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Chapter 56: Conflicted Tensions

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Author: TypeAxiom Original Source: ScribbleHub

At the crack of dawn, Carmen returned to the camp, and with a deep breath and checking her appearances, she went up to the two tents and knocked on Fleur’s tent. “Wake up, girls!” she called.

When no one replied to her, Carmen went to Fleur’s tent—since she didn’t fancy being the one to wake Anne up—and began to unbutton the flaps, only to realize that the buttons weren’t closed in the first place. Surprised, she checked her lifesense to see if anything was wrong, only to find that Fleur’s tent was empty.

Her heart skipped a beat. Did she somehow lose Fleur? Did a monster get her while Carmen was asleep? What about Anne? When she checked her lifesense again, focusing on Anne’s tent, she found that Anne was safe and sound, still unmoving and asleep.

“But Anne is in her tent! Ah, wait…” Something was wrong. The life signature from Anne’s tent was way too big and bright. Upon closer look, it was actually two separate signatures, in a position tightly to each other so closely that they became indistinguishable at a glance. “…Eh? No way—but they’re only…”

…Only fourteen.

“Fleur!” She whacked the tent again. When there was no reply, she began to unbutton the tent flaps, working quickly. The buttons faced inwards and it was harder than it initially seemed to undo. Seconds ticked by—although this late, it didn’t matter whether she hurried or not.

Even if she supported Anne and Fleur being together, it was just to steadily build up their relationship for the future. She felt it was way too quick for them to be already doing it. While she didn’t claim to be the norm, having just lost her own virginity, at least she waited until she was old enough to make relatively informed decisions. Carmen didn’t think that two people that young should be doing such things together.

What will she tell Arvel? “Oh, sorry, I lost your daughter to this girl.” Arvel might try to purify her.

The flaps finally came free and she threw them open, fearing the worst and afraid of what she’ll see.

In what state will she find them? Naked? Sleeping together in one bedroll? Her heart pounded as her eyes slowly adjusted to the darkness inside, and that her shadow was blocking the only source of light didn’t help. When her vision finally adjusted enough that she could make out the inside of the tent, she saw…two girls stacked on top of each other.

Fleur was fully clothed, most of her body still covered by her blanket. She was lying, face down, diagonally on top of Anne. Anne had her own blanket already, and with Fleur on top of her, she was practically covered in two and a half layers of covers.

Even sleeping, her eyebrows were furrowed and her forehead was wet with sweat.

Looking at how the two girls slept, all the panic drained out of Carmen, replaced with a warm fuzzy feeling that made her want to go out and button up the tent again. But she couldn’t since Anne looked so pitiful. She looked as if she was in pain, or at least very uncomfortable, because she was both overheating and being crushed under Fleur’s weight at the same time.

Carmen knew from experience how deceptively heavy Fleur could be, despite looking so thin and being so short. In the past, Fleur had been an active girl—athletic enough that she had once recommended to Arvel that he gave her to the Order instead of letting her become a priestess.

Although the two girls were so soundly asleep, unfortunately traveling with her meant that they didn’t get to stay in bed all day. At the same time as she grabbed Anne’s covers and pulled them off, she let forth a weak burst of frigid undead energy that washed over the pair of sleeping girls.

The tiny amount of energy frizzed and disappeared when it touched their bodies that had been baptized by holy magic since they were young, but even so, the brief contact that the undead magic made with their skin was enough to deliver a bone-chilling dose of wake-up—a figurative bucket of water.

With loud gasps for air, both of the girls’ eyes shot open. Anne was unfortunately beneath Fleur so when Fleur scrambled up, all of her weight leaned onto her arm, which was coincidentally right on top of Anne. The red haired girl huffed in pain, but Fleur was too out of it to notice. However, when Anne got up, Fleur slid off and fell to the ground.

After a messy awakening, both of them soon realized that there was someone else half-inside the tent, blocking the outside light.

“Camilla?”

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“Yes. It’s time to wake up,” Carmen said, letting her voice soften. “We have to be on our way, so hurry and get dressed. I’m going to get another rabbit so try to get the fire burning again and have a pot of water on it before I get back, okay?”

Fleur rubbed her eyes. “Okay…”

Having gotten her answer, Carmen backed out of the tent, heading off into the forest with a smile on her face. Her fears did not come true. It was embarrassing to be the one with her mind in the gutter like an adolescent—it’s just that the events of the previous night kind of flipped something in her. It was just so new and exciting that her mind kept drifting back to it.

