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gazes at me for a long while as I make myself busy packing some bread and meat for lunch. I enjoy the sensation of her eyes on me, it provokes a warmth in my chest rather than the itch to be held I’m so used to.

A haircut and change of clothes would have done it, but I didn’t bring dresses and this… this is better.” Leomi murmurs.

It makes me happy to find that she’s been planning, no, hoping that her suggestions and care would help reconcile me with my body. I put the food on a large square piece of clean cloth and tie the corners together before returning to her.

You look taller now.” She tells me with a fond smile.

I do?” I ask in surprise.
“You don’t even need to be angry to look about as tall as Liz right now.” Leomi confirms. How does that work? She’s being nice. You know she’s not.

It’s about confidence, my jay.” She explains, seemingly reading my mind once again.

Hhm.” I nod.

You just need to gain a few kilos now.” She comments absentmindedly.

If you’re talking about my left side, it’s not going to get any better.” I tell her, keeping under silence the fact that the Little one scraped every bit of flesh there was so it’s unlikely for anything to grow back.

It… it wasn’t only that but… mostly.” Leomi admits hesitantly. “I’m… I shouldn’t have said anything.”

No, it’s reassuring to find out you lie to me.” I tell her, not minding that kind of deceit even though it confirms a suspicion of mine that I wasn’t keen on verifying.

Lie.” She repeats the word in an odd tone. Keep talking, don’t let her linger. Elizabeth’s urgent thought presses me.

Well, of course.” I hurriedly continue. “There’s no way someone as focused on looks as you are would find me entirely beautiful. I might excite you but I gather it has more to do with my achievements than appearance. But it’s okay, I love you so if my body satisfies you, it’s all I need.” I tell her, pushing down my worry that I read this wrong.

There is that, but your scars do excite me.” Leomi protests.

Her blushing reaction couldn’t have been more effective at reassuring me. We each, almost at the same time, grab our weapon’s holster from the table. While I fasten my long hunting knife’s belt around my waist, she does the same for her sword.

She then gathers our coats, wrapping mine around my shoulders. We then take each other’s hands and head outside. I grin, feeling content about the life we’re leading together. We have plans to cut trees and bring them to the carpenter’s sawmill to make planks to build a chicken coop.

I wonder if I’m being too rash lately, I decided to leave home after throwing everything away to return only to then change my mind and give up on my old life. Perhaps, once in Meria, I’ll feel regret as well as soon as I experience the slightest itch of boredom or desire to rejoin with the Little one.

I’m aware that the parasite’s pull has much to do with what I experienced after taking it off. The need to feel that cool sensation spread through my chest and body again, it was strong for a few days but, while it faded, it never completely went away. It merely became more insidious.

I should live, without prejudice or an eye gazing too far into the future. After all, walking towards my goals step by step has worked so far while my more detailed plans never went actually how I thought they would.

A brush of wind suddenly slips into my coat and makes it fly open, which disturbs my pants, which causes my knickers to do interesting things to the now smooth skin they cover.

My gait stiffens quite a bit until Leomi reaches out and catches the hem of my coat to wrap it back around me. She keeps her right arm around my waist and pulls my left side close to herself.

“I like that I can hold you closer like this.” Leomi says in a voice filled with worry. She’s definitely afraid of offending me by saying this.

That’s good.” I tell her in a reassuring tone.

You opened my heart, I’ve never spoken so honestly to anyone before or revealed myself half as much.” She admits.
“I’m the same.” I whisper. I didn’t even know myself very well before meeting you. Tell her. I take a deep breath. “I didn’t even know myself very well before meeting you.”

She pulls me tighter against her. We decide to let her lead, waiting to find out whether there is a game afoot on her part or if she’s merely enjoying the circumstances and my feeling so good about myself.

It’ll show in her plans once we arrive. I smile, feeling like I’m living a dream as we make our way through the snow towards the village. I wouldn’t even be mad if she were to show me off in public since it’s part of who she is, but there would be a need to retaliate by reversing the situation on her because that sort of thing isn’t what I want for our first sortie together.

First in the official sense. It’s fine, I cherish our clandestine outings. Wasn’t asking you… but I’m glad you’re not jealous. We are I. Ugh, you sound mad. Says the woman hearing voices. She’s right you know, I do love you. … I love you too.

We chuckle and press my cheek against Leomi’s shoulder, glad that Liz and I are getting along so well which is partly thanks to her. I barely notice as the gates open and we walk into the main ‘street’.

But I can’t ignore the dozen gazes that fall on us, they make the mere act of walking feel like torture because of my very intimate awareness of each brush from my underwear against my newly bare sex, which has become unreasonably sensitive.

Leomi suddenly pulls me to turn into the shadow of an alley and hides me with her body. Glancing under her shoulder, I notice people scattering even though many were standing on their porches.

My cheeks start burning. They know, they know, they know. So what? It’s embarrassing! And, I enjoy that fact way too much. I feel a cool sensation on my face and realize that it comes from Leomi’s hands.

Shh.” She blows in my right ear. “Do you want me to take you back? I can even carry you over the wall right this instant, no one will know we left in a hurry or why.”

