Chapter 7:

Volume 2 Chapter 1: Spring Flower

A Battlefield of Swords and Flowers

May 25, 893

“How long are you going to lie there?” I scolded Lia from afar.

“Jeez. You really need to enjoy the little things. What could be better than a bright spring day surrounded by flowers.”

That was just about the response I expected from her. Lying in the field of flowers was my long time friend and general nuisance, Lia. I always wondered how someone as responsible and as earnest as her could just drop everything all at once the moment she saw a flower. And now that we were in the midst of a field full of them, it very well seemed as though she might want to spend an eternity here.

“Even so,” I tried to explain, “just because it’s sunny now doesn’t mean it will be in an hour. Look.” I pointed to the sky over the mountains. The sky above us was clear, but over the mountain range to the north, dark clouds were starting to gather. “It might rain soon and it’ll take us at least an hour to get back to town.”

At my warning, Lia sat up, bits of grass on her face and in her hair, and looked in the direction I was pointing. Then as soon as she had sat up, she lied back down with a muffled thud as her head hit the ground.

“Don’t be stupid, Sam. Those could barely be called rain clouds. They’re not even moving in this direction. They’ll probably stay over the mountains.” It was a bit weird hearing a voice without witnessing the body. That’s just how tall the grass and flowers stood above her.

“I hope you’re right. I didn’t exactly dress for rain.” All I was wearing were a plain tunic and shorts. Lia had a white dress on, but at least she had a sun hat. Either way, it wouldn’t be good for us if it started to rain.

“Of course I’m right. I always am,” she assured. “Now come lie down next to me and let’s just enjoy ourselves for a moment.”

I could barely make out her slender arm as it waved at me amidst all the grass and flowers. It would arguably take longer to convince her that we should be leaving. She was a responsible and law abiding girl, but when it came to her passions, she was as stubborn as a bolder.

Giving in to her invitation would probably get us home more quickly.

So not being able to see a way out, I made my way over to Lia, careful not to step on any flowers or by chance Lia’s own arm or leg.

Not far into the field, something violently grappled at my bare leg from the tall grass and dragged me to the ground.

Without even being able to take in my surroundings, a voice blared out at me. “You almost stepped on me!”

When I turned in the direction of the voice, I was met by Lia’s face mere inches away, a piece of grass on her lips, and stern eyes staring me down. Her glare was so intense that it wasn’t long before I had to turn away.

“Anyway, just take a moment to relax. Ever since your birthday two months ago, you’ve been a bit worked up.”

Even though I had turned away, I could still feel her gaze focused at the back of my head. Though it wasn’t phrased as a question, she seemed to want an answer from me. And after I didn’t answer, in a fit of frustration she grabbed me by the shoulders and made me lie flat on the ground. She even forced my head to look at the sky.

“Here, just lie down with me for a bit and stare at the sky.”

I decided to do as she said not seeing any way out of it. But it’s not like it was an amazing sight. The sky was completely clear with not even a single cloud. It was just an endless expanse of azure.

“It’s funny how you’re always the one telling me to take a break, and now I’m the one telling you.”

She paused for a bit as a butterfly fluttered by, then continued.

“It’s just that ever since she left, you’ve been working so much harder, even when you're not asked to. You even asked Lady Alea to start giving you regular lessons on healing magic even though you’re still really bad at it.”

“Hey!” I couldn’t help but complain. But it was true. Lia learned four times as fast as I did.

“Sorry, sorry,” she said through a giggle. “I didn’t really think your work ethic was as bad back then, but ever since your birthday, you’ve really been pushing yourself. When Lady Alea is teaching, you seem really stressed. And on some mornings you even seemed like you’ve been losing sleep. Even today…”

But she trailed off before she finished.

I didn’t confirm or deny her observations, instead I just lied there, silently.

Then, after not getting any sort of reaction from me, she moved her head until her face was right over mine, our noses nearly touching. It was so sudden that I almost jumped up, nearly bumping my head into hers.

When the visible concern didn’t dissipate from her face, I finally gave her an answer.

“Alright. We still have roughly three hours until Sena’s birthday party. Collecting flowers was our last task, wouldn’t be too bad if we just spent a little time relaxing her in the field. The flowers are pretty, after all. You sometimes have to stop and smell the roses, as they say.”

Her worried look disappeared, leaving only a gentle smile in its place.

That was just like her, though. Somehow she always found a way to make me feel better. Though it sometimes got annoying when she always kept pestering me about my troubles, she never backed down and always persevered forward until she somehow managed to calm me down. Everytime, and it worked one hundred percent of the time. It really did make me feel lucky to always have her around. There was no way I could ever leave or replace her.

I couldn’t help but smile back at her.

“Good,” she said simply. “Just remember, I’ll always be here when you need me.”

When she acknowledged it outloud, though, it felt a bit awkward.

So, changing the subject.

“Are you sure you can keep the flowers from withering with your magic? You’re the one that wanted to come this far out to collect them. I don’t want them to be all droopy when we get back.”

“Don’t worry,” she assured. “Like I said, the healing magic I placed on them should prolong their life a few hours, even after being picked. They shouldn’t start to wither until tomorrow morning. Plus, they’ll be in water all day, so they’ll last even longer.”

Just hearing her explain it to me showed me just how far ahead she was in her studies compared to me. It only worked to illustrate just how much more practice I needed.

The fact that we’re even taught at the same time made it all the more stressful. It made me feel a bit useless compared to her when her great skill was always present so close by. And when she saw me make a mistake and tried to teach me how to correct it, it only made me feel worse.

I know it isn’t her fault that she is so much better than me. In my mind, it has always seemed like an impossibility for me to blame her for anything. Even so, the thought of her prominent skill always nags at my brain.

I’ll take her advice and try to just relax for a moment.

So we both just lied there, so close that I could feel her own body heat. The air around me was just as warm, and the humid breeze dashed through the field providing a gentle balance of hot and cold that you could only experience during spring.

We didn’t speak a word. The only sounds were that of the wind rustling the blades of grass and the tall stems of orchids, and the occasional buzzing of a bee or the chirping of a finch off in a distant tree.

We just stared at the sky with our bodies half asleep. It was a blissful experience of serenity—for about half an hour, until I felt a drop of water on my nose.