We sat down on the soft carpet, talking about random things through the evening, we wouldn't attend any lessons for until the situation with the murderer was taken care of so we didn't mind staying up late.
It was already dark when Lili pouted and asked us, "Why don't you two tell me about your partners for the ball? I feel left out."
I crossed eyes with Eina, she discreetly shook her head, clearly not willing to reveal it yet. I felt a bit resentful, she acted like if it was a shameful matter, as if she was ashamed that it was me.
"It's a great person I met by chance," I said to Lili, my voice sour, "But that person doesn't want to reveal who they are until the ball. If it even happens that is."
Eina pursed her lips and said, "That person appreciates you but needs time, you should know it by now."
Lili grabbed her head and said, "Fine! I don't really care anyway."
"I am sorry Lili, you will be surprised by who it is though," I said to her in an apologetic tone, stealing Eina a glance.
"Whatever, I just don't understand why you told Eina and not me," Lili said, grimacing at me.
"She didn't tell me," Eina suddenly said to her.
"Oh? So you just saw them! Nevermind then, sorry about pestering you," Lili said to me, relaxing a little.
Coughing awkwardly, I said, "I am glad that you understand."
Looking up, Lili sighed and murmured, "I wonder if he is any tall. I bet he is super handsome."
It took all of my willpower to not burst out laughing, Eina's sharp gaze served as a fine deterrent as well.
Choking on laughter, I replied, "Not exactly handsome but very pretty and taller than me."
Frowning, Lili looked at me, "I thought you denied Valus' invitation."
"It's not him and we are the same height!" I blurted out, raising my hands and stealing a glance at Eina, she had a raised eyebrow but appeared to be in a good mood.
Pinching her chin, Lili squinted her eyes and said, "You gave me a good clue. It has to be someone from the lessons I don't attend, right?"
"You could say that. I won't tell you anything else though," I said to Lili, pursing my lips and pretending to zip them.
"Could you ask him if he has any handsome friends?" Lili asked me.
Eina laughed and said, "Sorry Lili, they are all taken."
Energized, Lili pointed and Eina and said, "You took his friend before me! Lucky you!"
I crossed eyes with Eina, it was really hard to not laugh at the moment, even she was cracking up.
"Whatever," Eina said to Lili, she looked at me and said, "You still didn't take responsibility for this." She rolled up her pants and revealed a purple bruise on her scarred shin, exactly where I whacked her.
"Oh damn. Do you want a potion?" I asked her, grimacing at my handiwork.
Lili also grimaced and said to me, "The weapon practice is fun but if you hit people like this... I don't want to practice with you."
Pouting, I said to Lili, "It was an accident, I thought she would dodge in time."
"Who would waste a potion on this?" Eina asked me with a frown, "Come up with something more sensible, I won't let you squander money like that."
"What do you want me to do then? Kiss and blow on it?" I asked with a laugh.
"Don't be weird," Eina replied poking the bruise and grimacing.
Lili giggled and said, "My mom always did that whenever I or my sisters got hurt. I think it only works when it's the parent though."
Eina's shoulders dropped and she mumbled, "I wish I had a mother to do that for me. It would make everything easier."
The atmosphere instantly turned somber, Lili long knew about Eina's situation.
"I am so sorry," Lili said, grabbing Eina's hand, "I didn't think what I was saying."
"What are you on about?" Eina asked her, smiling stiffly. She squeezed her fingers around Lili's palm and said, "I am just being a killjoy, forget about it."
Lili seriously nodded her head, worry evident in her eyes.
"Give me that leg," I suddenly said to Eina.
"I'll just give you a massage. I've never done one before so it might suck," I said to Eina, shifting myself to be closer to her.
"Oh! That's a great idea," Lili said, standing up and letting go of Eina's hand. "I am going to play some games in the main room, it's cards games today. Join us if you feel like it!"
"Alright," I said to her.
Eina nodded her head and Lili dashed out of the room with a smile, mumbling something about Ciara hiding cards in her sleeves.
