Lady Lena Suphina looks back regarding her relationship with a certain Bishop...
March 23, 2008
Watching the Morning Sunlight Filter through the Gaps of the Draperies of Your Windows
As I watched the morning sunlight filter through the gaps of the draperies of your windows while it gently caressed your face, who would have thought that things would turn out like this? That I would come to realize that if I were to choose between my love and duty to Holy Harmonia as opposed to a life as a normal woman… that without any hesitation…
How utterly laughable!
Years ago, whenever someone inquired to Father about the prospect of attaining my hand in marriage, all inquiries were met with scorn and were immediately turned down. Father knew first hand the consequences of inciting the wrath of her beloved youngest daughter.
Don’t get me wrong!
Like all First Class Citizens, I was raised to value one thing above everything else … the glory of our beloved Holy Harmonia. Everyday, every single moment of my life was dedicated to serve my country. I simply felt that the traditional role of women of my family’s social standing, that is, to ensure the purity of our family bloodline, was simply not my calling. Besides, my sister already fulfilled our familial duty with her marriage to the Latkje Family. And she had already blessed us with two beautiful children.
My mother used to blame my father for my disposition. She always believed that his disappointment that I was not a son after many years of failed attempts and miscarriages after my sister's birth was the root of why I became who I am. Perhaps there was some truth to that. My sister was perfect in every way. I always knew that she was always Father’s favourite. Perhaps I merely started playing the role of the son he always wanted simply to gain his attention …
Nonetheless, becoming Holy Harmonia’s loyal servant as a member of the elite Temple Guard was a desire so strong that I instantly renounced the privileges that came with my birthright without a second thought. It was that desire that inevitably led me to know you.
Do you remember? The first time we met? It was rather awkward, wasn’t it? Looking back now, I suppose I could laugh now as I remembered it.
There I was… a novice guard, eager to serve her duties, mistakes a very important person like you as a common third-class citizen. A maidservant to boot! Alright, not really a maidservant… But my imagination painted you as this poor little girl plucked from the countryside against her will and was doomed to become some perverted noble’s son’s concubine.
I wonder what you would think if you knew.
You have no idea how much it tortured my conscience. Escorting you to Crystal Valley from Sanadia, where I assumed was your home. You looked so small, fragile, and so resigned to your fate that I seriously considered turning around and returning to Crystal Valley on my own, while making up some story of how you were killed by wolves or stolen by bandits or something of the like.
You had that effect on people, you know. When I first saw you, I thought you were the most beautiful child I’ve ever seen. And I had my share of looking after children. Even though my nephew was only three years younger than me, I’ve always looked after him and his sister like a responsible adult. I may be biased, but I’ve always thought that my sister’s children were the most beautiful children in the world… until I met you.
I thought it was odd, feeling that way. You didn’t even have the blond hair and blue eyes most first class citizens valued. But there was something exotic about the shade of your green eyes that seemed to have a strange luminous glow when it reflected light from the right angles and the richness of your chocolate hair only seemed to enhance the perfection of your porcelain complexion. You looked so much like a fragile, life-size doll that I just wanted to take you in my arms and protect you. I couldn’t bring myself to think of the possibility of people with less noble intentions in Crystal Valley, who would sully that radiant innocence you possessed.
All I can say that it was a good thing I didn’t follow impulsiveness as I normally did.
You could not imagine how much I wanted to die when Bishop Yohan formally introduced you as his Lordship Sasarai, the incoming Bishop that everyone was having a big fuss about. How was I to know who you were? Bishops usually inaugurated to their posts were at least twice your age. It took all I had to not dig a hole and bury myself in there when I found out that you were the very same Bishop I was assigned to protect.
I never dared to inquire, but I had a feeling that you had something to do with that assignment. I always thought it was your way of inciting revenge.
Then again, nobody could tell what kind of person you really were from your pleasant disposition and that annoying smile of yours. As I got to know you, I came to realize that innocent façade of yours was nothing but. I came to see that sadistic streak you hide very well. How you seem to find a sick sense of enjoyment with making people feel foolish by slowly killing them with kindness. I don’t know if you’re aware of it. I didn’t think you were. But it wouldn’t surprise me if you do it in purpose since even I could never tell what it is that you’re really thinking. There’s a manipulative devil hiding behind that innocent smile. That smile of yours… It’s a deadly weapon that can charm a person into wanting to throw their lives in front of you to protect you… or wish to take their own life if that pleases you.
Not that you would ask anybody to do that.
Of course, not everyone was instantly charmed by you when you made your debut in Harmonia’s political stage. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be any use for me to act as your shield, would there? I always hated admitting it, but back then, even I doubted you.
