Leomi Lance shifts on her warhorse as she travels under the moonlight, one of the very few left on the Izla as she brought it back from the continent. The Rykz have a distinct hatred for these animals, hunting and eating those they find.
She wears a full plate armor with a hard leather armor underneath and a thick chain-mail between the two. All of that gear supported by countless runes to compensate for the weight and loss of dexterity as well as support the wearer on the battlefield.
She would be unable to use even half of this armor’s potential without the access to flow that her people have entrusted her with. Even with these runic constructs, she must use strengthening constructs when she gets off her mount to be able to fight close to the best of her ability on foot. Yet, she keeps it on because Elizabeth Vil is simply that dangerous in her mind.
There is a golden one-winged Jay made out of flow on her shoulder, one that first appeared the day she almost lost her mind to one of Elizabeth’s psychological schemes, the exact moment when she saw the wicked smile that is both carved in her memory and that she is unable to recall to memory.
Leomi barely ever notices the Jay, and soon forgets about it when it leaves her sights. Even that much is progress as she didn’t even recognize it despite it appearing right in front of her face before.
As the days passed, Leomi Lance thought back to the event and grew to believe that her twice lover is beyond unstable. In her mind, Elizabeth had little reason or justification to do what she did to her other than her desire to act on behalf of others to right wrongs.
Leomi feels the weight of the circumstances the two of them are now in. It bears down on her more than her plate armor, yet her back is straight as she travels towards her destination in the Izla’s snowy hills.
She dares not hope that the two of them can come to an agreement, Elizabeth is too independent and rash to join her and Leomi’s plans with the Hospitaliers cannot abide by such an individual as the organization would end up collateral damage to her actions.
Leomi feels an extreme sense of loss towards her inability to provide Elizabeth with the love and home she needs, aware that the traumatic events the woman went through have eroded her attachment to humankind to the point where she no longer considers herself part of the Empire.
She blames herself for failing in her interactions with the berserk. She doesn’t exactly know what went wrong to lead to that fateful night where she almost lost herself.
Leomi gave Elizabeth almost all that she had, but it was still not enough because the woman wants, no needs, more than she could give at that point. The armored Commander shakes her head, smirking self-deprecatingly.
Leomi is fully aware that anything short of complete abandonment on her part would never be enough to convince Elizabeth Vil who has likely gone through too many traumatic events to trust anyone’s words.
She goes through the preparations she’s made for the future to reaffirm the choice she’s made. The Hospitaliers will be able to slowly expand in Caeviel as the counterpoint to Nobility that many have long-awaited.
As long as they achieve some measure of success against the Lisilese, the organization’s future will be set in stone. She thinks, knows, that her skills are replaceable and that her reputation, unearned in her view considering much of it comes from Elizabeth’s achievements, will grow with her death.
Leomi calculates that the story of the two of them falling to each other’s swords will shake the Empire more than any rebellion could as it is well-known in the Kingdom that their disagreements are in the methods, not the goal.
Such a tale will make many young heroes’ blood boil, the conflict between lovers, their proscribed relationship, their shared hope for a better future destroyed by each other’s hands because of a disagreement in how far they must go.
Leomi smiles, knowing that people will love it and that warriors will fight for it. She lifts her helmet’s visor to look straight up to the starry sky. There is a warmth in her chest at the idea of entering legend at Elizabeth Vil’s side, but there is also a chilly regret towards the fact that her path is to end so abruptly.
Yet, she can give no less to Elizabeth without betraying her. Leomi lowers her chin, spotting a diffuse light on the horizon. No doubt coming from Jessica’s village, near the place where it all began for them.
Her oath prevents her from looking for Jessica, even obliquely through approaching to perhaps ‘accidentally’ running into her. Leomi wants to see her one last time, more so than she wants to live or to witness her Hospitaliers change the world.
Yet, she won’t do this. Not after all she’s done to her, not when she’s about to sacrifice two lives to the altar of Elizabeth and her ambitions. It would be too cruel to her sweet Jessica no matter how much Leomi wishes things could be different.
And so, Leomi estimates the position of the field where she met Jessica to avoid the area with a regretful look on her sharp traits. She leads her warhorse up a snowy hill and gazes down to the hastily walled village.
She enhances her eyesight and spots the general shop Elizabeth pointed her towards, pushing her horse towards the path leading away from it, bypassing the walled village.
She soon encounters a tiny wall of rocks and stops, thinking that it’s a blocked off property. Such a thing happens for many reasons, from human or cattle epidemics, to a demarcation for a Noble’s private land.
She steps down from her mount to clear the snow, revealing a path to the north-west. She gets back on and keeps going as there is a road continuing between two pastures that leads towards the Rykz tunnel.
It doesn’t surprise Leomi that Elizabeth would choose that place as the meeting as she suspects the woman entered after they did to chase after Jessica, her sister, otherwise it would all be too much of a coincidence.
