To Any God Who Will Listen
Note: Happy Valentine's Day!
I'm finally continuing this piece because I now know it works best when paired with my other, more recent story, "A Bargain of Souls" which will focus more on Hitomi's role in saving Folken's life. I had originally planned to put a FolkenxEries chapter in that story but it felt a bit weird and when I revisited this one, I decided that it would work better as an added chapter to this story instead.
So please do read both this story and "A Bargain of Souls" to get a better sense of the grand picture I'm trying to paint, if that makes any sense.
This scene is set just as Folken has been injured by the shard of his sword. While Hitomi negotiates with the Fates, someone else comes to Folken's aid.
I haven't written for this pairing in a while but I've had this scene mapped in my head for months and I'm excited to finally share it with you on such an apt occasion. Enjoy!
"You must see Lord Folken at once," the girl from the Mystic Moon had said before running off without further explanation.
The second princess of Asturia had found this to be a strange request but from what she had heard from her sister, Hitomi Kanzaki had a mysterious knowledge of the world that could not be denied. So she decided not to question it.
And there had been such urgency in the girl's voice that had alarmed Eries so she set out for the makeshift laboratory hastily built for the former Strategos of Zaibach. A lady-in-waiting accompanied her as she entered the room, only to gasp at the sight of Folken Fanel lying in a pool of his own blood.
The lady-in-waiting screamed while the princess maintained her composure long enough to comfort the frantic woman and to order her to get help. The latter was only too relieved to go as far away from the gruesome scene while the princess, never one to be squeamish, rushed to the side of the injured man.
"Lord Folken!" she cried and to her relief, he managed to turn his head to look at her in surprise.
"Princess Eries," he said weakly.
So overwhelmed was the princess with concern that she immediately knelt by his side, without regard for her gown, which soon was stained with blood. She saw the wound on his chest and pressed down on it as hard as she could, as she had been taught some medical knowledge by her sister. She looked around and since no suitable material for a bandage was within reach, she ripped a part of her gown and placed it on Folken's chest wound, pressing down with both hands. Eries Aston was nothing if not practical.
During all this, Folken could only stare at her in shock, unsure of how to react. He had barely expected to survive his fall, and certainly never dreamed that he would be nursed by Princess Eries of all people.
But he wasn't complaining.
"Princess Eries," he attempted to speak.
"Shush," she told him, "Save your strength. I've called for a doctor. Help should be here soon."
"Forgive me," Folken continued stubbornly, "I apologize that you found me in such a state. It is most unseemly."
"Don't be ridiculous," the princess replied with a hint of both amusement and exasperation in her voice.
Folken almost smiled but he winced as he felt another stab of pain. Eries looked at him in concern and kept applying pressure. The moment of danger seemed to pass and Folken's face relaxed and Eries sighed with relief.
"Why are you here?" he asked in a tone of awe.
"Do you find my presence somehow objectionable then?" the princess replied in a tone that was the closest to flippant that she could manage.
"No, no, I meant, forgive me," the flustered Folken replied but as soon as he saw the slightly teasing expression on the princess's face, he stared in puzzled silence.
"Hitomi Kanzaki told me to find you," Eries explained in a more serious tone, "And I didn't think to question her."
"She knew I would be here, of course she did," Folken muttered in understanding.
"But how did she know enough to send Princess Eries to me?" he thought but did not dare say aloud. He remembered that the girl from the Mystic Moon had powers beyond his comprehension, and that she had deep insight into others' souls.
So perhaps she had seen how much he had always admired and respected the second princess of Asturia. She had seen the rare moments when the two of them, despite the differences in allegiance, would engage in meaningful conversations about the world. She had seen how Eries was one of the only people who had shown him compassion and generosity when he sought asylum. And perhaps, Hitomi had seen how he had come to feel so much more than gratitude towards the princess, and how he knew that such a thing was doomed because of his past sins.
Eries's worried voice interrupted his reverie. Folken hastened to reassure her that he was not yet fading and he raised his trembling left hand and placed it on top of hers where they were pressing on his wound. She nodded and shifted her hands so that his was in between both of hers, all staunching the bleeding from his wound.
She would not ask how he had gotten himself so gravely injured or why his black wings were spread out on the floor, the dark color a sure harbinger of doom. In truth, she did not want to know the painful truths, not at that moment. All that mattered was that he was still breathing, and she would not leave his side.
"I am glad that you are here," Folken said softly.
"I will stay here as long as you need me," Eries told him gently.
Folken stared at her in wonder and sadness. "You do not know what this means to me, princess," he said earnestly, "To see you in these, my final moments."
Eries looked alarmed and shook her head, denying what she had already feared. But the grave expression in Folken's eyes confirmed the worst. They both fought back tears.
Suddenly, the princess remembered a short prayer she had said for the lost prince of Fanelia, many years ago, and she found herself making the same, fervent wish.
"Please save him."
Then, she remembered the girl from the Mystic Moon.
Though Eries Aston had never been one to entertain unlikely scenarios, her instincts fought against this seemingly cold, hard fact of Folken's impending demise. She defied it, and somehow she knew that Hitomi would not have sent her to him merely to witness his death. However slim, there was still some hope, and that was what she would hold onto, and now she would have to convince Folken of the same.
"I do not believe that," she declared simply, "There is simply still so much for you to do."
"Princess," Folken began to protest but could not find the words.
"You expressed a wish to make amends for your time in Zaibach," she continued, "And though you have started, you have barely scratched the surface. When this war is over, the real work will begin, the work of rebuilding the world that was torn to shreds, and that is where you will be needed. Gaea must heal, and it is your duty to make that happen."
Once again, Folken could not help but stare in absolute awe at the remarkable woman currently keeping him alive and giving him hope for a future that he did not deserve.
Knowing that she now had his full attention, Eries decided not to be too severe on the man. She could not explain why but being around him, even in such dire circumstances, somehow brought out her sense of humor.
"And finally, Lord Folken," she declared gravely, "If you die in my company, I should consider it unconscionably rude and I would never forgive you."
Folken could not help but smile at this. He saw the determination in her eyes and he took strength from it, from her.
"I would not risk your wrath for anything, Princess Eries," he conceded.
"Well, then it's settled," the princess said simply.