(A/N): The beginning of this chapter was inspired by an AMV called "The Age of Man" ― go watch it. It's a spiritual experience. :3
Chapter 2 - Soulmate
"Friendship is a single soul dwelling in two bodies."
One person dies every second worldwide, at least one. One hundred and eight people die every minute worldwide. Seven point four billion people die each year of cancer worldwide. There are more than one hundred types of cancer; any part of the body can be affected. In the year 2011, there were a hundred and thirty-nine bombings in Sudan; each bombing attack caused fourteen casualties. One person commits suicide every forty seconds. There are two bullets for every person on the planet.
Crime, famine, murder, disease ― we are all victim to mortality.
In a world such as this, surrounded by lies and harsh realities, how can one even begin to hope for better days when today's tragedies will always casts its shadow on the light of tomorrow?
You tell yourself, "be brave"
You tell your loved ones, "I'll wait for you, stay safe, I miss you"
But does it do you any good? How do you know when words carry any solid guarantee?
How do you know if your life has any meaning?
You don't. However...
About four to five people are born every second worldwide; two hundred and sixty-seven people are born every minute worldwide. Two hundred million couples make love every day. Ninety-two million blood donations are collected annually. Love has more search results than fear. The average person laughs thirteen times a day. While one scientist is creating a weapon, one million moms are baking cakes. One septillion snow crystals drop from the sky each winter.
In the words of Mahatma Ghandi, "You must be the change you want to see in the world."
"What are you writing?"
"Hm? Oh, just my thoughts..."
Baralai closes his notebook after marking down the date, swiveling in his chair to face her. Yuna had been standing by the bookshelf while he wrote his reflection for the day, admiring his collection of novels, before gravitating back to his side, and he looks up to smile at her. "That was a marvelous video. An AMV, was it? I never thought something put together from numerous anime could yield this kind of profound effect on me. Thank you for showing me."
Yuna beams, clasping her hands behind her. "You're welcome. Doesn't it feel historical? I thought it would fit with our discussion."
"Definitely. I feel... After watching this video, I've come to appreciate the value of my life. After all, you only live once. You never know when you will die. Life is too short to squander away." Baralai stops there, winded by the depth of those words.
He can't help but think about his great-grandmother, a small, yet stubborn old woman whose years are catching up to her. She outlived her children and raised her grandchildren, and now lives in the care of her great-grandchild; the only one old enough and willing to look after her, at any rate. Her husband had passed on before her a long time ago, so it surprises him to see her so resolute in spite of everything. What drives her to live after so many of her friends and family have come and gone?
"Do you mind if I lie down? I'm a little tired..." Yuna says, sitting down at the foot of his bed.
"Of course, I... I'm sorry." He sighs, the smile weary on his face. "I didn't mean to drift off like that. I was just... thinking."
"That's okay. I don't mind you being quiet. We did talk a lot..." Yuna says, yawning into her hand. "What do you feel like doing now?"
"Hmm... I don't know." Baralai leans on his armchair with his cheek propped on his fist, crossing his legs. "What about you?"
She hums, sleepy, taking the invitation to relax on his bed. "Let me think about it for a second..."
In the silence that follows, Baralai wonders how brainstorming for essay ideas led to this.
They talked about history in the past hour; the Civil War, its significant effect on slavery, and the freedom that followed in the aftermath, which shaped their modern world. Significant facts and important points made caused them to dig deeper into the nature of things. If that war had never happened, would they still be alive today or living in the country of their ancestors? They tried to imagine their individual lives without American freedom, and shuddered to think about it.
Their conversation would carry on to discuss other points of relevant concern; because without conflict or strife, would the world ever learn to develop? Before the time of modern vehicles or advanced medicine, injured soldiers were carried off the battlefield on wagons with their bullet wounds and missing limbs. Yuna expressed her utter discontent, heartbroken by the death count each war racks up, but Baralai chose not to sugarcoat the reality, because "yes, nobody likes war, except maybe the truly bloodthirsty ones who prefer violence over peaceful negotiation, but I'm afraid that's life."
Yuna refused to take that bleak truth at face value, which made her all the more determined to provide a counter-argument in the form of an animated music video called "Age of Man."
