Code:Realize ~Hakugin no Kiseki~: If Story -First Christmas

Another segment is If Story -First Christmas-, which takes places after Finis’ route in the first FD. It’s Cardia’s first Christmas – who will spend it with her?

In celebration of the fact that London has pretty much recovered from the terrorist incident and under Queen Victoria’s orders, this year’s Christmas celebrations is on a grander scale. The street is decorated with Christmas trees and there’s also a large Christmas market with many shops. Even in Wales, Cardia has heard of this news and she is expectant that Lupin and company will surely do something too. This is a Christmas story of a year when London was dyed in a beautiful silver snow.

Impey Barbicane (CV: Morikubo Shoutarou)

Impey recalls how they parted ways with Cardia at the train station, when she and Finis were about to leave for Wales. It feels like it had just taken place. Though currently he’s vising Nemo in prison, who’s been imprisoned for half a year already. The other inmates pleaded to be transferred elsewhere (due to Nemo), so they’re the only ones present. In fact, Nemo has been helping Impey with his plans of travelling to the moon. After all, there’s the matter of creating the gravity-relief mechanism from scratch. Either that, it’s to find a solution without relying on it. Above all, there’s the issue of the cost.

Impey returns to the mansion, where Saint is tending to the garden. The Count mentions that he will continue to search for a patron to support Impey’s plans. They find it curious how only the original members are left in the mansion – Lupin, Impey and Saint. Saint observes that Impey hardly mentions about Cardia these days, especially when he always used to confess his love for her. When Saint pursues the issue, Impey is at a loss for words. The former changes his words, pointing out that he never did hear the reason behind why Impey fell for Cardia. Feeling bad, Saint changes the topic and reveals a letter from Van and Dela. In the letter, it says that they’ll be back in London during Christmas. Impey agrees happily to contact the twins in Wales – it looks like everyone in the gang will be gathering together for Christmas.

In Wales, Cardia is fixing the automobile. Things are peaceful here in Wales, but she can’t help but feel nostalgic about London. It’s always been lively there, especially with Impey. She reckons that his constant confessions of love towards her, influenced her to learn to live herself, and perhaps to even teach that feeling to her brother. But somehow, that feeling of love towards Impey and Finis feels different. Wishing to confirm this, she asks Finis to say “I love you” when she returns inside the house. He reluctantly obliges, and complains incessantly when she comments that it feels different. She apologises, and starts to prepare tea and pie in order to appease him. Finis informs her that they received a parcel from London. Inside is a cute doll modelled after Impey, and a recording starts to play – it’s an invitation to join them for Christmas.

It’s Christmas Eve, and Impey is giving his all in the kitchen, preparing a grand spread. Lupin pops by, handing him the groceries he was asked to help to buy. Saint’s question lingers in Impey’s mind, to which he still doesn’t have an answer to. Later in the afternoon, a huge snow storm hits London. The three of them, along with Fran and Sissy, are still waiting for the others to arrive. Soon, Van and Dela arrive, completed covered in snow. They share the news that many trains have stopped in this weather, prompting Impey to rush out of the mansion.

Meanwhile, Cardia and Finis have been stuck in the train for 1 hour. To their surprise, Impey comes to fetch them in his ornithopter. Finis refuses to join them, and just then the weather calms down and it is announced that the train will soon start operations. He tells the couple to go ahead first. Inside the ornithopter, Cardia reaffirms her feelings for Impey and is also entranced by the different view of London. They fetch Finis at the train station, and join the rest back at the mansion.

The next morning, everyone enjoys the Christmas mood and Lupin even puts on a dangerous (?) magic trick (??) for the rest. Cardia finds Impey cleaning the ornithopter in his work station. Upon seeing a new device, Impey cheerfully shares that it’s for his plans to travel to the moon. She feels impressed by his drive once more, and wishes to help him in some way. She questions if the love he has towards science, is the same kind towards her. He stares at her in shock. She can’t fully comprehend this feeling. But she loves him, as well as everyone else too – however, it has a different nuance depending on the person. Especially for him. Cardia reaches out to touch him, asking him to say that he loves her. She wishes to confirm the difference, from when she had Finis say that phrase.

Impey is completely taken aback, stumbling backwards and cooling his head in the snow. He apologises for he can’t answer her now, and urges her to head back inside. He hurriedly grabs some documents, and says that he’ll visit Nemo who’s all alone on such a day. His mind is in a jumble. Somehow he can’t find it in him to confess his love at the critical moment. In the prison, Nemo notices that he’s out of sorts, and Impey decides to take the plunge and confide in him. To his surprise, Nemo replies in a serious tone, unlike his usual self. He instructs Impey to take the right action. Cardia only knows one side of love, which is why she is confused by its different nuances. And Impey is the only one who can teach her that. Impey thanks him for the advice, and Nemo hands him a red switch. He was saving it for when he was to be released from prison, but he decides to give it to Impey as a Christmas present.

