Difference between revisions of "Daybreak:Volume 1 Chapter 12"

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"<u>Yes, 'efficient' in how you keep spending little effort for no effect; the rest of us have a word for it: 'cowardice', you gutless wonder. Seriously, how many years will you keep accumulating interest? There are things you can't fix with magic or genius Pascal... you have to do it the old fashioned way.</u>"
 
"<u>Yes, 'efficient' in how you keep spending little effort for no effect; the rest of us have a word for it: 'cowardice', you gutless wonder. Seriously, how many years will you keep accumulating interest? There are things you can't fix with magic or genius Pascal... you have to do it the old fashioned way.</u>"
  
"<u>...Fine.</u>" He finally agreed just before reaching the trio as his irritated thoughts silently met her challenge: "<u>since I am going to do it anyway, I will show you exactly how ''proper'' of an apology I can accomplish.</u>
+
"<u>...Fine.</u>" He finally agreed just before reaching the trio as his irritated thoughts silently met her challenge: "<u>since I am going to do it anyway, I will show you exactly how proper of an apology I can accomplish.</u>
  
 
Now meeting them eye to eye, Pascal took a deep breath before he began in a deep and sincere voice:
 
Now meeting them eye to eye, Pascal took a deep breath before he began in a deep and sincere voice:
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"<u>There is also no way the higher ups will accept handing her over if I did not give her at least this much punishment. At least sixteen people ''died'' in this attack Kaede, including one professor, and I am not willing to indulge ''your'' sense of ethics so much to lose my own, understand?</u>"
 
"<u>There is also no way the higher ups will accept handing her over if I did not give her at least this much punishment. At least sixteen people ''died'' in this attack Kaede, including one professor, and I am not willing to indulge ''your'' sense of ethics so much to lose my own, understand?</u>"
  
Kaede didn't say another word. His accusation that she was pushing her cultural morals onto him had stung. She knew perfectly well that it was one of the biggest ''don't dos'' in cross-cultural relations.
+
Kaede didn't say another word. His accusation that she was pushing her cultural morals onto him had stung. She knew perfectly well that it was one of the biggest 'don't dos' in cross-cultural relations.
  
 
"What is your response," Pascal intoned, sternly.
 
"What is your response," Pascal intoned, sternly.
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"<u>I'm sorry. Parzifal is just getting carried away again. I'm sure he didn't mean to...</u>"
 
"<u>I'm sorry. Parzifal is just getting carried away again. I'm sure he didn't mean to...</u>"
  
"<u>Oh don't worry about that,</u>" the girlfriend reassured. "<u>His headstrong sense of ethics is part of why I love him.</u>"
+
"<u>Oh don't worry about that,</u>" the girl reassured. "<u>His headstrong sense of ethics is part of why I love him.</u>"
  
It reminded Reynald of why everyone else, Parzifal especially, thought Ariadne was 'the perfect girlfriend'.
+
It reminded Reynald of why everyone else, Parzifal especially, thought Ariadne was 'the perfect girl'.
  
 
"<u>It's that prick who better prepare himself!</u>"
 
"<u>It's that prick who better prepare himself!</u>"
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Kaede knew that nothing ended ''that'' easily.
+
Kaede knew that nothing ended that easily.
  
 
Parzifal kept the banter focused over the course of brunch, discussing mostly the events of last night and the academy's turmoil that followed. Reynald soon pitched in with tactical analysis made using his knowledge of Mantis Blade modus operandi, spoken in-between flirtatious words that continued to address Kaede as 'muffin'.
 
Parzifal kept the banter focused over the course of brunch, discussing mostly the events of last night and the academy's turmoil that followed. Reynald soon pitched in with tactical analysis made using his knowledge of Mantis Blade modus operandi, spoken in-between flirtatious words that continued to address Kaede as 'muffin'.
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"Some prodigy you are, Pascal; half a day goes by and you can't even tell basic biology," Ariadne complained as she knelt down besides Kaede.
 
"Some prodigy you are, Pascal; half a day goes by and you can't even tell basic biology," Ariadne complained as she knelt down besides Kaede.
  