"It's nice that she found more people to spend time with," Eina commented with a smile, she looked at me and said, "It's all you."
"She just lacked some confidence," I said, "I didn't do anything."
"If you say so," Eina rolled her eyes, not interested in drilling the topic. She took a deep breath and sat next to me, putting her bruised leg on my lap. "Try to not make it worse."
Biting my lip because of the shapely calf that was in front of me, I spaced out and traced one of Eina's scars with my finger. She winced and automatically tried to take her leg back but stopped herself, taking a shaky breath and forcibly relaxing it again.
"You don't need to react like that," I said to her, caressing her scarred skin, "I've already told you that I don't mind."
"It's weird," She said with a pout, "Do your thing."
Fighting against the degenerate urge to take her shoe off, I started carefully kneading her calf, trying to avoid the bruising. She was tense all the time, birthing another idea in my head.
With a mischievous smile on my face, I said to her, "You are so tense."
"No, I am not," she replied.
Letting go of her leg, I said, "Let me check your shoulders then, sit straight."
"Wait," She tried to protest but I was already behind her.
I grabbed her stiff shoulders and tried to do my best to make her relax. Frowning, I said to her, "Stop fighting me and unbutton that shirt."
"What?!" Eina sprang to her feet, giving me a weird look.
"What? I want to give you a proper massage, sit down," I said to her, tapping the spot in front of me.
"I don't know about this..." She said, biting her lip.
"Eina, I've already seen it," I said with a sigh but I had butterflies in my stomach, getting jittery.
"Let me lock the doors," She said after a moment of thought, doing just that.
Eina sat down with her back to me and unbuttoned the upper part of her shirt, sliding it down and revealing her scarred shoulders. My breathing was quickening but I tried to control myself, she quivered under my touch but I made sure to not go too far, only massaging her shoulders. I could feel the bumps under my fingers, each of them a single scar, many of them intersecting.
Eina's shoulders relaxed soon when she realized I wasn't just teasing her, she started melting under my touch. I wasn't sure if it was me or if she was just this easy to please, either way, I wouldn't complain, it made me feel better knowing that she was enjoying it.
"This is really nice. This spot, oh yes," Eina whispered, leaning against me with her eyes closed.
"Just relax. You deserve it," I whispered to her, peeking down her cleavage.
There were scars even there, causing my hands to stiffen up, my eyes widening in disbelief. Eina felt it and curiously opened her eyes to look up at me. Panic flashed on her face when she realized what I was looking at, she rolled off me and pulled her shirt up, dodging my eyes.
"Eina, I told you that I don't care," I said to her in a worried tone.
"I do," She replied, "This is enough. Thank you."
I crawled up to her and cupped her hand in my palms, I asked her "Why don't you trust me with this?"
Her fingers squeezed around mine and she shakily replied, "I need time."
"Eina, do you know how I feel?" I asked her in a wobbly voice. "Every time something like this happens you run away. Just tell me if you don't want this. I will stop."
Tears gathered in the corners of her eyes, she squeezed out, "I don't know how you feel. I don't know how I feel either. Why can't you give me time?"
Feeling guilty, I pulled her into a hug and whispered, "I am sorry. I-I think I am projecting on you."
"What do you mean?" She shakily asked, returning the hug.
Feeling jittery, I stammered a reply, "I-I need someone. I thought you do too."
She stiffened up and pulled me closer, "I don't know." she squeezed out through the tears.
We stayed in a tight hug for a while, sobbing into each other's shoulders, her warmth was melting away my worries, I hoped she was feeling the same. We pulled away, still holding onto each other, our faces next to each other, her sweet breath mixing with mine. I felt that this was my chance, I just had to make sure she wouldn't be disgusted, even if it was selfish.
Panting and all jittery, I leaned in.
Eina didn't dodge, there was fear in her eyes but also excitement, she tilted her head and it just happened, nothing obscene, just a little innocent peck on the lips. Our faces burning, we pulled away and looked at each other.
Eina touched her lips and with a grin, almost inaudibly said, "Again."