He never expected an afternoon quite like this, but he enjoyed it nonetheless.
Straightening up in his seat, Baralai realizes that Yuna had dozed off and he had been watching her. He sighs again, but this time with a smile, and stands to go fetch a blanket. Pulling one out from the closet, he moves to drape it on top of her only to stop. Yuna looks so adorable in her vulnerability, mouth parted in a slight smile, the red scarf loose around her neck, that he decides to capture this moment on camera. Careful not to awaken her, he places the blanket down across her body and pulls out his phone, taking the shot.
Baralai admires the photo, blessing the fact he remembered to disable the sound. Even if she were to find out someday, he could always explain himself later. 'Yuna will understand. I think.' He decides to leave her be and exits the room, but not without giving her one last smile.
"Look. I know you don't need anyone in your hair right now. I spent the last couple of days getting everything sorted out. It's mostly notebooks. He dated them all. Now that I've got them all sorted out ― darn it! It should be 'in order,' 'in order'..." Baralai paces the living room, snapping his fingers to the words as he recites them out loud, before returning to where he left off. "Now that I've got them all in order, I don't have to stay here ― no, work here. I don't have to work here. I can take some stuff home, read it, and bring it back."
Baralai stops in his tracks, going over the lines in his head, until he hears a set of footsteps descend from upstairs. Turning towards the entryway, he smiles. "Why, hello there, Sleeping Beauty. Have you finally risen from your eternal slumber?"
"I'll have you know..." she says, stifling the yawn, "That I don't sleep all the time."
"I never said anything about it before. The fact you feel the need to defend yourself tells me people tease you for your..." Baralai trails off, searching for the right word. "...napping tendencies. Am I right?"
"Maybe." She smiles, matching him for mirth. "Are you reciting lines for a play? Sorry if I was interrupting your concentration."
"You weren't interrupting. You remind me I should be taking a break anyway. I haven't been able to meet with my partner lately to rehearse our scene due to conflicting schedules. Memorizing my lines is all I can do by myself..." Baralai rubs the back of his head, frustrated. "And apparently, I need to get accustomed to physical contact. My teacher thinks I'm too rigid and stiff."
"Oh, are you playing a kiss scene?" Yuna has the decency to blush, and he retaliates quick with a cool response.
"Fortunately, no. But I have no doubt that when we go up to recite our lines in class, my teacher will make us do something incrimina― I mean, intimate. Considering the nature of our characters' relationship, I suspect flirting, slow dancing, or maybe even seducing..." All uncomfortable things he can't imagine doing with his flamboyant partner, and dreads the day when they will have to present their recitations in front of the whole class. Will he be able to make it through the hour with his chastity intact, let alone his dignity?
"Sounds fun! Or, I mean, the teacher sounds fun." Yuna amends her statement with a sheepish grin. "If you don't mind, I would love to help with anything you need. Maybe even your phobia of human contact."
"It's not a phobia," he says, crossing his arms. "I think it's impolite to touch someone without permission."
She hums, smiling. "That's not what Rikku tells me."
"And you are inclined to believe everything that comes out of her mouth?"
"Maybe." Yuna mellows her teasing, and touches her chin in thought. "We can slow dance, since it's not as bad as seducing each other, and I'm not very good at flirting..."
He arches an eyebrow. "Really? It's not as hard as it sounds. You simply talk to someone you like. At least, that's what Gippal told me... Here, why don't we try it?" Baralai steps forward, taking her hand in his so he can lift it for a chaste kiss. "Greetings, my lady. You're looking quite lovely this afternoon. Even the sky agrees with me ― look how the sun fumes behind the storm clouds of its jealousy, because it knows it cannot compare to your beauty."
She blushes, giggling behind her free hand. "You sound like such an English gentleman..." Clearing her throat, she curtsies in her long skirt. "You are quite dashing yourself, Sir Baralai. To what do I owe the pleasure?"
He lifts her hand to hold it between them, lacing her fingers in his. "May I bother thee with a dance?"
She bows her head, bashful, and gasps in surprise when Baralai pulls her in by the waist.
He pauses, flustered. "Oh, right. We don't have music."
