"It's real pretty, isn't it?"
Melanie stood at the end of a pier, the cool winds pelting her face refreshingly. There were sounds of activity everywhere. To the her right now, though, they were a distant thing.
Her mother would have loved it here. The thought brought a sense of longing for that now rarely-seen mother of her's. Since the first few months of their employment to the Greybornes they had gradually grown apart.
Not emotionally but physically. Melanie, from the moment she entered his employment, became Lyle's personal servant--a rather high position she in no way deserved back in those days--while Lady Greyborne had taken a liking to her mother.
In fact her mother had recently become the Head Maid within the Greyborne Estate, amazingly. This meant she was always pretty busy. They usually kept in touch by letter but it wasn't the same as seeing each other in person. Not that it was all bad. Melanie, too, kept herself busy.
She just wished her mother could be with her to share this moment...or maybe not, considering this was a date.
Melanie turned her attention away from this line of thought and instead went back to enjoying the view.
A large pool of water as far as the eye can see, birds flying in the sky above them, the ships that came and went without pause.
Everything was so new and exciting that she wanted to just jump right in and explore the deep, cerulean blue waters till the last light of the sun faded away.
And yet at the same time Melanie also felt inexplicably peaceful here despite the noise.
She loved water ever since she was a kid. The feel of it, the beauty in the way light reflected off it's ever-changing surface.
And especially the creatures that lay within the depths of the oceans. Even though she'd only ever seen pictures of them in the books that her mother had at times brought home to her.
On some occassions mother would take her to a nearby river just outside the city, a popular spot for kids of Melanie's age at the time.
And she'd still be thrilled days later, a goofy grin on her face as she stared at some trinket she'd found.
Those were her happiest memories. Just her and her mother and the lukewarm river that had seemed to stretch on for eternity.
Once upon a time she even dreamed of being a sailor. A captain. Riding her own ship across the seas and discovering new creatures or place.
But those were merely the fantasies of a child. Still, though she grew out of it she did always feel a sort of longing inside her even now.
"I really like it here."
Lyle, standing next to her, nodded. "Thought you might." He took her hand. "Well don't just stand there. Get on."
"The boat. Get on." He pointed. It was a small vessel but it was more than enough for three or four people to squeeze into, let alone just the two of them.
The thing swayed with each gentle wave, constantly in motion.
She went bug-eyed."We can't just steal it!" She yelled. Melanie fidgeted, uneasy at the prospect.
Lyle, of course, had an answer to that. "We won't be." He assured her. "While you were admiring the view I took the liberty of renting it out for the day. It's fine."
"Oh." Melanie calmed down instantly. " You didn't have to do that."
"I wanted to. And I understand you do, too. Didn't you always like the ocean?"
"Well, yes. " She stilled. "Wait, how do you know about that?"
"I used to see you reading books about marine biology in the library, remember? Not hard to piece together."
Hm? Strange. His words just now indicated that he'd actually taken note of her interests even back then.
Strange, really strange! He might be expected to do that now, but why would he have bothered back in those days? They barely knew each other at that point.
"I pay attention to you. It is something so surprising?"
Really, how did he do that? Could he really read her mind? No, impossible, right? If he could she might as well kill herself right now.
She thought this because in more recent days her thoughts towards him were somewhat inappropriate.
That is to say, she would blush fiercly from time to time due these "thoughts" and feel guilty for even having them. If he could really know what was on her mind so easily then how could she continue to live in this world?!
But it was weird too. That question, it made her feel funny. Like, nice.
It took her a moment to organize her thoughts.
"It honestly kinda is." She admitted. "I'm not the most interesting of people."
"I disagree. You're a very fascinating creature, Melanie. In multiple ways."
Melanie didn't think it was so but didn't bother trying to refute him.
As always he easily saw through her. "Don't trust me on that, huh."
Melanie smiled weakly. "I mean how 'fascinating' can a person like me be? I'm just--"
"If you say just a maid or servant, I'll hit you." Lyle announced. "A person's occupation has nothing to do with how interesting they are."
