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Lance and I hold hands underneath the umbrella in the moonlit night as we gaze down the cliff at the sea with friends all around us but uneasy nonetheless, to the point our palms shake and sweat.

Our nervousness has none to do with battle occurring elsewhere but with the fact that we both plan to propose tonight. It is a quandary we share so as to who would move first, at what moment, and in which location.

Leomi no doubt has other worries, but so do I and they have to do with the steel reinforced leather armors we’re wearing. It renders this romantic moment rather tense, but it is difficult to tell if it enhances or hinders us as a couple.

What are you thinking about?” Leomi asks softly.

“That, perhaps, armors suit us better than dresses.” I reply with a gentle voice.

Hmh.” She exhales. “Considering our past, of course they do. But the question is whether we wish to define the future of our relationship by wearing them as we deepen our bond.”

I fall silent because her words enlighten her thought processes. Not merely about her choice of this location but also how she considers our future as a couple. She does not wish to for the past to inform our future but for our choices in the present to determine who we are together.

This place is peaceful.” She whispers.

“It’s close to the city.” I comment.

“There’s a rare patch of arable land able to feed a family between the woods and cottage.” She adds.

“There should be plenty of game to hunt as well.” I note.

“We could build a pen for livestock.” She tells me.

And a fence alongside the cliff.” I murmur.

Stables to hold a few horses.” She mentions.

Her words fill my mind with images of children laughing as they run around the cottage, of Leomi kissing me at the door in the morning before leaving on horseback. Lasting happiness.

It lacks a place for Celyz, it lacks context about society, it lacks perspective on her duties and my ambitions. Yet what this image lacks matters not because we’re drawing a fulfilling life to perfect to we reach for together.

Lance is attempting to give me something to live for and that delights me but it also makes me realize how attached she must be to this future and how worried she must be about me.

We have a great field of view all around from atop the cliff.” I speak up to probe her state of mind.

The area isn’t difficult to protect or flee from.” Leomi says, confirming my suspicions.

I won’t be leading a campaign to exterminate Nobility so there is no need to worry.” I tell her.

But there will be pursuers aiming at you and me both, for years after I obtain victory.” Leomi argues.

“Who would claim themselves better tactician than Jessica Freepath or more dangerous than Elizabeth Vil?” I ask rhetorically. “It would take an army and a fleet, none will have the capability to gather these upon my success.”

Agreed.” Lance utters as she squeezes me more tightly against her.

Liz would want a parterre of flowers and Jess would want to plant vegetables. Is there ground suitable for a garden behind the cottage?” I ask.

Yes, we could fit a training field as well since it isn’t too rocky.” She answers.

As I lean into her embrace, I feel her briefly pull away from mine to throw a glance behind us. Leomi is waiting for something but it isn’t happening at the timing she thought it was going to or she wouldn’t be disturbing the moment.

I smile and take my umbrella back from her. She turns to me with a slightly guilty expression. Neither of us says a word as there is no need when we can communicate so much in silence.

We gaze together at the waves crashing beneath us into the cliff for what I experience as a very short amount of time but is in fact several hours as proven by the trajectory of the moon in the sky.

Leomi often shifts her weight, which causes me to chuckle every single time. My reaction to her painful buttocks makes her pout until, every single time, her lips form a happy grin and she kisses me with them.

Sounds of battle and hooves coming from the south-west tear us out of our reverie. I extend myself up to kiss her cheek. Lance leans in over the precipice to ensure I do not fail to reach it.

Then, we get up and turn to face the horizon. I find that Uhla, Yvonne, Vikiana, Nahl, and Rowland are already riding their horses. I ignore them to gaze into the night and the torches held in the distance.

I catch sight of approximately two hundred halberdiers doing battle with an equivalent number of warriors wearing heterodox clothes and armors, some on horseback. The lack of constructs being flung signifies it was a struggle for this armed force to even make it here.

Mary’s two companies are plenty enough to deal with their exhausted force.” Lance comments calmly.