She leads her mount over the hills, arriving at the Rykz tunnel. It passes under a large rock which is supported by two wooden pillars that can be broken to collapse the tunnel.
Leomi searches the area but finds no sign of Elizabeth so she unstraps a halberd from the warhorse, feeling rage at her naive decision to explore this tunnel and the events that followed.
Suddenly, a distorted smile full of loving wrath flashes in her light gray eyes, the lips pulled back just enough to reveal the canine’s points while the corners rose to different heights, creating an unstable and unbalanced image.
“No…” Leomi turns white as she groans, immediately connecting Jessica and Elizabeth to that grin. She soon feels a splitting headache.
There is only so far one can deceive oneself, the day Leomi saw the insane smile on Elizabeth’s face, on Jessica’s face, she knew the truth of it all. She could no longer hide it from herself or run from it, yet her oath stood firm.
The conflict between her knowledge, her promise, and the reality threatened to break her. As her being broke, her survival instinct interacted with her flow to find a sliver of hope. The Jay on Leomi’s shoulder flickers, the despair and guilt she feels vanishes.
— — —
Leomi Lance blinks uncertainly, unable to remember what just crossed her mind. She grabs a gourd to have a sip of water in order to clear her head. She is used to these occasional bursts of splitting pain, she links those to the cracks in her heart, to the nightmares she used to have since some time before the siege of Meria but after she escaped the Rykz.
These events have been occurring more frequently since Elizabeth tricked her into thinking she caused Jessica’s death or surrender to the Rykz. Yet, unlike her nightmares, she can never recall anything about those moments. She sighs and puts the matter to the side.
As she looks ahead into the dark tunnel, she decides to take a look and confirm her suspicions about the Rykz’ trap. It is mere curiosity, although it borders on obsession for Leomi who yet hopes to fully capture Liz’ heart from that Celyz.
After all, whether or not the insects intended to capture them, Leomi is fully aware that she could not have preserved Jessica’s life during their escape if she had used her flow to save her arm.
She wouldn’t have been able to fight well enough to cover for Jessica, nor kill the gigantic Grub, nor collapse the tunnel behind themselves until they ran into that detestable Princess whose words ring truth but never approach the whole of it.
At the thought, she pulls the black runic broadsword sheathed on her back. The weapon was given to her by Celyz in Port-Odo, it is supposed to be able to save Elizabeth Vil’s life in the event that the parasite the Princess implanted turns against her Liz.
Leomi feels hatred, jealousy, and loss at the idea that this being, which can only be described as looking tortuous at best, would seduce her berserk away from her. She grieves for the fact that she’s too broken to satisfy Elizabeth.
Yet, she is aware that it is no trick on that Rykz’ part, otherwise, she would have never given her this runic blade or helped Elizabeth so much during and after the war, by teaching her secret constructs and declaring Elizabeth Vil a friend of the Rykz.
While the weapon is locked for Leomi’s use and encrypted to make it more difficult to understand the construct engraved on it, there are no certainties that the University would be unable to eventually replicate it through observation if Leomi decides to help.
And even if she doesn’t, it would merely take more time for the researchers to succeed as long as enough resources are invested. But Leomi Lance wouldn’t do so, not only did she swear secrecy, but this broadsword was built to save her Liz’ life.
How ironic, Leomi thinks, that she plans to use this weapon to kill Elizabeth while hoping to die to the dagger that was already used to pierce her chest once. It isn’t out of spite, anger, or revenge that Leomi wants to use this weapon, but because she knows in her heart that Elizabeth would be fine dying to it even if that very knowledge hurts Leomi.
Either way, Leomi will make certain that Elizabeth will hold fast to her demand that she choose between her and Jessica before anything. She is prideful and confident in her ability to read others but she’s made too many mistakes to act without receiving direct certainty that the outcome is one Elizabeth will agree with.
Leomi shakes her head and keeps heading out along the tunnel, taking great care to adjust the construct enhancing her eyesight to allow her to see better in the dark. She doesn’t have Elizabeth’s freakish instinct towards flow so she has to rely on her knowledge about this construct to modify it without causing harm to her eyes.
The walls of the tunnel gradually emerge from the pitch black darkness, allowing her to walk at a rapid pace. After about forty-five minutes of walking in her plate armor, producing quite a few loud echoes, she spots a crumbled opening to her right, revealing that indeed the Rykz set up an isolated adjacent tunnel to cut off their retreat soon after they went past this point.
Leomi’s gaze grows hard as she assembles a golden Lance, a hybrid between the air-blade and the explosive construct that her mother herself never succeeded to efficiently use in battle even when she had the required energy to do so.
Once she’s stabilized the construct, she injects two dozen portions of flow inside the golden lance before retreating twenty meters and throwing it at the ceiling where the two tunnels merge. The construct plunges into the dense ground and sticks there.