It’s evening and the Christmas party is still ongoing with the addition of Darius etc. Finis and Dela have retired to their rooms though, and Cardia goes to wash the empty dishes. Impey finds her there, and wishes to apologise for this afternoon. As an apology, he invites her for a date to the Christmas market. He offers to buy her a gift, and she chooses a pair of simple crescent-shaped earrings. It should be noted that Impey deliberately avoids saying the word “love” on their date. Later, Impey guides her to the Crystal Palace, which held The Great Exhibition a few years back. After that, it was relocated to this hill and it contains exhibits of modern science – including Isaac’s. It’s proof that her father’s creations did pave the way of science for the future, including his dream to travel to the moon. In other words, her father’s science doesn’t just hurt people.

He’s relieved that she’s thankful for him bringing her here. She remarks that she wants to believe that her father did love science, and believed that her father wanted to use it for making people happy. After all, the person whom she loves, Impey himself believes so. Impey notes that she confessed her love before him. They go outside, and he recalls the present from Nemo. Upon pressing the switch, numerous fireworks get set off. They agree that they’ll have to prepare an equally amazing present in return. Impey admits that he has been avoiding that certain word, wondering if he used it too often and too casually. But in the end, he can’t find any other word to express his feelings for her. He declares his love for Cardia, the one and only special person, and confirms with her that their “love” for each other holds the same meaning.

Saint-Germain (CV: Hirakawa Daisuke)

Saint visits Omnibus, who admits that she never expected this outcome. The former concurs, since her predictions have never been wrong. But it’s thanks to each and every one of their actions, which led to this miracle. He reports to her that London has almost fully recovered from the incident, and now the Queen has completely changed her course – towards peace, instead of war. Idea’s disciples have also been dispatched to other countries, suppressing any intentions of stirring a war. Omnibus also adds that they no longer need to watch over the twins, though Saint can still visit them if he wishes to. But the Count reckons that Finis wouldn’t like it. After all, he was responsible for killing so many of Finis’ other bodies. Hansel commented that it was the only way to save Finis, but Saint is unable to accept this as a sacrifice – even though he had no such hesitation previously. Omnibus then orders him to rest, an order which is unprecedented.

On his way back, Saint thinks that Omnibus has changed. Though the same can be said for himself, who defied Idea’s orders to save the twins. It’s thanks to their influence, including Cardia’s. Those noisy yet beloved days provided his dried-up heart a special something. Which is why he is hesitant to return to the mansion quickly; the place which he can call home. Because there is no one else there. It’s about time he got used to this silence. Yet he doesn’t wish to leave either – what if she visits and no one is there to welcome here. So he decides to spend his break cleaning up the mansion. That includes Impey’s work station, and Saint starts throwing away items he deems as junk. It’s been half a month since Lupin went to Paris to report the incident to a certain someone. Impey joined him, in order to get his hands on some device parts.

His cleaning continues on, including Fran’s room. He recalls how he suggested for Fran to take in Sissy, since he may often leave the mansion for his missions. On another day, Saint is tidying up the front gate. Van and Dela do send them letters from time to time, and he wonders when they will return to London. Time passes, and winter is near. His cleaning work is near its end, and only one room is left. He enters Cardia’s room, and is shocked to see her standing by the window. However, her figure fades into the afternoon sunlight. He laughs at himself, recalling the day they said goodbye to Cardia. If only he had better expressed himself then.

That day, Cardia thanked each and every one of them – including Saint. Even though he did stand on opposite ends with them, he saved her and Finis in the end. It’s thanks to him, that she has this future now, that she now has gained a human heart. She thanks him for giving her these different feelings – including–. The train signal goes off, interrupting her words. Before he could say anything in return, Finis drags her into the train before they get left behind. If he was given the time, what would he have said to her? Left with nothing else to do, Saint wonders how else he should spend his time, while gazing at the group photo taken during the competition. This mansion is no longer a place for them to return to, but to visit. But it’s not as if he will never see them again. So why does he feel this uneasy?

Saint recalls the words of his old friend, advising him to express himself more instead of being too scared to follow his own heart. Because he may unexpectedly gain many things in return for even just acting a little bit. The Count realises that he hasn’t felt this feeling in a long time, not since his friend passed away. The feeling of loneliness. As if given the push by Trismegistus’ words, Saint goes to his room and grabs his pen. If it were the old him, he probably would have just continued waiting quietly.

In Wales, Finis sees Cardia reading a book written by Saint. He sighs and notes that the author hasn’t been visiting them recently – though Hansel has. She feels a pang of pain in her chest, wondering if Saint no longer visits them since he no longer needs to watch over them. Her brother sighs and suggests for him to ask Saint for the reason, the next time they meet. Finis also hands her a letter from Saint, inviting them over for Christmas. He also clarifies that he isn’t uncomfortable with meeting Saint due to their past, but rather because Saint clearly has–. Finis doesn’t continue his sentence. Cardia gazes up at the moon, recalling that it was on such a night when she confided her past in Saint. She wonders what he had wanted to tell her on the day she left for Wales, and decides to ask him the next time they meet.