With her back already bent over her stomach, Kaede banged her head into the table as she realized ''exactly'' what the noblewoman meant.
+
With her back already bent over her stomach, Kaede banged her head into the table as she realized exactly what the noblewoman meant.
  
 
"Kaede you must be on your cycle... or whatever your people call a menstrual period."
 
"Kaede you must be on your cycle... or whatever your people call a menstrual period."

Revision as of 00:47, 27 January 2014

Chapter 12 - Better Late Than Never

Kaede jolted upright in her cold and squishy seat, the shivering aftereffects of a light shock still coursing through her body. Her eyes snapped open, meeting the glow of a dozen bright white lights that floated overhead. Meanwhile, two blurry figures before her soon solidified into appearances she knew and could trust.

Night had already fallen, lit by stars and the indigo planet stretching across the horizon.

"That's what a Rejuvenate spell actually feels like," the crouching Parzifal gave her a gentle smile, his eyes still closed as the soothing warmth from his glove coursed through her right shoulder. "Heal plus shock; bit contradictory, but effective."

Pascal, on the other hand, wasn't smiling at all. The frown under his golden soft curls was halfway between worried and stern:

"How long did that arrow stay in you?"

"I don't know; maybe five minutes?" She almost shrugged but caught herself in time. "Counting time isn't the best way of trying to stay conscious while pretending to be the opposite."

Examining her situation, Kaede found herself laying on Parzifal's giant tofu, its top in the form of a memory-foam lounge chair. Her shoulder was no longer hurting. Instead, it felt as though submerged in hot springs, muscles relaxing and tension fading away.

"Well, I guess passing off as dead was your safest option at the time. Just try not to jump off any buildings again," Pascal scowled and shook his head.

"Give me a break! That was my second time using...!"

"--And thank you," Pascal headed off her retort, his head nodding with gratitude. "Because if you did not lure them in, there was no way our enforcers could have caught an Imperial Mantis Blade squad. Sooner or later, one of their plans would have succeeded in catching me off guard, instead of finding themselves baited into a trap."

Kaede felt that something was off about Pascal. It lay in his expression, intoning his firm voice. This was still him, yet different... or perhaps unusual was a better term. But her still-fuzzy mind could neither identify or explain her intuitive sense.

So she turned towards the other puzzling topic: I thought they were from Rhin-Lotharingie, before she realized that Marina had no reason to tell her the truth.

She really needed to stop underestimating those tears from the un-spy-like maid.

"Well, you're all set now," Parzifal patted her shoulder before standing back up, leaving a lingering warmth on the smooth skin where her wound used to be. "I left an Invigorate spell that should tie up any loose ends over the course of the night."

"Thank you so much," Kaede bowed from her seat before grinning back. "For this and for saving my life back there," she patted the giant tofu before standing up from it.

"Don't mention it," he waved it off with a friendly smile. "I'm just glad Putty got there in time."

Talk about a fitting name...

Kaede sent the white pudding familiar a grin as well, and could have sworn it bounced with joy. Her eyes then passed beyond the giant tofu, and she bowed at the tired but otherwise healed Ariadne and Reynald.

The flame-colored leather armor reinforced by steel plates -- cuirass, spaulders, bracers, and greaves -- that they wore during battle had already vanished without a trace. The two of them nodded back in their Knight Phantom uniforms, beaming, while their gloves continued to shed the light of healing. Laying between them was the pegasus Edelweiss, who still nursed a bandaged wing but appeared mostly healthy.

"And I must thank you all as well," Pascal nodded towards the others.

Parzifal's and Reynald's change in attitude was nearly instantaneous as their smiles flipped upside down, but Pascal nevertheless pressed on:

"I know none of you three wish to hear it from me, or did it for my sake. But that only makes it more important that I must convey my utmost gratitude. You were all willing to overlook our past... differences, for the sake of the country, putting your lives in danger against the best assassins in Hyperion. You have chosen to save my life for the noblest of reasons, and I swear now that House von Moltewitz will not forget this debt, nor fail to honor and repay it."

