Chapter 14:

Anxiety carved into bones

Your Heart has Meaning.

The birds, who had no names, nor faces, nor hobbies, spoke words with their song, which was their only passion in the quiet morning. Chirps resounded against the soft breeze, which in turn made its way through the window, and nestled softly in the air of my sunlit room.

“It’s time to wake up, my Lord.” A gruff voice sounded out.

“Hm…?” I muttered sleepily, pulling my head away from my pillow, which felt as if it had been tied down to weighted iron.

There were days when I had no will to remove myself from my bed, which felt as if I had been resting in a cloudfilled sky, so soft and warm in its silken demeanor. I had felt no such feeling in my heart as I arose from slumber.

Rubbing my dreams away from my eyelids, I saw that a man who stood nearly as tall as the ceiling stood before me, dressed in robes that bore the crest of my name.

My gaze widened as I fell back against the headboard of my bed.

“Who are you?” I asked of him in a stout tone.

The man, who I did not know, had made his way into my room. How he had made his way past my guard, in its minimal nature, I did not know.

“My Lord, I’m your servant.” The man spoke, worry dancing about in his irises as he approached. “My name is Shirakawa… do you really not remember me?”

The surprise in my gaze quickly fell away, and I sunk back against my pillows as I looked back up at him.

“No, I’m sorry… my mind feels… hazy right now.” I shook my head, trying desperately to ruffle away the hair that had fallen flat against my forehead. “So… you’re someone I know then…?”

I smiled softly, trying to rid my expression of my disappointment.

“Sorry… this tends to happen a lot. I don’t mean to worry you.” I shook my head.

I knew full well I was angry.

It was anger directed towards myself.

I didn’t know how I could let myself forget such simple things.

Rather, they were important things.

Meeting his gaze, I could see clearly his worry that disturbed his loud-beating heart.

“Will you tell me of us, then?” I asked of him.

Looking at him, despite my inability to recall him, left my heart aching.

And so, as the man taller than the sky sat at the edge of my bed, he recounted years of experiences and memories that had suddenly slipped from my mind, and I was fascinated and filled with grief alike.


In the quiet of the darkened theatre, I always felt the calm sting of my excited heart.

As the day drew closer towards the play, I had wholly expected to witness the excited nature of the softened woman who stood before me. Now, opposed to that thought, I only saw the anxious disposition of worry form within Theresia.

I found myself at the forefront of the stage, trying desperately to untangle the rope to the curtains. To check such a thing was a duty handed to me by Theresia, who seemed obsessive in her mission to make sure everything would run smoothly.

I let out a sigh as I stepped forward. To see her so busy left me feeling somewhat jealous. I knew well they weren’t the feelings of a playwright’s assistant. I had been confusing myself with my own heart.

Grabbing hold of the rope, it zipped up towards the ceiling wildly. A metal implement that kept the curtain strung against the wall then brushed past my hand. A sudden gasp escaped my lips, and I clutched my hand with my other as I gazed downwards.

A ruby-red I had grown to disdain dripped with haste from the large gash that had opened up upon my palm. Blood pooled on the floor, and my eyes widened as I stared at the blanket of carnelian-fashion.

The sand-bag that held down the rope had come loose as soon as I had grabbed it, carelessly fastened had it been.

I paid the wound on my hand no mind as I stared at the fragmented reflection of myself within the puddled blood before me. Mine were eyes that had been filled with anxious disposition in an instant.

My breaths had grown shallow, my hands shaky, and my heart a mess in dispassionate quickened rhythm. The world around me trembled as if an earthquake had been occurring, and my eyes could only focus on the puddle that sat before me.

I was a fool to think I was okay with how I had died. It was painful, even for the few seconds I had been allowed to live before my head was cleaved from my body by the Kaishakunin. Despite the ones that had stood around me in my final moments, I had felt wholly alone. I had turned away from those whose expressions I weaved smiles into, but I thought I had left no one in particular behind.

