I walked nervously around my room, waiting for the first one to arrive. That’s all I could do at this point - wait. I had different kind emotions going through my mind. There were moments of panic, where I overthought everything. And there were moments of calmness when I told myself that it can’t be that bad.
Knock, knock, knock.
I quickly rushed to the door, took hold of the handle, ready to pull the door open. But just before doing so, a doubt entered my mind once more.
Knock, knock, knock.
I took in a long breath. “Yes!” I pulled the door open.
In front of me was someone who I recognized immediately. It’s pretty hard not to recognize her. She had short wavy brighter orange hair. Her eyes were blue as the sky. There were many visible red freckles around her nose, while her cheeks were always slightly red. She wore simple blue stress, that had hints of white everywhere. She leaned against her staff that she was holding in her hand.
“Alwine,” I said, trying to give her a surprising smile. “I’d like to say what a surprise, but I can't.”
Alwine gave me an immediate smile. “Really? That’s great. Makes it more simple. I was thinking hard how to explain or-” she stopped and coughed. “I think we’ve never really talked before?”
I nodded. “Only at the ceremony.”
“Yes. I remember. Great day, wasn’t it?”
No, it wasn’t, I thought. “Yeah, I guess so.”
She looked at me for a moment, coughing once more. “May I come in?” She was thankfully an early person. There was still time till the other two came. Hopefully.
“Yes, of course. Please! Make yourself home,” I said, opening the door. Somewhere I hoped that her stay wasn't long.
Alwine entered the room, looking around for a moment. “Well. I was told that I should be your advisor for the remainder of your stay,” she said, finally sitting at the edge of my bed, pushing one leg over another. It was the only obvious choice. The only chair in the room was behind the table that was filled with my writings and books.
“So I heard. Weren’t they specific?”
“They said that I should answer any questions you might have and help you with anything related to the school,” she said, giving me a quick smile.
I looked at her, nodding. And suddenly I got an idea. It was a weird idea, but perhaps that was the best way to approach this.
“Everything I ask stays confidential, right?” I asked.
I nodded once more. “I have girl problems,” I said.
Alwine just stared at me. She hadn’t expected anything like that. “Maybe I should add professional advice?” she mumbled.
“Do you give the king only professional advice?” I asked.
She sighed, slightly. “Eh… well. I just didn’t expect you to ask something like that” she mumbled.
“Me neither. But your timing is perfect. And it is kind of important.”
She sighed. “Alright. I’m listening!”
So, I told her most of it. I told her parts of my adventurers, and that both of them probably liked me a lot. I told her that they were jealous of me, and told her about the fights they were having last week. Of course, I left out some parts or modified others. If she's the potential assassin, she probably shouldn't know that Aldrynte is sleeping in my bed to keep the guard.
“So, I’m very disappointed in all those research materials. I’m not getting better at this!” I said, looking at Alwine.
There was a long moment of silence. Alwine released a long sigh. “First of all, reading romance books won’t give you any answers. They are fiction. They are made up stories. Forget them!”
“But they’re holding some things that are true!”
“Perhaps. But they are written to be dramatic,” Alwine said, sighing once more. In some sense, I felt her. Who would expect that the king’s advisor was here, giving me advice about girls?
“Well, I can understand your problem. Aldrynte is a dragon, so she doesn’t accept refusal that easily. And yes, I know that she's a dragon. As an advisor, I have to know many secrets. And while I don’t know Alice, she seems like she’s fighting hard to keep her foot between the door. I find it very cute if I’m being honest.”
I looked at her, nodding. To be fair, I hadn’t seen Alice that way. But it did make sense. And I couldn't help but just listen.
“Dragons are interesting creatures. They are often perfectionists, but even more narcissists. The world circles around them, and so do their needs and their interests. Well, not all the dragons, but most of them. Usually older they get, less it becomes visible. But when they’re young, exploring the world, it’s very apparent.
“And since Aldrynte has fallen in love with you, you’re her prey, her obsession. And she's having her own battle over you. She might try to look like tough women who can accept the loss, but she’s probably as scared as Alice. But she does have less to lose. It might make it easier for her, since she has a long life ahead, even after you die.”
To be fair, I wasn’t expecting such wise words from her. Suddenly I understood and saw things that I didn't before. There was something in her voice, even though she was barely older than me.
She gave me a quick smirk, noticing how I was listening to her. “Dealing with her should be quite simple, though.”