Pascal bowed, an emissary's courtesy to match perfection, before turning around without any expectations.

"Come on Kaede," he said as his legs took the first steps of departure.

His words were lonely and spoken in melancholy. His tone gave a regretful air that reminded Kaede of a conversation on her first day in this world, during their first meal, when he begrudgingly admitted his past faults against the admirable Ariadne. It was clear that he now held a great deal of respect for all three of them, even if he did not before tonight. Even more apparent was his wish that things had turned out differently, before it became too late.

Glancing around the three of them, Kaede found the trio just as taken back. They may not be astounded to the point of dropping jaws, but it was clear that not one of them had expected such words from the prodigious and prideful Runelord.

It was as good an opportunity as anyone could hope for.

She turned to Pascal's departing back -- just another step away from the stairwell doors -- and shouted after him:

"How long are you going to keep regretting the past instead of facing the present!?"

Pascal spun around to glare at her, but Kaede had no intention of keeping this conversation private... not yet:

"I stand by what I told you two weeks ago: it's not always enough, but it's never too late!"

His legs stood stiff and his body still. But his eyes wavered, caught amid hesitation and resentment, uncertain between a chance to seek the unpleasant light, or returning to the familiar yet cold shadows.

But Kaede knew that Pascal would not be Pascal without his will to follow rational judgment in his own way. After a silent minute and a profound sigh, his feet turned themselves around, cautiously stepping back towards Kaede as her lips unwittingly lit up a welcoming smile.

"You said you will not fail to honor and repay the debt. Then why not start now with everything you have? Better than your half-way apologies that do nothing but tarnish your word."

"Apologies could use more efficiency and less self-injury..." his complaint was bitter.

Kaede's hands propped against her waist as she goaded Pascal with the one line he could not possibly ignore:

"Yes, 'efficient' in how you keep spending little effort for no effect; the rest of us have a word for it: 'cowardice', you gutless wonder. Seriously, how many years will you keep accumulating interest? There are things you can't fix with magic or genius Pascal... you have to do it the old fashioned way."

"...Fine." He finally agreed just before reaching the trio as his irritated thoughts silently met her challenge: "since I am going to do it anyway, I will show you exactly how proper of an apology I can accomplish.

Now meeting them eye to eye, Pascal took a deep breath before he began in a deep and sincere voice:

"Kaede is correct. I know that you have no reason to grant me any favors, but I ask for only a moment of your time. I realized all too late that in my foolish immaturity of years past, I have committed inexcusable acts of rudeness against the two of you, Parzifal and Ariadne, and that I owe each of you a most sincere apology."

Even Kaede stood stunned at the depth of Pascal's remorse, which sounded even more genuine than she expected. But what followed completely eclipsed even her impression of just how long and deeply Pascal must have considered his past mistakes:

"Parzifal," spoke Pascal, turning towards the lean healer with crossed arms and meeting his aquamarine gaze. "I only wish I could take back the childish words I used that day to stab your most painful spot. I knew, even back then, that you hated your magical affinity and held a crisis of confidence. It was dirty and despicable of me, and probably done because even then, I knew your generosity towards a girl you barely knew made my rudeness look more intolerable by comparison. I am glad that you received the gratitude and the beautiful girl you deserved, and that Ariadne helped build your confidence to the capable man you are today..."

Whether it was because of unpreparedness or due to Pascal's thoroughly uncharacteristic behavior, Parzifal and his two friends were stunned flat by the prodigy's admission of guilt. Their poker faces -- or Ariadne's once-serene smile -- were left agape, their eyes blinking in disbelief amidst the dying flames of residue anger.

It wasn't exactly very encouraging for the person actually trying to apologize.

"You can do this, Pascal."

Kaede noted that his eyes had slid back down to stare upon a faraway battlement. His shoulders were slumping more by the second, his will wavering on the precipice of yet another plunge from pride.

I know this can't be easy on you, but...

She decided it was time to inject some real motivation again:

"You've told me that you didn't want to owe Ariadne anything else, but what about your debts now...? You know this is the right thing to do."

