AOH – Chapter 127

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CHAPTER 127: BUTTERFLY WINGS

IN ARRANDY

IN THE ARIADNE GARDEN

The scent of flowers fills the gardens and the water in the lake under the bridge in the garden is still, creating an environment of serenity and peace.

With the wind cool air anyone who is tired will be calmed seeing the picturesque scene of this large garden.

It was built by an architect from Asteros in commemoration of Arial daughter nameday. In the gardens right now are two figures.

The woman is wearing a sophisticated, noble dress. It is simple in style, but the detail in making this is superb.

Only rich household like the Vermont’s could afford this. It features a pretty full length gown with an elaborate collar.

The dress is blaring red, with white and gold accents, as well as sleeve and bodice detailing. It makes a noble impression just by a glance, and the woman wearing such clothes must be only from the noblest of lineage.

The man on the other hand is also refined from head to toe, an extremely handsome man. If they sit by side, even the woman will not be embarrassed.

It was a finery outfit a bold statement of clothing of noble ability, clothing in bright red and gold complementing the woman dress.

This clothing of the handsome men displays fabric in a detailed pattern with golden trim that help to accentuate the breadth of the man shoulders and waist.

It has a puffed sleeves, an Arrandian style clothing, while his boot is also very high quality. The wind blows and hey looked at each other.

First, glancing. Then, a sneak peek. And then they locked their eyes with each other.

Both of them looked at each other awkwardly but there is affection in both of them. They both could not deny this.

They don’t want to deny it. This is a precious relationship between them. Though the level of affection for both of these figures is different, that affection exists.

The woman and man has been friend for so long, how could affection is non-existent? Of course it is there.

However the level of their affection is definitely different. One views the other as an irreplaceable friend while the other views the other as the love of his life. Such difference in perspective of course will bring conflict of the hearts.

Then the man spoke his first word.

‘Is Ariadne fine? I heard she got a fever?’

‘She is fine now. The healer has prescribed her some herbs to eat.’

She said looking at Kyle with the wind blowing her beautiful flowing hair. There is some trace of tiredness on her eyes.

After all this week with the news she received from Silas about Harald and Edward she could not sit still in her husband throne.

There is also movement in the Principality. Harald and that fox……are they colluding? If they are, then Helia might have underestimated the cunningness of Edward Merovich.

There is also the matter of Adriana betrothal. Helia has been spending time with Adriana but the kid just reached her six nameday.

She is active and bright, and she is attached to Helia.

Adrianna had the highest opinion for Helia virtue and gifts, and Helia kind natured as she is, made it her quest to give the younger sister of Arial to receive knowledge of the highest kind.

Books fill the young girl room. All kinds from medicine, philosophy, arithmetic, languages, history, and all manners of knowledge the world could offer such a privileged young lady.

Tutors from all across Arrandy are recruited only the best of the best teaches her in every matter from courtly manners to fighting and politics.

Helia also gained a deeper understanding of the feelings of Adrianna in regards to her opinion of her always absent brother.

It could be said while Adrianna rarely see his older brother; Helia could see an unspoken affection that Adrianna hold for Arial.

Sometimes it looks like Adriana is seeking for her brother approval and recognition.

It seems that Adriana view Arial as a figure of respect and absolute power, which inspired her with some fear of his brother which almost overcame her affection.

In a way it could be said Arial achievement makes even his own sister felt a little intimidated to be around his presence.

Then Helia looked back at Kyle and said.

‘There is no need for you to worry about her’

‘Can’t I even worry about her?’

‘What is your intention Kyle, asking me to come to the gardens this late at night? Didn’t I tell you to stop this?’

‘I have been thinking about a lot of matters.’ He said sighing

‘Matters that involve us. Involves you. Involves Arial.’

Helia looked at Kyle and she looked at him with a complicated expression. She doesn’t know what to think.

There is a lot in her mind but she has decided….decided a long time ago….and if there is something consistent about Helia, something true, something that made Arial love her it was her will, her steadfast decision.

In the matter of politics she is flexible but in the matter of her life, she is always unbending and unmovable like the mountains.

Her will be done. But still she is curios what Kyle thinks, what he had thought, his feeling, his pain.

No matter how she distances herself, she could not help but sympathizes with Kyle.