There isn’t a hint of urging in her voice, one way or the other. She’s making a proposal and leaving it up to me. I shake my head to refuse. Leomi nods but doesn’t immediately guide us back.

I find the strength to push my paranoia away and push her further down the alley until her back hits the village’s feeble stone rampart. I let myself go a little, pressing my body along hers to alleviate my excitement by a fraction.

Our bodies meet and meld naturally, without an effort. Our right legs find themselves between the other’s thighs, my breast pushing upward against her firm chest. Our cheeks joining for an intimate caress. My hand finds her flank to hold onto while her forearms join behind my neck.

Through her, I forget it all. She’s too preoccupying for me to waste headspace on others. We stay like this for a few minutes before leaving the alley together, hands joined and bodies apart. Because we are one but separate, because I am independent, because this way Leomi radiates with pride and that makes me happy.

She leads us to an animal pen belonging to the community, villagers and merchants use it when they want to sell livestock. Leomi’s warhorse is happily grazing at a pile of hay with a couple of pigs.

I notice that it’s been saddled already, which is quite revealing because that gear should be back home. I reluctantly split with her for the brief moment it takes her to open the pen and lead the mount out.

She climbs up first before holding her hand out. She lifts me up like I’m light as a feather and helps me settle in front of her with my legs to the side. She holds me like the most precious thing in the world as she taps the flanks of her mount.

The warhorse makes its way out of the village at a trot under Leomi’s direction. She took slight advantage of me by taking me inside only to leave like this but… how would we have reacted if she hid me? This is no plan, no game, no manipulation. Just us with our qualities and flaws.

Words aren’t necessary. I wrap my arm behind her back and rest my head on her chest. We gallop among the snowy hills, laughing as we challenge the fierce cold wind blowing into our faces.

Later in the morning, I recognize a valley and point Leomi towards it. We find a small river as expected and silently agree to take a break on the bank. I jump off the warhorse and immediately shed my clothes, storing them on my cloak to rush towards the water.

You’re insane!” Leomi cries out with a hint of laughter and excitement in her voice.

I throw her a glance over my shoulder. Her eyes are stuck to my buttocks. I give her a cocky smile and leap into the freezing water. Just before I hit the surface, thick golden streams of energy flash past me to plunge into the river and dissipate there.

I splash into hot water and laugh with delight as I clumsily half-walk half-swim with the warm current. I belatedly realize that, while my fear of drowning isn’t gone, I can’t feel even the slightest stir with Leomi present even while getting further and further away from her.

Hooves loudly stride the snow alongside the riverbank, I don’t need to look to know that her gaze is stuck to my body. I enjoy her interest and the fact I know I can hold it indefinitely, not that it stops me from experimenting to make sure.

I didn’t bring a towel!” Leomi tells me from afar.

Don’t you know the water construct?” I ask.

I do, but I never had a need for it.” She replies, slowing down to match my pace.

I’ll do it myself then.” I reassure her.

You’ve always been detail oriented.” Leomi replies with the hint of a tease.

I smile and abruptly stop advancing. She can’t stop her mount in time and bypasses me. I walk out of the water before the cold water upstream can reach me. As she makes her horse turn around, I reach out and steal a couple of portions of flow from her.

I shape the construct and make the water in my hair trickle down my chest. Leomi contorts atop the horse to keep her sights on me while maneuvering it back to me. I chuckle and turn around, making some droplets slide all the way down my spine.

I quickly run out of water but my skin is glistening under the sun and she’s maneuvering to block the wind so it’s fine. I swiftly make my way back to my clothes. I disregard Leomi’s sigh of exaggerated disappointment because she isn’t being serious.

I’m very lucky.” I speak up while reaching out to her with my hand.

Why?” She asks, lifting me back up on the horse.

You love me even though I’m nowhere as thoughtful as you are.” I tell her, feeling guilty of receiving her attentions.

That’s not true, you show me how much I’m loved every time I need it, even when you aren’t in the mood.” Leomi denies.

She deposes a soft kiss on my cheek while sending the warhorse forth. We eat on horseback, or rather I feed us smoked boar meat atop of bread while she sends us galloping in any direction that strikes her fancy in the moment.

Want to learn?” Leomi suddenly asks.
“I’m not any good.” I reply, worried because she often has unrealistic expectations about me.

Did you try?” She questions.
“No.” I shake my head. Elizabeth could have but horses didn’t like the Little one.

Then how do you know?” She chuckles. “You had stables, right? How come you never tried?”

There wasn’t anyone to teach and I could have broken something if I fell.” I reply.
Ah.” Leomi nods. “Not a risk you could afford.”

She pulls the reins to bring the horse to a stop and passes them over to me. Leomi patiently instructs me on how to control the bridle with one hand even though I’ve watched her do so all morning because her left hand never left my belly.

She handles the warhorse with the stirrups to let me get familiar with steering it. After a half-hour, she lets me try to take full control. I do very well even though we stay at trotting speed, I have no doubt that it’s because the steed is very well trained no matter how much she compliments me.

