Leomi loses the shield attached to her back and the sword to her waist as we hit small bumps. I deploy my flow about at the same time as she does hers, and around the same quantity of about fifty portions each. We make use of our unstructured energy to slow ourselves down.
We come to a stop, bruised and battered by the fall, the fight kicked out of us. I get ready to defend myself if she makes a move but Leomi doesn’t seem up to attacking. Her lips are curled from anger, her traits lack their usual sharpness as they droop from disappointment and stark loss.
She pushes me away from her and sits up in the grass to work on her disheveled hair, her gaze goes hazy as she fixes them, apparently looking to the past as she tries to sort this out.
I straighten up, shaking my head to throw my own hair back and rearranging my clothes. The few dozen portions of flow, that remain after we stopped ourselves from rolling all the way downhill, are swirling around us like a golden mass with a few occasional pitch black streaks.
“Why can’t you recognize all the steps I made for us? I risked myself, all I have, to be with you.” Leomi says with difficulty. “How can it not be enough for you to give us a chance? How could you laugh at this?”
“Because I had to fight you every step of the way to get even the sliver of a chance!” I reply angrily.
“There were other factors at play than us, Liz.” Leomi counters with a frown.
“Exactly.” I agree in a flat tone. “You wouldn’t have even considered me if I hadn’t been useful.”
“I wouldn’t even have known you!” Leomi shouts in a painful voice, reaching out to grab the front of my cloak to pull me face to face. “What’s going on, Liz?”
“What’s going on?!” I repeat in a growl. “You’re all pushing me aside for her! I’m forcing you to pick your side now!”
“There are no other sides than the Izla’s!” Leomi protests.
“Liar.” I spit out, the fissure in Elizabeth’s heart widening a little more.
“You can’t be seen any longer because of the exile, it doesn’t have to end us!” Leomi presses in a weak voice.
“What are you talking about? I’m demanding you make a choice, you’re the one breaking us up so stop acting like I am!” I spit out, pulling away from her grip.
“Please, don’t do, this to us.” Leomi says, her voice cracking.
“Why wouldn’t I? I’m being sidelined in your heart for a weakling can’t even do something as simple as meeting me in Meiridin after a single battle went bad!” I spout out.
“I am not sidelining you and she is no weakling.” Leomi denies, frowning.
She fails to conceal her anger and disdain for my remarks, yet doesn’t these emotions overtake her as she apparently does all she can to see past her Liz’ words. Why are you being so intelligent and reasonable now?
“She was.” I grunt. “And you want me to give up and return to a similar state? Why? Because I can’t fight half as well without it? Because you can only love someone that you can push around!”
“That’s not true.” Leomi denies, passing her hand over her face, looking saddened by the accusation.
“You want me to give it up for you when you’re not even willing to commit to us while that coward hides from us like a rat?!” I attack.
“You have to know none of this is even remotely close to the truth.” Leomi shakes her head, looking lost and in pain. “I just told you to give us time. And, you’ve met her, how could you think this of Jessica?”
“Her, her, her.” I growl, slowly standing.
“You’re the one who keeps bringing her up!” She explodes, jumping back to her feet as well. “That’s it, I don’t know why you’re trying so hard to break us up but I’m done entertai…” She stops in her tracks, her left foot in mid-air as she prepared to walk away. “W, hat do you mean ‘She was.’? And, ‘hiding’?” Leomi stutters.
“Will you ask for answers and start seeking her out? Shattering your oath?” I grunt in a mocking tone, provoking her, cornering her.
“N, no.” Leomi refuses, falling back as she fiercely rubs her chin to remove my drying blood from it. “Liz, why?”
“Too bad.” I chuckle, ignoring the question. No matter the personal cost. Wait, what? “Let me tell you anyway because I looked for that little deserter. She hasn‘t been seen anywhere in the surrounding area for a month! Neither you, Roisia, or the Rykz have a clue of where she is right now! The coward vanished, she abandoned me when her best guess about my future would be that I was going to rot in Meiridin’s institute!”
“It can’t be.” Leomi desperately denies. “There has, to be another…” Her light gray eyes flicker, the light inside them seemingly vanishing as her left hand reached up to hold the side of her head. “No.” She whispers in a tiny voice.
“But it is. Where is she now?! It’s all over!” I yell in her blank face, tired of her idealistic view of Jessica, of her failure to see Elizabeth for the monster she is. Leomi stumbles, her knees going weak, but I fail to stop Elizabeth from releasing her burden. “You’re blind, utterly unable to look past yourself to see either of us. It’s laughable.” It isn’t, her ability to see the good in the world, in me, probably saved her life, and mine.
She crumbles before I even finish my sentence or thought, surprising me so much that I fail to catch her. She skids downhill on her belly like a rag. Her body catches on an irregularity in the terrain that makes her flip over on her back, her head smashing on the ground.
I heartlessly watch from where I am, refusing to reach out to her before she goes through this by herself like I have until Celyz gave the purpose I’m now fulfilling. As expected, Leomi’s instincts shake her awake, she tries to stop her fall by slamming her hands into the ground but fails.
“Argh!” She cries out, swiftly pulling her left hand back.