Lyle knew high-ranking Nobles who were more boring to talk to than a pile of stones.
Melanie wasn't sure how to feel about this conversation. "I really don't see what it is about me that grabs your attention."
"A lot of things."
"What do you mean, a lot? I don't think you can really come up with all that many good points where I'm concerned."
Lyle was disdainful of her words. "Hmph, you doubt me? How naive. If I say I can, then I can. I happen to know quite a bit about you. Whether they are your good points or bad, I know them all!"
Melanie laughed at how excited he got over something as trivial as this. "Is that so?"
He crossed his arms, the very picture of arrogance as he said, "It is."
Melanie didn't want to start an arguement so she just nodded. "Yes, yes, the Young Master knows me well." She placated. Then something slipped out of her mouth, a single sentence that slid past her lips without her realization. "I know you a lot more than you do me though."
And that was it.
Just like that Melanie knew she had awoken his competitive spirit.
"I sense a challenge in those words. Care to try backing up that claim?"
That smuggness on his face was perfectly designed to get on her nerves. And Melanie wasn't one to back down from a challenge she knew she would win.
Heh, it was her job to know him. There was no way she could lose.
Melanie promptly decided to follow up on his provocation.
"Care to follow up on yours?" She shot back.
He showed no sign of doubt. "Ladies first." Melanie had no objection.
"What's my favorite food?" She asked, sounding a little arrogant now too. Lyle must be rubbing off on her.
"Rice boiled in heavy cream and honey, topped with nutmeg. Your mother used to make it for you."
...Huh? Melanie was confused. Just when did he learn that little tidbit?
No matter. Next question!
"Am I a dog person or cat person?"
"Trick question." He sounded bored. " You don't really favor either. Cats have razorblades on their paws and dogs have bad breath. Weird you don't like them since you love bears so much. Way more dangerous."
She was stunned. He wasn't wrong but how did he even know?
Her confidence shook.
He gave her a droll stare. "You have the muscle mass of a twelve year old." Was all he said.
It would have been acceptable if he'd left it at that but then he had the nerve to poke at her noodle-like arm just to illustrate his point!
Okay, so maybe he wasn't wrong but he didn't have to make her seem so out of shape! Ah, but no, she kinda was...
Melanie decided to play a bit dirty.
"Beauty mark, where?"
She was inwardly gloating. No way he'd be able to answer that. Melanie wore a smile that was as smug as Lyle's own.
It was smashed to pieces a moment later when he said, quite casually, "Left breast, just underneath. You also have another near the small of your back, in case you didn't know. Right side, a little above your hip."
Melanie fell into a horrified silence.
How the hell did he know that! Impossible, this was just luck, luck I tell you! Although he did do those things...but that wouldn't be enough, right? I wasn't even fully naked back then!
Then she thought: Wait, I have another one too?
Melanie had no idea! She was dubious about that statement though and had a strong urge to check herself. But how could she do something like that with him around?
She decided to take a look later.
It continued like this for some time. Melanie shot off question after question and, to her continuous surprise, he answered each one with utter perfection.
She became more embarrassed with every reply. They weren't casual questions, you know!
Even she wasn't entirely sure about the answers to some of them! But when he spoke the answer aloud she realized he was right! Dammit, he knew more about her than she did herself!
Melanie was struck dumb by the end of it. She held her face in her hands and begged him to stop. If he continued she didn't think she could live anymore!
Melanie was convinced of it now. This guy...was definitely a mind-reader! A psychic! There was no other explanation!
Oh...oh gods...he knew...he knew everything...this couldn't be happening, she didn't accept it!
All those weird thoughts, doesn't this mean that he...that he...
No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, please gods, please, please, please! Anything, anything but that!
Melanie's brain was having a meltdown.
"Ah, I broke her." Lyle watched her mental crisis as if it were some kind of show for his viewing pleasure.
He continued to look for a few more moments. Then when she'd all but decided to throw herself into the water he finally took action and said, "You do know I can't actually read your mind, right?"
