The Most Fleeting Moment
Leigh Gilholm Fisher
Age Rating: 13 +
~ This is a Land of the Sky fan fiction. Land of the Sky is a manga by my good friend Erika, also known as Iniphineas on DeviantART. You can Google 'Iniphineas Land of the Sky' to see her beautiful artwork and read her brilliant manga! Souri Ada Lodette and Armand (Roo) Russo are © to Iniphineas. ~
The Most Fleeting Moment
Souri Ada Lodette watched as the heavy metal hands on the clock ticked the minutes away. She stood alone in the immaculately landscaped courtyard, watching as the clock’s old hands reached midnight. She involuntarily held her breath, listening closely and looking around for any sign of movement. She glanced back to the clock, the familiar feeling of worry and dissatisfaction settling over her as the seconds kept ticking away, without any chance in the stillness and silence of the surrounding gardens.
She let the breath she was holding out and adjusted her grip on the lacey pink leash she held. Miss Foo Foo looked up at her expectantly for a moment before she returned to sniffing around the ground, looking for plants she found delectable. Souri watched as her pet rabbit, currently behaving quite well on a leash, resumed what she had been doing before without a care in the world. At times, she wished she was just as innocent as she was before she started sneaking out and planning how to escape the guards almost every night. It could be quite a chore, since the security in Astral was never decreasing. As she got older, the only became more concerned for her safety.
I wonder what held him up…I hope he wasn’t found…we determined long ago it was much easier for him to sneak into the castle rather than for me to sneak out, since I’m really bad at being shifty in general, but it seems so risky to have him coming here… I always thought the castle security here in Astral was fairly extensive, but he manages to slip in and out all the time…
The heavy metal hands kept moving. It seemed as though the minutes slipped away faster as her indecision grew. She knew their agreement all to well; if he wasn’t there by exactly midnight, she was to return to her room immediately. She knew that she should go back, since the guards would notice her absence very quickly if something had gone wrong. An intruder with a history as dark as that of his wouldn’t be excused, especially if the princess was wandering around the grounds on the same night.
But what if the guards found him? I know I should have more faith in him, since this is practically just another part of life for him… They can’t keep missing him every time… Or what if any part of the castle help saw him? The presence of a notorious murderer on the grounds wouldn’t go ignored… Even if he did enter in a disguise, a trespasser of any sort would pursued and captured…
Have we been pushing our luck for too long?
She fidgeted back and forth, shifting her weight from one foot to the other. It was autumn, and too cold to remain outside for too long. She considered turning around and going back inside, but she felt obligated to wait, even if just a little longer. She hated the thought of missing the chance of seeing him if she left and he’d arrive just a few minutes later.
If something did happen, I’d probably find out pretty quickly once someone realized I wasn’t in my room… Of course, that would only make explanations more complicated if he ever did get captured…
I wonder if he would tell them that I welcomed him here, which would put the blame on me, or if he’d incriminate himself so I wouldn’t get into trouble… I don’t know if he would be noble enough to do something like that, though they probably wouldn’t believe him even if he did try telling them the truth.
I would be questioned though…I’m a terrible liar, they’d bee to see through any story I try telling them…
Souri shook her head quickly, trying to dismiss the thoughts. It was nearly ten minutes past midnight. Miss Foo Foo was starting to get impatient, wanting to explore more of the courtyard and pulling on her leash to go farther. Souri held on tightly, frowning slightly as she questioned the strength of the pink leash. It was very beautiful, and the lace was layered thickly enough to be made into a leash, but she wasn’t sure if she trusted it to keep her bunny tethered for very long.
Roo, where are you?
She took a few quick steps forward to catch up with Miss Foo Foo before she started to run with her new slack, and quickly picked the fat rabbit up and lifted her into her arms. She returned to where she had been standing between the two trees and stroked her pet’s fluffy fur to both calm herself and warm the small animal up. Her small feet felt freezing cold from being on the ground, unprotected.
It’s getting late…I should go back in. Even if he just couldn’t make it, Micah would have a cow if he learns about me sneaking around the palace grounds at this time of the night…
She watched as fifteen past midnight came and went before sighing and deciding to go back. Okay, that’s it. I have to go back. Even if he is just running late, I can’t stay any longer…the guards on their rounds go past my room at one, and I have to leave now if I want to get back in time…
She was about to turn around when she suddenly felt an arm wrap around her shoulders from behind, pulling her a step backward so she leaned against him. He had appeared behind her without her sensing even the slightest bit of movement. Miss Foo Foo jumped out of her arms in surprise, looking somewhat indignant. She couldn’t go far, since the leash held her back. Souri looked up, still slightly off balance, to find herself staring up into familiar bright blue eyes. Their eyes only had to meet for a moment for her anticipation and worry to disappear completely.
“Roo!” she exclaimed happily, her face lighting up.
“You should have gone back by now. Didn’t you see what time it is?” he asked dryly, pointing at the clock.
“I know,” she admitted, turning around to face him when he let go of her. “But I wanted to wait. Is everything alright?”
“Well enough, though I wish you’d listen to directions a little more,” he continued jokingly.
“You didn’t want to see me tonight?” she pouted, trying not to smile.
“Don’t start with that. Why did you bring the cat tonight?”
“Miss Foo Foo? She seemed lonely in her cage, so I figured I’d bring her along,” Souri answered simply.
“Isn’t it harder to sneak out with a cat? What if it has a hairball or something?”
“Well…she isn’t a cat.”