Meanwhile, Guinevere and Hansel are called over to Saint’s mansion thinking that it’s an urgent matter since Omnibus gave her permission. It turns out that he needs their help in preparing the decorations for the Christmas party. Guinevere lets out a sigh, while nimbly putting the flowers together. Saint explains that the others are not in London, and Fran was called for an urgent lecture, leaving Sissy with them at the moment. In return, Saint agrees to give Hansel as much sweets as he wishes, and even invites them to the party. It’s true that he could’ve called others for help, such as the Gordon family. But he probably wished to convey to his fellow comrades who hold the same loneliness as himself – the change in him.

It’s Christmas eve, but no one has arrived yet. A snowstorm is beating down on London, and Saint murmurs that even the weather must despise him. If all the trains have been stopped, then no one must be able to come now. Saint decides to clear up, but Sissy starts to growl and leaps at him. There’s a loud crash at the position where he had been standing at – an ornithopter had crashed into the window and Cardia, Finis, Lupin and Impey appear. It turns out that Lupin and Impey heard about the trains being stopped in the snowstorm, and went to fetch the twins. At that moment, Fran, Van and Dela come bursting in as well, thinking that the mansion was under attack. This liveliness was what Saint had been wishing for all this time, and he can’t help but burst into laughter to the point of tearing up.

Everyone retires to their room to rest, except for Lupin and Impey who were left to clean up the mess. Cardia is filled with nostalgia being inside her room. There’s a knock on the door, and unexpectedly Saint comes inside without waiting for her reply. He gasps as he sees her standing next to the window, and takes her by surprise by embracing her. He apologises for his impolite behaviour, but he doesn’t wish to let go for now. He’s happy that she isn’t a dream or illusion. Cardia replies that she is happy to be able to touch him too, without being afraid. Saint admits that he was lonely and doesn’t want to leave her side – it’s his selfish desire. He soon releases her, apologising for his overflowing emotions. Hiding behind his smile once more, he informs her that the party is starting soon and leaves the room. Cardia is still left slightly stunned, and reckons that she wouldn’t be this moved by anyone else’s words. And she probably kept thinking about London because Saint is here.

The party is held in the drawing room, but Cardia realises that Saint is missing. She finds him outside, and he remarks that he’s a bit drunk and trying to sober up. Everyone seems to be having fun, though the Count admits that he was hesitant in inviting everyone – since he had ulterior motives when he first gathered everyone. She says that there’s no need to feel that way, since everyone wishes to be here now, including her. He’s happy to hear her say that, and reveals that he never meant to say that much to her just now. Realising that that was just how much he wished to see her, she questions why he hasn’t visited her in Wales recently. He looks at her with a lonely expression, and returns the question back to her. He eventually reminds her his duty as Idea’s disciple, and thus may possibly not be able to see her for years. He knows how painful it is to wait for someone. Moreover, he didn’t want her to welcome him back after he killed people – since that is often part of his missions.

While she is struggling to answer him, they’re interrupted by Omnibus, Guinevere and Hansel. The couple misunderstand the situation, and Omnibus clarifies that they’re here for the party – though she is also curious about the people who overturned her predictions. She reminds Saint that she never specified when his break will end – it may be 10, 20 or even 100 years. They enter the mansion, surprising the rest with their sudden appearance. Saint mutters a word of thanks towards her. It’s an unexpected Christmas gift. He’s not sure how to spend the rest of his break, but is happy to have her contemplate about it with him. The couple then sneak out for a Christmas date.

1 week passes by, and everyone bids the siblings goodbye at the train station. They promise to meet again, at Saint’s mansion. Lupin and Impey plan to stay there for the time being, and Van and Dela will be staying around the area for negotiation purposes too. So strangely, Cardia and Finis are the furthest away. Saint makes a sudden proposal for her to stay together with him as family – the sooner the better. Including Finis, of course. Cardia reckons that it will take a while, especially to convince Finis, but she feels expectant already. The twins board the train, but Saint casually remarks that Cardia forgot something. He struts up to her at the window, and kisses her as a seal to their promise. She returns the kiss, promising not to leave him alone, and that she will return. He says that he will wait for his beloved, but just may go and abduct her if he gets too anxious. This prompts the rest to chime in that they will abduct her as well, and Finis angrily snaps that he will set traps for everyone.

Abraham Van Helsing (CV: Suwabe Junichi)

It’s been half a year since Van and Dela have left London. That being said, they have made trips back in order to report to Reinfield or to conduct negotiations. It’s just that they don’t always get the chance to see the rest of the Lupin gang. Especially since only Fran is stationed permanently there. For example, Cardia. Perhaps it’s because he finds her similar to him, she still deeply lingers in his mind. Their train arrives in Liverpool, and the pair find lodging for the night. They plan to stay here for a few days to gather information, as well as to buy some supplies. Dela immediately contacts their friends in London to update them of their whereabouts.

