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I head for the garden in my search for Leomi because she would wait for people to go to her rather than mingle, yet I don’t make much progress because bourgeois and servants keep intercepting me.

They apparently want to make my acquaintance but I don’t much feel like it so I cut the discussions short, unfortunately that doesn’t seem to discourage them so I start using my umbrella as a shield I point towards those who approach me.

Like this, I clear my path outside. I walk through the wide door, music from the violins and harps filling my ears from either side. There are many people grinning, laughing, and dancing in the courtyard.

The sight makes me far more uncomfortable than the jostling for connections and power inside even though I did all I could to stay out of it. I’m aware that it is because I’ve longed for this, not a ball per se but friends and a lover to be happy with.

My mood sinks as I think back to the night Leomi and Liz went out on a date in Meria, the very same we slept together for the first time. I thought I had improved since then, that I got a handle on my insanity, but now I realize that I’ve in fact lost much.

I feel the desire to have fun and be happy yet no connection to these beings. In fact, I’ve not gotten rid of my paranoia whence people come too close to me. I merely learned to control my wariness of brusque movements and loud noises through self-confidence, because I know I can handle myself.

Our pursuit of power in order to obtain freedom has cost us so much, and we’ve yet to even obtained either in their truest sense. I slowly make my way through the yard, observing joy I feel entirely disconnected from.

After a while, I hear someone approach me once more. This time, the footsteps sound somewhat familiar so I throw a glance before blocking with my umbrella. Yvonne steps up with her boy… Toy? Friend? Liz chuckles in amusement even though she likes him more than I do.

She arrives and places her hand on my shoulder to squeeze it with a smile. I can’t return it as I wonder if the two will last considering he has shown a propensity to support me and Liz while she will always follow Leomi.

Not to mention Yvonne is young and clearly hasn’t put her frolicking days behind her. The cinders of my anger towards her for what she did, for what we did, vanish as if blown by the wind because I realize that Lance is young as well.

Of the four of us, we’re the ones who have been contemplating mortality the most and they’ve done all they can to accommodate me. Leomi would never have considered getting engaged so young while Yvonne wouldn’t spend so much time on us if we didn’t rely on her mediation so much.

You left a trail of unconscious Nobles behind you.” She tells me with a grin.

“What?” I ask, blinking as her words take me out of my daze.

They fainted from shock.” She explains. I glance through the doors to the ballroom but don’t find anything wrong.

Yvonne swears they’re still upright because they’re stuck up.” Rowland tells me.

Stick up.” Yvonne correct with a giggle. “Their bums, that is.”

Arh.” I groan in protest. “That’s a terrible joke.”

But it made you smile.” She replies. I can’t help but raise my lips in response.

No kidding, I think you pushed more buttons than Lady Lance did with her declaration.” Rowland comments humorously. Witnessing the reality of a peasant rising as I have and intruding without fear is, of course, far more impactful.

Don’t Lady her.” I tell him.

It wouldn’t be proper.” He contests and then makes a grimace. “Anyway, I admire your guts.”

I throw Yvonne a look because there’s no way he could say that if she told him about barging in on us. She gazes away with slightly red cheeks. Her reaction arouses a new pike of jealousy even though I know it’s natural to react this way even if she doesn’t really feel attracted to us.

She went deeper in the garden.” Yvonne tells me, pointing past the hedge labyrinth with lackluster leafless bushes.

I’ll go get drinks.” Rowland suddenly says and departs.

I stare at his back in confusion but quickly understand that he picked up on the fact that we’re being a bit awkward so he decided to give us some space. My appreciation of him rises.

He’s almost good enough for you, don’t let him go.” I tell her.

I won’t.” Yvonne replies with a soft voice. “I’m, um, sorry you know. I was a bit much.”

Hm.” Liz grunts as an acknowledgment.

You should go to her.” She continues.

I was feeling down but you’re helping, Leomi can wait while I talk to my best friend.” I reply.

