|Author: TypeAxiom||Original Source: ScribbleHub|
That night, while the camp was asleep, a blanket of peace that contrasted with the excitement of the day descended on the forest. There was nothing but the noise of nature with its chirping crickets, hooting owls, and the gentle sound of the wind causing the leaves in the trees to sway, rustling as they brushed against each other.
Carmen and Kagriss sat together on top of a tree branch near the top of the tree canopies, so high up that they could see the uninterrupted night sky, a vast expanse of inky canvas speckled with tiny white flecks. In some parts of the sky, the stars were sparse and the skies were dark, but in other parts, countless stars formed brilliant white clouds that rivaled the light of the moon.
“Mistress…do you like stars?”
“Eh?” Carmen hadn’t expected that question to come from Kagriss. Then she nodded. “Yes.”
“Why, you ask…? Because it’s pretty, of course.” But then, knowing Kagriss, she probably wasn’t asking for that kind of reason. She probably wanted something more emotional or deeper.
So why did she like the stars, aside from its beauty? Did she have an additional reason at all?
“I like it because watching it calms me down,” Carmen said, after thinking about her answer for a moment. “It reminds me that no matter what happens, some things will never change. Some things can’t be changed, so it’s important to focus on what I can personally change, so I don’t have any regrets.”
She reached up toward the sky. “We can’t ever change the stars, right? So why ever worry about changing something beyond our power?”
That kind of mindset was part of the reason she managed to get through the campaign. It had been the first time that she had been in charge of such a massive force.
The Templar Orders consisted of elites, and templars were few and far between. However, for that campaign, a huge number of men and women—several tens of thousands—also volunteered to go with them.
She hadn’t been in the lead. Not at first. However, the true commander of the army had been assassinated weeks into the campaign and left them headless. In the end, the various Orders came together and elected an experienced leader with a young adjutant.
That adjutant was Carmen, famous in the Orders for her meteoric rise. After the experienced leader died in battle, she was shoved into the limelight with nowhere to run.
Since templars rarely died under her command, Carmen didn’t have experience with dealing with how inevitable the loss of life was in a true war. She had been unfamiliar with the scale of the whole thing, and if she didn’t have the commanders of other Orders, she might have led the army to their deaths by the turn of the season.
It was the stars that kept her sane, letting her know that no matter what happened, people always died in war. Her only job was to minimize it, not eliminate casualties completely since that was an exercise in futility.
It suddenly occurred to her that as she looked toward the stars every night during her campaign, Kagriss might have been looking at the very same stars, staring up as she did now beside her.
The stars reflected on her violet eyes.
“What about you, Kagriss? Do you like the stars?”
Since Kagriss had been the one to initiate this topic, she probably liked them too, right?
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Kagriss’s reply surprised her. “No.”
Carmen blinked. “Why not?”
Kagriss shrugged. “At least, not before. I don’t find them very interesting. Not to mention, I’ve had a lot of time to look at them. They’re just light in the sky to me.”
She shifted on the branch, moving into a more comfortable position. “But after I met you, Mistress, I think my feelings about them have changed. It’s less that I like them, but now at least, I can appreciate them.”
Carmen didn’t understand what Kagriss was trying to say. But she waited, in case Kagriss wasn’t finished.
“In that book, the princess said to the knight before they fled that if it was her, the knight, she was willing to go anywhere. I think the same about you, Mistress. If it’s experienced with you, I feel the world becoming more beautiful. Even these lights in the sky have become some awe inspiring.”
Carmen laughed a little, keeping her voice down to avoid disturbing the night. So it turns out that in the end, Kagriss’s reasoning was another declaration of her love. She wouldn’t expect anything less from Kagriss, always the romantic.
However, praise for the sake of praise wasn’t what Kagriss did. Most or all of what she said was heartfelt, so Carmen knew that Kagriss was being serious. That seriousness was so, so cute, and so charming.
Again, Kagriss succeeded in embarrassing her. Her face was getting red, and Carmen buried her face in her hands. “Oh Kagriss, I hate you,” she said, sparing a hand to lightly hit Kagriss on her arm.
Then, right away, she realized that that might not have been the best thing to say. At the same time as that thought flew through her mind, a strange sound came from beside her. A pitiful, choking cry.
Carmen looked up to find Kagriss frozen, her face ashen, with her mouth open in despair. “M—mistress, you hate me? Why?”
Color returned to Kagriss’s face shortly after, but it was mostly on her nose, and around her eyes as they swelled. They misted over and Kagriss looked like she was on the verge of tears.
