"Phew, can we rest for a few days after we finish this one?" Vera asked as she lay on the bed lazily.
"We'll only get a few short days. That Tamro will definitely not let us off easily," Kurdak answered, equally exhausted.
"We've gained a reasonable amount of merits, right? Shouldn't it be time we headed back?"
"Well… I should be able to get a position as a lieutenant. Heh, I'll be leading a hundred men around! How glorious?"
"Alright, then we more or less have enough. Let's return soon."
"Too soon! It's only been four months! Leguna said we'd be here for half a year!"
"We don't lack anything, but going into battle all day is exhausting. Even if I don't head to Melindor, I want to spend a few days behind the frontlines at least," Vera said, giving a long sigh, "Killing all day long is starting to get frustrating..."
Kurdak winced when he saw Vera's tired expression.
"Alright, I'll tell Tamro we're done soon!"
Their first meal after their return was dinner. The three took Eirinn along and looked for a good tavern. They ate as much as they could, but halfway through, Eirinn suddenly thought of something.
"I have to do something, I'll be gone for a bit," she said as she stood up.
"Oh? Where are you going so late?" Leguna asked, "You're dressed weird. We're only having dinner, why did you bring your healing kit and Dawnslight along? You look like you're going to save someone."
"Well... That's about right," Eirinn said, "Big Brother Alpacino said he needed to see me at eight tonight. I'm going to check on him. I didn't clean the wound properly last time I saw him."
"Ley, you really going to let her go?" Kurdak asked as Eirinn left.
"You should've heard, right? There's a soldier in the fortress courting Eirinn," Kurdak said casually.
"Of course I did," Leguna said, "But I trust her. How could she be taken away by a mere soldier? She--"
"Alright, stop putting up a front," Vera interjected, "Even if you trust Eirinn, do you trust the soldier? He asked her to see him this late. She's not as strong as us, if he's rough she can't do anything."
"But she's... she's a 10 strata priestess," Leguna protested.
"What strata warrior do you think she can defeat?"
Leguna thought about it silently for a few moments before putting his utensils down and leaving quietly.
"Fool... Even though he's worried, he insists on pretending he's not. Are all men so sneaky?" Vera spat.
"Hey! That's distasteful!" Kurdak complained awkwardly.
"Distasteful it is!" Vera shouted between mouthfuls of steak.
Eirinn arrived ten minutes early, but Alpacino was already there.
"Sorry, I'm late," she apologized.
"No, I came early," Alpacino said hurriedly, "I'm happy you agreed to come."
"Of course," Eirinn smiled.
"So you're not turning me down?" Alpacino asked, his face beaming.
"Why would I turn you down?" Eirinn asked, bobbing her head, "Helping injured people is my duty as priestess and a medic."
Alpacino was speechless. So she really was oblivious… How slow...
"Come here and stand properly. I'll detoxify you again." Eirinn said, raising her staff.
"No, Eirinn, you misunderstand. I didn't ask you to meet me here for that."
"Oh? Why did you then?"
"Are you pretending to be oblivious, or do you really not know?" Alpacino asked darkly.
"What is this about? What do you think I should know?"
Why didn't she have the faintest clue what he was talking about?
"Alright, I guess I should to spell it out--" Alpacino's face turned red. "--You took care of me so attentively and patiently since I came back with that injury. You healed me, changed my bandages and detoxified me--"
"--I'm just doing my job."
"--It may be nothing more than your job to you, but for me… Nobody has ever taken such care of me before. You're an angel -- gentle, pure and perfect. I gradually fell in love as I watched you look after me every day. I... I like you, Eirinn. Not just like, I love you. Will you marry me after the war ends?"
Eirinn's face slowly turned red as Alpacino spoke. Her cheeks were two red firebrands by the time he finished. It was snowing, but Eirinn felt like she was on fire.
Was... was this a confession? Was Big Brother Alpacino confessing to her? But she wasn't, was she not Eirinn? Was she not repulsive? Was someone actually proposing to her? Did she maybe hear him wrong?
The weight vanished from his shoulders as the last word of his confession left his mouth, as did the last of his hesitation.
"I... I like you! Do you accept my feelings?"
Eirinn came back to her senses. She withdrew in a slight panic.
"No... I... umm..."
"Do you not?" Alpacino asked, his eyes turning red and watery.
"Hahaha, what a tragedy. You even got rejected by this ugly wench..." a man mocked as he walked closer.
He was followed to two others. They were dressed casually, but Alpacino immediately recognized them as part of the town watch.
"Why are you here, Takros?"
"I was just let out of confinement. I'm taking a walk for fresh air. Thanks to you, the three of us were kept locked up for two weeks! What a coincidence. I didn't think I'd see you having a rendezvous with this uggo. Heh, a confession? And even that rejected you! I wonder if you'd be discharged after word of this spreads..."
"I am the one that made the report, she has nothing to do with this! Leave her alone!" Alpacino shouted as he stepped in front of Eirinn.
"Everything depends on you."
The three gradually approached. Takros sent an impetus-infused punch into Alpacino's abdomen.
The poor man clutched his belly in pain and spat out some bile.
"Good. Don't make a sound and don't resist," Takros said with a sadistic smile, "Looks like there are times when you're smarter than your looks suggest."
"Big Brother Alpacino!" Eirinn shouted as she darted for him.
"Run, Eirinn... Quick..." Alpacino spat through the pain.
"No, I can't--" Eirinn turned to the three attackers. "--You baddies, attacking a soldier will see you discharged!"
"Only if he has to guts to rat us out. I don't really care, personally. Once I'm out, I'll just go back to my farm. You? What about you Alpacino? What would your parents do if you were forced out? Beg on the streets with you? Huh?!" Takros screamed.
He shoved Eirinn aside as he spoke and the three started kicking Alpacino. They made sure to hit him where bruises wouldn't be seen.
Though Alpacino was a 6 strata warrior, his three assailants matched him, so it made no difference. It didn't take him long to start vomiting blood.
"Stop!" Eirinn shouted again.
She could not stand what was happening, it unnerved her so much she completely forgot about her combat effective miracles.
"Buzz off, uggo!" Takros swung his thick hand and struck Eirinn.
Her delicate body was sent flying. She was heading for the flowerbed's stone border with her head.
"Eirinn!" Alpacino cried.
He struggled with all his power to get to her, but Takros' lackeys held him tightly.
A silhouette appeared from the ground and caught Eirinn just in time.
"Seriously, you're a 10 strata priestess and yet you got bullied by three warriors with just four of five strata. I don't think anyone else could do that." Leguna said helplessly.
"Big Brother!" Eirinn cried.
"Alright. Let's go!" Leguna said as he put her down gently.
"But..." Eirinn pointed at the bleeding Alpacino.
The three men had stopped beating him and were instead staring at Leguna.
"Going to play the hero, Sir?" Takros asked coldly.
"No. You can get back to what you were doing. Actually, beat him a little extra on my behalf." Leguna shrugged and prepared to leave with Eirinn.
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