“You just need to apply dominance, as silly as it sounds. Right now she has the feeling that she's superior. She's a dragon, after all. But the truth is that you’re the hero. She’s in your party, not the other way around. And it seems that she’s too attached to you, so she has more to lose than you. So, you need to make her listen to you. When you decide something, you need to stay firm and make it understood.
"So, if you tell her that she can’t be with you every single second, then this is it. She might not like it, but she has to accept and respect your wishes.”
I chuckled. “To be fair, today I told both of them to leave me alone, and they did.”
“There you go,” Alwine said, smiling. “Regarding Alice… I don’t think she’s a problem. She’s just fighting for something she cares about. Right now she feels injustice and left out. She feels that there's a chance to lose you. So, she's fighting. You just need to reassure her that there’s nothing to worry about. Or if you don’t love her, tell her that the war she’s having is… fruitless!”
I sighed. “If it was that simple. The truth is I do care about both of them. Maybe I care too much." I went silent. I shouldn't have said that. If she was the enemy, she could abuse that knowledge. With a slight sigh, I continued. "And I can’t say that I care for one more than another. I care about both of them, equally.”
Alwine smiled. “Then maybe the best thing to do is honesty. Tell them you care about them. And then put them under ultimatum.”
“Give them two choices. One is where they make up and try to get along. And the other is something neither of them wants. This will make them work towards the better one.”
“Does the king use that?”
“He uses that a lot. And it works surprisingly well. Very rarely the worst choice is being made. But that’s only when it’s really the only option. However, if you do that, you must be willing to do the worst choice as well. And you need to look genuine. You need to be ready to do both of them, not hope that they work towards the better one.”
I sighed. To be honest, I had already similar thoughts, but this one confirmed it for me.
“If you want, we can also do the third option,” she said, looking at me, smiling, giving a wink.
“What’s that?” I was slightly afraid to ask that.
“You said that they might be coming soon, right? I can get half-naked, and kiss you when they come in.”
I suddenly blushed, leaning slightly back. “Eh?”
“That will make both of them jealous and frustrated. As an act of revenge, they will ignore you for at least a week. You’ll have your quiet.”
“And you’d be willing to do that?” I asked.
She leaned forward. “You’re the hero. You said it yourself, women find titles attractive. They find famous people attractive. Especially a hero, who's still very young. So no, I wouldn't mind,” she said, giving me another wink.
I looked at her, eyes slightly wide. “I-I…”
Alwine began to laugh. “But I think you don’t want that. The last thing you want to do is hurt those two, right?”
I sighed. “You’re right.”
“Speaking of the devil…” she said, standing up, raising her staff. “You’re young, and inexperienced in many things. You shouldn’t feel pressured to be amazing and great at everything. You should be allowed to fail. Sadly, others don’t see that. So, if there’s anything you need or want to know, ask me.”
I sighed. “One moment!” I shouted. To be fair, I wanted to ask many questions. And maybe some I will. But the fact that she was under the suspicions of being assassin made it harder. I already took the risk of telling her about the girls.
But perhaps the fact that she’s literally assigned under me is keeping me safe. After all, if she was going to attack me while we were here right now, everyone knew that she's the one. And while I know that she could easily defeat me, she didn’t know that. In some sense, Qildor was genius, but also an asshole.
“I hope they don’t get the wrong idea,” I said, sighing. We both stood up and began to walk towards the door.
“I’ll come back tomorrow morning,” Alwine said, smiling.
As I opened the door, I got immediate proof that romance books are real, or have some truth behind them. While they are fiction, those things can really happen in real life. Just as the door was opening, she managed to trip, landing towards me. As a reflex, I turned towards her and managed to catch her.
I could feel her hugging me. But I also felt two pair of eyes on me, staring, judging.
Of course. Of course, that had to happen.
Aldrynte and Alice were both frozen, staring at us. The fact that I managed to freeze Aldrynte was an accomplishment of its own.
“Hey! Careful now! Are you okay?” I said after a few moments had passed, placing my hands on her waist to help her get away from me. I already saw two of them jumping on me, demanding an explanation.
Alwine hugged me a moment longer, which was weird even for me. Finally, she got herself up, giving me a small shy smile. “I’m fine. Thank you. You're so... nice." She then gazed at Alice and Aldrynte. “I’m so sorry. I’m so clumsy,” she said, releasing a sigh, skimming her skirt straight.
“And what are you doing here, Alwine?” Aldrynte asked, hands crossed.
