[CW: Character death (not particularly graphic, but still)]
“You took,” says the young person in the garden, looking up through the fronds of the willow tree without any particular expression on aer face, “A very long time.”
The lady stands on the outskirts of the tree’s branches, lit up by the fading sun. The shadows from the willow smothered her face, but ae know she is beautiful.
“Better late than never, I suppose.” Ae continue. “I have always preferred sunset over sunrise, anyway.”
“You…” The lady clears her throat, and tries again. “I did not realize you were waiting for me?”
It comes out more as a question, and that makes aem laugh. A light, lilting thing. The lady pauses.
She tries again. “I am sorry… I-”
“Oh, you are apologizing? Whatever for?”
“I just. Do you… understand the situation you are in right now?”
The person near the tree turns to look at the lady, and gives her a quiet smile.
“You are going to kill me.”
The lady sets her shoulders, then looks at the large knife strapped to her waist.
“That… was the plan, yes.”
The person hums, but does not move. Ae show no fear, or any apprehension of the lady standing only a few meters from aem.
“Is that not the plan anymore?”
The lady’s head snaps back up. “No. Well, no- I mean yes. That… that is still the plan.”
“Alright.” Ae take a few steps away from the tree, spreading aer arms in one smooth motion. When ae move, it’s straight into a patch of sunlight, and for a moment it’s as though ae glow. Aer cropped golden hair matches bright eyes, wide and acquiescent. Ae wear a bronze dress, and the long sleeves hang off aer arms, matching the several bracelets that adorn aer wrists. Aer smile does not fade. “What are you waiting for.” Statement, not question. “Kill me.”
“I…” Ae see the silhouette of the lady’s shoulders slump suddenly, as though releasing some sort of pressure. “I do not know if I can.”
Aer arms drop to aer sides, and aer head tilts. Golden curls fall across a golden, speckled face, that is now pulled into a light frown.
“Why not?” Aer voice is soft and almost petulant, and it is carried by the winds that rise up from the sea, just barely within view of the willow tree held steady in the center of the castle’s sprawling gardens.
“Why not? Why not? You are a child!”
Ae fold aer arms. “I’m nearly fifteen.”
“Precisely!” The lady tosses her arms in the air and begins to pace, running a hand through her own curly hair. “A child! They ask me to kill a child. Goddess have mercy, what kind of parents, what kind of rulers arrange for their own child to be assassinated?”
“Rulers who never wanted an heir in the first place.” Aer voice is even softer than before, a murmur on the breeze, but the lady hears it and pauses in her pacing.
“And you.” She rounds on aem now. “Why are you so nonchalant about all of this? We are discussing your life. How could you be so calm under these circumstances?”
Ae shrug. “I do not see how my calm could possibly be any hindrance to you.”
She sighs. “This is ridiculous.”
Ae take another step closer, now nearly within arms length of the lady due to her pacing. “Then kill me. Why waste time?”
“But- you- do you want this?”
Ae pause, aer brow furrowing as if ae had never thought to ask that question before. “What do you mean?”
She huffs in exasperation. “You keep telling me to kill you. Do you want this? Do you want to die?”
Ae blink, then look back at her with a perfectly serene countenance. “No, I do not think I do. But,” ae look down, folding and unfolding aer hands in front of aem. “If it is not you, then it will be the next person. Or the next. Or the next, forever on after that until I am dead.” Ae look back up at her, aer perfect calm is a strange juxtaposition to her upset, borderline furious expression. Not furious at aem, but at the world, at the rulers, for forcing the two of them into this position. Ae continue: “You are not the first to make a feeble attempt at my life. There are several before you who have failed. If you fail, then you will meet the same fate as the poor souls who could not lift a simple knife against me. It will be your life that is taken, and there will merely be another in line to take your place. Please,” she does not know when the two had gotten close enough for aem to reach a hand out and wrap slender fingers around her wrist. “I implore you, do not make their mistake. Perhaps you can hardly bear to take my life, but I cannot bear to see another life wasted on account of my existence.”
Her breath hitches, and she stares aem in the eye. “You are serious about this?”
There is a faint smile on aer face, tugging at the corners of aer eyes and just barely crinkling the space between aer eyebrows. She has to look down at aem to meet aer gaze and Goddess, oh Goddess have mercy, how could she kill someone so very young?
“I believe I am more serious than I have any right to be.” Ae spare a glance just over her shoulder, and aer head tilts, the smile growing. “Oh, how lovely. Do you see that, miss? The moon is beginning to rise.”
She does not look over her shoulder. She does not move at all. She does not take her eyes off of aem as ae peer around her.
I am sorry. She thinks desperately. I am so very, very sorry. Please do not look down on me. Please forgive me. All I am hoping is that you can forgive me for following your orders.
The knife makes no sound as it is unsheathed, and does not stutter as it plunges into the child’s chest. The only sound to be heard is a small, squeaking gasp when the knife strikes its target.
“Oh,” ae say. Ae grasp her upper arms, and she holds aem by the sides, lowering the both of them to the ground. “Oh.” Ae look down at aer chest, then back up to her face. “Oh. It hurts.” Ae do not cry, but ae look as though ae might. The lady presses her palm to aer face, and ae lean into it. “I always thought it would but- but it-” ae pause, coughing up just the slightest bit of blood. The lady uses her sleeve to wipe it off aer lower lip. “It hurts. Oh. Oh, look.” Ae are looking past her again, just over her shoulder. She does not remove her hand from aer face. “It is the moon. I have always,” ae blink, slowly. “Always preferred sunset.”
Aer eyes do not shut when ae go still, gazing lovingly at the sky.