“Urgh. I have to stop. Think about the girls, think about the girls,” she said, smacking her face to try and reset.

Still, both Fleur and Anne seemed to be in much better state after a night of sleep.

Anne’s eyes were clearer than they had been yesterday, although her personality was still muted and too docile compared to what Carmen was used to from her. Fleur had a smile on her first thing in the morning after seeing her, which Carmen thought was a good sign.

Still, how did Fleur end up in Anne’s tent anyway? When did it happen, and why?

Palming some pebbles from the path again, she headed into the forest once more. This time, it might be better to get one that was large enough for both of the girls’ breakfast and lunch, in order to save time. Will they get tired of meat stew every day?

It’s not like she knew how to make anything else.

Then again, anything was better than outpost brick by itself, which was the alternative, so it’s probably fine. The trip is only a week at most and then they’ll rendezvous with Arvel.

Hopefully all the issues with Anne and Fleur will have been sorted out by then.

“Thank you…for sleeping with me,” Anne said, looking down at her blanket.

She couldn’t express her gratitude in a way other than words, even though it was far from enough. Although she had done something so selfish, going so far as to ask Fleur to sleep with her in her tent, Fleur had agreed with a smile.

The willingness with which Fleur said yes ignited hope in her, but at the same time, she knew that it was just wishful thinking. Fleur’s feeling toward her hasn’t really changed, and Anne knew that she should already be grateful that Fleur doesn’t hate her.

Fleur was just acting nicer to her than usual because she was sulking, and perhaps because Fleur felt a little guilty about what had happened all those years ago.

While Anne wished that Fleur would forever fuss over her and care about her like this, it was wrong to take advantage of Fleur’s kindness like that.

She clutched her blankets.

“No, don’t worry about it,” Fleur said. “I was surprised when you asked, but it’s no big deal. It’s not that different from sleeping on the same bunk bed—just a bit more cramped…haha…I’m going to go get changed, okay?”

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Without another word, Fleur crawled out of the tent, gone so quickly that Anne was left speechless. She had no idea why Fleur was in such a hurry. Still, Fleur’s words confirmed her thoughts. They really hadn’t grown any closer. In fact, judging by the awkwardness of Fleur’s parting words…it was even possible that Fleur thought she was being bothersome.

Sighing to herself, Anne began to change out of her sleepwear into her traveling clothes. It didn’t take long, and after she rolled up and packed the covers and pad into a small but dense bundle, she went out of the tent toward Fleur’s tent.

Her heartbeat sped up as she approached the place where Fleur would have been sleeping. Unlike what Fleur thought, Anne felt that entering another person’s tent was something more private.

Although she didn’t have any ulterior motives when she asked Fleur to sleep with her—she couldn’t fall asleep and simply wanted to be in Fleur’s calming presence—what she had asked for could easily have been interpreted in another fashion.

She kind of hoped that Fleur would have interpreted her request in that more intimate fashion, but in the end Fleur still only saw her as a friend.

Anne tapped on Fleur’s tent. “Fleur, can I come in? Do you need help?”

A muffled voice came from inside. It sounded as if the voice’s owner had her head buried in something. Taking the unintelligible sounds as a “yes,” Anne entered to find Fleur in the middle of trying to put on a shirt over her underclothes, but had gotten stuck, unable to find the hole for the head.

Anne reached out and adjusted the shirt and Fleur finally managed to poke her head through, taking a deep breath as if she had almost suffocated.

“Whew. Thanks, Anne. I think my shirt caught on something…hehe,” Fleur said. “I think I’m fine now.” She began to change her pants as Anne sat nearby, trying to find an appropriate place to look.

She wanted to tell Fleur that she wanted to help, that she didn’t mind, that it made her happy to be useful…but those words might drive Fleur further away from her since Fleur couldn’t accept her feelings. What had been a simple innocuous offer for help became tinted by her intentions that Fleur now knew about.

All she could do now was to try and maintain their friendship by not letting her feelings show, and not make things awkward between them.

“I—I’ll help you pack up everything else.” Dipping her head and not looking at Fleur anymore, Anne focused on her work.

Fleur was still clumsy, but compared to before when she almost couldn’t put on her own clothes without taking minutes, it was already a vast improvement.

However, Anne still finished before Fleur did. Biting back the words that she desperately wanted to say and repeat over and over again, she left the tent and headed for the campfire that had reduced to embers, unable to and unwilling to face Fleur.

She wanted to get closer to Fleur, yet she was scared that she would cross some boundaries she shouldn’t. Her heart hurt from the conflict within her—almost to a breaking point.



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