You were just so young and lacking in experience. Bishop Yohan was always quick to point out that Lord Hikusaak was only a bit older than you when he led his army to defeat the Kingdom of Aronia. I found that rather odd. Why would he choose The Absolute One as the basis to compare with you, that is…
I heard rumors of your abilities. You were never really one to flaunt any of them unless you had to, and since you were still to show it in real battle, many of the Bishops considered you more as eye candy than a real soldier. It annoyed me, you know. Not because of what the other Temple Guards thought about my “assignment”… but rather, it hurt me to see other people attack you like this. And there you were, unable or unwilling to protect yourself against the blatant propaganda backstabbing.
Though, I was just as guilty as everyone was.
Bishop Yohan was really the only one who had faith in you. You see, all I saw was this fourteen-year-old boy so scrawny that the modified ceremonial Bishop uniform he wore still looked at least two sizes too big. You were this teen-aged boy so small for his age that his feet barely touched the floor as he sat with the other members of the Harmonian Temple Council. The others didn’t say it in so many words, but no one really wanted to work under you as your aide. Since I was pretty much the only person Bishop Yohan trusted when it came to you, I ended up playing that part as well.
So I was taken by surprise just as anyone else that day when you won the first of many significant political battles in your lifetime. When you showed your critics, the other Bishops, and other aides present in the room the mature wisdom you hid within your child-like body. I understood for the first time… what it is that Bishop Yohan saw in you.
And it scared me a little bit.
How was it that someone who held the illusion of innocent youth and fragility could suddenly project an aura of authority and demonstrate that he could tame those vicious and spiteful older men who took that opportunity to attempt to tear him apart in front of his peers.
From the corner of my eye, I saw Bishop Yohan watch the whole exchange with silent amusement. He had such confidence in you that he didn’t even make any indication of attempting to jump in to save you from your attackers. Not even once. Not that you needed any saving.
That day, you earned the respect of the entire Harmonian Temple Council. It was clear that the position you hold now was a matter of inevitability. While some of them were reluctant to admit it at the time, I knew that these old men would follow you to the ends of the earth.
I know I would... and I always will.
Even though we both know that I won’t be able to stay by your side forever.
Especially after now, as I watched the morning sunlight filter through the gaps of the draperies of your windows while it gently caressed your face.
The first time I saw you like that was that morning you finally fell asleep after you returned from that disastrous battle during your tour in Dunan. I had a bad premonition that day. It was true, that it was the first time we were separated since your appointment as Bishop. But that bad feeling was more than just that instinctive anxiety that a mother hen has as she reluctantly watched her chick take his first steps away from under her watchful eye.
Even though my duties as your guard technically ended once you cross Harmonia’s borders, I still had the option of ignoring protocol as I also acted as your aide. And yes I know it annoyed you to no end that I would sometimes treat you like a child. I understood your need to eagerly prove yourself worthy without your training wheels. That’s the main reason why I decided to stay despite what my instincts told me otherwise.
Regardless of your status, you couldn’t ignore the fact that you were just seventeen. I know that Harmonians your age have long been sent out to battle… but none of those children were ever sent out as a general with tremendous responsibilities. Your calm exterior never showed it in front of your men. But they didn’t know you as much as I did. They had no idea how terrified your eyes looked as you rode off. They didn’t know about the last wish you wrote in that note you slipped in my hands just before you clambered on your mount…
“If I die, don’t allow them to give me a State Funeral and put me in display. Please make sure that I return to the Earth.”
I knew it wasn’t really the idea of facing the enemy, failing miserably or dying in battle that scared really you. You were raised to be a soldier. Death in battle was an inevitability. It was really the idea of surviving and coming back to bring news to the families whose husbands and sons didn’t survive because you weren’t strong enough to lead them… and protect them.
Even though Bishop Yohan trained you from childhood to become one of them, and in many ways, you have fulfilled that role they molded you into. But they were never really able successfully to rub out your compassion, were they?
It’s funny, isn’t it? How perceptions slightly change with the passage of time?
I felt my heart stop when news of your unit’s defeat in battle spread fast among the ranks. For the first time since my dear sister died, I shut myself in my quarters and cried. There was no news other than whispers of a power equal to yours caught your unit off guard and there were many casualties. Nobody could tell me if you survived.
I didn’t want to fulfill your last request.
So when the survivors of your unit finally arrived and you were there, sitting on your horse, with your head held high albeit looking battered and battle-worn… when you glanced at me and smiled a smile that seemed to say 'I'm home'… I almost lost my composure and burst out crying.
It wasn’t until much later, after the public has turned away its eye that you finally succumbed to the extent of your injuries. While your fractures mended, your wounds healed, and the fever that you hid as you traveled home eventually cooled, the unsettling melancholy that weighed down your cheerful disposition took much longer to fade. Visions of that moment when your power was not able to prevent the deaths of the men who instinctively protected you from the onslaught replayed over and over in your mind’s eye, never giving you a moment’s peace and haunted your dreams.