Roo looked down at the furry, white animal, clearly not believing what she said. Though it didn’t look very much like a cat, in his opinion, it didn’t look like anything else. It was a large and round ball of fluff without many distinct features to identify its specie by. The animal was unnerved by his unyielding stare and hopped behind Souri to hide.
“Then what the hell is it?”
“She’s a rabbit!” Souri replied brightly, picking Miss Foo Foo up again and holding her out to him. “Let her sniff your hand.”
“Isn’t that what cats do?”
“I don’t know…but don’t worry, she doesn’t bite or anything. I’m sure she’ll like you!”
“Then she’s a terrible judge of character,” he remarked, holding his fingers out to the tall eared animal.
He didn’t comment on the golden jeweled collar or lacey leash; they both looked needlessly expensive, but it wasn’t unusual for the princess’ pet to be spoiled. Her ears pricked up as she sniffed his fingers, and gently nudged his hand.
“See? I told you she’d like you,” she replied, making it a point to ignore his comment.
“Like I said…a terrible judge of character. She must get it from you.”
They both fell silent as Souri put Miss Foo Foo down again. She didn’t know how to reply. She wanted to say something to disagree, but there was little to argue over with him. What was she supposed to say? That she thought there was still some good in his heart? He’d just laugh at her and made some snarky remark to counter.
I suppose I shouldn’t be so naive with how I think of him…
I’m probably just disillusioning myself to think that way, but…
It doesn’t change how I…
She was interrupted form her thoughts when the sound of footsteps on the other side of the courtyard became discernable. Roo’s expression darkened and he grabbed her hand abruptly, pulling her toward the entrance back into the castle. The archway was open and without a door, but they ducked into a hallway that branched off from the main corridor quickly.
…How I feel about him…
She bit her lower lip as she pulled Miss Foo Foo into hiding as well, hoping the rabbit wouldn’t fuss and make any sound. She didn’t want to admit that bringing her bunny along wasn’t the brightest idea, even if she knew it was true.
Or how I just can’t come out and say it…every time I have a chance, it just seems so wrong. I know I shouldn’t…I know it doesn’t even make sense…but I just can’t forget.
I can’t turn away from you.
She listened anxiously as the footsteps stopped for a moment outside of the entrance. The person must have been looking around to hallway to see if there were any intruders. Though she knew she had no reason to feel like she didn’t belong there, the castle felt more foreboding when she was sneaking around with a wanted criminal. She held her breath, waiting until they continued walking and the person passed by without entering. Roo held a finger to his lips, signaling her to remain silent as he peered around the wall to see who was patrolling.
Curiosity mounting, she peeked around the corner to see who it was. She felt her heart sink when she saw a red Astralian royal guard uniform and long black hair; to her, there was no questioning the man’s identity, even as he walked away from them.
Could he already be looking for me?
“You have to go back,” Roo said quietly, once her bodyguard had disappeared around the far corner of the path.
“I know…,” she trailed off, sounding disappointed. Their meetings were never long, but this one had probably set the record for the shortest. She hated seeing him leave so quickly; there was just too much risk for only a few minutes together. “Can you come again tomorrow? Will you still be in the royal city?”
“Maybe, but if I’m not here by midnight go back,” he murmured, his tone serious. “You’re going to get caught if you keep staying out too late. I don’t want to be responsible for that.”
“Promise you’ll try to come?” she whispered, gazing into his cerulean eyes.
They were almost impossible to read; she could never tell if he was lying or telling the truth.
“I’ll try,” he said dismissively.
“Promise?” she persisted.
He cast her a rather exasperated look in response. Their time was running out. They were close, and the chill in the air seemed more distant than before. He didn’t like how innocently she would act when trying to get her way, but he couldn’t argue with her when she pouted at him, looking too cute for her own good. His expression became resigned, all to aware of how little time they had left. Seconds elapsed into minutes frighteningly fast.
“Fine. I promise.”
She took a step closer to him and closed her eyes, silently requesting a goodbye kiss. He glanced around the hallway in both directions, making sure no guards would appear to interrupt them at the worst possible moment. There would no acceptable explanation if anyone saw them like that.
Will he just leave, or…?
He leaned down to be eyelevel with her and gently reached out to tilt her head upward. She was much shorter than him, but her face looked as beautiful as that of an angel as she waited. Her heartbeat started to accelerate at the feeling of his touch, though he didn’t close his eyes completely as he kissed her.
Her heart leapt at the moment their lips met. She didn’t want to move, wishing they could stay like that for just a short while longer. Time seemed to slow down, though only long enough for the blissful moment to instantly become unforgettable. But in reality, it was the most fleeting moment they had spent together.
He let go of her and pulled away all too quickly, hurriedly departing from the corridor without another word. She opened her eyes to watch him disappear, a wistful sadness settling over her. She couldn’t remember if they had ever gotten the chance to say proper goodbyes. She heard his footsteps speed up into a run to cross the courtyard, and she knew she should do the same to flee the area as quickly as possible.
Instead, she leaned against the cold stone wall and sank into a sitting position on the floor. She reached up to touch her lips, already feeling the cold from the winter air returning. Her eyes started to fill with tears, though she knew that she should have been happy. She knew she should be thankful for even the most ephemeral moment with him, especially one like that. She sighed and Miss Foo Foo nudged her hand expectantly, seeming to know something was wrong as the tears silently slid down her cheeks.
“Roo…,” she whispered aloud, her voice shaking. “Why do I love you…?”