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I feel a warmth in my heart at how at her use of an affectionate name like ‘Liz‘ but at the same time it makes me worry once more that Leomi and Elizabeth Vil are growing too close. Not that I’m in any way willing to split us right now. I’ve been alone for so long, I need this.

I shift the dagger and swiftly cut three vertical lines to finish the ‘E’. Leomi shakes and twitches but she remains silent this time, taking it like a Templar. I apply my left hand over the wound, letting her blood infuse the sleeve glove’s supple leather so that the Little one can eventually have a taste when it becomes saturated enough.

I grab the bottle of ink and pour a few drops on the injury, using a water construct to direct it inside her wound and mark her down to the bone. Leomi’s slender fingers extend out and then close.

That, really stings.” Leomi shivers. “It’s actually, as bad as the cut because it just, keeps biting.” I grin, but think it odd that she would express so much.

Are you trying to earn my forgiveness by telling me you’re suffering?” I ask, curious.

A bit.” Leomi admits without shame.

She crosses her wrists in front of her to rest her chin on them and closes her fists, likely preparing for a retaliatory cut for what she just admitted. Well, I’m not one to disappoint you if I can help it.

I place the dagger next to the ‘E’ but pause, wondering if I should go with ‘Evil’ or my full name. The choice isn’t hard to make, she is not evil and my full name will ensure she can’t deflect when I ask as Jessica.

I carve the ‘L’ in one go. She takes it even better than the first letter, which annoys me a little so I quickly wipe the blood off with my left hand and pour ink into the carving, making her muscles tremble from the agony she must feel at experiencing both pains simultaneously.

Oh, nononono.” Leomi squirms.

Why dance around the war?” I question, applying pressure on her lower back with my knee. “You want to extend it, then you’re relieved when I don’t. A test? A manipulation?”

N, now, you ask?” Lance stutters.

As good a time as any. No, better, it’ll be harder for you to li… obfuscate your answers.” I correct.

I…” I plunge the dagger into her back again, starting to cut the letter ‘I’. “Rhaaa!” Lance exclaims in frustration and agony. “The, whole proposition, was, a test. I couldn’t be sure, of your intentions, at the time, or now.” She says, her breath breaking her sentences. “How far you’d go. I, did not know. But, it doesn’t mean, the plan is bad. I just, made it at a time where… I wanted to affect, expedient changes to, Caeviel, to regain her heart. Before, I realized how terrible, I would be for her.”

I inject ink into her wound and then use the dagger to carve three more letters in her flesh in close succession without even a pause. Leomi squeals and screams in pain, provoking alarmed looks from members of her organization, specifically Roisia.

Tell them it’s fine.” I utter coldly.

It’s, fine!” Leomi yells in an agonized voice. “Really!

I run my gloved left hand over the cuts, the leather finally reaching a point of blood saturation where my symbiont can taste her. The Little one sends me a burst of satisfaction, which I take as a ‘thank you’.

You should know how unwise it is to provoke me.” I say, vexed that she even tried.

It, reassures me that, you’re jealous. Sometimes, I fear you only want…” Leomi pauses. “You know.”

Oh, have no worry Countess, I want the whole of you.” I gripe.

By, the way, the answers, they’ll cost you.” She adds with a mean smile.

We’ll see, by their content.” I flatly reply. “I kind of ran out of bone at some point, that’s a bit of an issue.”

Yeah, well, I’m pretty sure this is, more painful.” Leomi chokes.

I inspect her sharp traits, twisted by the agony she just went through, spotting a few nascent tears in the corner of her eyes. I pour ink into the ‘Z’, ‘A’, and ‘B’ shaped injuries, Leomi’s back arcs backward in reaction as she takes the sensation in. The droplets roll down her cheeks.

Would you have went through with that plan if I extended the war?” I ask.

After my, betrayal.” She takes a deep breath. “It actually helps to talk, thanks, Liz.” I resist the pull to carve the last three letters because I want her answer. “I would have when I made the plan, I wouldn’t have after I realized she would not want me to, I wouldn’t the first time I proposed it to you. I would have if you agreed today.” She tells me.

