Becoming Madin’s disciple wasn’t as complicated as Leguna thought. There was no ritual or prayer. Even the customs were simple. Eirinn bowed to Madin as a disciple would a master and Madin returned it, before giving her a staff. The ceremony thus concluded.
The gift was expensive. The staff was called Dawnslight, a really useful priestly weapon and tool. Not only did it let her dictate light-based spells, it also enhanced her healing spells.
Leguna knew how much the staff was worth and, while it might not compare to the one Annelotte used, there was no doubt it could fetch up to ten thousand gold on the market. Additionally, it could only be bought from the largest weapons shop in the city. He turned it down, but Madin insisted until he caved.
“Alright, child. I’m sure you know more than Eirinn,” Madin smiled gently, “I won’t deny I intend to benefit from her. But I genuinely like this child. I hope she can fare better. I know this staff is a little too expensive, but it isn’t much to someone like her. It’s okay to take it.”
Leguna dropped his worries when he saw Madin’s sincerity and let Eirinn take Dawnslight. The girl didn’t know how expensive the thing was, otherwise she’d never have accepted it. She sensed the milky light it radiated, however, and instinctively knew it was very useful. She couldn’t take her eyes off it from the moment Madin brought it out. She grabbed the staff and held it tightly like a treasure.
Leguna proudly announced Eirinn’s new status when they returned to the inn.
He made sure to memorize Kurdak and Vera’s expressions when they heard the news so he would never forget it. Their eyes nearly fell out of their skulls and their jaws wet the floor.
Eirinn had suddenly gone from one of the dead-weights in the party, to one of its most valuable members. They finally had someone to treat Kurdak, but she wasn’t confident in her abilities. She had never performed a miracle before, so her hesitation was understandable.
“What’s there to be afraid of? I am tough! Even if you misspeak or use a shadow spell or two, I can take it!” Kurdak waved his hand and patted his chest.
The girl finally gave in and began to Breathe for the first time. Kurdak prepared himself to suffer, clenching his teeth secretly. He had little hope of her getting it right, but he had to let her build up her confidence. No stranger would be forgiving of painful mistakes, so it had to be him. A few extra days in bed was hardly a price compared to training a good priestess.
He had some fear she’d not just make a small mistake, however, but would instead launch a shadow spell that could cripple him for life. Nothing was worth that.
His luck held, however, and nothing went wrong. The miracle was a complete success. Not even Madin, as experienced as he was, would have done better. She did have a great staff, but it could not make up for a lack of talent. Eirinn had to be a genius priestess!
Truthfully, she had little talent. Everything was thanks to Pyro’s imprints. He’d given her all the knowledge, knowledge even many top priests and priestesses didn’t have. She’d just had to recall it and mimic it. She’d also done it a thousand times in her head before doing it for real, so this was not really her first time.
Eirinn’s confidence soared after her first successful Breathing. She organized her memories and did several more before closing up his remaining wounds and bandaging him up again. She worked like an experienced hand, no one would have guessed this was her first time if not for her age and Leguna’s proud declaration.
Her aura had also changed drastically. She’d been an abandoned kitten when they first found her, she was timid and always on edge. She was afraid of everyone besides Leguna. Now, however, she was bright and energetic. She joked with the two adults and teased Innilis. Everyone was happy with her change, besides Leguna.
While Eirinn had been getting closer and closer to the rest of the party, she’d been pulling away from Leguna. She made him feel like he was a thousand gold in debt and she was his debtor.
“Did I offend her?” Leguna asked Innilis.
Innilis knew Eirinn best, next to Leguna.
“Hmph, you offend people all the time. Sis Annie still hasn’t made up with you!” Innilis said down her nose.
“Hey, no low blows! If you do that, I won’t find you cute anymore.”
“Hmph, who wants you to find them cute?” she said contemptuously.
Leguna almost couldn’t catch his breath and finally conceded.
“Fine, madam, please ask Eirinn what this is about? I can’t think of anything I did wrong.”
Frolicking with three women isn’t doing anything wrong? How can you be so shameless? she thought.
It was a fruitless effort. Eirinn treated Leguna this way because she felt he owed her for choosing to stay ugly. She’d decided against restoring her beauty because the other blessing concerned Leguna, so he owed her.
She knew it had been her choice, that she had made it without consulting him, and that he thus had nothing to do with it, but the thought just wouldn’t go away. She didn’t despise him, but she couldn’t avoid treating him like he’d offended her. She’d never done something like this. Leguna didn’t know how to react. She would probably return to normal if he talked about it with her, but the thought never even crossed his stunned mind.
Leguna was forced to confront the girl after Innilis failed to get the truth out of her.
