He sits there, slumped in the shifting shadows of the canopy of trees overhead and stares straight ahead of him. His eyes, twin orbs of swirling black are blank and unseeing, apparently oblivious to my keen scrutiny. Raven black hair tied back firmly frames his endearing face. A few silky strands fall across his forehead, brushing against his face as the cool breeze blows in his direction rustling the leaves on the trees overhead and causing several to flutter down in an arc around his lithe figure.
A teenager. That would be the first thought that springs to the mind of any who doesn't know him better if they chanced upon him now. An ordinary young punk suffering from the pangs of first love and other teenaged woes.
Wrong. Dead wrong.
Here sits the leader of the Liberation Army. Keeper of one of the 27 True Runes, the Soul Eater. Harbinger of doom for the Scarlet Moon Empire. Founder and president of the Toran Republic. The one who brought all 108 of us Stars of Destiny together. A mere child.
At his tender young age, he has been exposed to much of the harsh realities of the brutally cold world we inhabit. Too much of it. Too many deaths, too many betrayals, too many friends and family lost in his so-called "destiny" to lead this country to salvation. The killer of his own father.
How does that weigh on the mind of one such as his?
"I killed my own father."
He'd turned around and given me a strange smile as he'd said this. But the anguish in his eyes had been plain for all to see. He'd lost something deep within him when General McDohl had perished at his hands. Then when Viktor and Flik had disappeared during their last combat...
That's when he'd withdrawn completely.
It pains me to see him this way. I, who have stood his side protecting him all his life am for once unable to help him tide over this inner turmoil. From what I'd gathered, Viktor and Flik were the ones who'd helped him to cope after my... death. Viktor had been a rough uncouth man and it'd showed in his appearance and actions. Hardly a sentence of his went by without being punctuated with an expletive. I'd disliked the man intensely at first glance dismissing him as merely a bad influence on the Young Master, but during our time together, I'd learnt just how sensitive a person he really was. On the surface he seemed nothing more than a regular street bum possessing superior fighting capabilities but on one night, just the eve before my death, he'd suddenly started talking. The two of us had hardly spoken to each other before that, my obvious distaste of the man had kept him away and when we did speak to each other it was often for the sole sake of the mission at hand. But for that one moment, his exterior cracked and a bit of the real him within had shown. A man driven by vengeance, tormented by deaths of his fellow villagers. People he'd been unable to save then but was able to avenge now. Maybe it was fuelled by the drinks we'd had or maybe it'd been the sheer burden that of carrying that much emotional baggage around with him for so long that had made him share those intimate details of his past with me. I didn't know.
Flik, on the other hand had been the complete opposite of Viktor. A strikingly handsome young lad with eyes the colour of the sky and silky brown hair cropped short. A rash and hot-headed youth who sometimes took things too seriously, he'd been deeply in love with the former leader of the Liberation Army, Odessa before she had died saving a young child. Anger combined with the shock upon learning the news of Odessa's death had compelled him to blame the Young Master for his love's death but in time, Flik had grown to like the Young Master and had perhaps even respected him.
The loss of these two men who'd grown to be two of his closest friends had drawn him into a deep state of depression. It was true that none of us had actually seen the two of them dead, but both of them had chosen to stay behind to fend off the remnants of soldiers still loyal to the king during the final battle with Windy and none had emerged from the ruins of the castle after that. Add that to the fact that all of us had seen the extent of the injuries Flik had received while shielding the Young Master from a stray arrow and none of us had dared to raise the Young Master's hopes by comforting him with thoughts of the duo's survival.
Watching him as he sits there, draped in the fineries of the court as one befitting his status should be, I think of how strange the garments look on him. Somehow, they just didn't seem to suit him although I knew they had been specially tailored to fit him perfectly. Being the president would be a heavy responsibility for him. He shouldn't have to bear this burden at his age. He shouldn't have to deal with all this dreary politics. Leading the war has already left him walking wounded with scars left from the death of his father, Odessa, Flik and Viktor. Something was bound to snap eventually.
I came to a sudden decision.
Stepping away from the shadows which had concealed my presence for the past hour or so I call out to him as I move swiftly over to his bowed figure.
He jerks his head upwards and stares at me, his eyes registering nothing for a moment but then recognition dawns into those dark orbs.
He acknowledges my presence with a ghost of his usual smiles and my chest constricts painfully. Evidence of sleepless nights under his eyes mars the perfect complexion of his.
"Is something disturbing you?"
That query had been needless. I knew only too well what had been bothering him.
He looks away quickly, avoiding my gaze, his fingers nervously toying with a loose thread on his shirt.
"You lie, Young Master. Have I not always instructed you to be an upright and honest person?"
His face reddens in shame and he begins to study my boots in earnest. What an adorable darling he is. I laugh softly, the sound of my laughter cutting through the oppressive silence of the dark that envelopes both of us. As my laughter dies down, I bend forward on one knee suddenly and take his hand in my own, pressing it to my scarred face. He starts and stares at me in surprise.
"You're suffering aren't you? You're in so much pain nothing seems to be going right any more. Let me take you away from all of this, Young Master. Let us leave this place this very night together. Forget about the Presidency. Someone else, perhaps Lepant, can take over this role."
Then he gives me a quick nod and rises to his feet. He turns as if to go and pauses. Suddenly without warning, he spins round and throws his arms around me, leaning his head against my chest. I stand stock still, stiff as a statue as a warm glow begins to spread from my cheeks throughout my body.
"Thank you, Gremio. You always were there when I needed you."
Relaxing into his unexpected hug, I close my eyes with a tender smile and run my fingers through the silky mass of his hair lovingly, just enjoying the feel of his warm body pressed against my own body that was icy from standing out in the cold for so long. Positive, that I had made the right decision and positive too that the scars on his soul would heal in time. He is young and strong with his future laid out before him. If anyone can do it, it is him.
I press my lips gently upon his forehead and he sighs softly in pleasure leaning further into our embrace.
I love you, Young Master. Perhaps you already know or perhaps you don't. You may never reciprocate my feelings for you, but as long as you allow me to stay by your side and take care of you always...
I gently disentangle myself from his arms and whisper softly in his ear, "We have to go now."
He releases me with a little smile and begins to make his way out of the palace, only stopping by his room for a moment to pack some of his belongings. I follow suit. Never looking back, the two of us disappear through the gates of the looming castle, moving towards our new future together.