It amuses me to witness this ragtag group of Nobles because it makes it obvious they weren’t ready to rise in rebellion but that their hands were forced, no doubt by Tuala Hakarth and the impostor’s group.

They had no choice but to act because Lance pulled the rug under their feet by providing them the perfect cause to rebel at the worst possible timing for them. If they didn’t make their move tonight, Grace would have dismantled their schemes one by one.

We climb on her warhorse to head for the battlefield located right next to the woods. Uhla and Yvonne remain close to us. Or, I suspect, me. As we approach, I catch sight of a small group of riders extricating themselves from the battle that includes the Hakarth as well as the bearded Noble I dueled and crushed with flow.

You!” Tuala screams from afar as her gaze crosses mine.

She reflexively raises a bandaged right hand but then realizes that she’s holding her sword in her left hand. Her traits darken and her burning anger fades to be replaced by the cold expression that precedes murder.

Lance pulls on the reins and our group stops with us at the forefront, as if to provoke these two dozen Nobles to come to us. She assembles a sound construct that disperses in the air around us.

Gaze well at this dying breed of Nobles! They are as unable to defeat Hospitaliers as they are to defeat Templars for they only care about their self-interest!” Lance shouts. I smile in amusement because, even with my hatred, I’m well aware she is generalizing far too much to be truthful. “Hospitaliers are stronger! We’ve united our differences around a common ideal to protect the Empire and better the lives of those living within it!”

A loud cheer erupts from the two hundred halberdiers at her words. I notice that there are stumps among the hands being raised in excitement at the back-line. I become certain that Lance hand-picked these injured soldiers to create these two companies.

To still be willing to fight after being maimed, they must have strong resolve and commitment to protecting others. If they didn’t have any grudges towards these Nobles before, then they will from now on because of this rebellion.

The Hospitaliers’ formation becomes looser and they swing their halberds even more fiercely as if attempting to exhaust themselves. Their high morale and enthusiasm unfortunately allow Hakarth’s group to break off.

The officers wait a few moments after the cheers die down to call for discipline, restoring order to the lines in moments but too late to prevent these two dozen Nobles on horseback from escaping. They ride towards the woods to head for our group and evade the pursuing halberdiers.

So, how did they find us?” I ask.

I’m not sure, I do not even know how they got out of Meria with such numbers.” Lance replies tensely.

But you prepared for it.” I note appreciatively.

Urm.” She grunts with the back of her throat.

Her hands release the reins and land on my body. I smile at the fact this mere skirmish is agitating her when this is barely enough to excite me. In fact, the clashing weapons and openly hostile expressions make me feel more in control, calmer.

Leomi applies strong pressure to my breast and between my thighs, causing me some pain in the former despite the hard reinforced leather armor protecting me some. She uses more and more strength the closer the Hakarth’s group gets to the edge of the woods.

Nervous?” I question.

Lance replies with her hands, the left on my chest slides down to lift my vest to allow her right to get inside my pants and then raise the jacket with the thumb to help the left under it.

She forcefully makes space under my armor for her limbs and releases her tension by letting herself go wild with my flesh. Her nails lift the two pieces of underwear she gifted me in order to scrape at my lower stomach and breast.

Ihm.” I squeal at the sudden pleasurable agony she inflicts.

Yet, I quickly have to suppress my cries as they become quite real when she pinches my nipple without restraint and grabs my sex with a full grip. It becomes impossible for me to channel the pain she inflicts into an appreciable sensation because there isn’t anything erotic about her actions.

Yet, I don’t protest, protect myself, or mind in the least that Leomi is voluntarily hurting me because I find her actions endearing and romantic. Lance is showing me how much she loves me.

She wants to slaughter those who want to kill me so much she’s hurting me to keep herself under control and fight her own fears. Perhaps, someday, she’ll kill me herself so as to prevent others from doing so. A girl can‘t dream of a better end.