Why?” I question, frowning.

Because, with you, there is a very real chance of winning even against a coalition of Kingdoms.” She says, regaining a steadier breath.

Why?” I frown.

Because you’ve won. Soldiers of all comings would follow you for that simple promise of victory.” Leomi explains. “And I could rally the majority of peasantry, which dislike your… violence, around me.” She pauses. “It would have crippled our future together, I think.”

We have a future now?” I ask, worried that she changed her mind about our relationship having a time limit.

I, don’t know.” Leomi admits with a difficult expression. “But we are trying.” She pauses once again. “Or at least, I am.” She adds unsteadily.

I am too, Countess.” I automatically reply to reassure her, caressing her back without thinking.

Hm.” She exhales contently, a relieved smile appearing on her lips.

That was fucking stupid. Shut up, I know. I set the dagger on her back and start carving the letter ‘E’ on the edge of her spine. Leomi twitches, her lips twisting she is completely caught by surprise. I chuckle.

Why keep taunting me with her?” I ask.

I like to hear the, pain, in your voice, when I do.” Leomi replies, seething from her own agony.

I may have truly harmed you for that, luckily for you, today is a great day.” The words pour straight from my emotions to my mouth, my mind summoning the memory of Celyz. “My Princess did something I appreciate quite a bit.”

Lance’s expression turns from pain to fury in a split second. I only manage to block her elbow strike because I’ve rightfully remained on alert. She tries to struggle out from under my knee but I shift my weight to keep her pinned down.

Elizabeth!” Leomi growls.

Shush, Leomi Lance. You taunt me, I taunt you.” I coldly placate her.

I grab the bottle of ink and pour some into the ‘E’, using my construct to forcefully inject the black liquid instead of guiding it. She twists and turns, shaken by my words and the torturous sensation. I lean in, shifting my mask to lay a small kiss in the pit of her neck, swiftly pulling back as she tries to smash the back of her head into my face.

We didn’t touch, do not fret.” I declare in a berating tone. “My response was only fair.”

It is, I admit.” Leomi sighs, her anger still visible but subdued. “Like you need to accept the feelings I have so you won’t lash out, I will have to work on this. My mention of her is half-way because it is… difficult to keep her off my mind, half-way to get you used to it while only I am here to harm.”

I don’t want you to control me, Lance.” I tell her, finding out as I do that I’m coming very close to lying.

You need me to.” Leomi affirms, turning very serious. “Look at the destruction you’ve caused. What I’ve been told about you is mostly hearsay, and slightly suspicious since it’s coming from Edusa, but I doubt your story will brighten the painting.”

I… don’t accept that you have a say on my actions.” I deny.

You have one on mine.” Lance counters.

I… those weren’t the right words.” I say, feeling off-balance.

I understand what you meant, but the fact is that I don’t want you to unilaterally listen, I want you to keep being who you are.” Lance explains.

Why am I entertaining this discussion? We won’t be together by the time a week has past. I bring the dagger around and cut the last two letters of ‘Elizabeth’ into the right side of her spine and the back of her ribs.

Aaaah, dammit, Elizabeth, I was thinking.” Leomi protests.

Foolish thoughts.” I reply gleefully. “This is almost done.”

I run my left hand over the blood seeping out of the carvings, satisfying some of the Little one’s greedy primal hunger. I then pour ink over the letters. I smile as Leomi takes it with resolve. She relaxes quite a bit as the pain dissipates, she likely took my words to mean this is completely done.

I reinforce her mistaken conclusion by setting the dagger and vial down. I shape an air-blade to grab a gourd from inside her tent. I use the water to start cleaning her back, avoiding to press on the fresh wounds since I want her to settle down so she suffers more when I continue.

Hm. That’s good.” Leomi mutters.

It’ll cost you.” I tease.

Let’s, set that down for the short future.” She murmurs. “I want us to explore our relationship, if one of us feels like the other owes them, we can settle it in the end. Are you okay with that?”

Yes.” I agree.

Good.” She whispers, losing a bit more tension.

