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Uncertainty Principle- A Runaway Bride ending story (eventual RxL)

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notice: the forum move broke my table of contents and my on-site list of fics. my fics have been backed up to AO3. link in signature.

 

 

(Halfway through writing chapter one I discovered that Build C has a RhenxLars ending. ...In the end, I decided not to discard this. I'm sure the ending will be happy-making, but I have a whole slew of RxL scenes in my head that follow the storyline I started to develop here.)

Alright, enough about that. The story. In which Rhen Darzon, in a display of defiance that she definitely inherited from her blood mother, runs away from her own wedding and discovers that
1. She's not as famous as she thinks she is
2. Teaching swordsingers is not as easy as being one
3. Lars is a pompous jerk. Actually, she knew that one already.


Table of Contents:
-A Prologue of Sorts (Below)
-Chapter One (Below)
-Chapter Two (Below)
-Chapter Three (Below)
-Chapter Four (Below)
-Chapter Five (Below)
-Chapter Six (Page 2)
-Chapter Seven (Page 2)
-Chapter Eight (Page 3)
-Chapter Nine (Page 4)
-Chapter Ten (Page 5)
-Chapter Eleven (Page 7)
-Remnants of Chapter Twelve (Page 8 )
-Chapter Thirteen (Page 8 )
-Chapter Fourteen (Page 8 )
-Chapter Fifteen (Page 9)
-Chapter Sixteen (Page 9)
-Chapter Seventeen (Page 10)
-Chapter Eighteen (Page 10)
-Chapter Nineteen (Page 11)
-Chapter Twenty (Page 12)
-Chapter Twenty-one (Page 12)
-Chapter Twenty-two (Page 12)
-Chapter Twenty-three (Page 13)
-Chapter Twenty-four (Page 14)
-Chapter Twenty-five (Page 14)
-Chapter Twenty-six (Page 14)
-Chapter Twenty-seven (Page 15)
-Chapter Twenty-eight (Page 15)
-Chapter Twenty-nine (Page 16)
-Chapter Thirty (Page 16)
-Chapter Thirty-one (Page 17)
-Chapter Thirty-two (Page 18 )
-Chapter Thirty-three (Page 18 )
-Chapter Thirty-four (Page 19)
-Chapter Thirty-five (Page 19)
-Chapter Thirty-six (Page 21)
-Chapter Thirty-seven (Page 22)
-Chapter Thirty-eight (Page 23)
-Chapter Thirty-nine (Page 23)
-Chapter Forty (Page 24)
-Chapter Forty-one (Page 24)
-Epilogue (Page 25)


COMPLETED

---


P.S. BY THE WAY. Have I mentioned that I love love love constructive criticism?

Stats:
69,361 words.
225 pages in Word.

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Uncertainty Principle:

 

The thing about seeing the future is that, because you can never judge the velocity and mass of a particle at the same time, you can only ever make rough estimates, probability predictions of what will be.

 

The Oracle doesn’t tell anyone that, though. She likes being omniscient. All she needs to do is choose the options with the highest probability. The orphan girl with a 90% chance of using the fairy dust, for example.

 

Talia Maurva had just been a case of necessity- no one else with a higher rating than 42% of preventing Ahriman from being raised was being born anytime soon and if she had waited much longer there would have been a 94% chance of her carefully maintained world ending rather… painfully.

 

And after the world is saved? The Oracle was a very generous person. She didn’t leave her noble heroes adrift to make bad decisions; she did, after all, owe them a debt of gratitude. And so she always gave them the decisions she saw would work best, and was pleased at their glowing smiles of gratitude as they accepted her wisdom and embarked on a new life.

 

---

 

Rhen smiled gratefully at the Oracle, accepting the wisdom she had been granted.

 

Her cheeks ached from the effort of maintaining the expression, and behind the slight, modest tilt of her head her mind was racing furiously.