“I was assigned to advise Hero. Official business,” Alwine said before I could say anything.
“Advice, huh…” Alice said.
Alwine looked at both Alice and Aldrynte, examining them. Finally, she gave them a wide smirk. “Don’t worry. It was only an accident.” She passed me, looking at me one last time. “I’m so sorry once more. It’s such a pity that I stumbled at that moment. Talk about fate.” As she said those words, she occasionally gazed at the other two. She smiled once more. “Bye. I'll see you tomorrow!” she waved with all her fingers, turned around, and walked away, slowly.
I was just stunned, not understanding what had just happened. But I was preparing for a fight. But we all were quiet until Alwine was far away.
“Hiro,” Alice said quietly, still looking after Alwine.
“You can’t let other women take advantage of you!”
“Alice is right. You’re the hero now. You just can’t let every woman flirt with you,” Aldrynte said, looking at Alwine as well. The jealousy two of them had was stunning.
“She totally faked that stumble. It’s so obvious,” Alice said.
“Trust us, we know,” Aldrynte approved. They both finally looked at me and entered the room.
As I took my seat once more, both Alice and Aldrynte got themselves seated at the edge of my bed. But both of them knew what was coming as well. Or at least I assume that they did. But they didn't say anything, waiting for me to start.
“So, the past week has been really horrible,” I began, looking at them. “Don’t you agree?”
Both of them nodded. I could see Aldrynte visibly having a hard time to stay silent.
“So, I decided to be really honest. And trust me, I feel really awkward telling you all of this. But I feel that honesty might get us somewhere. I hope that you’ll be as honest as I am.”
Both of them nodded once more. It almost felt like they both had agreed to stay silent until I was done with my speech. And I did appreciate that.
“I care about both of you. A lot. A lot more than I’d want to admit. I don’t know if it’s love, but I do know that I care. So, seeing you two arguing with each other, it really hurts me. And I can’t really spend any time with you, without worrying what the other might think. And I don’t think that’s a healthy relationship."
I sighed, leaning slightly forward. For the first time, I felt my fingers slightly shaking. I was afraid of the outcome. I was afraid to lose them both. I felt my inner insecurity creeping out. I remembered those moments when I was stuck at home, alone.
But I had to embrace it. Better sooner than later. I could see how both of them were slightly taken aback. Alice was slightly blushing, while Aldrynte just smiled. But as the last part reached them, they went back to their serious selves.
“And most importantly, we are a party. But we aren’t functional party. Right now, we can be thankful that nothing has happened yet. But at some point, we’ll run out of luck, and we need to work together. We need to fight together. You can’t get jealous of every woman I talk to. I'm now the hero. There will be many others who will flirt with me.
“So, here’s the deal. I’m going to give you two a choice. And you have to pick one of those two options.”
Both stared at me, waiting for the options, ultimatums. I had a hard time to keep my voice straight. But after a quick cough, I continued.
“The first one is that both of you talk to each other and reach some kind of a deal. It means that you both stop fighting and try to be friends. I'm not saying that you have to agree with each other all the time, but no stupid arguing that’s nothing to do with the argument itself, but me.
“The second option is that both of you will drop out of the party and go your own path. We might still meet again. We might talk. We might flirt. But we aren’t a party anymore. There’s no in-between choice.”
I sighed, leaning finally back, hands grasping each other tightly behind the chair. “Now, if you do talk about what you could work out, here’s what I’m ready to accept.” I couldn’t help but blush. It was a hard moment. But I felt it was necessary. “As I said, I care about both of you. So, I’m willing to date both of you… romantically. Which includes only one of you, as long the other agrees with it. And I’m also ready to continue adventuring as just friends.”
Both of them stared at me. If they didn’t really feel the same way, it might’ve been the biggest failure of my life. Definitely the most awkward moment, for sure.
“So, it’s up to you.” I stood up, looking at those two seriously. “I’m now leaving you be. I’ll be back in a few hours or so. Until then… Good luck, I guess?” And I continued walking towards the door. I wasn’t stopped. They let me leave. But as I took one last look over my shoulder, I could see both of them thinking, serious. They both looked a bit ashamed of themselves, or the situation as a whole. Even Aldrynte looked slightly miserable.
And I left the room.
The moment I was out, I felt my legs weaken. I had never expected that something like this could be so intense. And I would’ve never thought that I would find myself in a situation such as this. Not that long ago, I was a mere worm-book. Now I was a hero, loved by two. And I couldn't help but think if there was going to be more.
