Follow Up, Follow Through
It was a glorious spring day, the sun was high in the sky and the fields were lush and green, sprawling into the distance. The roof had been a wonderful choice for a little get together so she could covertly check on the progress Maria had been making with the other conquerable characters. She'd already done a fantastic job averting Geordo and Keith's romance events, even though she hadn't really intended to.
She'd invited Mary and Sophia, making it a group gathering for cover. As an added bonus she'd be able to invite Maria to join them in their romance reading group, she could even use it as cover to sneak in a question as to who she was attracted to! And it wouldn't hurt to have Maria's delicious cookies to compliment Mary's tea during their meetings.
She turned to the blonde haired protagonist with a smile, "So, Maria, who do you like?"
Maria started, glancing her way, "Huh?" She demurred, looking down and blushed, "I… am deeply fond of you, Lady Katarina."
Katarina blinked, "Huh?"
Mary threw her hand up like they were in class, "Me too! More than anyone else!"
Sophia looked caught for a moment, and followed suit, if more subdued than Mary, "Me too! I feel the same, Lady Katarina!"
"Thanks everyone…" She smiled feeling warm inside, and resisted letting her shoulder's drop. As nice as it was to hear that, it wasn't what she was looking for. If she was going to avoid her doom, she needed to find out which one of the guys that Maria was searching for, "but…" She gave a little laugh, "I guess I meant who you were attracted to?"
Maria opened her mouth, but Mary began waving her arm frantically, "You!"
Katarina blinked and let her mouth fall open. Maria shot a chagrinned glance back at Mary, while Sophia pouted for a second before looking her way and nodding, "Me too Lady Katarina."
Maria almost cringed, glancing her way, "I… yes. Me as well."
The council erupted into chaos; all five of them began speaking at once. "This isn't in the game!" Spineless said in a panic, "Will this set up new doom flags?"
"Alan did accuse us of trying to seduce Mary from him…" Studious said in a rush as she tried to process this new information, "And she learned how to dance either way just so she could dance with us."
"Who cares?" Happy clasped her hands together, "They're attracted to us! This is so exciting!"
"Order!" The Chairwoman said and brought down her gavel. It did precisely nothing to bring the assembled minds together.
"D-do we even like girls like this?" Spineless sputtered.
"Would we have reread Sophia and the Emerald Princess so many times if we didn't?" Fearless asked with a smirk and Spineless burst into a blush.
"Thinking about it," Studious pondered aloud as she adjusted her glasses, "we have read several lesbian romance novels, including several that we borrowed from Sophia."
"And we shared those to Mary too!" Happy giddily wriggled in her seat.
"Could that mean we changed them?" The Chairwoman asked warily, and all eyes turned to Studious who was already shaking her head.
"It doesn't work like that," There was a genuine sigh of relief from the others, "and even if it did it wouldn't explain Maria."
"So what do we do?" Spineless asked.
"We'll have to wait and see!" Fearless replied, and the rest of them nodded in agreement.
Maria placed a hand on her shoulder, "Katarina?"
Katarina blinked, coming back to the world, "I'm sorry… I think I need to sit down."
The three of them exchanged glances and finally Sophia spoke, "You are sitting."
Katarina looked down to confirm it and then looked back up, "Maybe I need to lie down?"
"You can use my lap as a pillow." Mary offered hastily, and Katarina nodded, only realizing she agreed when Mary sat down beside her and patted her lap. Flushing slightly she lay down, looking up at Mary only for Sophia and Maria to appear at her sides. Oh dear, this was just like a scene from Sophia and the Emerald Princess, wasn't it?
"Are you okay Katarina?" Maria asked softly.
"I'm fine." She answered, probably too quickly, and wondered if she was telling the truth. She hesitated as Maria looked her in the eye, "I just wasn't expecting…" She trailed off, "How? Why?"
Sophia glanced at the others and placed a hand on her shoulder, "You were the first person outside my family to see me, beyond my hair or eyes. When everyone else said I was cursed because of my looks you said I looked beautiful."
"But you've always been beautiful Sophia." Katarina murmured, and Sophia let out a little laugh as she blinked back tears.
Sophia squeezed her shoulder gently, "Maybe, but you were the first person to see it." She broke eye contact with her and looked to Mary, Katarina found herself following Sophia's gaze.
