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the way we don't look

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“We shouldn't be together.” Yuri says, and that's the sincerest thing he's ever told her.

She doesn't reply. She's never one to point out the obvious.

“And I don't mean it because I'm a high Priest—since Priests are not supposed to marry and all that jazz.” He sighs.

And she's also perfectly aware that despite his official status as the high Priest, in reality, he's not so much a Priest as a Red Knight—which truly makes the Pope worry and one Commander Maien Signora insist he be demoted to the Red Knights division.

Which would never happen; not because she knows he would refuse—even if he does. But because she, Lucia, couldn't let him go to the battlefield and leave her side for an uncertain amount of time—and possibly forever.

She's the Queen of Light now. Surely she's allowed one little selfishness?

“But more because we're the only ones left,” Yuri is still saying, “of our little circle. I don't think it's good for us to remain together here. It's bad omen, you know. We're only going to drive each other insane.”

What she heard was: Let me go.

One stoic queen candidate, one descendant of one of the Queens of Light who is also a queen candidate, one Prince of the Darkness Clan, and one prodigal Priest of Light who is also called 'The God's Eye'. What a little circle they made. Out of the four of them, the ones who live are the ones who don't deserve it the most.

Yuri mourns, even now.

Lucia tries to forget it. She doesn't need that kind of thing to add to the amount of things she needs to worry about as the Queen of Light.

“Aren't we already?” She says, expression as empty as the way she feels.

A flicker of surprise on his face as he hears her speak, as if he truly wasn't expecting her to ever respond him.

It's something she has always wished to be able to do but couldn't; ignoring him, that is. Ever since their first meeting (Maybe, you... are the one who has been born to become a beautiful queen. If so, could you make a beautiful world that I can honestly say it's beautiful?) she has been unable to tune his words out (just like she's unable to tear her eyes away from him).

Have I fulfilled your expectation?

She wants to ask him. Only she doesn't, because she doesn't need him to tell her she has failed—she can see it for herself. Can see it in the shambles and ruins of once a proud capital city of the Kingdom of Light. Can see it in the faces of the people in the Palace of Light and The Institute of Rohini—the only two buildings in the capital city that survived the last attack of the King of the Darkness Clan himself.

She can always blame it to June, though. Because it was her regime and her unwillingness to kill Sezru—a most beloved childhood friend, a Prince of the Darkness Clan, a part of the Demon King himself—that has caused the destruction of the city and the death of many before she met her demise and left Lucia to pick up the pieces.

Well... her and Yuri, to be exact. In that last attack the Pope lost most of his Light power, reducing him to such a state that he's the Pope in name only while all the works and the responsibilities fall to Yuri's reluctant hands.

They're there not because they wanted to or because they were the chosen ones; they're there because the people had no other choice.

A smile on his lips, a flicker of amusement in his clear, clear silver blue eyes. “Very well said, Your Majesty. Though none will believe you if you say such thing with that kind of face, you realize.”

“They don't need to believe me; all they had to do is follow my words.”

Yuri's smile gets wider as he smiles that cat-like smile she's missed so much. “That's awfully cold of you, Your Majesty.”

“I'm always cold.”

You need to smile more,
Lucia. June has said to her in their candidate days.

Are you always this expressionless even among your peers? Yuri has asked her that a long time ago, back when things hadn't gone too far on the darkness scale. You're a kind person, but you keep this up, and people will misunderstand you.

Whatever.
She had replied.

You don't live alone, you know. He had told her. Is there anybody who truly knows who you really are?

She had only stared at him, back then. Prompting him to continue. And he did.

It's hard indeed. He had said. To be a queen who lives alone.

She wonders if that was exactly why he hadn't left her: so that she would have someone who at least partially understands her—so that she wouldn't feel too lonely.

Which is so selfless of him, if that was true—considering how he dislikes the capital city and especially its Palace.

His mentor was killed here, in this place, right in front of him when he was a little kid, June had told her. That was why he ran away and disappeared from the Palace and the capital city—until Commander Mayanne Senora found him and forced him back here a few years ago.

“You don't have to be, though.” He's looking at the window, at the drizzling rain outside, at the red sky and the retreating sun.

No. No, she doesn't, but she never knows how else she could be.

Her coldness is a part of her—it what makes her become Lucia, what marks her from other people, and she doesn't think she knows what to do if she ever lost it.