As a last resort, she calls the last of the unstructured flow she expelled back to herself and uses it to stop herself, signifying that her reserves are empty. I enhance my eyes to observe from a distance.
Leomi remains immobile in the middle of the grass under the moonlight, breathing erratically to catch her breath as a trickle of blood pours out of a small gash on her forehead.
I pick up her shield and sword while throwing her an occasional glance to keep an eye on her. It takes me a while to find them even with the Little one’s sense making it easy to scour through the hill’s scarce vegetation.
I notice, as I pick up the blade, that Leomi got up and is walking to the west in zigzags. She soon stops to look behind a tree that she came across, running behind the trunk. She then rushes at a bush too small to hide anyone and scours it until she gives up, beating the plant with her feet.
It both hurts and feels good to see her like this, but she hasn’t yet sunk to where I was. She keeps stumbling west, holding her left hand against her belly. Did she break a finger? I go after her, bringing Leomi back within my construct enhanced ear’s range.
“Jessica.” Leomi calls out in a tiny, pathetic, voice that wouldn’t carry past fifty meters. “Please.”
Well, that’s that for the oath no matter what she tells herself, it was already battered pretty close to death. Sadly, I won’t be able to hold much against her about it considering I’m the one who kept needling her in this direction.
The fact that she’s unable to keep it, despite how desperately she wants to, actually touches my heart. She ended up twisting herself to seek loopholes and find information about Jessica when I specifically forbid them just to be able to remain relatively sane. We’ll see if she comes clean about that to me in the end.
I hear a wave crashing on the rocks. Leomi suddenly starts sprinting west. She runs with all she has towards the coastal cliff. I go after her as fast as I can, worried that she’s going to hurt herself in the dark. She goes through the middle of a Rykz scout patrol like she doesn’t even see them.
A few lion’s steps are enough to catch up but she doesn’t even seem to notice or hear me. I don’t stop her, peeved that she would be so damn taken by her worries about Jessica’s fate that she would forget Elizabeth.
She doesn’t even slow down as she approaches the cliff, in fact she accelerates and leaps onto a rock to then jump over the edge. I can’t help but smile tenderly as she flies through the night’s void to fall a few meters and hit the surface, disappearing underwater.
I quickly start scaling down the rocky coast, hopping from rock to rock while scanning the waves as I worry that she could have hit a stone. Her head pierces the surface a dozen meters away, saving me from having to dive after her.
Leomi starts swimming away while only using her left arm. She screams every time her hand hits the water but keeps going and doesn’t switch limb. Is she seriously trying to evaluate Jessica’s survival chances like this?
I crouch down, watching her with my heart hammering inside my chest but little intention to intervene until her foolishness goes wrong. I gather all my flow into a flat, thick, air-shield.
She fights the waves head-on, her legs kicking her forward while she struggles to keep her head above water with a single arm, and an injured hand. She suddenly stops swimming, sinking as she hurriedly removes her cloak and uniform’s vest.
“Gah.” Leomi spits out a mouthful of salty water as she fights her way back up.
With the roiling water, the waves crashing into the rock I’m on, and the dark night with barely enough moonlight to see ten meters ahead, it takes me a while to realize that not only is she not making progress, but the sea is very slowly pushing her back towards the shore’s cliff.
She struggles for quite a while, a good half hour, but eventually her exhaustion wins over her flow regeneration. She flounders and flails but refuses to use her right arm even as her three other limbs prove insufficient to keep her afloat despite her fighting with all the strength she can muster.
One of the largest waves crashes into her and Leomi vanishes. I focus on my symbiont’s sense to keep track of her before she sinks any further as I can’t detect anything below a couple of meters underwater.
I immediately send the air-shield to recover her, slipping it underneath her shoulders for traction. I swiftly pull her out of the sea and fly her above the cliff before throwing her on the grassland beyond. I dismantle the construct, recovering a dozen portions of energy.
I climb back up the rocky cliff and swiftly make my way to her side. Her wet hair spread out over her face in a mess and her drenched clothes are stuck to her body. I don’t worry too much as she’s trembling from the glacial water she spent so long in so she’s likely conscious.
“Ghlr.” She hacks weakly.
A lazy trickle of water pours out of her lips which have a bluish hue. I start getting jittery as she doesn’t inhale. I deliver a small jab to her stomach, just in case. She jumps upright, coughing small beads of seawater like crazy.
Leomi wraps her arms around her knees, shaking from head to toes. I wave my hand in front of her eyes but she doesn’t say a word, apparently lost. I make my way to her right side, shaking my head. I pass one forearm behind her knees and another around her back before picking her up.
She doesn’t react in any way, she fails to even gaze up to me as I rescue her from herself. I almost throw her down to the ground in a dumb bout of self-jealousy but don’t because she could actually get really sick and die if I don’t get her in front of a fire soon.
I head straight south between the coast and the Rykz camp to put some distance between me and anyone who would interfere. I use lion’s steps, burning through my flow while only taking care to keep enough to start a large blaze.