He is her friend, closest friend, even closer that between her and Arial, Kyle sister is a bosom sister of Helia while Kyle friend is Arial, her husband.

How could she be so cold and unmoved by his pain?

Kind as she is, the unifying presence of the 4 Greats, the graceful one of all the three and the uniting force between the 4 Greats during their youths.

It is this memories, all that they have shared together, those life and death situation they encountered, her responsibilities towards Kyle for leading him on that made her unable to decline Kyle offer to meet her, to listen to what Kyle wanted to say, hoping that Kyle is…able to forget her, to find a better woman than her…

She loves him…this is no doubt…but not that kind of love. But then she remembers….that night years ago and something shakes her heart.

If you was faster……she mused….if she was slower….she mused…and she closes her eyes and think, opening her eyes and look at the young man in front of her, she almost wondered….would today be different?

Would I be in his arms instead of Arial?

Would I……be his wife? Looking at him, and she thought to herself…if I realize it earlier….if you was faster, braver…..would we be….looking at the same place?

But now it is too late. She realizes all of this when Arial return.

While her loneliness is cured by the constant companionship of Kyle, she understands between affection and love.

These two emotions seem the same but it is fundamentally different. She didn’t know it before.

Young as she is she is bound to make mistake, but now she is a mother, mature beyond her years and smart but also kind, and as such knows better of the conflicting emotion, the subtle difference in the matter of the hearts….but there are times…when she doubts herself…every time she looks at him….as she wondered….if not for that night…all those years ago….her misunderstanding and his stubbornness….would she be Helia Vermont?

But she can’t turn back time. They both cant. Both of them trapped by their past, choked by their present, worrying about the days ahead, regret welling in both of their hearts.

They can only move forward.

‘Yes…and? What do you….think?’ she said

‘You said to forget you. You said to be faithful to Arial. Faithful to Arial? That I can do. Forget you. I can’t.’

‘Kyle !’ she said almost screaming.

She thought Kyle has asked here to resolve their conflict.

After all Kyle has begun showing his face in the court nowadays and Helia has seen his behaviour and he has behaved most nobly and gentlemanlike manner towards her, never did he imply or ask anything regarding that matter again.

‘But!’ Kyle said

‘I also understand that I can’t force love. I can’t force you to love me. But neither could you force me to dislike you. I love you. And I will always love you. At least this, you could not take away from me.’

Helia sighed. But she smiled bitterly. At least, she admires Kyle persistence. In a way, Helia is all too well known of Kyle disposition, especially regarding girls.

‘You are stubborn.’

Kyle smile a little. The road to reconciliation is a thorny path but Kyle no matter how forceful he is, even he is not such a bastard to force his love to an unwilling lady.

It is not his style.

Loving her might be wrong. But when have love ever been right? He could not control who he love. If he can, then all of this would be easier.

And stealing her from his best friend? He could not bear to do that. But..that is what he is trying to do. Love does not make sense.

But…he hope that by showing his sincerity, his honest attitude, that Helia might….one day open that beautiful eyes of her and look at him…the same way he has been looking at her…all these years.

That one day, Helia will whisper that word in his ears. It might be a dream. It might be a deluded illusion.

But he can’t let her go. He can’t….stop loving her. Only people who have fallen in love understand his feeling.

If Helia ever turn her face to look at him…..even if he has to betray every virtue on this earth, he would be willing to.

A person that would burn the world for love….that is a man he can understand. These are the fundamental difference between him and Arial.

If Arial were ever given a choice of saving the world and his family, his sense of responsibility would never have allowed him to choose his family no matter the pain he would endure.

But Kyle will not hesitate.

His family, friends, his love, that is what is important to him. People would say he is a bastard, an ungrateful person but he doesn’t care.

And if Helia fall in love with him, Helia will be called by many names, whores, unfaithful. Her virtues are false.

But still even if that time comes, he will love her, even though there is no possible benefit for him, unearned, underserved.

Kyle would have defile every virtue, every oath of honour and that is a tribute of love, because Kyle would sacrifice his conscience, his reason, his integrity and his honour to be with the ones he love.

Then looking at Helia chuckling at him he replies Helia accusation.

‘I rather you call me passionate.’

‘Obsessed, is more of an apt description.’

‘Obsessed? Of you?’

