View Full Version : Holidays and Hearts II: Bittersweet (Arc/Shiki)

March 14th, 2011, 08:16 PM
DISCLAIMER: Lunar Legend Tsukihime, Fate/Stay Night, and all related characters and concepts are the creation and property of Kinoko Nasu and Type-Moon, along with anyone who's happened to license them, like Geneon or Funimation.

This is a not-for-profit, just-for-fun project.

Writer's Note: Certain dialogue sequences in this story are lifted from the Tsukihime anime or game but I trust in the intelligence of my readers to recognise them when they see them.

CONTINUITY NOTES: For this story, I don’t really plan to follow any of them. I’ll try not to break the Tsukiverse “rules,” but there’s no need to adhere religiously to a specific continuity, either. This one’s just for fun. And now, without further ado . . .

The school was filled with life. It was more than just the sheer number of people, more than their mass movements and spread out positions, more even than the cacophony that filled the crowded classrooms and narrow hallways until it burst free into the open air outside. There was an undercurrent to all of this, a sensation of something beyond the normal routine, an energy that spilled over into even the simplest motion, the most offhand comment. It was in the sparkle of their eyes, a knowledge, an anticipation, that flavoured everything around them.

White Day was coming.

Valentine’s Day might have gotten all the pop culture attention, particularly in anime, where the confession of a girl’s heart through chocolate was almost a standard for any cheap harem comedy, but in truth, White Day was of even more interest to real teens. It was what made true romance. It was the other half of the equation, the answer to not only the statement, “I love you,” but to the unspoken question, “Do you love me?”

That was a question Shiki Tohno had heard quite often lately.

To be fair, it was never spoken aloud. But ever since the week had started, he’d seen the question in almost every feminine look sent his way. Behind Hisui’s lowered gaze, Kohaku’s pleased glances, and even Akiha’s sternest glare, there seemed room enough for that question to linger, unsaid, but not unheard. But, oddly enough, never from the one he’d expected to hear it from.

“Yo, Tohno!” Arihiko called, snapping Shiki out of his musings. “Where’re you heading?”

“The library,” he answered.

“Not the mall?” The taller teen seemed surprised. “Man, you’re running out of time to do your White Day shopping, Tohno. With all the chocolate you got last month, I’d figure you had a lot of stuff to get.”

Shiki flushed. He had gotten more than his usual share - aside from the standard giri-choco his female classmates usually handed out, there had been larger ones wrapped in his lunch from Kohaku and Hisui (the latter strangely filled with a plum brandy, he’d discovered), and a tempura-covered chocolate cake from Akiha. He hadn’t even been aware she could cook. Added to the mix was a premium brand of chocolate from Yumitsuka, and chocolate biscuits and tea with Ciel-sempai after school, in private.

“C’mon, you might get away with stiffing those two maids,” Arihiko commented. “And maybe your sister . . . but Yumitsuka deserves something, doesn’t she? Sure, maybe it wasn’t homemade, but -“

”I know,” Shiki said uncomfortably. If Arihiko was going to be this vocal about White Day, it was a good thing he’d kept the tea with Ciel a secret. Still, while he wouldn’t deny his obligations to everyone, he had something to deal with, first and foremost: his response to his first chocolate gift on Valentine’s Day.

Smooth and bittersweet . . . Its taste was as strong as ever, but despite that, it was overshadowed by another flavour, more delicate and even more lingering . . .

“So, you’re going shopping after all?” Arihiko inquired.

“Not yet,” Shiki answered. “I . . . need to think about some things.”

The taste of Arcueid Brunestud still tingled in his mouth, sometimes. He’d go a day, sometimes even a week without noticing, and then something would trigger the memory, sending that tantalising flavour through his senses again. Arcueid was possibly the most beautiful woman he’d ever met, and even when she didn’t try, she exuded sex appeal. Any man would thank the gods for what the gift she’d given him, and more for the manner in which she’d given it. But to be fair, to be honest, and true to the spirit of the holiday - the spirit in which Arcueid had confessed her own feelings - Shiki had to have the answer to one question. The question every girl asked with her gift, he asked himself now.