Pascal sent her another glare, and a reassured -- also slightly amused -- Kaede returned her encouraging smile.

"And Ariadne," he took a deep breath before he focused onto the lady's meadow-green eyes. "When I discovered our differences in approach to life, I tried to break up with you by pressing all the blame onto you. It was low, and immoral, and cowardly of me, all the more so when I humiliated you by doing it in public instead of at least having a basic sense of decency. I cannot apologize enough for my past actions, and if I do not get the chance again, I wish you happiness with Parzifal, for he is a far better man than I was."

And that took almost every ounce of will, every strand of self-discipline that Pascal had.

His gaze lingered for but a second before he spun around and strode straight towards the rooftop door. He had just shredded his pride and thrown them out with a chamber pot of filth before the presence of four others. His soul lay bared naked to the critiquing eyes of his peers, and he could not withstand it for another moment longer.

"I am so going to kill you for that," the prodigy's ego lashed out in an attempt to regain itself, to rebuild its protective shell.

"You're welcome," Kaede simply smiled back, having never felt true pride before now for the man who called her into this alien world.

She then turned towards the three still hanging onto stunned expressions, curtsied as graciously as she could, before rushing off after Pascal.

The only one she heard recovering before her departure was Reynald, although his utterance still came loaded with disbelief:

"THE Runelord apologizing? You've got to be shitting me..."


----- * * * -----


Pascal had told Kaede that while she was still unconscious, Professor Sir von Kirchner flew to the roof and questioned the four before leaving to assess the situation around the castle.

They saw no reason to wake her up for that unpleasant session.

Kaede was grateful, but it also didn't leave her much time to wrap up loose ends.

"Why do you even care about this? Just let the guards and enforcers deal with that maid," Pascal asked as he followed Kaede down the dining hall, where servants and mages alike were cleaning up the mess left by collateral damage from the battle.

"Because she offered me a life option, in her own way. I intend to return the favor," Kaede answered.

"Let me restate: you are trying to help a maid that worked with assassins who just tried to kill you."

"Yes, because the best assassins of your world are so incompetent their slaying arrow struck just above my lungs from a flat trajectory shot."

"Well fine, they tried to kill me," Pascal relented, but only slightly. "This is a terrible idea."

"I know it's a terrible idea..." Kaede spun her heels around, her rose-quartz gaze filled with a painful need as she gazed back at Pascal: "look, I really, really wanted her to be my friend. I thought she was the first friend I made in this world. Okay? So, just let me extend her this one help to get it off my conscience... please?" she begged.

Pascal stared back, met and tested her with turquoise eyes, before he sighed audibly.

"Fine, I will lend you one favor this time. According to Reynald, the seven members we killed were a full Imperial Mantis Blade operation squad. Any helpers they managed to recruit along the way will not yield us any useful information. This maid has already been here for two years; definitely not specific to this mission. If I had to guess, she is eyes and ears for some Imperial Governor who the Mantis Blades tapped into, probably near the northern border of the Imperium. Any executive intelligence organization certainly has the jurisdiction."

"Then... how many favors do you owe me for saving your life?"

"None. You are my familiar."

Kaede sighed. She was starting to recognize the tone that signaled one of Pascal's off-putting and inappropriately-timed jokes.

They soon arrived outside the servant's room Marina lived in, its door flanked by two armored guards.

"I am Sir Pascal Kay Lennart von Moltewitz," he moved up to introduce himself. "We wish to speak with the prisoner."

"Sir von Moltewitz, this case is currently pending investigations by Professor Sir..." The soldier replied before Pascal cut him off with a glare cold enough to freeze air:

"May I remind you that I am a Captain in His Majesty's service and a feudal lord by right of succession, who happens to be the target of this attack. I also have no doubt that my father, Field Marshal von Moltewitz, will be maddened by this unprovoked treachery. Now, do you seriously intend to keep me from getting the answers that I rightfully and lawfully deserve, soldier?"

"No Sir!" The guard raised his head up high, eyes glancing at the other side's walls before stepping aside.

So many privileges it's not even fair, Kaede suppressed a grin as Pascal opened the door and lead her inside.