“Eirinn... Little Eirinn...” Leguna made his way to her side wearing a detestable, thieving smile one night.
“What?” she answered distantly.
Her thoughts were occupied by what she’d sacrificed, and the fact that only Pyro could know about it. She doubted Leguna would believe her even if she told him. She detested seeing the brat acting happy-go-lucky in front of her when she’d given up so much for him. Despite how much it hurt her, she couldn’t get angry at him, it just wasn’t in her nature.
“Umm... Hahaha,” Leguna revealed his horrible expression again, “Big Brother feels you’ve been in a bad mood. What’s going on?”
“It’s... it’s nothing.”
Eirinn had noticed earlier that she’d been treating the brat badly and, despite feeling it was to be expected, guilt still gnawed at her a little. Now confronted by it, she felt a little worse. She wanted to tell him, but at the same time she didn’t want to distract him from his upcoming fight.
“Eirinn, do you know...”
“Your earlobes glow red when you lie. They’re red now.”
“Tell me. I want you to be happy. I don’t like seeing you like this. Tell me what’s going on and I’ll take care of it. Big Brother Leguna is very strong, you know!”
“I’m fine, Big Brother,” Eirinn said seriously, “I am a little trouble right now, but it’s nothing serious. I can deal with it on my own.”
“So you’re asking me to just sit by and watch?”
“Everyone feels down sometimes. We know what being happy is because we can put it against being sad. It’s normal to feel this way from time to time, so don’t go getting worried. Did you notice something?”
“You’re trying to do too much.”
Leguna stared at her.
“Sis Annie, Lil Innie, Boss Kurdak, Sis Vera, and I... I know we’re all important to you. I know you want to protect us, but you shouldn’t try to do everything yourself.”
Eirinn stretched out her hand unconsciously and touched his face.
“You want to fight for Boss Kurdak, help Sis Vera manage our money, play with Innie every day and do things for me. And… then there‘re your fights with Sis Annie. You shouldn’t overwork yourself.”
“Are you calling me a busybody?” Leguna asked bitterly.
“No I didn’t mean it like that. I just... feel bad for you... You’re always trying so hard... It must be tiring, right? You’re wearing yourself out. Seeing you like this... makes me really sad.”
The girl wept silently, burying her head in the boy’s chest. Inside his heart beat strongly.
“I can only count on you. I’m afraid… really afraid… I’ll lose you. I won’t have anyone if I lose you. Don’t overwork yourself.”
Leguna wrapped his arms around her tightly. Only she, only this gentle, delicate little girl could truly understand him. He had left Lance, left all the violence and drama behind, but he’d never caught his breath. He not only had to worry about himself, but everyone around him, and now his trouble with Annelotte, as well as his teacher’s expectations and pushes to get him involved with the bureau.
It appeared like everything had been left behind, but a single mistake could undo everything. He’d hidden himself all the time, he would still be doing so if not for Legg destroying his disguise. How could he not be tired? He didn’t dare admit it, however, he might collapse completely if he did. He certainly couldn’t trouble his friends over it.
“I don’t want to either,” Leguna sighed, “But I don’t have a choice. I know you’re afraid, I am too. I’ve seen things I wish I could forget. I don’t want any of you to see such things, so I have to keep going.”
He saw in front of his eyes the old scene again. Guts and flesh, limbs and blood splattered like haphazardly discarded trash across a clearing and the insides of a room. Cyranos, Jaehart, Minnie… He thought of the scene whenever he felt he couldn’t go on, and like the fear of death, it pushed him on.
“Big Brother...” Eirinn’s freshly dried tears flowed again.
Leguna patted her shoulder.
“Don’t worry. I said I’m tough. How can I fall so easily? I promise when I really can’t hold on, I’ll tell you. Trust me.”
Eirinn shuffled out of Leguna’s embrace. She looked at his solemn expression and nodded gently.
“Alright, I won’t press my question. But you have to deal with it properly, okay?”
“Good. We traded promises. Remember what happens when you break an exchange promise?”
“They’ll turn into dogs!” Eirinn beamed brightly.
“That’s my girl!”
Author’s note: Even though this arc was a little long-winded, I felt that it was worth it for Eirinn’s character. Also, it might be worth noting that Eirinn was the true heroine of the story when I first drafted it. Annie was there to fill her role during the initial parts. But the more I wrote about Annie, the more I came to like her. Does that prove that I actually like cold, aloof girls?! So, I settled on making Annie heroine number one. But don’t worry, I won’t neglect Eirinn either. She’ll have a lot of exciting roles in the chapters to come, and this part of the story was sort of me trying to make up to her for that. Well, that’s basically it!
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