The sensation of Eryn in plain clothing against me was very alluring. Though I had hugged her several times, it was almost always with her armor equipped. Not the most comfortable feeling. The only other time I could recall was when we reunited in the Duke’s mansion, but our situation was too dire for me to hold any lecherous intentions.
As our faces separated, her eyes flicked back and forth, studying my expression. My breathing was jittery. Excitement in my stomach started to well up. The feelings I had for her were finally reciprocated, so there was no way that I wouldn’t be trembling with joy.
She bent down and captured my lips again. This time, her hand traced down my shirt until it found the hem, diving underneath to sweep along my bare chest. Her fingers tickled with slow, deliberate touches. With her other hand, she grabbed my wrist and pulled my hand up toward her soft mounds.
My fingertips sunk into the springy flesh, unbound by anything underneath the thin fabric of her blouse. Though females of nobility wore bras normally, Eryn found no need for them as the chestplate of her bikini armor was normally there. Probably, a bra underneath that would be uncomfortable.
Regardless, I felt my lips going ‘Wawawa~’ as she gave me permission to do as I wished. Feeling around blindly, my other hand reached up and grabbed the other side, relishing the feeling between my fingers like soft dough being gently kneaded.
Light moans trickled from her throat as her lips danced across mine. I could feel her nails dig lightly into my skin each time I cupped my hands and gave a squeeze.
Soon, my hands snaked behind her, tracing lightly around the grooves of her shoulder blades before slithering down her spine to her lower back. The last time I had touched her so intimately there was that massage, which had resulted in quite the embarrassing result. But now, the gentle presses against her skin invoked welcoming moans.
The cute squirming showed off a side of Eryn that I had never seen before. The normally proud and confident knight feeling so vulnerable in my arms was a moe gap that lit a fire in me. I wanted to see more of this. To know the side of her only when she was alone with me.
Eryn’s tongue continued to tease mine as our lips moved around in a frenzy. By the time I realized that I was running out of air, she finally pulled up, her face now flushed fully red. Her gaze was like nothing that I had ever seen before. An overwhelming desire and hunger oozed from them.
Her hands moved down, down, until I felt a gentle tug at the top of my slacks. Immediately, a shiver hit my spine.
Eryn was prepared to go all the way. She was ready to become fully mine. Though it seemingly came out of nowhere, perhaps she had held back her feelings for a long time as well, keeping them in check due to her position. This girl, just barely recognized as an adult, was ready to walk the path of womanhood.
“Wait, Eryn. You sure about this? Aren’t you rushing things a bit?” I said, my breathing heavy. The momentary pause had returned the slightest bit of clarity to my overloaded senses.
Something didn’t seem right.
She looked up in surprise, wondering what was wrong. “Don’t you love me? What’s wrong with committing to that feeling?” she replied, almost hurt.
Eryn felt a bit off. Like she wasn’t completely herself. I couldn’t help but think that her emotions were controlling her. I didn’t want to regret anything that was done in haste due to the heat of the moment.
“Yes, I do… but here? Now? When there’s so much going on?”
“If not now, then when? When peace arrives for the kingdom again? When it feels like I’m about to lose you?” A hint of desperation and annoyance was laced in her words. Her voice then lowered into a scowl. “Enough time for the Queen to win you over even more?”
I grabbed her wrist in reaction to that. “That’s not it! I like her too, but… but…”
Eryn’s eyes narrowed. “See… you’re falling for her. Enough so to deny your heart fully to me.”
That wasn’t untrue. My affection for Katalina had grown tremendously over time. I felt like I could be truly happy with her. That was why things had become so hard. I was in love with both girls, but somehow, I was hoping that things would work themselves out. That I could keep sorting through my feelings of who I liked more if I just had more time.
Cornelius had warned me about it. But I laughed it off, thinking that I would know and decide at some point. The thing that I missed was how the girls felt about my indecision.
“Even if Katalina is okay with loving you while you love another, I don’t think I can bear it!” Eryn reached up and held my cheeks, tears dripping down her face. A look of sadness and loneliness suddenly radiated from her expression.
She bent over, letting the wet drops fall onto my chest. All I could do was stare wide-eyed as she trembled while crying.
“I’m greedy. I want you all to myself. I thought I could brush these thoughts away and be fine with having you just as a servant, but… that kiss… that damned kiss… it took down everything that I built up!”
Eryn’s head buried into my chest. The heaviness of her words drilled into my heart like the head rolling messily atop it.
“It’s… your fault! It’s your fault I’m like this! I just want to do something that makes you rely on me more! To love me more! To make you think that I’m deserving of your full attention!”
Somehow, my actions had greatly unnerved her without me knowing.
“But time and time again! You use ‘her’ inventions! You accept ‘her’ help!”
The kindness and encouragement that I gave to others made her feel left out. My perception of Eryn as a strong-willed girl that would be fine without me had been flawed. I had taken our established relationship for granted and made her start doubting what she meant to me.
I was wrong. I had to decide things now.
Squeezing my fist into a ball, I made up my mind on how I would fix things. I had to grit my teeth and reach out for some measure of happiness. Wait any longer, and it seemed like things would spiral out of control.