The room was exactly as she last remembered it -- two bunk beds and a table with clothes hanging everywhere. The only difference was that a screen of shimmering violet magic laid over the window, sealing it completely. If Kaede had to guess, there were probably also guards on the other side.

The brown-haired petite maid was lying in her bed, her hands behind her back and her wet eyes uncaring to the new guests.

"C-congratulations, Kaede," Marina sniffed. "I guess you deserve the faithful familiar award after all."

Pascal finished twirling his hand about in mostly the same motions as Ariadne's Sanctum Veil spell earlier today. He then presented a 'your turn' gesture before leaning back against the other bunk bed.

"I didn't come here to be spiteful or interrogate you, Marina," Kaede spoke dryly as she met the maid's glassy sea-green eyes. "I don't want things to end this way between us, but there wasn't much of a choice before now."

"Of course... you have y-your master, and I have mine."

"You owe him for your upbringing and your life. I respect that allegiance, I really do. But can't you see that he's also using you, and ordering you to throw your life away for him in these missions... isn't once enough to repay that? How many..."

"I-if... if you think I'm going to talk just because my fate is already sealed, then you can leave now." The maid retorted, her defiant words completely contradictory to her teary gaze.

Pascal gave off an almost snort-like sound before interjecting with a contemptuous sneer:

"Do not flatter yourself. If we really think you had anything of value, there are ways to rip it out of your mind. It is below proper nobility to use such hideous enchantment magic, but there are matters of national importance that outweighs the honor of nobles... for me, at least, and I am certain the King's Black Eagles would agree. Not that there would be anything left of your psyche afterwards to speak of what happened, I am sure you can imagine."

Marina began to sob again, and Kaede sent an exasperated look towards Pascal:

"you're not helping."

"I said we are not interrogating you, and I meant it," Kaede continued. "Obviously, I can't speak for the other involved parties, but that's also why I'm here. If I can find you a chance out of this -- and I'm not promising, because I honestly don't know -- then will you take it?"

The maid whimpered once more:

"W-why are you doing this?"

"Because if you didn't actually ask the assassins to keep me alive, I'm certain I'd be dead by now regardless of how successful Pascal and the rest were."

"E-except I asked you to help kill him..." Marina nodded towards Pascal. "W-what's the catch now?"

Kaede hadn't really thought this part through. She looked towards Pascal, hoping for an inspiration on the legal side of affairs.

"How much do you think you can trust her?" he asked silently.

"She would rather die painfully for the one who raised her than give up any information to ease her passing. What does that tell you about her sense of loyalty?"

Pascal sighed and shook his head before answering:

"If I can get them to agree, it will be to release you into my jurisdiction, as I am entitled to compensation as the directly wronged party. You can work on my estate as an indentured servant, but it will be under the condition that you accept a binding magical contract to never willingly send any information or contribute to any action that you believe may harm any state of my family's sworn allegiances."

Indentured... servant.

"You're asking her to be a slave!?" Kaede glared at him. "Shouldn't that be illegal or something!?"

"Why? It is a perfectly practical form of punishment. Not like we are bartering them as trade goods as the Holy Imperium does," Pascal answered stiffly. "And she did help them in trying to kill me. Fair is fair."

"But...!"

"There is also no way the higher ups will accept handing her over if I did not give her at least this much punishment. At least sixteen people died in this attack Kaede, including one professor, and I am not willing to indulge your sense of ethics so much to lose my own, understand?"

Kaede didn't say another word. His accusation that she was pushing her cultural morals onto him had stung. She knew perfectly well that it was one of the biggest 'don't dos' in cross-cultural relations.

"What is your response," Pascal intoned, sternly.

"Like I have any real choice," Marina looked towards Kaede, who shrugged with her 'sorry, best I can do' expression.

Meanwhile, Pascal looked contemplative for as though still trying to decide something.

Nearly two minutes passed, and Kaede began to wonder if he was silently accessing some memory storage device to check legality. Then:

"It is settled. Pack your essentials. You will leave tonight, before any unpleasant circumstances change things. I will arrange for someone to bring you to Nordkreuz. Once you reach my family's estate, the Majordomo will arrange for the binding magical contract."

