Here it is, the last chapter! I'm thinking of a sequel, read to the end and tell me
Chapter Five, Circle
It was only when they reached the barracks that Nephenee realized her helmet was still somewhere in the woods. In fact she didn't care as much as she normally would; she wouldn't have left Volke's arms for all the helmets in the world right then. Nephenee had never felt that way for a man before – well, not that she knew many men besides Brom – and although she was utterly clueless, she kind of enjoyed it. This was the first time the young woman was looking forward to something that was unknown to her.
Volke's mind was elsewhere; they were reaching the barracks now, and the assassin didn't want to leave Nephenee alone, he fully intended to take her back to her quarters. But what would people think if they saw the two of them together? Would they think he was growing old and soft? Volke shook his head and his hold on Nephenee tightened lightly; he had never cared about what people thought of him, and there was no starting now.
Nephenee glanced nervously around her as Volke led the way in the stronghold. She felt uneasy but surprinsingly enough, it didn't bother her all that much that people watched, less than usual anyway. The assassin's embrace was comforting whether he meant for it to be that way or not, and never did she feel so safe. On impulse, Nephenee hugged his waist tighter to express her thanks, and she couldn't help a small smile. Let people stare; for the first time, she felt like she belonged.
A bit farther, Sothe was banging his head against a wall in frustration. "How the hell could we fall asleep at a time like this!" he growled furiously. "In a tree on top of that! I'm doomed, doomed, doomed!" Every time he repeated the word, his forehead collided with the wall.
Bastian grabbed the boy's upper arms to keep him from severely hurting himself. "Don't be that way, at least they remained together for an hour or two," the sage said, trying to be optimistic.
"Yeah, and a big help that was!" Sothe kicked at a rock and Tormod had to duck out of the way. "I give up! I'll learn by myself or whatever! I can't handle the man!"
Bastian sighed heavily. He was about to tell Sothe he could always find another teacher – the sage did pretty well with a dagger, after all – but his sharp sight caught something over the thief's shoulder. The blond man's blue eyes widened to the size of dinner plates and he nearly slapped himself to check if he was dreaming; no he was not. Volke and Nephenee were walking across the courtyard... hugging one another?
"Oh dear Goddess... Sothe, you might want to-"
"I know, I know, it was foolish but it was worth a try," the boy sighed as he sat down beside Tormod. He ran a hand through his strands of forest green hair. "Not only for the lessons, but Volke needs to get a life, and I thought I could help him."
Bastian shook his head, his eyes still glued on the couple. Were they slowing down? "Sothe, you don't understand, they-"
"Absolutely, you are right, they weren't meant to be together, that's why it didn't work out," the young thief nodded. His back was to the courtyard, so he didn't see anything.
"Sothe, just listen, you should-"
"Yeah, I should go to Volke and tell him I give up. I'll never bother the poor man ever again with this."
"I'm coming with you," Tormod said as he patted his friend's shoulder. "This way we can apologize to Nephenee as well. Poor girl, Volke must have scared the living lights out of her, knowing how she feels around most men."
Bastian's thin patience finally disappeared and he yanked the two boys around, growling. "Just look!..." Too late. Volke and Nephenee were already gone.
"Well, what is it?" Sothe asked after a while.
"Um... never mind, my sight deceived me." Bastian wasn't going to tell them, it would be more fun to watch as they discovered on their own. "So, what were you saying about this dear Nephenee again?"
"I think Bastian's eyes were going to bulge out," Volke chuckled. "It's a good thing Sothe and Tormod didn't turn around, though I don't think the sage will be able to watch his fleeing tongue."
"But why did you slow down so much?" Nephenee smiled.
"Wanted to print that dear count's speechless expression in my memory, it's not something that occurs very often."
The halberdier laughed out; who knew Volke had a funny bone, somewhere? His cooky grin made him even more laughable. Still chuckling, Nephenee pecked his cheek and it only widened his grin. Casually, he opened the door of the room she shared with Calill.
"Wait," she said suddenly. "What if someone passes by?"
"Well, what about it?" Volke asked her.
Nephenee didn't respond right away, she only shifted her weight nervously. She wanted Volke to stay with her, but what if Calill walked in on them? Or anybody else?
"Night is falling," he spoke again quietly. "Do you wish for me to leave? If that is the case, I'll be on my way."
His question and his tone of voice caught Nephenee off guard. He sounded indifferent, but deep down a tingle of disappointment made itself known, and... was it hurt? Nephenee made up her mind at that moment and she wrapped her arms around his neck. "Don't want you anywhere farther than two feet," she whispered. "Besides... where's the fun if you don't risk being caught?" Nephenee tried to mirror the assassin's cooky grin as best as she could; those were the first words she had heard him say after she joined the mercenaries.
Volke chuckled and bent down to lay a kiss on her forehead, his rough chin brushing against her delicate temple. "You know it."
