Hyuga Ricdeau looked out the window of his cold chambers, and a barely perceptible frown crossed his features.
Just getting back to Shevat had been no easy task. The ruins of Merkava were half a world away, on a distant island, and without the Yggdrasil's ability to fly, it had taken all his ingenuity, as well as that of Sigurd and the Yggdrasil's chief engineer, to jury-rig a method of propulsion.
It seemed like a hollow victory.
"That he should gain the whole world, yet lose his own soul," Hyuga said quietly. Emperor Cain had once posed the question: Was what was said of such a bargain not also true of a heart?
"No," Hyuga, young, foolish, proud, a lifetime ago, had answered. "For the soul is presumed in this context to be eternal, whereas the heart, even in the metaphorical sense, is temporary."
And Emperor Cain had laughed. Sadly, but a laugh nonetheless.
Hyuga lowered his gaze from the blinding white of the snow. "As in most things, Majesty, I should have seen your wisdom."
But he had not seen the wisdom. Instead, he had disregarded the Emperor's unspoken advice. In the service of that same monarch, Hyuga had indeed gained the whole world - its safety, at least. And he had lost his heart.
And no number of 'There was nothing you could have done.'s could change that he had done nothing. He had lost the one person he cared most about, and had hardly noticed the losing until it was too late.
"Yui," he whispered.
How many hundreds of times had that whisper been answered in the night with the quiet reassurance of her voice? How many times had it gone unspoken, only to be seen in his expression?
How easy it would be to lose the whole world, too, now that he had it. He did not want it - how he wished he could be rid of it!
But the world did not wish to be rid of Hyuga Ricdeau just yet.
He stood, brushed the faint dust off of his robe, and walked to the chamber door. Light flooded into the room when he opened it. The world, in all its faded, shoddy glory, was waiting.
Hyuga stepped into the light.