"But we don't even..." Kaede blurted out.

Just as the door swung open, and in walked Pascal's advisor, Professor Albert.

"I believe your familiar thinks me a fool, that you can just sneak in under my nose without notice," the balding professor scathed, his eyes glancing over Kaede with disdain before locked sight with Pascal.

"Not a chance of it, Professor Sir," Pascal replied as he stood upright into military posture, hands back and chest high.

"See to it then. I want the maid gone before morning."

Professor Albert tugged on his well-trimmed mustache once before leaving the room, his striding steps now echoing up the hallway.

It took a moment before Kaede recovered and figured out what just happened. Being an old-styled frame with a cheap lock, the door had a see-through keyhole, which was just in line to cast a Telepathy spell on Pascal's position.

"How long had he been there?"

She felt like she just made a complete fool of herself.

"Around when I first spoke," Pascal shrugged, his eyes still examining Marina. "Using Detect spells from that ring of yours would be a little obvious, so I did not bother to add it -- a poor judgment in hindsight that I intend to fix as soon as I can. Furthermore, since you are a familiar, we really should work on your magic sensitivity. The hallway had at least three layers of Professor Albert's Alarm wards. The third was extremely subtle, but the first two were glaringly obvious."

Without waiting for a response, Pascal took Kaede's wrist and dragged her back down the hallway.

"Wait a minute..." She called as her thin legs scurried along, trying to keep up with his stride.

"You two can talk later when she is one, no longer at the scene of her crime, and two, had some time to cool her head and rethink what happened. I doubt any conversation now will be to your advantage. As for the rest of tonight, I want you back in bed and resting. Two brushes with death is enough for one day when you are clearly running low on beginner's luck."


...


Despite being forced to rest early, Kaede did not sleep well overnight. With Pascal's room wrecked and repairs delayed in an attempt to collect evidence, they had to relocate to a different one. A slightly altered atmosphere plus anxieties facing the trio's responses tomorrow easily kept her up late.

There was also something wrong with her stomach...


----- * * * -----


After finishing his usual weekend morning workout, Parzifal refreshed himself before heading to the main keep for brunch. His walk across the grounds was quiet, with Ariadne hand-in-hand and Reynald yawning just a step ahead.

His redheaded best friend had stayed up late last night, boasting of his martial exploits to impress guys and girls alike as their classmates requested the details of what happened.

Parzifal didn't mind. His friend deserved the spotlight, plus Reynald was already giving Parzifal more credit than he would like. He was still coming to terms with not only the fact he killed someone, but the gruesome way his creativity accomplished it. Worse yet was the sense of satisfaction a part of him felt when the muffled assassin vanished under the brambles.

He prayed long and hard to the Holy Father last night for his soul to be cleansed of its sinful taint.

But that wasn't the only thing on his mind.

Before yesterday, if someone had told him that the arrogant, condescending, judgmental, obstinate, intolerant -- he could go on for a while -- Runelord Pascal would apologize to him over the source of their enmity from two years ago, Parzifal would have responded that Celestial enlightenment was more likely to sweep across the Abyss first.

Maybe it did. Part of him wondered what other miracles the Holy Father orchestrated last night.

But that left him the dilemma of how to respond.

Year-long grudges did not disappear over a single apology, no matter how thorough and sincere it was. Parzifal certainly did not forget how hurtful it was back then, when a younger him was convinced, utterly certain, that his incompetence with most fields of magic meant his dreams would never amount to anything, that he would remain insignificant and uselessly boring throughout his life.

He could never thank his friends enough for giving him the self-respect to hold his head high over the course of two years. That was especially true for Ariadne, the most beautiful and popular girl in the academy who sat beside him, listening to his pessimistic complaints and encouraging him with saintly patience.

Parzifal prayed to the Holy Father every night for sending the angel that changed his life.

But if the warm, welcoming embrace of friendship could bless his life, why should this divine grace not be extended toward others?