“What do you want, Schauer?”

His eyes flick to her direction at the mention of his last name, some emotion she doesn't dare to identify in their surface.

June called him 'Yuri'. Sejuru called him 'brother Yuri'. The last Queen of Light called him 'Yuri'. Mayanne Senora calls him 'Yuri Schauer'. The other priests call him 'Sir'. The pope calls him 'child'.

She calls him 'Schauer'.

She also tries not to wonder about what it says about her to be falling to the same category as the cold, blood thirsty Mayanne Senora.

“Nothing you should concern yourself with.”

There's a hint of a mild smile in his voice, just enough to make him sound serene, thoughtful. It shouldn't feel like a rejection, but it does—it does, and she feels at a loss of what to do.

It's not even because she isn't used to be rejected; raised to be a queen candidate since she was a small girl, she's so used to be rejected of the things she wanted that she stopped wishing for things altogether. Even in Rohini Institute, she still got rejected—June denied her of the notion to love Sejuru; Sejuru rejected her by simply never looked at her; and Yuri... he refused her his heart.

She tightens her fist.

“What do you want, Schauer?”

She never makes it a habit to repeat herself, and he knows it. Eyes locking on hers, he steps away from the window, his fair hair gleaming fire in the remaining traces of the sun.

She remembers the way June looked at him that one time in the library—like she couldn't look away, like she had just made a realization and berated herself for making it too late, like he was nothing she had ever seen before. She did it long enough that even Sejuru had looked at her—only to find her mesmerized by the way the light danced in Yuri's hair and silhouetted his features.

Lucia herself only noticed it all because she had been watching Sejuru, and that day—that day, she saw some emotion she had never seen before in his usually impassive face. She would liken it to jealousy, but she was sure Sejuru didn't even know the concept of such an intense emotion.

Back then, she didn't know what about this queen-candidate-judge that had been fascinating June enough to take her sight off of Sejuru for that moment. But now, since he's become the constant presence at her side every time, she thinks she has finally found the answer.

“We really should not stay together.” Says he, a smile on his lips, even when his eyes are so dead serious. “At least not this way.”

She stares at him.

“Let's go some place no one can find—just you and me. We can start a new life, one that wouldn't involve this whole Light versus Darkness crap.” He pauses, as if expecting her to respond. But when none comes, he continues in a quieter voice, “We don't deserve this—you know we don't.”

She doesn't ask if he was serious. His eyes tell her enough. And no, maybe they don't deserve this, but that doesn't change the fact that they are the only ones people can depend on.

“I though you said we shouldn't be together.”

“Yes, yes I did. And I still think that we shouldn't be together—at least not here, not in this Palace. But perhaps... perhaps we can be together somewhere—some place where none knows who we are. A new life. What say you?”

A new life, he says. Where there's nothing to remind us of what failures we truly are is not said, but it's there, in the way his smile crooks and bends at the wrong angle.

He's looking at her expectantly now, like he rarely, if ever, does.

Often she wonders if it's one of the effects of being able to see the future: the way he seems to expect nothing of life, the way nothing seems to faze him anymore, the way--

“Can you?” she asks.

He looks at her.

“Live outside the Light's territory? Because that's the only place where none of the officials or people of Light will try to look. And Schauer,” she hesitates, “You can barely breath in the Room of Darkness under this Palace's floor, that time we went down to find Sejuru.”

Something flicks in those silver blue orbs of his. “Not every place has the same amount of power of darkness contained within.”

Now he's only being defensive.

To his credit, it's true that the more power of Light you have, the less you can resist the pressure of the power of darkness. That's why those who have no to small power are put into the Red Knight division, where the front lines are their virtue and the power of darkness is at its fullest. While those with considerable amount of Light power would be put into White Knight or Green Knight Division—or even transferred to the Church to be Priests and become Healers..

Being one of the queen candidates, of course her power of Light was not something to be trifled with. Yet in that Room, where the ancient power of darkness resided, she was only had a trouble breathing while he could barely breath at all. And then all the attacks happened, and she realized just how powerful he really was—is, as the case might be.

He can never survive in a place where there is no light. It's his blessing and his curse, just like his 'eyes'.

“Why are you giving me excuses, Schauer?”

He smiles. “Why are you being so difficult?”

Her eyes narrow. “Don't make it harder than it already is. You know it's impossible for you to live outside the Palace, just like it's impossible to completely escape the Light's influence.”

