So in order to get to know my characters a bit better for the “dating sim” game I’m working on writing, I’ve been taking scenes that could potentially happen much later in the game, and just writing them out full story style. A lot of these are pretty far into the romance line of the route, so they lead to…perhaps predictable circumstances, but I’m particularly pleased with this part, so I’d like to share it.
The backstory, for those who don’t remember from the last post I made: there is a city on a hill. There is a wall around it. The wealthy live within, the poorer without. Art is considered a pastime of the wealthy, and those outside the wall found doing anything related to Art are punished. Severely. There is a lottery to win a place within the wall, but its actual success rate is…uncertain, and no one really hears from anyone who’s gone within. Our main character (written as MC in the story, since the name will be customizable) has been sold in secret to a family on the hill, so that she can pursue the Art she believes she has. Ravi, the love interest in this route, is the second son of the Minett family–the ones who bought MC. He’s rather flashy, narcissistic, incredibly flirty. (Think kinda like Tamaki from Ouran HS Host Club.)
We find our heroes outside, at night.
“Would you believe me if I told you I’d never been in love?”
We were sitting outside in the garden, a blanket under us and a starry sky above. I tilted my head back to look at him, but he was staring straight ahead, his eyes staring blankly into the night.”
He shook his head. “I know. Surprising, hm?” He looked a bit aside at me. “But for all my grandeur, for all my wild gestures and far-flung ideas…no, I’ve never truly been in love. I…don’t think I allowed it of myself.”
“Why?” I turned so I could look at him more straight on.
“Mmm. Being the second son, I knew I had some kind of path laid out for me, and it simply never seemed wise to grow attached. My life could turn on the point of a needle at any moment. I think all three of us boys of the family thought that way. As for Kana…I doubt she ever had any beliefs she’d be able to choose for herself. But she seems to have taken to the idea more than us. I envy her calm on the matter.”
“But even if you couldn’t be with someone…you never felt that?”
He shook his head. “On the hill…particularly as high on the hill as we are, women do not come to me, to Torin or Dario…they don’t come for us. They come for our name. They want to be a Minett; they don’t want to be our wives, our lovers. And I could see that in them. I think…perhaps that’s why I grew the way I did. It was enjoyable, in a perverse sort of way, to see these women fall over themselves to get my attention…and then never make another step toward them. I’ve often been accused of being unfair, of being rude. But I never gave those women any solid reason to believe that I truly cared for them. There was one…one lady, who I believed could have actually loved me.”
There was a twinge in my chest, but I fought to keep it down. “Oh?”
Apparently, I was still too transparent, because he looked down at me with a chuckle and pressed a kiss to my forehead. “Don’t be jealous, sweet one. This is many years ago, and she is long gone. She was a girl from your side of the wall, brought over in the lottery to be an Artist. I saw her in a marketplace once, selling her wares–she was a weaver, and a very talented one at that. I believe I bought a scarf from her, a fine woven silk scarf, one I still wear today. And when I asked her for the price, she just smiled at me and said, ‘Lord Minett, you could name any price you care, and it will be more than sufficient.’ I’d never heard someone say something like that before. I was so startled, I’m sure I paid twice what the scarf was worth. But I kept going back…some times I’d buy something, others I wouldn’t. But we’d talk, which wasn’t something I often got in conversation with my peers. Not real talking, about life and what we think, just inane things about business and money. But Alara…she had opinions about the world. About the wall and the hill, and the way we were living in this society. It was fascinating.”
I could still feel the dagger in my heart, twisting as I saw the fond look on his face as he spoke about the merchant Artist. Yes, he said that it was nothing, but…still… “What happened to her?”
His expression clouded, his smile fading. “No one is entirely certain. But one day she was in the market, and the next she was not. It’s not uncommon among far-wall Artists, as much as I hate to say it. But there are those on the hill who grow jealous, and do not believe that others from beyond the wall have a place in our society. And they take it upon themselves to cleanse the hill.”
My eyes widened. “You think she was killed?”
“I am nearly certain. And no one spoke of her again, which shows you how common it is. She vanished, and no one questioned. I like to believe that perhaps she ran away with someone, made her way out before she was caught…but I don’t know. But her…she was a different story. I never really thought of her romantically, but as time went on I began to suspect if she might have feelings for me. In some ways…I’m glad I never had to break her heart.”