Unlike Ariadne who turned it into yet another self-motivator, Parzifal had done his best to isolate his dislike for Pascal and keep it buried. Hatred was sinful. He may not have the compassion to simply forgive, but he would not allow his life to be ruled by dark emotions either.

...Except they still clouded his judgment, until Reynald opened his eyes to the grander picture yesterday.

For him to still hold onto that grudge after Pascal showed the deepest remorse... it would be immature, childish even. Not only did it go against the teachings of the Founder, but it also represented the intolerance that he so hated in Pascal.

Parzifal knew that man was doomed to hypocrisy, but he would strive his best to escape it.

Engrossed in his thoughts, Parzifal had unknowingly walked into the great dining hall. Now, seeing the lonely figures of Pascal and Kaede near a far-side corner, he knew that there was only one true choice -- only one act the Holy Father would approve of.

A healer's task did not end with merely physical wounds, but troubles of the mind, heart, and soul as well.

"Come on," Parzifal beckoned to Reynald, before his feet turned and his hand lead Ariadne down the long table.

"Oh you've got to be kidding me," Reynald complained, but he followed nonetheless.

It was time to extend an olive branch to the man both admired and scorned as the Runelord, and appeal to the soul of the boy that lived within.

As he pulled out the next seat and sat down, Parzifal wondered if Pascal's agape expression mirrored his own the previous night.

"Thought you might appreciate some company after yesterday."

...

Of course, Parzifal never heard the telepathic exchange between Reynald and Ariadne as they sat down:

"Are you okay with this, Ariadne?" The best friend asked, worried.

"Of course I'm not okay with just this!"

"I'm sorry. Parzifal is just getting carried away again. I'm sure he didn't mean to..."

"Oh don't worry about that," the girl reassured. "His headstrong sense of ethics is part of why I love him."

It reminded Reynald of why everyone else, Parzifal especially, thought Ariadne was 'the perfect girl'.

"It's that prick who better prepare himself!"

...Even if she wasn't actually perfect.


----- * * * -----


Kaede knew that nothing ended that easily.

Parzifal kept the banter focused over the course of brunch, discussing mostly the events of last night and the academy's turmoil that followed. Reynald soon pitched in with tactical analysis made using his knowledge of Mantis Blade modus operandi, spoken in-between flirtatious words that continued to address Kaede as 'muffin'.

She didn't hit him this time, partly because the men didn't need any sparks of hostility, and partly due to her cramping and aching stomach sapping all her energy.

According to Pascal, he had never personally wronged Reynald over the years. Furthermore, the shorter redhead took every opportunities to mock him, not to mention handing him one humiliating defeat after another in their Advanced Spellsword Combat class.

Therefore it was not surprising that Reynald followed his best friend's lead as soon as he fulfilled his quota of evil glares.

Ariadne, however, was a different case entirely. She still wore her angelic smile through all of brunch, still lovingly offered food to Parzifal through raised forks. But she did not, even once, speak a single word to Pascal.

Until they all stood up to leave.

"I believe I still owe you something, you self-centered prick," Ariadne spoke as she closed the distance between them to arm's length.

Just as when Parzifal first walked up to Pascal, a wave of silence rippled outwards through the hall. Within seconds, every moving body stilled as their eyes gazed upon the noble lady facing the Runelord.

Meanwhile, Pascal's puzzled expression didn't have a clue of what Ariadne was talking about...

Until her right hand drew a wide arc upwards as though drawing a sword, before meeting his right cheeks in a slap that resounded through the dining hall.

Kaede was certain Ariadne's glove was glowing. There was simply no way someone could slap that hard without magic, regardless of how big a sword they twirled around every day.

The force of the impact lifted Pascal's feet off the ground and threw him backwards like a rag doll, before the Runelord crashed into the ground several paces away on his back. A red handprint now adorned the right side of his face, his skin rapidly bruising with internal bleeding underneath.

"Owww!" Pascal voiced as he sat back up, his hand rushing to cradle his swelling cheek. "I do rot rememper drawing plood with mere words."

Sure enough, a small stream of red dripped down from the corner of his mouth before his other hand wiped it off.

