Pitch black sky. He sighed. The whole sky was quiet in the way unlike before, as if everything was swallowed into emptiness for one night. Not even the town was lit that he, far above the world, felt like he was the only one in the entire universe. Which might work in his favor had it was true. Instead, it smelt like rain and tasted like the sun. Stardust and raindrops memory, he recalled Genkaku's words from a long time ago, in deep baritone voice and a twinkle in his eyes.

He looked down to find Black Sword casted an eerie glow. Perhaps such darkness was what it truly yearned for. If any townspeople looked outside right now, he was sure they would see the lantern-like insignia, illuminating from the castle. Perhaps that would send them peace, assuring that they would eventually win the war from that 'despicable State'. Or not, he whispered to himself.

His mind wandered again to the starless ocean, looking up towards the sky in which he never would fly through, soaring high before gliding gracefully back down. He would instead leap and bound before crashing to the ground, a fate he deserved for all his actions.

A creak. The door to his private balcony swung open to reveal a young woman whose hair were of midnight sheen. She stepped forward to close the gap between them, until it was comfortable enough to talk but not entirely close.

"The wind is chilly, My Lord. Come in and you can think,"she said, warmly and politely like she always did. Jowy shook his head, never quite known what to do with her. "I told you that I have no need of formality." She nodded, but her eyes were steely enough that he finally gave up, proceeding to head inside. His cape fluttered in the wind and he briefly wondered what would happen if he was to let it go altogether. Would he finally could be free?

The chamber wasn't unlike the royal tent, where everything began. Though gaudier, he noted, much more elaborate. It was lined with red and gold with intricate symbols all over the walls, centuries-old tapestry hung gallantly with Highland flag emblazoned on it. Contrast with all that, when Jillia took a seat across him to face him again, her eyes were like a warm summer dream. They once truly were, so he mustered all of his energy to block the irony of his childhood from his mind.

Jillia observed her husband, his distraught written all over the places. She fetched a tray of hot chocolates and served them on the table. Her gaze fleetingly went over the study. She knew, in his drawers were hundreds of unsent letters adressed to either Nanami or Riou, sometimes both. As careless as it could be, Leon would never approve such action had he known. It'd result in instant death once Luca found out. But Luca was not going to barge into his sister's room, Jillia was sure of that, so she decided to keep silent the whole time. Now that problem was mostly taken care of.

"What's in your mind, My Lord? You can tell me," she offered, glad that Jowy had been at ease. The young man shut his eyes, sipping his drink almost too carefully. "I told you not to use that title when we're alone." He was somewhat annoyed, but Jillia paid no offence. She smiled. "We're married. It's customary."

"You could refuse." It wasn't an accussation, but he didn't bother to hide his bitterness.

"Yet I obliged," she replied. He was unsure where she would lead the conversation. Jillia was different from any woman he came to know.

"I'm sorry," she suddenly said, breaking the silence between them. Her eyes faraway to the balcony he just left. "My brother, he is-was..." she corrected, not quite believing. Jowy supposed she too hadn't truly believed that beast was dead. At least, he had not. Yet. She fiddled with her words, unsure how to put it into proper speech. Jowy stared the tablecloth deeply, as if his attention was undivertedly its. But he was dead. They killed him.

"Stop it, Jillia," he finally said, voice quivered. Her eyebrows raised in concern. "My Lord?"

"I killed him." He let the sentence stop mid air to gauge her reaction,"And if I know he might be not that cruel, that it could erase my hatred, I'd regret my decision and I'll falter. I'll use this hatred as my power to end this war once and for all."

Black Sword pulsed in accordance of his breath, eager, like a child showing his ability to his parents. If she was afraid, she did well to show nothing. Instead, she reached for his hand and clasped them with hers. Warmth, a feeling Jowy had not feel for a long time. He retracted his hands rather forcefully, surprised with his own actions. He calmed down.

"Is it okay to tell me that? It's your weakness, isn't it?" She was testing the water. She was a perfect lady in the court, but Jowy knew best, that her ability wasn't to be underestimated. She was subtle, but he could tell she was smart the first time she spoke she did play along in his scheme. Deliberately. He thought he might be laying on the ground headless if she ever ordered a soldier to 'off with his head'. If she so want, she could be the one hardest to deal with out of everyone else in the royal family. Afterall, she had all the charm as a princess. He shuddered. Perhaps it was understandable for anyone who could put up with Luca her entire life.

So he went for the biggest bet he ever made in his life. "I trust you." It wasn't entirely lie. He did trust her, too much for his liking. He studied her expression. That one sentence had brought light to her face. Perhaps the two of them were more similar than they thought.

"I'm honored."