"That's okay. We'll just play it by ear." Yuna starts swaying in place, humming along to a song in her head.
Baralai sways with her, his face lighting up with recognition. "Oh! Is that the Grande valse villageoise? I love that piece."
"Huh? Um, I think so... It's Sleeping Beauty. You've seen the movie, right?" Yuna allows him to lead as they begin to glide across the room with broad, circling steps.
"Oh, no. I didn't watch TV as a child. I spent a lot of my free time just reading books and playing music," Baralai says, leaving no more room for talk when he proceeds to sweep Yuna off her feet. Round and round they spin in a grand revolution of graceful movement, consumed by whimsical joy, until he dips her low, so low that they both collapse on the ground.
Yuna laughs, sitting up. "Hey, you did that on purpose!"
"You enjoyed it nonetheless," he says, and stands to offer a hand, steading Yuna on her feet. "You are a good dancer."
"Thank you. I took ballet when I was little, but stopped when it costed too much money. Right now I'm taking Jazz dance in school."
He smiles, impressed. "You, too, are an artist."
"Oh, no, I-I'm not an artist..." Yuna blushes, tongue-tied.
"Of course you are. Dancing is an art form, too, just like acting and writing. Art is not only restricted to the picturesque form, you know," Baralai says, and wonders why she looks away out of shyness when he only complimented what deserves to be praised.
"Who..." Yuna clears her throat. "W-Who is your partner? Do you think I know her?"
"Perhaps. No, actually, I'm sure you do." Baralai sighs, crossing his arms. "It's LeBlanc ― why are you laughing?"
"N-No reason... pfft, I'm sorry, I just..." Unable to contain herself, Yuna keels over in a fit of giggles. "I-I'm trying to imagine you w-with LeBlanc and... she'd be all over the place! And, and you'll be so awkward, it's f-funny ― eek!" She squeals when he picks her up, startled by his strength, and squeals again after he throws her against the couch. Wary of the playful gleam in his eyes, she moves to run.
Baralai captures her before she can escape, however, subjecting her to the cruelest of tickles. "What's so funny? What's so funny? Tell me, tell me what's so funny~."
"No, stop― please―" Yuna says, writhing in her laughter, "I beg you, have mercy~." She flails in search of a pillow and finally manages to chuck one at his face, only for Baralai to pick it up and throw it right back. Laughter bounces alongside soft instruments of pillowy destruction until thunder rumbles overhead, ceasing their horseplay.
After a moment of silence, they break out into giggles.
They manage to sit down at some point to construct the outlines for their essays; upon completing their rough drafts a couple hours later, they decide to stop there for the day and return to his room. While searching for fun things to do, Yuna ransacked his iTunes library, discovered to her great delight that they shared the same taste in music, and incited a silly karaoke session where even dancing became a part of it. Going about his household duties now, Baralai can feel the bruises in his calves start to form after one too many run-ins with his bed, yet has caught himself smiling more than once.
Although the day has been good to him so far, the same can't be said for the weather.
Moving to draw the curtains aside, Baralai peers through the window. "It's pouring outside..."
Yuna sits up from her cozy spot on the couch, smiling. "Can we go outside? I want to watch the storm."
'Didn't we have a conversation about this the other day?' Baralai leans on the window seat and crosses his arms, impassive towards her plight. "We should stay inside. It sounds dangerous."
"But there's going to be a thunderstorm! Just a few minutes? Please?"
"I'm sorry, but we shall have to pass on this one. The lightning's too close."
Yuna sighs, collapsing back onto the couch. "You said you would watch it with me..."
"Watching thunderstorms outside sounds romantic in hindsight, but in reality we would be endangering ourselves. You could wind up getting struck by lightning, resulting in sure death." He puts his foot down on the matter, amused by her groan of dismay. "I've been meaning to ask you... what time are you planning to leave today?"
"Oh. I told my mom seven."
"Seven? And you arrived here around one?"
Yuna nods, sitting up to smooth out her skirt. "I'm sorry. Did I take too much of your time?"
Baralai sits down on the opposite end so he can relax his legs, lounging against the armrest while watching the credits roll. Yuna had spent the last hour watching Game of Thrones on rerun while he vacuumed the house, and now he sighs, tired. "It's not a problem, really. I'm just curious why you decided to stay so long if all we agreed to do was study."
