|HAPPY BIRTHDAY SEVE
||[Aug. 2nd, 2009|07:39 pm]
Dignified Squee-- Writing Community of the Insane
Just for anybody's reference, this is an AU featuring Tales of the Abyss-verse with Tsukihime's Hisui. Yeah. I just went there.
And yes. This is ridiculously long. And disjointed. I KNOW.
They found the child half-curled on the sand, soaked and bedraggled. Eugenie had initially feared they'd stumbled across a body on their ocean excursion, and was already moving to herd her children away from the sight, but her husband frowned and knelt beside the form. Had he imagined it...?
No. It was only a slight movement, almost imperceptible, but her chest had risen and fallen. The girl was still alive.
The head of the Gardios family scooped her up, cradling her as carefully as he would have held his own offspring. "Eugenie," he called to his wife. "Alert the servants back at the mansion-- tell them to fetch a doctor and have a bed ready."
Gailardia and Marybelle peered out from behind either side of Eugenie, the youngest still nervously clutching his mother's skirts.
Zygmunt nodded gravely. "Let's see what story this child can tell us when she awakens."
She opened her eyes to blue-- a pure, light blue that solidified into a pair of eyes blinking at her from the face of a small blond boy. Upon seeing her turn her head, the boy rested his elbows on the bed and gave her a nervous smile.
The girl, now looking about her as if her new, ornate surroundings would clue her in to her current situation, feebly clutched the covers and pulled them up past her chin.
"... Hello," a tiny voice emerged, muffled but still audible.
"On behalf of the family," he began formally, "I, Gailardia Galan Gardios, would like to welcome you to--"
"Am I dead?"
Gailardia shed his formality in an instant, turning into a panicked little boy in the time it took for her to blink. "N-no! I mean, I thought you were, but you're not, you're alive, and they said I could stay with you 'til you woke up, and um-- your name?"
The little redhead tentatively eased the covers down, finding too much sincerity in his words to distrust them. "... I'm Hisui. Nice to meet you, Gai..." She trailed off, trying to recall the remaining three syllables of his name.
"Gailardia," he supplied. "You know, there aren't a lot of kids here. I think it's just us when the rest of the family isn't here."
Hisui tilted her head, still silently mouthing his name in order to fully memorize it. "Then, your friends...?"
"I've got Van and Mary!" Guy swelled up with pride at being on personal terms with the young man he admired, but deflated at the blank look Hisui was giving him. "... But they can't always play with me."
"Then..." She reached a decision, groggy and with the majority of her thought process still muddled, but the course of action had never been clearer. "I'll be your friend. And I'll play with you whenever you want."
She said this with such conviction that Gailardia was almost taken aback-- until he noticed her fingers were trembling as she smoothed down the blankets around her. Any kid would have been scared in her situation, and surely Hisui was no exception. He wasn't the only one who wanted a friend-- though in her case, it was more that she needed one.
With newfound bravery, Gailardia stretched his hand out and caught hold of Hisui's. When she shot him a startled glance, he grinned and shook their clasped hands.
"No matter what happens, we'll be friends from now on!"
"From now on," she echoed, almost in awe, and he saw her smile for the first time.
Hisui rounded the corner at a run, stumbling over an upraised corner of one of the mansion's many rugs and almost colliding with the wall. Only a few quick steps back saved her from that fate, and she gave the rug a disapproving frown.
"That's no good," she told it, and bent down to straighten it properly. "Anyone could trip over you and get hurt."
The rug allowed itself to be corrected and, when it lay nice and flat and to the little girl's satisfaction, she dusted herself off and returned to her initial task: searching for her errant friend and master.
Nearly a year had passed since Hisui had been found by the Gardios family, and a lot had changed since then. Other than her name, there was very little the child could remember. Time and questioning had yielded only a few answers: her parents were both dead, and she'd had a sister, but couldn't say what had become of her. She didn't know where she came from, or what had happened to her before she'd been found, two things that troubled her until someone was kind enough to change the subject. She'd stayed in bed an additional day to regain her strength, becoming acquainted with the rest of the household, and had soon won over not only the maids, but the family as well.
The topic of finding a suitable home for Hisui had been broached, but she had pleaded so frantically to stay that she'd been allowed to remain there, as a servant. The idea of servitude hadn't bothered her in the slightest; in fact, Hisui had taken to it very strongly. There wasn't a day gone by that she wasn't trailing after the other maids, clamoring to help wash windows or air laundry. Her age was taken into consideration, and she was given easy tasks, but Hisui treated each and every chore as if her very life depended on how well it was completed.