 

What she wanted was a moment or two to properly consider her options. But the Oracle wasn’t granting that- her steely gaze held Rhen pinned.

 

What should she choose?

 

Dameon? Oh, a thousand hells no. It came with a price tag, for one thing- and she didn’t want to be queen, she didn’t want to be queen at all, the thought of being forced into associating only with nobles for the rest of her life (not an entirely bad breed, nobles, merely a mostly bad one) made her feel an immediate need to jump off a cliff. And Dameon himself…

 

She was furious at him. They could probably be friends again when she got around to forgiving him, but she needed time to do that, not a hastily imposed marriage. Actually, marriage would probably ruin any chance she had of reconciliation. And they weren’t going to be more than friends any time soon, because friends could betray you and be forgiven but more-than-friends were held to higher standards.

 

And in any case she would have to start being friends with the real Dameon now, not the fake one he’d been using all this time to- She shuddered despite herself- seduce her. She had no idea who the real Dameon was. She didn’t want to find out only after a marriage.

 

So. Not Dameon, then.

 

Marry Danny? Not that she couldn’t understand the possibility- she still felt a warm fuzzy glow when she thought of him, it was just… that she hadn’t, in fact, thought of him for months now. She’d found his vampire-drained body and revived him, and that had briefly brought him back to her awareness- she appreciated his coming to save her, she did, really, even if he had come too late. But he belonged to some other, completely different life in which a girl that she was not, anymore, lived happily and peacefully in a small town.

 

Sometimes, frankly, she forgot he existed. And while it wasn’t like she was a romantic or anything (except she was, deep down)- she nevertheless had a hunch that marrying someone who only with conscious effort existed in your mind was probably not the most… exciting thing in the world, to say the least.

 

Option three didn’t involve marrying anyone.

It could have been a wonderful option.

She had an extremely strong suspicion the Oracle didn’t want her choosing it.

 

It was just the way she sensed certain choices being weighted. Like when she had a choice between the sunscreen and the 200 gold- who in their right mind would have taken the gold?

 

That was the vibe she was getting here. The Oracle probably liked marrying people off.

 

Because otherwise why in the seven heavens would the only non-marriage option involve living in seclusion for the rest of her life??? That was basically what hermitage amounted to. What, had single-ness become an infectious disease that needed to be quarantined off from the rest of humanity? And she didn’t even necessarily want to be single, she just wanted more damn time. To get things straight in her head. To rinse off the blood.

 

There were only three options. The silence had extended for too long, everyone was shifting uncomfortably, probably wondering what was taking Rhen so long- Oh, easy for you, she thought sourly, you’re not the ones deciding the rest of your future- and the Oracle was still smiling that benign, patronizing smile. Probably convinced that these were the most wonderful options in the world and Rhen just couldn’t decide which was the most wonderful.

 

(Rhen decided that she had probably started disliking the Oracle way back in the chamber of the Empress when she and Talia had made a wonderfully obscure, cryptic pair, like the world would end if someone actually went to the trouble of explaining things properly to Rhen. Actually, when had she become so bitter? She'd used to be a bright, cheerful girl… Oh right. Then Talia had shoved a priestess ring on her finger without any explanation and she’d been shipped away from her family and enslaved on the other side of the world to a fat nasty woman and her bratty nasty son. Nevermind, then.)

 

Think, Rhen Darzon, use your lovely brain. There must be some way out of this.

 

She took a deep breath, and somewhere at the end of a tunnel a light began to glow.

 

“I’d like to marry Dameon”.

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Three girls helped her put the dress on. Three! When she was a proper queen there would be five! If she’d been harboring any last minute doubts about what she was about to do they would have been washed away in the utter ridiculousness of Rhen Darzon, a former slave slash savior of the world, being expected to be unable to put her clothing on.

 

Actually, the fact that she actually was unable to put her clothing on would probably have done it. The corset, the petticoats... She kept expecting some monster to jump out and attack her and she’d go down screaming and die, all because she couldn’t move efficiently when wearing a mountain of fabric.

