Neglect

By Suzume

As this fic tells Luvais' backstory, it contains enormous spoilers for his quest, so if you haven't done that yet, read at your own discretion.

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Luvais had noticed the agents of the Order beginning to linger in Ladzaa more frequently in the past, but he didn't give it more thought than a bit of passing curiosity.

Alone at home without him, Rose did.

The people of the Order were very friendly. She had seen them helping an elderly woman who lived down the street carry her groceries home from the market and bringing supplies to the local medical clinic. But she never had any reason to ask for any help from them, and so she did not speak with them, keeping to herself and tending to house and garden while Luvais was away.

"You have a lovely garden," a woman remarked, leaning on the short white fence that surrounded the house.

Rose turned around in surprise. The style of the woman's dress marked her as a member of the Order, probably from Cynas. "Th-thank you," she answered, putting down her trowel.

"I've seen you hard at work here several times this week," the Order member continued. She spoke easily, with a firm, friendly voice. Rose was still somewhat nervous, but her visitor was doing everything she could to put her at ease. "But you're always alone. I hope I'm not prying into something too personal, but..."

So someone what noticed. "Luvais, my husband," Rose explained, a hint of wistful sorrow creeping into her voice, "He's away a lot. He's a very busy man."

"You must be lonely," the woman from the Order said sympathetically. "You know, it may seem hard to accept loneliness in your life, but you should know that you don't have to be alone. It may have been preordained that you would be lonely here, but it was also preordained that you would meet me. My name's Savaike."

Rose brushed dirt off her hand onto the side of her gardening apron before taking Savaike's hand and shaking it. "Pleased to meet you. I'm Rose."

"Likewise, Rose."

When Luvais came home, his wife's good mood impressed him. He had never seen her acting so cheerfully after one of his long trips. Usually her joy came from his return, but this time she appeared to have found her own happiness in Ladzaa without him.

"The garden looks as nice as ever. I can see you've been tending to it."

"Yes, I always do," Rose smiled. Ever since she had been spending time with Savaike and the other Order members she had found a certain peace that had been lacking in her life previously. With the teachings of the Order in her heart, she could accept even hardship with ease.

Luvais looked at her curiously across the table. Something must have happened while he was away. But it looked like it was something good. "Has something happened...? What's brought this glow of happiness to your face, Rose?"

"I made some friends." She was sure that if he met Savaike and the others, Luvais would like them too. It had to be predestined that she and her beloved husband would work to further the One True Way together.

Despite the interest he expressed in meeting Rose's newfound friends, Luvais was still busy. But more than ever before, Rose was understanding of the time he needed to put into this work. She always sent him off with a smile and greeted him with a bigger one.

He found out about her friends too late.

A neighbor came out to El-Qaral to inform him about Rose's illness. Luvais hurried back along the river to Ladzaa. The neighbor man hadn't given him many details, so his mind went wild coming up with frightening details of a horrible death.

And when he saw her, her condition was so bad he was certain that Rose had been struck by some terrible disease. "Why didn't you visit a doctor sooner?" Luvais demanded, trembling with concern.

"It was just a little sore throat, dear," Rose gasped, her voice cracked and dry, "If I'm destined to be healed, it will happen anyway. There's no need for a doctor."

"But if you'd gotten some medicine right away you wouldn't have ended up bedridden like this in the first place!" Luvais squeezed her thin, weak hand.

The dim room was illuminated by a beam of sunlight as the door opened behind him. Savaike entered with a bowl of soup in her hands. "Hello Rose, I brought you some soup."

She was as tranquil as ever. Luvais dropped Rose's hand and jumped up to face the pale-haired woman. "Are you Rose's friend? If you really care about her, why didn't you take her to see a doctor?!"

Savaike stepped backward slightly, betraying her anxiety in the face of this verbal attack.

"Those clothes-!" They were from Cynas. In the style of the Order. Luvais looked from Savaike back to his wife, who was smiling a little at her visitor, despite her weakness and pain.

"Get out!" he pointed forcefully toward the door.

Savaike trembled and turned around. "I'll leave the soup in the kitchen," she told Rose, "Your husband can pick it up for you when he comes to his senses."

"Come to my senses?!" Luvais yelled. Savaike hurried away. As soon as she was out of sight, his shoulders drooped. The first flush of anger drained from him and he came back to sit beside Rose. "...I didn't know your friends were from the Order."

"I joined the Order, dear," she whispered. "And when I get better, I hope I can convince you to join the Order too."

"...What if you don't get better, Rose?" His voice was strained. It was painful just to ask this question.

"Then that was the destined outcome of my illness," she replied. She sounded completely resigned to the fact that she might die. Either outcome appeared equally welcomed. "Whatever happens to me, you should join the Order, Luvais," she concluded, "Following the One True Way will make you happy. ...It would make me happy too."

Would Rose really say things like this? Did she honestly believe that One True Way nonsense? Maybe she was just delirious from the high fever. Luvais tried to rationalize her remarks, but inside he knew she meant every word, and because of this, he feared for her. Along with fear, he slowly began to be overwhelmed with another emotion as his awful part in this conversion, his neglect of Rose, became clear.

He spent the next three days pleading for Rose to see a doctor, but no matter how much she suffered, she declined, insisting that her fate was predestined. As he did his best to tend to her in manner she would not refuse, adjusting her pillows, bringing her blankets, and feeding her soup, the heavy weight of his guilt only grew.

The fourth day, his guilt was fully-grown.

That morning, he buried his wife.