My heart whistling in my ears, I also grinned and caressed her cheek, kissing her again. At the same moment, a screech of excitement jolted our bodies, we sprang to our feet, our faces painfully colliding.
"That was so aesthetic!" Chopsticks screeched, he sounded as if he were crying from happiness.
"You little shit!" I cursed at him, pulling out a book from my bag of holding and chucking it directly at him.
The book swept him off the bed, and his metallic body clanked against the ground. He cried out "Why do you treat me like this?!"
"You couldn't keep quiet?!" I asked, storming towards him and violently picking him off the ground.
Chirping nervously in my grasp, Chopsticks said to Eina, "Save me from your lover! She went crazy!"
Snorting, still red-faced Eina snapped at him, "I'm mad too."
Crying out in defeat, Chopsticks said, "Put me in the drawer! I won't disturb you two anymore, I swear!"
"The mood is gone now, you tin-brain!" I snapped at him, throwing his little body at the bed.
I crossed eyes with Eina, there was some shyness in the way she looked at me but there was also something else, some kind of confidence. We laughed at the same time, ignoring Chopstick's cries about unjust treatment.
Licking her smiling lips, Eina said to me, "Now I know."
"Know what?" I asked with bated breath.
"How I feel," Eina said, flashing her white teeth. She chuckled nervously and added, "I can't stop grinning!"
"You are so cute," I squeezed out, approaching her and looking up at her blushing face.
For the first time, she was the one to caress my cheek, I quivered under her touch and grabbed her hand, pecking her fingers and looking into her azure eyes.
In a shaky voice, she whispered to me, "You stole my first kiss."
"And second," I added with a grin.
"And third," She whispered, leaning in and pinching my chin.
This time we didn't separate for a longer time, I could completely savor the taste of her lips. We were both inexperienced so I didn't try anything crazy, I just wanted to drag it out as long as possible, lose myself in this feeling. Our lips pulled away with a smack and we were gasping for air.
"I can't believe this is happening," I rasped to her.
She nervously giggled and squeezed out, "Same."
"S-should we tell Lili?" I impatiently asked her, excited about showing off my new amazing girlfriend.
She froze and shook her head, "Absolutely not."
A feeling of disappointment washed over me, I wanted to make it official, to tell the world that Penn and Argent were a thing. How great would it be if I could climb the tallest spire in the academy and shout to the world 'Eina Argent chose me!'?
"Are you afraid of something?" I asked her, masking the sourness of my voice and caressing her cheek.
She shook her head and said, "This is fine, just keep it a secret. T-two women shouldn't be together, not like this."
Frowning, I asked her, "Who told you this nonsense?"
"Marie, I beg you. Just put up with me," She said kissing my forehead.
Taking a deep breath to calm myself, I said to her, "I just wanted to tell everyone that I am dating the second hottest babe in the entire academy."
"Second?" She asked with a frown but it soon melted into a grin as she said, "Right, I forgot that you are the number one." Under her breath, she jokingly added, "In your imagination at least."
"Of course, I am a ten!" I said with a laugh and added, "I am also promoting you to nine, I don't date eights."
"Why not ten?" She asked with a pout.
Putting my finger on her lips, I said, "That's because you want to keep this a secret."
Looking down, she said, "My entire life I never expected for something like this to happen. I thought that my father would just arrange a marriage for me and if I got lucky that man wouldn't be too hard to handle."
Making a serious face, I nodded my head and squeezed her fingers.
Encouraged, she continued in a voice thick with emotion, "I didn't know- No, I didn't even imagine that girls could touch each other like this. Not until I met you," she heaved a sigh, her voice cracking up, she asked me, "Do you realize how you rocked my life?"
Smiling, I replied, "Just a little bit."
Eina shook her head and shakily said, "You turned it upside down. I am disgusting underneath the clothes but you look past that. You even looked past the fact that I was a pathetic bitch that bullied people. You are my little angel guardian, even if you didn't realize it."
