It has been years since Mireille last stood upon Corsican soil, and she learns now that ghosts have no notion of time. Mireille's dead are everywhere: her mother, and father, and brother await her on the sun-drenched streets, in the taste of the air, and in the fear that trembles through people's voices before they fall silent, eyes downcast. She closes her eyes, and swallows a child's distressed cry.
She can feel the weight of every second she has been gone, and it is too much, far too much to bear. Mireille reels, helpless, caught between what was and what is. She eases her hand into her purse, and brushes her fingertips against the solid weight of her gun. Its presence steadies her. She a child no longer, Mireille thinks, and the ghosts who brush careful fingertips against her upturned face want nothing more from her than the peace she seeks for herself.
Mireille opens her eyes.
The sun is bright, brilliant. She is alone. Mireille smiles at her own foolishness, and can not bring herself to pull her hand away from her gun. The only ones who watch her openly are the children, and their faces are quickly turned into their mother's aprons, shielded by their father's shoulders. Reflected in a shop window, an old woman makes the sign of the cross as Mireille passes her.
The only ghost who haunts this street is Mireille herself.
Her smile withers, and dies.
She is a daughter of Corsica, and her family has ruled this land for generations. Generations upon generations of her family's blood has been spilt over this land; this land which has not been Mireille home for years. She does not wish to be here, gasping on the dust of history, mind clouded by the memory of her dead. She does not wish to be here, in this, the home of her childhood, but the truth drives her forward.
Mireille keeps her shoulders straight, and her chin lifted.
She pays no more attention to the people around her than a killer should. She ignores the doorway where she once stood, riding her father's shoulders. She does not look towards the market where she once browsed fresh fruit with her mother. She knows these walls, these streets, and the memories that live within them are not for her, not today.
The walk is longer than she remembered. She spends the time building her resolve, and is nearly undone by the sight of her family's home, it's once stately grounds in disarray, walls crumbling with years of neglect, and the evidence of young boys' disrespect for a name without power over their lives. Mireille curses, and is glad that Kirika is not here to learn that her partner is a sentimental fool.
Inside, Mireille gasps around a mouthful of dust, coughs until she shakes. She leaves footprints smudged in the grime that coats the fine wood floors. Her turbulent emotions grow still, and Mireille needs no longer fight to maintain balance between her child's memories, and her current purpose. They become one and the same as she walks the halls, her shadow merging with that of the Mireille who was.
They reach out, wrap their hands around the doorknob, and--
Beyond the windows, the trees have grown large. They filter the sunlight, casting dancing patterns of shadow and light upon the floor. The light had been brilliant, then, blinding her for long moments without sparing her the knowledge that something, everything was wrong. She had already known the scent of blood, then, and the room had reeked of it. Blood had pooled on the floor, around her mother, and father, and brother--soaked into their clothes, made their hair grow heavy and dark.
There is no one here, and even the ghosts of her dead can not withstand the sudden, sharp reality of the here and now. Mireille has been reliving this scene every time she closes her eyes, but her family is gone, and even the Mireille who was had eventually buried her face in her teddy bear's fur and turned away. She has been looking backwards her entire life, Mireille thinks, and it is time that she lay her past to rest and face the future free of the shadows the Soldats have cast over her life.
There is no one here to accept her vow, but Mireille makes her promise nonetheless.
I will find the truth, she says, and I will be free of the Soldats.
When she closes the door behind her, no ghosts try to follow her.
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