The city of Ilzara, capital of the Ilverna Kingdom
“Woohoo~! We’re almost there!”
Grizel’s voice was filled with enthusiasm to say the least as she reached the capital’s outskirts. Behind her were Nicia who seemed to be a little delighted, but keeping her excitement to herself, and Leiv who had his usual deadpan look. He recalled that they parted ways with Nelsharen after leaving the port city of Yurese where they got off the ship that brought them back to Ilverna.
In the end, I ended up coming back here, he sighed and looked at the ground. And the real reason is... I chickened out. Things weren’t particularly pleasant when I first came here to say the least... and seeing how messed up the main land was made me having second thoughts about seeing the world... There’s no telling what sort of madness other places have after all, and I might not always be so lucky... It’s pathetic of me to think like that, and yet...
His train of thought was disrupted as he suddenly found himself looking at Grizel’s face as she was standing right in front of him. Leiv twitched and took a step back, looking a little startled, while Grizel gave him a curious gaze.
“What’s wrong? Are you feeling unwell?” she asked.
“N-no... it’s nothing...” he replied, averting his eyes from hers.
Grizel kept staring at him for a moment, then decided not to pursue the matter.
“Well, let’s go then,” she turned around. “I can’t wait to meet Jaina, Rose, and the others~ Don’t you feel the same, Nic?”
“Um, yes,” the scout nodded. “Well... actually... Is it fine... if I go by myself from here...?”
“Huh? Oh, right...” Grizel seemed to realize something as she glanced at the city in the distance. “I’ll see you around then!”
Nicia bowed her head slightly to the captain and her servant before dashing off towards the capital. Her expression, unseen by the two, brightened as she got closer to the city.
“What’s that about...?” Leiv raised an eyebrow.
“Didn’t I tell you before that Nic is some sort of a secret agent for us? Only a handful of people knew about her, so she normally avoids city gates and crowds,” said Grizel.
“I guess you might have mentioned about it.”
That’s probably not the only reason she went ahead by herself, though... the captain thought with a rather amused expression.
* * *
Inside the Battle Maidens’ headquarter, Jaina was reading some reports in her room. The rebuilding progress seems to go well, she concluded before putting the paper she held on the table. It’s a good thing that we managed to crush the rebellion relatively quickly before it could cause a lot of damage like the previous one. The commander then let out a sigh. I wonder if Zel and Nic are doing okay...
It was then when she heard a little thud on the balcony which alerted her for a moment. Her eyes widened slightly afterwards, and she slowly rose from her chair to walk towards the balcony. A gentle breeze blew into the room as a familiar figure entered, mellowing Jaina’s expression instantly. There she was, the person who she’s been missing dearly; the frail looking girl with her signature scarf that covered her mouth. The smaller girl’s eyes stared tenderly at Jaina’s, and she pulled down her scarf to reveal a gentle smile that melted the commander’s heart.
“I’m back,” said Nicia.
“Welcome back, sweetie,” Jaina replied with a loving smile while opening her arms wide.
* * *
The following day, Leiv accompanied Grizel as she made a trip to some of the areas around the capital. The two of them were riding a pair of brown horses that were walking in casual pace. Even though the commander gave her some days off, she decided to help checking around the nearby areas that were affected by the rebellion, he recalled what she told him. Well, it’s better than doing nothing in the capital, I guess... Although so far it feels more like...
“Over there is Lake Oelie,” said Grizel as she pointed to her northeast. “It’s famous for its beautiful scenery. Wanna make a stop there?”
“Eh, I’m good,” Leiv replied after taking a glance to the lake. It’s as if she’s been giving me a tour of the country, he rolled his eyes at the thought.
“Are you sure?” Grizel looked a little pouty after hearing his answer. “You might not be able to get a chance to visit it again, you know?”
“I thought we have some tasks to do...” he said with a raised eyebrow. “Is it alright to goof around like this?”
“It’s fine, it’s fine. We’re not on an official mission after all,” she grinned at him, although her expression looked slightly down in the next moment. “You know... I’m just thinking, you probably have a bad first impression on Ilverna because of what happened when you first came here... So maybe, I can make it up to you by showing the what the country really looks like...”
Leiv didn’t say anything for a while, his expression unchanged. He then turned his head to look away from her.
“Weeelll... if you put it that waaay...”
* * *
After seeing the lake for a while, they arrived at a nearby village where Grizel did a quick inspection. They visited a few more towns and villages afterwards, making some stops here and there as the captain showed more places to her servant. It was already dark when they’re heading back to the capital.
“So, how is it?” Grizel asked him.
“How is what?” Leiv raised an eyebrow to her question.
“What do you think of Ilverna now?” she gave him a curious stare.
“Well... I guess it’s alright,” he replied.
“Just alright...?” the blonde couldn’t help but to pout slightly hearing his unenthusiastic answer. “Sheesh... you’re such a downer... and here I was hoping you’d be entranced by the country at this point...”
“Tch, why did you even bother in the first place anyways?” he gazed away. “It’s not like I’m going to settle here or anything...”
“I know,” she replied. “One day you’ll leave this country to go somewhere else, probably never return anymore. But... just in case things don’t go too well for you, feel free to come back to Ilverna. You’ll always be welcomed here,” the captain smiled.
Leiv turned his head to Grizel, looking a little startled by what she said. He didn’t say anything for a while, which made her looked a little puzzled by his reaction.
“What’s wrong?” asked the blonde.
“N-no... it’s nothing,” he averted his gaze.
A moment of silence passed between them before he spoke again.
“A place to return, huh... I guess that doesn’t sound too bad...” a faint smile appeared on Leiv’s face as he looked at Grizel who grinned in response.