I didn’t know what to say. I simply curled up against him, trying to will him my comfort, my affection…and if I dared to think it, my love. “I’m sorry, Ravi.”
“Mm? Oh no, don’t be sorry, sweet one.” He put his arms around me, pulling me close to his chest. “This was many years ago, when I was still young. It’s sad to think of now, but the pain has lessened. Besides, had I pursued Alara, I would not be here with you, now would I?” I felt him press a kiss to my hair.
“Is it comparable?” My voice was low, really more to myself than to him, but he heard me nonetheless.
“Comparable?” He pulled back enough so that he could look me in the eyes. “My beloved, of course it is not comparable. As I told you, I’ve never truly been in love before.” He brushed his thumb against my cheek. “But that was before, and this is now, and I have never been more sure of to whom my heart belongs.”
My whole body felt numb for a moment. He…did he truly…? There was a piece of me that had always assumed that all of our banter, all of the flirting, the kisses to my hands and cheeks were all just a show. That perhaps he cared for me, but never that he was truly devoted to me. He was a member of the family, and someone as devastatingly handsome as him…there was no way that he’d ever give his heart, himself to me. “Ravi…?”
“MC, what did you think I felt for you? Did you truly count yourself among everyone else who’s passed my gaze?” When I didn’t answer, he gave a soft sigh. “My lovely sweet one, you have never been among the others. From the moment I met you, you have been different. You are a beacon of light in this house, and I only pray that you don’t wake up and find you could seek out someone better than I.”
I spun in his grasp, shaking my head vehemently. “Ravi, no! If anything, I’m the one dreaming. That someone as talented and handsome as you…a son of the hill, a Master Artist…? How could I have even dreamed that you would look at me twice in any special way? I’m nothing. I’m a runaway from the far side of the wall, barely an apprentice Artist, completely plain looking…”
Whatever else I could have said, he cut off with a finger to my lips. “My sweet one, hush. Though hearing that stream of compliments from you is certainly boosting my ego.” I felt my cheeks burn, and he gave me a wide smile. “I am truly honored that you think those things of me. But my darling…all that you said of yourself is entirely false. Yes, you came from the far side of the wall, but what of it? Some of the most talented Artists once lived where you did. Yes, you are a fledgling Artist–but we all start from somewhere. I have only held the achievement of being a Master Artist for less than a year, and you are learning my craft far faster than I did. The way you make words sing…any Artist would be jealous. And as for plain looking…” He moved his hand to cup my cheek, and his grin softened to a sweet smile. “You are one of the most beautiful women I have ever met, and I say that knowing both my mother and sister, and most every other lady of the hill.”
My face could not have burned brighter. “You’re just saying that.”
“On my honor as a Minett and a Master Artist, I swear to you that I am not.” There was something so sad in his eyes as he brushed a lock of hair away from my face. “Do you truly not see how lovely you are? Who has taught you to believe you are plain?” I couldn’t answer him. I didn’t know how to tell him that it was a little bit of everyone. All the people I’d known at home, each boy I’d met at school…no one ever looked at me twice. I was invisible. So I simply believed that I wasn’t as pretty as the other girls. It didn’t matter to me; I didn’t mind. I would be happy regardless. But once I’d come to the hill and seen everyone here…there was no way I could believe I would even come close to their levels of beauty. I was a commoner, through and through. No amount of pretty dresses and rouge could change that.
“I…” I couldn’t, even when I tried.
“Love, whoever taught you that was wrong.” Both hands cupped my face, keeping my eyes on him. “You are truly beautiful, and in a way most of the women on the hill are not. Yes, they look lovely on the outside, but they are hollow and brittle in their hearts. But you…you, my beloved one, are so beautiful in your heart that it shines through onto your skin and blazes out into the world around you, because you cannot hold it all in.” I tried to look away, but he wouldn’t let me. His voice softened, into almost a whisper. “You, my love, are so beautiful to me that even a master poet cannot find the words to tell you.” And at that, even in the dark, I could see a faint blush across his cheeks, and my stomach flipped.
“You…truly mean that.” I could barely speak.
“Yes.” His breath was a whisper against my skin. “Shall I show you?”