When Sen snaps awake, he bolts up from the forest floor. His skin is drenched in a cold sweat and the cut on his hand burns unnaturally. He inspects the wound, seeing the smear of blood on it, and looks around.
“Bad dream?” A voice calls out, and he turns to see Livia sitting by the fire, staring at it lifelessly.
“Wha-Argh!” Sen starts to say before grunting in pain. He holds up his hand to see the wound slowly closing until there was nothing but a faded red mark left. The pain did not leave with the wound, and he grits his teeth as an invisible flame travel up his arm, his shoulder, neck, and to his head before it flares up then fade away. A small, cold presence settles in the back of his head, a sudden awareness.
Sen sharp teeth dig into his bottom lip and his yellow eyes glare angrily at Livia, who watches this all happens with an unfazed air.
“What the hell was that!? What did you do to me, you stupid girl!” He snarls.
“It was the pact,” Livia says in a bored tone, returning her attention to the fire, she doesn’t even twitch at the insult.
“This mark...that pain...what does it mean? Why can I feel you? This is not what I agreed to,” Sen growls out, stalking forward.
Livia doesn’t even look up when he towers over her, her eyes empty and dull as she says, “Calm down. It was just the pact settling. The mark on your hand is proof. Look, I have one too.”
She holds up her hand so he could see.
Sen can feel a vein twitch in his temple, “That is all well and good, little lady, but that does not answer my other questions...” He says as calmly as he can.
Livia's lips curl up in disgust, “You are only two years older than me, Sen Cade. I do not appreciate being called ‘little’. Call me Livia or nothing at all,” She snaps.
Sen just stares at her, and she scowls at the flickering flames, “I also hate when you just stand there and stare. It is annoying as hell. Stop looming over me and sit down already.”
“The pact...It was more to it then you let on...” Sen says with a heavy frown, still standing.
“No, it was exactly as I had said...it is a means of ensurement,” She says as she pokes at the fire with a stick.
Sen eyes narrow, “You spoke nothing of a bond.”
Livia shrugs, “I thought it was inferred.”
“Break it,” Sen demands instantly, “I never agreed to such a thing.”
“Hmm, but you did, didn’t you? It would have never worked unless I was given your consent,” Livia says, and it is true. The version she used had to be agreed upon. She could have been more forceful if she wanted to, but she had no desire to be. She was vitriolic enough as it was, she saw no need to lower herself to that despicable level.
“Either say my name or do not say anything at all,” Livia cuts in sharply.
Sens glare was murderous.
Livia returns it for a full second before she closes her eyes and sighs.
It was the blood pact.
It was the reason they were both so easily irritable right now.
“Look,” She says slowly, “Being angry isn’t going to change the situation. Even if I wanted to break the bond, I can’t. We made a promise to each other, and the bond will hold true until those promises are no longer necessary.”
When Sen continues to glower, Livia adds, “Do you remember the fifth agreement? The one that states that we cannot lie to each other?”
“I know what I agreed to!” Sen snaps before he stops and takes a deep breath. Just like he had when she first met him. When he speaks again, his voice is low and forcefully neutral, “How do I know it isn’t another one of your tricks?”
He finally sits down on the other side of the fire. His expression is still indignant, but it seems he is more willing to hear her out.
Tricks? Livia's eye twitches at the word.
She smooths out her expression and rolls her eyes at him, “That much is obvious, isn’t it? Try to lie to me.”
“Go on, do it,” Livia says impatiently when Sen remains silent.
“...tsk,” He clicks his tongue at her and looks away.
Her dull eyes spark briefly at the noise, “Ooh, you're that type, huh?”
Yellow eyes cut to her, irritated, “What type?” Sen says bitingly.
“A tsundere?” Livia says, the words more of a question than a statement as she eyes him with contemplation.
A tsundere was a character that was cold on the outside and warm on the inside. They were the type to lash out first and ask questions later.