Mary smiled down at her, "You were my first friend." Katarina watched Mary reach down and gently brushed her cheek, "You built me up when my sisters tore me down. You are the reason I feel comfortable with myself, happy with myself, being around you makes me feel special." Mary blinked away tears… and Katarina found herself doing the same.
"I'm just so glad I got to tell you." She let out a little laugh, "You're so amazing, I'm not surprised I wasn't alone in having feelings for you."
Reluctantly Mary withdrew her hand and looked at Maria. Katarina turned to see the protagonist hesitate, staring at Mary and then at Sophia who gave her a little nod. Finally Maria looked at her, "Katarina… I know I don't know you as well as your friends. But you've treated me so well since I've met you. Everyone has treated me differently since I developed my magic, my father left my mother, the people in my village taunted me for being illegitimate, and the students here don't believe a peasant should attend the school." She trembled, "You stood up for me and introduced me to your friends." Maria glanced up and gave Sophia and Mary a watery smile. The girls exchanged a look and each reached out to her, placing a hand on her shoulder.
Katarina could feel tears welling up, looking between the three girls. Originally, she meant all of these as friendship. Even with the chance of doom looming over her head, she didn't consider the potential doom flags over Mary, and even with not being sure how truly safe Nicol's route would be she still justified being kind and compassionate to Sophia with little regard. Even with Maria, her defense and friendship was because she cared for the girl and wanted her to be happy and eat her sweets, despite how scared she was of being exiled or killed by Keith or Geordo.
She'd think about the potential doom flags from this later on, Katarina thought in the very back of her mind. That wasn't nearly as important as the biggest question she had now, looking to each girl from Mary's lap.
Did she like them in the same way as they liked… No, the way they loved her?
And even if so, who did she love the most?
Three girlfriends wouldn't be possible. Maybe there was a harem end for the boys, but she didn't know and asking now seemed… the bad sort of selfish. Not the kind of selfish where she would bring a purse to a fine function to sneak away 20 macarons, but the sort of selfish the original Katarina would be.
Katarina sat up from Mary's lap carefully, taking Mary's hand with a soft and tender grip. She looked to Sophia and Maria, the former who looked away delicately- was that a sign of her being unhappy with Katarina being so touchy with Mary?- and the later gripping the skirts of her dress, breath held. This would take careful thought, and more thinking and understanding. No matter what, she needed to lessen the hurt of whoever she didn't choose and be gentle.
Dear god, this was going to hurt at least two of her dearest friends. She was going to break at least two hearts, wasn't she?
"I'm not saying no," Katarina said, looking to each girl. Anne would be free; they could talk in her garden or a private area. Maybe Keith too, he was a loyal little brother and so smart, and she was sure he hadn't fallen for Maria yet.
A cowardly part of her thought 'but if I'm exiled, then it won't be my fault if I don't choose someone' but she squashed that. No, he wouldn't be so cruel and that was thoughtless on her. Mary often told her of how she'd run away across the ocean with her, Sophia gushed most on the stories involving a rich and chaotic adventure, and Maria had the charm and will to change anyone's heart. Without a doubt any of them would be willing to throw their lives away to follow Katarina and she hated that thought as much as being damned by herself.
She was silent for too long, Maria's fidgeting of her dress was more pronounced, Sophia looked ready to flee and Mary was mumbling to herself, light and too soft for Katarina to make out the details fully, but enough she could here 'this was a mistake, I should have pulled her away, should have done this alone after all' under her breath. Katarina drew back all of their attention with the simple raise of a hand.
"I need a day. I need to think and make sure. Every single one of you… You're all dear to me." Katarina could feel water pricking the corners of her eyes, "You're all my best friends and I adore you so much… I don't want to make anyone cry, but I need time so I don't make a bad decision and hurt everyone."
"I think we can all agree to that." Sophia said quietly.
Author's notes: So I watched this show and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I came up with this when I was rewatching the scene of them on the roof. All that was needed was one more question, and a lot would spill out from there, and, well, she did need to 'worry' about those doom flags…
Also, Mary is my favorite harem member. Her blatancy and willingness to go further than just about anyone earns her my top spot. Sophia comes in a close second though. Poor Keith never seems to win for me.