Luka knew that was she was doing was terrible, deceitful...but she promised herself that she would only act on it as a last resort. That thought in mind, she stared down ruefully at her trembling hands, and nodded, once, to herself, before getting up from her desk so that she could attend to Miku.
Miku was lying back on the couch, staring at the ceiling of the house. Luka had brought Miku to this house, instead of to the basement, as a sort of apology - staying cooped up in a basement all day was no place for a lady like Miku, who would probably be far more comfortable in an actual brick-and-mortar home than in the underground basement in the theater. As Miku had taken ill, Luka wrote a letter to the managers of the theater, detailing Miku's circumstances, telling the managers to call on Miku's understudy for now, and delivered it to the theater at night, when Miku was asleep.
Luka didn't want people to know the location of this house, naturally. She had designed it herself, thanks to her apprenticeship at an architect's, and she hired several tight-lipped masons, and the whole deal was done in complete secrecy.
But in the meantime, Luka coddled and treated with Miku care and attention. Eventually, Luka decided that Miku's voice was well enough for her to sing again, after listening to Miku sing a few scales.
"You're well enough to sing now," said Luka, "and you can resume your role at the theater tomorrow night."
Miku smiled and nodded obediently, like a child.
"And...and," Luka continued, nervously, although she hid it from her voice well, "if the air continues to be good for your throat, we could take a carriage down to the park. Would you like that?"
It was to be Miku and Luka's first outing in the outside world together, and Miku looked astonished by the offer. Luka had planned this for a while, though - going out at night to check when the amount of people in park would be lowest, scouting out areas of the park where there would be less light, so as she would not seem too out of place...a public outing was something that could not be taken lightly by someone like Luka, who had to skulk and sneak to hide her face.
"Of...of course," Miku stammered. "I'd love to."
Luka noticed with relief that Miku did not seem disgusted at the idea (was that actual happiness in her voice?).
"Thank you, Miku," said Luka.
They drove to the park in a brougham. It was dark, and the moon was already out, but still Luka was surprised to see that there were still a few people in the park: mostly people in pairs or groups, as it could be dangerous to wander the park alone. There were also a few disreputable parts of the great park at night, where there would be whores and drink, but Luka of course would not bring Miku to such parts.
Miku on her part seemed entranced by the outside world. She stared out of the brougham window, her eyes alight as she gazed in near-rapture at such ordinary things as streetlamps and houses and restaurants and bars, and Luka watched her sadly, knowing that, if Miku were to choose her, the outside world that she loved so much would be locked away from her and only taken out in special occasions. Once again, Luka cursed her face. If she had been born normal, she would be able to bring Miku wherever she pleased...but then again, if she had been born undeformed, then she would not even have met Miku in the first place...
Luka sighed then, and she gazed out of the window on her side. She was wearing a slightly more unobtrusive mask, black, that covered only the part of her face that was deformed, as well as a hat, so that her features may be suitably obscured.
Miku seemed to have heard Luka sigh, and she turned and looked at her questioningly. "What's wrong?"
The concern apparent in Miku's voice made Luka feel warm inside, although she gave no indication of that in her bearing. "Oh...nothing. We're here."
The green acres of the park spread out before them, and they got out of the brougham, and wandered around the desolate pathways of the empty park. There was something in wandering the park at night, alone, that gave it a sort of otherworldly feeling, as if by some accident Miku and Luka had stumbled into a parallel universe, somehow. Luka looked about, her eyes taking in every aspect of the park - its trees, its grass, its statues, its lake, and its plants and bushes. It was perfectly planned, an elegant mask, and everything, Luka knew, was artificial - the product of artifice and humanity rather than of nature. It was a splendid and elegant illusion, and Luka remarked upon this.
Miku looked at her, puzzlement evident in her face. "I think it's beautiful," she said, hesitantly, obviously unsure of what Luka meant. Luka was surprised by her innocence.
"This whole park is a sham, Miku," said Luka. "It's not real nature, here. This whole place is wearing a mask - it's fake."
"Well, then perhaps it's not reality I want to see," said Miku. Luka glanced at her quickly, vaguely hopeful. Luka put no great stock in reality, herself - it was far more pleasant to spend one's days in illusion. After all, if Luka was perfectly content with reality, she wouldn't be wearing a mask - she'd be in the poor quarter, mocked and ostracized, faced with brutal reality every day. At least with a mask, she could hide behind illusions.
"Do you mean it, Miku?" asked Luka. "You could, under some circumstances, find deception of your senses acceptable?"
