Chapter 12 – Questions (4)

Questions – Part 4

      My good time is interrupted by the sound of the door opening. I turn to see everyone else. Nina sees them too and takes a step back. At this, I reach over and wrap my arm around her waist and pull her forward and to my side. These women have no right to be angry at anything. This is my life and my choices. For the first time since this all began, I can tell that my future will be bright. “Heya guys,” I say with Nina physically trembling in my arm. Kay is making tight fists but is otherwise unmoving. Mimi and Rose both wear a disgusted expression. Charlie, to my surprise, flickers between what could only be pity- that disdainful of emotions- and what seems to be concealed anger.

      “Is it time for us to go home? I’d like to eat first I’m starving.”

      With that said everyone’s expressions wavered marginally and Rose says, “Of course my Lord. Shall we get something to eat from the cafeteria or-”

      “I’d rather we get something to eat near the station. Nina will be joining us. Could you possibly come with us as well Charlie?” I can immediately tell no one else thinks any of what I just said was a good idea. But oh well. I don’t care either.

      “Well?” I turn towards Charlie, asking her again.

      “Oh,” she lets leak out while throwing a nervous glance at the others. However, she seems to straighten up a bit and unashamedly says, “I can. Yes. But I don’t believe it’s a good idea Zero. Not many get along with Ninavin. Many less desire her company.” Leave it to the Commander to say what everyone is thinking but not saying. I’m actually impressed with her gumption.

      “Indeed. But I enjoy her company. And last I checked none of you may disobey me. Hell, from my understanding no one will. So long as I’m stuck in this hell I might as well take advantage if some of the perks. And just this once, we are all eating together. If you all wish to blame anyone blame yourselves. You’re all acting so selfish despite the fact that Nina has saved my life several times. I don’t know what she’s done to be hated so, but she’s done enough for me. That’s all I care about. If it truly bothers you, speak up and tell me no,” I blare to them, effectively shutting down the conversation. But to my surprise, Rose speaks up, “No.”

      All eyes turn towards Rose and we form a collective gasp. “Excuse me?” I ask, confusion dripping from every syllable.

      Rose looks me dead in the eye and with a rare overly serious glare she repeats herself, “No.”

      Charlie immediately moves in and raises her hand. Knowing what comes next I quickly reach out, and Charlie stops.

      Mimi backs away a step while Kay protectively takes a step forward. Even if she doesn’t like my idea, Kay is still willing to defend me. The poor girl. She’s willing to put up with something she dislikes based on instinct that shouldn’t even be hers. I approach Rose and wait for her to look me in the eye. She eventually moved her head with an apparent effort and meets my gaze. But she simply finds a smile waiting for her. She almost doesn’t know how to handle it and tenses up.

      I reach out and cup Rose’s cheek. It’s hard to imagine how I got here. Not long ago I was in a world that disallowed touch. Yet when it comes to these women and this world, my rules falter and my touch slithers unconsciously against my instinct. Rose’s eyes widen to saucers and their blue sheen realizes me, for maybe the first time.

      I flash her a smile and nod. “That’s fine Rose. You can go eat somewhere else then, and we can meet at the station.” She does her own impression of a fish, jaws flapping open and closed.

      I glance at the others, “I’m going to go eat with my friend. If you all don’t want to join, that’s fine. If there is ever something that bothers you, that’s all I ask- simply tell me. I’m not a mind reader. But Nina is my friend. If you are going to keep me around, you’ll have to get used to that.”

      With that, I look towards Charlie, “Will you join me, Charlie? We don’t get to see each other often.” She gives a fervent look towards the others before returning to me and nodding.

      I give a light touch to each of the girls who choose to stay behind- everyone besides Charlie and Nina. “Let’s say we’ll meet at the station before nightfall alright?” I leave the others behind and the three of us exit into the hallway. I halt for a second and Charlie gives me a questioning look. I turn to Nina, “I’m sorry, I didn’t even ask you if you actually would join me.”

      She peeks up at Charlie and seeming to not sense much anger, she speaks to me, “Th-that’s fine Evean- Lord Zero.”

      “Nina, Charlie may be the commander, but before all else, she and I share a bond. You don’t have to suffer airs here.” Charlie’s face takes on a red countenance and Nina’s jaw nearly falls off its hinges. “But you have wives Evangeline-sama.” She cautiously says that last bit with a glance towards Charlie.

      Charlie clears her throat and throws in her own two cents, “She jests Ninavin, the Lord and I-” she’s interrupted by me reaching up my hand and flicking her nose. She scrunches it and looks at me in confusion.

      “What in the world?” she asks.

      “Don’t talk like that you stubborn fool. I’ll take responsibility for you now, whatever it takes.”

      Charlie goes redder still and Nina suddenly finds the walls very interesting as we walk through the halls. “M-my Lord, that is very misleading to Miss Ninavin here.”

      I give her a teasing smile and tell her to drop the title. If Nina is allowed to, then of course she is. She protests for a bit before saying my name while maintaining her scarlet coloring. This gets a giggle out of Nina who, seemingly feeling more comfortable now, gives Charlie a small prod with her elbow.

