Standing Back Up
“Contestant Ley has raised his hand! He has surrendered! He’s surrendered!” pumped and doped up was no longer enough to describe the announcer. He practically jumped on his podium and howled. He probably wouldn’t be this excited even if his wife had won the championship.
“Annelotte is the winner! Miss. Annelotte has won the match!” he bellowed.
The audience joined in.
“She... is ridiculously strong...” Vera muttered, still recovering. She had seen Annelotte fight before and had thought she had some idea of her strength, but that had evidently only been the surface. She was always cold, calm, as if nothing was beyond her expectation.
“Hmmm--“ Innilis pouted, “--I should be happy, but I’m down because Big Bro lost. What should I feel?”
“Stupid girl,” Vera chided, rubbing the girl’s blonde hair, “Ley didn’t join the tournament to win. He’s here to see Annie. Look, didn’t the two get to talk? He’s gotten his wish. He didn’t lose.”
“Really? Okay! Then I can feel happy, right? Hehe!”
Vera doted on the little girl. She tickled her armpits, but the girl didn’t yield. The two starting fussing about.
Eirinn gazed at the two, smile absent. Her gaze returned to Leguna, who stood blankly in the arena, and then shifted to Annelotte, who had left unceremoniously. She felt uncomfortable.
This isn’t right. They were supposed to have talked it out, so why is he this melancholy? What did they talk about?
She had a feeling things hadn’t played out as Leguna had hoped.
“Heh, I heard you lost, brat. Haha, you deserve it! Who was the one who came and mocked me two days ago, huh?” Kurdak mocked the moment Leguna came into the room.
News of Annelotte’s victory had spread like wildfire. Everyone already knew.
Leguna mimicked an awkwardly silently.
“So, how’d it go? You talked to her, right?” Vera asked, coming in shortly after him.
“Yes, I did,” Leguna muttered absentmindedly.
“Did she forgive you?” Innilis followed up.
“I... I don’t know.”
Is she turning me away or just dissatisfied with my strength… or did she mean something else? Will she really come to me if I become successful or should I give up? We’re too far apart...
Such questions bothered him incessantly like pesky flies. He wanted to put everything behind him and go to sleep, but he couldn’t.
“What did Sis talk to you about?” Eirinn asked, emerging from the door behind the two other females.
“I... Forget it, nothing worth mentioning,” Leguna smiled painedly.
“Tell us, Big Brother. You’re not in the right state of mind,” Eirinn insisted gently.
Leguna gazed at his companions for a long, pregnant moment. He wanted to hear their thoughts, so he gave in and spilled the beans.
Kurdak shook his head speechlessly, patting Leguna’s shoulder, his face ‘rejection is normal so don’t brood over it all the time. We still have to work hard tomorrow’.
“How could Annie say something like that?” Vera frowned.
This was unlike her.
“She’s going too far. This isn’t like her,” Innilis agreed with unveiled disappointment. She had always considered Annelotte her idol, her words, however, severely damaged her impression with the little girl.
“What are you going to do?” Eirinn pressed.
“Me? What else can I do? Annie hates me. It’d be best to leave.”
Everyone stayed quiet. Was the boy giving up?
“Does she really hate you?”
“Maybe Sis changed and you can’t accept that. Do you think she’s become snobbish and aloof? Are you leaving because you don’t like how she is now?”
“...That’s part of it,” Leguna answered, “What? Did I say something wrong?” he asked when he saw contempt in Eirinn’s face.
“You forgot what I said already. Ask yourself: is Sis such a person?”
Eirinn would not admit it to others, but she had certain feelings for Leguna and was very dependent on him. In the beginning, it was just a kind of natural instinct ingrained in young girls like her to seek out brave boys. But now, after he had returned for her after so many years, she had consciously chosen to give her heart free reign and hand her life over.
She was in love. She knew it as well as Leguna knew he loved Annelotte. She also knew that this was not just blind impulse or a crush.
Women in love were selfish things, Eirinn was no exception. She hoped, almost prayed the two would never meet again. That girl was a sun that blinded Leguna to Eirinn’s moonlight.
Now was the perfect time to shoot her out of the sky. Leguna had brought up leaving her for good himself, and, with what Eirinn knew of the girl’s temperament, she would not come looking for him if he did. There could be no better chance than this.
But she couldn’t do it.
She was green with envy, she wanted nothing more than to watch their relationship burn to ashes, but she couldn’t bear to watch Leguna suffer, her love would not let her do it. It compelled her to do everything in her power to keep the two together.
“Is Annie… such a person?”
He mulled over the words, his memories of her welling up in his mind. She was cold, strong, sadistic, tough, sincere, beautiful, and proud.
Such people were roses forever out of reach, forever proud, forever beautiful, and forever young. They were never pulled down by the world, never tainted by the people around them. Did they care about power? Was she the Annelotte he knew, or was she power hungry?
No! She was Annelotte! Because she was Annelotte! She must have had a reason! There had to be something he had missed! If anything changed, it definitely was not her!
“No, Annie’s not such a person!”
He had been misled and blinded by the surface. How could he have doubted her again? Was this whole situation not because he had doubted her in the first place? Had he not learned his lesson?
Eirinn felt her heart crack when she saw Leguna so happy for another woman, but bottled everything inside.
“Good. Still going to leave?”
“No! I don’t know what’s going on, but I’m sure Annie meant for me to become more powerful and hoard more authority.”
“What do you plan to do?” Vera asked.
“Power and authority,” Leguna said, his fist clenched, “Since Annie believes I need them, I’ll hoard them like my life depends on it!”
Leguna’s heart was resolved. He would become powerful, the most powerful in the world if his woman asked it, he would hoard authority, all the authority in the world of his woman wanted it.
“Way to go! That’s my little brother!” Vera smiled.
“Sigh, looks like I have a lot of trouble to look forward to,” Kurdak jaded.
“I’ll help out too!” Innilis jumped.
Eirinn nodded, a self-deprecating smile hidden in her eyes.
Leguna kissed her on the forehead lightly.
“Whoa!” the rest jeered.
Eirinn felt both pain and joy at the kiss, a blush on her face. If only her scars were not still there, her expression might have made Leguna forget about Annelotte right then and there.
“You’re back to normal now and I have better things to do, so I’m off.” Eirinn spat as she made for the door.
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