Lord Arula's letter
I hope this letter finds you well, and please forgive me for deciding on my own to put my feelings onto paper, for all the hours of the day are not enough for me to fully express them to you, even though you are in full knowledge of them regardless of what I say and do not say.
I possess no memory of your past life, as that is a life I have not lived, but when I saw you for the first time, I saw all that you have been through, and at that moment, you gave me a choice—it said so in your eyes, the provocative look asking, “Do you dare?” I could have easily disguised my recognition of the past that only you knew of, since you yourself were not certain if I could see a hypothetical past. Nevertheless, at that moment, I decided to love you. The danger of your path ahead and thrill of your hunt made my soul feel alive, and like many others since then, I laid my life before you without a second thought.
Your moment of epiphany, I suppose, came in the last second of your previous life, when you decided to bar your heart from your mind and take revenge on those who wronged you regardless of anything or anyone else. To make it most effective, you even used the one whom you deemed your one true nemesis as your instrument of reversal, diving into the depths of his eyes to turn back time for your soul, ignoring all existing principles the world preaches about never relying on your enemy. Every decision you have made since then has not been wrong once, and I saw in the dying Lord Remington how deeply he regretted the crimes he did not commit.
It must have been rather bewildering, even for a talented man as he. He found himself in a predicament of having done everything wrong and nothing wrong at the same time; he truly did care for you in his own definition of the term, but he never did make any real promises, knowing deep down that if you ever threatened him and he was in the capacity to do so, he would eliminate you regardless of how he felt. In the end, he did not complain, knowing full well that you were simply doing unto him what he did to you.
Ellerie must have been very irritating for you; I know that you are not fond of acting friendly towards someone you deem completely worthless and a disgrace to womankind. For her you did not care all that much how she died, so long as she did and knew that it was you who took everything from her before she did. As I pushed her down from the tower that night, I suddenly came to understand for myself why you smile so brightly while standing on the bodies of your enemies, blood on your hands: there is a type of joy in removing an obstacle.
In my life, many have described me as compassionate and kind, mistaking silence for approval. While claiming to admire me, they did not know that I saw them conspiring against me. From the age of five, everything and everyone was in my eyes a lie. I entertained myself with books, buried in the comfort of their relative silence. More than once, I felt compelled to silence myself, lacking the courage to confront the liars—yet, being the coward that I am, I also lacked the courage to end my own life.
When I saw the events of the battle from your memories, it presented to me an opportunity, an opportunity to end my life by someone else’s hand. I never once mentioned it, but you saw right through me. For the sake of what remained of my dignity as a lord, you did not speak of it, instead gazing upon me with widened eyes, asking so casually to form a blood pact with me. I could not possibly refuse, and for fear of affecting your plans, I gave up on the idea of letting myself perish.
All of the above being said, I will have buried this letter into your heart as you leaned into me one night—although I am writing about the future here in hopes that it will happen—and should any mishap befall me after all, it will resurface directly into your hands. Therefore, our secrets will forever be secured.
And, should that happen, you must be rather agitated that I should let my life be taken without your consent, given that you risked more than otherwise necessary to save it. I am not your white knight, and you are not my princess; even so, the fairytales you both love and hate provide one way of reversing the most wicked of spells.
Ever since that meeting with the other lords, one single truth had been silently haunting the both of us: the fact that Arula presented to me the greatest threat. Although he had pledged his allegiance to me, it was he who had intelligence at his disposal more readily than me, and there was no shortage of bluebloods who waited on him, waiting for the day he turned against me.
The possibility of this haunted the both of us, and there was no way to simply discuss it—it was the sort of thing that remained a rumor so long as the perfect opportunity didn’t present itself, like a faulty timed bomb that could either never explode or blow up the next minute.
And I was quite certain that Arula no longer had the urge to kill himself for the sake of death.
As I tore his letter to shreds—yes, that was what I did, because there was too much information on those sheets—I recalled the night of the battle, which he himself had so tactfully reminded me of with his message. I thought of the words left unsaid that night: I have already lived longer than I should. I was fated to die before tomorrow’s sunrise. Every breath that I take from tonight onwards is for you.
I made my way to his room. It was early morning, and the rest of the castle was still sound asleep in blissful ignorance. When I arrived, I found Arula lying peacefully still on his bed, undoubtedly dead.
He was showing me by action that he had meant exactly what he’d left unsaid, that he lived for me and would never betray me. He told me in his letter how to undo the curse he had placed on himself and bring him back to life, but if I decided after all that his threat to me was real, I could just pretend I never understood the note. He would have eliminated himself for me, and we would never have to find out whether he meant more to me than the consolidation of my power, my standing in the world—he would never have to find out what I chose. If I were as heartless as my adversaries claimed, Arula did not want to know.
Give me everything or nothing at all, was the message.
There was no hesitation. I bent down and kissed him lightly on the lips, then pulled back and waited. Arula was a truly beautiful man, even when cursed to death—as I was thinking that to myself, he opened his eyes.
At first, he seemed stunned, adjusting at the same time to the feeling of being alive again and the reality of my choice. Then, his eyes became glossy, and without another word he sat up and pulled me in, kissing me for real this time.
It was the most aggressive he’d been yet, but I did not hate it.
~ fin ~