The two of them had reached the brougham again, and Luka turned towards Miku and offered her her hand to help her step up into the carriage, but at that moment, another lumbering carriage rolled up to them, and, irritated, Luka looked away, at the unwelcome intruder. The whole carriage reeked of alcohol.
"Oh ho!" cried one of its passengers, voice heavy and merry. "Look what we have here, a lady of the night!"
Lady of the night, Luka knew, was the euphemism for 'prostitute'. As Luka always dressed androgynously and at times, even wore men's clothing, and her hat was covering much of her face, she knew that the passengers could not be addressing her, which meant that they were addressing Miku.
"That's right!" chimed in another voice. "Young lady, spare your favors instead for our suffering young noble in the carriage! Jilted by a cruel diva..."
"For Christ's sake, shut up!" Len's voice said from within the caravan. "Ignore these drunk fools, driver - let's move on."
"What's the fuss, Len? These show girls are all the same, lemme tell you," said the first voice. "Least a friend could do is treat you to a good, honest whore, and at this hour, you know as well as I that the great park of Crypton is full of whores."
Miku's face had turned pale, and Luka was feeling angry. Just her luck to have everything ruined by a bunch of drunkards, and Len to boot.
"Get in the carriage, quickly!" Luka snapped, and Miku hastily climbed into the carriage. Three young men were unloading from the other carriage, Len in the middle, someone Luka saw, to her surprise, be Gakupo on the left, and a man she did not know on the right. Luka leapt into the brougham, slammed the door, and ordered the driver to move. Len saw Miku through the window, and his face twisted in sad agony. Luka saw Miku respond to his expression, even craning her head to get a better look at him through the window, as the brougham sped on.
Luka's excellent mood had been completely ruined by the night's events.
"I must say that I deplore your young man's taste in companions," Luka said, icily, and she stared out the window in silence, and completely ignored Miku for the rest of the journey. She was far too upset right now, and she feared that if she were to talk to Miku, she would yell at her and scare her. Miku, for her part, merely shrunk into her seat and said nothing also.
When the two of them reached the lake, Luka opted not to boat to the little house, but to drag Miku back down through the sewers to the theater basement. Miku did not resist - she allowed herself to be taken there. Once there, Luka stalked over to the piano and banged her fingers on the keyboard, trying to release her anger into the piano. She played a savage song that made Miku wince.
"U-um," said Miku, over the crashing chords, "...may I...sing for you?"
Luka stopped playing, and sighed, trying to calm her twisting anger. "Right...your lesson. Well, since you've just recovered, you may choose what piece you wish to sing tonight..."
Miku nodded, and chose to sing a soft, soothing song - an intelligent choice considering Luka's mood at the moment. Luka listened to Miku's singing, but she sang the song completely perfectly today, no hiccups or mistakes, and her voice really was wonderful, and by the time she had finished, Luka found that her mood had improved significantly.
"You did excellently, Miku," Luka said, sitting up straight and looking at her. "You'd succeed on every stage in the world, I promise you that. I wonder if you know how happy you've made me these past few months with your improvement..."
Miku bowed her head in modesty, but she did not say anything.
"Are you tired?" asked Luka. "Should we stop for today?"
"Oh, no," said Miku, looking up. "I'm fine. I can sing more. You choose the next one."
"Very well," said Luka, and she turned and began looking through the scores. She suddenly felt an odd urge, and almost instinctively she picked Lotte. "I think we should do the final scene from Lotte...I always think this part should be played in a wedding dress, don't you? A young girl choosing to become entombed with her lover...it's terribly over-the-top, but with such music, it can make anything believable. There's a wedding dress in the costume closet - perhaps you would like to try it on?"
Although Luka delivered her above words coolly, inside she was feeling incredibly nervous. It was no accident that she picked the final scene of Lotte. Miku in a wedding dress was what Luka wanted to see.
Not that Miku would ever consent to marrying her, but...it was good to pretend. Luka quickly looked up to gauge Miku's reaction. She looked stricken.
"A...wedding dress?" Miku echoed.
Luka turned her gaze back towards the piano and frowned to herself. Miku's uneasiness had hurt her...although, what did Luka expect, anyways? Miku to happily put on the wedding dress, no questions asked? "...It is only a costume to help you feel the character better. Of course, if you'd rather not, you don't have to," Luka spoke coldly as she began to close up the score. "Perhaps it's just as well that we leave this scene alone. Obviously, you're not yet emotionally ready for the scene of 'O Terre Adieu'."
"I am ready!" said Miku, rising to the bait. "I can do it, Luka, let me try! It's a beautiful story!"
