"I-I just thought...I'd say..."
Two people stood in diminishing twilight, embracing, just off the walkway of a castle. The pale light emanated from a streetlamp nearby, shrouding their images in a warm glow. The male figure began to break away, but the female clung to him, desiring only to hold him for a little while longer...
She rested her head against him, losing herself at the very touch of him. "Good-bye," she finally told him, her words taking a wistful tone. However, she made no attempt to move away from him. Perhaps it was because she'd always felt safe, comforted, being in his protective arms...though protective was most likely how she alone perceived it. Nevertheless it was something special to her, the way she felt with his arms around her, and perhaps the way he felt...though that in itself usually was nothing short of a mystery. But to any passerby, the man's feelings could be surmised...
One could say that it was almost a loving embrace. And perhaps it could be...given that the woman did not exaggerate what she sensed within him.
I just wish that...maybe...maybe he'd--
No, she thought, trying to shake the fantasy from her mind. Just as everything I knew was lost back then, so were all my childish dreams...
"Apple, you make it sound like it's forever. You are welcome to stay, maybe even help me as you did during the war..."
"No..." she said as she pulled away slightly, still in the man's arms. "I wouldn't be of much help."
"That's not true."
"Yes, it is." She let out a sigh. "I'm just a novice. No...even novices possess more talent than I do."
"You're being too hard on yourself," he told her, placing his hands on her shoulders. "If I thought you couldn't help me, I wouldn't have asked you to be vice-strategist to me. With a little more practice, you could..."
Apple's expression softened. "Shu..."
"What is it?"
"Uh...i-it's nothing," she responded, her face growing warm. "I was just...thinking of the journey I will make."
"Yes, I'm wondering that too. What will you do if you aren't going to stay here?"
"Oh...I just thought I'd continue my research on the life of Master Mathiu."
"I see." He said nothing more on the subject. "Well, Apple, the best of luck to you."
"Thank you, Shu," Apple whispered. Afterward, she pulled away, forcing a tiny smile. "Guess I'll...see you."
"Yeah..." His voice was unchanging. "See you."
Fortunately for her--or unfortunately, rather--he was unable to see the disappointed look on her face as she began to walk away.
Apple took a few steps, her sad expression growing more evident. Or, in actuality, it would have been evident to anyone...save for the man her back was turned to.
That...that old feeling lingers...just like the last time...
She brought her gaze to the ground, her face filling with anguish. Why...did this bother her so much? And why was this the worst it had ever been...
Stop me, Shu, she silently implored him.
Please, don't let me go...
She reached the end of the castle's path when she ceased walking, as if to wait for the request she knew in her mind would not come. Yet her heart...
For God's sake, Shu, she thought, her eyes stinging. Aren't you going to stop me?
He made no attempt to respond to her silent pleas. Once again, in her mind, she knew that he wouldn't.
No, of course not.
A sigh of sorrow swept past her lips. After all, it's not as if he ever stopped anyone else before. Why should I be any different--
No. Don't do this to yourself, Apple. Not now. Especially not now...
With her heart sinking into the depths of nothingness, she blinked back her tears and continued her stride, drawing nearer to the horse that awaited her in the distance. It was the first step in what would be a new adventure, she believed. She understood she had to leave him behind. For his sake, and for her own...
"Good-bye, Shu," she murmured as her image became engulfed in the shadows.