"More meat, Seaweed-head, more meat!"
"There isn't any more meat left, Stupid Rabbit!" Gilbert held up the empty plate that should have been enough for all of them.
She blinked at the empty plate. "Then you will be punished for disrespecting your Captain!" she took it from him and bonked his head with it.
"You're not the Captain!"
"Oh yeah? Then who is?"
"Well he's my manservant, so…"
"Are you really this stupid?!"
As they continued to fight, Ada tried and failed not to laugh. Luckily, her amusement went unnoticed by the two, on account of their focus on each other, and the noisiness of the full table. Though her brother, Oz turned to her, smiling himself.
"They don't get along very well, do they?" Ada mused.
They had decided to meet at a tavern a little way from the Vessalius manor for dinner, and Oz and his crew (well, he called them his crew, but—as Gil and Alice demonstrated—they often fought over who the true 'Captain' of their ship was) took up half the tavern.
Oz and Ada sat next to each other, chatting about school, and Oz's latest endeavor into the Cheshire Cat's dimension. Gilbert and Alice, of course, sat across from them, squabbling. Oscar sat at the end so he could get up and get more drinks whenever he wanted, already telling wildly exaggerated stories about things like how he tamed the sea. Sharon chuckled pleasantly at everyone's antics, and Break across from him, teased drunk Oscar, and had managed to steal all the dessert before anyone finished the main course (they didn't have much, so he had to do this to satisfy his sweet tooth…if that was possible. They would have demanded for some themselves, but anyone who dared attempt to get between Break and his sweets found that that sword at his side was looking rather sharp).
"It seems that way. But I think it's just because they actually care about each other a lot." Oz smiled.
"Say Oni-chan," Ada drummed her fingers on the table, "you were telling me about looking for Alice's memories, did you ever find any interesting objects or books in that dimension?"
"Uhh, we saw a lot of weird stuff, but no. At least, nothing to take back. We were kinda busy, you know. Why do you ask?"
"Just curious!" her voice was especially high-pitched.
There was a murmuring from the front door. They looked up to see that two people had walked in, and apparently they were something to whisper about.
One was a young man with golden hair, and a gold eye, while the other eye covered with a patch. Metal jingled as he walked in. His clothing was similar to Oz and his crew's, though a little fancier; in black and silver, he wore a tri cornered hat, a long jacket, with a brown sash that held his bag, a black belt with a gun holstered on it, and black boots. The girl next to him was much shorter, younger, and had silver hair and eyes—eyes that had dimmed to a hollow grey, like there was nothing behind them—and she wearing a tattered white dress, with a blue corset over it, and a sword on her belt.
"Who's that?" Ada tapped Oz on the shoulder.
As the man's uncovered eye found their table, he cried happily, "Nii-san!" rushed up behind Gilbert and hugged him.
Gilbert didn't seem nearly as excited to see him; he wore a scowl at the appearance of his brother, and attempted to break free of his grasp.
"Does that answer your question?" Oz snickered.
"What are you doing here?" Gilbert grumbled.
As her eyes scanned the table, she found that Gilbert wasn't the only one who seemed displeased with the company— the playful look in Break's red eye turned to something icy. Most everyone else, however, seemed relatively undisturbed, and continued with their conversations.
"Do I need an excuse to see my favorite brother?" Vincent hugged him tighter.
"Yes, when the Nightray manor is islands away," he grunted.
Uninvited, Vincent sat down beside Gil. The girl seemed perfectly content to stand patiently behind him, and not partake in the festivities.
Alice didn't seem to mind her seat being shifted, or if she did, her actions of trying to grab a bite of every other available food was her way of getting back, and was not, in fact, normal Alice behavior.
"You're so mean!" Vincent chided playfully. "When I came all this way to see you!" he stabbed a piece of bread before Alice could reach it, giving her a taunting smile as she growled at him.
"Hey! I was gonna eat that!"
"Don't you think you have enough, Alice?" Oz tried to calm the boiling pot.
