Sorry about the ridiculous delay. I really don't have an excuse. This chapter isn't much, but writing it got me back into the swing of things, and I should be able to update more regularly from now on!

Another apology: As several of you have pointed out, my portrayal of Forde has been off. Well, he's in this chapter, and I hope I've written him better! So sorry about the previous slip-ups!

Huge thanks to all who reviewed chapter 4: Mark of the Asphodel and NewPaladin. I'd also like to thank everyone who has this story on alert. I hope I don't disappoint you!

Disclaimer: I don't own anything.

Chapter 5:

That evening, Kyle had just returned to his chamber in Jehanna Hall when he was startled by a loud knock at the door.

"It's unlocked; come in!" he called out.

The door flew open, and Forde strode cheerily into the room. "You're finally back," he said, grinning broadly.

"I am," Kyle agreed. He dropped onto his bed and began to remove his boots as a comfortable silence filled the room. After a minute or so, he looked up at Forde and asked, "Did you need something?" If Forde didn't have any real reason for coming, Kyle would happily return to pondering a certain purple-haired mage.

Forde shrugged. "No, I just figured I'd better check on you, since I hadn't seen you all day. I spent most of the day with Franz. Sibling time, you know."

Kyle nodded in understanding. "That's good. I'm glad you did that."

"So am I," Forde said with a little chuckle. "But how are you doing? How'd you spend the day?"

Kyle really didn't want Forde to know he'd spent the day in a small tent with a pretty young woman. Even if they'd only been deciphering ancient runes. "I rested for a while," he replied with a vague wave of his hand. "Then I just wandered around the camp. Talked to a few people."

"Doesn't sound like you at all."

"Why not?"

Forde laughed at the slightly anxious tone of Kyle's voice. "Sir Kyle does not spend his day resting and wandering."

"It was a break from my usual habits. I enjoyed the change," Kyle insisted.

"Come on, Kyle. We're old friends. What were you doing?"

Kyle glared up at the blonde-haired knight, knowing that he would probably be mocked after his confession. But there was nothing for it. "I spent the day with Lute," he replied, in as dignified a manner as he could muster.

"Who's Lute?" Forde asked, frowning in confusion.

"You know Lute. The young mage."

"The red-haired kid?"

"No, that's Ewan. You really should get better acquainted with your comrades."

Forde shook his head. "We hardly ever interact with the mages. How would I know all of them?"

"Surely you've seen Lute," Kyle insisted. "She's small and has purple hair…and a huge ego."

Suddenly, Forde's face lit up with understanding. "Yes! I know who you mean. She's a strange one, from what I hear. Why on earth did you spend the day with her?"

"We were deciphering runes," Kyle replied after a brief pause.

A much longer pause followed this statement. "Huh," Forde finally intoned.


Yet another pause. Finally, Forde found his voice and remarked, "I didn't know you liked runes."

Kyle shrugged but didn't reply. Instead, he got off the bed and made a show of arranging his boots along the wall. He could almost hear Forde's brain whirring behind him as the blonde-haired knight made connection after connection and reached conclusion after conclusion. Mostly false conclusions, Kyle was sure.

"She's not bad-looking," Forde offered.

Kyle simply nodded, refusing to turn around. He didn't understand why he was suddenly feeling so awkward and self-conscious. This was dumb. He was a knight of Renais. Knights of Renais were dignified and noble. Composed. Unflappable. Feeling Forde's eyes boring into his back and knowing he couldn't arrange this single pair of boots forever, Kyle finally turned to face his friend.

Forde's expression held a mixture of bewilderment and triumph. He remained silent, but Kyle could almost hear him saying, "Lute? Really? That's the strangest thing I've ever heard. I can't believe you're trying to get a girl during wartime. So uncharacteristic. How the mighty Kyle has fallen! This is great. This is hilarious. No, actually, this is weird."

"During a war, no less," Forde suddenly remarked, his face becoming oddly gleeful.

"It's not as though I'm in love with her," Kyle frostily replied. "We've been collaborating in devising battle strategies."

"Aha! That explains everything. Of course you'd go after a girl who's willing to devise battle strategies with you. Of course, of course."

"I'm not going after anyone," Kyle said in his most composed voice.

Forde shook his head, smiling indulgently at his friend's futile protestations. "If you weren't interested in this girl, you wouldn't have had a problem telling me about her."

"Perhaps I wanted to avoid mentioning her so as to avoid stirring up any of these groundless suspicions. You tend to jump to conclusions, and you're quite a talker. You might spread false rumors." Kyle congratulated himself on regaining his composure. This was good. He was speaking well again.

To Kyle's dismay, Forde just started laughing. "Say what you want, but I know you, and I know what's going on!" he said, pointing an accusatory finger at his fellow knight.

"You don't know anything," Kyle insisted. He pierced Forde with the most savage look he could muster. Alas, it was in vain. The blonde cavalier would not be convinced.

"You're going to go see her tomorrow," Forde declared.

"I think it's time for you to leave."

"Aren't you?"

Kyle hesitated only a split second before replying, "No."

It was a split second too long. Forde burst into an explosion of laughter, and Kyle had to herd him out of the room. Even after the door had slammed shut, Kyle could hear his friend guffawing down the hall.

Irritated, Kyle stomped aimlessly about his room, wishing he had some way to occupy himself. Forde had no right to laugh; he was always chasing after Vanessa. Kyle wasn't anywhere close to falling for Lute. It wouldn't happen. Couldn't happen. It wasn't possible. Besides, Lute already had a man. She had that monk.

The thought of Lute and Artur made Kyle extremely uncomfortable, and he hated himself for it. Cursing himself and Forde, he marched back to his bed, determined to fall asleep and to not dream about a certain purple-haired mage.

Perhaps Kyle's will was too weak. Perhaps his heart wasn't quite in his efforts.

Not much of a chapter, but I hope you enjoyed it nevertheless. What did you think?