Do I love her?

“It’s tomorrow, Tohno,” his buddy reminded him. “You’re running out of time.”

“I know,” Shiki said with a sigh. “I know.”

As the sun set, the last crimson rays giving way to full darkness, Arcueid asked herself the same question she had every night for the last two weeks.

Will I, or won’t I?

It was hard, not going near Shiki. She’d always known he was important to her, but never how important - not until she began forcing herself to stay away from him. But she had to. White Day was coming, and if he had a gift for her, she ran the risk of accidentally uncovering it, and ruining the surprise. Of course, if he didn’t, it would be even worse. Because then this was all for nothing. But she couldn’t ask him that, not after she’d given him her chocolate.

“Traditionally, it’s always accepted. But if that tradition is followed to the letter, the girl won’t know whether her feelings are returned by the boy until White Day.”

She’d accepted that, she thought. By following her side of things, she’d agreed, however unconsciously, to the idea that she would not - could not - know how Shiki felt about her until the fourteenth of the next month. If she was going to engage in a human custom, she had to abide by human rules, even if she wasn’t human, herself.

But it was so hard . . .

“Nice to meet you, Shiki. I’m going to have you take proper responsibility for killing me.”

That’s what she’d told him, but even she hadn’t understood how true it was at the time. He’d killed her, effectively destroying her entire world, and she’d relied on him to help her understand the new world she awoke in.

She wasn’t human. She never had been, nor would she likely ever be. Arcueid Brunestud was the White Princess, the last of the True Ancestors, scourge of the Dead Apostles, and the final weapon of the Earth, to be used against its enemies. So she had always been, and would always be. But here and now, she was something else. She was Shiki’s “Arcueid,” or just “Arc” when she could get him to really relax. And Arc could do things the Princess was never allowed to think of. She could eat hamburgers, and go to movies, and other sorts of things she hadn’t even thought of yet. All because of one boy.

Shiki made her human, or as human as she could be. And she loved him, would always love him, for that. Because as different as humans were from True Ancestors, they were also so much more than True Ancestors were ever allowed to be, and Arcueid wanted to explore just how much more, with Shiki . . .

But not tonight. Tonight, she could wait a little longer, hold off a bit more, in the name of a tradition she’d never been through, and with the hope that, at the appointed time, the answer she waited for would be the one she found she wanted. The answer to the question she’d asked him, almost a month ago.

March 14th, 2011, 08:19 PM
Do I love Arcueid? Shiki asked himself.

It was a deceptively simple-sounding question. And if he were really as dense as people believed him to be, Shiki could have come up with the answer easily. But he thought the question deserved serious consideration, and gave it such, as he stood in the kitchen.

The book had been difficult enough to find, but the ingredients had been harder. The local grocery store simply wasn’t equipped with those kinds of exotic foodstuffs, and he’d had to reluctantly enlist Kohaku’s shopping expertise to find everything he needed. Yet, if he was really intent on this - on making homemade chocolate, which symbolised love - the effort he’d put in was only proper, wasn’t it?

He mulled that over, as well as his original question, as he cooked, hoping to somehow infuse the candy with the feelings he discovered, as he worked.

On a purely superficial level, Arcueid was a prize catch, an exotic beauty that put most Japanese girls to shame. Hers was a more classical beauty than the modern world usually saw, the kind of woman to whom statues, paintings, and wars were dedicated. She was also almost always cheery and enthusiastic, someone who could brighten things just by being around.

If one dug past her exterior, there was also a keen and deeply insightful mind housed behind that exquisite face. She was wise in ways most humans had forgotten, and had a curious dichotomy to her personality. Arcueid was at once one of the most naive people he knew, and one of the most wise. She’d lost a great deal of her innocence a long time ago, and it pained her deeply, even though she was careful not to let it show, or overly influence her. What remained of her innocence was all most people saw of her, and it was frequently mistaken for childishness, or even stupidity. It had taken Shiki some time to realise that even given the tragedies of her past, she preferred to hold out hope for the future. That she had the strength to acknowledge the darkness inside her, and still walk in the light.

