Book 4 Chapter 301

Shot While Sleeping

Leguna and Annelotte's arrival didn't cause much commotion since General Manhattan didn't spread the news. It wasn't that he was bent on shoving his status in Leguna's face, he just didn't want the enemy to catch wind that they were planning something.

Out of consideration for their safety, he even gagged whoever knew about their presence. He didn't even throw the customary welcome banquet. Not that the two minded. Neither of them were into big celebrations, and they knew how important secrecy was to their mission. That they could spend time with their former companions was good enough for them.

Leguna told Kurdak everything he'd experienced since they'd parted. The two hadn't seen each other for months, but he still trusted his 'boss' implicitly, so much so that he insisted on getting his opinion on every little thing he'd done. Kurdak didn't mind either, since the exchange reaffirmed his position as the boy-bigshot's senior.

Vera and Annelotte paired up and chatted on their own in one corner of the tent. Vera was quite animated despite being quite quiet with her voice, and Leguna wondered what Kurdak had done to make her so dissatisfied. It took just a few minutes for Annelotte's at-first-warm gaze at Kurdak to cool considerably either.

"Boss, did you do something to Sis Vera again?"

"Don't even get me started..." Kurdak sighed. "I was injured, and the general sent his granddaughter, Lamir to nurse me back to health. Vera isn't happy he sent a woman to look--"

"--You have the balls to talk about it?!" Vera shouted from her corner, "You call what you two got up to 'nursing'? You two were flirting! Even the general knows what you two were up to! He told you to 'look after her' for goodness' sake! Of course I'd be unhappy!"

"Is that true?"

"... Yes," Kurdak nodded unwillingly, "But it's just that the general admires my talent and wants to cultivate me."

"What does that have to do with his granddaughter?" Vera snapped. Her eyes turned red and watery as if she'd been assaulted, "Cultivate? You're damn right they want to cultivate you! Right into their damn household!"

"You..." Kurdak felt his self-control slipping rapidly.

"Boss!" Leguna shouted, tugging on his boss's sleeve, "Let's take a moment to calm down. Let me and Annie talk alone for a while."

"It's your fault," Annelotte said, not giving Leguna a chance to try and smooth things over, "Call it whatever you like, it's still cheating. I'm amazed Sis Vera had endured it until now."

"Oh, so now I'm the cheater?" Kurdak asked, glaring at Leguna.

"You're a sellout!" Leguna shouted.

"It's true!" Kurdak shouted back.

"Those are two completely different matters. And we're talking about you, not Ley, today," Vera insisted.

"Yes!" Leguna nodded like a chicken.

"So what with me?!" Kurdak's fists were clenched white, "Am I not allowed to be friends with another woman?!"

"You might think so, but I don't think either Lamir or her grandfather thinks that," Annelotte shot.

Kurdak stared at his three prosecutors, speechless.

"So it's my sin that they might not think the same as me? How am I supposed to know what they're thinking?"

"That's the problem, isn't it?" Leguna snipped again.

He looked at Vera. She had been holding back quite a lot to not have exploded into an argument with him the moment she found out what he was up to.

"How about this--" he started.

"What?" Kurdak snapped.

"Just promise Sis Vera you won't do anything with any other woman. She's only this way because she doesn't know if she can trust you to be faithful."

Kurdak stared at him, blood pumping in the red veins in his eyes.

"What? You aren't willing?" Leguna frowned.

He didn't want to believe his boss wouldn't make such a simple promise. Was he really thinking of getting more than one woman? That was really immoral, and he didn't want to believe his boss was such a cheat.

"Boss, you can't..." Leguna murmured, "This is Sis Vera we're talking about! You can't even give her your word?"

"How could I?!" Kurdak's face was red, half from embarrassment and half from fury. "How can I when you're all watching?"

"Oooooh..." Leguna shot Annelotte a glance, and the two disappeared.

Vera suddenly felt very awkward when the two were along.

"I... I'm not--" she started to mumble.

"Stop," Kurdak sighed, half tired and half exhausted by fury, "I should have known you'd react like this."

"If--" Vera bit her lip, "--if Lamir can give you a better future--" she began, half ashamed and half accusatory.

"What are you saying?! Am I someone who relies on women to succeed?" Kurdak asked, his anger rising again.

"No, I..."

"Stop it, now. I could have taken any woman I wanted back in Starfall, but I chose you. And I don't second-guess my choices. You're my woman and I'm your man. If you can't trust me to keep my word, then this will never work."

Vera sighed, relieved, but her face turned purple with shame.

"I'm sorry..." she murmured into his chest.

......

Leguna and Annelotte discussed their mission once they returned to their shared tent. They'd been forced to use just one to avoid unwanted attention. And Leguna could barely sleep for realizing this was his first time sleeping in the same room with Annelotte, and alone to boot.

"Annie..."

"What?" the girl's voice came back impatiently out of the darkness.

"When you said boss was cheating, I..." Leguna started, but the words got stuck in his throat.

He desperately wanted her to tell him it didn't apply to him, to allay his shame at, indeed, cheating on her, but she just stayed quiet.

"Now's not the time. Focus on the mission," her cold voice answered, eventually.

"Yes..." he said obediently, his heart sinking.

It took him nearly an hour to fall asleep, despite learning to time out the moment his head hit the pillow, and sometimes even before.

"Hey, Leguna..." he heard Annelotte's faint voice just as he started finally dozing off.

"Huh?"

"Do... really... me?" he heard the broken sentence and he couldn't be sure if it was because she spoke too quietly, or because he was already half asleep, but he knew, or desperately wanted to believe he knew, what she had said.

"Yes," he said with conviction, "I've always liked you."

He didn't hear another word from her, but he thought he heard a shuddered breath. How could he have heard her question even though she'd only breathed it? Did all assassins have such good hearing? Or had he only heard she'd mouthed something and guessed correctly?

"Please believe me Annie. I know I've let you down before, but I promise you, I will protect you," Leguna mumbled, now more asleep than awake.

Annelotte's breathing started again. So he hadn't actually heard her, he was just sleep talking. The thought didn't really help much though. If he was indeed sleep-talking, was he thinking about her even in his sleep?

She felt half grossed out at the thought a man was thinking of her in his sleep, and half embarrassed that that man would be the brat. But just as she was about to fall asleep herself, the bittersweet feeling vanished when she heard what he mumbled next.

"But Annie... you're too fierce... You're fiercer than Sis Vera... I don't know how you'll get along with Eirinn once you're both my women. I'll have to sort you out, I won't have you spoiling my harem!"

She sat up and dictated a barrier of silence on the tent, then started taking out her fury on the conveniently provided punching back that lay at its other end.


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