Leomi turns around and uses lion’s steps to run away as she activates the golden lance construct which shatters into shards that plunge even deeper into the ceiling while also spreading to the walls.
A series of small explosions burst out a moment later, causing a burst of dust and wind to rush out from the epicenter, swallowing Leomi into a cloud. The links between her plate armor shine briefly, holding back the dust at Leomi’s command.
She runs out of the tunnel within a quarter of an hour and spends a little while using her energy to get rid of the soil that stuck to her. She doesn’t like looking messy as she does not think the look fits her in the least.
She feeds her warhorse a couple of apples before climbing back upon it and riding away to scour the area for Elizabeth. The explosion didn’t make much sound originally but the echoes should have been heard around the area.
After roaming for a while, Leomi spots a large tree in the distance. She doesn’t immediately recognize the area so she allows her warhorse to keep moving closer.
As she approaches, a painful ripple goes through her heart as she recognizes the field where she first met Jessica. The reason she doesn’t remember it exactly is that she didn’t really pay attention at the time, she was excited at having kicked the pretentious Lord Patrick down a notch by winning a race.
However, she clearly remembers the girl whose name she didn’t know at the time. She had some dirt on her face and drops of sweat on her forehead. Her pickaxe seemed entirely insufficient and unsuited to take care of such a large field, yet it looked like the girl cared none and intended to plow the entire area by herself.
Her disheveled state made it so that it would have been hard for anyone to call her cute, yet Leomi found herself intrigued enough that she would have pulled her away had she had the liberty back then.
Perhaps even sneak together into a barn and steal a few kisses if the girl were to be open to the idea. Leomi sighs as she feels the tear in her heart, her light gray eyes start stinging as she pushes back her sorrow.
She hops off her mount without even thinking about it, the spiked soles of her boots plunging deeply into a thin icy patch. Leomi regrets many things, among those, her decision to ask the Baron for a map and for someone familiar with the region to guide them is at the foremost.
Had she not done so and survived the Rykz, she would have come back to find out more about this girl anyway. Leomi swallows her saliva, staring at the field and the tree on the side. She finds herself unable to move away or glance aside as every time she tries, her heart surges in protest and her knees tremble.
All her resolution, all her plans, all her determination came to naught once she found herself here. The only thing she wants to do is relive those memories of Jessica and her dreams of what could have been until Liz finds her to take her away.
Perhaps Elizabeth is the only being in the world who would be able to do so, even if Vikiana came here, Leomi knows that she would still be unwilling and unable to turn away. As for Jessica herself, Leomi doesn’t believe she would ever come back to the place where she met the one who destroyed her life.
Leomi stares at the enchanting snowy field, her gaze and heart lost in feelings she’s repressed for so long as they grew that she now finds herself entrapped within. The burning desire to possess Jessica’s heart, to have her heart be possessed.
Leomi thinks of the purity in Jessica’s gaze when they truly met for the first time, the beautiful pain on the cute peasant’s face when Leomi teased and rejected her.
Something like that can’t be faked, only someone truly taken by her would be so devastated by her games. Leomi’s interest grew into a desire, and when Jessica called her ‘my Lady’ out of her own will, that desire turned into an obsession before Leomi realized it herself.
It frightened Leomi, especially since the two of them knew so little of each other. She could tell the girl had courage, but she was so distant towards all things except her. Leomi saw that the girl had more interest for the Rykz than towards what she built or planned to in Castle Lance.
Leomi didn’t think she would betray them for any reason, but she kept the beacon construct in the sword guard a secret anyway. Those who know too much lose their lives earlier, this much Leomi has been taught young by her mother.
Not to mention that Patrick seemed to be doing everything possible to alienate Jessica. Had things taken a turn for the worse, Leomi could have made use of the girl’s ignorance and surprise to ensure the Rykz wouldn’t blame her for their attempt to escape.
“Good intentions mean nothing since the fact is that I didn’t take the risk when I should have.” Lance speaks up, spiting herself. “Who knows what could’ve happened if I kissed her? Or trusted her instincts about the Rykz? At the very least, the insects weren’t lying when they said they wouldn’t wage the same kind of war here that is waged in the highlands.”
Leomi shivers at the idea of that Celyz spending time with her Jessica. She could barely control herself when it came to Liz. If that insect dared even express that she thought of touching Jessica, Leomi would likely have tried to kill the Rykz there and then when they met.
These creatures count lives like accountants count coins and spend them the same way. It makes Leomi’s skin crawl to think about it. Even among Nobility, very few are that low. The Lisilese are somehow worse, to them, everything is either to be eaten or turned into a weapon to hunt for more prey.
Leomi worries about the future. Jessica should easily be able to enter the Hospitaliers and make use of them, the problem is that she’s also likely to go to war. Yet, she’s not too anxious. Without Liz and her to endanger Jessica, Leomi believes that the girl will be able to rise without attracting any dangerous gazes.