"Listen to me," I seriously said to her, gently grabbing her head and pressing our foreheads together. "You are not disgusting. You are beautiful and smart, always were and always will be."
Tearing up, she nodded her head and just hugged me again, resting her head against my shoulder.
Weeping, Eina let it all out, "I just don't want people to focus on us, on me. Everyone hates me already. How would they react if they learned we are fond of each other? I can't take this anymore."
Only now I realized how brittle she really was, her state of mind must have been even worse than mine but she still managed to keep up a strong outside appearance.
Caressing her head, I shakily said, "It's okay. You should have told me earlier."
"I was too scared. Too scared that you would laugh at me and ignore it," She squeezed out, quivering in my arms.
"I would never do that. Never to you, or anyone else," I seriously said to her.
We sat down on the bed, holding hands and just talking. For the first time, we poured our hearts to each other, I only omitted things that had to be kept a secret; like the fact that I wasn't from this world. I told her everything about what happened in Balera, and the fact that I was the one to kill Ash, the only lie was that I said it was possible thanks to an item Nec gave me.
Eina looked troubled but she told me how her father tortured her, in mortifying detail. Hatred was welling up in me, for the first time I felt that there was a person who should die in this world, no, that wasn't true. I subconsciously already felt it but there was another person on that list, the rapist Seventh Prince.
Caressing her cheek, I gulped down and said, "I need to tell you something. You need to keep it to yourself."
Looking at me seriously, Eina nodded her head and pursed her lips, looking nervous.
"I-I used my authority to force the teachers to use me as the bait," I squeezed out and nervously added, "They wanted to shift me into a safe house but I declined."
"Bait?" She asked confused but then it dawned on her. She sprang to her feet and squeezed my shoulders, "No!"
"I need to Eina!" I exclaimed, also standing up, "He is fixated on me! I can-"
"You can't! How can you defend yourself alone?!" She shouted at me, violently shaking.
"If not me then who?!" I snapped, stomping my foot.
"You are going to the safehouse!" Eina said, letting go of me and nervously pacing the room. She angrily glared at Chopsticks and asked him, "What kind of shitty protector are you?!"
"Hey! Why are you mad at me?" Chopsticks asked, clicking with his beak. "I need to listen to her, that's what her old man told me!"
"S-Sorry," Eina apologized to him, "I just..."
"Eina, I already decided on this!" I said to her.
"On your own!" Eina said and pointed at herself, "What about me?! Do you know how I feel?!"
I wanted to snap back at her but paused, frowning and replying, "I didn't know that we would... Get this close today."
"I beg you, don't put yourself at risk. You can't even use your bag of holding in the mirror world. How can you win against a person that is stronger than you and can use magic while you cant?" She asked, her voice cracking up.
"I-I will come up with something," I replied, dodging her eyes.
Eina shook her head in disbelief and plopped onto her bed, she said to me, "You are way over your head. You are trying to compensate for these people that died-"
I cut her off and snapped, "So what?!"
Sadness flashed through her eyes, she whispered, "I accepted your feelings. Why can't you accept mine?"
Shame washing over me, I said to her, "Eina, every day I space out even for a moment, I see the bodies. Every other night I have the dreams, I remember them all. My maid Victoria, torn in half. Partially charred and gutted bodies, a little boy impaled onto a steel fence..."
I listed everything out in an emotionless voice, vividly describing the gruesome deaths that people of Balera faced.
In the end, I said, "I am a murderer. No better than the scum that your father or that shadow is. My life is worthless anyway, I might as well try and use it for some good."
"Marie!" Eina exclaimed jumped to her feet, rushing up to me and hugging me. She whispered to me, "Never again say your life is worthless and never compare yourself to my father. You keep telling me and Lili that we are great people but we never told you the same." She pulled away and looked me in the eyes, her voice thick with emotion she said, "You are the kindest and the most important person I met in my life. Please, I beg you, don't try to serve as the bait. For me, for Lili and for your father."
It finally got to me and tears freely flowed from my eyes, I really couldn't promise her, this was my conviction, my selfish complex.