"No, Manservant! You can never have enough food!"
As Oz tried to appease Alice, Ada observed the man beside Gilbert. Gil's annoyance with Alice was of a completely different nature than his coldness towards his blood relation. She had remembered him mentioning Vincent before, but he'd never been very long-winded in his descriptions, and she'd never met him herself.
Maybe most people would have been deterred against him, on account of Gilbert's general good judge in character—(though Break didn't like him either, and he wasn't exactly the poster-boy for good character)—and the…something that seemed to follow him, something clouded, hidden, something you can't quite place your thumb on…something about this man—maybe it was the same something that put others off—intrigued her. Seeing him in person, she wasn't quite sure what she had expected before. In the same way she was drawn to the objects in her shop, drawn to the darkness, to an ominous mystery, that can't-quite-place quality about him was probably what it was that drew her to him. Magic of a blackened sort. Like the opposite of a moth drawn to a light. Like…a spider and the dark.
And the fact that he was more than a little attractive was neither here nor there.
She cleared her throat. "Um, Gil?"—gold eyes flashed up to her—"I don't believe we've been introduced."
"My apologies. Ada-sama," be bowed a little, "—As much as I may try to deny it—" he muttered, "this is my brother, Vincent."
Ada extended her hand from across the table. "I'm Ada."
Vincent was resting his hand in his chin, and offered the other hand casually towards her, like he was royalty, though something about his smile, and the way he said—
"Pleased to meet you to, Ada-sama."
Made her feel like royalty.
His hand was cold. But something about his touch made her feel warm.
"It's nice of you to stop by to see Gil!"
"See," Vincent taunted, "She understands …"
Gil rolled his eyes.
"There was a time I would have given anything to see my brother too," she tapped her pointer fingers abashedly.
"Ah, yes, Oz Vessalius," he turned to her brother, "I've heard a lot about you."
"Yes, we've met." Oz smiled, but failed to make it sound like that had been a pleasant experience.
As they continued conversing, telling stories and asking questions, Ada found she and Vincent were the ones carrying most of the conversation.
Something about the silkiness of his voice, the way he seemed both detached from those around him, and tangling webs between them…
What finally caused Gilbert's brother to leave however, was when Break joined them,
"Oh look, they let a rat in here," he draped his sleeve over Vincent's face. Break's tone was perfectly cheery, but his words were poison.
"Only because they didn't clean up the scum walking around," he responded in the exact same tone.
It didn't take long after that for Vincent to say, "Well, as it appears I'm unwelcome, I'll be going," and stand up to leave.
"Feel free to not come back~!" Break waved.
But before Vincent left, he turned to Ada, "Ada-sama…might I have a word alone with you?"
He gave a curt nod.
Gil, Oz, and Break glanced between the two of them, confusion in their eyes—something protective flaring for Oz and Gil, and revulsion in Break's.
Ada stood up and followed him outside.
"Um…Ada?" Oz stood, reaching out a hand towards her, his concern evident.
"It's alright, Oni-Chan. I'll be back!"
With that they exited the tavern, and walked a little way down the path before Vincent stopped, pulling a small spyglass from his bag to look out at something.
The tavern sat on a hill, overlooking much of the island, which they could now easily observe. She pushed her hair behind her ear as the breeze tossed it, waiting for him to begin.
He handed her the glass, saying, "If you look a little way down and to the left, you'll see a shop."
She followed his directions, and, as often happen with these things, the shop was her own.
"It's said to hold," he paused and spoke softly, "all manner of unsightly things."
"Is that so?" she fidgeted nervously.
"It is also said that the proprietor is a young woman, from a famous dukedom."
Her heart beat faster.
"Would you happen to know anything about that?"
She set down the spyglass.
"Why would I?"
"Oh, I don't know," he walked behind her, "maybe because you're"—on the word he placed a hand on her shoulder—"the woman?"
She spun around, feeling her cheeks flushing. "W-Where did you hear a thing like that?!"