“No no no! I don’t hate you!” Carmen cried. She forgot! She had been so embarrassed and bubbly inside that she had completely forgotten that Kagriss did not understand sarcasm, or anything that wasn’t literal or something literal.
As far as Kagriss was concerned, she had just professed her love to Carmen, only to get a load of mixed signals in return—foremost and clearest among an “I hate you” message.
What else was she supposed to do but take it at face value?
“I’m sorry, Kagriss. I don’t really hate you!” Carmen said. But it was too late, as Kagriss was already sniffling with tears rolling out of her eyes.
“But you said you hate me,” Kagriss said.
Carmen felt her face becoming wet with Kagriss’s tears.
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“No I didn’t—I mean yes I did, but that’s not what I meant. Um…um…”
How was she going to explain this to Kagriss? Carmen held her, rocking her back and forth as she tried to calm the girl down to no avail. “Um…I really didn’t mean it. This is something that we say to people we love too, and it’s not all bad. It could be said in a joking way too.”
“Really?” Kagriss’s voice was thin and weak from her little sobs that broke Carmen’s heart, and it through no one’s fault but her own.
“Yes, really. Like the ‘I hate you’ just now doesn’t really mean I don’t love you, it’s just… “ Carmen tried to find an explanation that made sense and wouldn’t cause a misunderstanding, but in her panic, she really couldn’t find one. To her, this kind of thing was basic, instinctual conversational skills that she picked up naturally.
No one taught her this, and now she had to teach Kagriss something she didn’t completely understand herself?
“It’s just what?”
“It’s hard to explain,” she muttered. “At that time, I was specifically talking about how I hate it when you make me embarrassed…” Carmen trailed off, but then forced herself to continue. She couldn’t back down here. “I said I hated it when you made me embarrassed, but I don’t really mean it. It’s proof of my affection for you to be able to say something so heavy and hurtful as a joke to you, knowing that our trust is enough to…to…”
To what? Carmen despaired as she searched for the right word to explain to Kagriss. She had never realized that things were this complicated.
While Carmen panicked, Kagriss managed to stop sobbing, although she continued to hiccup. She put a stop to that by stopping her breathing entirely.
She drew back away from Carmen, putting some distance between them so that she could see all of Carmen’s face.
“So Mistress doesn’t really hate me?”
Carmen quickly nodded, afraid that if she delayed even a little bit, Kagriss might take it as hesitation and start crying again. Luckily, after staring at her a bit more, Kagriss finally nodded too and pressed herself into Carmen’s arms again, squeezing tightly as if she was never going to let Carmen go.
In the end, she cried anyway, but it wasn’t those hurt little sniffles that Kagriss tried to hold back, but a loud cry filled with relief and other emotions that spilled out without holding back.
Kagriss trusted her enough to believe her even without hearing the whole explanation. Perhaps that was what Carmen had been trying to convey, even though she couldn’t put it into words.
Although the embrace was a little tight, Carmen made no move to get Kagriss off. After that little scare, Kagriss deserved what comfort Carmen could offer her right now.
From now on, she had to watch her words, or at least wait until Kagriss became more familiar with the intricacies of speech beyond the literal. But even so, Carmen wasn’t worried for Kagriss at all, since she was smart and will definitely be able to read between the lines and learn everything soon.
For the whole night, Kagriss stuck to Carmen, refusing to let go even when Carmen took flight and brought them to a bigger tree with a trunk big enough for Carmen to lean against.
So what ended up happening was the rather strange sight of Kagriss sitting in Carmen’s lap, one arm draped over Carmen’s neck and secured with her other while she buried her face in Carmen’s hair.
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They stayed like that for the whole night. It was only after the sky began to turn bright, and with Carmen’s insistence that it was time to go, that she finally got off.
To tell the truth, Carmen didn’t hate hugging like that. It filled her heart in much the same way that sex with Kagriss did, although it might not be as intense or as passionate. She wouldn’t have minded if the night had gone on forever.
If only she didn’t have things to do.
As Kagriss reluctantly flew away, Carmen reached out and grabbed her hand, stopping her flight. She looked at the ground, not wanting Kagriss to see her face as she asked. “Kagriss…if you’d like, we could do this tomorrow night as well?”
Swift movement of shadows from the edge of her vision barely gave her warning before something big slammed into her, knocking her off the tree until they both ended up side by side on the forest floor with Kagriss crushing the soul out of her again.
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