A few days later, they decide to return to London to report to Reinfield. They also sees the news about the Christmas celebrations in London this year. Dela shares that Lupin and company suggested a Christmas gathering. The young vampire sees that Van doesn’t seem excited, questioning if he’s never celebrated the holiday before. Van replies that he has (with his family), but that was over 10 years ago. Not since he lost his family and swore revenge. Dela snaps him out of his dark mood, and suggests passing by Wales before going back to London. They can meet the twins too.

Van recalls the day he parted ways from Cardia. She apologised to him – since her decision to live with Finis meant that Van had to give up on his revenge. But Van told her not to, for he has accepted her decision. In the end, he was left with these ambiguous feelings. He hesitated to kill Finis, upon knowing that the boy was only being manipulated by Isaac and may not have been the one who ordered to kill his family.

Yet another few days later, they arrive in Wales. They’re on the way to the siblings’ home, but before that, they bought a present. Dela says that his present is a secret, though he was deliberating over the nose-glasses and cat figurine which made a weird noise. He guesses that Van bought Cardia a rose bouquet, pretty necklace or even a wedding ring. Van is puzzled by his guesses, and Dela points out that he likes Cardia. Eventually, Van admits that he likes her – but not in the manner he’s thinking about. The younger boy doesn’t understand the difference.

The pair reach the house, but unfortunately no one seems to be at home. They decide to wait outside till the time for the last carriage back to town. Van reflects on Finis’ existence to him. To be honest, he no longer knows what to do. Yet the young vampire himself has already formed his answer. When asked if he had no hesitations about allowing Van to join him on this journey, Dela answers that he obviously did. But he decided to let him live, precisely because he was his revenge target – to be a symbol of the possibilities. It’s only natural for the cycle of revenge and hate to continue – but it’s also wrong. Yet now they have become comrades. So when Dela looks at Van now, it feels that the impossible will be possible one day. So he commands Van to stop fretting over this issue any further. Van smiles at his words, and can only agree with him. Once he lets go of his revenge, what feelings will be left inside of him? Van wishes to ask Cardia that – the girl who once called herself a doll, but has now blossomed with so many feelings.

Meanwhile, the siblings are in town. Cardia has bought a large supply of materials for her knitting, as she plans to make Christmas gifts for everyone to properly express her gratitude. She has had the chance to meet the rest when they visit London – but she wonders how Van and Dela are doing now. Especially the man who once distanced himself from happiness, just like her. Both Cardia and Van quietly wish to meet each other soon. They return to their home at night, and are surprised to see Van and Dela there. Feeling bad to have left them waiting for so long, Cardia invites them inside for some warm soup and to stay the night at their place. As she serves them soup, she also observes how Van’s expressions have softened a lot.

After about 2 hours of chatting over the table, they decide to rest for the night. However, Cardia remains at the table to start her knitting. She overhears Dela proudly giving his present to Finis – a stuffed toy which looks like Sissy. In a way, it wouldn’t be strange for them to hate each other given their pasts. Yet here they are chatting away happily. She hopes that there will come a day when Van and Finis can smile together too. Soon, Van spots her and finds out about her Christmas present plans. He says that it’s okay not to make his share in time for Christmas, and offers to help her finish the others. While he’s at it, he’ll knit to his liking too.

Thus, Van and Dela end up extending their stay such that the four of them will go to London before Christmas together. To her surprise, Van is skillful in knitting and he explains that he often helped out his mother when he was young, and also had to sew while in the army. Cardia enjoys their quiet time together, though admittedly she feels restless too. As expected, they will return to their travels after Christmas is over. She can’t possibly selfishly ask him to stay a bit longer, and instead remarks that she will continue to support them. Finally, it’s the night before they set off for London. Fortunately thanks to Van’s help, Cardia finishes the presents for everyone – that is, except Van’s. After saying goodnight, she returns to her room and is determined to finish Van’s present by herself.

Van is unable to sleep and steps outside for some fresh air. He recalls the lonely expression on Cardia’s face just now. Ever since he met her again, a certain feeling has only grown inside of him. Just then, Finis finds him and quietly asks why Van didn’t kill him. Ironically, that was what Van had asked Dela a while back. Finis admits that he can’t afford to be killed, as he’s afraid of death now (since he has no more spare bodies). But more than that, he’s afraid of making Cardia sad if he dies. So he’s willing to do anything else, besides offering his life. He won’t ask for forgiveness either. Van agrees that he can’t bring himself to forgive Finis. He attempts to punch the younger boy, but it doesn’t help clear up his hatred. Van doesn’t want to admit it, but he no longer hates Finis now. Time is a cruel element.