Really?” Yvonne asks, her eyebrows raising in surprise.

Really.” I confirm with a complicit wink.

Thank the Lake, I thought you were going to pout for weeks!” She exclaims with a grin. We don’t have that kind of time to waste.

Do you need me to soothe my kitten she gets all ruffled up about it?” I ask her.

It would help.” Yvonne nods hurriedly. “But don’t worry too much, Leomi knows she played with fire so she shouldn’t blame me.”

It’s my fault.” I inform her with a grimace. “I told her about Celyz and, it… I don’t know how to describe the way she took it, she didn’t get angry or possessive but…”

Insecure.” Yvonne provides.

This is Lance we’re talking about.” I remind my best friend. “She would only get more competitive or aggressive if she was insecure.”

The heart is never that simple, Jess.” She tells me with a sigh. “Take me for example, I’m not attracted to either of you in a physical way but I do love you two and those emotions affect me. Leomi may not even know how she feels but, trust me, she’s insecure.”

This is my fault, she shouldn’t…” I trail off because I’m being stupid. “How do I fix this? I need them both, I love them both.”

I don’t know Jess.” Yvonne replies with a sigh.

Her eyes tell me that she’s lying. It’s obvious she thinks I should make up my mind and pick either Celyz or Leomi but she won’t say it. I hold my arm out and she gladly takes it to lead me around the maze towards the back of the labyrinth.

Leomi asked me if I would stand by her side and that of her reformed Nobles to defend the Empire against the Rykz.” I speak up.

… Why did you refuse?” She perceptively asks.

I didn’t answer.” I murmur.

Because of Nobility?” Yvonne pries.

“No, Leomi likely threw that in to give me an out but we both know their presence wouldn’t matter.” I reply sadly. “My hesitation to face danger by her side is betrayal enough.”

Yvonne stops and squeezes my arm before releasing it, clearly indicating we should talk alone. I reluctantly release her, aware that there is no sense in asking about Lance’s reaction to Arkur asking to dance because she clearly equivocated the situation to Celyz taking me from her.

I keep walking in the direction she led me towards until my eyes fall on Leomi who is gazing up to the small moon rising in the orange sky with her back against a tree.

My nervousness, doubt, and loneliness vanish at the sight of her but my guilt increases as she appears alone in spite of the sad jay on her shoulder as well as the scarce guest spread throughout the area. I hasten my pace without thinking.

I no longer fear or mourn my inability to find joy or happiness among humans, and likely even Rykz, or Lisilese if I can use my encounter with Ka’tchuk to forge a bond that’ll lead to peace.

The sight of Lance with her back to a sturdy oak convinces me to the fact that I will always have all that I need as long as my kitten and Celyz love me. But, now, we need to take care of her because she appears lost.

That expression on Leomi’s face along with the fact she has been distant terrorizes me because it feels like she’s slipping away from me. Her hands are even fidgety, her fingers moving as if she’s trying to grasp sand falling from her palm.

Jay.” Leomi murmurs with a low voice but without looking.

Kitten.” I reply softly.

She discreetly pinches her strict white and light blue dress and pulls it down to soothe nonexistent creases. I approach her right side and nestle myself under her arm. She hugs me close but her gestures feel absentminded. I join her in gazing at the setting sun.

What did he want?” Leomi asks with a tight voice.

Her tone convinces me she’s using work to distract her mind from us but I’m unwilling to force her so I recount our discussion, trusting that she’ll figure out whether a deal can be made with Cecil.

The way she raises her eyebrows as I speak annoys me because it feels like she’s underestimating either my work or me in some way. I reach up and place one index on her chin to have her turn to look at me.

What’s with that surprised reaction?” I ask snappily.

No, it’s…” Leomi awkwardly fumbles her denial. “He’s a Prince, I’m far more astonished by the fact that he could convince you than I am by the fact you obtained such a concession, my love.” She explains.