A smirk tugged at his lip. "So it's true."
"I-I never said that!"
"No," he leaned in close, "but your cute little face," he brushed his fingers along her cheek, "says quite a lot."
She had never been very good at lying, or masking her emotions. Even now, she felt her cheeks growing hotter by the second.
"Oh don't worry," He took his finger away, "I won't tell a soul." He put his hands behind his back, and walked backwards in front of her, like a child excited to have a secret, and the power to keep it, and earn someone's trust, or tell it, and break it, but watch the fire that spread. "In fact, I am interested in doing business with you."
"It has come to my attention that you just so happen to have an extraordinarily rare artifact. One that I happen to have been looking for for quite a long time."
"What might that be?"
"Well," he stood, pushing his own hair behind his ear, "If it's not too forward, I was hoping we could discuss it tonight."
"You see, I have some rather important business I have to attend to, and I cannot come by tomorrow. And I don't think either of us want our brothers finding out about this little operation." He gestured to the tavern with his thumb. "Us meeting out here is strange enough as it is."
She glanced back to the tavern herself, wondering if Oz and Gil were pressing their noses against the window, trying to gain clues about what they were talking about, and if they'd need to kill Vincent for coming near her.
"I…suppose your right."
"It can be our little secret." He whispered, and the sentence sent chills down her spine.
"What time were you thinking?" she kept her breath in check, her heart beating uncommonly fast.
"Shall we say…around midnight?"
Electricity. The words, his touch, his mere presence, were like lightning, making tepid feelings inside her bubble.
Even so, he might be Gilbert's brother, but he was still a stranger. A stranger, asking to meet her in the middle of the night. Should she accept?
She'd be lying if she said this wasn't the first time this happened—the objects she trafficked in lent themselves to clandestine meetings, (her meeting with Leo, of course was one example). People wanted to be discreet about these things, and atmosphere was important, after all. Still, it was suspicious any way you look at it.
Then again, the idea of meeting a handsome, mysterious stranger in the middle of the night to discuss an occult artifact, was so exciting it was almost intoxicating.
Looking into that golden eye—like his brother's, and yet not—there was this feeling of things being unfinished, like there was more he wanted to do—whether it be in life as a whole, or with her specifically, she couldn't be sure. And she couldn't help but wonder if her eyes held that same unfinished quality, a yearning for something more. Because, in truth, she didn't want to say goodbye to him. Not just yet.
"I'll see you at midnight, Vincent-sama."
She hadn't been very good at explaining things to the table when she returned. That inability to lie was a rather large crutch when she was interrogated by Gil, Oz, and even a sobbing, hiccupping Oscar, who started paying attention when she left. She told a half truth about how he was looking for a magical object, and a witch (she didn't quite like the looks of horror and disgust on their faces at the word). Later, when it was time to leave, she placed her cats on lookout, and was glad that no one—the servants, Oz, or Oscar—seemed to have seen her getting up in the middle of the night (though the latter she was guessing might be passed out, or else puking his guts out).
The idea of seeing his face, hearing those velvety words, again, made the hours she waited—9:00, 10:00, 11:00—sand dripping by slowly. The stars turned sluggishly into view. She wanted to take the minute hand and twirl it around until she heard midnight's bells. Her anticipation, shifted and floated in the air above her heart, it dove back into her chest and squirmed there.
When the time did come, and she rushed towards her shop—in a black corset, her witch's hat, and cloak—the night air was cool and blue, but, unlike the unease that it held when she met Leo something in her veins rushed too, the air buzzed, alive with exhilaration. Rather than seeming impure, the world was so much more alive; the stars shone a little brighter, the wind was a confidant, who wanted to keep her secrets, rather than moan her doom. The world was a wonderland for her to explore, a box for her to open.
She always loved discussing the occult…maybe she was just excited that Gilbert's brother shared her interests?
Let's face it, she was beyond excited about that.
But this was something more than just business. Something to do with him specifically—once again, that undefinable something.