Reminded of Dela’s words, Van tells Finis to live to the fullest, so much so that he can think of the decision as to his own benefit. Finis mutters that Cardia would always have a sad expression whenever she talks about Van. He wants his sister to be happy, for her to have the love which she herself taught him. Back inside the house, Van sees that the light in Cardia’s room is still switched on. He enters her room, only to find her sound asleep with a finished piece of knitwear. He smiles gently, and strokes her hair. Instead of revenge, another feeling is burning inside of him. That feeling is clear to him now, as he gazes at Cardia.

The next morning, they take the earliest train to London. The journey is slightly delayed by the snow, but they manage to arrive in the afternoon. The couple is left alone to walk through the streets of London, as the two boys set off on their own and promise to meet at the mansion later. Van suggests playing Santa Claus, since she worked so hard to make the presents. So they visit the gang one by one. At Fran’s clinic, Fran and Sissy receive their muffler and sweater. Van added a filtering feature in Fran’s muffler, to act as a gas mask. They find out from Fran that Lupin and Impey dropped by the gambling area on the way while buying food for tonight’s party. Lupin and Impey receive a neck warmer and a knitted hat. Lupin’s neck warmer can be stretched into a mask, while Impey’s hat is really huge that it can even cover his ears and shoulders. The latter thanks Cardia for her overflowing love – though actually Van did most of that knitting. The couple keep quiet about it.

As they walk around, Cardia spots other old acquaintances. She’s filled with a sense of nostalgia. Van admits that he likes these streets too. It’s rare for him to admit such things so honestly, and he adds that he always misses out on saying the critical words. It starts to snow. Just then, they spot Arester. The older man explains that he has been hiding, since he’s being chased. He’s aware that Van has changed. He’s happy to see that, and reassures Van that this is something he needs to handle by himself. He tells Van that he is free now, and thinks that they’re unlikely to meet again.

Everyone returns to the mansion, and it’s the first time Finis says “I’m home”. Cardia gives Saint his present, a blanket. It’s the only present without any hidden features. She feels embarrassed to give Van’s present there and then though, and wonders when is her next chance. Everyone enjoys the party, and Dela and Finis have an early night. While clearing the plates, Cardia realises that Van is missing and finds him outside. She gives him his present, a new coat. He’s her important person, so she was determined to finish the present. Van asks if she understands the implications behind her words. Cardia says that she didn’t understand her feelings at first, but after consulting Lupin and the rest, they told her that it was “love”. She was happy to hear that, and hopes that Van feels the same way too.

Van places the coat around her and embraces her, and she can feel his warmth and kindness. He answers that he feels the same way as well. He takes out something – it’s a pair of earrings. He missed out on the chance to give it to her when he visited her place. He was probably afraid of conveying his feelings to her as he wasn’t sure if she would accept him. But Van realises that he was probably just afraid of his core feelings being replaced. However, now he knows that he just wishes to stay by her side, and thanks Cardia for choosing him as he kisses her.

Victor Frankenstein (CV: Kakihara Tetsuya)

It’s been a few months since Fran started his clinic. He does have many other options, such as returning to the Royal Society. But he learnt from Isaac’s example that as a scientist, you should be responsible for your own creation till the very end. And if you’re coped up in the research laboratory, you won’t see till the end how your creation is used. Today, he happens to be treating Darius. The mafia boss is thankful to Fran for always treating them, though Fran is grateful in return for selling the medicine at a cheap price. Soon, it’s the end of the clinic’s morning hours. Shirley asks how Cardia is, and he replies that the siblings are doing well. It hasn’t been that long since everyone went their separate ways, but Fran can’t help but feel lonely.

At the end of the day, Fran is checking the stock and also working on his new research. He’s also sorting through his mail, one of which is a letter from his mother. It’s been a long time since he left his home in Switzerland to join the Royal Society. As usual, his mother worries about him and says that it’s about time he settles down. Fran reckons that he should reassure her a bit, and writes in his reply about a girl he’s taken a liking to. Before he realises it though, he’s written paragraphs about Cardia. He sends his reply out nonetheless.

At night, he has a dream about the last time he walked on Tower Bridge with Cardia, before she left for Wales. Despite realising that this is a dream, he utters the same words as he did in the past. He tells her to be live happily with her brother, and promises to see her as and when for the check-ups. It’s not as if they won’t see each other anymore. Cardia seemed to want to say something else, but in the end  she didn’t. Thinking back, he took the chance away from her. If he had a bit more courage and acted differently, would things be different now?

Fran wakes up at Watson’s place. He got to know Watson, a former army doctor, when they were both saving injured people after the Nautilus incident. On their rest days, Fran would stay over and they would have long medical discussions. His current life is a fulfilling one, but it’s true that he feels lonely and would see that dream almost every night. Watson wonders why he kept calling out someone’s name in his dream, and Fran quickly denies that Cardia is special or anything. Watson says that it was only a joke, but it’s true that he looks troubled. Fran confides that he regrets not saying what he really wanted on the day they parted ways. Watson points out that he can still see Cardia anytime since she’s at Wales. He’s aware that things aren’t that simple. But perhaps Fran will feel better if he sees that the results are within his reach.