"Stay with me... tonight?"
The red-clad man didn't answer, not verbally at least. He just pushed the door open all the way and stepped inside, closing it only when Nephenee was next to him.
Sitting near one of the barracks was not where Sothe had expected to find Volke that morning. Oh well, there or anywhere else was just the same; the green-haired thief mentally readied himself. Annoying someone was one thing, but apologizing was another, and Sothe was more used to the former than the latter.
Well, Luck seemed to smile at him on this bright new day, because he hadn't even opened his mouth before Volke spoke up, not rising his head though. "Ten o'clock," he said suddenly.
"What?" Sothe blurted out.
"Ten o' clock, sharp, in the courtyard. Bring your daggers."
The boy just stood there, open-mouthed and not yet believing was he had heard. At first he wondered if Volke had finally gone mad, babbling nonsense like that. But then his brain registered what the older thief had said. "Really? I mean, I..."
"You mean this wasn't what you came to speak about?"
"Well I... no! Of course this is what I came for!" Sothe puffed his chest out, hoping his grin was not as wide as he thought it was. But then his act crumbled and he clung to Volke's neck. "Thank you, thank you! Don't worry I won't be late, I'll be the best pupil ever!" He then seemed to realize what he was doing because he threw himself off of Volke and gave a military salute. "I'll do my best, boss! I mean chief... sir... whatever!"
"Will you just run off?" the assassin grumbled, slightly amused.
"At once, boss! Getting my daggers ready, boss!" With that Sothe ran off merrily.
"Don't call me that!" Volke growled. However his voice died down when a pair of warm arms wrapped themselves around his neck from behind and a small weight came to rest upon his nape. "Morning, sleepyhead."
"Morning, Mr. Dawn," Nephenee yawned as she moved her chin to his shoulder. "What are you doing up so early?"
Volke glanced to his right; Sothe was still scampering off probably to tell Tormod the good news. The boy didn't know why the assassin changed his mind, but he didn't care as long as he got to be taught tricks. It suited Volke that he didn't ask anything; a promise was a promise, and Volke always fulfilled his promises. Assassin's honor.
Recalling Nephenee asked him a question, he leaned back against her until his nape was resting in her collarbone. "Nothing, just watching the sunset," he grinned.
The green-haired girl looked up. "Well... sunset's over... why don't you come in?" she asked softly as she fingered the collar of his tunic. "It's getting cold..."
"I couldn't agree more." Volke got up and let Nephenee lead him inside, although his decision had nothing to do with the day's temperature. Indeed it was warm in the room, but a different warmth from what Volke had experienced in his whole life. He couldn't quite put his finger on it, but time would help him.
With time, Volke would come to associate this warmth with one word: home.
Volke turned onto his right side. No better. He tried lying on his stomach again. Nope, no difference. He finally decided to bury his face into his pillow and look like he didn't care. To no avail: the whining voice could still be heard.
"Dad!" the boy repeated for the twentieth time in the last five minutes. "Daaaad! You said we would go fishing today! You promised!" When the only answer he got was silence, the young one shook Volke's shoulder. "Dad!"
"Go 'way," the former assassin mumbled.
The boy growled angrily and stomped away. Volke sighed in relief and rolled onto his side... only to face another problem. Nephenee was awake; she was propped up on her elbow and she didn't look very happy.
"... good morning?" the man tried.
"I don't think so," the woman scolded. Here we go again, he thought bitterly. He tried to settle on his stomach once more but Nephenee's hands stopped him. "Don't you turn away, Volke!"
"Nephenee," he groaned pleadingly.
"And don't "Nephenee" me. Did you promise your son you would take him fishing?"
"But Nephenee, dear-"
Volke growled as his son did a few seconds before. "All right, I did! But it was just so he would leave me alone, I don't care about fishes."
"Well, too bad, you're taking your son fishing today, and "no" won't be one of the answers I'm expecting from you."
The man just shrugged and put his head down once again. "He gave up on the idea, anyway, he's gone," he mumbled.
Nephenee sighed. "He is his father's son, haven't you already noticed?" she said.
Volke was about to ask what she meant by this when a weight landed brutally on his back and he gasped. "Ryo! Get off, kid!"
"Come on Dad, we are going to be late!" the boy sang.
"I don't bloody care! Go ask Sothe, he'll take you!" Volke growled angrily.
Ryo shook his head. "Uncle Sothe says he has got other things to do. He says that everytime, but I'd like to spend time with him! He's great!"
Volke groaned and tried to think of a way to get Sothe to spend time with Ryo, so he could have some peace and quiet. Some hours without the boy hanging onto his back would be nice; although he loved his son, the thief knew Ryo could get very annoying after a few hours.
An idea struck him, and Volke grinned. "Ryo... did I ever tell you what a girlfriend is?"