She had been around magic long enough to know that this was more than just simple curiosity, this was something akin to enchantment. Something pulling her moves, something sparkling in her eyes. And she didn't fight the spell. Nor did she yet know its name.
Or maybe someone watching from a far off future would say it was curiosity. That is, of the same dark, disobedient kind that led her to defy Leo's words once before.
When she arrived, he was already there. They exchanged pleasantries, and she opened the door to her shop, lighting a few lanterns.
"Sorry it's not much…" she said modestly.
Her shop hadn't seemed so small before. She'd always been so proud of it, how full it was, how many questions she could answer, and that almost-alive quality of the place, and she had been looking forward to showing it off to him. Even if it hadn't been completely recovered since her search for the whispers, it hadn't ever seemed so cluttered and insignificant.
"I think it's quite charming," he replied politely.
She tried not to squeal her joy at his compliment.
"T-Thank you…So will you tell me what it is you're looking for now?" she turned her back to him, folding her hands in front of her.
What could it be? She continued her attempts to curb her enthusiasm. Was it a book, or a lantern, or a compass, or, ooh, maybe a—
"Of course; It's a music box."
The world slowed, the current of fast turning seconds became slow sand again, and she could almost hear time's ticks, like water dripping in a quiet cave—but who knows what lies beneath those black waters? The excitement that had been so potent seconds ago turned to dread. The wind outside, rather than lively with whispers of a thrilling adventure to come, became a howl, telling her she should have listened to her doubts. The gaps of black between the stars seemed to swallow the light, and the shop became smaller and more cramped by the second.
No. Not that. Ask me for something else.
She had wanted to bury it. Though the whispers had stopped, moving it back into the trap door hadn't been quite enough. Whenever she had stepped over that creaky board, the sound called to her, a ghost, and the feeling that one day she would feel her dark bride's hand grab her ankles and pull her back into the depths of her own past, crawled into her mind and made its nest there. So, though she knew she couldn't get rid of it—for fear of who else might use it—she had wrapped the box itself more tightly, put chains around the chest, and moved it to a place she thought would be safer, more secure. She wished she had truly listened to Leo, and started by putting it there, as far as away as she could keep it from her, without it being completely out of reach.
Sure, there was more than one magic music box in existence. But she only had one; That music box. And, despite having used it, she never told anyone about its existence, per Leo's orders. She was sure of that. How could he know?
Perhaps he meant something different?
"I'm sorry…could you repeat that?" she whispered, and didn't turn to face him.
"A music box," he said pleasantly,
"What sort of music box? What is its…purpose?"
"One that has a haunting tune," His footfalls followed her, "which, when played," and as he placed a hand on her shoulder, cursed words fell in her ears, "is said to allow you to watch your own past unfold before you…even converse with your past self."
The words made something cold crawl down her spine, and she had to fight to keep memories from resurfacing like monsters in uneasy waters.
She spun around, brushing him off.
"Now why would I have a thing like that?"
"First of all," he lifted his hand to refer to the shop.
Oh, right. Of course.It seemed that lying skill would be needed quite a lot today.
"And second of all," he stepped closer, "once again, that precious face of yours betrays you."
She turned away before he could touch her.
"If I had an object like that, do you really think I would give it to a stranger?" she rubbed her arm nervously.
"Come now, I'm not a stranger, am I? Nii-san knows you well enough for us to say we're not complete strangers. But as far as the music box goes…" he paused, then laughed a little, "Oh I think you'd do everything in your power to hide the fact that you had it."
He was smart. An intelligence she didn't think she could battle, even if she had had the ability to lie.
"I've been looking for this for a long time, Ada-sama. I really don't want any trouble."
"And…why would you be looking for an object like that?"
"Why do my reasons concern you?"
The frankness of his response caught her off guard.
"Do you usually interrogate your customers?"
That was true; she usually didn't care what people did with the things she sold, even if she was often interested. She may ask, but she tried not to pry.