Whence the riders fade from our sight and into the woods, she releases my sex to plunge her hand deeper and forcibly penetrate my anus with two fingers. She further lashes out by pushing with her chest and almost flattening my breast by pressuring it, using so much strength that there isn’t any chance she could be enjoying the sensation of my soft and wiggly breast in her palm.

Aighrah!” I cry out.

The pain she causes me is intense, yet I allow her to purge her fear of death, mine and hers, by doing to me all she wishes without restraint. I lean back to fit snugly along her hard reinforced leather armor and reach to grasp at her short white hair to pull her lips to my neck.

She shakes her head to get rid of my grip, a declaration of her dominance that I submit to by gently placing my hand on the back of her neck. Leomi exhales roughly in approbation and reaches to bite my ear. Her teeth provoke a sharp pain, one I’ve only felt in my extremities, but I bear with it.

I act in this docile way not out of love, not only at least, because I could influence Lance by telling her how I wish to be caressed and how hard. She would, no doubt, play along by her own will or be made to.

But it would defeat my purpose of making her feel completely accepted for who she is. Something she has a dire need of if I go by the protests I can hear coming from Uhla, Nahl, and, worst of all, her mother Vikiana.

Rowland remains silent, unsurprisingly considering Yvonne told him enough about our relationship to make him blush for no reason in my presence. But Leomi’s sword-sworn, my best friend, stands guard for us and prevents them from disturbing us.

While it embarrasses and shames me to be made a spectacle like this, the emotion most prevalent in me is pride at being both the kind of woman that Leomi Lance needs and the kind that can stop her before she hurts herself by going too far.

Her torment continues for what feels like an eternity, but reasonably lasts a mere few minutes during which I manage to hold back my voice. In the end, she grips my breast as hard as she can while stimulating my flower’s bud by squeezing it between her thumb and index.

Uughrmh.” I scream out in exulting agony.

This last cry of mine expresses as much of my pleasure as it does of my pain despite both of her assaults being the most damaging of them all. The reason is that these gestures betray Lance’s love and desire for me, allowing me to appreciate it at a level I could not when she was working her emotions out on my body.

As if to prove me right, her violence turns into tenderness. Her gripped fingers open and her left hand travels with while her right travels up. They reach for my belly and flank in order to caress them, leaving my hot panging breast and sex to rest.

I read in her movements that she isn’t trying to excite me, although it is quite late for that, but merely to soothe and express her love in case she made me doubt it. What arrogance from her to consider she could make me experience doubt.

It makes me smile tenderly until I catch sight of shadows in the depths of the woods and understand that our time is up. She removes her hands from under my armor and helps me shift on horseback to sit across her thighs. She leans in as I reach out. Our lips meet in the middle for a brief but loving kiss.

Do you mind if I handle this, my jay?” Lance asks quietly.

Of course not but be careful, Lance.” I reply gently.

… I like when you call me that, it makes me feel taller.” She murmurs.

You’re plenty tall, any more and it’ll look like I’m short when I stand next to you.” I admonish her.

You’re a giant in my heart.” She responds teasingly.

I blink in confusion about what the joke is. As I ponder, she suddenly messes up my hair so I block her and she takes advantage to grab my wrist and waist, flipping me off her legs and the horse.

My umbrella, which rested on both our shoulders, is flicked off a bit wildly by my fall. I barely manage to catch the handle and land on my feet, which allows her to send her warhorse off to the woods at double-trot before I can stop her.

I grin at her abruptness. Vikiana, Nahl, and Rowland ride past me to follow her. Uhla and Yvonne remain near me. I assemble a strengthening construct as well as reinforce the three constructs anchored to my heart before launching into a sprint behind Leomi.

Wait! Jess, you’re going to have another seizure!” Yvonne calls out in worry.

You savage! Take my horse before you drop from exhaustion!” Uhla cries once she realizes I’m not listening.