‘Yes’ Helia said a smile formed on her lips.

It seems Kyle has calmed down his heart. After all, he is joking right now. That indifferent attitude shows itself.

A mask, Helia reminded herself. A mask of broken heart. And Helia believe Kyle. Because no matter what Kyle has done, she still trusted him.

He…still has honour….if not honour…respect for her decision for her will and choice. If there is one thing Helia could say without a shred of doubt about Kyle it is this.

Kyle will always respect her. At least, this she knows. She has been so long acquainted with him.

They are the 4 Greats. Friends, always and forever. How could she not trust him? How could she not give him the benefit of the doubt?

How…could she stop to hope? Stop to love Kyle, his quirks, his amiable personality, his attentions to the minutia details.

While her love might be different from Kyle….it is love all the same.  And there is still hope…hope for this precious friendship that Helia cherished to save.

‘You flatter yourself Helia. I love you, true. Obsessed? Just by your beauty alone? I don’t think so.’ Kyle said a slight joking on his part.

‘HAHAHA.’ Helia laughed and her laugh fills the empty garden, almost giving it life.

It has been a long time since she laughed together with Kyle so unreserved like this. It reminds her of old times, when life is not so complicated. When….everything was simple….and free of web of lies and secrets.

‘So…you will not pursue me?’

‘Not…unless you give me a sign.’

‘I won’t.’

‘Well, time will tell.’

‘What are you saying?’

‘I might not pursue you Helia but who’s to say someday you will not fall in love with me? If only I was faster-‘ he said

‘If you were faster, braver….’ Helia look at the stars and then she said with honesty

‘Then I might have fall in love with you.’ She said honestly.

This answer shocked Kyle.

‘You would?’

‘Of course I would. You are a charming person, kind, attentive and…you have a way with words.’

‘Thank you’ Kyle grins.

‘But it is not good talking about road not taken. I love Arial. Before. Now. Then. If you were faster, then I might not have become Arial wife. But fate has spoken. My heart has spoken. And I do not regret it.’

‘Do you want to be Arial wife that bad?’ Helia chuckled a bit, looking at that pitiful face of Kyle. With a hint of mischievousness she said

‘I do. And Kyle while you have your good qualities, Arial also has his. Loyal. Honourable. Brave. Strong. Smart and inspires such things in the heart of men. He is steadfast and always honour his promise…..And sometimes….maybe that is also his flaw. Honour, responsibility, he took all of this in his shoulders. He is stumbling along, dragging his weary feet, the weight of the world burdened on him. Many open a path for him, allowing him passage but none dare to take that weight for him……no one can take that burden from him. His burden is so invisible, yet so….daunting. I wish to lighten his load…and if I can, to switch places with him, to took up that burden, lifting it for him.’

And then Helia look at the stars again and she spotted two stars in the starry skies, two stars, and one shine brightly while another is dimming. Then she look back at Kyle her eyes shines brighter as the doubt in her heart clears and her resolve strengthened.

‘So, what you want to say to me Kyle tonight is that you will not forget me, and you would wait for me? What a lovely sentiment but wasted on me. Find another girl. With your status and background, I doubt it will be hard for you to find a suitable match that will please your mother and sister. And how long could you wait for me? My heart will always belong to him. You know this.’

‘How long you ask me? Till the end of my life and if there is a life after this, I will wait you there.’

He said sincerely and even Helia heartbeats flutter a bit to be so intensely courted.

Helia then moved away ready to leave the gardens now that Kyle has made his intention known.

At least Helia knows Kyle will not harass her again. The choice is in her hands. Eerily, it reminded her of her quarrel with her husband.

Before he left, Arial look at Helia eyes, kissed her lips and whisper to her ears. ‘The choice is yours. It always has, always will.’

Remembering her husband words, it was almost like he knows. Helia quickly dispel such thoughts.

That would be too heartbreaking for Arial if he knows what she has done. Then a hit of suspicion dawn on her.

Could he…..no….he…did he know about me and Kyle? That is impossible once again Helia dispel that notion. Looking at Kyle, her eyebrow creased and she gives her advice

‘Forget me Kyle. Let us stay like before. Friends.’

Helia look left and right and said

‘The night is late and I have to return to the castle.” She said informing that she is returning home to the castle.

