"You're going back?!" Vera and Kurdak half-shouted.
They'd been considering returning to Melindor, but since Eirinn was not willing to go back yet, they'd not left yet.
The half elf had been studying medicine frenziedly as of late. She only stopped to eat, sleep and defecate. She didn't even stop to occasionally talk to Leguna. Leguna, naturally, was most unhappy about this. Eirinn had always been, and should always stay, a little child clinging to him. He did not like this stubborn, independent streak she had developed.
He wanted to go back to Melindor, but at the same time he didn't want to leave Eirinn alone again to continue strengthening that independence, so he was inclined to stay until she finished. But how long would that take? He couldn't stay too long.
"I have to go back for a while, at least," Leguna said, frowning.
What had caused his sudden change of heart?
"Because of him," Leguna said, pointing to an old man standing behind him.
"Mister Marolyt," the two greeted quickly.
"I don't know what exactly's going on, but he wants me to fix his relationship with Annie," Leguna continued.
"Hey, hey..." Kurdak pulled him to the nearest corner, "Are you sure you'll be okay? Are you sure that's the first relationship that needs fixing? How are you going to do that if Annie still hates you? You know as things are right now she'll flay you alive the moment she sees you."
"Don't worry! Annie's not that scary," Leguna said, smiling arrogantly.
His eyes seem to say 'I know how to handle my women'.
"It's your funeral," Kurdak shrugged casually, "What about Eirinn?"
"She..." Leguna scratched his head, "Are you going back with me as well?"
"We should all go if you're going. We've gathered enough merits, anyway."
Leguna had wanted to leave the two here to watch over Eirinn, but he wasn't going to force them.
"I'll try to convince her one last time. We'll leave her if she's still stubborn. She shouldn't be in too much danger here."
That evening Leguna knocked on Eirinn's door again.
"It's me, Eirinn, can I come in?"
"Big Brother..." Eirinn murmured through sleepy eyes as she opened the door, a book still in her hand.
"Why are you working so hard?" Leguna asked, almost completely forgetting why he'd come.
"I have to. I still don't know much compared to teacher. I can't even help her as an assistant sometimes."
"But you can Breathe."
"I'm not slacking off on that either, don't worry!"
Leguna regarded her for a few moments, remembered why he'd come.
"I'm going back to Melindor soon. Are you coming?"
Eirinn froze, but shook her head a moment later.
"I... I still have too much to learn. I'm not going anywhere."
"Bam!" Leguna slapped the door lightly, turning around.
"Medicine, medicine, medicine all you ever talk about these days is medicine!"
"Big Brother..." Eirinn stared at him, wide-eyed, "I..."
Leguna calmed down when he saw her distress and hugged her briefly.
"Fine. I shouldn't have snapped..."
Eirinn snuggled into his small chest.
"Do you want to learn medicine that badly?" he asked into her hair.
"Yes. I want to learn how to help people. You don't understand how it feels to see all those tents full of suffering people. I really want to help them..."
Leguna sighed helplessly.
"Fine. I won't ask you to come with me again if you really don't want to. But I worry for your safety."
"Don't worry. Teacher's been here for two years and nothing's happened to her. I will be fine."
Leguna pushed her away far enough to look at her face, then nodded after a moment.
"Fine. Promise me you'll look after yourself first and foremost. You can't help anyone if something happens to you. If not for your sake, then look after yourself for my sake, okay?"
"Okay. I promise," she whispered.
Leguna stroked her long silver hair gently.
"Don't worry. Maybe it won't be that long before we see each other again. I hope I'll be able to repair your face when I come back. Promise you'll wait for me."
Leguna let her go and left.
He visited Nancy, Tamro, and Alissanda on his way back to his room. Apart from Alissanda, the others promised to look after Eirinn. The second prince couldn't since he was also leaving for Melindor.
"I've been away from home for a few years now. It's time I went home. I was actually trying to go back for a few months before we met. I only just got permission to return, however," Alissanda said.
He had assurances from Eirinn's teacher and the fortress' commander, but Leguna didn't like leaving his woman. He snuck back into the army camp after leaving the prince.
Luckily, Alpacino was on guard and Leguna snuck behind him before yanking him into the darkness.
"Shut up! It's me," he whispered.
He waited for the man to calm down and nod in his hand before letting him go.
"What are you doing here? Here for payback?" Alpacino asked.
He was still somewhat sour over being turned down by the half-elf for someone who he still considered a little brat in some ways. He had yet to see her again since that night. He still found it hard even to just greet her in passing when the two occasionally bumped into one another in town.
"I know I was harsh on you. I'm sorry," Leguna said, smiling viciously despite his apology.
"Just say what you came to say, I don't care for my night being soured by the likes of you," Alpacino half-spat, eyes rolling sourly.
"It's about Eirinn," Leguna said, irritated by the man's gall.
"Eirinn?! What did you do to her?!" Alpacino snapped immediately.
Leguna sighed again, now more certain than ever that the man really did like Eirinn, sincerely.
"I'm going to be gone for a while with my comrades. This is so close to the front lines--"
"You're worried?" Alpacino guessed, "Why would you come to me?"
"Yes, I'm worried," Leguna nodded, "I can pay you. I'll be gone for half a year at most. If she's still fine when I come back, I'll give you a thousand gold coins."
A thousand gold coins! Alpacino's heart beat quickly a few times, but he shook his head.
"You refuse?!" Leguna half-shouted.
"I don't want money! No matter how much you beat me, I still love Eirinn, no less than you do. What kind of man would accept money to protect the woman he likes? Keep your filthy money! I won't let my love for her be insulted with your money! My love is worth more than all the money in the world!"
"There's money and you won't take it? What a fool!" Leguna spat.
"It's none of your business. And you won't understand, either."
"So you're not going to protect her?" Leguna snickered arrogantly.
"I will protect her with my life, but not because you bought me, but because I love her."
Leguna's smiled faded, and he bowed deeply, "Thank you."
"Don't thank me. I told you I'm doing this because I love her, this has nothing to do with you."
"It's my choice to thank the man protecting my woman. See you around."
"She's not your woman!" Alpacino shouted as his surroundings blurred and his rival's silhouette vanished.
"Is this what power is?" Alpacino muttered, his eyes refocusing on an empty world.
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