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This Is What It Should Have Been

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Slaine Troyard expects himself to live in that prison for the rest of his life, since being a war criminal and apparently a mastermind in Asseylum’s assassination and all, but Kaizuka Inaho’s visit on that particular day changes everything. It’s been nearly two years after his imprisonment, and Kaizuka Inaho’s visits never stop. It’s ironic that his arch enemy who put him in prison would care enough to visit him as often as he can, while the one who wants to save him from his chains of misery never thought of visiting him even once. Slaine could never be mad at Asseylum though, because no matter how things change between them, she’s still the girl who saved him and befriended him when no one else would.

However, the time that passed changes some things. He still cares for Asseylum’s wellbeing, but he no longer sees protecting her as the goal of his life because all the while she has been protected by someone else and in the end she never really needs him. He still has grudges with Inaho, but there is something akin to friendship building between them lately. When Inaho’s visits start at first, he would give him the cold shoulder, not acknowledging his presence, and if Inaho catches him on a bad day, he would retort or snap as a response, but all this do not even faze Inaho. He just continues to visit whenever he has the chance, making sure that Slaine’s condition is alright and bringing some books for him to pass his time. When Inaho notices that he had been eating little, he starts bringing Slaine food which he cook. As much as Slaine would like to deny it, he has to admit that Inaho’s pretty good at cooking since he can’t help but finish them all everytime Inaho brings them.

Slaine is not a person who is quick to forgive, especially this is the person who thwarts all his plans and puts him in prison, however deep down in his heart, Slaine knows that Inaho just did what he had to, that it was war and war never give people options. They fought and Inaho won, that’s all. If he won the war, he would have probably done far worse to Inaho. Had it been anyone else that captured him, he has no doubt that he would suffer horribly during his time in prison, but here’s Inaho, acting like a mother hen, never once offended by Slaine’s silent treatment and even cooks food for him, for God’s sake. Once, when Slaine finally can’t bear it anymore, he yells at Inaho: “Are you a masochist? Why are you here receiving my harsh response when you can hang out with other people?” That’s the first time he sees Inaho’s calm and indifferent expression cracks, surprise flashing across his eyes. He waits for Inaho to storm out or bite back something but Inaho’s reply is something he doesn’t expect: “If spending time with you is counted as a masochist’s behavior, then yes, I suppose I am.” Despite of how enraged Slaine is, this outrageous reply somehow manages to get a chuckle out of him, and the tension between them for months slowly eases.

Gradually, Slaine opens up bit by bit when Inaho’s around. They play chess and discuss their opinions about the books they have read. Surprisingly, they have so many thoughts in common that sometimes it scares Slaine how similar they can be. Life can certainly be much better, but after spending time with Inaho for nearly two years, Slaine finally admits to himself that there can be life that’s worse. Just when he finally decides that this kind of life will have to make do, of course Inaho has to surprise him yet again. “Chess or books?” This is the thought that flash across Slaine’s mind when he sees Inaho walks into the room, so you can’t blame him for being startled when Inaho says: “Pack your things. You are to be under house arrest from today onwards.” And that’s how Slaine ends up moving into Inaho’s house.

Slaine meets Kaizuka Yuki for the first time after a week he moves into Inaho’s house. She scrutinizes him for a while, seemingly undecided whether to punch him in the face or settle for a painful handshake. She does have the right though, since he did shot her brother in the eye and nearly killed him. After glaring at Slaine for almost a minute, she helds out her hand: “Kaizuka Yuki. Inaho’s sister.”“Slaine Troyard.” Slaine awkwardly shakes her hand and replies. After a while, when Yuki finally goes home, Inaho says to Slaine who is still rubbing his somewhat sore hand:“She will get over it.” And she does. As she gets to know Slaine more, her cold behavior slowly melts and it isn’t long before she starts to treat him as she treats Inaho. She’s like the sister he never get to had and he soon finds himself exchanging some of his stories with her.

Once, when Yuki brings some photographs from when she and Inaho were little to show Slaine, he notices something’s off. “I assume these few pictures were not taken at the same time?” Their clothes were different in these pictures, meaning that these pictures were not taken all at once and yet Inaho seemed to always have bandages and bruises in every picture. When Yuki sees the pictures, her features darkened. “Yeah, sorry that I forgot to filter these few out. They were not exactly happy memories. We lost our parents during Heaven’s Fall and got sent to an orphanage. Nao had been different from the others ever since he’s young. He never played with other children, used his time to study instead. So ,they bullied him, shunned him, beat him up and called him names. He never once complained, never once cried, even though he always came back littered with wounds and bruises all over his body. You will be surprised to see how cruel they can be to people who are different from them. And one day, when Nao finally fought back because they threatened to hurt me, the people in charge of the orphanage told him off. I tried to reason with them because they have turned their blind eyes on Nao’s wounds for so many years and now when he fought for my sake, he was suddenly the one who was in fault. So I decided that’s the last straw and we moved out, started to live on our own.”

Slaine is at a loss for words. He always thought that Inaho had grown up in a condition much better than him: a loving family, lots of friends, never knowing how bad discrimination hurts because he grew up among his own people, but apparently he’s wrong. And then it hits him hard that they can be friends for all this time: they are both orphaned at a young age, both hurt by others for being different, both lead a hard life and bear burden on their shoulders. If only the misunderstanding at Tanegashima never happened...Later, when Inaho comes back from work, features laced with fatigue and exhaustion due to the excess work lately, he catches Slaine staring at him with an unreadable expression. “Is there something on my face?” “No.”At least our faces are nothing alike.

Life moves on, and there are some subtle changes in the way they interact, but still they manage to maintain a balance between them. However, the balance is broken when Slaine finds out about the real reason Inaho removed his analytical engine on one night. That night, Slaine is watching the TV while Inaho’s reading a document for a meeting with Captain Magbaredge, nothing out of the ordinary, just their usual nights, when all of a sudden, Inaho doubles over, clutching at his left eye. “Hey, what’s wrong?!” Inaho grits his teeth and forces out:“Medicine, first drawer in my bedroom.” Even after Slaine hurriedly helps him gulps down his medicine, it takes a while before the unbearable pain subsides and the tension finally eases from Inaho. “The reason you remove your analytical engine was because it harmed your health, isn’t it?”And all this is because of Slaine, if he hadn’t shoot him in the first place, Inaho would never had to get an analytical engine to return to the battlefield. As if reading his thoughts, Inaho says: “It was war, we didn’t have a choice. I shot you down when we were at Tanegashima and you shot me in the eye because we were at war. Now that the war has ended, let bygones be bygones, what do you think?” Slaine thinks of the scars that marred his body then looks at Inaho, face pale and covered with sweat, still trembling a little from the aftershock of pain and he vows to himself that they will never, ever hurt each other again: “Yeah, let bygones be bygones.”

Coincidentally, Slaine’s birthday falls on the day after they break the balance. Slaine hadn’t celebrated his birthday for years so imagine his surprise when he finds a birthday cake waiting for him in the kitchen. Inaho smiles slightly and says: “Happy Birthday.” He would have said more, but Slaine surges forward and catches his mouth in a kiss. Slaine prepares himself to be pushed away, but when Inaho’s arms sling across his waist and starts returning his kiss, all he can feel is warmth and content. And this, he thinks to himself: This is what it should have been.