reading what you need me to be
The door opened with its usual creak and Slaine quickly turned the chessboard over. He noticed a recurring pattern over all the times he's faced off against Inaho - whoever made the first move, won. If Inaho had his way, he'd always be the one sitting behind the whites. Unfortunately for him, Slaine was now more his previous self than during Inaho's first few visits, and since he was always brought to the visiting room before Inaho, it only made sense for him to stack up his odds before the other boy arrived.
"Kaizuka," he said, without glancing up and malice. "Your mo-"
His words were stopped short as he angled his face upwards, expecting impassive intelligence but receiving blonde hair and pale skin and eyes too round and too big and still too innocent, hands clasped tightly in front of her as if there was even a sliver of chance Slaine wouldn't forgive her, worry twisted on her lips as if there was anything she could do to make Slaine despise her.
"Slaine," she murmured. For a second, she looked like she was going to settle into the seat Inaho had always occupied, but there was a short shuffling of feet before that idea was disregarded. Normally, Slaine would take that as a cue to invite her to sit, but his mind was too busy trying to wrap itself around Asseylum's presence in his tiny, cramped world where there should only be Inaho and him and-
He took a deep breath, tried calming himself. It wasn't enough.
He replied by saying her name with the same wonder he always reserved just for her, before correcting Princess to Empress and thinking, at the back of his mind, of how long it's been since.
A smile crept up along the edges of his lips as he realized that change of address would take time to get used to, but he wouldn't mind adjusting and adapting, not at all, because that would mean the only person he wanted visiting him actually visiting on a regular basis.
She didn't end up taking a seat. That was just as well, if not better, since she was approaching him instead - going over to his side as Slaine realized quite numbly that this wasn't a line even Kaizuka Inaho has crossed in all his visits - before bending down and gathering him in her arms, all limp limbs.
I can die happy, Slaine thought, eyes still wide, still wondrous, still under the magical spell of a certain girl, one and only.
"Slaine," she repeated, and he couldn't comprehend why she was crying for him; wetness seeping into the shoulder of his shirt. "I've missed you."
And what else could Slaine do but repeat himself as well?
I can die happy. I can die happy.
Asseylum exited the cell and gave a polite nod, a polite smile - the whole package - to the guard outside. He returned the formality with a deep bow.
It wasn't until she was out of his sight that the hologram slowly faded to reveal hair of a different shade, a shorter length, hardened eyes, and lips that were not full with flesh, but with concern. At least that was one thing she didn't have to fake.
"Princess," the man waiting outside greeted respectfully as she dimly wondered whether he was here to protect her, or the world, from her. She hadn't given much thought to Harklight before - it wasn't a mystery where he ended up after she last saw his back turned against her - but, looking at this man, taking him in, she suddenly felt a pang of something that felt ridiculously similar to longing.
She missed a lot of things. A boy offering empty smiles she'd trade for the world, or her heart, which was the only thing that was truly hers anyway, was one. The same boy pushing her down a deserted hallway as she looked out and pretended the fireworks outside were celebrating another kind of walk down an aisle, was another.
The boy and time and world Harklight's existence represented? Yes. That, most of all.