The end was near. I could sense it. The war had made much progress in the space of just over a year. Asa Oukoku's forces, although combined with those of several other kingdoms, were miraculously depleting by the day; Father's return had renewed the people's confidence. I was still the ruling monarch, but I relied upon him as much as I had in the years before he had left Yoru Oukoku.
About a year ago, I lay in hospital, my immediate family by my side, with the exception of Tsuki. The battle with several members of every kingdom apart from Yoru Oukoku had hospitalised me for three months, and I'd been compelled to remain in the mortal realm an additional month before my eldest daughter decided I had recovered sufficiently to leave. Disgusted at the thought of remaining any longer, Sora had returned with me. Seiza, on the other hand, had chosen to stay with Hoshi. After speaking to me alone, he had disclosed his intention to look after her; as her brother, he believed he should be closer to her than he had previously been. I reluctantly allowed him to stay as I hadn't been in his company for some time, but did not wish to refuse his request.
Tsuki hadn't had too much difficulty managing Yoru Oukoku while I'd been gone. The Kawari twins had fulfilled their responsibilities and looked after her; they were now again assigned to Sora's military squad. Although Tsuki had enjoyed their company, she was evidently relieved when I returned, despite my serious injuries. It had been painful, but we both knew it could have been much worse. I spent much of my time in the palace, still recovering. Father usually detailed any news from the war to me. The loss of Fujiwara Natsuka had come as a blow to Asa Oukoku, but they continued to assault us, determined that we should yield to them.
Significant events had taken place outside the immortal realm as well. Hoshi and Fujiwara had been married about a month after my admission to the hospital. As a consequence of my injury, I had regrettably not been able to attend the wedding. Although I was hesitant to give my consent, I knew my eldest daughter would be happy with him. Conveniently, Seiza was there, monitoring them for me. The guards frequently brought me the lengthy letters he wrote almost every other day; he tended to write much more than he spoke. I knew everything that was happening in their house. From Seiza's perspective, at least; he still struggled to explain matters relevant to emotions. Today, his letter was extremely short.
Hoshi requests an immediate audience with you.
It wasn't very clear. All I knew was that Hoshi wanted to see me about something, as soon as possible. Either it wasn't Seiza's place to tell me what she wanted to talk about, or he didn't know himself. I had to go as soon as I could. I told Father where I was going and called for Tsuki on my way downstairs. Being accustomed to Seiza's lengthy writing, she was confused and surprised by the brief letter. "I wonder what it could be?"
"We can only hope it's nothing bad," I muttered in response. She was very familiar with my pessimism.
The guards only took a moment to admit us through the gate. Tsuki squeezed my hand nervously as we stepped forward and were momentarily swallowed by absolute darkness. Seconds later, we stepped into the late afternoon glow of Arata, the mortal city in which Hoshi lived. I paused as I impatiently waited for my eyes to adjust to the change in brightness; it took much longer during the afternoon than it had in the early morning. When I could see clearly, I realised there was someone else there: a figure almost fully clad in black, in contrast to the gentle snowfall. "Seiza?"
Although we'd been in frequent correspondence, I hadn't seen him in person for eight months. His appearance hadn't changed very much, although he seemed a little taller than I remembered; he still had the same slightly untamed raven hair, mahogany eyes, blank expression and taste in dark clothing, though he'd evidently had to acquire newer ones due to his apparent growth. He still wore the same yellow scarf he had a year ago. Seiza reluctantly allowed Tsuki to embrace him and kiss his forehead before pulling out of her grasp, all the while staring intently into my eyes. His patience was being tested, I realised.
"Hoshi is waiting," he said quietly.
I nodded. "I'm here. Is she at home?"
"Exactly what is going on?" asked Sora, who had just emerged from the gate; Father had evidently informed her as well.
Without answering, he began walking away, leading the way back to the house. The snow became heavier with each step, turning the streets white. It hadn't changed since the last time I'd seen it, when I'd still been recovering; it had been warm, about halfway through spring, when I'd left, but now the front gate, roof and garden was covered in a thin layer of frost. It was rather picturesque. I wondered if my conversation with Hoshi would be as pleasant.
Seiza pushed the gate open and headed for the front door with us following in his wake. He unlocked the door and allowed us in, taking his shoes off as he waited for all of us to enter. After leaving our shoes at the front entrance, he shut the door and walked in the direction of the kitchen. The three of us lingered near the door anxiously.
Hoshi didn't come to greet us. Fujiwara looked a little surprised to see us, but at the same time seemed to have been expecting it. "Oh. You're here to see Hoshi, no doubt. This way." He led us into the living room, where a friendly flame was crackling in the fireplace. The curtains were closed, but daylight still crept into the room.
My daughter was resting on the light blue sofa. Her face was exhausted and she appeared to be asleep. Perhaps it was just some perceptual fault on my part, but her belly seemed slightly swollen. Fujiwara gently squeezed her shoulders. "Hoshi, they're here," he murmured softly. "I'll let you talk to them alone." He patted her shoulder and left the room.
She stirred, blinking slowly before glimpsing Tsuki and myself. "Mother. F-Father?" she stuttered. "I'm sorry I haven't written, I've been tired–"
"What is it you wanted to talk about?"
Hoshi's wide violet eyes stared at me. "Oh. Um. Well, you see, Fujiwara-san and I… are going to have a child." She looked down, her cheeks instantly colouring.
I was surprised, to say the least. For a few moments, I could think of nothing to say. "I see," I finally managed to respond. She looked at me, evidently fearing some sort of outburst. "Don't look at me like that, you haven't done anything wrong. I'm happy for you."
Her eyes lit up, anxiety departing. "Thank you, Father. And now Fujiwara-san can calm down too," she added softly, "he's afraid of how you might've reacted."
It wasn't uncommon for people to fear me. In the past, I had done several things that had intimidated others to varying degrees. Fujiwara's concern was not without reason.
Sora still struggled to cope with this new information. "You're pregnant?" Hoshi nodded weakly. "Are you serious? You mean with–" She pointed in the direction Fujiwara had gone. Hoshi nodded again, not looking at me. "Wait, are we even supposed to– with mortals–"
"Fujiwara-san's immortal. That's what Grandfather said," Hoshi mumbled.
Sora thought for a moment, then seemed to recollect the explanation Father had given the year before. "Oh, right. I forgot. But still. Fujiwara?" She shook her head, muttering to herself.
Hoshi sighed. "I don't know if I can do this. I mean, I thought I was ready for it, but now I just don't know if I can do it." She dropped her head into her hands.
She had probably never felt so much strain, despite even all I had done to her in the past. I rested my hands on her shoulders. The gesture surprised her. "You will be able to, Hoshi. All you can do is try your best. We'll all be here for you."
"Do you really think I'm ready?" she asked, anxiously looking up into my eyes.
I smiled, something I was seldom compelled to do. "Certainly."
"But–" She was evidently still concerned.
I touched her forehead lightly. "I believe in you. I will for the rest of eternity."
A/N: End of Wish Star series; there was originally a prequel but I've discontinued and removed it.
Hope you enjoyed it =)