You aren't helping at alllllll!!!!!!
"Then how did you know I was thinking that, huh?!" A woeful cry.
"What do you mean, how? It's written all over your face."
Is that really it, she wondered with heavy doubt.
"Pretty much, yeah." He shrugged.
His lips formed an arc. "Plus you sometimes think out loud."
Melanie hurriedly closed her mouth tight, sealing it shut.
"So?" He asked. "Have I proven myself or should we go on? I don't think I've told you what color panties you're wearing yet. That could be fun."
Melanie was thoroughly scandalized. He probably could tell her! They're just pink, okay? Okay?! Normal! There was no reason to say anything about them at all!
What made it a hundred times worse was that they both knew Melanie had to be wearing a pair that he'd bought her. None of this was fair at all!
She gulped, her throat feeling dry.
"Young Master," She whispered quiveringly. "Is terrifying."
Paying attention, huh. Was that really all it was?
Melanie glanced sideways at him, still suspicious. She was extremely skeptical of this excuse. There were limits to just paying attention, weren't there? Melanie didn't think her face was that expressive either...or that she said things out loud so often.
How observant had he actually been? He knew so much, no way could it be only that!
Melanie now recalled the instances they'd been together in the same room and thought about those golden eyes of his just roaming along her body, drinking in every little detail.
The idea of him quietly watching her to such a degree all this time made her skin grow taut.
She'd never been aware of it before but she now realized even something like that... could be unexpectedly stimulating.
Again, as if knowing her mind, Lyle's eyes suddenly lit up from the inside. It made Melanie wish she were a turtle so that she could shrink into herself and hide.
If he said anything right now she'd die! Just die!
After seeing her miserable, terrified face Lyle wisely decided to hold himself back. But he still couldn't resist patting her head and letting out a doting smile.
Ugh, this guy, treating her like a kid again.
She raised her fists and pounded on his chest in a fit of anger. Unfortunately the move didn't effect him at all.
It was like a baby kitten swiping at a lion. Adorably arrogant in effort but ultimately useless.
He even laughed at her attempts, her smaller frame appearing very cute as it tried and failed to cause him any harm.
Melanie gave him a dirty look. If she wasn't so tired from lack of sleep she wouldn't be humiliated like this! He just caught her on an off day is all.
But any other time she would definitely, definitely, definitely be able to teach him a lesson or two! Probably.
"Scoundrel." She muttered, feeling aggrieved.
Lyle was extremely tempted to change his mind and continue teasing her but forced the urge down after monumentous inner struggle.
They'd been standing there for a good few minutes already.
"Guess it's your turn, Melanie."
Melanie snickered. "Your mistake, Young Master. I admit you know a thing or two about, but do you think my knowledge of you would be any less after all time?"
Lyle shot off a series of questions without hesitation and Melanie found herself struggling to answer them.
It was quickly discovered that out of every five questions only four would be right.
It was a far cry from Lyle's own perfect score.
Melanie berated herself.
Stupid girl, what was with that confidence from before, huh? It's your job to know him, isn't it?! So why the heck does the Master know more about the servant than the servant does the Master?!
Isn't that just too ridiculous?!
Failure, what a failure!
But while she was thinking this Lyle's thoughts were entirely different.
As expect, Melanie knew him very well. He was impressed.
"So are you going to get on, or do I need to carry you in myself?"
Melanie stiffened abruptly at this. "N-No, I got it! I'm going! "
Carry her? Her, a grown woman? Hmph, Melanie had at least some pride. No way would she allow something so shameful to happen, it was just a few steps afterall! And a drop. A drop onto an unstable surface, floating above deep icy waters, with who knew what laying beneath.
Melanie thought about his question again and knew that he would probably do it. Although secretly finding the idea a bit attractive Melanie wouldn't survive that kind of contact with him right now.
The directions her mind had been wandering in this past week made her very cautious. Melanie had always been prone to daydreaming, and recently these daydreams were just downright shameful for a person who had up to now been completely oblivious to matters regarding the opposite sex.
