He redoes my buttons like a seasoned button professional and sets to work unrolling my sleeves. He complains under his breath about how they need a good ironing but makes do with what he has. While he fusses, I decide to voice a thought that’s been on my mind for a while.
JUN: You know what’s funny? You’ve already told me you love me once before.
JUN: That night we walked home together, after the bar party. Right before you threw up. You said you loved me. And then you threw up.
KRYSTOFF: So you’ve established…
JUN: But you seemed to forget all about it the next day, so I never brought it up again. I figured you didn’t actually mean it, haha.
KRYSTOFF: So you did remember me saying it!!!
He looks mortified.
JUN: Huh? Yeah?
KRYSTOFF: I asked you if you remembered me saying anything, and when you said no, I thought that either it mattered so little to you that you really did forget, or you were disgusted by it and didn’t want to talk about it!!
JUN: Wait, what the fuck! But you seemed relieved that I said I didn’t remember anything!
I’m so baffled by this twist that my usual attempts at maintaining a clean mouth fall to the wayside, near-death scenarios notwithstanding.
KRYSTOFF: I was relieved that I wouldn’t have to face the humiliation of apologizing for my one-sided feelings!
JUN: We’re a disaster.
He sulks and folds his arms at the suggestion that we might be on the same level of stupidity for once.
KRYSTOFF: Speak for yourself! If you’d been honest about remembering it, we could have had a conversation about it.
JUN: Okay, you got me this time. But do you really think you would have been fully honest about how you felt back then if I’d confronted you about it? Be realistic.
KRYSTOFF: …Probably not.
He glares, but his face is dark with embarrassment once again.
JUN: Besides, I don’t think I loved you yet, back then. Or if I did, I hadn’t realized it. I just had vague feelings about you, so maybe it worked out for the better that we didn’t talk about it. I might have hurt your feelings.
KRYSTOFF: …Even so, what I said still stands. I meant it then, and I mean it now.
His hands still. Find their way to my waist and rest there. His expression softens.
KRYSTOFF: You’re easy to love, Jun. I felt like I’d loved you in another life—it just felt natural, though it anguished me greatly at first.
JUN: Really? Why’s that?
KRYSTOFF: Thought I was destined to hurt you because of it. Then all of… last week happened, and that felt like a self-fulfilling prophecy.
JUN: You didn’t hurt me.
He reaches up and traces timid fingers under my missing eye, as if to take responsibility for it.
JUN: Oh, come on. You literally had nothing to do with this. Your assumed-dead mom used me as a sacrificial portal, and I used a spell you didn’t even know I’d taught myself.
KRYSTOFF: Yeah, can we talk about that for a second? Why in the seven heavens and hells were you teaching yourself that kind of magic? I can’t believe you were even able to read those texts well enough to internalize the lessons.
JUN: Hehe. Yeah, not gonna lie, I’m still kind of impressed with myself.
KRYSTOFF: You are terrifying and impossible. I really can’t let you out of my sight, can I?
JUN: I’m a better student than I gave myself credit for; I just needed the right kind of motivation. Such as, the threat of you dying.
I don’t know why but I gently tug at a couple fistfuls of his long hair to bring him closer, maybe to confirm his current state of wellbeing. He complies without reaction or complaint, as if this were natural. I vaguely ponder the idea of it becoming so. It’s not too disagreeable an idea.
KRYSTOFF: Well, I’m trying not to make that a regular occurrence, I’m sorry to say. So you’ll have to find other motivations for learning forbidden ancient magic.
JUN: Like what?
KRYSTOFF: …Do not learn any more forbidden magic. I’m not trying to motivate you to do that. You were just making a… cute face.
JUN: Pfff, hahaha.
KRYSTOFF: Don’t laugh, I mean it.
And he actually sounds a little wounded by my mirth, so I let him in on an uninhibited smile that I don’t usually even allow myself in private. One that I locked away from myself years ago, when it felt like all my heart had room for was defeat. One that I hoped I might find once more when I made the decision to cross over into Duen. He seems mollified by the sight.
JUN: You’re pretty cute yourself. I never tell you because I know you’ll be weird about it, but you’re kind of adorable, Krystoff.
I twirl a strand of his hair around my finger and watch his face turn a hilarious new shade of magenta. Yeah, I think I could get used to this. In some ways, I feel like I already have. I feel like this was where I was meant to end up, and maybe that’s a hackneyed thing to say, but I haven’t had the chance to enjoy many cozy clichés in my lifetime.
JUN: Are you ready to leave for our lunch date?
KRYSTOFF: Yes. Just please don’t torment me in front of the others.
But I do indeed torment him in front of the others, and he tolerates me, just as he always does.
And I laugh and laugh at him, and this continues on until the wheels of time turn in their unceasing march forward, and the seasons change once more, and the snow melts into new flowers in his garden.
We enjoy them wholeheartedly this time, with Regenald in tow, bright-eyed and more expressive than ever.
I thought maybe I’d take my memoirs back with me to the human world someday, that maybe they’d survive the barrier and I’d keep my wistful memories of Duen that way. But now, I’m free to call this place my home. No more looking back.
I get so wrapped up in living, I start to forget to put things to pen. And so, this is where this story ends, or at least, it’s as far as I wrote. My life goes on as it always has, and maybe I’ll write of my adventures again, but for now, I just want to enjoy some well-earned mundanity.
Krystoff doesn’t make that easy, but he makes it interesting, and I think that’s what drew me to him in the first place, so all’s well.
END OF KRYSTOFF ROUTE. THANKS FOR PLAYING!