      Charlie appears to not know how to deal with this well, and so, offers Nina a rare, small, shy smile. As we approach the entranceway of the Academy Charlie stops and offers me her arm. I look over at Nina, and grab her hand, pulling her over and sliding her arm into Charlie’s. “W-w-w-what are you doing Evangeline-sama?”

      I toss her a wide smile and continue out of the Academy, to both of their protests. As we make our way down the steps Nina is still making a pouting face as Charlie turns to her and says, “Ninavin, you know you won’t win this,” with a small laugh rising in her throat.

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      Nina turns with a huff and burns a hole in me with her eyes and simply says, “Nina.” This makes my smile touch my eyes as Nina looks away in a pout- but with a small smile tugging at her lips.

      “A proper knight to escort a proper lady Nina. That’s the way it should be,” I say.

      Charlie says with snark in her voice, “So says the Zeroth Knight,” while giving Nina a wry smile.

      Nina seems confident enough to roll her eyes and sighs. We must be making quite the spectacle of ourselves because everyone is turning to look at us. Nina hangs her head and her wispy, yellow bangs flutter on the wind. Charlie reaches over and smooths them behind her ear.

      “Come now. Be with pride. Regardless of the past, you are here today as our Lord- as Evangeline’s friend. Being anything less would look bad on her. So if not for yourself, then for her, hold your head high.” Charlie finishes and we continue moving through the magical city.

      Eventually, we decide on a restaurant near the station. As we arrive at a wooden door, Charlie reaches out and pushes it open, revealing the way into the restaurant.

      Nina seems to have taken what she was told to heart, and walks, arms linked with Charlie, head held higher than before. Together the three of us walk in, following the door. The whole place goes silent and in the distance, I could hear a glass break. To my side Nina looks to be really uncomfortable and even Charlie looks taken back. I simply give a small wave to everyone and tell the proprietor that we want a table for three, preferably away from prying eyes. The man looks a little older than me and seems to be lost at our arrival.

      But ever the proper host, he straightens up his expression and escorts us to a booth in the corner of the restaurant. Charlie leads Nina to the first seat and lets her slide over to the wall. I take the further seat and slide into the corner. Charlie looks to both Nina and I, and seems to be at a standstill. I giggle and insist that she sits with Nina.

      Nina shakes her head and demands Charlie spend some time with me. It’s only when the host returns and clears his throat that Charlie gives up and takes a seat next to me. “What will you have ladies? And Lord?” the host asks and it’s only then that I realize the music is playing again. The band seems to be playing something slow and deliberate.

      The two make their order, but I’m stumped. Now that I think about it, this was a rash decision. For just a moment, even I forgot that I don’t belong in this world. I have no idea of what’s up or down. Charlie seems to notice at least some hesitation on my part, and says, “Lord Zero will take the house special.”

      The man’s mouth hangs loose, eyes wide. “Please don’t make a scene.” I demand more than I ask.

      So I correct myself. “Please?”

      A smile crosses his expression and temps the corners of his mouth to raise. He smooths his face with great effort and simply states, “Of course,” before hurrying off to get our food. I feel a shock run through me for a moment and am assaulted by dizziness. I slump to my side and my head rests on Charlie’s shoulder. She perks up immediately and gives me a nervous look.

      “Erm, Zero, please. Regardless of your more… flippant attitude, this is still pushing it. Simply being here with us is already the limit,” she tells me.

      After breathing in for a moment, I lazily remove my head from her shoulder and give her a weak smile. “I’m sorry Charlie,” and reach under the table to give her hand a squeeze. Much to my surprise, and evidently hers too, she not only gives my hand a return squeeze but doesn’t let go of my hand; so I don’t let go of hers. With hands clasped under the table I look up at Nina and ask something that’s been on my mind before, “Nina, how are the Valkyries chosen?” She gives a tilt of her head, and a flash of jealousy when she realizes both of our hands are under the table. But she simply huffs and asks what I mean by that. “The Valkyries. They’re not normal women, of that I’m certain.”

      “The Valkyries… represent the best of us,” Nina says.

      “Then why is Charlie not my wife?”

      It takes a moment for me to realize what it is exactly I’ve said, and just how far I’ve dug myself a grave.

      What the hell are you talking about? Of course I’m not good enough to be your wife my Lord!” Charlie spits out in a rare show of losing her cool. Rapidly she hurries, “I mean, of course I’m not eligible. I am not a certified Vargar,” She states with her normal calm voice- if a bit higher pitched.

      When I ask in confusion as to what that means, Nina gives me an exasperated look. “You’re so unknowledgeable Evangeline-sama.” I give a shy, wry smile and tell her to explain it to me anyway. She glances at a nodding Charlie before continuing. “A person certified as a Vargar is the best at what they do.”

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      “And that means?” I leave the question in the air. It swims around between us before being picked by Nina and replied to.

      “Literally the best. Years and years before a new Zeroth, practically every year of our lives, we are graded. Everything we do is rated. As we grow older and more specialized, the grades take on more meaning. Most grades are innocuous, even the high ones. However, the highest of all grades, the Vargar, are chosen to be with the Zeroth.”

      “Enslaved.” I spit out in an angry tone.

      Nina focuses on the crowd around us with a nervous look and says, “The absolute, very best of each craft is your wife. Charlotte isn’t the Vargar of anything, therefore, she can’t be a Valkyrie.”

      “But what if I chose to make her my wife?”

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