"Yes," Luka said as she stared at the score. "It is a beautiful story."
Miku then headed off to change, and Luka put her head in her hands. That dress had been tailormade for Miku - after so much obsessive examinings of her, Luka knew her measurements. She bit her lip as she nervously fingered the ring in her pocket - Luka had bought both the ring and the wedding dress in the week that she had sent Miku away. After all, she wanted it to be a surprise...but Miku had seemed so upset when Luka sent her away. Luka didn't understand it - Miku's feelings seemed so confusing, she didn't know what to think. She would be sweet one moment, and cold the next.
A few moments later, Miku emerged wearing the wedding dress, and Luka noted that it looked absolutely breathtaking on her...as it should, seeing how Luka literally spent days picking one out for her. Nothing less than absolute perfection was acceptable for her angel. In fact, Luka was so stunned by Miku's beauty, the score slowly slipped from her fingers and scattered on the floor. Miku bent to pick them up.
"No, leave them," said Luka, and she turned towards the piano, and tried to compose herself. "Now begin."
Miku hesitated. "But, I'm playing Lotte...right? So you should start from Raoul-"
"No, no," Luka waved her hand. "Just begin."
Miku nodded and sang. "My heart longing for your embrace, I ventured to the tomb...far from human gaze, in your arms I wished to die-"
"That was a mistake..." It was too much, hearing Miku sing those words in a wedding gown. No good...Luka wouldn't be able to restrain herself for much longer, but in fear of repulsing Miku, in fear of making her run away, Luka held back, and swallowed, and turned away, her fingers agitatedly twitching with the ring in her hands. "T-take off that gown, Miku...quickly, if you please..." Luka started to hug herself tightly, squeezing her eyes shut. No, no, must hold back. Miku's feelings for her were still a muddled mess, and Luka couldn't force herself on her. Luka had always tried to act perfectly good around Miku, and Luka'd be damned if an untoward impulse would drive her to ruin everything.
"Are you ill?" Miku, worried, took a step closer, and Luka felt the material of her wedding gown brush enticingly on her back.
"No!" Luka said, her voice strangled, and then she began to laugh, bitterly. "Well, perhaps I am, a strange sort of sickness..."
"What?" Miku sounded worried. "If you're ill, I should stay-"
"No!" Luka slammed her fist on the piano, and a chorus of ugly keys rang out. "Leave me!"
Miku said nothing more, and Luka heard her flee to her room. Luka thought she heard barely suppressed sobs from her, and sighed. She looked down at her piano, sadly. She always made things go wrong. Luka may have resisted her lust, but she had hurt and frightened Miku. She felt so guilty, so terrible, that she couldn't stand to be in the basement much longer. She gently stepped over Juent, who was blinking, sleepily confused, at Miku's door and then at Luka, and put on her hat and traveling cloak. She had to take a walk.
The streets were cold and inhospitable, the perfect companion to Luka's dark thoughts. She walked down the streets, thoroughly and completely miserable, when she suddenly heard a panicked shout behind her.
"Stop right there," cried Len's voice, "or I'll shoot!"
Luka sighed. She really didn't want to deal with that boy right now, although she had to admit that she was a little impressed by his courage. He was facing a known assassin in the middle of the night, armed only with a gun.
"Put that firearm away,," she said. "Such things shouldn't be in the hands of children. You might hurt yourself." And then she turned around, deliberately contemptuous, and continued walking. She heard the sharp noise of a bullet being fired, and it grazed her on the shoulder. Len fired twice more, each of them missing her...although not by intention, Luka knew. The boy meant to shoot her down in cold blood - if his aim was a bit more on the mark, Luka would have died.
Luka remembered bitterly how it would have been so, so easy to kill Len all those times before, when he was defenseless, but she had held back due to some notion of 'fair play'. Well, the boy proved himself to not be constrained by such merciful ideas. Apparently a monster, a thing like Luka, was not even worth challenging a duel to. Trembling with anger, Luka made her way back to the theater as the first reddish lights of dawn appeared on the horizon.
She could not delay this any longer...Luka closed her eyes and thought of Miku, her smile and her voice and her gentle kindness. To have that taken away from her would be too much...
It was time, Luka decided, for Miku to make her choice.
Luka returned home. Miku was still in her room...had Luka really upset her so much? She sighed and placed her head against the piano. Juent leapt up and Luka cradled him, trying to draw a little strength from the cat. She envied him - the life of a cat was so simple. Luka stayed like that for a long while, until she became aware that Miku was kneeling by her feet. Luka looked down at her, puzzled.
