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Chapter 49: Shock Therapy

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Author: TypeAxiom Original Source: ScribbleHub

The way Fleur looked up at her—well, she wasn’t tall enough to say that anymore. The way Fleur looked at her reminded her of the old days when Fleur used to come running up to her with homework from the Church that she couldn’t solve, or when she got into a fight with one of her friends.

Such a situation was remarkably similar to the current one, even though she had changed into her current form.

Carmen was glad that Fleur was still relying on her like this.

“What is it? Did you get into a fight?” she asked. That was still the most likely answer, although it didn’t explain how Anne got to be like that.

Fleur hesitated as she thought about her reply. “Yes…but not exactly. The truth is, I did something terrible…”

She looked at Anne, who was watching them out the top of her eyes. Carmen followed Fleur’s gaze just in time to see Anne look down again.

Anne’s gaze seemed to linger on Fleur, who stiffened.

Both of the girls were walking on pins around each other. Carmen could already tell it was going to be a rather tricky problem to solve, and one wrong step might drive the girls even further apart. But before she could think of a solution, she had to hear the circumstances first.

Although, was she really the best person to ask? To put it nicely, she was inexperienced, something that Arvel constantly teased her for.

While Arvel wasn’t exactly the symbol of promiscuity either, priests and priestesses were generally discouraged from pursuing such relationships, so she couldn’t even fire back with the same ammunition.

During her tenure as a templar, she’d never courted anyone. Her status and duties kept her busy. Of course, both were wrought by herself, since she could easily retire and suddenly have a lot of free time, but she hadn’t.

As a result, she never pursued relationships beyond “friend” and “brothers in arms,” even with female templars.

Considering Anne’s interest in Fleur, neither of those two labels seemed appropriate.

In any case, if Fleur keeps tiptoeing around Anne they’ll never get anything done.

“Finish your food first, and then we can talk somewhere else,” she told Fleur, who blushed in embarrassment and ducked her head to eat.

Talking while eating was thought to be rude, and Fleur should really know it.

According to the followers of the Gods, eating was almost a sacred ritual to be conducted in silence in order to dedicate the mind to giving thanks to the bounty bestowed upon them. In practice, the prayer of gratitude was usually foregone, but the silence was still observed.

Naturally, the other races generally had no such custom, like when Victoria talked with her over a meal at the Beetle Song.

With the promise of a talk waiting at the end of the meal, Fleur finished her food as fast as she could, her speed limited only by how hot the stew still was beneath the surface and the distance her hand had to travel to deliver the stew from the bowl to her mouth. Without her right hand, she couldn’t just lift the bowl to make it easier.

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Each of her movements had to be slow and careful, which was difficult with her non-dominant hand.

When she finished, Fleur placed the bowl and spoon beside her to be washed later, and then sat with her hand on her lap. “I’m ready.”

“So you are. Let’s go.”

With one last look at Anne to make sure she was okay, Fleur followed Carmen into the forest, where the tree trunks and rustling leaves acted as a natural barrier to sound on top of the distance involved.

After less than a minute of walking, Carmen stopped and turned around, looking at the girl who was the same height at her, but looked much younger thanks to her wide eyes and the worry on her face.

“I think this is far enough. So tell me, what’s bothering you about Anne, Fleur? What do you mean you did something terrible?”

As Fleur recounted what Anne had told her in the forest, Carmen vaguely remembered how a small girl used to hang around the peripheries of her vision whenever Fleur was around.

When she had pointed her out to Fleur, the girl ran and hid, so she had just assumed it was matters between children and didn’t think much about it.

To think that the girl from back then had been Anne—she really did change too much to be easily recognized: from a quiet ghost-like child to a fiery, confident warrior.

But as it turned out, perhaps that exterior of a warrior was merely a shell that Anne had built to protect herself from others, only to crack and break today when she was forced to confront her past thanks to Fleur.

Life was full of surprises and coincidences.

“So you want Anne to go back to the way she was?” Carmen said when Fleur finished. “If you keep talking to her as she is now, I suspect she’ll be just fine. You just have to make it clear that you don’t hate her.”

She nudged Fleur and grinned. “I think she’ll get better even faster if you returned her feelings and gave her a chance,” she said.

Even after having learned how Anne had wanted her dead, Carmen didn’t think it reflected too badly on the girl.

First, it wasn’t a wish out of malice, as she didn’t appear to have actively wished for her death and merely celebrated it. To Carmen, there was a slight, yet insurmountable difference between the two.

Second, it was a wish that was born out of Anne’s devotion to Fleur. That proved that she could count on Anne to never betray Fleur. As long as Anne managed to temper her obsession to something that was healthier and milder—so that she did not desire the deaths of perceived opponents to Fleur’s affection—there wasn’t any harm to Anne and Fleur being together.

While Arvel might have another opinion, she was personally in favor of Anne pursuing Fleur, or at least not in opposition.

Fleur seemed to think differently though, as she shook her head. “I can’t. I don’t like her…not in that way…I think.”

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“You think? You don’t know that if you haven’t tried,” Carmen said. “Although if you really don’t want to, I guess we can move away from that topic.” Carmen didn’t believe that love should be forced, so she stopped pushing Fleur, who sighed in relief.

Did Fleur hate the idea that much, or was it something else, Carmen wondered.

