Chapter 365: The Terrible Cost of Misunderstanding
Aubert de Villaine spoke with a weak voice. “You’re right. No matter what I do now, it’s far too late. You’ve separated me from the illness for a time. I thank you for giving me this opportunity, to clear the haze from my eyes. I’ve lived for over three hundred years, and I’ve done far too much bad. It’s time I passed. You were right, I was full of arrogance. But I must tell you something… that I, Aubert de Villaine have only ever loved a single woman in my entire life. Even death won’t change that. That woman, is you Bize. Dying in your arms is a blessing. I need to ask you to help me end this poisoned life. Yet, I would ask that you continue building on what I’ve accomplished in this place. All of the men and women here, all of the workers and wine makers, they were all under my control. I infected them with my own hatred and took over their minds. Now that my power has been severed, they are free. Please be good to them.”
Aubert sighed, and turned his eyes to the sky. “Especially Gates. He is Jayer’s nephew. I’d stolen him away all those years ago. He was the first victim of my poison. I used my powers to keep him alive, so that one day when my wines surpassed his predecessors I could lord it over him. Now, that won’t happen. He was a great talent for wine making, please encourage that.”
“And then there’s this place… our beloved Beaune. I have never forgotten our beautiful homeland. I would like you to have all of it. I have carefully tended to all of these vines, adhering to the biodynamic principles we used from the beginning. Even though my soul is poisoned, these grapes are true. They will make you fine wines.”
Lan Jue and the Wine Master, standing off to the side, listened to their exchange. The anger and resentment they’d felt melted away when they heard his impassioned speech. Aubert de Villaine was a masterful talent who’s desire for success and blind pride lead him down the wrong path. Yet even now, defeated, the most important thing to him was the wine. A god of wine was a god of wine, even if he did do it for the wrong reasons – a fallen god! Although they had had to fight for their lives, a sense of esteem grew within the Skyfire adepts at what they witnessed. They remained separate, however. This was something the two old vintner’s had to do themselves.
“Die? Do you think it will be that easy? Have you already forgotten what you did, how you treated my sister and I? How you expelled me from the board of directors? That was the man who loved me? No, the one you claim to love was my sister.”
Aubert answered with a bitter smile. “The deeper one loves, the stronger their reproach. You left to find Jayer and didn’t return. That was when jealousy took root. I knew I couldn’t compare to the man – and in our world, making wine was the most important thing. I wasn’t good enough for you, and when you finally did come back with that smile on your face I knew I’d lost you forever. Hate and envy lead me to the single greatest regret of my life, separating the DRC family. It was simple math; I owned fifty percent, as did you and your sister. I knew she fancied me so I roped her in. I couldn’t stand to look at you, that was my only thought. Then you left, and oh do I remember the day. The look in your eyes… it brought me a terrible pleasure.”
“But in truth, I never loved your sister. When you left, I ended things with her. She went on to marry and have children. She was happy, so far as I know, until her passing.
Bize’s sneer was cold as ice, and sharp as nails. “Really? Well I have something to tell you as well, Aubert. Why I was really smiling when I came back that day from Jayer’s vineyard. I had figure it out… the true reason for his success. I had brought my knowledge back to share with you, so that we could create a superior wine together. Like you, I had only ever loved one man, until that man cruelly gloated that he loved my older sister instead, and the both of you forced me to leave.”
“Wha… what?” The defeated vintner’s voice was thick with surprise. “Impossible! You loved Jayer! No… it can’t be.. no!”
Bize laughed in his face. “Impossible? After all these years, in this place right here and right now do you think I would lie? I have never once in my life been dishonest. Aubert de Villaine, you are ridiculous. A truly laughable man.” She laughed so hard that tears began to stream from her eyes.
Aubert was completely dumbstruck. Almost unconsciously, he muttered “But… you’d said, you’d told me that the man you would love would be the one who made the best wine.”
Bize fixed the fallen god with a glare so full of hate it could have killed him outright. “Because at that point, I believed the greatest vintner to be Aubert de Villaine! I went to Jayer for that belief, so that I could learn what he knew and bring it back. So that you could once again be the greatest god of wine the world had ever seen!”
Aubert wasn’t dumbfounded, he was stupefied 1. He couldn’t find the words to speak. But those poison seeds in his heart stirred again.
Lan Jue could feel goose bumps 2 raise on his arms. All of this was a misunderstanding! A terrible misunderstanding, that ruined the lives of two people for three hundred years! A single mistake vast one in to madness, and the other in to bitter loneliness.
“I struck you with this soothing arrow because I needed you clear, lucid. I wanted to tear it out of you, to interrogate you until I knew why you did that to me. And now you say, it’s because you loved me… you don’t find that funny?”
“No! No, no, no!” Aubert howled suddenly with as much strength as he could muster. “No, Bize – you must listen to me! It was not like you say. I was wrong, I’m an idiot – worse than anyone. My jealousy never gave you a chance to explain. It was that arrogance, it hurt my pride. But it hurt you as well. All of it… all of it is my fault. Could you find it in your heart to forgive me? I beg you to give me another chance. My sins were many, my plans were terrible, but… everything was for the wine. Despite my desires I hadn’t yet hurt anyone. I don’t.. I don’t want to die. Pull out your arrow. You’ve given me hope, and that hope has started to kill those poison feelings. Because of you, I’ll never succumb to them again. I don’t know how much longer O have to live, but if you’d like I’ll spend the rest of it making amends. Three hundred years of debt, I’ll repay. I don’t want to die… I don’t want to die! Bize.. Bize I was wrong. I was wrong!”
Purple tears leaked from Aubert’s grape-like eyes, and trickled down the vines that composed his face. His emotional turmoil was causing all of the grape vines to writhe in discomfort. The blazing white arrow seemed to respond. Gradually, it began to rock back and forth, while the light dimmed to almost nothing. Eventually, it worked itself free from Aubert’s body and fell to the ground.
Lilou-Bize Leroy looked down at the arrow in shock 3. This proved one thing; that the arrow of kindness could only seal evil, not kill. It was an ancient technique, which was painstakingly difficult to recreate. Since it had fallen out of its own accord, it meant that there was nothing further that needed sealing.
More importantly, however, it meant Aubert’s words were true. Otherwise, these changes would not have happened.
It’s true… he really loves… me?
Bize pushed herself away, her features stricken. She would never have believed this was the case. A simple misunderstanding had ruined their lives.
Now free from the arrow, Aubert quickly began to recover. The vines that were his form began to curl and twist again. The many grapes upon them shrank, then vanished. After a moment, the rest of his body followed. What remained was an exceedingly old human man. The only thing that distinguished him from any other centenarian was the fact that his skin was the color of grape vines.
“Bize!” He scrambled forward a few steps, and reached out to grasp her hand.
Bize subconsciously backed away. Aubert fell to his knees. “Bize, I swear upon my family name, that everything I said is true. From this moment forward I give it all up, everything, to just be Aubert with you. I will be Aubert Bize. I will be your knight, your servant, anything at all so long as I can be by your side. If my life is what you want, you may have it. Because as of this moment, you are the only thing I live for.”
- I’m sorry, I said I wouldn’t do this, but it needs explaining; TJSS loves… loves the word ‘surprised’. Everyone is surprised, all the goddamn time. If it bothers you that there are three thousand synonyms for surprised in this novel, that’s why. Rant over. ↩
- The Chinese call it ‘chicken skin’ ↩
- AAARRGGHHHH!!!!! ↩