Oh. I did it for you.” I mumble.

Thank you.” She replies with a thin smile.

She turns sideways to kiss the top of my head. I expect her to go back to the sunset but she instead flips completely to face me and tenderly pushes my back, and broadsword, to the oak.

Lance shows a gentle demeanor that’s I’ve longed for with all my heart, yet it has the ironic effect of increasing my insecurities at this moment when she appears to be in doubt.

You’re gorgeous in that outfit.” She whispers flirtatiously in my ear. “Thank you for that as well.”

I love you.” I aggressively reply, sounding off-beat to my own ears.

I love you too.” Leomi replies enthusiastically despite the hint of confusion to her expression. “Especially those rebellious curls.” She runs the back of her right hand’s fingers along the tip of my hairs. “And curves.” She adds as her left arm slides along my flank, jostling my breast.

I enjoy the compliments but I don’t feel like we’re in sync. That realization arises along with a weakness that spreads in my chest and legs. I reach up and place my hand on her cheek, stopping her as she was leaning in to kiss me.

Your lips call to meee…” She protests with a coquettish voice.

I take one step forward and force my thigh between hers to hold her back. My move is so abrupt that there is a small shock when my flesh comes in contact with her womanhood, the impact even forces air out of her lungs.

We should talk seriously.” I say with a scowl.

I was seriously flirting with you.” Leomi utters with a tone so cold it sends a chill down my spine that turns my back stiff. She makes a dazzlingly happy smile at my reaction and I realize that this is a new iteration of her sadistic streak. “You made me very sore but I can accommodate your fingers if you’re in such need for an outlet you would strike me true.” She tempts me.

No, that’s…” I hesitate. “I didn’t mean to…”

Fuck me so hard I can’t sit down for very long?” She proposes while starting to stimulate my sensitive spots with the tips of her fingers. “Riding my horse is going to feel like torture tonight.” I wince under the image and a scratch of her nail. She grins with her canines at the forefront. “It did give me something to focus on other than my pain.” She ruthlessly continues.

Gh, rh.” I try, and fail, to swallow the stone her words pushed down my throat. “Leomi.” Liz manages to squeeze the warning through my lips.

You anger me so much, why show me your rough yet fragile beauty under the moonlight if speech is how you wish to communicate?” Leomi asks with a touch of anguish to her voice as she respectfully halts her caresses.

Hmh.” We mumble the random sounds because it’s all we can manage because her response makes our heart melt.

Still, we know from experience that she may be tricking us, especially when it comes to talking about us and Celyz. Her eyes narrow as she likely reads the skepticism from our eyes and traits.

I’ve had to learn to control my impulses growing up, I can help you understand them.” She tells me while pushing my hand back to kiss me.

I lock my elbow and wrist to stop her. Leomi blinks in confusion. I’m pissed at myself because my aggression was purely an inexcusable expression of my anger at having my plan to bring my two lovers together foiled.

It wasn’t an impulse.” I tell her. “It was a tantrum because I couldn’t convince you, because I love her but you don’t.”

Jay.” Leomi admonishes. “That’s an impulse. You acted because your emotions were too strong to keep a lid on.”

She is clearly refusing or unable to register that I love Celyz, behaving the same as she did when I told her of our engagement. Lance takes advantage of my distraction to gently slide her cheek past my palm and lay a small kiss on my lips.

Allow me to demonstrate.” She declares.

She seizes my hand, that her cheek abandoned, and leads it down to the slit along her left leg and then guides it to her lower back. I caress her very tenderly by reflex, causing her to shiver and then throw me a glare to tell me to stop. She pushes my fingers into her panties as she leans in to whisper in my ear.

I’ve fingered quite a few women yet refused you every, single, time, you have asked me to so far.” Lance tells me.

Rage erupts inside my chest at the fact she dared to say this to me at this moment. The reason she hadn’t is that she took us seriously but the knowledge does not help put a leash on my fury towards her.