And, of course, she and Gailardia were nearly inseparable. He often dragged her out into the garden to play with Van and, while he had lessons on how to be a proper Count, she would go about her work or sit with Mary and learn how to sew or other handy skills. Sooner or later, Gailardia would find her, and they would go off to play again.
But today, the young master was proving difficult to locate. He wasn't being tutored, nor was he practicing swordsmanship with Van and Pere, and she'd checked every room in the mansion. Mary hadn't seen him, and Hisui didn't dare risk asking his parents.
Then, the only place she hadn't checked...
"Aha! Found you!"
From his position underneath the spacious desk in the library, Gailardia looked up at her. "You're too good at this, Hisui," he said petulantly. "You always know where I am!"
The youngest servant beamed and crouched down in front of him. "Because I'll always find you, that's why," she answered nonchalantly. "Why're you hiding, anyway? I didn't know you were playing."
The blond sighed and muttered something like "Birthdscordonwannaearadthings."
Gailardia sighed again. "It's almost my birthday, and there'll be a Scorer. But what if he only says bad things? Then everything'll be bad, and Mother and Father won't be happy, and my tutor said the last time a Scorer did a bad reading, everyone died, and--"
"Geez," Hisui interrupted him, donning her typical "Big Sister" expression that meant he'd just said something very silly (although she was the younger one). "What are you saying, Gai? Everything will be fine, and you'll feel bad that you were hiding because of it, you'll see. Counts aren't supposed to hide, they're supposed to be brave and strong, like Master Zygmunt! How else are they supposed to help people?"
"I'm not hiding," Gailardia objected mulishly. "And I'm not scared or anything, either!"
Hisui smiled and backed up to let him scoot out from under the desk. "I know. And besides, even if it's a bad reading, I'll stay with you. No matter what happens, I'll be by your side, and I know things will be good again! It's my promise to you!"
A little touched and embarrassed by his friend's strong loyalty, Gailardia tugged at a strand of hair. "I bet you'll be busy since all the relatives are coming, but... maybe Father will let you listen."
Had it been any other noble family, she would have disagreed, but Count Zygmunt and his family were known for their kindness and understanding towards their servants. If you worked for the Gardios family, you had it better than a lot of servants in Malkuth.
"Maybe," she said absentmindedly, focused more on the desk than on her friend now that his problem had been addressed. "... Hold on, it looks kinda dusty. I think Amelie had a duster, so I'll borrow it, and--"
Gailardia groaned. "You can clean later, let's go play!!"
Maybe he had been right to worry. Maybe she should have worried more, been more alert. Because she hadn't...
Hisui sniffled, raising one hand to wipe her streaming eyes, but stopped when she saw the blood splattered on her knuckles. It was ridiculous to be concerned about cleanliness now, with so many bodies scattered around her, but that and obedience were reliable things to fall back on, and she dropped her hand and gave the woman her full attention.
The maid was still speaking quickly, her voice hushed among the ones that were still screaming as their owners were slaughtered, drowned out by the barked-out orders of a man's deep voice and the affirmative and dim replies of still more unfamiliar men.
"Listen to me, Hisui," she hissed, grasping the little girl's shoulders with hands that seized moreso than held. "Promise me that you won't try to seek out Lady Marybelle and Master Gailardia. You're much too young, and if those Kimlascan soldiers see you, they will most certainly kill you."
Confused and terrified, the redhead shook her head. Count Zygmunt, the Countess... she had seen them fall, the Count fighting strongly until a sword stroke from behind had crippled him. The Countess had been helping her children flee, and hadn't had the time to protect herself. Many of the maids had accompanied Mary and Gailardia, but Hisui had been dragged in the opposite direction, her captor ignoring her cries and pleas to help, too.
"I--" She choked, coughed, tried again. "I promised--"
"A promise between children is hardly--" The maid's voice abruptly cut off in a low whine, and Hisui looked up to see the sword protruding from her chest. Somehow, those hands were still gripping her, but the girl tore herself free and yielded to her instincts. She ran, hearing the metallic clatter of footsteps and the shouted reminders that there were to be no survivors.
Hisui was only four, but even she knew what "no survivors" meant; she was witnessing it firsthand. All she could do was run, trying to accomplish two tasks simultaneously: elude the soldiers and find Gailardia.
As it turned out, she could do neither.
The tip of the blade caught her leg; agony flared, and she fell hard, skidding on the floor and striking the back of her head against a marble pillar.