This is why she was so scared of his supposed(and yet to be entirely disproven) prowess in mind-reading.
It drove her crazy. She couldn't let her guard down without the fear that he'd somehow hear her inner thoughts
And of course she blamed him, this hateful guy, for all of it. Doing this and that to her, making her...feel things.
She'd never been like this before. Her blessed ignorance, where did it go? It was him, right, he was the one who snatched it away from her!
Honestly, this scoundrel...
Melanie put these kinds of thoughts on hold and crouched down to tentatively place one foot inside the wobbling boat.
Her heart seemed to rise up into her throat as she felt the thing give under her weight.
She tripped and fell forward disgracefully.
"Don't worry, I got you." Thankfully Lyle had already gotten in and grabbed onto her.
She cast her eyes towards the now seemingly dark waters. They appeared quite ominous for a moment there. She couldn't fathom why she'd always loved the water. Right now it just looked like a deathtrap.
The most attractive of things usually hid the greatest of dangers, it was indeed so.
As she came to this realization her eyes were inexplicably drawn towards Lyle's face.
"What is it?"
"Nothing, nothing." Melanie coughed.
Yes. Dangerous in many ways.
She changed the topic."I would not have survived a single day as a sailor." She grumbled at him. Melanie only now understood how foolish her childhood fantasies were.
"I think you'd have managed just swell." Lyle patted her back. "Even Iris threw up when she first got on a boat."
"Really?" She didn't quite believe it. Lady Iris was a strong young girl, it was hard to imagine. That one was just like Lyle, able to do anything if she just set her mind to it.
He nodded, undoing the rope that held the boat in place. "Motion sickness had her bed-ridden for a full two days. Had to stay with her constantly."
These words replaced her disbelief with a certain conviction.
Melanie came to some sort of understanding
Clever girl. I should remember that, maybe.
Melanie blinked. What am I even thinking? Something like that, too underhanded!
She didn't know, however, that for once Iris had not been as calculating as Melanie believed.
Melanie was silent for a moment, then."I guess that does make me feel a bit better then."
She didn't believe that particular tale but instead there was another reason she gave a positive response
It was that Lyle, apparently, had faith in her future sea-legs. When the Young Master believed in something Melanie tended to believe in it too.
"I'm glad it does. Don't worry, we'll make a sailor out of you yet."
They could have been empty words but just him saying it still put a smile on her face.
Her confidence soared.
Lyle sat back and allowed the gentle waves to row them across the water in a steady, tranquil rhythm.
Another few weeks and the water might start to freeze. During winter not many ships would remain docked since the fluctuating water temperatures can cause damage to the hull.
Any ship docked would be under threat of ice, not having the protection of open water.
It was good they got here before that.
Lyle sent his consciousness into the little Blackbox inside his coat. A moment later two mugs and a large leather flask appeared in his hands.
Truly a convenient item.
"Hot chocolate." He poured her a glass and held it up to her enticingly. "Want some?"
"Oh gods, yes." Her hands were freezing and the delicious warm drink was the perfect thing to combat the cold.
He handed it over carefully.
While she drank she glanced at him sneakily through her lashes, occasionally peering up to study him every now and then.
She couldn't help it. The sun was high and the thick clouds had parted ways just enough to allow soft rays to shine down over his head.
It usually wouldn't have been a very special thing but what made it so was the fact that the light bathed his figure alone. For miles all around everything else was a pale grey, yet for some reason it was just him who enjoyed the sun's radiance.
This luminous pillar of light seemed to have been made for him alone, giving the young man an almost angelic appearance.
Beautiful, she thought to herself.
That was the only way to describe it.
She had always thought so before, but the world really did seem to favor him.
Who could say it did not? It'd blessed him in so many ways, given him so much, all without wanting to take a single thing in return.
It was enough to make anyone envious.
He inspired sin in others just by being who he was. In various ways.
It was then that, as if sensing her attention, he turned his head towards her. He didn't say anything, he just calmly stared back without the slightest of ripples clouding his eyes.
A slow, ambiguous smile began to form on his lips at they locked gazes.
