I'm being a good friend?"
"Yes, you are. Don't worry so much, silly."
And with that, the fourteen-year-old Rosa gently hugged the undeniably human Beatrice back.
When they parted, Rosa knew her face was pink- but perhaps that didn't matter so much. After all, so was Beatrice's.
"O-oh, and... as you don't like your name... ... I had an idea," said Rosa. "Maybe I could give you a nickname instead...?"
"Oho? Like what?" asked Beatrice excitably, eyes lighting up. "A-a new name...? Can you make it elegant and refined- a-and, if possible, just a little bit cute?"
"E-ehehe, well, I'm not sure about that. Maybe my naming sense isn't so good. I always get called dull and unimaginative. B-but I thought, maybe, just maybe..." Rosa smiled bashfully; fiddling with her fingers, clasped at her front. "Maybe... something like 'Beato' would do? It sounds a little bit cute?"
Beatrice cocked her head to one side slowly like a bird, gaze questioning... before, finally, she started to giggle.
"Ohoho~ 'Beato'... I-I like it! Then, from now on, I will be called Beato the human... and I can stay with you, Rosa. You can be my best friend. Ohoho...~ And, as we've only seen a few of the animals here... w-we need to go and see the rest together, right? I want to see pandas, and zebras, a-and maybe even the wolves... Aah, yes, I want to see lots, lots more things! I want to try more food, too! What about crepes? Takoyaki? Which are the pastries that are shaped like fish, filled with bean paste? I want to do a lot today! S-so... ... don't be sad or boring! L-let's stay together and have lots and lots of fun!~"
Or at least, we might one day have had fun… maybe, in a more forgiving world… if you hadn't asked her to walk along that rocky precipice in that ornate dress like such an idiot… …
Of course she wouldn't be able to keep her footing.
Of course she'd fall.
What else were you expecting, idiot?
Sometimes, when Rosa awoke from hopeless dreams like this, she couldn't help but crying; clutching her head and trembling, trying not to cry out, as she was crushed by the palpable weight of her own guilt.
a/n: I guess this is my first post to this site in a while, ahaha ^^;; I will resume posting my seakitty oneshots up here now, so expect more spam on my ff account in the near future... since I still have so many stories left to post ^^''
Well, I wrote this because I recently downloaded the full voiced patch for Umineko, and Rosa and Kuwadorian Beato's conversation sounds so lovely when voiced... And I really like the idea of these two forming some kind of friendship, and have been pondering writing some fluffy stuff of them together for a while, anyway.
I hope you liked it ^^''