The air was still. This wasn't exactly the kind of weather Roan had in mind. He expected cool summer breezes, maybe even light rain, anything that signaled peace of mind. Instead, he was given something a little less than refreshing; windless, undisturbed, dead gray sky. Like a calm before the storm. It made Roan wonder if Valmar wasn't really destroyed.
He physically shook the thought out of his head. That was silly. Of course he was defeated. It's been a month since they confronted Valmar - no, Pope Zera. If he were still alive, he would have surfaced long before.
Roan shifted his weight. He was sitting on the edge of the cliff near Cyrum Kingdom for the past hour, and needless to say, his bottom was getting numb. Normal advice would have been to return to Cyrum, but that was simply out of the question - at least for now. Back at home, things were getting far too hectic, and it was nothing short of a miracle that Roan found time to slip away from the castle guards to spend some time alone. He was finally beginning to relax, but in the back of his mind, he worried that the guards may have realized that he was gone and sent out unnecessary search parties. That shouldn't be until another half hour, so he tried not to worry...
The unexpected voice made him jump. It took a second for him to realize the familiar, somewhat monotonic voice. Without turning around, Roan breathed his answered in a long, regretful sigh.
"So I take it the guards are looking for me?"
Hearing light, squeaking footsteps coming towards him, Roan began to rise from his sitting spot. But to his surprise, hands grasped his shoulders and pushed him back down. The hands didn't release their grip until Roan stopped struggling to rise again.
"Tio, what is going on?" Roan asked, dumbfounded. He turned his head up to see Tio right above him, with a shy smile placed upon her lips.
"Well?" she asked innocently. "Are you going to invite me to sit?"
"Oh!" Realizing his rudeness, he blushed slightly and scooted over. "Sorry about that..."
"It's all right," Tio said as she took her seat next to him. "The guards are still unaware that you are gone; do not worry."
Roan sighed in relief. "That's good..."
And after that, there was silence. What was there to talk about? Roan skimmed through conversation topics in his head. They could talk about the child who found her parents after Valmar's death, or the man whose wife had their first child just days after the battle, or even...
"What do you think the others are doing?" Tio asked, giving voice to Roan's thoughts. Roan gave himself a second to laugh quietly at the odd coincidence, then stretched his legs and allowed them to hang off the cliff's edge. Mister Ryuudo, Miss Elena, and Miss Millenia have all parted ways to make do with what's left of their lives. They all said good-bye to each other in Cyrum Kingdom three weeks ago. They haven't heard from any since.
"Living their lives, I suppose. I do hope they keep in touch."
"Yes, me too," Tio said quietly.
Silence befell them once again. Roan was disappointed. That conversation wasn't as striking as he wanted it to be. He wasn't sure how he thought talking about the others would turn into a full fledged conversation that would last hours, but somehow, in a hopeful, ridiculous way, he hoped that the topic would've led from one thing to another. The only thing the conversation led to was silence...
Luckily, Tio again broke the silence. "Do you think Ryuudo is... with one of them?"
Okay, so maybe not luckily. This question made Roan blush madly. He knew exactly what she tried to imply. He quickly turned his head and deliberately stared into the terra cotta-colored depths of the cliff, making sure Tio wouldn't see his face burning crimson.
"M-maybe so... I am not sure myself." Roan imagined Ryuudo with sweet, innocent Elena. Maybe they were living their lives together and arguing together. On the other hand, he may have settled himself with Millenia, living their lives together... and arguing together...
Roan sighed exasperatedly. "Both Miss Elena and Miss Millenia love Mister Ryuudo. I am not sure which of them Mister Ryuudo loves the most, I am afraid."
Tio laughed softly, shutting her eyes lightly in an expression of happiness. "Yes. Even though Elena and Millenia are so different, they both get the same reactions from Ryuudo. Ryuudo argues with both of them constantly. I wonder how they came to love each other."
"They must have seen through each others' flaws," Roan said, feeling the heat in his face cool down slightly. He finally faced Tio, who had a gazed look on her face. Roan noticed Tio's antenna twitching back and forth, which he came to realize earlier in their adventure that that is what she tends to do when she is confused about something. "Is something wrong, Tio?"
Tio's antenna twitched sharply, sort of similar to a cat sharpening its senses. "How did you know something was bothering me?"
Roan chuckled lightly. "Just a feeling... Umm... do you want to talk about it?"
Tio nodded quietly. "I do not understand Ryuudo and the others' situation." She reached and picked up a tiny pebble from the ground and fiddled with it. "Is love showing others you... despise them?"
"No, Tio, that's not true," Roan spitted quickly.
"Does that mean Mareg never loved me?" Tio continued on, and maybe it was Roan's imagination, but Tio's eyes seemed to glisten with tears. "That I never..."
Tio stopped her sentence short to rub her eyes with the sleeve of her dress. Roan stared at her, amazed, letting her words sink in his mind. He blushed. Did she mean what he thought she meant?
He had to ask. "Tio, are you saying... you were in love with Mister Mareg?"