It was my fault.
Since Bishop Yohan had been… indisposed… since you left, I felt responsible for you. You were slowly succumbing into a dark pit of despair with each passing day. At first, you would try to mask your torture by pretending that nothing was wrong. But even pretending took its toll. The nightmares would not allow you to sleep to the point that your exhaustion could no longer hide those moments when you stared blankly in space or you suddenly bursting into tears or worse still, when you behaved like you were in battle again, witnessing everyone dying around you. Eventually, you no longer had the strength to smile.
And when you stopped eating, I knew it was a matter of time…
My father managed to keep that same façade after my mother died for the sake of his daughters. But he didn’t last very long and eventually wasted away after the blow of my sister’s death. It was wrong… what I did and what happened... but I couldn’t bear the thought of loosing you.
It’s funny, isn’t it? How we seem to end up like this when that happens.
Before all of this… before the stolen moments in between… before the first time… I always saw you as a child.
Even now, you still looked even more so as I watched the morning sunlight filter through the gaps of the draperies of your windows while it gently caressed your face, trying to rouse you to wakefulness, and how your brow wrinkled in response. It took all I had from reaching out to smoothen your frown. As you turned to escape the offending light, the blanket shifted to reveal your bare shoulder. And once again I’m reminded that despite the fact that you’re fated to have a teenaged body for the rest of your life, the soul within that child like shell was really a man.
There’s a sick sort of pleasure with the knowledge that I’m probably the only one who really knows that. While your attendants have seen the battle scars that marred the perfection of your fragile porcelain skin, I’m really the only one who knows that underneath that deceptive fragility was the feel of athletic sinewy muscle.
Back then, when this first happened… I only wanted to comfort you. I only wanted to hold you and pull you out of your despair. But somehow, somewhere along the way… it led to this. It was confusing and shameful for both of us and we both agreed it was best to keep it a secret and that it would never happen again.
How dim-witted and naïve we both were to assume that once such a flame is lit, it could easily be extinguished. We both knew that it was never going to be the same. Just being in the same room together ignited an inexplicable charge that even the most casual of touches was enough to let us know that all pretenses of composure was inevitably going to be lost. A young woman suddenly awakened from more than a decade of chastity and a teen-aged boy made aware of such things, also fueled by hormones were always a volatile combination.
But I should let you know that never regretted it.
The stolen moments, the thrill of getting caught, those short instances when you showed me aspects of your self and your vulnerabilities that you’ve never shown anyone else…
I treasured every single one of them. Even though I wasn’t fully aware of what I really felt about you back then. I naively took it in stride as another one of my duties and took personal comfort in the knowledge that our accident helped you come back to me from that pit of despair… and be strong enough to face yet another tragedy in your life.
I always found it strange that the Temple Council did not seem bothered by your defeat in Dunan. It was almost as if they were expecting that something like this was going to happen. You already know that Bishop Yohan didn’t hide the fact that he was unhappy about the Council’s decision to send you. To everyone’s surprise, he did the unthinkable. He publicly chastised Lord Hikusaak’s decision in front of the Council and stormed out.
What you didn’t know was that no one glimpsed even a hair or hide of him since the day you left. He locked himself in his compound, not allowing anyone… even the servants... to enter his quarters. When the news about your battalion arrived, I was the only one he permitted to bring him the news.
He aged more than ten years within the short months that you were away. No one spoke of it, but it was obvious that he was fasting in protest to your deployment. His pride was greater than yours and he would never admit the real reason to why he did what he did. When I told him the news of a power equal to your True Rune attacking and defeating your battalion, Bishop Yohan responded with complete stoicism. And for some reason, after seeing his reaction, it suddenly became clear…
That was the real reason why you were the one sent to support the Highlands.
Bishop Yohan’s health never recovered after that.
And we all know what happened next.
Despite the apparent failure of your tour, you were venerated by the other members of the Council and was even voted to temporarily act in Bishop Yohan’s position in his absence. When Bishop Yohan resigned as Head of Harmonian Temple Council and as Lord Hikusaak’s second-in-command, and he completely disappeared from the public eye and stayed hidden until his eventual death three years later...
But before your nineteenth year, you ascended to the second highest position in the Harmonian Political Hierarchy without any resistance even from your biggest critics.
By then, our paths had diverged to separate ways. The Council must have noticed the favours you had done for me relating to the string of incidences involving my sister’s children. It was the only explanation I could think of to why stubborn old Mikkel Alfhid would suddenly announce his retirement as head of the Temple Guards, and how the council unanimously pushed me as his replacement.
You didn’t say anything. But from the tears you silently shed that final night, I instantly knew that it was meant to be our goodbyes.
