The two became silent again. As they held each other’s hands, Erna’s cold fingers regained their warmth. Erna then opened her mouth to speak.
“I really hated you.”
“What do you mean?”
“I really hated you. I’m telling you now. When I first practiced my striking spell, I wrote down your name under the dummy.”
As Kalion made a serious face, Erna let out a short laugh.
She really despised him. Not only when she practiced striking spells, but when she studied and practiced morph spells and disease spells, she always thought of Kalion. Surprisingly, when she did, she succeeded.
“…But the person who says who would join me to leave is you.”
Kalion tucked Erna’s hair behind her ear and replied, “I know. You should be thankful you didn’t get the chance to kill me.”
“Yeah, I am.” Erna buried her face in Kalion’s clothes. “I’m thankful you’re here by my side…”
If Kalion was not here—if she had to go through all this by herself—she would have not been able to bear it.
Kalion felt his clothes soak and wrapped his arm around Erna’s shoulder. He was thankful that Erna was resting her face on him. If she wasn’t, she would have seen his bloodshot eyes.
While the wind carried the joyful sound of the people to their ears, the two were swallowing their grief on top of the hill.
After a while, Erna lifted her head and wiped her eyes with her sleeve.
At Kalion’s question, Erna flicked a finger on his forehead.
“What do you mean “where?” We’re going back to where we belong. You, to your knights. Me, to the mages. We took up too much time. We should hurry if we want to get there before morning.”
As Kalion stared at her blankly, Erna stood up and brushed the dirt and grass off her clothes.
“What? You thought I would tell you to leave Hessenguard with me?”
He actually did. He knew best about the feeling of loss that Erna was feeling.
“I did think about it for a second but… there’s no reason to. Why should I leave Hessenguard?” Erna shrugged her shoulders as if she really did not understand. “I am the duchess of Hessenguard. If anyone should leave, it should not be me. Despite the whole pillar thing and the past. I’m the one holding Hessenguard on the ground. Also…”
Erna looked at her hand that still held Kalion’s and continued, “The strongest knight of Hessenguard is by my side and I’m the strongest mage. Why should we run away? The ones that should be afraid are the weaker people.”
Kalion realized she was right. The two were the dukes of Hessenguard and the strongest people there. There was no reason for them to leave. Kalion also stood up. He then found something shining on the grass and bent over.
It was the necklace that they had bought earlier at the village entrance which Erna dropped as she stood up.
Clumsy and corny. The necklace with a big E and K as the two faked their name as Ella and Kay.
Kalion handed the necklace with the letter E to Erna, but Erna only looked at him as she wondered what he was doing.
“Why?” Kalion asked, confused.
“Are you dumb? Why did you give me this one?” Erna sighed and took the one with the letter K from Kalion. “This…you’re supposed to take the one with your partner’s initial. Why would you want a necklace with your own initial on it?”
It made sense now that he thought about it. There was no reason to put one’s own initial on a half heart necklace.
While Kalion stared at the necklace with the letter E in embarrassment, Erna gathered her hair and lifted her hair. She then turned her neck to Kalion.
“What are you doing? Put it on me.”
She swung the necklace with the letter K signaling him to hurry. Kalion took the necklace from Erna and put it on her neck.
I should have bought a better one.
The necklace was for the rustic village festival. It was a cheap coated metal necklace that children would buy.
But Erna fondled Kalion’s initial for a while and hid it under her clothes. She then touched her neck several times to check if the necklace was still on her neck.
Kalion watched Erna with satisfaction. Erna then turned around and came near him.
“Hand it over.”
Kalion hesitated, unsure.
“The necklace. I’ll put it on for you.”
“Hey, wait. You’re telling me to wear this around?”
“Yes. Are you not going to?” Erna snatched the necklace from Kalion’s hand and said, “Couples do it. Show me your neck.”
“Hey, for real. Just, hold up.”
Kalion brushed his face with his hands and turned around as if he had given up. The duke of Hessenguard and the leader of the knights of Hessenguard wearing such a necklace…
I should hide it at all costs.
Although he had no intention to show anyone the cheap thing, Kalion had another reason to hide it.
Erna grinned as she put the necklace on Kalion’s neck. She then hugged Kalion from behind and whispered into his ear, “I’m grateful I’m here with you today.”
“Thank you,” she added.
For saying you would go with me.
Erna did not say that part out loud, and kissed Kalion on the neck.
* * *
After a few hours, Erna arrived at the forest where the wizards stayed. She purposely walked strongly to make sounds of her footsteps. As she did, she could hear Orpé running towards her.
“Lady Erna! How far have you gone! I couldn’t find you anywhere!”
Her voice sounded urgent. Erna watched Orpé run towards her.
“What’s the matter? Did something happen?” she asked.
Orpé then shouted, “You must return to the castle immediately! The Aether army passed the border!”