“Eryn, I don’t know if you’ll believe me in the state that you’re in, but I love you. I truly do.” I took a deep breath to prepare myself for the next words. “So… when we get rid of the trouble plaguing the kingdom, when the war with Purnesia is settled… let’s get married.”
Eryn’s sobs choked back suddenly, like she couldn’t believe those words. Slowly, she lifted her head up, her face a mess.
“You mean it?” she asked timidly, unsure if she heard correctly.
“Absolutely. I’ll even take up the Faulkner name if you want.”
With shaky hands, Eryn reached up and caressed my face. After a few strokes, she dove on top of me, pinning my body to the bed as her head rubbed against my cheek. Her arms gripped my back tightly, enough to squeeze the air out of my lungs, but that didn’t matter. I could handle a little bit of suffering after making her cry so much.
I felt her lips trace down my chin and against my neck, like a kitten snuggling up to its owner. I closed my eyes and enjoyed that sensation.
That seemed like how things should be. I would marry her once we got back to the capital. I would pay attention to her more, flirt with her more, and be lovey-dovey no matter how embarrassed that would make her. It was her fault for acting so nonchalant to my normal behavior, despite falling in love with it.
“Hehe, when the war is settled here… I can’t wait… hmm?”
That was how I thought. But apparently, I was wrong.
The tone in her voice sent a strange chill down my spine. A sickening feeling suddenly enveloped me. It was the familiar darkness of miasma!
My eyes popped open, and to my surprise, a glowing set of purple eyes stared back at me. At some point, Eryn had sat up, staring around in confusion at her current state. Her head flicked around the room for a while before her eyes fell back onto me.
“Is this… what you see when you fight?” she whispered, the mood suddenly icy.
Somehow, she was showing the telltale sign of the ‘Eyes of Providence’ skill that I possessed to locate weak points in objects. Eryn had gained the same ability. All the while, miasma was trickling from her core.
However, Eryn simply laughed, like expelling a weight that had burdened her.
“I see… this must be proof that I’ve become more and more connected to you. Your core has started flowing into me, painting me with your colors. Blessing me with the same powers that you have.”
Somehow, her words weren’t comforting at all to me, especially as miasma was leaking out of her. Suddenly, I recalled some words that Lady Kaguya spoke once.
“Over time, the flow of mana continuously links us summoners to our Electi and dyes our very essence. In the process, our own mana flows back, carrying our strongest thoughts and feelings.”
I had assumed that negative feelings were all I had to worry about. But had that been a premature conclusion? Or had I simply lumped together certain feelings too firmly as black and white?
Love was a complex emotion. Properly nourished, it could give boundless strength. But the opposite could happen as well. Love could twist people. It could cause immeasurable suffering and make someone act beyond reason.
“Then, let’s take care of the nuisance quickly, so that we can head back and have our ceremony.” Eryn smiled, ignoring that I had become suddenly unnerved.
Quickly, I reached into my Item Box and yanked out a charm from Koujiro.
“Oy, Eryn! Snap out of it! Do you not feel the darkness flooding from you?!” I pressed the charm against her belly, where I could practically see it oozing out from. Slowly, the miasma was sucked up, until it no longer flowed out. Eryn’s eyes returned back to their normal red color.
“Ah, I suppose that we should not let it take control of us. But that just means that I’m the same as you. We are truly Master and Electi connected as one.”
“Our hearts connected together is one thing. Sharing my darkness with you can’t be a good thing, you know!”
Eryn pulled back, no longer giving off the eerie sensation. “That’s fine. I know what I need to do. I won’t be discouraged by anything. I will take hold of my future with my own hands, so that we can be together.”
Stepping off the bed, she adjusted her clothes to eliminate any traces of our activity thus far. Looking towards the window, where the Empire of Purnesia sat, her face looked every bit like the Valkyrie standing before the battlefield.
“I don’t know why it’s now spreading to you, but we can’t drop our guards and charge forward carelessly!” I pleaded to her, unsure of why the miasma had impacted her in such a way.
Though she was back to her normal, proudful self, a lingering worry hovered in my mind. This was the first time I had seen a Master exhibit traces of being affected by miasma. It seemed like the Thunder Phoenix Clan had some worries grounded in truth.
My darkness was shared with Eryn, just like how they worried about the impact of Wen Lu and Wen Zhi on Lady Kaguya. But one’s mental state determined how much this shared darkness affected the person. But for Eryn to gain my critical vision, that couldn’t be a good sign.
With all of Eryn’s worries and struggles recently, it had triggered something irreversible. And I couldn’t help wondering if she would suffer the same fate as me in the long run.
As Eryn casually bid me goodnight and left the room, I could only wave weakly in return.
‘What can I do if that were to happen? How can I ensure that she won’t fall further?’
I could no longer only worry about myself. This power I had, was it slowly becoming a curse that would hurt others around me?
Left alone in the room with my thoughts, there was no way for me to go back to sleep. I sat there in silence, pondering it all. Even when the sun peeked through the window, I had barely stirred.
The happy married life in peaceful times I was hoping for seemed ever so distant.