Something flickered deep in those eyes of his, something low and smouldering and dangerous.
...Hah. Did she say angelic? More like a devil.
She was trapped, unable to look away.
Melanie felt her throat dry and her legs tremble.
A pleasant warmth gradually welled up within her, causing her breath to hitch.
But then she blinked and broke eye contact, momentarily freed. For a small, blissful second the rising heat halted itself.
Melanie looked away immediately with reddened ears.
She could feel him continuing to look at her, however, and swallowed hard.
Fearing the direction things would go in if it continued like this Melanie scoured her brain trying to think of a way to stop this discomforting silence.
Finally inspiration struck her and she bought up a question she's long since held.
"So how does that even work?"
"How does what work?"
"That. The...Blackbox thing. How do you take things out?"
Melanie had seen him use it before but couldn't figure out how it was done. The short answer was, of course, magic. Still, there had to be something more to it.
"It's nothing special, really." He lifted the cup to his lips, the drink hot to the touch. "You just concentrate."
"Concentrate?" Her nose wrinkled, not satisfied with the answer.
"Pretty much. You never used one?"
"No. I mean how could I in the first place?"
"Mm. Right." Lyle thought that was reasonable. Adventurers used Iceboxes and Spacial Bags--another product of magic that was, strangely enough, exclusive to the Adventurers Guild--but they weren't all that common.
Regular folk had other means to keep things cool or hot, they didn't have the luxury of objects like his Blackbox.
He assumed she used one a time or time since she'd been in his employment, but apparently she hadn't.
She wouldn't have need to use them back at the estate. A fair amount of the supplies they brought with them were just stored in packs too. If they needed something he was the one to bring them out.
Maybe she used an Icebox before but it wasn't the same at all.
"To put it simply, you just have to focus on what you want. As long as you know what that something is and have it stored within, you can take it out. Some with putting something in, except you have to be touching it before you can store it."
There were exceptions to this--like if you took someone else's and didn't know the contents--but he wouldn't get into that.
"And what do you mean by concentrate? Is it tiring?"
"You could say that." He looked at the distant ships. "When dealing with spacial artifacts the rule of thumb is that the higher the level the harder it is to use. It takes a strong will to command the power they hold, it's not something most folk can do. It wears on you. "
"So how hard is it to use what you have?"
Interesting question, that. Honestly he never thought of it too much.
"Well I 'd say about five times harder compared to an Icebox." He answered. " For those most anyone can use it and not feel a thing, you don't even really have to know what's inside. You can just open it. They're just coolers, simply a bit smaller and with very minor enchantments." Lyle lectured. "That aside, your will isn't something you can easily train. What's more it can fluctuate between weak and strong depending on your state of mind. That's another reason why what I have isn't too common, apart from being just that much more expensive."
Blackboxes were taxing on a person's will. The magic they were comprised of was wild and fought you at every corner. Just being bonded to one drained you somewhat even if you didn't use them, or even if you were thousands of miles apart.
Not only that but the number of things you stored was also a factor, unfortunately.
Lyle was bonded to dozens.
As for why, he never knew. It was his father who made him go through this ever constant drainage. Although given the strength of his Bathory clan bloodline he felt he could guess why. It was preparation.
"Sounds complicated." Melanie took a drink, feeling all warm on the inside as it slid past her lips. Or it could have been the lingering effects of that strange fire she'd felt earlier, but she didn't dwell on it enough to try figuring it out.
She was just happy that the previously strange atmosphere was gone.
Although maybe it was only her who had felt it in the first place. She hoped not, otherwise she'd have to admit it was just her being overly conscious of him.
"It can be, yeah." Certainly not a simple topic, to be sure. In some ways it delved deep into several forms of magical theory that he was ill-equiped to discuss with any authority. "So let's just stop here. Instead why don't we take the opportunity to talk about you?"
"Me?" When Melanie heard that she nearly sprayed her hot chocolate all over him. Luckily she swallowed it down quickly.
"Who else but you? Do you think I was talking to the birds?"