Like someone whose burden was finally released, she started the conversation again. "My Lord, what do you think of this country?" Maybe this time he would get to know her reasons, so he played along with whatever she was trying to do.

She continued in his silence. "You said you couldn't forgive it. I take it that you meant those words even now." He remembered that evening, many months ago, the last time he met Riou as a friend.

"I stand corrected. But I don't understand. What are you trying to pull?" Rage wouldn't help you anywhere, Jowy, he reminded himself. She traced her cup, pouring more liquid that its scent filled the room.

"I love this country. Its land and its people. But us royals have been so corrupted. Nobles are taking advantages from this war. At the end, citizens suffer under the monarchy. That's why I give in. I believe the two of you could give these people better time, better place like they deserve. It's him, isn't it? The boy with golden circlet?"

He nodded. Too amazed to speak.

"I'm sixteen. How about you, My Lord?"

"Seventeen and a half in a few months." Was it? Time passed so quickly. He glanced at the calendar to find his birthday, which only Nanami and Riou knew. They were supposed to celebrate it in Kyaro, getting Nanami off the kitchen while they prepared the party. A creaking snapped him back to reality.

She shifted her chair, smoothed her tangled hair. "Yet you're a King. He's the leader of an army. I'm a Queen. This is all so messed up, don't you think? Crooked countries that led children taking part in a cruel war. My brother did spark the initial fire this time, but the two countries had been waiting to burn for a long time. A hatred rooting deeply for ages...We're just unfortunate enough to be born in this era. "

"No need to bring him here."

Another pause.

"Jillia...you..." She kept on smiling but now it pained him even more."What would you do if you're not a princess?"

"Going to school, maybe Greenhill Academy like any other children. Or traveling to see the world. I'm always caged in a place it seems." It might be unintentional, but he could see a tinge of sadness and hope radiated from her.

Now you're caged with me, he thought.

"But we're not just anyone...we-we're too involved in the war to simply run away. I don't like what ifs-even if I think of them all day."

"So will you run after this?"

"What do you mean, My Lord?" He diverted his eyes somewhere else, unable to see her right into the eyes. "After this war, Highland will be no more." He thought of Culgan and Seed and Han who pledged their loyalty to him and his plan to destroy the kingdom. He thought of Annabelle and her last words. He kept the knife,used it as a charm. It was a reminder of the first blood sacrifice he made before all the Highland soldiers under him.

She thought for a while. The steam from their drinks had disappeared as they talked. "It depends."

"What if I kill you?" If he was going to follow Leon's plan, if his strength was depleting at this rate, if he truly would sacrifice her... Above all, he wanted to know her answer. She wasn't the only one wanting to know the ground of their relationship.

"I think you'll never do that. But if you absolutely have to, it doesn't change much. I'm not supposed to exist in the first place."

He was stunned, somewhere at the back of his mind he remembered a little boy who was unable to face his own mother, whose father directly stating his disgust at him, whose brother acted like he was no more than freeloader in the house.

"You-you could have been Agares' real daughter," he tried. She let out a light chuckle. "He brought me in for the same reason, but I think he never actually believed that."

Another sting in his heart. She did know him, more than he let himself to admit. If only they met in other conditions. If only he could be more open to her.

He laughed bitterly.

"May I know what you're laughing at, My Lord?"

"Do you remember, ten years ago in Kyaro, two boys were chased by the guards for climbing the palace walls?"

Her lips parted in recognition, but she kept her cool and gestured him to go on.

"It was us. Me and Riou. Don't you think fate has a really twisted humor sense? To think that we'll meet again like this..."

He didn't tell her he thought she was beautiful. He didn't need to.

"You shouldn't associate youself with the likes of me. I'll be known as an evil king who brings this Kingdom to its demise. After all this is over, you can have the normal life you wanted.'

"But I've chosen. I've chosen to be with you.'

She said that with such determination that he wanted to know what was it she saw in him. He was sure it was not the same way he saw himself, disgusted at his current self. Maybe he was the perfect vessel of Black Sword, afterall. Riou would never be like him. He was too pure.

He wondered, in another life he couldn't be happier. Like a fairytale, marrying the princess he saw as a child and being given the chance to rule his beloved country, with Riou and Nanami by his side. He sighed. Jillia, on the other hand, was a nice girl he might want to spend his life with.

It was nothing. Like Jillia said, what-ifs were painful. A figment of imagination. A childish dream. He wondered, perhaps, also a piece of wish. Whatever it is, it's there,

Up to the thin air.

A/N: So I disappeared for a while...tons of schoolworks and losing my modem being the cause. Sorry that the first part was blocks of text while the latter was dialogue-heavy. This was supposed to be my entry for Suikoden Day, but I couldn't fit it outside the game timeline and it passed the 2000 words limit.