After a dozen meters, I feel a stiffness in my chest and a dagger plunge in my side. I immediately slow down. I experience a burst of rage towards my body for being so damn weak and implying the two are right. In other circumstances, I may try to prove them wrong, but right now I am frustratingly unable to and that makes me mad.

Despite switching to a rapid jog, the pain intensifies to the point that it forces me to stop near a tree so as to use it to support myself. I pang and gasp at the sudden loss of strength.

Just because you don’t feel tired doesn’t mean you aren’t, barbarian!” Uhla berates as she jumps off her horse.

Lance, who stopped a mere thirty to fifty meters ahead, throws a glance back but she doesn’t linger on to show how truly worried she is in a show of trust towards me.

Vikiana is entirely focused on the approaching riders. Rowland, on the other hand, is controlling his horse to make loops between our two groups in a show of hesitation.

I lie further against the tree and ignore the three mother hens to observe the upcoming destruction while gathering my strength to intervene if necessary. The bearded Noble rides out in the front and raises his hand at the same time a golden lance takes shape in Leomi’s.

The energy held within her construct is intense, it holds thirty portions which is a little over twice the minimum necessary to make it. The breaded man sends out about two dozen portions of energy to create a kinetic cube and an air-blade.

I shake my head in disappointment because Leomi will crush him if that’s his play. She casually raises and lowers her arm, launching her hybrid construct at insane speed comparatively to her movement.

The bearded man launches his constructs to intercept the projectile. The lance hits the air-blade. As expected, it explodes on impact and breaks the Noble’s weak construct in twain, sending one half into a tree and the other into the ground.

Hundreds of pointy golden shards fly out towards the two dozen riders in apparently random but clearly suspicious trajectories. All of these needles together form a large and flat cone that quickly engulfs their group because the kinetic cube fails to intercept more than a handful.

Moments before the shards pierce through their front-line, Tuala Hakarth erupts out their right flank with a mad look on her face as she raises her left hand high with her sword in its grip to charge past Lance and Vikiana.

Most needles fail to pierce more than a couple of centimeters into the Nobles’ armors but the horses aren’t so lucky and neither are those who had no opportunity to change out of their ball clothes.

Flowers of blood explode in the dark woods, painting fallen leaves and rare patches of snow bright red under the moonlight. Panicked cries arise as a half-dozen fall to the ground under their mounts while another half-dozen scream from the loss of a nose, an eye, or several fingers.

The bearded Noble, who escaped unscathed thanks to the protection of his kinetic cube, pulls on his horse’s reins with an utterly terrorized look on his face as his gaze flicks from Tuala to Leomi.

The traitor still has plenty of energy!” He exclaims with shock.

He’s realizing he was tricked. That’s not a good sign. Leomi allows none of it disturb her as she turns to the Hakarth with a second lance already in her right hand. As she pulls it back and launches it, the jay on her head hops on top and grabs the tip with its talons.

Tuala’s eyes widen and her traits stiffen. While the attack clearly stuns her, she still manages to pull on her horse’s reins to dodge. Unfortunately for her, the almost unnoticeable golden jay vigorously flaps its single wing to divert the trajectory and follow her.

The lance starts spinning almost uncontrollably, which ejects the flow bird, but it still lodges itself in the center of the woman’s belly. The Hakarth reaches out to Leomi with an open hand and blood dripping from the corners of her silent but moving lips.

Too late.” Leomi utters coldly.

She turns back to the troupe of rebellious Nobles and launches a third hybrid construct at their center, causing them to attempt to scatter wildly into the woods. The third lance plunges into the group before they make it far and blasts out into shards at the same time as the second one does in Tuala’s stomach.

While none of the high born manages to escape injuries from the volley of needles that spreads out like a golden ripple, Tuala Hakarth is much more unfortunate than they are. Not only does the initial explosion split her in twain at the waist, but the shards that fly out tear her into bloody shreds.

None who threaten my jay will escape my grasp tonight.” Lance proclaims with steel in her voice.

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