 

Now that she was in the dress, though, it would probably take a miracle to get it off. Oh well. She hadn’t had a moment to herself since defeating Ahriman, not a single opportunity to escape.

 

Well, here was the opportunity, and she wasn’t going to squander it getting out of the dress. She was expected to make her way down to the wedding on her own now, but if she took too long they would send someone to find her. And at that point she needed to be sure that the only thing they would find would be her letter.

 

She’d already thought this out. She couldn’t head anywhere straight, because the future queen couldn’t exactly wander out of the city in her wedding gown, now could she? She took a last look around and pulled out the Aveyond portal stone, rubbed it between her hands and felt it warm to life.

 

Behind her on the desk lay a neatly folded sheet of paper.

 

Dameon-

Thais is all yours, now. I’m sure you can handle it, you always struck me as uniquely suited to the job. Have fun!

 

Love,

Rhen

 

([d]I’m sorry about leavi[/d] Find yourself a pretty girl that a daeva didn’t tell you seduce, okay? And maybe consider growing your hair out.)

 

 

---

 

 

“Ahem”.

 

The chancellor, standing stiffly in the doorway, looked impatient. He was the sort of person very talented at looking impatient, a skinny bald man that Dameon had not particularly disliked until just now. Once again, the man cleared his throat loudly.

 

Dameon turned the note over in his hands. It felt like the hundredth, thousandth time, but it was probably just the… fifteenth, maybe? Twentieth? Who was counting how many times he had futilely searched for even a line of explanation on this stupid sheet of paper?

 

There was one, really. The crossed out apology and the hastily scrawled line next to it, written in sloppy forceful handwriting in contrast to the neat loops of the line above. They gave plenty of explanation as to why Rhen Darzon- Rhen Pendragon- had run away. They just gave no information as to why she had never simply told him, let him see an inkling of her doubts or frustrations. Why she hadn’t trusted-

 

Well, that was the central issue, wasn’t it. They had been so close! She had changed him! She had made him into a better person, she had saved him from the dark side…

 

And he had… he had… He had been someone she liked, hadn’t he? She’d blushed every time he talked to her!

 

The chancellor coughed. “If you’ll excuse me… but if you are quite done examining the note, there are still several rather important ceremonies left to attend.”

 

“I- um. Sorry, what?”

 

“Ceremonies. To attend.”

 

“But...but the wedding is off! There shouldn’t be any ceremonies to attend.”

 

“Yes, that will require a cancellation ceremony, big pain, I agree. But there is still a coronation to attend, as well as an official dedication of the future site of Thais castle, as well as a fundraising event, and all this before the day is done. There really is no time to waste.” He said the final sentence disdainfully, dropping the final word like something unpleasant.

 

“I’m sorry, I don’t quite understa-”

 

“You are now the new king of Thais, there are duties you have to fulfill.”

 

“Why am I the king?”

 

“Well, firstly, because that was one of the things settled during the pre-marriage stage. Thais is traditionally ruled by a King, with a queen to produce heirs. When only a female heir is available, her spouse becomes the next king.”

 

“But I’m not her spouse.”

 

“Well, according to common law, no, but according to the Thaian legal system you have already acquired all her rights during the engagement process. As she has not properly reclaimed them- and you have written proof of that right there,” he said, gesturing to the paper, “you are obviously still in line for the throne.”

 

If Rhen was here she would be furious, listening to this man. If Rhen was here…

 

He looked down at the piece of paper in his hand. Not the last line, that made his heart ache.

 

I’m sure you can handle it, you always struck me as uniquely suited to the job.

 

He owed her…

 

YOU OWE HER NOTHING. A part of his mind screamed. SHE LEFT YOU AT THE ALTAR!