Liz and I struggle, we consider striking her, kneeing her, headbutting her, and biting her. But, all in all, our rationality holds because we do know that she loves us and never loved them.

And so, my hand slides down her ass and my major slips in the crack towards her anus. We find a burning hot ring of flesh and feel the injuries we inflicted on it by fucking her as roughly as we did. That gives us pause but does naught to soothe the rage boiling in our lower stomach.

The doubt, the hurt, the agony she must have gone through both times we told her of what we did with Celyz, twice acted against her strong instructions to not even have sex or pleasure myself, much less make love to another being.

Leomi takes advantage of our disarray to pull our hand away with her iron grip on the wrist and then pull our arm above our head to lock it against the oak’s trunk. Then, she leans in to expose the pit of her neck to my teeth. We bite down on her bronze flesh with all our strength.

Hrrrr.” Lance growls, making her vocal cords rumble inside her throat. “See, that’s an impulse.” She tells me with a shuddering in her tone.

I force my jaw to open before my teeth pierce her flesh. As soon as I do, she pushes me hard against the trunk with her chest and uses her left thigh to strongly pressure my sex to completely immobilize me.

Then, Lance exchanges her left hand for her right to grip my wrist and uses her newly free fingers to seize my breast with no concern as to the pain it causes me or the few guests around. Even Liz fails to find the will to struggle after the up and downs she put us through.

I’ll never break up with you Leomi.” I tell her, feeling crushed by her doubts. “I’m yours.”

“…” Lance freezes, looking utterly confused. “Why would you say that?” She asks while loosening her hold on me.

…” I blink in surprise because she’s far more in control of herself than I thought.

Oh.” She exclaims, her cheeks paling. “Oh.” She adds more calmly. “You think I’m having doubts.”

“Aren’t, you?” I question, feeling lost because the cliff I thought we stood on the edge of was a mere hill all along.

Leomi lets go of my breast to rub her temples before returning to seize it with even more strength. I yelp because it, fucking, hurts. She loosens up her hold with a guilty expression.

My bad, thinking accident.” She explains apologetically.

I always sort of knew somewhere inside my heart that she had always held back but having the proof touches me deeply. Especially since this is the only time she lost control, an accident that she never allowed even at the height of her fury towards me.

It’s fine, kitten.” I reassure her with a smile.

You were right, we should talk.” She replies.

Like this?” I ask, briefly glancing down to the two small breasts she’s pressing against me.

Yes.” Lance replies absently while once more securing her hold on my wrist. “Do you have any idea of the number of people who came to me probing the status of my relationship with Liz and you? Always saying how great the two of you are in some way or another.” She asks rhetorically. “That number is going to increase by the dozens now and they’re all going to be implying that I’m to blame for deceiving you both. Damn servants are at it too.” She complains whimsically.

Wait, they think I’m being deceived?” Liz asks, daring what I didn’t dare to do which is to interrupt her light monologue.

Those you’ve terrorized think you’re a bloodthirsty Berserk so they wouldn’t talk of you, much less for you, while those who feel grateful have an oddly accurate intuition so as to your innocence in these matters.” Leomi explains. “Still.” She utters, her light gray eyes suddenly locking onto mine with a piercing gaze. “To have Arkur, him from all the annoyances I’ve ever had the displeasure to meet, just ask for your hand in my face?!” Leomi exclaims angrily.

I feel her slender fingers tremble on my breast and fear she’ll squeeze for a brief moment until she finds my nipple to pinch it with her nails, causing me to hurriedly bury my face in her shoulder and let out my agonizing pleasure with a moan. It takes me tens of seconds to find my bearings again.

Jay.” Lance calls out to me with a more serious tone of voice that contains a hint of grief. “I want you to have as fulfilling a life as you can, but…” She pauses to take a deep breath. “Why does it make me crazy when you do?”

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