“However, even if you don’t want to try getting into a relationship with her, what’s wrong with the way she is right now?” she asked. “This is how she really is. Do you want her to build up another shell around herself, being who she’s not?”

“Of course I don’t! It’s just that…she’s too pitiful like this. This was how she was when she was all alone.” Fleur said. “I’m sure that if she’s able to put on a mask that displayed such strength of will and confidence, then deep inside her, she’s surely the same! I don’t think that the weak Anne is the real Anne! She is definitely stronger than this…”

Her words grew louder as she spoke, only to become quiet at the very end. “And…it’s selfish of me, but I need the previous Anne. I—I’m too weak. I can’t go on by myself, and I need her help. Although I like Anne right now as well, I want her support…”

“You shouldn’t demean and undervalue yourself,” Carmen scolded. “You’re not weak at all. You still haven’t given up after all that’s happened to you.”

“I’m not strong. It’s only because of Anne that I got this far,” Fleur said. “Anne helped me all this time. When something was too difficult for me to do with one hand, she helped me. When I got in trouble at the outpost, she covered for my mistakes. Even at the battle, when I was about to give up, she was the one that encouraged me!”

She looked like she was about to cry.

“Please help me get Anne back. Even if it’s for my own selfish purposes, because I’m not strong enough…I need her.”

No matter what Carmen tried to encourage her with, Fleur seemed to be adamant on the fact that she needed Anne no matter what. Carmen was starting to suspect that Anne wasn’t the only one with a reliance on Fleur, that the past two weeks had taken its toll on Fleur as well, causing her to rely on Anne.

Was it a vicious cycle, or was it a virtuous one? While the cycle deepened their bonds, it also made them both more vulnerable and dependent on each others’ presence.

As it was, Carmen was no help to Fleur relationship wise. Times have changed, and apparently Fleur has truly found someone else she could rely on. Besides, even if Fleur fervently denied it, Carmen thought that Fleur had some feelings for Anne, even if she didn’t realize it.

But what did she know? She was just someone as inexperienced in love as Fleur and Anne.

If Fleur was so set in her mindset, then Carmen had no choice to help how she could, setting up things indirectly. However, as a templar, she only knew one way to build courage, which was through shock.

“Don’t cry, Fleur. Let me get this straight. You think that what Anne is like right now isn’t her real self, but a second outer layer, right?”

Fleur nodded. “Yes. And deep inside that second outer layer, if only we can break it and allow her true self to come out, is someone that’s even stronger than before! I believe that’s what Anne is really like!”

However lacking in basis Fleur’s thoughts were, Carmen didn’t think it would hurt to try what she had in mind. She tried to rub Fleur’s head again to reassure her, but Fleur seemed to shrink away from her hand. It seemed to be subconscious.

Carmen hid the perplexed frown on her face behind her smile. “Alright, I think I have an idea on how we might be able to ‘cure’ Anne, so to say. However, I can’t guarantee that it will work.”

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“It doesn’t matter. As long as Anne doesn’t get hurt, I’m willing to try anything!” Fleur said, puffing up her chest bravely.

“In that case, we’ll have to request the help of someone,” Carmen said. Under Fleur’s confused gaze, she looked around the top of the trees. Although she didn’t see anyone, she could feel the presence of someone above her. Giving up on finding the lich’s exact location, she called for Kagriss directly. “Kagriss!”

Movement above a tree branch warped the space, catching her attention. The air peeled back, revealing a woman who had been hiding under an invisibility spell. The woman jumped down from the top of the branch, landing in front of Carmen and scaring Fleur out of her wits.

Fleur fell on the floor, pointing at the person that had suddenly appeared, stuttering unintelligibly. “A—ah…She!”

“Fleur, this is Kagriss, one of my new…friends, you might say,” Carmen introduced the lich, whose eyes widened at how Carmen described her. The surprise quickly faded from the lich’s. She then curtsied neatly to Fleur as she had to Carmen the day they first met. It was a strange curtsey, apparently inherited from the essence of the body.

“Nice to meet you, Fleur,” Kagriss said quietly. “Pleased to make your acquaintance.”

Once Fleur partially got over her shock, she stood up and patted herself down, although it was difficult on her right side. Dressed in pants, she bowed instead. “Pleased to make you—ack…”

She blushed as she messed up the greeting, but when Kagriss didn’t laugh, the blush quickly faded as the embarrassment passed. She looked at Carmen. “Miss…Kagriss will help us?”

“Yes. The plan is simple. I will send you and Anne ahead with some excuse. You will be attacked by something, and if things go as expected, Anne will probably try to protect you if she is truly as strong as you say. If not, I’ll come save you.”

“She is!” Fleur said. She nodded as she thought over the plan. “That might work, but what will attack us? I don’t want Anne to get hurt if anything goes wrong…”

Perhaps she was worried that Carmen was going to throw something wild at them, like a tiger or something. Perhaps if Carmen was alone or still human, that’s what she would have done, but things were different now.

“There will be no danger. Kagriss can raise undead. Will you?” she asked the lich beside her.

Kagriss curtsied again as she was named. “Gladly, as a…friend,” she said, repeating the word that Carmen had said before, as if it was something new and precious to her.

Only Fleur still had some doubts as she stared at Kagriss, suspicion in her eyes. “Raise…undead?”


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