I finish washing the blood off her back, gaining a clear sight of the tattoo. I didn’t manage to make ‘Elizabeth’ as clear as I hoped but it remains easy to read and I’m quite satisfied with the way that the ink swirled away from the letters, giving the tattoo an ominous feel.

How does it look?” Lance asks with a concerned frown.

Bad-ass.” I reply, grinning. “Like there are wisps of black smoke coming out of my name.”

So you did put your name on my back.” Leomi groans.

Oh, right. I didn’t tell you.” I pause. “Sorry?”

It’s what I would have chosen, given a choice, considering I don’t have a choice but to pay my price.” Leomi reassures me, making a firm smile.

You did have a choice.” I frown.

I did.” She agrees. “But it would have been a betrayal to allow myself more of a choice than the one I gave you on the battlefield.”

That’s… you’re odd.” I say.

I am worse than that.” She says, sighing.

Don’t worry, I’m more messed up than you are.” I say, shifting my mask again to depose a small kiss on top of her left shoulder.

Doubtful.” Leomi groans. “Could you let me up if you’re not going to give me a massage?” She asks.

Hm.” I fake ponder while grabbing the dagger. “Just a second.”

W, what are you doing?” Leomi asks, slightly panicking.

Finishing the tattoo!” I reply in a chirpy tone as I carve the ‘V’ just under the first ‘L’ of my first name.

Heaui!” Leomi yelps. “Oh shit, you’re not done.” She fearfully realizes.

Now, the ‘I’.” I reply, following through.

Argh.” She groans. “How, much, you doing?” She stutters. “It’s, mostly, permanent, Liz!

It’s as close as I can get to the effect you have on my heart, my dear Leomi.” I murmur.

That’s, sweet.” She pauses to take a few short breaths. “But…”

It isn’t.” I interrupt her, slowly carving the last ‘L’ to keep her quiet. I’m impressed by the fact she manages to block her screams in her throat. “You are manipulative, at times. Apparently, you’ve grown more honest but I still hate that side of yours.” I utter, thinking of both Celyz and Leomi. “I can, I can.” I hurriedly take a deep breath to finish what I mean to say before she recovers. “I enjoy suffering, apparently. I can handle that, but, I have a lot of trouble, with hidden, intent.” I stop, having finished cutting the last letter in her back.

I… keep going. I have, stamina.” Leomi mutters with a guilty expression. I don’t, preferring to wait and hear what she has to say. “It actually is quite a release to…” She trails off.

Be defeated?” I provocatively ask as she doesn’t keep talking.

No.” She denies vehemently, offended. “To trust you with my, life, after having doubted you for so long.” She closes her eyes. “I do, manipulate you at times, it’s rarely voluntary. I have aspirations, fears, wants, desires, they… are hard to handle when it comes to you, to her, to my ambitions. But it is no excuse.”

So you won’t stop?” I ask, feeling my stomach drop.

I do my best to be better but I can’t promise I’ll never play you.” Leomi replies sadly.
“It’s, enough.” I whisper with difficulty, deciding that this is a deep-rooted problem for Jessica to tackle.

I pour three large drops of ink on ‘Vil’, deciding to be gentle at the end, a silent reward for her honesty. Leomi’s shoulders tremble as the liquid infiltrates her flesh down to the bone.

I pour the last of the gourd’s water on her back, washing the blood off of her, unable to care about staining her uniform and the blankets as I do not want to see her slender muscular frame marred by anything other than my touch, even her own blood does not qualify.

You, you done, now, Liz?” Leomi asks in a frail voice.

I am.” I affirm, rattled by how weak she appears to be.

Leomi loses all tension, crumbling down onto the blankets. I hurriedly take my knee off her back, dismantle my constructs, and throw the empty gourd aside to take hold of her shoulders.

I pull her into my arms, passing my left around her waist and settling my right beneath her perfect breasts. I lean back and extend my neck to be able to set my chin in the pit of her right shoulder. She moves with me, still shaking.

Are you okay?” I ask.

Will you, hold me for a while?” Lance pleads.

As long as you want.” I assure, melting inside from witnessing this side of her. “I’d agree to anything you want right now.” I force myself to admit.

