Bits of bone and dust scattered throughout the air as Ephraim slammed his lance through a grotesque skeleton warrior, some of it flicking onto his armor as he panted, winded from the battle. His armor was scratched and dented in several places, and a sliver of blood ran down his arm, the result of a momentary loss in footing and the skeleton's wicked sword arm.
The Prince whirled about, just in time to see a hulking monster shamble forward, claws outstretched to rend his flesh. He cursed and tried vainly to leap backwards, knowing he was already too late-
When a Lightning slammed into the monster from behind, sending it stumbling forward. A split second later a second Lightning struck the monster again and it crashed down to the ground, unmoving.
"Like I said before, you are very reckless," came the imperious voice of Ephraim's savior, Lady L'Arachael, who strode past the defeated corpse without a single backwards glance, eyes fixated solely on the crown prince of Renais. Her energetic demeanor was somewhat subdued by the chiding look on her face.
"Thank you for your aid, Lady L'Arachel," Ephraim replied graciously, bowing his head slightly. However, the movement caused a slight tremor of pain to run through him, reminding him of his earlier wound.
The action did not go unnoticed by the princess, who clicked her tongue and said in a slow, half regal and half resigned voice, "Really, you are such an unusual person," as she guided her horse over to him, pointing her Heal staff at him. A warm, blinding light engulfed him briefly, and afterwards the wounded faded.
"Again, I thank you," Ephraim dipped his head again, deeper this time, relieved that the wound had been taken care of, which would allow him to concentrate on the battle ahead. His eyes began scanning the battlefield for where he was needed next-
When an unexpected, though soft, blow hit him in the back of the head.
The prince whirled about to stare, dumbfoundedly, at the self proclaimed ally of justice, who merely gazed at him coolly, holding the staff she had so soundly clocked him with.
"You, are quite an insufferable man, you know that, Prince Ephraim?" she commented in a droll tone.
"I'm sorry, what?" he sputtered, blinking in confusion, the battle around them forgotten.
"You would ruin the work that these beautiful hands put into healing you in an instant, continuing to persist in your mad attempts to charge like an angry bear into the arms of the enemy," L'Arachel continued, still gazing coolly from her lofty perch atop her horse. "You should be a little more grateful and a little less wasteful."
"I appreciate your concern, Lady L'Arachel," Ephraim began, "But-"
"I was not finished," she interrupted, glaring him back into submission in a way that made Ephraim feel very much like a meek schoolchild instead of the battle-hardened crown prince he was. "What is it about the front that perpetuates this obsession of yours?" she questioned, arching her eyebrow critically.
"I despise the idea of a puppet master commander," Ephraim responded immediately, "The only kind of commander worthy of the loyalty of his people is one who will fight alongside them, do what they do, risk their life alongside others."
He thought of his father, choosing death amongst his soldiers rather than a single step backwards to retreat.
"That also makes for a very dead commander," L'Arachel cut in dryly. This cutting kind of humor rarely came out of the princess, yet beneath that stubborn, egomaniacal exterior was a truly intelligent, powerfully willed young woman "Inspiring your men is one thing, throwing yourself into the lion's den is another."
"I do what I must," he said quietly, eyes casting downwards. "My homeland has already been ravaged, falling into chaos while I fought for my own glory in another country. And yet still I have been given a chance to set things right." His fists clenched around his spear, his instrument of atonement.
"If you die," L'Arachel said slowly, not meeting his eyes, "Then won't you be wasting that chance anyways?"
"And yet still, I must persist," Ephraim replied succinctly, a quiet stubbornness in his voice that was that rare kind of determination not born out of anger, but out of deep belief.
The princess of Rausten said nothing for a short while, contemplating him with an unreadable look from atop her steed. Around them, the battle raged on, forgotten.
Idly, he noted that she really could be nothing short of royalty- her demeanor was the absolute paragon of a queen (though admittedly there... unique points about her personality that were rather, well, really weird), surpassing both Eirika and Tana in that regard. Eirika's gentle nature contrasted with the dispassion that the throne required, while Tana simply disliked acting in such a way, preferring to do things her own way without actually dealing with it in such a brutally direct manner (such things were best left to Innes, really).
Really, women from Rausten were very interesting indeed, if L'Arachel was anything to go on.
Ephraim's musings were cut short as L'Arachel began to speak again, gazing off to the side. "If you need to feel useful, then I suppose I have no choice but to follow you. With my divinely exquisite grace and power at your side, perhaps you will avoid taking any more of those frivolous wounds."
L'Arachel turned her head and stared at him, hard
He blinked again.
She kept staring.
Finally Ephraim was able to run through and translate L'Arachel's speech into 'Normal' speech. Once he did so, his eyes widened imperceptibly and he broke out into a smile.
"Understood, Lady L'Arachel'. I suppose I should make sure you stay safe then," he replied warmly.
L'Arachel gave no truly telling sign that she understood, but there was the oddest curving of her lip and a shine in her eyes that had nothing to do with the sun.