Through pain-fogged eyes, she watched the soldier approach, saw him swing his sword over his head-- and then hesitate. To any of his comrades, they would have seen only a bloodied little girl, curled on the floor defensively and fighting to lift her head.
"You shouldn't be here," he said, sounding puzzled, and Hisui struggled to understand the meaning of those words shortly before unconsciousness claimed her.
She heard later that no one had survived the massacre, and the dryness and weight in her throat prevented her from crying.
For reasons unbeknownst to Hisui, her attacker had become her rescuer, and he'd wrapped the child in a blanket and smuggled her on a landship to Kimlasca. From there, she'd been taken in by the man's family, and had reunited with her sister, who'd been raised there since they had been separated.
Grief was a heavy burden that made Hisui listless, and she lost her smile and her spark-- something her twin seemed to have in abundance to make up for it. Convinced she no longer had any place or anyone to return to, Hisui did her best to carry on. Ten years passed until she was fourteen, and she was miserable. Several encounters between the twins and one of the family's oldest sons had resulted in a phobia of a man's touch, which had additionally resulted in Hisui becoming more reclusive than ever. She might have remained that way, had she not had a chance encounter when out to purchase groceries for the family.
There were plenty of young blond men, she was sure, even if Kimlasca tended to favor the darker shades of hair; another difference from sunlit Malkuth. He was taller, his hair in a spikier fashion, and he radiated confidence, even when he was doing some as simple as bartering for potatoes.
But Hisui knew him. He was alive.
He was alive.
Relief, guilt, fear, happiness-- they all fought for dominance, and none of them quite won out over the others. There was just a strong urge to act, and so she did.
Asking around revealed that he went by the name Guy Cecil and he worked for Duke Fabre-- the man who'd killed his family. Rumor also had it that the Duke was hiring maids, after the last two had run off with lesser nobles in Baticul.
This was the only chance Hisui would receive, and she couldn't afford to fail again.
"I won't stop you," Kohaku said to her as she prepared. "You found your place a long time ago. Just remember that you'll always have your sister, all right?"
Hisui paused, reached for her twin's hands, and held them firmly, meeting amber eyes that were the only thing that could distinguish the two of them.
She applied for the position and was accepted the following day.
Gailardia-- Guy-- didn't recognize her, judging from the fleeting glance he gave her the day she was introduced to the manor's staff. After a cheerful wave of greeting, he was already on the run from a gaggle of maids who were giggling and calling his name.
But there was someone else Hisui hadn't counted on, someone who did recognize her. The moment she looked up and locked eyes with the aged gardener, his mouth had fallen open, and his small eyes had become impossibly large in his lined face. For her part, Hisui managed to keep her surprise from registering on her face, and had shown no signs of recognition until after he'd led her outside under the pretense of conducting a tour of the place.
"Thank Yulia you're alive!" Pere murmured hoarsely, examining her. "It is little Hisui, isn't it? You've grown almost as much as he has!"
The next hour was spent explaining how Gailardia had been protected by the maids and his sister, and that he'd been buried under their bodies until Pere had found him and bore him to safety. Hod no longer existed, and the only surviving member of House Gardios had sworn revenge on the Duke, and was working for him in wait for that opportunity to arise.
"That's right..." Pere straightened from his flower-tending. "His memory's not quite as it was, what with the trauma and everything, and names are things easily forgotten in the years gone past. Still, he ought to remember you, and he'll be glad to know you're--"
Hisui was already shaking her head. "I would be appreciative if you didn't tell him. It's for the best if he doesn't remember me-- please," she added fervently, seeing the man's eyebrows draw together. "Please pretend this is the first time you've met me!"
"But, my dear, you two were friends!" Her pleading had thrown him for a loop. "Why wouldn't you want him to know you're alive?"
"... Because," she whispered, hanging her head, "I failed him. I should have protected him, like the other maids, and I couldn't even do that much for him! I couldn't keep my promise, and... I accept my error. I failed Master Gailardia. Knowing that, there is no way he would forgive me, or that I could forgive myself."
"And yet, knowing that, you still chose to come here?"
Hisui nodded, eyes fixed firmly on the ground.
Pere clucked softly, causing her to lift her gaze. The old swords master gave her a gentle smile and a wink.
"Maybe you were spared out of luck. Or maybe... you were spared because he still needs you. That promise you spoke of... did you truly abandon it, or are you prepared to honor it?"
Hisui's blue eyes spoke what the girl herself would not, and he chuckled.
"Then you two will be just fine."
