“O—oblivious?” Fleur sputtered. “How am I the one oblivious when you won’t tell me what’s wrong?”
Never had she felt so wronged—in recent times at least. At least the gem was actually her fault, but this…this was something else. She sat back on her legs and glared at Anne, waiting for an explanation. Anne glared right back, her still-red eyes making her seem extra pitiful.
“It’s not about now. It’s what you’ve done six years ago!”
Six years? Fleur blinked at the huge amount of time that was just mentioned. Six years ago was…was when she was still a novice.
“I didn’t even know you back then!” she protested. She barely remembered anything that’s happened from so long ago, much less anything related to Anne. “What are you talking about?”
“You did know me! But you were so busy being friendly with everyone else that you apparently forgot,” Anne snapped. “Do you remember what you used to do?”
As a matter of fact, Fleur did remember, and before she was assigned to watch over the mine, she had been on good terms with almost everyone around her age in the Church. “What’s wrong with being friendly? Friends are good.”
“Don’t you know that being overly friendly can be irritating? Do you remember anyone ever telling you to leave them alone?” Anne asked.
Fleur didn’t remember. Everyone had been glad or at worst neutral to her company, and those she distanced herself from. She was about to say so when Anne added to her own words, much quieter this time—almost a whisper.
“Probably not, since if you did, you wouldn’t have forgotten me…”
Anne’s head drooped as all of her energy seemed to drain out of her again.
Fleur bit her lips. Anne didn’t seem to be lying, or at least didn’t think she was lying. Perhaps…she really had met Anne before, and forgotten about her. It had been six years after all, according to Anne.
There wasn’t much she remembered from six years ago. She was only eight then and had just joined the program for aspiring priests and priestesses—the novice program.
Like Anne suggested, the first thing she did aside from her studies was try and make friends with everyone. It hadn’t mattered who her friends were back then, just that they existed.
Thinking back on those days, what she made weren’t friends—just people so that she didn’t feel alone. Father Arvel had told her to be friends with everyone, so she did her best, believing that the number of people she was friendly with was what was important.
She had changed a lot since then, so she forgot, but had Anne been one of them? Whether she was or wasn’t didn’t matter, because either way, Fleur couldn’t remember.
Fleur shook her head. “I’m sorry…”
“Are you? You don’t even know for sure what you did,” Anne said. “Six years ago, when you joined, you made it your mission to make everyone your friend. Some people laughed at you when you announced it.”
“Ahh…that did happen,” Fleur recalled. It was one of her embarrassing memories. “Were you one of them?”
“No. I was quiet. Although most of those that laughed at you came around when they got to know you, I didn’t like you because you were too friendly,” Anne said.
And that part Fleur couldn’t recall.
“It’s not like I didn’t tell you to go away, since I wanted to be alone. But instead of leaving me alone, you’d try to talk to me until I ignored you. You’d leave me alone for a few days and then come back, again and again and again!”
“Whether I was eating, or practicing magic, or trying to study for the examinations, you never stopped, wearing me down bit by bit. Is that what you did with the others too?”
Although Anne was throwing accusations after accusations at her, Fleur said nothing, because Anne’s words stirred something in her mind, although it had been so long ago that the memories remained just out of reach.
However, just that small reaction from her memories were enough for her to not discount Anne’s words out of hand because it was entirely possible for them to be true.
“Answer me!” When Fleur did not answer her question—because what could she say?—Anne clenched her fists, seemingly about to strike out, but deflated after a moment. “You probably didn’t mean anything bad, but at the time, I just wanted to be alone. But you didn’t leave me alone, and because of you…because of you…”
Her voice died away, and Anne fell silent.
Fleur reached for her, but she hesitated and drew back before her fingers made contact with Anne. Somehow she had hurt Anne, and she didn’t even have the decency to remember.
“I’m sorry, Anne…I forgot. What did I do? So I can fix it, if I can at all…”
Her words were weak, but it was all she could offer right now.
Anne raised her head. “It’s not something you can fix, or something I expect you to fix. All throughout that year, you…you continued to visit me whenever you wanted, and for a few days I even tried to hide from you. As the year went on, you visited me more and more, and even if I didn’t want you with me, I grew to expect your presence every day…
“But when the new year began, you stopped coming…after you trained me, like a dog.” Anne laughed without a hint of humor except that which was directed at herself. “After that, I started looking for you, going to you myself, even though I had been alone…but I’m hardly the first, right? Do you remember now?”
Fleur racked her mind, searching for the memories, but it became clear that those memories would never surface. She shook her head.
“Sorry, I don’t…”
“Don’t apologize. There’s no need to, since you can’t help it,” Anne said. “I think the one who’s weird is me, because…Fleur…I think I love you. Don’t hate me. Don’t think of me as a nuisance because of it…”
As Anne finally managed to squeeze those words out of her mouth, her eyes that had been red for so long glistened as they became damp.
She squeezed her eyes shut. Tears slid down her face, driving a stake through Fleur’s heart.
Anne was vulnerable, so vulnerable, and more fragile that she had ever expected. And those words that she never expected to come from her mouth…Fleur didn’t know if she could accept them.