"Luka," said Miku. "Please say something...if I stay locked up here with only my own thoughts for company...it feels like I'd go mad..."
Luka's eyes widened and she stiffened. She stared at Miku in horror. Locked up...did Miku really think of this as a prison? That can't be...Luka had tried to give Miku freedom...Miku was free to leave whenever she wanted with the sewers key (although Luka told Miku to give that to Len, she apparently didn't, to Luka's private relief), and Miku would perform nightly as she knew the way to the stage from Luka's basement well...it's only that she was now living with Luka instead of in her room. Surely, being with Luka was better than being in her room, right?
But now Luka was beginning to see how foolish she was for thinking that. "You...think this place is a prison? Is this what my house...means to you? A prison?"
"It's not a prison," said Miku, slowly, "unless you make it so...these past few days, you've been...I feel like I don't know you anymore..."
Miku's words wounded Luka deeply, and she dully looked at her piano. "...my apologies, Miku. I...I've told you of my past. I have more...darkness in my mind than I care to have, but oh, Miku," Luka turned towards her again, "if you were my wife, then I would be happy...I would feel like my life has some meaning. You would complete everything in me."
Miku did not say anything. She only looked at Luka, and Luka thought that an appalled expression sped through Miku's face. Luka got up and walked away.
"It seems that the voice you seem to adore so much isn't half as pleasant when it says things you don't want to hear," said Luka, bitterly. "I suppose some words in a monster's mouth can be rendered obscenities, eh? Words such as 'love'...'marriage'...'wife'."
Miku remained silent, and Luka turned towards her. She had her head to the floor, looking for all the world like a guilty prisoner about to be guillotined. Luka's heart stirred, sadly, and she walked over and knelt down next to Miku.
"I am sorry for yesterday," said Luka. "But if you married me...I would accept any condition you cared to name, anything." Freaks like Luka cannot have proper legal weddings, of course, but in this case, Luka thought it to be a blessing - they could simply have a small private two-person ceremony and they would be together and who cares about the difference?
"Luka..." said Miku, softly.
"You don't believe me," said Luka flatly. "You think I'm lying, don't you?"
"I believe you," said Miku.
Luka felt utterly wretched. "It's that boy, isn't it...? Ah, Miku, it won't be for long. How long will I live, after this life? Not long, to be sure, five, six months, and you will be a young widow, free to marry Len, if you so wish..."
Miku stared at Luka, once again looking appalled, shocked, but at what, Luka did not know.
"...I won't beg for your love," said Luka as she turned her face away. "Please, just come back tomorrow evening. Tell me your decision. Even if...even if that decision is no."
"I will," whispered Miku.
After Miku left, Luka went into the room in her house that was Miku's, and as she straightened out the wedding gown, something fell out from its folds.
Luka examined it. It was a necklace, with a crucifix on it, and next to it...
Luka paled. A ring. An exquisite one, very expensive, diamonds set in it...this was no mere keepsake, no bauble, no...this was a wedding ring.
She fell to her knees, the necklace slipping from her grasp onto the floor. Luka knew now that she had to find the courage within herself to let Miku go. Miku had been kind, infinitely so...Luka began to realize that Miku stayed with her out of pity and kindness, and so she hid this ring, for she did not want to hurt Luka, and oh...a freak like Luka would never, ever obtain happiness. Miku was too perfect. Luka had spent thirteen years of her life looking for her...she gave up everything for her, Kaito and Meiko and her innocence, obsessively learning everything, killing, for Miku, but it was all for naught, it didn't mean anything in the end, Luka was only the little freak girl and she would always be the little freak girl and she never meant anything more than that. She may dress herself up and act eloquent and elegant, but it was all an act, wasn't it, in the end?
Luka loved Miku enough to let her go, or so she hoped. She would see Miku off and wish her a happy life with that boy, Kagamine Len, for Miku deserved far, far more than Luka. Tears rolled down Luka's cheeks, landed on the floor, and Luka tried to stifle her sobs. She couldn't and so Luka cried on the bed she had made for Miku, in the room she had constructed and set aside for Miku...it was all for her. It wasn't fair...
Luka had never been religious, but prayer was her one last resort. God was the greatest magician of all, wasn't He? If He could make rainbows and transform caterpillars into butterflies, surely...surely it was possible for Him to change hate and fear into love?
Luka ran to the highest point of the theater, on the rooftop, next to the statue of Apollo, and she fell on her knees, and she put her hands together, and she prayed for the very first time in her life.
"Please God, let her love me and I promise I will be good forever..."