She steals a pillow for her lap, tugging on his legs until he perceives the message to drape them on top of her, and smiles. "I wanted to spend time with you. We've known each other for awhile, because we have the same friends, but... I don't think we've ever hung out together by ourselves. I guess... I wanted to get to know you more."
Flattered by this simple confession, Baralai sits up straighter so he can give her his full attention.
"You like books like I do, and enjoy having deep conversations like I do," she says, fiddling with the end of his pant leg. "We keep certain things private, but at the same time we're not afraid of talking about them with people we trust. We have a lot in common, but we're also very different. I-I don't know. I just thought... we could be closer, that's all..." Yuna trails off after losing the nerve, and decides to stare at the floor instead.
He smiles. "I think I understand what you're saying. Like how I tend to be logical while you're more so the emotional one."
"Yeah! Don't you think it's strange that we haven't gravitated to each other sooner?"
"It probably has to do with the fact we're too similar. We find ourselves more attracted to people who are our opposites. Paine and Gippal are like that for me."
"Rikku is like that for me, too." She sobers her mirth, falling silent in the breath of a moment. "He, um, he was like that for me, too. Often I thought he was my sun and I was his moon. Sometimes things just... don't work out the way you want them to, I suppose."
Baralai frowns, startled by her sudden sadness. It occurs to him he has never seen Yuna open up about that particular subject before and feels compelled to comfort her. "Do you... want to talk about it?" When she says nothing, only wrings her hands on the hem of her blouse in silence, he sighs and crosses his arms, pulling his legs up to give her space. Glancing at the TV, he smiles. "I notice you like Game of Thrones."
Grateful for the change in topic, Yuna sighs in relief. "Yes. It's a great show. My family loves watching it."
"I see. Out of everyone in the show, who do you think you resemble more? Someone you believe that you can relate to."
"Hmm... I don't know, actually. I don't think I belong in that kind of world. Game of Thrones would eat me alive!" she says with a laugh.
"True," he says with a laugh, pressing on, "However, to be honest... I can see a little bit of Daenerys in you."
She puts a hand to her heart, surprised. "The dragon princess? Really?"
"Yes. If I may be so bold as to say so... You both have experienced similar hardships in the name of love. You were a girl very much in love with someone who made you very happy. Until unforeseen circumstances brought the death of your relationship, that is. But you see, Daenerys grows as a character despite those hardships. No, it is because of her marriage to Khal Drogo and the khalasar lifestyle that she has become an independent young woman who still harbors kindness and compassion in her heart. I can see that in you."
"I... I don't know what to say."
"I don't think it's too cynical to say that things happen, whether or not you want them to. Regardless of the reasons why your relationship came to an end, you should be able to look back on those days and appreciate them. Don't mourn over your memories ― allow them to make you stronger. You were happy with him for however long you two were together. I doubt you could have asked for more, considering the fact it could have been worse, right?"
Yuna stares at him, speechless, which makes him wonder: 'Did my words sink in at all or have I said too much?' For all he knows, she probably didn't like what she heard; after all, she never asked him about what he thought about her love life. "...but I understand that this kind of thinking is hard to accept. I'm not exactly an expert in love, so I'm hardly in the position to talk. I just hope that what I said helped you in any way."
"It does, kind of," she says with a meek smile, pulling her knees up so she can rest her chin between them. "You seem to know exactly what you're talking about. I wish I can be more like you, decisive and confident..."
"That might be true about me, but..." He sighs, weary of this conversation and the kind of heavy thoughts it invokes. "In all honesty, I don't like talking about things I don't understand. You probably would know what to do better than me."
"Don't sell yourself short. Your words make a lot of sense. I mean, love doesn't usually make sense, and it doesn't have to make sense, but... you make me want to believe love can make sense," she says, lost in thought until she looks at him. "Thank you, for being so understanding."
Baralai spies the beginnings of a true smile on her lovelorn face, does not know why he cannot bring himself to look away.
Spellbound by the soft intensity of her glowing eyes, he smiles. "You're welcome."
Revised as of Tuesday, November 18, 2014.