A week later…
*Beep beep beep*
With her right hand on the turn off button behind the alarm clock, Celes lazily stretches her back and slowly sits up. It’s 8am in the morning and Celes just wishes that she could sleep some more, but she can’t. Today, Andrea will pay her a visit as she was informed last night. In addition, Celes also has an important unfinished task and her deadline is approaching, and she tends to finish it today.
“Chroma-san, you know about the Holy night festival right?”
“Yes, I do.”
“You see, the Holy night festival will be held at the end of this month. By any change can you come back to Coventry to attend the festival?”
“I guess I could make it.”
“Very well. Then I have a task for you, more like a business order.”
“What can I do for you then?”
“I need you to make a magnificent tradition doll that is usually used in the festival. Can you do that?”
“Good. I’ll pay you after you’ve done.”
Celes opens the door to her working room. This room originally belongs to her mother’s workshop, but since she has passed away, Celes took this room and made it hers. However, she’s still keeping everything that her mother left behind here. For Celes, they are her inspiration, most precious treasures. Celes opens the windows to let the light get in. She turns and looks at her unfinished work, which is now finely shaped.
“Only some of the coloring left…”
Last month, Celes received a call from the elder. The elder asked Celes if she could join the Holy night festival and if she could make her a tradition doll for the Holy night. A tradition doll is one thing that cannot be omitted. According to the tradition, the doll will be about 5 foot tall with black hair and red eyes. It’ll be dressed in traditional outfit with decorative ornaments on its head. The doll maker is allowed to design the clothes and ornaments, as long as they doesn’t look too different from the original. In the festival, there will be a Holy night ceremony in which the Maiden of the town and the doll will perform the traditional dance together in the shrine on top of the hill. People say that if the wandering spirits pleased with their performance, they will blessed the town with peace. If they aren’t, misfortune shall follow the town till eternity. That’s why people in the town always prepare very carefully for the festival, as everyone all wishes for a good life. As for the Maiden, the elder will personally choose one of all the citizen in the town, the one that’s worthy. It will usually be the one who has the strongest purify power. And to make sure that the performance will go well, the Maiden usually make the doll herself. This is the thing that confused Celes the most.
Why does the elder want Celes to make the doll when she is not the Maiden?
Since her psychic ability is long gone, Celes cannot be a Maiden. If she makes the doll, the Maiden may have difficulty in controlling it since she can’t become one with the doll. Celes has been thinking a lot about this. She did tend to ask the elder a few times, but she chose not to. After all, she always feels that the elder is hiding something from her, something that relates to her. But then again, if the festival doesn’t succeed, Celes would have to bear the consequence too. Eventually, Celes comes up with a plan.
“So you are using her.”
“I’m not using her. I’m just making new friend.”
By now, Celes is having her breakfast : Pancake with blueberry jam. Few minutes ago, her cellphone rang. She picked it up and saw Azure was calling her. After some normal greetings, Azure gets to the point by asking about Celes’s plan to find out what the elder really wants.
“You are wicked~”_Azure says with a sing song voice.
“I am not.”_Celes hisses as she puts a small piece of pancake into her mouth.
“Ha ha ha~”_Azure laughs through the phone. “Anyway, about the thing you ask me to find…”
“What of it then?”
“You know, your parents’ death isn’t available on any source. I have searched everywhere I can. It seems like somebody is hiding something.”
“Oh and there is a weird thing too.”_Azure’s voice turns serious. “From all those pictures I have seen on the internet, your mother has light lavender eyes, while your father has deep blue eyes. Your eyes are not identical with any of them.”
“Wait what?”_Celes surprises.
“Yep. In the picture of your family you showed me, your mother has identical eyes with you, transparent white.”
“That picture…The elder gave it to me years ago.”_Celes leans backward.
“By any change… Did she do something with that picture?”
“I don’t know…”_Celes’s voice gets lower. “I always feel that she’s hiding something from me…”
“…Well, for now all I could find is your parents’ birthdays, occupations and hometown. That’s it. They’re not on any newspapers or articles.”
“Don’t worry. I’ll try to dig deeper.”
“Okay. See you then.”