I didn’t question it, because despite what we would have wanted otherwise, we also knew that we could never have anything else but these stolen moments. You knew from childhood what they were grooming you to become who you were now. It was a fate you couldn’t escape. They made sure of that. That’s why you told me that you didn’t want to take a wife or have children, even though you were not forbidden to do so.
“Those who are born to live forever don’t deserve to have pleasures meant for mortal men.”
I remember you saying those words with sad eyes and a sad smile.
“And it’s not fair for any individual to endure a certain way of life simply because of who they are.”
I understood that you were talking from experience and I respected that. After all, neither of us had any claim to each other. Like I said, what we shared were merely stolen moments. We never allowed ourselves to indulge in the delusion that we could have more than the little pieces of time that we snatched. And even though we knew how we felt about each other, we never allowed ourselves to say it out loud. Saying such words bound people together, after all. It made parting even more difficult.
But still… it wasn’t wrong to wish for another life when I was merely an ordinary woman, and you were merely an ordinary man… was it?
And as the morning sunlight filtered through the gaps of the draperies of your windows, we parted our separate ways.
We still met in formal functions and heard of each other’s endeavors in the years that followed from our own social and political circles. In your own way, you kept a precious connection. My niece remained under your protective guardianship even after the danger with Zaj Quilous had long passed. I’ve heard whispers that Nash had even taken private employment under you. Despite all that, we never allowed our own encounters to be more than just old acquaintances.
It was painful.
Knowing how close you were but never within reach. When you took that young man, Dios, under your wing to take over my old position as your aide, I finally convinced myself that it was time to move on. If Julie was able to move on from Zaj Quilous’ death to accept Lord Aldrich’s proposal, why couldn’t I?
I resigned my post from the Temple Guards and returned to my duties in the Suphina household. With my sister gone, my nephew walking a wayward path, and my niece married off to another noble family, there was no one else to take care of my family’s responsibilities. Though just to make it clear. Despite the rumors, my impending marriage to Lord Hendrick was exactly just that… rumours. While I could easily turn my back in the political and military world we once shared, it would seem that despite all efforts, I never had the heart to completely turn my back on you.
So when news of the complications from your military tour in the Grasslands reached me… I knew that there was no way that I could stay away. Images of the anguish you went through fifteen years ago replayed in my mind. I was almost afraid of what I would find when I made my way to your quarters and barged through your door despite the protests of your attendants. I suppose I was just as surprised as you when we saw each other again after all these years.
It was rather awkward, wasn’t it?
This crazy old maid bursting through your door, imagining the worst that could have happened to you, expecting that you were bleeding and dying in your deathbed,. Instead, I stood dumbfounded as a pair of surprised luminous green eyes turned towards me, as if suddenly disturbed from deep thought while you sat on a chair by your window.
You didn’t say anything. But from the smile that slowly crept on your lips as if to say, ‘I’m home’, I instantly knew. All the efforts we’ve done in the past to stay away from each other were a complete waste… and yet at the same time…
Here we are again, with the evidence of what secretly happened between us in the past once more hanging heavily in the air. I watched the morning sunlight filter through the gaps of the draperies of your windows while it gently caressed your face trying to rouse you to wakefulness, and your brow wrinkled in response. It took all I had from reaching out to smoothen your frown. As you turned to escape the offending light, the blanket shifted to reveal your bare shoulder. I didn’t stop myself this time from bending down to kiss the faint line of an old scar on your upper arm that marred the perfection of your porcelain skin. The simple action woke you and you finally opened your eyes to look at me, and gave me a sleepy smile.
We are a ridiculous pair now, aren’t we? There you were. Save for your eyes, which reflected the three decades of life’s experiences you’ve witnessed, while the rest of you didn’t look like you aged a single day since the first time we met. And here I was, an old maid, while in no accounts I don’t consider myself ugly, but I’ll never be able to pretend to be a young beauty to compliment your youthful appearance either. We probably look more like a mother and son than clandestine lovers.
But as you shifted over me to show me once again how you truly felt about me despite the fact that we would probably never find the strength to utter those words aloud, I knew that none of that mattered anymore… at least not during our stolen moments. I’d like to think that all that mattered to you right now were the same thoughts running thing my head while I looked back at you to revel once again at how beautiful you were.
As you watched the morning sunlight filter through the gaps of the draperies of your windows to caress my face…
I will be killed by the Sasarai fandom! But c’mon! Lena’s merely Sasarai’s subordinate, so what reason would he have to take her niece under his protection… or create some kind of interference to help Nash escape. Then there’s also her inexplicable disappearance in S3 (though there is a brief referential mention of her in Nash’s investigation). Anywayz, please forgive my indulgence. I find this scenario more plausible than the Luc/Sasarai slash and yes... I’m one of the few Lena X Sasarai supporters in the fandom. Somehow, the 8-year age difference between them also gives a slight “Mrs. Robinson” mystique to the affair.