"Consider it interest, Pascal, and I reserve the right to slap you again whenever your prick self surfaces."

A dozen or two people in the hall even clapped and cheered.

But for Kaede, it was the first time she ever heard Ariadne use his name.

Shaking his head with a chuckle, Parzifal then leaned over to offer Pascal a hand back up.

Which the latter took with a firm grip and a muttered, embarrassed "thanks".

Still sitting on the other side of the table, Kaede tried to smile as she watched the bonding moment that would hopefully, with time, develop into something far more. But all she managed was a wry smirk that seemed more like a grimace.

Her stomach pains were growing worse.

As chatter returned across the dining hall, Ariadne was the first to notice the problem:

"Kaede what's wrong?"

"My stomach..."

"She's been having pains in her lower abdominal region all morning, and apparently last night as well," Pascal filled in for her, his right hand now rubbing the swollen left cheek while his turquoise ring glowed.

Parzifal leaned over the table to take a look before swiftly pulling back upright. He then glanced at Ariadne while his finger tapped in the air towards Kaede.

"Oh dear," his beloved muttered, her rushed steps already on its way around the long table.

Pascal's confusion returned as he looked between Parzifal and Reynald. The healer kept his silence for the moment, while the knight simply shrugged, clueless.

"Some prodigy you are, Pascal; half a day goes by and you can't even tell basic biology," Ariadne complained as she knelt down besides Kaede.

With her back already bent over her stomach, Kaede banged her head into the table as she realized exactly what the noblewoman meant.

"Kaede you must be on your cycle... or whatever your people call a menstrual period."

Thanks to the translation magic integrated into her familiar bond, Kaede herself had no problem understanding Ariadne's terminology. The contents themselves, however, were far too appalling to think about.

"But... b-but I'm not bleeding," came her voiced thoughts. Even she would recognize the most obvious sign of a feminine body entering 'that time of the month'.

"If your undergarments are appropriately enchanted," Ariadne explained as she rubbed Kaede's lower back, "they'll clean it before it can even stain."

Variations of two thoughts filled Kaede's mind as their numbers multiplied explosively, quickly drowning out every other line of reason:

I should have known...

This can't be happening to me...


----- * * * -----


Kaede spent all of Sunday afternoon in bed, feeling almost as miserable for herself as the day she first came to this world. She was certain her hormones were to blame for that, but the knowledge itself didn't raise her mood any higher.

She had to deal with this every month for the foreseeable future...

Her stomach pains and cramps had not alleviated any since morning, and her one hope of relief was dashed as soon as it came. Ariadne was quick to point out that there was a spell for mostly suppressing the discomfort during a period. But Parzifal had to remind her that the magic involved direct manipulation of the nerve-conduits, which limited its use to the caster herself. It was why no male healer ever learned the spell for helping another through particularly painful cycles.

Meaning I can't use the blessing that's the privilege of noble ladies, Kaede reflected irritatingly. I have to suffer like the commoner girls do.

Screw this society.

It didn't stop Sir 'I am a prodigy' Pascal from trying... and failing spectacularly. He somehow managed to loosen his own lower controls, which resulted in soiling himself.

Parzifal said that he got lucky. The last male healer who tried to invent a fix for his commoner wife ended up with a painful, week-long erection. After that, nobody wanted to attempt again.

So they returned to the tried and true method: apply direct heating to relax the muscles and soothe the discomfort.

That proved simple. Her undergarments had it built in. Parzifal also managed to attain a few rubber hot-water pads which Pascal enchanted with Heat spells. These she laid on top of to apply warm pressure from underneath.

This was how Kaede spent her last few hours: not moving, not occupying her mind with books, just laying there face-down, groaning and feeling sorry for herself.

Even Pascal looked like he felt bad for her.

"I have never apologized for pulling you into my world, have I?" He spoke from the work desk, his closed eyes facing a written report, as Kaede whimpered from her latest cramp.

"No. It's why I still hate you," she retorted grumpily.

In hindsight, nothing from her came nicely today.

"Well, I am sorry."

"Better late than never. Next time, you try being the one to menstruate!"



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