Celes hangs off the phone and finishes her breakfast.
_ _ _ _ _
Andrea arrives at Celes’s place at 10am. Celes welcomes her and Aylio into the house then goes to the kitchen and makes some tea. Yesterday, she stopped by small market to buy food and necessary things. When she was about to go home, she saw a teashop just few meters away, so she came there and took home a few boxes of tea. And now, she really feels grateful that she did buy those teas since if she didn’t, she wouldn’t have any other times to buy them, not to mention that she has guests today.
“Your house looks so nice, Chroma-san.”
“Thank you. Would you like some tea?”_Celes smiles friendly.
Celes pours the tea for Andrea and Aylio. The relaxing smell of the tea refreshes the atmosphere of the living room. Celes also has a cup of tea herself to clear her mind. Celes rarely put any more sugar in her tea. She is not a fan of sweet things, so she always makes the tea a little bitter than usual. Slowly placing the cup on the table, she adjusts her gaze back to Andrea, who is adding some sugar in her tea.
“I’m sorry. Is it too bitter to drink?”_Celes asks with concern.
“Oh…Yeah a little. But it’s okay. The tea tastes very good.”_Andrea smiles.
“I am glad then.”
“You know I always want to drink bitter tea but I just can’t…”_Andrea laughs awkwardly. “Seeing Chroma-san and Aylio dink it so easily makes me feel kinda jealous.”
“Jealous?”_Celes raises her eyebrow.
“No one in my house has a sweet tooth, yet I…”_Andrea pauses. “I guess I just want to blend in.”
“What is so wrong to be different?”
“I don’t know.”Andrea looks at Celes. “I just think that it will be easier to live if I could be the same at everyone else.”
“…Say, do you want to see my workshop?”_Celes says with a kind smile.
_ _ _ _ _
Celes takes Andrea and Aylio to her workshop without remembering that it was pretty messy with water color all over the floor. Celes silently curses herself for her absent-minded and reluctantly opens the room’s door.
“I must sorry if it looks messy because I was working last night and forgot to clean it after that.”
Despite the messy view of the room, Andrea is still amazed by Celes unfinished creation. She looks around the room and sees many other gorgeous dolls in the glass cabinets in the corner of the room.
“This is amazing.”_Andrea turns to Celes. “Did you make all these?”
“No. Only some of them.”_Celes goes to the glass cabinet and point at a porcelain doll. This one I made. But this one…”_She moves her finger to the doll on the left. “My mother made this one.”
“So beautiful…Now I know where you got all the talent from.”
“Thank you.”_Celes smiles. “You can look around as much as you want, but don’t touch anything.”
As for Aylio, the moment he stepped into the house, he has already felt something is not right. When he saw Celes’s workshop, he knew that his feeling wasn’t wrong. There is something very familiar about this house, about all the dolls in the cabinet. He knows that this is not the first time he sees them. But his memory doesn’t give him any answers. Aylio silently leaves the workshop and proceeds downstairs. To the left of the stairs, there is a room that leaves open. Curiosity makes Aylio enters the room without knowing that is Celes’s room. It’s just a normal room with simple decorating, but what catches Aylio’s attention is a small picture of Celes’s family on the desk next to the bed. Aylio picks it up to have a closer look. Celes’s face looks exactly like her mother and her hair color is from her father. But somehow, the picture looks a bit unrealistic to Aylio, since her mother’s eyes look like they have been tampered with. Celes’s eyes look at they’re now, stiff and emotionless. Aylio carefully puts the picture down when he has done observing. He turns around and tends to leave the room, but Celes is standing right at the door with her back against the wall as if she was waiting for him to finish looking at the picture. Aylio feels a chill run down his spine when his eyes meet Celes’s cold ones. It looks as if she is looking through his mind.
“So did you find any interesting things in my room?”_Celes asks, still keeping eye contact.
“I’m very sorry for entering your room without your permission.”_Aylio bows.
“Is there something about my house that bothers you?”_Celes slowly approaches Aylio.