 

But he could turn that to his advantage, couldn’t he? He already knew all the nobles by name, rank, and personal flaws. He could already see just how he was going to have to spin this…

 

In his head he felt the sudden exhilaration of power, and panicked. This felt too much like what it had been like serving under Ahriman, watching the world turn at his whim. It was dangerous. He would have to watch himself very carefully, as he got to work fixing up this mess of a city that Rhen- pang in his heart and a painful tightening in his chest when he thought her name, and how could he use that? His subjects’ pity could be turned to love and loyalty, it wasn’t a bad place to start…

 

He swallowed the lump in his throat and looked at the unsuspecting chancellor, standing there so irritatingly, blissfully unaware that as soon as Dameon was king he was going to be cleaning horse stables. But there was no need for him to know that yet… Dameon smiled to himself.

 

“Very well, he said, composing his feature into the perfect semblance of a nobly oppressed lord rising to take a necessary burden, “we shall go”.

 

Ambiguously royal we, he thought, nice touch.

 

And the pain in his heart and his head were just the tempo of a new life, starting... now.

 

----

 

 

She battled her way through the snowy northern continent with practiced ease, making her way along a path to the dock that she’s taken many times before, and felt a swell of nostalgia as she dispatched with ease the monsters that once upon a time had been such frustrating barriers to getting where she needed to go.

 

Alone in the wilderness, she had plenty of time to start feeling guilty. Sure, Dameon had started off knowingly using her but even she wasn’t blind enough to not notice that things had changed, tat in the weeks leading up to the wedding he had looked at her with real devotion. At the time it had made her feel even more chained but in retrospect she began to feel like scum.

 

It was just… the person Dameon had fallen in love with had been real, not a figment of the imagination crossed with wishful thinking.

 

Maybe that wasn’t true. Maybe Dameon had fallen in love with a fantasy just as much as she had. Because the person Dameon loved was almost definitely not someone who had led him on, and then left him on the wedding day-

 

Oh, she wished she’d had a chance to escape earlier. It would have made things so much simpler.

 

At that, a fresh wave of guilt started, and she ruthlessly suppressed it. Dameon would recover, and it was better to have this over with now rather than going through the motions of a loveless marriage.

 

And there, past a pair of easily dispatched snow-wolves, was the dock.

 

“Where to?” The ferryman asked.

 

“Eastern Continent,” she breathed, without even thinking, as she stepped into the boat.

 

Veldarah. It was the natural, instinctive choice. The empress who had been her salvation could be so once again. And…

 

Clearwater was a distant dream. Returning there had been a surreal experience, compounded by the discovery that her parents were not her blood parents, merely her adoptive ones. She suppressed that line of thought. She was Rhen Darzon, not Rhen Pendragon. She felt a vague fondness for Devin, nothing more, and not even a recollection of her deceased blood mother, Alicia (who had apparently also not been fond of being royalty, even if she had gone along in the end). Ma and Pa were still her true parents. But she’d grown up and left the nest, and Clearwater wasn’t…

 

 

There had been a house in Sedona. But she’d handed it over to Mad Marge, who had grand dreams of transforming it into a massively lucrative inn. By now all the familiar rooms had probably been gutted, crammed with beds instead. And it was too full of memories that clung to the walls and whispered.

 

But Veldarah- and just the name made her heart ache, in a pleasant way. It had come to feel like home, and each time she’d returned there she’d been pleasantly surprised to see that the feeling remained, even as her visits grew rarer and rarer. Truthfully, her bitter memories of the eastern continent were more than matched by her happy ones, in the one place where people remembered both Rhen the girl and Rhen the heroine, not just one-or-the-other.

 

It also meant, though, that she was going to have to deal with a certain green-haired sorcerer sooner or later. Not something she was looking forward to.

 

Well, first she’d- No, first she’d buy some clothing, change out of this dress, clean herself up.

 

Then she’d visit the empress. Pay her respects, request permission to settle (she had never stopped being a citizen of Veldarah, heck she still had that token that had declared her “property of the empress” somewhere), apologize for any possibly future diplomatic difficulties with Thais- Nah, Dameon wouldn’t… Would he?