‘Consider what I said. There is no need to regret over the road not taken. Our destiny is not to be together. I am married and while I admit my heart always flutter when you speak with me whispering love song, I could not deny nor lie about my feelings for Arial. You once said why I married him? You ask me of this.’

‘Yes, I did,’ Kyle admits.

‘You never give me the answer? Why? You found it now?’ She nodded.

‘I do not understand this before and so I never answer you…but now, though I do not admit to know everything there is to know about marriage, I could claim I know some things. Want to hear it Kyle?’

Kyle just nodded curios of Helia answer.

‘A good marriage is one in which both the wife and husband both choose each other as the guardian of their solitude and thus by this act shows that they display for each other the greatest possible trust. It is a fusion, a mutual consent between two people that seem to be saying ‘take my freedom, rob me of it’. Sound like it is terrifying isn’t it? To give your heart, the freedom of the heart to one person. To remain committed to that oath. But once it is accepted that even between two closest soul, infinite distance exist, then the husband and wife can grow, and if they succeed in loving the infinite expanse between them which give them the possibility of always seeing each other as a whole and before an immense sky filled with glittering stars, such love….. will endure. Such love… will persevere.’

Saying this she stared at Kyle, a compassionate stare and she said, with all the sincerity that her heart could muster.

‘I love him Kyle and I don’t think I could love you the same way I love him. To me you are an irreplaceable friend. I do not want to lose you. And I hope you do not want to lose me too. But asking me to choose between you and Arial? I will always choose him. You know this. So….don’t make me choose Kyle. Please. Don’t make me choose. Because you already know the answer.’

Saying this Helia walked away from the garden and outside the gardens her attendants is already waiting beside her carriage.

Then she disappeared from the garden vicinity rushing to get home to the castle.

Kyle looked at the disappearing carriage and he keeps looking until the carriage has disappeared from his sight.

Taking a pebble in the ground he throws it to the still lake water and the ripples resonated outward with the pebbles creating  plop sound as it fall to the bottom of the lake.

Kyle leans on one of the bench near the bridge as he sat down underneath a tree.

‘Keeping passion at bay or surrendering blindly to it – which of these two attitudes is the least destructive? I don’t know’ Kyle answers.

And Arial word rings in his ear during one of their journey solving quest. They were celebrating after accomplishing another completion of their quest and that night Arial said to him

“However rare true love maybe, it is less so than true friendship.”  And he patted Kyle back and gives him the warmest smile he has ever shown to anyone.

Remembering that scene made Kyle heart constricted. He…..doesn’t know anymore. About anything. Where did it all go wrong? Where did it all start unraveling? At which point?

He doesn’t know.

On one side, he hoped Helia never accept his advances, while another side, he earnestly hope Helia will love her.

His heart, his mind is at war with each other. Conflicting emotions boiled under that calm face.

Looking at the ripple effect of the lake, Kyle remembered that Arial always said this to him. ‘One choice could change everything. One ripple in a lake, a flutter of a butterfly wings could cause a hurricane a worlds away.’

He never understood what Arial was talking about but for some reason, he grasp a bit of truth in that’s statement.

‘Choices’ he muttered.

‘That is the only thing that matters. Choices.’

*************************************************************************
A FEW WEEKS LATER

The green trees at night look like a guard guarding the huge villa of the noble house of Lethe.

A private property of the distinguished Knight and famous friend of the Duke, Kyle Lethe. The symbol of the white raven is prominently displayed.

In the front gate of the villa was the Count itself, leaning on the front gate. The villas only have the green tree as guard since they is not any guard here.

All of the guards was sent to the House of Lethe guarding his family castle instead of guarding this villa. It was his orders.

The reason? So, that he could wallow in despair alone…so that his cries and cscreams are not heard.

He didn’t want to show his appearance, his pathetic state to his family and friends. So, he holed up here in his villa…..alone.

He was drunk and fall sick. Trying to forget, trying to…..destory her image on his mind…only to strengthen it with each cup.

Every day he would drink and drink until he passed out, he almost wished he would die of intoxication after that day in the garden.

This night he is leaning outside his villa again but this time a woman is overlooking him. She looks at him with an overcast expression.

She squatted and looks at him.

‘Wake up, Kyle.’ She said, her voice seem angry and sad all at the same time. Looking at the man, Helia is conflicted.

