"You said you would come back," she whispers, and then rips out a clump of her hair to fling at the mirror.
Her hair falls around them like a curtain when he rolls them over so that she's straddling him. It's like they're in their own private world, just Kyouka and Akito, and though they're not having sex right now she doesn't want to stop touching him. He still hasn't stopped touching her, so that's probably all right. They should sleep, but instead she's here, sitting astride his hips, staring down at him like she can keep him pinned there with his gaze.
She can't, of course. She's not so presumptuous. But the part of her that warms at his touch, that flutters at his gaze, wishes she could. This is the first time she's felt like this.
If she tells her mother, her mother will explain again that Kyouka is just feeling this way because Akito is the first man she's been with. She was untouched until he put his hands on her. But here in the flickering light, surrounded by the smell of each other and the feel of skin on skin, she thinks that maybe, just maybe, something else is happening inside of her.
She applies her makeup because that's what's expected of her. The Kuze family needs children, female children, and though Amane is there to whisper secrets to, one girl child is not enough. It's time for Kyouka to try again, before she gets too old for childbirth.
Her makeup is perfect, and when she puts it away, her hand brushes the small packet of herbs hidden underneath her journals. This, she will keep locked away until the morning.
"What is it like out there?" she asks one morning as she draws patterns on his skin with one finger.
"It's beautiful," he says, his voice quiet and reverent. "It's not all the same kind of beauty as up here, but everywhere you look, there's something different. That's why I try to capture some of it on film."
Kyouka stays quiet, imagining that. She and Akito and the baby, wandering around from place to place, watching the sun set and the sun rise. "I want to see." She rests her head against his shoulder and closes her eyes. If only she could capture this moment forever inside her, the way his camera does.
"You will," Akito says. He brings his arm up around her shoulders to pull her closer. His voice is full of heady promise. "We'll see it together."
She saw the outside world, once, when she ventured far enough to leave Kaname at the nearest village. It looked the same as Kuze manor, snowdrifts and rocks all around, and when she said goodbye to her baby the regret tasted like blood on her tongue.
"Someday, Kaname, we'll see more," she whispered before she let go of him. His eyes were wide and frightened. "We'll find your father and we'll travel the world, just the three of us."
She didn't let herself believe that it might be a lie. She didn't let herself think about the fact that not once had she heard Akito's voice from the earrings. She left one with Kaname anyway.
She didn't stay because if Akito came looking for her, he wouldn't come to the village. He would come to the Manor.
When she returned, Yashuu was furious. But Kyouka remained calm; her baby was safe from the Well Room where his cries would have stopped entirely, and she fell asleep that night imagining she could hear his lonely sobs through the one earring that remained in her possession.
It hasn't been long enough. Kyouka will see him again, but she cries that night when he moves in her. It's the first time she's cried; it feels like something has finally broken inside of her.
Afterwards, Akito holds her close and promises with his words and his body that he'll put her back together again. He leaves her with a set of earrings and a promise to return, very soon, before the baby is born. They'll travel as far as they possibly can, where nobody from the Kuze family can touch them, where they can be together all year round.
Kyouka closes her eyes and dreams of it, but she still feels broken. "Come back soon," she says, and lets go of his hand so that he can leave.
Amane's not supposed to visit. Shigure is Kyouka's handmaiden; Shigure is the one who takes care of Kyouka. Perhaps Yashuu fears that her sentimentality is something that can be passed on, from mother to child, though Kyouka certainly got none of hers from Yashuu.
But Amane is Kyouka's child, body and heart, and she sneaks in when she can to lie next to Kyouka and hear whispered stories about her brother, Kaname. Kyouka strokes Amane's hair and wishes Amane were Akito's child, that she could have something to hold onto besides the earring.
Kyouka doesn't tell Amane about the nights when she curls her hand too tight around the earring and has to clean the blood off afterwards. She does tell Amane that she doesn't belong here, in the Kuze family, and that one day they'll escape together.
She doesn't tell Amane that she's made that promise thrice now. She doesn't tell Amane that she's stopped believing. She doesn't think she'd even know Akito anymore if she saw him again.
Death is easy. As she slips into the void, she thinks, oh, why didn't this happen sooner?
She sees Akito again. He's wearing strange clothes, and it's been too many years. She wants to cry, she wants to hold him. She wants him to hold her. But all that she can feel is the terrible gaping loneliness inside her and a miserable kind of fury that he left her alone long enough to ruin the love that she thought they shared.
"You said you would come back!" she says, and she flings a comb full of hair at him. She hopes her blood is on it as well. Blood and skin and hair, all for Akito. All for the pain that he left her, for the child he abandoned, for every moment since he walked away from her.
The flash of a camera startles her, and some of the fury sinks away. Is she beautiful? Is she still beautiful enough for Akito, even like this? Does he still love her, despite everything?
But when the fury fades, so does she, and he is gone by the time she returns from the foggy haze. By the time she sees Akito again the fury has built back up inside her. Without the fury and the loneliness, there is nothing.
Without them, he'll leave her again.