Growing more confident, I tap the horse’s side to increase our speed but it doesn’t react so I try again with more strength to my heels. The mount raises its head in apparent protest which makes me pull back on the reins. We come to a full stop.

Don’t be forceful, you need to use your whole body to communicate what you want, it’s a bit harder with this one because it’s not yours.” Leomi reprimands gently. “Be firm but confident, just like this.”

I feel her left hand slip inside my knickers and her right under the strip of cloth around my chest. She caresses my flesh with powerful strokes, coming close to sensitive parts like my bud or nipple but never touching them.

Smooth.” Leomi murmurs with a quivering voice.

Ihm.” I moan before snapping awake. “Leomi!

It’s fine to tease if you don’t get off.” She whispers but stops caressing my lower-stomach with her fingers.

That makes it worse.” I grunt.

But permitted.” She notes sultrily.

Of course, but I’ll return the favor… after Elizabeth snaps.” I chuckle.

Ah.” She instantly pulls her hands back. “It was an excuse! I wasn’t implying anything!” Leomi explains.

Please.” I roll my eyes. “We’re not that thin-skinned.

You wouldn’t snap if I kept going?” She asks tentatively.

I would, but you don’t need to panic.” I chortle.

Leomi nods quietly. I soon feel her hands return but over my clothes. I focus back on the task, tapping the warhorse’s flank to send it into a trot. I then lean forward, accepting the fact my kitten takes the opportunity to cope a feel of my breast because I would, at the very least, do the same.

The mount accelerates to a double-trot, following my body’s inclination. I don’t dare to go any faster, not with me being a beginner and Leomi in the mood to take all kinds of advantages from me.

We travel among the hills for a good part of the afternoon. Leomi advises once in a while but she mostly lets me shape my own habits, shaping them only when necessary as she says it builds my character as a rider.

She mostly occupies herself exploring my body. It’s the worst, best, most exhilarating, outing we’ve ever been on because of the feeling of freedom and her constant physical reminders of how much she loves me.

Leomi sends her fingertips inside my underwear at least once every few minutes but she retreats quickly. I very much enjoy her timid restraint, her respect for me because she could easily let herself torment me but never goes too far.

I revel in the attention and curiosity from her loving caresses. She is eerily accurate about figuring out whether one of my weak spots is pleasurable, deeply uncomfortable, or even painful to me.

I know because she retreats when she finds scars that are still sensitive but lingers on areas that tickle or make me shiver in a good way. I reciprocate a few times with passionate kisses but I don’t try too hard because she’s taking me out, not the other way around. It suits us both.

Dusk falls so quickly it stuns me, I realize how tired I am and decide to stop atop a hill, for me to rest and for Elizabeth to get her dance. I stand down while Liz grabs Leomi’s hand to lead her almost forcefully into a few spins that drain the last of my energy.

Elizabeth lets herself fall back into the snow with utter satisfaction. The disturbance reveals a few strands of tall grass that the warhorse has no trouble snagging, even those a few centimeters from our face. Meanwhile, Leomi sets up a fire with a couple of logs I didn’t know we had.

I hope you enjoyed the day.” Leomi says.

You were incorrigible, it was perfect.” I reply, a grin splitting my face.

I couldn’t help myself, it was unfair of you to look so fierce and attractive while riding against the wind.” She replies, justifiably blaming me.

The air blew at us, that was clearly a challenge.” I comment with a laugh.

I know the feeling.” Leomi replies, chortling. “Do you have a clue about where we are?”

Some.” I reply, throwing a glance to the north-west and finding the shadow of a dungeon.

I reach my hand out and she helps me up to my feet. I swiftly escape her arms before they can capture me and shift around her side to hug her from behind. She raises her right hand and passes it around my neck.

With these two exchanges, we settle with me being behind and her holding me. We warm ourselves up at the fire, quietly watching the sunset while we enjoy each other’s presence. We don’t move or speak until darkness sets.

Do you see that?” I ask, looking to the shadow on the horizon.

There’s a glow of light and some smoke.” Leomi notes absently.
Hm. It’s Buton’s dungeon.” I tell her, giving my tone a questioning inflection.
“It should be abandoned, as far as I know.” She informs me. “No matter. Do you want to camp or turn back?”

I’m going to have some revenge from behind while you ride out to the dungeon.” I reply. “I’m curious but, most of all, I want to know as soon as possible if there’s someone from Buton’s family decided to take over.”

Should we have a little fun with them if there are?” Leomi asks.
“Let’s not bring trouble to the village if it’s unwarranted.” I reply.
“I notice you didn’t say no.” She says, a grin in her voice.
“Well, if those people insist on annoying me… it wouldn’t be unwarranted, would it?” I ask meaningfully.

I wouldn’t dare question my future fiancee about the activities she wants to undertake on the outing I took her on. No matter how skewed the justifications.” Leomi replies with a laugh.

I bet you’re not protesting because I promised revenge.” I comment.

Of course it is.” She tells me without shame. “Also, I’m glad you’re taking an interest so let’s go!” She exclaims.

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