"Prince Kai seems to be late today. Should I go check on him?" Heine mused to himself looking at his pocket watch.
Situated comfortably against the trunk of the tree near the spot Prince Kai frequents, the Royal Tutor briefly closed his eyes and felt the cool wind of the inner garden rustle his robe and blew his hair.
Knowing Prince Kai, he must be taking care of Princess Adele just before he come to class. I had better leave him to it…. It's not like anything ill-fated could happen in the palace inner areas anyway. And on such a nice day….
Heine fingered the face of the watch he was holding, eyes still closed. He ran his finger across the slight crack in the otherwise seamless glass, from top right across to bottom left. Traced the jagged edges he remembers all too well.
If he was a better artist, he'd be able to draw this pocket watch perfectly. Just perfectly.
The crest in the back, the small tarnishes on the golden rim, the shape of the roman numbers, the hands.
And, he imagines, he would wait till the very end, to draw the jagged line of fracture. The line he knows so very well. He could picture it in his sleep, like a high stone wall. Or a crevice in the ground…. breaking apart….
Suddenly he found himself on the hill where he used to meet up with Viktor. He was cradling a bottle of wine…. Niederganzreich white wine…. He just knew it. He'd came to bring this to Viktor, where is Viktor….?
He looked around in sudden panic, but there he was, just around the thicket over there. He started running in that direction, but it seemed like he wasn't moving.
He couldn't see Viktor's face. There was an odd shadow… an odd shadow…. But he hopes Viktor is smiling. He hopes Viktor would be glad to see him….
Then hands grabbed him from behind. He fell. When he looked up, Viktor was lying in a pool of blood, blood, blood.
Street urchins don't survive bullets, they just don't. Their friends would drag them back to the hideout, feed them, give their blankets for the inevitable fevers, flinch when they saw the infected mess of the wound. Scavenge. Find extra food. Steal things for medicine….
But they'd die, in the end.
Viktor will die, in the end.
He suddenly felt a surge of desperation. He can't be taken away now! He's got to go to Viktor. Take him to a safe place. He's going to find the house Viktor ran away from. Viktor's a rich kid. No matter haw bad it is there, they'll have money to cure Viktor. They'll have all the money to buy fancy medicine and have doctors visit. He's got to take Viktor there. He's got to!
Viktor's not going to die in the sewers like him.
"Viktor!" He called out, but didn't hear any sound. He crawled forward on his hands and knees, once, twice. A few feet, a few more. He expected hands to restrain him, but he was free. Soon he was on his feet and running again, towards Viktor.
His hair was short now for some reason, and his clothes more cumbersome, but he kept running….
Then he looked up, and saw the king. And the queen. And their lovely family of six children. And he saw Viktor smile, bright as the sun, though he couldn't see his eyes.
That's when he crashed into the wall, the wall of glass he had never been able to see. That Viktor hasn't told him existed. He gasped, and fell again, in front of the wall.
And he scoot closer.
And laid a finger on the glass, traced the jaggedness of it, the line he knows so well.
Heine bolt upright, and knocked his head hard against something.
He'd woke up at his own scream, in the dream. Why did he scream in the dream?
He had imagined that scene before, multiple times, in dreams and daydreams and lulling moments when all is peace and quiet. He usually smiled, at the end. A rather rueful, sad smile, but what of it? He couldn't go beyond the jagged glass wall. He'd learned to live with it.
"Are you alright, sensei?" A voice asked, and Heine recovered his wits enough to look up and see Prince Kai, a hand on his head and peering worriedly into his face.
The thing he'd bumped his head into just now…..
He quickly changed into a kneeling position and apologized. To drift off to sleep when it was time for Prince Kai's lesson…. he just couldn't believe himself. He wouldn't let it happen again, absolutely. He would have to wait for Prince Kai standing, from now on.
"I deeply apologize for my tardiness, highness. If you please, we can begin the lesson now."
Kai looked at him again, worriedly, but nodded.
That was when Heine noticed himself still gripping the pocket watch, tightly. He glanced down and saw the crack in the watch-face again, then pockets it, and got to work.
"What is it, Kai, coming to see me so late?"
His Majesty the king of Ganzreich asked his second eldest son in a gentle, but tired voice.
"Sorry to disturb you after your busy day, Father, but... I think sensei is having some kind of trouble."
Viktor's eyebrows rose, "Oh? Has he not been performing his duties?"
"No, no, nothing like that." Kai quickly denied.
Well, Viktor wouldn't believe it if Kai had indeed said Heine had slacked off. The idea seemed so absurd it's almost funny.
"So, what kind of trouble?"
"Well, his mind would be…. far-off sometimes. I mean, it's mostly out of teaching time so please don't think he's doing something wrong or anything but—"
The king tilts his head patiently, a tiny, soft smile playing on his lips.
"Sensei seems to be…. having nightmares. And obsessing over his pocket watch somehow. Isn't it… the pocket watch you gave him, Father?"
Viktor now seemed surprised, and curious. Despite years past, despite his kingly duties, sometimes he just felt the sneaky little kid in him coming out.
"Yes, it was the one I gave him before we were caught and I was shot…. I'd had it recovered and returned to him, but the watch-face was cracked when it hit the cobbled streets in the fight, so he couldn't sell it for the children's supplies anymore. He said it's a shame so he was going to use it instead."
"Yes…. I saw him looking at it often these days, but it didn't seem to be for time, and he kept touching the face of the pocket watch. One time, I noticed his finger was bleeding a little. Maybe it was scratched by the cracked surface."
Viktor was a little worried now, it wasn't like Heine to be so upset as to have it noticed by others. But Kai is compassionate, and observant. He is tactful and didn't tell his brothers about it first so Heine wouldn't be asked difficult questions. He'd come to him, the authority and the source of adult advice other than their teacher.
It made him proud of his son.
"Thank you for telling me all this, Kai. Now, can you tell me…. what did you mean by nightmares? You guys haven't sneaked into the Royal Tutor's chambers and disturb him, have you?"
"No, no, we wouldn't." Kai actually put up his hands in a conciliatory manner. "Everyone's a good boy."
"So, how did you come to know of this nightmares matter?"
"Before my lesson today…. I saw Heine sleeping in the gardens where he waited for me to arrive. The weather was so good, I thought I would wait for him to wake up because he seemed to be lacking sleep these days. But…. he started to frown, and writhe a little…. and he called your name…. and screamed just before he woke up."
"My name?" Viktor blinked, surprised.
"He….. also mumbled something about you dying….."
"Oh….." The king mused. This is bad news. The watch, his name, him dying. It has to be about that affair from the harvest festival.
Not letting his troubled thought show, he smiled kindly and patted Kai's head. "I'll go talk to the royal tutor about it, don't worry. Now, it's late. You should get some rest."
"Yes, Father." Kai had a soft expression on his face as he stood up, bowed, and turned to walk away. He stopped at the door, however, and hesitated.
"Do you have anything else to say?"
After just a brief pause from the prince, he said, "Please take care of sensei, Father."
Viktor's smile turned a shade sadder at the request, "Of course."