Later, Liz.” Lance sighs, resting her cheek against my mask. “It was, harrowing.”

Did, I go too far?” I ask, intensely worried.

No.” Leomi reassures me, making a gentle smile. “I deserve this, and worse.”

You don‘t.” I deny. “You do.” I agree.

Ha.” Leomi laughs. “Could you, hm, hold my, um...” She blushes slightly.

Your what?” I perversely ask despite having a good idea of what she wants.

You know.” Leomi insists, blushing even more.

I need to hear a demand.” I whisper in her reddened right ear.

My breasts. Hold my breasts, Elizabeth Vil.” Leomi orders, her dignity entirely undermined as she squirms in my arms.

By your command.” I acknowledge.

I slowly reach up to her chest, crossing my arms to hold her left breast in my right hand and her right in my symbiont’s. Leomi inhales sharply to slowly breathe out, her twin peaks rising to then settle inside my palms.

That’s, so much, better.” Leomi murmurs, laying her hands on my ankles.

I hold her tight but don’t caress her, unwilling to disturb her rest for my own pleasure despite her erect nipples and higher than usual core temperature signaling that she might be receptive. She closes her eyes. I do so as well.

I take great pride and satisfaction in being able to cast her down and then pull her up, that she relies on me for it. My mind pretty much blanks out on this simple fact, that Lady Countess Leomi Lance needs me, us. We rest like this for a long time, so long that the sun starts setting behind us.

Can you feel, my heartbeat?” She asks.

Sometimes, aftershocks.” I reply.

It beats for you alone right now.” She tells me.

I furiously blush, my loneliness vanishing for a short moment before rushing back along with my wariness as I pick apart her words. She must’ve felt my agitation as she reaches back with her right hand to run her fingers through my long hair.

It isn’t the case if you implicitly mention her.” I gripe.

Sorry.” Leomi mutters just as she catches a knot in my hair. “I’m really not good at being nice.” She says, discomfited.

You can be. Don’t try, just be yourself, Leomi Lance.” I murmur.

Mmph.” She pouts. I squeeze her breasts. “Ah!” She exclaims in surprise and delight. I shift my grip on her chest, feeling like she’s up for a… massage. “No, stop.” She suddenly orders. “It’s my turn to lead.”

Oh.” I pause. “It is.” I acknowledge.

I’m unaware of any turns being established but I suppose it’s a continuation of our exchanges, just without setting a price on our actions until later. Why does it feel like this disfavors me?

Help me up.” Leomi demands imperatively.

She leans forward to let me disengage, which has the very, very, very, regrettable effect of forcing me to release her breasts or renege. I seriously consider that it might be worth it but I’m quite looking forward to what she can come up with.

Immediately?” I ask, wishing we could get a little while longer, perhaps watch the sunset.

Yes, and don’t question me.” Leomi orders, no doubt thinking that the smile she made as I did question her is hidden from me.

Right away, my…” I bite my tongue before I can utter the damning word. “Leomi.”I finish lamely.

The slight tension that took her shoulder as I suspended my sentence fades away, replaced by a sharp but satisfied expression. Whatever she says, she doesn’t want Jessica to have true competition. Or she doesn’t want to confuse the two of me. I grab my liangi up, using it to get up to my feet.

As I do, Leomi recovers the dagger. She doesn’t even clean her blood off the blade before putting it back in the sheath at her waist. I make my way around her and pass my weapon into my left hand to hold my right out.

Lance lays the tips of her slender fingers on my palm and expertly gets back up to her feet while somehow making it seem like she’s relying on me despite only applying the slightest amount of pressure on my hand.

Sit down on that stool, I’ll be right back.” She tells me.

She abruptly flips around and makes her way inside the tent. I watch her go, noticing that her thighs are swaying slightly more than her warrior’s gait would usually require. I mean, it could be training to fight on a ship but… no. My comment about Celyz definitely hit home.

I hurriedly sit down on the stool, grinning but taking care to adjust my mask. I decide to face the setting sun rather than Roisia and Leomi’s people who are wrapping up their training session, impatiently waiting for her to come back.

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