"If an object like that exists—"
"Please. You wouldn't be so restless if you didn't know it did. If you think a few ill-conceived lies are going to deter me," he ran his hand along her shoulder. "you're very much mistaken."
What could she do? She was a bad liar, and, even if she wasn't, he was a good at reading her. She wasn't going to stop him by…
Her hands clenched into fists at her sides.
And she tried a different approach.
"The past is…dangerous."
He did the last thing she expected; he laughed. Loud and long. An action that made her intrigue turn more rapidly into something dark, and hot, and stubborn.
"Oh you think so, do you?" he put his hands behind his back, stepping forward, "What makes you think that? Did the Hatter tell you something? Or…" he stood back up to his full height, his eye boring a hole into her, as if he were casting judgment on her by his mere gaze, and he stepped forward, tipping her chin up to him, his words whispered, but cold, "Did you use it?"
She stumbled backwards into her desk, covering her ears, breath heavy, as if to block out his judgment, or her memories.
She flicked her eyes up to him, as if they could hold the same judgmental drilling power as his.
That intrigue and excitement was twisting and writhing and turning into something else. Something angry, and burning, and defiant.
"Listen," she stood, brushing herself off, "the past may seem like it holds the answers, but it's not something to be meddled with. Especially not mine. Please leave." She pointed at the door, "I will not be humoring you tonight"
All that anticipation, gone. All she had been waiting for had become a demand to leave.
"Hm," he grunted, turning to leave, though she could feel something simmering.
She let out a breath, surprised, but relieved hat he wasn't going to put up a fight.
And in the next second that simmering thing was alive, and she was being pinned against the wall, his hands on either side of her, his jaw set, the look in his eyes like gunfire.
Electricity. It was in him now, but it was not that warm, bubbly feeling. It was a streak of lightning in an already stormy sky. The sting of something beneath the waters.
"I told you," he hissed, "I wouldn't give up that easily. Either you give me what I'm looking for, or—I don't want to—but I'd be perfectly happy to tear your," he looked around, a twisted smile on his face, "quaint little shop apart." He leaned in closer, and she could feel his breath on her face, "Or if I don't find it…you."
Her breath caught in her throat, terror turning the dials in her heart.
"And I told you..." she heard the shake in her voice, and tried to sink to the floor, but he placed a hand on her chest to stop her.
"It's not something I would expect a thing like you—a spoiled brat, who has had everything handed to her, for her entire life—to understand," he spat.
The words bit even more than his threats. Is this what he thought of her? Just a spoiled brat? A noble's daughter, who never suffered? Who couldn't understand him?
More importantly, why did she care what he thought of her in the first place?
What should she do? Should she give in to save her life? Or would she give her life to save the music box from him, or him from it? What would be she be saving in the end? How bad would it be if he ended up trapped in his own past?
Still, this was Gilbert's brother. Even if he tried to deny it, she knew he cared about him. If he disappeared…
This was Gilbert's brother. She couldn't believe that this piercing darkness was the only thing inside him.
There had to be more. There had to be a reason for his actions, his determination.
Surely he had been through a lot in his past, if he would go this far just to talk to it.
Maybe she could find a way to help?
As she was held there by the strands of her own decisions, and his venomous eyes—which she tried to keep from meeting—her gaze drifted upon the wind, out the open window.
It was far off, and out of reach, but she saw something flicker in the cold moonlight. Something important. Something worth noting. Something she'd missed.
Something they'd all missed.
Red and gold, fluttering in the wind.
Sitting in a little alcove, just off the edge, just out of view, was a ship.
A ship, with red and gold sails
"What's that, Uncle?"
Oz pointed at the picture in the book. It was of a ship, sitting in a cave, its sails a peculiar color of crimson, with borders and symbols in gold. The ominous air surrounding even the picture of it was enough to give the children pause.
He, Ada, and Gil were all sitting on Oscar's lap, sunlight from the window behind them draping them in gold.
Oscar pulled them all closer, "Remember about the Abyss?"