A few days later, Fran is shopping for necessities but his thoughts are occupied. He bumps into Leonhard, who asks if he has no intentions of returning. Fran reinforces his decision. His past led to the deadly gas weapon used in the war against vampires, as well as the horologium in Cardia – and indirectly even Code:Realize itself. So he wants to personally oversee the full process. Leonhard accepts this, and also informs him that they located the location of the remaining jikterium based on Tasogare’s notes. The queen has decided to seal it off, much to Fran’s relief. Later, Fran finds himself next to River Thames, and recalls that day with Cardia on Tower Bridge once more as well as his regrets. He returns to his clinic, and is surprised to find a reply from his mother. His parents decide to visit him on Christmas Eve, wishing to meet Cardia for themselves.

In Wales, Cardia is cleaning up the house. It isn’t the first time Fran has sent a letter, but this particular one seems very urgent – only stating that he’s coming to see her now to talk about something important. Fran is important to her. Not only does he still check on their conditions, he also helped a lot in removing the poison from her. He also reminded her that she’s a “normal girl” since the beginning, and surely those warm words of his made her more human. Perhaps on the day they parted ways, she was secretly hoping for him to tell her to stay. If only she had brought herself to say those words instead. Finis enters the room, saying that the cookies are ready and all that’s left is to prepare some expensive tea – which he doesn’t give Hansel. Cardia notes that he treats Fran better compared to Saint and Impey. Her brother mutters that they’re in his care and he’s the most sensible one among those five.

Soon, Fran arrives and Cardia shows him around her house, including her room. The atmosphere gets a bit awkward, but Fran stops her from calling Finis. He wants to talk to her alone. He asks her to be his lover – but not as his real lover. His first words took her by surprise, but her head immediately cools down at his next words. She orders him to explain things properly, and to wait while she prepares the tea. After hearing him out, she can’t help but sigh inwardly. Cardia doesn’t mind helping him, moreover she wants to see everyone else since they’ll be having a Christmas gathering. But in return, she has two conditions. One is for Fran to act as her lover, and to start practising how to act as lovers from tomorrow onwards.

They arrive at London the next day, 20th December. At the train station, Hansel spots them. He grabs Finis, reminding him of their promise to go somewhere warmer like Egypt or Peru. He says that they will return in time, and disappears with a protesting Finis. Cardia isn’t particularly worried since this has happened before, and Finis would seem happy when he shares what happened with her. She reminds Fran about her condition, so he offers his arm to her. They walk with their arms linked. Soon, it starts to snow as they head to Fran’s clinic. They go to Saint’s mansion the next day, with the important mission of telling their relationship to the rest. They enter the house while holding hands, and everyone happily greets them. Van and Dela are present too. When they learn about Finis’ situation, Saint reassures Cardia that he will retrieve them if necessary.

As the conversation gets carried away, Fran is waiting for someone to comment soon. Fortunately for him, Impey calls their attention to the couple holding hands. Fran declares that Cardia is her lover, and won’t forgive anyone who lays a hand on her. Everyone casually accepts it, except Impey who wonders why everyone isn’t surprised. Even the couple are perturbed by the lack of reaction. Nonetheless, they explain the real situation later. Everyone comments that they more or less guessed that there must be an underlying reason (except Impey). However, Christmas eve is also the day which they planned to have their party. They decide to postpone it, and insist that Fran spends the day with his parents. While the reason isn’t explicitly spelled out, it’s because Fran is the only one whose parents are still well and alive.

Since Fran is still busy with his clinic, Cardia ends up helping him the following day. The patients end up teasing Fran, thinking that they’re married. Fran corrects them, that they’re lovers. And Cardia doesn’t mind it, to be honest. After the clinic is closed, the couple go out for a meal. It’s the same schedule the next day, 23rd December. That afternoon, they stroll around London as a couple. They spot Leonhard and the guards at the Christmas market. Fran explains that they are usually stationed outside the palace, but perhaps they decided to hold the exchange of guards here for the tourists. Cardia recalls that Leonhard sent her one letter after she returned to Wales, apologising for calling her a “monster” that night. Afterwards, they go to a cafe but the cafe is having a Christmas special menu – and the dishes on the menu for couples all have very embarrassing names. With a deep blush, Fran orders one of them (a drink to toast to your eyes and I won’t leave your side till dawn / custard pudding overflowing with our sweet love / I love love love you so much parfait). Even Cardia turns her gaze away out of embarrassment.