 

And then she’d go to Shadwood Academy and inquire about a teaching job.

 

And then maybe find some other things to do. For a few years, say. There was no need to hurry a confrontation with Lars.

 

Procrastination, the grand cure of all life’s ills. She should be able to avoid Lars for a long time, if she put enough effort into it.

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So naturally she walked into Master Harald’s office just as Lars was walking out.

 

Dammit dammit dammit…

 

“Hi,” she smiled sweetly.

 

He looked like a house had just fallen on him.

 

For a moment his mouth moved, noiselessly, and then he finally said in a sort of rasp-

 

“Rhen-”

 

And she could practically see the gears in his head frantically churning, as he tried to grasp what was going on. Actually, she hadn’t ever seen Lars flabbergasted before. He was always so… on top of it. She’d hated it. Even way back in the beginning of everything when she’d just become savior of the world he hadn’t hesitated before volunteering to accompany her, even while she’d been utterly lost and confused he’d been self-assured and convinced he was right…

 

He took a deep breath, and his face settled into that half-lidded smug expression she loathed.

 

“So…” he said, arching an eyebrow. “Honeymoon preparations, huh?”

 

Damn him.

 

“Not that it’s your business, but I-”

 

She paused, as a sudden memory handed her the perfect response on a silver platter.

 

“Well, actually,” she said, “I’m here to win that bet we made.”

 

And as she glided smoothly past him into the headmaster’s office, she could feel her face breaking into a grin. Because suddenly she’d realized why what she was doing now felt so intuitively right, made so much sense to her. She remembered a rather passionate promise she once made, back before her head had been too mixed up with druids and daevas to think anything useful.

 

Rhen Darzon, High Swordsinger. Abolisher of slavery on the Eastern Continent.

 

Oh, she could get behind that.

 

And for the very first time, she was rather liking her new fate.

 

----

 

For the record, the interview was brief and painless.

 

“I’m sorry that we can’t offer you a teaching job immediately,” Master Harald apologized again as she was leaving.

 

“No, it’s fine,” Rhen said. She felt a little deflated, it was true. But no one had said fulfilling her dream was going to be easy, and she was still on a high just from figuring out what said dream actually was.

 

“Well, I’m sure you’ll commend yourself with your work this term. I look forward to it, Ms. Darzon.” He paused, looking up from the pile of papers he was shuffling. “The keys to the school supplied apartment will be available at the main office. Rent is deducted from your salary, unless you rescind ownership.”

 

“The school supplies an apartment?” Rhen asked. “That- That’s really convenient!” She’d been worried she’d have to live in a hotel for the next year- she’d tried three districts and none had had any rooms for rent. Veldarah was suffering a housing shortage.

 

“Of course. It’s a job benefit. Good day, Ms. Darzon.”

 

She practically skipped out of the office.

 

---

 

Some time later, Lars decided to check up on her. Actually, he spent two hours keeping himself occupied with other things until he couldn’t take it anymore. It was all he could do to force himself to stroll languidly towards her room rather than making a mad dash.

 

As he neared the closed door he realized that she was probably out shopping.

 

What was she doing in Veldarah, anyway? No, that he could guess at (he thought). But where was Dameon? And why was she requesting a job, of all things? And yes, Lars already knew what she had meant by “winning the bet”, and it was perfectly ridiculous-

 

If she was out shopping, then why was the light on? He could see it glowing in the gap between door and floor.

 

…And Rhen had always been a fast shopper. Downright un-girly, really.

 

In two quick strides he was by the door. He didn’t bother knocking.

 

“You haven’t actually won the bet, you know,” He said, leaning on the doorpost. Casually, he looked around, seeking some hints as to why she was here. There were several bags strewn across the floor- he’d been right, she’d already gone shopping and returned.