The nodded, each with different reactions—Oz with intrigue, Gil with fear, and Ada a mix of the two.
"Well, there are two things in this world connected strongly to the Abyss that are very dangerous." He looked out the window, as if painting the picture in his mind, "One are called the Sirens, or Chains."
"They drag bad guys into the Abyss, right?" Oz asked, and Gilbert clung tighter to Oscar.
"Very good Oz-kun." His Uncle ruffled his hair. "The other, are the Baskervilles. This ship," he pointed at the picture, "Belongs to them."
Ada leaned in closer to get a better look at it.
"Why are they bad, Uncle?" she asked.
"Well…" he put a finger to his chin, probably trying to formulate a non-terrifying answer, "It's not that they're necessarily bad, it's just…You know how the Abyss is like a prison? Well the Baskervilles are like reapers, they too drag people to the Abyss. But they aren't always careful with who falls in."
They paused, taking in the information.
"If ever you see a ship with red and gold sails, I want you to run as fast you can, got it?"
Everything seemed to both click into place, and go out of sync.
This man, the one who knew things he wouldn't, shouldn't, couldn't, things she kept secret; who would ask to meet her in the middle of the night, because a strange and powerful artifact she hadn't told anyone about; who had business to attend to in the morning, and whose anger was quick to flare; who would speak of the past like a toy, was a Baskerville.
Gilbert's brother, Vincent, was a Baskerville.
Emotions brewed in her like a potion, and her expression must have been disloyal to her once again because his gaze followed her own.
She didn't breathe.
The smile that grazed his face was gentle, but somehow twisted. "Do you like our ship, Ada-sama?"
She swallowed. "You're a Baskerville."
She hadn't meant to say it aloud.
He grinned. He took her chin in her palm, forcing her to look up at him.
"Is that a problem?"
If she tried to escape, she might make the situation worse—he might call his Chain to pin her further, or worse, kill her, but if she didn't, she might die anyways…
"What do you want?" her words were taut, tiny, like that little girl, so long ago…She wanted to be stronger than this.
"I told you."
"Why would you bring an entire ship just for a music box?"
"Whoever said that was the only reason for our coming here?"
"You really think I believe you came for Gil?"
"Well, yes, that too," he chuckled, "but that wasn't what I was referring to."
There was a sound like thunder outside. They both looked up to see white smoke puffing up from the aforementioned ship.
Where did that cannonball land?
Fear doubled in her, it stuck her heart and her throat, and threatened to overtake her breath.
"What's your real intention in coming here, then?" the unwanted question spilled from her lips.
He came very close, dragging a nail along her cheek, and whispered in her ear. "To kidnap you."
He pulled away, and gave a warm and genial smile.
She gasped, eyes wide. When her legs found the ability to move, she was surprised that, this time, he simply let her go. Her own legs double-crossed her, however, and she fell to the ground. She scrambled across the planks, reaching up for something, anything that could help her.
She had to get to Oz. To Oscar. To run, like her Uncle had told her to so long ago.
"Echo." Vincent snapped his fingers.
The sound of glass shattering.
She hadn't noticed the girl standing outside; she could have been there for days for all she knew, her presence was masked and the shop was dark.
That lightning split the world.
The shop was silent, and her witch's hat fluttering softly to the ground, was the only evidence that something had occurred that night.
That word had interspersed itself throughout the earlier whispers. The word that came by the most often, the strongest.
It was her voice. Her terrified, little voice, crying for her brother.
Her voice, so small. She hadn't realized her voice was so small then, that she could be so helpless.
But these whispers had stuck with her so much, because they reminded her of that time. She had tried to put out of her mind, like a fire. Told herself there had been nothing she could do, then. That even if she had made it in time, then, she couldn't have kept Oz from the Abyss. She wouldn't have been strong enough.