Cardia sees that there are couples all around them, and wonder if they appear like one too. Fran asks if they can be real lovers. When she looks back in surprise, he only smiles. He suggests for them to challenge all sorts of things as lovers during this Christmas period. She agrees. The two of them stay out till late, as if not wanting this moment to end. Fran shows her to a skating ring at the Christmas market. Cardia feels frustrated at how good he is, since he isn’t the agile type like Lupin or Saint. He replies that he skated a lot at his hometown, and gently holds her while guiding her. She tells him not to let go of her, forever. Fran pauses, before answering that he won’t while hugging her closely.

It’s Christmas eve. They walk slowly to the train station. Cardia feels that Fran started to act like her real lover ever since that day – not that they are. Surely it’s because the snow cast its Christmas magic on her. The train will arrive in 10 minutes. Fran asks if she’s cold, and hugs her shoulder. He says that the past few days have been very fun, from meeting everyone to spending this much time with her, even if it’s as fake lovers. He was really happy, and he thanks her for this wonderful time. They can’t avoid parting ways once Christmas is over, but he admits that he feels lonely. Fran asks to hear from her this time. Cardia says that it was fun for her too, but painful as well. She doesn’t want this to be a lie. They can hear the train whistle in a distance. She wipes her tears, and promises to act properly in front of his parents.

Fran remarks that she’s much stronger than him. He will make the lie into truth, and confesses his love for her. He wants to become her family, and to always remain with her. This time, he asks her to become her lover for real. Cardia is in disbelief, so he kisses her to convey his feelings. Fran’s parents arrive at the platform, and he introduces Cardia to them. There’s a lot to process, such as how to explain their relationship to the rest, or their lives from now on. But one thing is for sure, she will become their family in the future. Fran vows to her that they’ll become a happy family in the future, and to treasure their time together.

Arsène Lupin (CV: Maeno Tomoaki)

On a winter’s night, Lupin successfully steals from a corrupted man and makes his escape. However, Leonhard and his troops stands in his way. Usually, he’ll easily escape. But he calls out to Cardia behind him – except that she’s no longer with him. He is unable to dodge the attack and falls off the roof and onto the bushes below. Even Leonhard can’t believe how easy it was, and warns his men to carefully approach the gentleman thief in case it’s a trap. Thanks to that, Lupin manages to sneak away and into the crowd. However, this isn’t the first time he has made a mistake. Fortunately, Fran happens to visit Saint’s mansion and treats Lupin’s injuries. Impey and Fran also find it hard to believe that Lupin has been messing up lately, but the man himself claims that he has these days too. Fran guesses that he must still be tired from the recent trip to France and his work, and advises him to rest.

One week later, Lupin reckons that he’s better. In fact, his senses are sharper than ever. Is it because he overcame the biggest obstacle and goal in his life? It’s as if he’s missing something which has always been there – including Cardia. Just then, Saint comes to find Lupin. The latter guesses that the Count heard about what happened to him recently. The Count prepares tea, and wonders if he’s thinking about Cardia. Lupin chokes on his tea. Saint remarks that it’s rare for Lupin to be this bothered, and directs his attention to the news of this year’s Christmas. He hopes that they can hold their own celebration too. When he’s left alone, Lupin has no choice but to admit how important Cardia has become to him. He recalls the day Cardia left, and wonders if the future would’ve been different if he’d told her not to go. It’s not as if they can’t meet each other again though, he can go and meet her. Before that, Lupin pens down a letter to her. But he’s having difficulty. Just then, he spots the newspaper Saint left behind and finally gets an idea of what to write about.

The days pass by, and soon it’s almost Christmas. Impey, Fran and Saint are busy decorating the mansion too, but Lupin’s head is in the clouds. He even trips and falls when decorating the tree. Saint asks Lupin to buy groceries instead, prompting Impey to jot down a list of items. As Lupin walks among the crowd, he can’t help but think of Cardia again. It’s been a month since he wrote to her, inviting her to come to London for Christmas. He even sent a few more letters afterwards, but there has been no reply.

Negative thoughts start pouring into his head, and he’s so distracted that he doesn’t even realise that Sholmes has been following him. The detective remarks that he’s unlike his usual confident and cool self, and he guesses that the root cause is Cardia. The gentleman thief declines his offer to provide advice, saying that he just hasn’t heard from her. Watson calls out to Sholmes in a distance. Before the latter takes his leave, he comments that Lupin looks as if he’s a victim, that he was robbed of something precious to him. Usually, people would look for a detective in such scenarios – but surely not him. Lupin mulls over his words, and gazes at his own hands. He took her away the previous time. And he will do it again this time – but for a different reason. He will make sure not to regret his actions again.

It’s Christmas eve, and Cardia keeps staring out of the window. Finis persuades her to sleep first, but she can’t fall asleep. She wished that she could’ve gone to London. But when she sent a letter to ask if it’s convenient to visit during Christmas, there was no answer till today. She wonders if everyone is out. She can visit them another day, but it would’ve nice to spend the holidays together with everyone. She recalls the night Lupin took her away, and when she said her wish. Surely her wish is still the same – she wants to see him, to touch him.