They'd crossed paths several times. Hisui was reserved and guarded in contrast to Guy's open friendliness and curiosity. She never went out of her way to find him, and yet she was always there when he wasn't feeling well, or when the other maids were trying to corner him, quietly offering assistance. The first time, he'd asked for her name again, and had deemed it nostalgic, but had left it out that. The times after that, he started to seek her out for a rare bit of conversation where he wouldn't have to run screaming at any given point. These were short and succinct, given that Hisui honestly tried to cut them short and avoid arousing suspicion and that Luke fon Fabre had the habit of popping up and demanding Guy's attention over the smallest of issues.
Hisui was concerned about the young master, and how fond Guy seemed to be of him. Her employers could have been worse; Lady Susanne was kind, and had commented on the bright shade of Hisui's hair, compared to her darker crimson. Duke Fabre was more strict with his servants, as well as his son, and Hisui had to carefully arrange her features to betray nothing every time she walked into the main area and saw Count Zygmunt's sword mounted on the pillar. It had to be harder for Guy, even if he, too, walked past it every day as if it were nothing but a decorous piece.
The inclination for revenge was there, she knew, but so too was his affection for his master and friend.
"So sometimes he's annoying, and he's kind of naive, especially after that kidnapping," he was saying now, walking beside Hisui as she made her way down the hall to polish all of the suits of armor. "But he's a good guy under all of that." He paused, then laughed. "Listen to me, I sound more like his brother than his servant."
"It must be a servant's dream to have a master they are happy to serve," Hisui commented, scrubbing particularly hard at a stubborn rust stain by a knee joint.
That got another laugh out of him. "Yeah, probably. So what about you, Hisui? You've worked at other places before this one, right? Did you ever have a master like that?"
Caught off-guard by the question, the maid put a little too much pressure on the armor, and it began to tip to the side. Guy hurried to intercept it before it could crash completely, while Hisui steadied it from below.
"Whew... that was a close call." The blond wiped sweat from his forehead with a gloved hand. "Are you--"
The look Hisui turned on him made him stop; for just a second, she looked pained, wistful and sad. Then she blinked, and the look was gone.
"Yes," she said simply, gathering up her cleaning supplies and turning away. "I did."
It took him five minutes after she departed to realize she'd been answering his original question.
He might have dwelt on it, but the next day, an intruder arrived, and Luke disappeared in a flash of light.
It wasn't exactly the way he'd wanted to return to Baticul, nor the way he wanted to leave it, but Guy hadn't had too many options either way. Those sworn to protect Natalia were trying to kill them, and those the Princess had sworn to protect were now rising up to return the favor. He wasn't sure where those from the Fabre manor stood, but received an answer shortly after Pere had intervened to keep the guards from killing them.
As one armored foe swung at Guy when he headed for the lift, the attempt was thwarted by a rather large... frying pan. How its wielder had enough strength to use it effectively was beyond his comprehension, but the guard hit the ground regardless, and Guy found himself facing a fiercely determined and still very much composed maid.
"You should hurry," she said tersely, glancing over her shoulder as another group of guards approached. "They're very serious about killing all of you, and none of us want to see Her Highness and Master Luke hurt."
"But you'll be the one punished if you keep this up!" Guy protested. "You don't have to do this!!"
Hisui's eyes flashed. "Master Gailardia, I would have to disagree."
It really wasn't the best time for an epiphany, but with Hisui's words, everything fell into place with such neat precision that it almost staggered him. The name. Those blue eyes. The air of familiarity that he'd never been able to place. A little girl, smiling. A young woman, who'd been there all along.
Just as she'd promised.
"Hisui--" The tone of his voice had changed, to one of shock, and he could have laughed at the irony of it all. He'd found a childhood friend he'd thought dead, and he might lose her yet again.
The redhead glanced at him, then back to the guards. "I will explain everything later. Only know that I am deeply sorry for lying to you all this time, and--"
"I do so love chatting on a beautiful day," came Jade Curtiss' voice from behind Guy, "but I enjoy it better when the risk of execution isn't so prevalent. If we may continue on our merry way, Guy?"
Biting back a sarcastic comment, since he knew the colonel was right, Guy forced down his discomfort and reached out to cover Hisui's hands with his own.
"Stay alive," he said softly, blue eyes holding her equally light ones. "I will never order you to do anything else ever again, but you'd better obey this one. Got it?"
Hisui, under too much strain to keep up any sort of facade, nodded, and then finally mustered a smile for her old friend and master.
"Please take care."
Guy returned the nod, gave her hands a final squeeze, and then bolted to join his friends in their flight from Baticul, while those they had to leave behind turned to fight for them.