Fanfiction for mobile game "Azur Lane"
|Even at night, the City of Light, true to its name, is ever brilliant.
It has always been bathed in radiance, be it from the gleam of starlight or the glow of humble streetlamps, of which it had in abundance. And Avenue des Champs-Élysées, the jewel of Paris, has always been the most radiant of them all.
Can a person be more radiant than Paris herself?
Before, if someone were to ask him that absurd question, Capitaine de frégate Mathieu Bonheur would, in no uncertain terms, flatly tell them no.
But now, with her around, he might have started to harbor doubts about that.
He had been following her going about her way as she pleased; had been watching her smiling and humming a song as she sauntered down that ever-magnificent street, under the flowering chestnut trees, her steps light and unrestrained by anything, and so very human.
He has always been fond of Paris, appreciating every chance he had to visit the city. But right now, he could afford to ignore everything around him.
She was there, that's why. It took some convincing before she agreed to come along, but now she was there, with him.
And now, the only thing he could think of is wanting her to surprise him more with the side of hers previously unknown to him.
For instance, he never knew she had such a charming singing voice until now.
"'Parlez-moi d'amour,' isn't it?"
The sides of her face became pleasantly rosy as Dunkerque realized that her companion had been listening closely, and she immediately went quiet. Amidst the sound of motorists speeding through the place, she could still hear that short, fleeting laugh of his. And though she knew his intent was not to ridicule her, she—for some reason she cannot fathom—became a little ill at ease.
"May I ask why are you stopping?" asked Mathieu, and that pink hue Dunkerque had on her cheeks became even more visible for him to see, as did her disquiet.
"Ah, sorry… I'm doing it without realizing it. But Capitaine, do you, by chance, actually like it…?"
"I like that song, no matter who's singing it. You are probably not the next Lucienne Boyer, but why should that be a problem?"
Dunkerque has always been obvious when she was doubtful, even when she did not say it outright, and Mathieu could tell right now she put his words in doubt. What other choices he had but to try to convince her otherwise?
"Well then, sing it again if you don't believe me, see if I'm going to stop such a lovely voice."
The summer wind blew past them as he spoke, and though obscured by her wind-blown hair, Mathieu could see Dunkerque smiling at him, even when the color on her cheeks refused to go away still. On the contrary, it even seemed to grow to a deeper shade of red.
"Oh, Capitaine, if you flatter me like that…then I have no choice, have I?" she answered as she rearranged her tangled hair. "But you will have to walk closer to me."
Mathieu responded with another laugh, as short and fleeting as before, but his heart was aflutter. So elated was he that he simply ignored the part of him that was admonishing him on the inappropriateness of it all.
"Very well then, mademoiselle. When a lady asks, she shall receive. Shall we go and continue this little excursion?" With a flourish, Mathieu gestured towards Place de l'Étoile at the end of the road.
Without answering, Dunkerque slowly turned her gaze from the man towards the towering Arc de Triomphe. That imposing pure-white limestone monument, which she had only seen through photos before, looked very enticing.
Thinking of this, Dunkerque turned back to Mathieu, smiling.
"Spoken like a true Frenchman, Capitaine. I suppose we shall? The night is not going to stay young forever, isn't it?"
Mathieu barely noticed what Dunkerque had just said as he found himself too fixated on her beatific smile, feeling his breath taken away.
She looked very enticing that way.
Seeing her smile faltering from the lack of response, Mathieu quickly realized his mistake.
"Ah, sorry. I was just thinking…of something. Well then, shall we?"
Her smile returning, Dunkerque nodded and waited for Mathieu to catch up with her before they resumed walking, him by her side.
At one particular part of the street, Dunkerque was seemingly torn between remaining there or keep going.
At least that was how Mathieu saw it. As her eyes fell upon a row of pastry shops, the aroma of baked goods wafting out of them, her steps began to slow down. But she did not stop completely, only shaking her head instead before resuming her pace.
Yet, even then, she still cannot resist the urge to steal intermittent, longing glances at the shop displays as she walked, only stopping as soon as she heard a familiar laugh.
"…Is there anything you would like?" Mathieu offered; his amused gaze made Dunkerque lower her own.
Was I that obvious, she wondered; she honestly thought he wouldn't notice.
"No…that…would not be appropriate…"
She only heard his footsteps going further away as a response. Looking up, Dunkerque managed to catch a glimpse of Mathieu, who clearly had decided to ignore her protestation, entering one of the shops.
l'Oiseau Bleu, the shop's sign reads; delectable-looking macarons were lining its display, and Dunkerque could feel her heart racing, even more so when Mathieu came out of it, carrying a paper bag with him.
"Here, for you. You want these, don't you?"
"Ca…Capitaine…I…Is it alright?"
"…Take it. Do you think I'd buy this for you if it's not alright?"
Dunkerque stared at the bag for a while before anticipation got the better of her, and she reached forward to take it. She could already imagine the content from the hint of an aroma emanating from it.
She was proven correct when she peeked inside the bag to find freshly-baked macarons, which made her eyes widen.
"…I…merci, Capitaine… It's…I appreciate it."
