When Takara is seven, the scrapes on her knees are the badges of victory from the playground that she wears proudly, and she is too young, still too bright-eyed to fathom the cruelty of children. She dreams of stars like pinpricks of hope in the sky, of whispered vows, of a girl so vibrant, her every step brought flowers blooming beneath her feet, of a boy with sharp eyes and whose every step brought on war and bloodshed, of how as she walked on the dew-slick loam, her steps rang with the surety of only those blessed by Persephone Herself could, and how the boy whose every steps the shadows faithfully chased, was believed to be blessed by the ruler of the Underworld, and how they would forever stand at opposing sides, eternally warring.
Her hair is of the damned pomegranate which entraps the vibrant Persephone, and his eyes are the gaping chasm of land beyond the living, the land of which they whisper he rules.
But those are but the stories that mothers tell their children, warning them to beware of the monsters shrouded in death.
The truth is something much simpler.
When Takara is seven, the wind tangling the flowers in her hair with playful fingers, she knows that Persephone had never been such a foolish girl, and as she splits the fruit, it stains her fingers like how his touch left her forever electric. She swallows the six seeds, burnished red like the roses at feet, and smiles. Ichor, the divinity that runs in her veins, sing when he smiles back.
When she wakes, it’s with the weight of a babe, warm, beautiful, and perfect, with his abyssal eyes and her flaming hair in her arms, but his scornful eyes as he walks away is the only thing Takara can remember.
Then, Takara is ten, and she dreams of quiet afternoons under a rustling willow, the promise of forever, a smile made of warmth and eyes like the abyss she steps fearlessly into, knowing that he will always catch her if she falls. When she wakes, she finds that she has been crying in her sleep, Mama smoothing the hair from her brow like she was still seven, with blood staining the soft youthfulness of her skin. Takara knows now, that dreams that are made of gold but shattered as easily as glass, and they hurt the most when only she bled from their jagged shards. She knows now that promises, no matter how sacred, could be easily muddied, of broken promises, and when she hears Mama’s tired cries, her heart singing a mourning tale of pain, aching for Papa, she wonders if the bone-deep ache in her chest is what Mama felt when Papa walked away.
She thinks that dreams are fickle things and that nothing is worth the heartbreak that he brings.
Takara is eleven, and she dreams of an emperor, with a tongue like razors but with a smile like warmth, and a gilded cage, a princess without her crown, a queen without a kingdom, her legacy that he had muddied with blood. He promises, forever, but around them, her people burn and cry for their empress to ascend the throne. Takara awakens to the shadowed curve of his face, war in his eyes and a cry on her lips. She thinks, her soulmate wanted nothing of her, and maybe, she might just be fine with that.
Years later, she has sadder eyes and scars that her guardians despised, for all it did was remind them that they were not enough, always, not enough. After years of sleepless nights laying on the roof, watching the stars twinkle, wishing to just forget, Takara will wake up, and on the good days, she will believe that she is good enough.
Takara turns twelve, with bruises like ugly smudges of purple and muddy green that makes Mama cry everytime she sees them, splotching her ribs like the cruelest gift from god, andshe dreams of a girl who is a fighter in all ways that her failing body isn’t, of a messiah whose steps parted oceans and touch that healed the ailing. She thinks of warm hands, a warmer smile, lazy mornings in the sun, with eyes that promise her the world. When she wakes, all Takara can feel is the weight of his hand on her back, knowing that he will catch her if she falls. Somehow, when Lilith’s gaze burns like flickering embers, her golden eyes slitted and sharp in the shadows, Takara doesn’t feel so alone.
She doesn’t think about how all her dreams always end up with him walking away, of how her heart always ends up in pieces, for that sort of heartache is reserved for the silence of dawn, where the sun rises like it was always meant to be with the sky.
When she meets Ryohei, her darling Sun, there are no words to describe the lump in her throat, and Takara tells no one of the sudden blur in her vision, a man with an all-too-sharp, an all-too-familiar smirk curving his face, a man whose presence makes her feel two inches tall and suddenly, inadequate, overlapping with Ryohei’s.
Over Ryohei’s shoulders, Lilith’s eyes are sharp, like they know anyways.
When Takara is thirteen, she dreams of an empress, and her hair is the sepia of the land she rules, but she is only one, and her ravenous cousin yearns to ascend the throne, if only to run her kingdom into war, fill their rivers with the blood of their people.
She dreams of a girl made to grow up too early, too alone, and fear is the cloak she wears until she meets him. Her advisor whose hands were tarnished in the name of his queen.