I walked outside of the dorm, catching some fresh air. Immediately, I heard quiet giggling. Alwine walked towards me, pleased.
“You’re still here?” I asked.
“I took a chance and talked with the headmaster. I let him know that I'm staying here for a while and asked for a room. I assume that you’ve talked with those two?”
I gave her a weak smile. “What you did earlier… Did you…?”
“...do it on purpose?” she asked. “No. I did stumble. I just decided to take the heat. I felt like you had enough on your plate.”
I gave her a nod. “Thank you.”
“You’re very welcome. Even though I do have to admit…” she went silent. “Never mind. It doesn’t matter.”
“What?” I asked. As we talked, we slowly got ourselves seated on an empty bench.
“It’s not my place to say it. Plus, you have two very jealous followers already,” she said.
I sighed. “Are you also falling for my charms?” I was straightforward.
She returned a small smile. “Perhaps. Your chest was warm.”
“Please…” I chuckled. To be fair, talking with her like that, it was really hard to believe that she could be an assassin. It didn’t make any sense. She also had many opportunities to kill me, already. Unless it wasn’t her intention. “What do you think about all those assassinations?” I asked.
“That’s a sudden change of topic,” she mumbled.
“Well, yeah. It’s kind of a big deal right now,” I said.
She nodded. “Well, yes. As much as I’ve heard, I wonder if they’re even assassinations.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
Alwine pulled one of her legs over the another. “It feels more like murders than assassinations. It’s so obvious and attention-grabbing. They're not even trying to hide it. I feel like there’s more to it than a single person. And the messages left to you feel more like a totally different person altogether."
I leaned backward, looking at the sky. What she said made sense. “Have you told that to Qildor and the king?”
She sighed. “Only the king. Qildor doesn’t really accept feedback from outside. Qildor and I don't get along. He might it even find offensive if I try to suggest anything. Might be because I'm so young.”
To be fair, it did sound something like Qildor would do. But it was also interesting. And it sounded like there's a conflict between Qildor and Alwine even before the murders.
“In the end, I’m the king’s advisor, not Qildor’s.”
I looked at her. “I heard that you’re one of the youngest advisors?”
“We are quite alike, aren’t we?” she said, smiling at me. “My parents died a few years ago. Or well, they were murdered. There was an assassination attempt on the king. My parents protected the king, throwing their own lives away, so the king could escape.” She sighed. “Or well, they could’ve survived, if the king would’ve tried to save them. But instead of sending someone to help them, he ordered himself to be saved.”
I was slightly taken aback. I wasn’t expecting her to tell me all of it like that. Unless it was her plan. “Don’t you hate the king for that?” I asked.
“Every day,” she said, laughing. “It’s not easy to work for the man who’s responsible for my parent’s death. But life is more than revenge. And it was my parent's decision to protect the king. And I feel that I'm partly his advisor because he does have regrets. Plus, what would revenge give me? The fact is that he’s still a good king. He still keeps the country running. He’s surprisingly open to changes. And he still listens to my advice."
I could see the sadness in her eyes, as she kept looking at the sky. I could almost see all the stars reflecting in her eyes.
“Sometimes forgiveness can be the greatest revenge you can give," Alwine said, smiling at me.
I looked at her, eyes slightly widened. Just listening to her, I couldn’t believe that she was under suspicion. Of course, she could say that, while secretly working towards revenge. But it still felt weird. And if she was the assassin, planning to assassinate the king, it felt even sadder. But I understood why she was an advisor. I couldn’t help but listen to her. Something was captivating in her words.
“I should go,” she said, sighing, and standing up. But as she hastily stood up, she lost her balance, falling on top of me, head touching my chest once more. “Dammit,” she mumbled, but didn’t move yet.
“Are you alright?” I asked, slightly frozen. And she said that romance books were fiction.
“I’m sorry. I wasn’t joking when I said I’m a bit clumsy. I get easily dizzy. They say it's my blood,” she whispered. But she still leaned against my chest, resting.
“Okay. Alright. But…”
“Give me just a minute? My head is still slightly dizzy.”
“Sure,” I whispered, still frozen, hands resting against the bench. I didn't know what to do. "The two girls in my room told me that I shouldn’t let you abuse my kindness,” I said, smiling.
“They're right. You shouldn’t,” Alwin responded. We were there for a few minutes, until she removed her head, looking at me, blushing, and stood up once more. “I-I’m sorry. It might sound like I’m making it up, but I’m really not. But you're really kind." She gave me a slight bow. "But I did check out why those two are into you," she said, showing her tongue for a moment.