“The only reason Mayanne Senora found me back then was because a creature of darkness accidentally led her to my territory—nothing more. You believe your knights are so powerful that they would be able to trace me—no, us, the both of us, whose powers of Light are the greatest yet in this Kingdom?”

“Please mind your words, High Priest. You're in the presence of the highest authority in this Kingdom, and were it any other situations, what you have said could be considered treachery.”

He rolls his eyes and throws his arms to the air like a sullen kid. “Don't you pull that Queen card on me, Lucia Luferr.”

“It might do you good to remember that I'm your Queen before I'm your friend.”

The look in his eyes is not something that she sees often—so victorious and smug, like he's just won some grand prize. Then he gives a slight bow, with one hand over his chest, just like how he speaks when they are in a formal meeting and in the presence of the other high ranking officials.

“And that, my Queen, is yet another reason why we shouldn't be together.”

His words is spoken so softly that it is nothing more than a whisper, and Lucia is—Lucia doesn't...

Still doesn't want to let go.

“I do not have the authority to decide such thing.”

To let him leave means leaving the seat of the High Priest unattended, and none would be happy about it.

He only smiles. “Yet it is your approval they would require to execute such task.”

Are you running away, Lucia?

“What do you want me to say?”

“Just give the orders. I would be out of your hair before you even noticed it.”

“You know perfectly well I can't afford to let you go.”

What a liar she has become.

“You can always demote me to the Red Knight division—just like Mayanne always wanted.”

“Unacceptable.” She doesn't look at him.

He looks at her, a challenge in his eyes. “Then say it. Say that one thing you know I want you to say to me, then maybe I'll forget we ever have this conversation.”

“I never took you for a petty person, Yuri Schauer.”

“We all need some kind of reassurance, you know. Something—to keep us going, to give us some purpose. And I... if I had to remain here, then I want it—I want it to be you.”

Where he got the courage to say such thing right in her face without even averting his eyes, she would never know. But she does know that it took him a lot to do it—to show her his weakness, his hope, his trust—and it would only be appropriate for her to do the same. But. Could she?

As a friend, she would let him go when he asks for it.

As a Queen, she could never let such occurrence to happen, no matter what it takes.

As a... something-more-than-friend, she wouldn't even let him stay in the Palace in the first place, knowing what she knows.

I need you. Please stay by my side.

That is all the words that is needed to make him stay. And yet she hesitates. She looks at him—at his sincere, hopeful eyes (can she really afford to crush the hope there?), at the way his knuckles fist tight at his sides, at the string-tight way he hold himself right then, waiting for her answer...

Just say it. She has nothing to lose, right?

(except for her pride)

He'll never leave though, not without her say-so, she knows that. He's always been responsible that way. And whether or not she says it, he'll still stay. Right?

(Even June had been wrong about him before. What makes her, Lucia, knows any better?)

Say it.

(Can you admit it?)

Say it. He's still looking at her right now. Say it.

(Can you admit that you need him as much as he needs you—perhaps more?)

Say it.

(That he's the only thing that keeps you on your feet?)

Say it.

(CAN YOU?)

Lucia parts her lips. Nothing comes out.

He sighs and looks away. “I see. If you would excuse me,” He gives a slight bow before turning away and heading for the entrance, a slight slump to the set of his shoulders.

It's just some words, for God's sake... what's so hard about it? But still the words lodge in her throat and refuse to come out.

“I--” she manages to say. He stops, but doesn't turn away. “I--”

“I'm waiting.”

“I...” she tries again. “I...” need you. Don't want you to leave. Can't let you disappear from my sight. Can't get you out of my head. Can't let you leave me. Can't afford to lose you. Can't live without you. “---you.”

His eyes widen. “...what?”

Something wet running down her cheeks, blurring her eyes and smearing what little left of her dignity. Too late to take it back, impossible to unsaid it. Is this the true face of desperation?

“I love you, Yuri Schauer. I love you, so don't you dare leaving me here.”

She's too busy trying to wipe the proof of her indignity from her face to notice him running towards her and wrapping his arms around her tiny frame.

“I know—I know. But now you know it too.” He's smiling—she can feel it, and maybe, she thinks, maybe this time, it's okay to let go—just for once.

She closes her eyes and holds him in return--

...And the world explodes into a thousand colors.