When Takara wakes, a trembling sob breaking from her lips, it is not the curve of his smile that she remembers, but rather, it is of the apathetic light in his eyes when her cousin slits her throat, and blood, the colour that her cousin carries so proudly in his eyes, the echoes of their heritage sing in her heart like a wardrum.
Takara wonders if his eyes will flicker when she tells him that their babe dies with her. She does not get to see, for death has already dug its unforgiving claws in.
The breeze rustles the curtains on her window, and all that she is reminded of, is him waiting there, a language she doesn’t remember learning, rings clearer in her mind than Lilith’s instructions do.
(They remain in her mind longer than Lilith’s words too)
(Takara does not want to know what they mean)
Now Takara is eighteen, on the cusp of womanhood, her hand in marriage yet still sheltered by her youth. She is Vongola Decimo, the tenth to rule the Vongola empire, the first to bring about change, to wash the blood and sin from her birthright. Its hard to imagine that she had championed the revolution for a future she wants for everyone who deserves better when she is trapped in this precarious situation, begging for mercy.
“Lilith, please,” Takara says, fear crawling up from the darkest pits of her heart to fester angrily beneath her skin. “You can’t do this, please-” Takara tries again, tears fogging her vision like how her unspoken emotions clog her throat. Between them, the briny air is stilted, as if the world was holding its breath, Takara feels like she is free-falling, clawing desperately for the assurance that she would never have to meet him again.
(Not in this lifetime, the wind mocks, but Takara does not listen)
“Do you know how painful it is to encounter your soulmate, and have them walk away from you every single lifetime?” Takara whispers, the last of her words dissolving into a broken sob, disgusted at herself, at how easy it was to finally let it off her chest, after years of harbouring those emotions, at how easily it falls off her lips, at how Lilith’s face barely even twitches at her pained admission
“What is the use of snatched snippets of joy, when they make his back the last thing I see even the more painful?” Takara says raggedly, like it physically pains her to admit that every sleepless night spent in silence underneath the starry night had been of her tears, of her worth, stealing away from her, every single thought dissecting her self-worth turning into an endless loop of not good, not enough.
“Takara.” Lilith says, softly and tenderly, so unlike her brutal, straightforward way of getting to the point that Takara drags a desperate lungful of air, trying for some composure as she turned to face her tutor.
(Her friend, Takara would come to realise, like Lilith has always been silently calling, and slowly, bit by bit, Takara had been answering.)
“This is your last trial as my student, Takara,” Lilith says quietly, and their figures must cut a striking, if not contrasting one against the ethereal moonlight of Okinawa’s beaches, Takara in a white sundress, and Lilith in her form-fitting black dress, the frothy waves lapping gently at their ankles. One would never tell that they both concealed weapons within easy reach, a lesson that an assassin had learnt painfully.
Solemnity hugs the elegant lines of Lilith’s figure, and like a goddess, she is bathed in the light of the waning moon above them. But for some reason, Takara finds herself thinking the proud set of Lilith’s shoulders lonely.
Takara and Lilith, student and teacher, stand across each other, Lilith with her face too cold, too smooth and Takara, with her bleeding heart, always feeling, always living.
There is innocence, and Lilith sees it in the arch of Takara’s back, the lilt in her laugh, the generous curve to her lips, but she has drawn out the poison that will protect her student, much like the belladonna that Takara favors, Lilith has made sure that the Takara will be just as, if not more than beautiful as she is deadly.
Lilith has done everything there was to do, but there was something she had never been able to fix no matter how much she had tried.
(Takara just didn’t see how much her guardians treasured her, despite whatever they did)
(Lilith, no matter how much she understood why, hated him for doing that to Takara)
Takara stares at her with her desperation of a drowning man, all that her innate pride, one that Lilith had reckoned was akin to Nana’s, silently regal, ancient from weathering through storms, will allow. Lilith wavers slightly, filled with the resigned acknowledgement that Takara will hate her, however briefly it would be, for this. But she stands firm in her decision because Lilith knows that after this, with unshakeable security, Takara will face the darkest that the Underworld has to offer and come out laughing, and people would scramble to make way for their queen, as most who have encountered her already have.
All she has to do is to see that she was worth something.
They are different, as the sun and moon often were, and Takara and her hair like the sun, milky skin flushed with warmth and lips like the first bloom of spring, is life, if life could laugh and speak and love. Lilith, swathed in darkness, a smear of deep wine red on her lips against the lily white of her skin, a shade too cold to pass for a human’s, was death, and as death did, it just took and took.
They stood opposite each other, never one, but Lilith knew that wherever Takara went, she would gladly follow.
Afterall, for lifetimes before this one, she had done the same.
(tell me the story, of how the moon loved the sun so much, she died every night to let her breath)
(but you already know that story)
(sing our song louder so i will never forget)