"Heh. Je vous en prie. It was nothing. Why don't we take a seat for a while? I'm quite tired of walking, to be honest."
Despite her apparent misgivings earlier, Mathieu found out that Dunkerque did not even hesitate to begin eating her gift as soon as they were seated. Her way of eating was slow and measured, yet her expression was one of pure delight.
"Capitaine, won't you take one? I cannot eat all of them," Dunkerque offered as she slid closer.
"Well, I don't really like sweets, but I guess just one is okay," Mathieu answered. He really didn't, though he took one anyway out of courtesy. And besides, he got to see her face lit up as he did, even though the macaron was indeed way too sweet for his liking, nearly gagging as he bit into it.
"Ah, that’s surprising, but I guess everyone has their own taste," Dunkerque said with just a slight hint of disbelief as she bit into her third macaron, sighing in satisfaction before setting the bag aside. Once again, preoccupied with another thought, Mathieu hardly paid attention to what she'd just said,
'So happy you are, eating those macarons…somehow, I wish you're happy because you're with me, not because of them.'
Mathieu frowned at that but then allowed himself a small, self-deprecating laugh over his own foolishness. Never could he imagine he would get jealous of a bag of inanimate, baked goods; that was the first time such a thought ever crossed his mind, and again, it was all because of her.
Even though Mathieu didn't realize it, Dunkerque noticed everything. Naturally, she was curious; and somehow, though she managed to hide it well, she was amused too.
"Something funny, Capitaine?"
Mathieu's answer to the question began with a yelp, followed by a nervous chuckle, before getting to the actual reply.
"Nothing… It's nothing; I mean, I just remembered something…anyway, I don't think you will find it funny, though."
"Is that so? Okay then," Dunkerque decided to leave it at that and turned her attention to people passing by, though only briefly.
"In any case, I'm glad. You looked…happy."
"I could say the same about you. You sure smiled a lot today."
"… It's all thanks to you, Capitaine," Dunkerque looked at Mathieu closely. Her gaze, soft like delicate silk, ensured that he was too powerless to look away.
"Yes, the kindness you showed me…and…" Here, Dunkerque paused.
"Go on," Mathieu urged her on, barely managing to contain the anticipation building up within him.
"…And the chance to see this side of you. The not distant you. I…I don't know why. I'm just happy because of that. Strange isn't it…?"
"…Me, distant?" Mathieu confirmed. He knew he was usually reserved, but that was because he was expected, to as someone of rank. If that was the impression he had been giving her all these times, he didn't realize it.
"Ah, do forgive me. It's… It's just because you are an officer, isn't it, Capitaine?" Dunkerque looked away once again, but Mathieu won't let her do that for long.
"That may be true," he said, gaining her attention back. "But the most important thing is, I'm not your superior right now—and for the rest of this night."
"Ah…understood, Cap-" Dunkerque, who looked oddly relieved, paused as Mathieu held a hand up to cut her off. He was grinning.
"…How about you try calling me by name."
Even with a bit of hesitation, Dunkerque complied.
"Then, would monsieur Bonheur be alright…?"
Mathieu frowned before bursting out a laugh.
"Uh, I think Capitaine is fine. Yeah, I think I like that better."
Hearing the distinct laugh she had grown so fond of in such a short span, Dunkerque giggled along.
"As you wish, Capitaine."
She hummed the same song again as they walked.
"You really like the song, as I do, I presume?" Mathieu inquired.
"I do, Capitaine. Love…is such a wonderful thing to sing about, no?"
"Well…you are asking a lifelong bachelor, so I cannot really tell you what I think about it," Mathieu answered, and Dunkerque looked momentarily surprised.
"Is it true? A wonderful person like you is a bachelor, Capitaine?"
"…You are the one flattering now."
His face was red. Mathieu was sure of it. For the first time in years. Then again, so is Dunkerque. At least, he thought, he didn't get to suffer alone
"I…meant it…" she mumbled, her voice almost drowned by the crowd.
"Okay, let's not talk about my love life or lack thereof…Come on, our destination is already close by," not wanting to escalate their mutual, juvenile embarrassment further, Mathieu motioned for her to start walking again.
But she stood still, tugging the hem of her skirt tightly.
"Capitaine, will you think less of me if I say I’m afraid this night will soon be over, and along with it, my…my happiness…? Forgive me, I should’ve known about my place, but—"
That was something he wasn't prepared to answer at all. Mathieu floundered for words for a while as multitudes of people passed them by, not paying them any heed.
"…I won't," he finally admitted. "And frankly…I think you will be alright."
"You know what makes Paris so special? It's the way she can make you see the world in rose-tinted glasses. Just look at all these people passing you by, going about their business without a care. And you know what else…? Wherever you go, the memory of Paris will stay with you for the rest of your life. And I'm glad that even if it's just for a night, you got to be happy. Because…that memory, you will carry it always."
When Dunkerque rewarded him a smile, as dazzling as the stars, his heart nearly missed a beat. Yet, the smile told him she took his words by heart.
Whether or not their relationship will irreversibly change after that night, he didn’t know.
All he knows is that their time in Paris was the happiest he had ever been in his life.
And just like her, he would always have the memory with him, no matter what.