Tio gave a wet sniffle and shrugged her shoulders lazily. "I think so... I thought... I do not know..." She sniffled again and tossed the rock pebble across the cliff, watching it disappear into the dark depths.
"Tio, love is not what you have described," Roan began to explain, picking his feet up and reaching to Tio, making her turn to face him.
Tio tilted her head, and her antenna flickered again. "Do you know what love is?"
Roan eyes went wide, and he turned beet red. "I-uh... umm, in some sorts... I mean..." Roan released Tio's shoulders and sat himself back on the ground, his legs crossed beneath him. He turned his head to face the cliff, feeling his embarrassment exceeding the depths of the fissure.
Tio scooted closer to Roan. "Will you explain it to me?"
Giving a huff of determination, Roan returned his eyes to Tio. "I'll try my best to."
Tio nodded and stared at him contently and patiently as Roan readied himself with a deep inhale. "I do not think I have experienced love for myself, but the maids and residents have told me great deals about it. They say that love is something you cannot really explain, but feel."
"How is it supposed to feel like?"
Roan peered back into his thoughts. He remembered asking a maid that very same question years ago. "One said that when you see the person you love, you're heart splashes down into your stomach and you feel like throwing up."
Tio giggled lightly. "Was she being serious?"
"Not really, but she said more." Roan stopped himself for a minute to remove his cloak and the jewel piece on his head. The temperatures were starting to rise. For a second he thought about returning to Cyrum to cool down, but he still had some time for peace. And to be with Tio.
After removing his over clothes and leaving them in a heap on the ground, he continued his explanation. "The miss said that you can tell if you love someone, when you feel that you have something you share with that person that goes beyond friendship..."
Roan was sure Tio didn't get that. Even he wasn't sure of what he was saying. Tio twitched her antenna and tilted her head.
"I do not understand," Tio said. "Beyond friendship...?"
"Yes. It's something like..." Roan narrowed his eyes to the rocky ground, struggling to find better words. "Let me put it this way. Being friends' means to watch out for each other, to talk to each other when the other needs them, and to share times with. Being in love means to... umm... be attracted to that person in a special way."
Tio's antenna twitched.
Roan huffed, half frustrated. "What I mean by attraction is... when you feel something in your heart when you think about that person. You feel that you are a part of that person's heart in some way."
Tio blinked, as if coming to realize a thought. "I think I understand what you mean. Though he is gone, in a way I feel as if Mareg is in my heart."
Roan nodded. "I am sure you are in Mister Mareg's heart too."
At that, Tio smiled. "That means I was in love with Mareg..."
Roan laughed. "Maybe so. But, remember, love and friendship are not intertwined. There is a big difference between the two."
For a moment, there was silence again. And both seemed to be somewhat satisfied with their conversation. Tio was gazing into the cliff, and Roan was gazing at the tiny smile Tio had on her face. Smiles are very becoming of her, he decided.
Suddenly, Tio lifted her head and faced Roan. "I wonder, if one can confuse love and friendship together, can that mean that I could unknowingly be in love with you?"
Roan blinked. Roan stood. Roan blushed. Roan stuttered...
Roan tripped over his clothes. He couldn't react fast enough to catch himself. He tumbled onto his knees.
"Ow..." Flipping himself on his bottom, he examined his knee. It was scraped. He pressed his palms onto the bloody wound as Tio rushed to him.
"Roan! Are you all right?" She pried his hands loose from his knees to look at the scrape herself.
Roan blushed all the while. He cursed at himself silently for overreacting to Tio's previous question. Why did he jump up like that? She was just asking a simple question. It wasn't like she was confessing or anything...
"Yes, I am fine," Roan answered.
"I am glad," Tio said. She averted her gaze from Roan's knee and to his eyes. Roan felt his blushing become even hotter. This was making him feel very uncomfortable. He blinked, wondering what Tio was thinking of. Maybe it was the heat of the sun making him hallucinate, but Tio's face was getting closer... and closer...
"God!" Roan felt himself jump, yelling in surprise at the sudden distant calling. The castle guards were in the midst of searching for him. Hearing another summon, Roan grabbed his clothed and reluctantly attempted to stand up. The pain in his knee was still fresh, and kept him from rising up without wincing in pain.
Then, without warning, Tio kneeled in front of Roan, back towards him, wrapped her arms around his kneecaps and lifted him up, causing him to lean against Tio's back. Once getting a good grip, she turned her head to get a glimpse of him.
"Ready to go back?"
A shy nod was given, and at that, they left the cliff to return home.
"Thank you, Tio."
Roan was lain on his bed, with Tio on the end of it, replacing a roll of white gauze into a wooden cabinet. Roan rubbed his knee. The stinging pain was now gone, and all that was left was the bandage wrapped around his knee.
"Do not worry about it," Tio replied with a smile. "It was not a problem at all."
"You are very good at taking care of people," Roan said, blushing sheepishly. "You would make a beautiful nurse, Tio."