I sighed. “And?”
“You do have a very nice chest,” she said, giving me a wink and turning around. “I’ll see you tomorrow,” she said, raising her hand to wave, walking away.
She was an interesting woman. Of course, like every other woman I happened to meet, she was beautiful. And she shared words that I still thought about.
And even more importantly - she did smell great. Hey, man can enjoy moments like those, right?
I took a deep sigh. “I’m overthinking this, aren’t I?” I told myself. “Sometimes I wish I could be wiser, and smarter. I wish I knew what to do. But life ain’t simple.” And now I felt silly for talking myself. But if I was a dummy anyway, might as well do that.
After a while, I finally walked back to my own room. I was ready to accept any results, even though I was hoping for the best. We needed to find a way to solve this. The moment I reached the door, I pushed my ear against it, trying to understand what was going on in my room. Quiet laughter echoed.
I smiled. That was the first good sign. I prepared myself, standing there and taking in a few more deep breaths. I was nervous. Perhaps more nervous than during the life-threatening moments.
Knock, knock, knock.
“Yes, come in!” two sounds echoed to me at the same time. I pushed the door open, seeing two of them sitting on the bed, looking at me.
I closed the door and walked towards my chair.
“Come here!” Alice said, patting one side of the bed. I gave a sharp nod and got myself seated there instead.
“So?” I said.
“Me or you?” Alice asked, looking at Aldrynte.
“I can do the start,” Aldrynte mumbled, gazing at Alice just a moment. They both turned to look at me. “Hiro. First, we want to apologize. We both realize that we have been pretty terrible to you, and you were right. Things got out of hand. We are sorry.”
I nodded. “That’s alright.”
“We talked things through, and shared some events and stories. In the end, we realized that we both want the same thing. We also care a lot about you.” It was a moment when Aldrynte visibly blushed. It was obviously hard for her not to be her usual self. “We want you to be safe. We want you to be more careful.”
Aldrynte released a sigh, gazing at Alice. Alice nodded in return and continued herself. “Both of us leaving you would be the worst. So we talked and reached a resolution.”
They looked at each other once more. I could almost see them burning up. It was cute and all, but the way they looked at each other made me nervous.
“Hiro,” Alice said a lot more sharply than usual.
“Yes!” I responded with the same sharpness.
“I love you. After our travels together, I’ve only fallen more in love with you. You made me change. You made me into a better woman. And I want to be with you! Please go out with me!”
Before I could say anything, Aldrynte coughed. “As I told you before; after I saw you the first time, I felt this attachment. Every moment we spent together, I have felt this need to be with you, to get to know you. And when we were apart, I thought about you more often than I'd want to admit. It’s now when I realize that I probably love you, as well. So I ask the same thing as Alice. Please go out with me! It sounds a bit weird, but we both care about you and want to work it out. So, go out with both of us, and we'll see what the future brings us.”
I was probably like a tomato. Even though I had prepared for something like that too, it was still very unexpected. I was blushing like crazy.
But my face had a smile on. I couldn’t help but smile. “Yes. It’s decided. It’s harem.”
There was a moment of silence.
“You had to say it like that, didn’t you?” Aldrynte mumbled. “That’s definitely my father.”
Alice just giggled.
"You make it sound so perverted," Aldrynte added.
I leaned forward and grabbed hold of both of them, pulling them closer. I just hugged them. Few tears even escaped from my eyes. It was a strange feeling. I felt many things. It was warm, it was great. It felt special.
"Thank you," I whispered into their ears. I could feel them squeezing me as a response.
“So, for the sake of equality, we decided that both of us are going to sleep in your bed,” Aldrynte said as she stood up.
“Eh?” I mumbled, looking at her.
“The bed is big enough for the three of us,” Aldrynte continued. Alice was slightly red but didn’t protest. Instead, she stood up as well, walking towards the door. "I'll get my... stuff."
Alwine’s words echoed in my mind. I should be protesting. I should be telling them no, and send them off.
But that would be silly...
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- Matthew E. Damson
I'm someone whose pen-name is Matthew E. Damson. Some others know me as Elven. I'm also known as elf, elfie, elves, pointy ears, and some more. To be honest, I have no idea why they call me other names, but they create nicknames, not me.
You can read my stuff and shorts at reddit.com/r/Elven
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