It has been one month since the day we took Dragnor. The whole of Ransei is united, and all of us warlords were given freedom among the kingdoms. Naturally, I chose to head to Aurora. We still had responsibilities, being King and Queens in our own right, though we certainly had a lot more free time on our hands. I was very happy to be back to my old bedroom and friends, and being able to spend time with them again. Though, it hasn't felt the same as before. Has the journey changed me somehow?
There is one thing that just won't leave my mind, even as I read and work: Hanbei. I constantly think about the awkward conversations we had exchanged over the course of the journey. I want to talk to him or at least see him, but I don't know where he is. He isn't in Ignis, so truly he could be anywhere in Ransei. Or maybe he left the region altogether? I decide that I shouldn't bother looking for him.
I hear a knocking at my door, and a small twinge of hope yanks at my gut. I pace quickly to the door, and on the other side is a female servant.
"Jordan requests you outside," she says. I sigh and trudge my way to the doors of the castle.
Once I open the doors, I hear the calm ruffling of leaves in the light breeze. Jordan (Heroine) shows me to a spot where an old, wooden swing sits amidst the grass, supported by two trees. Once she sits me down, she immediately jumps into a conversation.
"I've heard reports of a spy in Aurora. Many people say that this spy is wearing foreign clothes and that he roams near the castle," she expounds.
I scowl. "We are at a time of peace, Jordan. I don't know why anyone would want to spy on us right now."
Jordan nods. "Yes, but you know that this peace won't last long. It will grow unstable when Hideyoshi passes and the kingdoms will begin fighting again."
I look at my feet. She is right; this peace will not last forever. Soon, our kingdom would be just another army in a maelstrom of battle and anarchy. I have been trying to avoid this ugly truth from myself for so long, but I know I can't hide from the battlefield forever.
"If you see this spy, please confront him," Jordan requests. I nod my approval, and she walks back to the castle. I stay where I am, lost in thought, until I hear an unusually loud rustling amongst the nearby trees. I turn to look, and I see a pair of beady black eyes and short pink fur. I jump back, surprised by the Flaaffy standing next to me on the swing.
I study the Flaffy. It looks like a wild Flaaffy, but I notice a deep cut on its forehead, hidden slightly by its wool. I gasp. This Flaaffy is Hanbei's! I look around, searching for the familiar white coat and hat, but I catch not even a glimpse of him. Sighing unhappily, I scratch the Flaaffy behind its ears, causing it to smile at me.
"Why do they think I'm a spy?" I jump at the familiar voice, and begin looking around again. I stand up and dash around the swing to see Hanbei leaning against one of the trees. His purple eyes seem to shimmer from the sunlight.
"Because you're sneaking around," I reply sharply, aware that he must have snuck up on me.
"What?" he cocked his head slightly. "I haven't been sneaking. In fact, I was just lying under this tree when you and Jordan walked over here. You didn't even notice me."
I blink. I had never bothered look behind us, and it was quite possible he could have been here the whole time. But I still didn't understand everything. "Why are you here, then?"
I see a slight brightening in his eyes. "Actually, I wanted to talk to you." He grins at me. "Do you want to come see something cool?"
I stare at him. I wasn't sure what he wanted me to see, but by the hopeful, yet mischievous glint in his usually moody eyes, I saw that he anticipated a yes. So I agreed. He immediately leads me down a path stretching by the fields where they raise cattle. His Flaaffy bleats along with the Mareep as we pass them. Pretty soon, the path goes into a thin, almost dead woods bordering Aurora and Ignis.
I have been to Ignis before, and I never liked its rocky, unbearably hot atmosphere. But I probably won't be able to find my way back even if I try, so I follow him along the scarcely viewable path. We emerge on a high plateau overlooking the village of brick houses surrounding the castle. I see people resting in the famous hot springs from here. The town seems unusually active, especially since it is evening.
"What's going on?" I ask Hanbei as I stare over the town.
"Today we're celebrating our victory," Hanbei explains with a melancholy tone.
"Don't you want to celebrate?" I ask him, confused.
"Nah, everyone's just going to get drunk anyway," he laughs. I don't find it funny.
"So, why did you bring me here?" I inquire.
"There is one thing they do whenever there's a celebration like this…" he gazes over the horizon, where the sun is beginning to touch the mountains. Then, he sits down, his feet dangling over the edge of the plateau. I sit tentatively next to him, finding the feeling scary, yet strangely fun. Perhaps it is just the tension.
We sit in silence. I find it awkward, but Hanbei hums quietly, swinging his feet impatiently as we wait for something to happen. He keeps his gaze set on the horizon, so I stare there, too. Finally, I ask him why he wanted me to see whatever was about to happen, too curious.
"Because I…" he pauses as though he can't find the right words, "I know you'll like it." I glance at him, feeling like my question was left unanswered. He continues to stare, and the sun was almost under the horizon. So I decide to be patient.
He stretches and watches the last sliver of the sun disappear, taking its light with it. He smirks at its departure. I stare at the dark overlook, waiting. And then I hear a faint, familiar squealing. The sound slowly decreased in pitch, finally ending in a loud, crackling bang. I fill my eyes with the sight of a bright red firework exploding over the castle. A few more follow it, bursting into assorted colors. Fireworks are very uncommon forms of celebration in Aurora, but I love them. How did Hanbei know this?
I watch as fireworks will the sky with seemingly endless beauty. They burst into assorted shapes and sizes, some surprising me. I smile at Hanbei, and he smiles at me with an oddly kind smile, neither playful nor humored. I force myself to tear my eyes from him, looking back into the sky.
After a few more minutes pass, the fireworks still light the sky. I glance at Hanbei. He watches the fireworks, his eyelids beginning to droop. He blinks harshly, forcing himself to stay awake. I can't suppress a giggle. He turns to me, looking surprised.
"If you're tired, we can go," I suggest. "I've seen enough."
He nods. "Let me show you back to Aurora first." he stands up and leads me through the trees slowly.
"Are you sure you can make it back to Ignis without collapsing?" I ask sarcastically.
"I don't think I'll make it," he says, sounding almost honest, and by the way he was walking I almost believed it. Once the forest starts getting thicker, he flops down next to a tree. "Think you can make it from here?" he asks me, exhaling.
I notice that I feel tired myself. I lean down to sit next to him. "Maybe not."
His voice slurs slightly as though he is drifting off to sleep. "I don't want to go back to warring with other kingdoms. It looks like Aurora is already preparing for it by-" he pauses to yawn, "by the way they treated me." He lays down in the grass.
I lay down next to him. "Neither do I. I'd rather just live peacefully."
Hanbei curls his fingers around mine. "Oichi," he whispers, his breath tickling my ear, "I really like you."
I sit in a surprised silence, my stomach dancing happily with a feeling I have never experienced before. I smile, cuddling up next to Hanbei. "I like you, too."
"I've been thinking," He explains, "that I could have won that battle in Dragnor without using a potion, if I had changed just one little thing about our plan. But that day I couldn't think, and even while we were battling I kept looking at you."
"It's just one potion," I claim, feeling consciousness slip from my grasp.
Hanbei wraps his arm around me, holding my hand, drawing me closer. We lay together in silence. I feel his grip on my hand loosen, and slowly I also drift into a deep, relaxed sleep.