However, that didn’t stop her from letting Anne lean on her shoulder as the girl’s back trembled, racked with shudders as she silently cried.
“I won’t ever find you a nuisance, Anne. I promise…”
“Hic…you said you wanted to be friends then too, that you promise to always be my friend…you liar,” Anne said. Her voice was just a whisper, nasally as tears stuffed her nose. She was so quiet that Fleur could only just barely hear her.
Fleur froze at those words. If she had made such a promise, and then went ahead and forgot the person she made the promise to, then were her words even worth anything?
What could she say, that this time would be different?
Even if it was true, since Fleur believed that she had changed over the years, Anne might not think that.
Why did Anne even care about her after so long, after she betrayed her trust like that? To love someone as horrible as her…a liar like her…
“…liar…but if you say that you’ll be my friend, I’ll still believe you, because you’re Fleur. If I don’t believe you, who will I believe?” she murmured. “Nothing has to change. Forget everything I said and let’s just be friends.”
But even if Anne was willing to let everything go back to how it was before, it won’t change the reality that things won’t be the same after this. At least, not for Fleur. Perhaps it will remain the same for Anne, since she had always been hiding her feelings, but even if Anne herself didn’t mind, Fleur didn’t want to keep hurting Anne again.
Who knows how many times she had thoughtless said or done something to hurt Anne in those days they spent together at the outpost?
Fleur couldn’t let that happen, but at the same time, she couldn’t give Anne the answer she wanted. “Sorry, I need time to think about it.”
Even if she was just putting off the decision until later, maybe she could bring herself to accept Anne’s feelings. The only problem was that even she was still trying to make sense of how she felt toward Camilla, especially after what she did the night before.
“You can take as long as you need, Fleur. I don’t mind—it doesn’t matter how long I wait, since I finally manage to say it.” Anne slowly lifted her head, her face twisting into a crooked smile. “It feels so good to tell you at last.
“Even if you don’t like me, it won’t change how I feel about you.”
“Wait. I never said that—” Fleur protested, but Anne covered her mouth.
“Liar. I noticed already. You like Camilla, not me,” she said with a sigh.
The rest of the words that Anne had cut off, that Fleur never had a chance to say, died in her mouth. Anne knew. When? Did Camilla know? Fleur’s heart pounded, every beat clearly heard by Anne whose head rested on her chest.
“Your heart is beating so fast when you think of her. It makes me so jealous…so sad that I’ll never win against her. After all, you liked her back when she was still Carmen…”
“Y—you’re wrong!” Fleur stammered.
How could she have liked Carmen? He was almost like a second father to her, even if they weren’t as close as to each other as she was to Father Arvel. That was just wrong. Anne must have made a mistake. “I didn’t…”
“Even after I stopped coming to you directly, I still watched you,” Anne admitted. “I saw how you acted in front of him. Even if others couldn’t tell, I could, because I had wanted to know everything about you, and when I noticed, I hated him so much.”
She leaned close. “Did you know? I was happy that I heard he died in that campaign! If only he didn’t survive! If only he hadn’t returned as that woman, then maybe I would’ve had a chance!”
Each of Anne’s words fell upon almost deaf ears as Fleur tried to process what she was hearing.
Anne had hoped that Camilla didn’t survive.
And she should hate her for that, but for some reason, Fleur couldn’t bring herself to—but at the same time, she was as speechless as before. “Anne…”
Anne pushed her away. “I’m a horrible person, right? Do you hate me now, for wishing she’s dead? I don’t deserve your love. That’s why, I’m willing to wait until I die, because I know that if I ever obtain it, I’ll just waste it!” she shouted.
But just as quickly, the hysteria in Anne disappeared, replaced by an empty look in her eyes. “Although, now that you know about how I feel…about how I wished the person you loved was dead, we can’t even be friends… anymore, right? No…”
She covered her head with her hands, burying her face in her knees as she curled up. “I shouldn’t have said that…please don’t hate me.”
Fleur watched, horrified, as Anne broke down before her very eyes, rocking back and forth as she repeated the same four words over and over again, begging for Fleur to not hate her.
But Fleur never had the intention to hate Anne, because in the end, she was the one that refused to leave Anne alone so many years ago. The root of everything was her, and if anyone was to blame, it was herself and not Anne.
Even Anne’s wish for Camilla’s death was born of that same mistake she made. Feelings could not be controlled, only suppressed so that they are not shown.
While Fleur tried to reassure Anne, the girl didn’t move. She didn’t seem to be able to hear her anymore, as if she had closed herself off from the outside.
Like a mindless golem, she stood up when Fleur pulled on her with no other reaction, and they slowly made their way back toward the camp where Camilla waited. Was it the right choice?
Fleur didn’t know how Anne would react to Camilla after this, nor did she know what to do. Anne was right…it was weird, but she liked Camilla.
But she didn’t want Anne to be hurt either…so what could she do so that both she and Anne could be happy?
She looked at the girl trailing behind her who looked lost. A fragment of her old, forgotten memories came back to her then—memories of a timid girl who, despite being older than her, was smaller.
That timid girl had always been alone, and Fleur’s heart ached. She realized that she felt just as lost as Anne, because a feeling that had only been for Camilla swelled in her chest.