But these whispers were a poison. They made her question herself. They made her think the scene was still here, still fluid, could still be changed. They made her wonder, Maybe if I just—Maybe if I had—Maybe I could…
Instead, this time, as she slammed shut the box, the word, the voice, that tiny helpless thing that once was her, was no longer disembodied and subtly toxic.
She turned to see a little girl, in the room with her. Blonde hair, green eyes. Her little green dress, and gold hair soaked through with rain.
That past was real. Here. In the room with her.
Ghosts were more than whispers.
The adult Ada's hands flew to her mouth to keep herself from screaming. In doing so, she lost her grip on the music box, sending it to the ground before she managed to lock it, causing it to land on its side and crack open.
Standing there—and yet, not there—was herself. A memory of the past, a specific past, her past, animated.
The little Ada flickered in and out of solidity. She was almost transparent, though real enough to send her heart reeling, and nausea to her throat. Her small eyes, dappled with tears, were—thankfully—not looking at her future self, standing there, but somewhere beyond her. Even so, they were still looking at something else that was also both there, and not quite there; something beyond her future self.
What if she knew that her future was watching her now? What would the little girl do? Would she scream? Or would she run up to her, say it was nice to meet her, and ask if the future was going well? If the little Ada knew the regrets that the future her felt now, would she have been given the strength to accomplish the task? What if she could talk to her? What would she say? Could she change things? What would her life become if she could?
Chills played melodies up and down her spine.
Her past self ran forward—(Ada jumped out of the way)—the little feet trod on the music box, and a few discordant notes spilled out from it. And as they did, her past self's form became more solid moment by moment. After passing it, Ada turned to see what she was running towards.
The box played more of the song, and her thoughts rearranged themselves, went out of order, so the notes became background to her, not the thing itself; the thing to shut down, the thing that was causing this …but something that was simply there. Not to be noticed.
The song was dark, and slow. The notes tinkled out like raindrops, like leaking ink onto the pages of her life, drop by drop, flooding out. And, as the notes crept along the floorboards, their bony fingers trailed with them more of the scene, blood on the floorboards, in the water.
The ghost rain pounded louder and louder, becoming more real, more here, and with it, the shop started blurring, as if the drops were corroding it away.
All Ada—the future Ada, the, in her mind, real Ada—could do was watch.
She couldn't stop it. She couldn't seize the music box and shut it up. She couldn't grab her past self and shake the hours out of her until only the future was left. Not anymore. She didn't have the strength. The understanding. Or the time.
The music was all that was left.
A door, big and oak, a facet of a giant mansion—which would have been magnificent, with all its bricks, and windows, and rose gardens, had it not been so stormy—stood some ways away, below her.
Her past self was running across a stone bride towards this door.
When Ada looked back she saw that she was now on this bridge too, and the quaint, quiet shop nowhere in view. Her life was suspended over howling, hungry waves and jagged rocks.
Panic and intrigue were now the battling forces in her. She couldn't quite quantify the scene, place it into normal terms and call it by name—it just was now. How she would get back, and how much she would see before she did something, were no longer answerable. Her mind was in another place too, perhaps still in the future.
She, of course, remembered this scene. She knew everything that happened. Not in precise detail, but she had been through it once before, of course. However, the foreignness of the sensation made it seem as if she was seeing it for the first time, wondering where this unknown little girl was going to, and why it mattered.
As she looked all around her—trying to find a single piece of reality, of now—she gazed down at the waves below.
There were many ships; people had come from far and wide to see her brother's coming of age ceremony. These ships had all sorts of symbols and colors on their sails, or just plain white. They were from different houses, and came in all sorts of sizes, shapes, and kinds.
But there was one in particular worth noting.
Once again, in a cave, hidden away, to the side. She would have never seen it if she hadn't been on this bridge, high above. And she wouldn't have found it so quickly if she didn't already know it was there.
A ship with red and gold sails.
And for a moment she was that little girl again, running because she had to save her brother, she had to warn someone, anyone, that that ship her uncle had warned her about was here, now, and they would surely—
"Your sin is…"
But she had been too late then, and she knew she was too late now.