Even now would the sight of my own blood tear forth the grief and horror from my heart as quick as the trigger-pull of a rifle. It would remind me of the pain I caused myself, and of the pain I had caused another.

How strong could I call myself, to feel anxious over that which had been my own choice?

Death had been my punishment, and even now did I feel the red-hot lashes of its painful memory. I wondered if that too was the damnation for my survival, to live a life of grief and uneasiness as a constant.

Shutting my eyes to the hazy world around me, I centered myself against my breaths, despite their anxious shallowness.

The eerie calm I had always felt within my heart suddenly grew pervasive, and my breaths slowed against my steadied feelings.

As if on cue in the play, Theresia arrived stage right. All she saw was my crumbling form hovered over a hand I held gently, sitting within a pool of my own blood. Rushing towards me, I could see clearly that her expression bore significance of feeling.

“You’re bleeding!” Theresia exclaimed worriedly, grasping tight upon my hand as she pulled it towards her to examine it. “You’re too much of a fool to leave unattended...”

Her movements were harsh, and her tone was callous, yet still did her kindness shine through her gleaming ocean eyes.

“I can’t even leave you be for a single minute, can I?” She frowned. “Whenever I turn my gaze, you seem to wander...”

She held my hand gently within hers, her palms softened in parallel as she bandaged my wound. I could feel the callouses of her fingertips against my skin, her recent efforts apparent.

I wondered if it meant something more to me that she did so.

“I’m sorry to cause you so much trouble then.” I laughed softly, trying to wash the worries away from my expression.

“No.. that’s not it.” She shook her head. “Maybe I shouldn’t worry this much for you, but I do.”

She let out a loud sigh, before turning back towards me with a serious gaze.

“Are you all right then?” She asked of me.

“Within your arms, I am eternally alright.” I smiled.

“Then, can you go meet with the shadowleapers?” Theresia asked of me. “I want to make sure they have all they require.”

Standing up, she parted her lips once more to speak simple, gentle words towards me.

“Agreste, I trust this much to you alone.”

With that, she then left me behind. Disappearing into the darkness of the theatre, she left naught but her bustle in her own wake.

That wasn’t wholly true, for she had left an unmoving smile upon my expression.

I soon found myself standing before a man of short stature. His skin was aged and leathered by sunlight, and his eyes were unapparent amidst the bush of his cloudy-white eyebrows. Too did his beard and moustache match his eyebrows, so bushy that it seemed to envelope the whole of his upper-chest.

It was Piers, the shadowleaper I had met previously.

We walked along the length of the backroom behind the stage, discussing trivial things in jovial tones.

“I want to thank you for what you’ve done to Theresia.” Piers spoke with a smile.

“I don’t think I’ve done too much.” I said in response, shaking my head. “Painting signs... creating the set, it’s incomparable to what you do for her.”

“No, that’s not what I mean. You don’t know her like I do, I suppose. You don’t know how she can get.” Piers said with a sadness lacing his tone.

“And how is that?”

“Around the times when we’re to put on a play, it’s like a clear-cut change in her attitude. She becomes obsessive, callous, and incredibly anxious.” Piers sighed. “She may be somewhat like that today. Around you however... she seems calm in a way we have never seen her. I think that is because of you, Mr. Agreste.”

I couldn’t think of a response to his words in that moment. Simply imagining such a thought was enough to flush my face a bright-red. I had only ever known her to be as she was, which was someone that I admired wholly.

Was she truly different when she was with me?

He grabbed my hands with his calloused, rough palms. Staring up into my eyes, I could see the seriousness in his expression.

In his grasp, I could feel the truth of his kindness sitting pervasive.

I convinced my heart fully then that I was the one that Theresia trusted most. I was the one that she confided in, and handed the most difficult tasks of her passion towards.

I was truly her assistant.

But I wondered then.

Was I truly fine with that much?

I did not once stop to consider the feelings of my own heart.

The nation of the undine had stained my attitude, and I was more than happy to quickly pass my heart by.

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