She didn’t think Sen really fit into that type, though there were a few things that ring true. Maybe he had at one point, but he obviously knew how to rein in certain impulses.
But he was still grumpy, demanding, and easy to anger. He was also a little rough around the edges and surprisingly compassionate. Livia recalls how upset he had been when she had carelessly cut herself, how he gave her a bag full of supplies right before she left and clothes to change in. And earlier when he had helped dressed her wound, and sent her back when she had attempted to walk on her injured foot. Despite what she put him through, he didn’t hesitate to reach out and help.
She had thought he was a good guy, that he was someone trustworthy...but then he went and doused her with a truth potion when she had her guard down.
“What is a tsundere?” Sen asks.
“It’s popular character trope that can easily be found in certain media in my world,” Livia says mechanically, and continues on, “And before you ask what those are, I think we should get back on the topic at hand. So, for the second time, try to lie to me.”
“...You’re hideo-...You’re weak,” Sen says with a strained voice.
“Hmm, I suppose in a way I am still weak so it is not technically wrong. Try again.”
“...I-…Tch. This is fucking stupid,” Sen says with gritted teeth, giving up.
Livia smirks, “I believe that is enough proof that it works, right? But, just in case you are still doubtful...” She leans forward with a hard stare, “Sen Cade, why are you here?”
His eyes widen when he blurts out the first thought that pops up in his mind at the question.
“I was worried about you...”
Livia isn’t impressed with his answer, “That isn’t all, is it? You sure as hell did not look all the concerned when you threw that potion at me...There is more to it. Tell me.”
“I needed-no, I wanted to know more. You were privy to information no one should have known, you weren’t surprised about me being a beastmen, or the fact I was able to use a glamor without being discovered, I couldn’t just let you walk away without knowing how, but I also couldn’t abandon my station at the Empire...at least not right away,” Sen explains in a low, reluctant rumble. He was back to glaring at her.
Livia nods, her expression distant. It was exactly as she had thought. She had been in such a rush to put distance between her and Saer’s men that she was careless. She should have forced Sen to show her how to use the teleporting circle before wiping his memory of the whole ordeal. Now, because of her mistake, one of the targets has gone rogue. It also happens to be one whom she knows the least about.
She massages her temple and grimaces. She would need to be more careful from now on.
“This pact...it goes both ways, doesn’t it?” She hears Sen say, an ominous note in his voice.
Livia holds up a hand, “Stop. I know where you are going with that. Don’t. Just...don't,” She says, suddenly just tired and so fed up.
“Why don’t we just agree to call it even and move on,” She says before Sen can respond, “You fucked up, and in response, I fucked you over. Good? Good.”
She gets to her feet and turns on her heel without sparing Sen another glance.
“I’m going to sleep. You can leave or you can stay. I don’t care. Do whatever you want.” Livia tells him before she disappears into her little hobble of a cave.
She toes off her boots and drapes her cloak over a rock. She stares at her bed of leaves before face-planting on them. She pulls the thin blanket over her head and curls up into a ball.
Livia can feel herself shaking. Her own breath sounds loud and ragged in her ears. Her hands' curls around her stomach as her forehead touches her knees. She squeezes her eyes close, and just exists.
Her anger encases around her, greeting her like an old friend. Frustration and helplessness, walks up behind it, bitterly familiar as they wrap themselves around her.
There is a part of Livia that harshly berates herself for being so fragile, for not being able to keep up a brave face a moment longer in front of Sen, but she shoves that part down. What good does that do now!? He already knows! He knows everything, and she had been the one who had been forced to tell him!
It was bad enough she had to broadcast the fact that she had been a concubine to the fourteenth Emperor, that she had to practically beg for Sens help when she couldn’t return to her homeland by her own means, but now-
It was too much.
Livia had lied when she said she would forgive him.
She hated Sen so much for doing that to her. For forcing her hand when she wasn’t even close to ready. Her black door had been blown open and everything was rushing back. It was overwhelming and she felt like she was slowly drowning in a deep-sea over and over again.