“Oh no, it’s just…”
“Don’t lie to me.”_Celes stops when she just about a meter apart from Aylio. “The time you came here to pick me to the elder’s house, you did ask if I rent this house or not. You thought that I wasn’t the owner of this house. Tell me, what was in your mind back then? Why did you ask me if I rent this house?”
“Chroma-san…”_Aylio fells a little puzzled seeing Celes’s sharp eyes glaring at him. “Please don’t be so mad. I’m sorry for those strange questions. I was just…I didn’t know that you were born here so I thought you rent that house from people in town.”
“Really then?”_Celes narrows her eyes.
Knowing that Celes isn’t convinced with his answer, Aylio quickly thinks of something else to distract her. Notice that Andrea is not with Celes, Aylio immediately asks about it.
“Where is my mistress, Chroma-san?”
“She is downstairs. I told her that I want her to stay for dinner and she insisted on making it, no matter when I said that I would do it myself since you two are my guests.”_Celes answers emotionlessly, her eyes still at Aylio.”
“Thank you. I will go to her place right now. Please excuses me.”
Celes watches Aylio leaves the room. When he’s gone, she turns her gaze to the family picture on the desk. Celes knows that Aylio is hiding something when looking into his eyes, something relates to this house. All of sudden, she feels the need to get all the information she can about Aylio as fast as possible. Celes takes out her phone from the pocket and dials Azure’s number.
“So how is your using people plan going?”_Azure greets Celes with a teasing manner.
“I need you to find me as much information as possible about a guy named Aylio Hylvester. He is currently the bodyguard of Andrea Wilson, Cassandra’s grandchildren.”
“Did I miss something?”
“I will explain later. Right now just please help me with that.”
And with that, Celes hangs up the phone. She puts in back into her pocket and proceeds downstairs where Andrea and Aylio are.
_ _ _ _ _
Having a walk in the evening along the street is what Celes likes the most. In Coventry, there is a long walking street that just a few meters away from Celes’s house. When she was young, Celes and her mother took a walk along this street nearly every evening. Her mother said that this street always made she felt better, and Celes thinks that is true. There is something about this place that Celes finds familiar with but she just can’t remember what it is. But that doesn’t bother her much, because she just wants to relax for now. After that, she will finish her doll by tonight. With that thought in mind, Celes continues on her jogging, until she sees the elder’s house through the mass of trees, she suddenly stops.
“Are you the Maiden of the incoming festival?”
“W-What? I…How do you know, Chroma-san?”
In the afternoon, after the meal, Celes and Andrea washed the dishes together. While they were at it, Celes notice a platinum ring on Andrea’s ring finger on her left hand. The ring was identical to Aylio’s, as she remembered since she has observed him carefully after the thing happened in her room. Those rings only mean one thing…
“You and your guardian are engaged. This is the tradition of the town, which the Maiden and her guardian will eventually marry each other, am I right?”
And at that time, Celes has vaguely understood why the elder asked her to make the doll.
“You do not seem so happy about it…”
“I am happy. I really like him…”
“…He does not have the same feeling toward you, does he?”
If there is one thing Celes takes pride in, it would be her ability to read people’s emotion through their eyes. Even when she was little, she could always tell if people were lying to her or not, and for Celes, that’s a blessing of live. Thanks to this skill, hardly anyone could fool her. But then again, she knows that even her ability has a limit, so she always has to be very careful about her surroundings.
The conversation between her and Andrea wouldn’t have left much concern for Celes until Andrea said that last line…
“It always seems like he is looking for someone in his mind…”
Why did that sentence give Celes a chill…?
Shaking those thoughts of her mind, Celes goes back home and finishes the doll. Now, she just wants a decent sleep and then wakes up to a beautiful morning tomorrow…
_ _ _ _ _
Celes shifts her body under the cozy blanket. She ignores the sound since she thinks that it’s just the wind. Celes clings to her blanket and slowly falling asleep again, until a series of broken glass noise reaches her ears.
Celes immediately wakes up and looks around. She tries to focus to hear where the noise comes from. It seems to be from her workshop. Celes walks to the door and opens it. But at the moment Celes takes a step outside, she feels something soft on her nose, and the dimming light of the moon is the last thing she could remember before fainting into darkness…