"But why?" She wiggled about uneasily, then froze in terror as she felt the boat tilt a bit more than she liked. "I don't think there's anything too interesting to talk about where I'm concerned."
"I disagree." Lyle stated strongly. "I happen to think you're very interesting."
"In what way?"
"All of them." His eyes coasted along her body. "Every single curve, line and edge."
Melanie once again became acutely aware of his gaze and had a renewed fit of coughs. She choked on her drink.
"W-What!" She exclaimed loudly.
"Hmm? What's wrong?" He asked in response.
Melanie stared at him as if he'd grown another head. "You can't just say something like that to a woman, it's cheating!"
"Cheating?" Now he was well and truly confused. No, was he? He could have been acting, she didn't know. "In what way?"
"All of them." She threw the words back at him. "Honestly, you just..." Melanie sighed tiredly.
Always saying lines like that, how exactly was that not playing dirty? Did he really not notice what effect his words had? Was he that dense or was it just the way he was?
...No, he wasn't dense. She knew that. No one as perceptive as him could ever be called such. The guy could ignore some things when it was convenient to him but he could never be accused of being ignorant of other's thoughts or feelings.
The problem, she concluded, lied in how he was raised.
He just didn't give any thought to saying things like that, to him it was probably all normal!
"What's the point in playing fair? This is so much more fun."
...So he was acting!
The conversation went in a similar fashion for some time. They talked easily back and forth, Lyle being the one to hound Melanie with all sorts of questions this time around.
Even a few things she didn't want to talk about, somehow, were all brought out into the open. It was truly a strange thing, he had a way of getting you to speak. Every time she tried to dodge a certain topic he'd just rope her back into it the next instant and she answered him before she could even think to stop herself!
It was very irritating and yet weirdly relieving at the same time. Melanie felt a few pounds lighter when all was said and done.
The day crept along slowly but she didn't notice any of it. She was only aware of a faint sense of comfort that had snuck up on her.
It was so serene, so peaceful, that time became irrelevant.
Being here now, in this place with him, drifting along on calm waters, it felt almost magical.
Here they were conversing, connecting, growing just a little closer with every precious, passing moment.
There was no one to interrupt them, no one to come between them. For perhaps the first time since they met it truly was just the two of them, alone together.
And it was wonderful.
"Close your eyes."
When a lull in the conversation finally appeared Lyle seized the opportunity.
Melanie heard the rustling of his clothes and a moment later she felt him grab one of her hands, placing something cool on her palm.
"Alright, go ahead and open them."
Melanie did so--and gasped.
Because in her hand was a small, delicate piece of art.
With eyes of cobalt blue and a silver body, a beautiful rabbit-shaped pendant could be seen.
"It's so pretty." She whispered, marveling at the soft curves of it's design. "When did you...?"
"I saw it when I was out for a stroll the other day and instantly thought about you." Lyle explained with an off-handedness that was entirely untrue.
The fact of the matter was that after he left Isaac Lyle had actually looked long and hard before finally finding a gift he was satisfied with.
He put a considerable amount of time, effort and thought into searching for something suitable for the occasion.
This was also part of the reason he was so tired last night. He'd walked throughout the city ceaselessly until Lady Luck deigned to give him a helping hand: He very nearly missed this particular treasure.
Or course it didn't help that he constantly worried over Mei's precarious situation.
Hell, if he wasn't in a special circumstance himself he may have even had half a mind to make a trip to her personally. Lyle never felt right remaining on the sidelines like this when people he cared for were in trouble.
And he did care for her. Maybe she wasn't a very close friend but she was still a colleague and a person he kept in touch with. In the future they'd work closely together too.
Who knew exactly what she was going through right now?
Lyle turned his thoughts away from such grim matters upon realizing he couldn't do anything about them. He'd done what he could for her, that'd have to be enough.
"So, like it?" He switched gears and refocused on the woman in front of him.
Melanie's smile was radiant."I love it."
It was one of the best gifts anyone had ever given her. What's more it was a clear sign of his affection for her and she knew it.