There’s a knock on her window. To her surprise, Cardia finds Lupin outside in a Santa Claus outfit, and Sissy is dressed up as a reindeer. He says that he’s here to gift a smile. She reaches out to touch him, to confirm that he’s real. He couldn’t have possibly known, and yet he has granted her wish. They enter the room, and change out of the costumes. Lupin says that he can’t bring over the whole of London, but he wanted to at least bring a bit of the Christmas atmosphere. Cardia thanks him for the lovely present. He admits that it’s an excuse as he was worried about her, since she didn’t reply his letter. She’s confused by his words, as she shares that she didn’t receive anything. Moreover, there was no reply to her letter.

Just then, Finis enters her room, informing her that the security alarm in the garden was removed. She asks her brother about the letters, since he usually checks the mailbox. He freezes, and it takes a while before he admits that he hasn’t been giving them to her. But it wasn’t intentional. At first, he properly passed the letters to her. But then Impey kept sending a lot each week and it got troublesome. So he let the letters accumulate till now, and the letters from other people got mixed in as well. Finis looks apologetic, so Lupin doesn’t reprimand him and instead says that he will tell Impey off too. There’s still the mystery of Cardia’s letter though, and Lupin seems to have an idea. But they’ll need to make a trip in order to confirm it. So he brings the siblings to London, in the ornithopter which he borrowed from Impey.

In London, Finis says that he’ll return the ornithopter and leaves the couple alone. They encounter Van and Dela on the streets. After exchanging some words, they promise to see each other later at the mansion. While they’re walking, Lupin suddenly breaks into a run and they escape into a back alley. Before Cardia can comprehend the situation, Sholmes catches up with them. He sees that Lupin is back to his normal self, though he’s a bit hurt that Lupin ran away immediately. The detective says that he’ll leave the passionate couple alone. As he leaves, the gentleman thief reluctantly thanks him, to their surprise. Meanwhile, Cardia feels restless, even though it isn’t the first time Lupin held her hand or embraced her.

The couple continue to stroll, and meet familiar faces: Queen Victoria and Leonhard, Nemo who received a 1 day amnesty, the Gordon family. As Lupin is about to tell Cardia something, Shirley calls out to them. She sneaked out of the party to look for a Christmas present for her father. She guides them to the church, which has a huge decorated Christmas tree. While they’re there, she asks Cardia in a whisper if Lupin is special to her. Cardia admits that she doesn’t understand “love” well yet. Shirley describes to her what she heard about love, and how it’s different from your family and friends. Hearing this, Cardia realises that the description fits how she feels towards Lupin. Afterwards, they help Shirley choose a present in return, and part ways.

Before they enter the mansion, Lupin tells Cardia that he has something to tell her. However, he notices Fran and Saint spying on them. The two of them are glad to see that he’s back to his usual sharp self. They tell Cardia to go inside first. After she does so, Fran and Saint admit to hiding Cardia’s letter, alongside Impey. They couldn’t bear to sit back and watch the couple go separate ways when they clearly have feelings for each other, to let go of happiness when it’s without their reach. By interfering, they hoped that the couple would realise how lonely they are without their other half. Fran returns the letter, which is overflowing with her feelings for Lupin. Saint tells Lupin that Cardia should be happier.

Inside, everyone is as lively as ever. Impey requests a kiss from Cardia, and Van presses his gun against Impey’s lips instead. Dela wonders if the buns on Finis’ head are real or not, and starts to pull at them. Cardia feels a sense of nostalgia, but also loneliness – since she will return to Wales after this. That means leaving Lupin’s side too. Later, Lupin finds her in the corridor and wants to continue his previous conversation with them. Unfortunately, he’s interrupted a third time by Dela. Not wanting to be disturbed again, he pulls Cardia into hiding and manages to distract Dela. Lupin realises that he’ll continue getting interrupted as long as they’re around everyone. So he brings Cardia outside and leaves a letter behind for the rest.

Lupin leaps from roof to roof while carrying her, and they finally stop at the church rooftop. He confesses that he regretted it ever since he saw her off at the train station. He doesn’t want to leave her side anymore. However, he only truly realised that after she left, and also thanks to the friends who made it more obvious. Cardia remarks that she was lonely too, and also couldn’t make the first move. But he came to see her, to her delight. They confess their feelings to each other, and kiss. There’s still lots to consider about their future, but no matter what, she will stay with Lupin. The falling snow paints the world into silver. It feels that it will be a more wonderful world tomorrow – and so will the future with him.

Overall

All of the stories were really cute! And all of the CGs were beautiful as well. I thought that it will get a bit repetitive, but luckily the stories didn’t always follow the same pattern. It’s also great to see how the rest of the gang support the couple’s romance. Plus, they addressed certain issues such as the relationship between Finis and Van or Saint, or the remaining jikterium etc. It was nice that they tied up these loose threads in these stories.

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