“I like talking about ‘if’s.’ You don’t know what will happen, but doesn’t it make you feel that there’s hope at that time?”

That made her admirable, to Shiki’s eyes, but did it make her beloved?

On some level, he should resent her. Until she’d crossed his path, his life had been relatively normal. Despite his eyes, he’d been an essentially average human being, and content with that life. Arcueid, willingly or not, had changed all that. Like the incident when he was nine years old, his vision of the world had been expanded, to include things humans weren’t really meant to see. And as before, he couldn’t not see it. That moonlit world was always within his awareness. And the pain it had caused him was, at least in part, because she’d shown it to him.

Despite that, however, he couldn’t deny that it wasn’t really her fault. If anything, she was more innocent in this than he was. It was the machinations of the others around them - Roa, the Tohno family, even Ciel - which had brought them to where they were. In the end, it had been his choice to help Arcueid, for better or worse, and his choice to associate with her, afterwards. Not, he suspected with amusement, that Arcueid would’ve really taken “no” for an answer, in either case.

He liked her, felt friendly towards her, but did he love her?

If he was honestly evaluating her as a potential partner, he had to take into account Arcueid’s defects. She was almost totally unused to human society in general, much less the modern Japanese world. Educating her in the finer points of it would be tedious work - but necessary, if they were to have any kind of long-term relationship. Equally troubling was the fact that Arcueid did not, in a social sense, exist. She had no records, no legal identity. Establishing any kind of bonafide credentials for her would be difficult, at best, but again, necessary, if he was truly intent on building a relationship with her.

And those were the problems on his end. On the other side of the coin . . .

However well she could pretend, in the final analysis Arcueid was not human, and her true nature carried its own problems. By now, he was well aware of her inherent bloodlust, and how hard she had to work in order to suppress it. Was it fair to her, or himself, or humanity in general, to ask her to walk into a world where she would need to stay in control of herself for every moment, for what could be decades? And even if she managed it, somehow, to make her watch him age, and eventually die, as all humans did?

Even if Arcueid loved him, if he loved her, did he have the right to ask those things of her? He didn’t think so. And yet . . .

Arcueid’s eye colour is fading. Her body warmth is slowly becoming zero. Losing her . . .

When she died, he was terrified. Even beyond the fact that he’d believed her the only one who could deal with Roa, the only person he’d ever met besides his Sensei that really understood him, and was comfortable with him, was fading away. He’d even been desperate enough to try to give her blood - even if she hated it, and he was afraid to surrender it, it was what she’d needed. But it hadn’t been what she wanted.

“ . . . But there’s something I want more right now . . . I want you to kiss me.”

Arcueid was, in a very real sense, his best friend. She might not completely understand him, but she was the only one who knew all of who he was - and was able to accept it. All she wanted was the person he was, rather than the one she saw in him, or the person he could be. And he loved her for that, at the very least.

Shiki nodded. They weren’t lovers - and perhaps they never would be - but there was love between them, on both sides, and that was a start.

Finding the box on her coffee table when she awoke, Arcueid remembered what Shiki had said.

“Essentially, any white gift will do, but you’re really supposed to respond to a gift of dark chocolate with white chocolate.”

This was her proof. She tore open the box.

The chocolate inside was heart-shaped, but decidedly dark in hue. Arcueid frowned, suddenly very angry. At least the box had been white, and it was better than nothing, she supposed. She nibbled it, finding it appropriately bitter tasting. Had Shiki been trying to hurt her feelings?

Another bite made her pause. There was something new. The flavour was suddenly sweeter, milder, the texture smoother and creamier, and she stared at the candy in surprise. White chocolate. The core of the candy was white chocolate. So he did love her, after all.

Arcueid ate most of the rest of the chocolate, finding that the bitter coating made the centre all the sweeter, and more precious. The last little bit, she would share. Arcueid wanted to taste white chocolate with a Shiki-flavoured core.