Leomi almost falls off several times in attempts to get away, I have no clue what she expects to happen if she succeeds but I assume she’s still single-mindedly focused on looking for me. It hurts so much that she doesn’t even turn to my arms for warmth.
I find a large rock split through the middle with just enough space for her and a fire. The clean cut, the moss, and the eroded edges make it obvious that it was severed by a construct a long time ago.
I set her down inside so that she has cover from the cold night’s wind and leave to seek out a tree. I cut a few branches off the tall oak I find, using her sword. I throw them at her feet a meter in front of her and shape a fire construct that I anchor to them, activating it with a timer that’ll last the night.
The flames rise up to a good meter. Leomi slowly shifts to directly face the blaze, opening her arms and hands, a seemingly unconscious reaction. It allows me to notice that her left hand’s middle finger is clearly broken just above the first phalanx.
I grab it and abruptly set it back in place, aligning it back. Leomi jumps up, startled, but remains voiceless. I reflexively run the back of my right hand along her cheek, admiring how tough she can be when her mind is set on something, wondering if she’ll break down by morning.
I throw her shield and sword at her feet before leaving, abandoning her to her own thoughts. I go around the large rock to use the smoothest portion of it to make my way to the top and look out for her from above. It gives her both privacy and freedom while I can still intervene.
Leomi spends the next hour deep in thought, warming up to the fire, moving only to cross her legs at the half-hour mark and then standing towards the end to start pacing around the fire, talking to herself.
“She can’t have dr… she’s resourceful.” Lance tries to reason her fear away.
“She hates me.” Leomi affirms in sorrow.
“But not so much to evade detection for a month with Rykz looking for her.” Lance continues.
“She’s right to.”
“The scouts would have picked up her trail.”
“She’s not, I love her.”
“Can’t have swum, the battle was close to the middle of the sea arm.” Lance argues to her own despair.
“Do I?” Leomi suddenly smacks her head into the rock’s cut side, opening another wound on her forehead. “More than my life.”
I fall on my ass, my heart beating so hard inside my chest that I actually worry it might break through my ribs. You’re lucky the words reached my ears at the same time as you smacked yourself, my Lady. I hang my legs over the edge, watching her with a tender smile on my lips behind my mask. You do love one of us.
“The debris. In the early winter, I almost drowned. Why didn’t I?”
“I love her.”
“Doesn’t matter, determining her fate is all right now.”
“Iaaaaaaaaarrrrh.” Leomi screams, her slender fingers reaching up to tear at her hair, displacing the finger I just set back. “Arrrhg.” She yowls in pain.
She expels a slight amount of flow, about what I would have expected someone who has a reserve of fifty or more portions would regenerate in around an hour or more, meaning she did not use her energy to keep swimming. She organizes the energy into a healing construct for her middle finger, which she sets straight by using her teeth.
I grow even more impressed at her iron will, to be able to resist using both arms as well as her flow when she realized that she was drowning yet she kept going without ever trying to swim back to shore. She reckless to the point of being suicidal, that’s bad, good.
“What we could have been…”
“How much does she hate me?”
“If only, I gave it all up for her. I could have stayed…”
“Enough to take huge risks with her life to escape the island.”
“No, wouldn’t have been able to guarantee I would be the hostage left behind to kill if the Princess’ rescue went wrong.”
“I am no longer the center of her life.”
“Past, present, future, all meaningless if she’s g…”
“But Jess has to know she’s still at the center of mine. She has to be told.”
“It’s all my fault, I’m a narrow-minded oath-breaker who told her to agree to an offer which she couldn’t without betraying me after hearing me spout my hatred for the Lisi… the Rykz.”
“I have to tell her.”
“I wasn’t wrong! She would be dying if she agreed!”
“She loved me so much that she remained loyal even when she grew to hate me.”
“But dying is alive.”
“I have to make sure she knows.”
“Lake, what should I do?” Leomi exclaims, looking up to the sky. “It’s, cold, dark, like my heart. I need, to wait.” She says.
Leomi drops back down, sitting in front of the crackling fire. I detect that her lips keep moving but I have to pay very close attention to hear anything. Much of the sounds she makes aren’t coherent, mostly anguished cries and other words that make no sense to me on their own.
She rehashes the conversation she just had with herself as the night goes by, occasionally crying out for the Lake’s guidance. The sentence she repeats the most is the one about Jessica having to be told that she’s at the center of her life, or heart.
Elizabeth roils in fury inside my mind for what she sees as being dumped, yet she appreciates Leomi’s throes and expresses satisfaction for Jessica who is beyond elated for the future… once her Lady finishes proving herself.
The disassociation of my two identities in my thoughts doesn’t worry me too much as I’ve gradually come to like and accept Elizabeth. The two are me after all, it’s just easier to handle my conflicting jealousies and relationships with Leomi if I think of both as separate. After all, we are I. We giggle.
“Please, Jay, the echo hurts.” Leomi pleads, hitting the side of her head with her right hand’s palm. “Arh!” She yelps, having disturbed her broken finger with the gesture.
She spends the rest of the time to morning grumbling to herself. I reach the conclusion that she’s making up her mind about something while spinning her anguish over Jess’ fate as she awaits the sunrise with impatience.