She wanted nothing more than to disappear at that moment...
Livia hears Sen when he enters her cave minutes later. He has to pull back the two large leaves she had hanging over the entrance when he does, and they rustle softly. His footsteps are soundless, but the shadow he casts when he hovers over her is hard to miss.
She ignores him and just curls up tighter. She was already a weak fool in his eyes, she doubts his opinion of her could fall any more than it already has, so she does not get up, she does not try to save face. Livia wanted him to see, she wanted him to know that his actions brought her nothing but misery.
She had nothing left to hide...
Let him feel guilt, let him feel shame. It is the last thing he can do; she thinks as he continues to hover.
She hears him sigh before he sits down next to her.
Livia pointedly scoots away and turns so her back is to him.
There is a pause...and then...
Livia nearly chucks her boot at his head.
She throws the covers off her body, sits up and turns to face him with a furious glare.
Sen meets her gaze head-on, and that only proves to infuriate her more.
“You are sorry? Really? After everything!?” She hisses.
“I could have just asked-”
“I would not have told you anything!” She snarls, cutting him off, “You know, I get it. I would have wanted to know the truth as well if I had been in your shoes, but I also would have known it was none of my damned business! I left! I went to a whole other country! What could I have done? What could I have said? Just like you, I would only be exposing myself if I had blabbed about all that I knew. It’s a perfectly logical thought. Have you ever had one of those?”
“Is also none of your business!” She says, not letting him finish.
Sen stops and takes a deep breath, his lips pressed into a thin line before he opens his mouth again.
Livia sneers, “I heard you the first time, you heathen. I don’t need a repeat of your useless apology.”
“You are right,” He says, his tone somber, “I had no right. I overstepped severely, and I am sorry.”
Livia says nothing, her gaze is hard and unforgiving. He couldn’t lie to her, and though she barely knew him, she got the impression he wasn’t the type to apologize easily. Even knowing this, she doesn’t budge. It was easy to ask for forgiveness, it was another thing entirely to politely wait for it to be actually given.
She can see Sen physically struggle over his next few words when the silence draws out between them; his yellow eyes conflicted.
“Earlier...you said you screwed me over...how?”
She rolls her eyes and lays back down. So that’s was what he was really after.
“Who knows? It seems to have escaped my memory,” She says flippantly.
She twitches at her name but remains mute.
“Fine. Keep it to yourself,” Sen says after the stubborn silence persists.
Livia expects him to leave, so she gets comfortable and closes her eyes.
“Since you won’t forgive me, and you are holding secrets, I guess I have no choice but to stay by your side and repent.”
Livia's eyes snap open.
...Wait. What did he just say!?
Suddenly there is a flash of blue light, and she quickly rolls around in response, sitting up, but Sen is gone. She blinks at the empty space in front of her, shocked at first before anger starts to bubble up. Before she could fall into a good seething, something soft and warm brush up against her arms and mewls.
Livia looks down to see a small, fluffy, and impossibly cute black kitten rubbing up against her. Wide, yellow doe eyes look at her before it butts its head against her arm, mewling plaintively.
Her small hand sinks into its silky fur, her body responding automatically to its thin whimpers. She pets it gently and rubs a finger under its small chin, causing it to purr. Its small clumsy body tries to climb into her lap, but it only manages to fall over itself, looking goofy and absolutely adorable. Livia practically coos and picks it up with one hand, helping it onto her lap. It curls up and its small paws knead at her thigh as she continues to pet it and dote on it.
A minute ticks by then another, and Livia completely forgets about the world around her, content in getting lost in the motion of gentle pets and rumbling purrs. Her mind becomes blank and empty, her body relaxes, and she is laying down before she knows it, suddenly so tired.
She continues to pet the small kitten even as she doses off. The last thing she sees before she succumbs to sleep is yellow eyes glowing in the darkness of her cave.