Even if it wasn't so pretty she'd have still cherished it. Because this thing the first gift her first ever lover had decided to give her.
In her heart it was special. Unique. Precious.
Melanie stroked it covetously, with exquisite care. Then shook her head in wonder as she stared, thinking that with the level of beauty and craftsmanship it held it must have cost quite a sum.
And it was with this thought that her smile faltered, slowly fading away. Her previous elation died down.
She wrenched her eyes away and extended it back to him. "I don't want it."
Lyle just looked at her. It took him a moment to regain his senses. In fact he even thought he'd heard wrongly.
"I'm sorry, what was that?"
"I said I don't want it." She repeated. "Take it back, please."
His face was overrun with confusion. "I don't understand." Lyle was motionless. " Why? I thought you liked it."
She replied to him with downcast eyes. "I do. I do, but..." She stopped.
"But what?" He prompted.
Melanie's heart ached. "But I didn't start this relationship with you because of what you could give me."
"I like you. I want to be with you." She suddenly felt it hard to speak. "But I don't know how to accept your gifts and feel like I deserve them. Also..." Her throat seized up painfully. She forced herself to continue. "...Well,I just don't want you to someday think that I care about receiving those gifts more than I care about you."
Melanie knew he wouldn't hide their relationship from his Noble colleagues. She knew, too, what they'd think when they saw her with him.
And that was fine. She'd be able to endure that. She could live with that.
But the thought of him one day believing the same as them made her want to cry. That's why she didn't want to accept anything from him if she could help it.
Because every time she did she'd feel like she was just using him.
Lyle watched her a moment more, then finally started to reach out with his hand.
But against her expectations he didn't go for the necklace at all. Instead he pulled on her arm and drew her into a hug.
"Foolish girl, worrying about useless things like that." He let out a soft chuckle. "I swear, when I'm with you I always feel so light-hearted."
"Y-Young Master?" Melanie wasn't used to being held so closely like this by anyone but her mother, and the difference between this and that were worlds apart.
She couldn't calm down at all!
"You know, Melanie, contrary to what you might think I don't give people gifts without meaning."
As he said this he pushed her back a bit, grabbed the small object in her hand, and began the process of hanging it around her neck.
Her muffler was moved out of the way and she felt a pair of warm hands brush back her hair.
A moment later metal touched her skin.
"When me and Sophia went on our first date," He began. " I gave her a gift as well, something to help her remember it. A couple's first outing together is special, Melanie." His face was extremely serious. "It's still early in the day, I know, but that's why I'm giving you this. So that what we experience here today, it will too. So that later on you can look at it and remember our time together here."
His face may have been steadfast and somber but his eyes held an intensity that told just how much affection he held for her. Every word felt so full of sincerity and care that she couldn't help falling apart.
Melanie blinked, feeling small beads of liquid build along her eyes until the world went blurry.
When he said those words to her it made all kinds of fluffy, happy feelings came to life in her heart and in such great amounts that she could barely contain them.
In a fit of wild giddiness she lunged forward and kissed him, knocking him back.
Lyle's back hit hard wood but he ignored the pain and silently accepted the surprising display of emotion.
He grabbed hold of that slim waist and brought her even closer, mashing them together.
When Melanie finally came back up for breath her face was flushed and her lips swollen.
It took her a moment to come back to her senses and when she did she remembered something.
"I think I dropped my cup in the water..."
She coughed awkwardly.
Lyle stared at her a few seconds, then responded. "I think I dropped mine too."
They continued to look at each other, then let out a small round of laughter.
When they sobered a thought came to her. "Hey, Young Master?"
" Yeah?" He asked.
"You said you gave this to me so I can remember our time together." She lovingly fingered the rabbit-shaped object around her neck. "But then why didn't you get yourself something too?"
The young man's smile in that moment, to her mind, was simple, serene, and just utterly unforgettable
"Because I didn't need to. I can't know for how long it'll be, but for that I already have something infinitely more precious than anything money can buy."
"And what's that?"