She heard what has happened to Kyle from Oliver. Oliver tells her that….Kyle has been holed up in his villa neglecting the rule of his fief, wallowing in despair.

Hearing this, Helia couldn’t help but feel guilty.

‘Get up!’ she yelled and her voice echoes. The wind blows by and her voice echoes in the empty courtyard of the villa.

There is only two person in the villa.

Helia grab his collar but then she lost her balance because of Kyle sudden pushing and she fall on top of him.

Then as she tries to get up, Kyle grabbed her on her arms and she stopped. Time literally stopped as she looks at that teary eyes, with a sign of losing hope.

Then slowly Kyle’s hand cupped her face and he stares at that face that haunts his dream, and his every waking moment.

Closing his face with hers, he said

‘You always make me go crazy. Always.’ He said in a drunken slur. Instead of getting angry she slowly removes his hand from her face.

‘Kyle….don’t do this. It breaks my heart seeing you like this’ she said, looking sad.

As she said this she caress his cheeks and Kyle slowly hold that hand. And with utmost difficulty, his voice trembling, he said

‘Don’t easily touch me….’and his grips tighten on Helia smooth hand and then he looked at her straight in the eyes and said

‘It makes me want to hold you….and never letting go.’ Helia was flustered and she quickly removes her hand.

She quickly prop him up and carry him inside the villa. And as they are walking, Kyle said

‘I’ve been hiding it for so long. So long’ he said as Helia is walking step by step to the inner hall, not saying a word.

‘So long that it has rotten away.’

‘What did you hide?’ she ask almost barely a whisper

‘My feelings.’ For a while ether si sielcne only the sounds of the pitter patter of rain and their footsteps. Then she ask.

‘Why do you like me?’

‘No reason’ he answers.

‘Why couldn’t I grab the chance? Remembering that night, all those years ago, I regret and regret again and again. You stupid!’ he said as tears fall from his eyes, admonishing himself and Helia also feel sad.

It all started that year. The year when the rift happens. When the misunderstanding begins. When they both become stubborn.

As they walk, Kyle become more sober and then he confesses something to Helia, knowing, that this would be the last time, he could say things like this.

Helia has decided to embrace Arial…..and he had to accept that, no matter how painful it is for him. No matter how unfair it is for him.

‘Helia, do you know that I was the first one who loved you?’ he said more of a statement then a question.

‘I love it when we go questing with each other because it give some time to spend with you. I would walk through Hell for you. I try to like other person, you know, and I try really hard, but in the end, here I am. The heart wants what it wants. But I have to hide it right? Because it is you that I love.’ He said with a hint of resignation.

Helia said nothing, just listening

And they arrived at one of the rooms and Helia put him gently on the bed. By this time, Kyle was finally sober.

Since he learn martial arts making himself sober is easy. But sometimes he would wish that he could be drunk longer.

Because it makes the pain duller. Because it makes the pain….not too painful. But when he is sober, the pain came rushing back, like a surging tidal wave and it is unbearable.

Then lying on the bed, looking at her meaningfully, he said

‘I’ll say this for the last time’ as tears flowed from his eyes.

Kyle did not even cry even though he got many pains in his life but now, saying what he had in mind, breaks his heart to thousand pieces.

‘The person I love is you. It is you, princess.’ And then like a heavy burden lifted off from his shoulder, he closes his eyes, tears still falling.

Helia uses her fingers to caress his hair and she too was crying silently in her heart.

She wanted to say that all those years ago, he should have come to her. She runs to fast, he runs to slow and they always missed each other.

Remembering all the events that lead them here, how could Helia heart is not in pain.

She wanted to say this all those years ago: he should have run to her, even though he was late.

She waited for him…..but he did not know.

It was her pride and his stubbornness that creates this tragedy. But, no matter how slow he is, he should run to her and take her by the arms!

Yet, she says none of it.

Only two people crying because of the painful past. She will not make it three. Only tow people should bear the burden.

Helia wiping her tears slowly walks out of the villas, while there is thunder overhead ,and raindrops began to fall.

Kyle is still lying on his bed, the tears won’t stop falling. Raining and thundering fills the sky that night.

The moon that night was looking very sorrowful and dawn came and put an end to those unspoken words and unspoken feelings.

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