Tio's antenna twitched. She turned to him with a perplexed look on her face. "What is a 'nurse'?"
Roan scolded himself for not realizing before that she would not understand the comment. He disguised his silent curses with a heartfelt laugh. "A nurse is a person who helps doctors. They make sure sick people get better!"
Tio smiled at that. She walked over and sat down on the bed next to Roan. "You think that I can be a good nurse?"
Roan nodded. "I know so!"
Tio's smile became wider, and she closed her eyes, seemingly imagining. She sighed dreamily. "I think that would be great. I do enjoy taking care of people... Do you think automata can become nurses?"
"They'd better. If not, I'd see to it that it you can be!"
A few seconds of silences. "Thank you, Roan..."
Roan had barely had time to return his gratitude when Tio cut him off with a feather light brushing of her lips on his. Roan kept his eyes open wide, gazing at Tio, whose eyes were closed softly and her face blushing slightly. He awkwardly pulled back a few seconds later.
Roan stared at Tio amazingly as she opened her eyes. She tilted her head, with a smile glazed on her face.
"Tio, why did you-" Roan's sentence was halted again with another kiss, yet this time it was slightly more fierce. Tio leaned against him, pressing weight from her body and onto her lips, motioning them in a way that encouraged Roan to do the same. He began to return the kisses, forgetting all the once thought ridiculous kissing advice he was given from the maids. He could not find his mind - only the new feelings he felt surging through his blood. He allowed his heart to take control, and wrapped his arms around Tio's nape. He shut his eyes to better sense the warm emotions he felt, the fluttering his heart gave...
Gently, reluctantly, they pulled away, leaning against each other's foreheads and feeling their hot breath tingling their skin. They remained that way for a few moments, gazing into each other's eyes.
Blushing red, Roan averted his eyes to bed sheets. With his breath still heavy, he returned to his question. "Why did you do that, Tio?"
"Because," she blushed, "I love you."
Roan released his arms from Tio. It was worst than he thought. She couldn't be in love with him. No, he was her friend, nothing more.
"While I was getting medicine, I asked one of the maids about how you can tell if you love someone," she continued, staring down at her hands, "and she said you should feel something warm in your heart when you kiss them. When I heard that, it all made sense. Ryuudo and Elena knew they were in love with each other when they kissed each other. I'm sure Millenia has kissed Ryuudo earlier in the past..."
Roan blinked. He didn't want to admit it then, but he did feel something in his heart when he kissed her. He still had his doubts, still unconfident...
"And," Tio turned to Roan, with a slight hint of hope dancing in her eyes, "I did feel something, Roan. I think... I love you."
"Tio," Roan interrupted her, desperate to collect his thoughts. What could he say? The truth perhaps? No, he couldn't. He didn't even know the truth of his feelings. He could only tell her what he knew, what he understood.
"You felt something too, did you not, Roan?" Tio asked hopefully.
Roan sighed. "Yes, Tio. I did..."
A smile formed across Tio's face. "Then, you are saying...!"
Roan shook his head. "I'm not saying anything, Tio. You say you love me, but... I do not think I feel the same way about you."
A long pause of silence. Tio set her gaze at the wrinkles of the bed sheets. Roan could feel the tense atmosphere given off. He felt so guilty making Tio feel this way, but he had no choice. He did not love her that way. At least, he did not think so... if he did not, he could not explain the emotions he felt about her when they kissed, even if the feelings were for a fleeting moment. He could not rush his mind to make a decision; things were going too fast. He needed some time... a lot of time...
"You do not love me, then..."
"T-that's not true, Tio!" Roan spitted quickly, slightly panicking. "I... I think that maybe I do love you... I am not sure..."
Tio's antenna twitched. "You are not certain?"
Roan shook head again. "I am sorry, Tio."
Tio nodded her head silently. "When are you going to be sure?" She looked at him with so much hope in her eyes that Roan couldn't bear disappointing her.
"I do not have a lot of time to think about it, because of the city's being rebuilt... I think we should wait until everything is back to normal," Roan said spitefully. Even though he was saying that in an effort to make Tio feel better, in a way he was truly saying what he felt was right. "I think it will be better that way."
She nodded again. "I guess you are right..." She stood from the bedside. "I... I am going to wash up." She began walk towards the large doors.
Roan looked away, feeling a sting in his gut. He knew she was lying. Tio has never needed to shower, and there was no reason for her to start now.
With her hand on the doorknob, Tio turned around. "Another maid told me that when you share your life with someone, you could see your entire future ahead of you."
Roan thought about those words for a moment. He couldn't imagine Tio being the love of his life. No, it was too early to tell. But he was certain, without a doubt, that he wanted her to be an important part of his life, whether it was based on love or not. She was his best friend, and nothing could - would ever change that.
"Then I suppose we will enter our future blind."
He saw her antenna twitch. He decided not to explain it. Through time, she would come to realize what he meant. Both needed time to understand what is truly going on.
With a lingering look, she twisted the doorknob and shut the doors behind her.