 

She scowled at him. “What are you doing here? The teachers’ living facilities are for people who need them, you’re not going to tell me that you actually-”

 

“I have a lovely apartment of my own in the South Side, three times as big as this… thing.” He gestured dismissively.

 

“Figures,” she muttered under her breath, bending to pick something up from under the bed, and he felt the corners of his mouth twitch upwards despite himself.

 

“What are you smiling at?” she said, straightening up.

 

“Nothing,” he said.

 

“Nothing?” She echoed, hands on her hips, eyes narrowed.

 

She was being rather distracting. He had to force himself to keep his eyes on her face, rather than letting them wander just a… eyes on face, Lars. Face face face.

 

“You haven’t won the bet yet,” he repeated, as she seemed to have missed his first point. He still didn’t understand what was going on, but…

 

“I… why not?” She said, defensively.

 

“You’re not High Swordsinger yet, not even close. And judging by your pathetic performance in the past, and by my own, well, actual talent, I’ll be High Sorcerer way ahead of you.”

 

Rhen looked like she’d been slapped. “And here I thought you had actually change- You know what? Never mind.”

 

He felt a little stung. He had changed. He didn’t feel an immediate surge of disgust when he looked at a slave anymore. He was trying very hard to be more tolerant, and open-minded, and whatever other things Rhen had constantly ragged on about.

 

That didn’t mean he had to lie all the time, did it? All he’d done was state what was obviously the truth- He was talented, and she had failed her trials three times before passing.

 

Maybe “pathetic” had been a bit too harsh. That was probably it. God, women were so sensitive.

 

Rhen looked like she was trying to say something. She glared at him for a few moments, clenching and unclenching her fists.

 

“I won’t be a teacher’s assistant for long!” She declared, at last. “You’ll see, I’ll-”

 

“Wait, what?”

 

“I said I won’t be a-”

 

“Teacher’s assistant, I know, I heard you,” He said. He really, really shouldn’t laugh. It was really mean. It was also really hysterical. He struggled in vain for a moment to hold it in and at last gave up and collapsed, laughing so hard his ribs ached.

 

“I don’t understand what’s funny at all!” Rhen said, indignantly. The way she said it… the way her brows furrowed together… he felt his knees give way and he was on the floor, laughing so hard he couldn’t breathe.

 

“St-stop-” he said, struggling to catch his breath, “you’re killing me ahahahahahah oh god, ‘teacher’s assistant’, I think I’m gonna dieeee ahahahahaha.”

 

“What? What? What is so funny???”

 

With great effort he managed to finally stop convulsing with laughter, although he felt it lingering at the back of his throat ready to explode.

 

“Nothing. Nothing. Oh, Rhen, that’s great. I’m so-” The laughter was starting to bubble up again, and he had to take a moment or two to press it down before continuing.

 

“I’m so proud of you. I’ll be sure to-” breathe, Lars, breathe- “I’ll be sure to request you for some of my classeeessss-” His voice went high on the last note. That was it, he couldn’t take it anymore. A painful wave of laughter shook him helplessly and he rolled around on the floor, helpless in the pain of something that was just too funny, dammit.

 

---

 

She kicked him out of her room.

 

Literally.

 

He was curled up in a ball, rocking back and forth, refusing to stop with his obnoxious little giggles.

 

So she pulled back her foot and kicked, felt a sort of glee at the feeling of boot hitting flesh, even if he was laughing too hard to notice. He’d notice later, when it bruised. That was enough.

 

A few more kicks moved him inch by inch to the door. When at last he was out in the hallway, she stepped back to close the door.

 

“So when is Dameon getting here, anyway?” He asked, looking up at her, and she realized suddenly that he still didn’t know. Well, of course he didn’t, how could he? It wasn’t like she’d told him or that he could possibly have guessed yet.

 

Actually she’d been dreading this moment, having to explain and face his disapproval- why, why had she dreaded his disapproval? She could no longer remember- but now that it was here she was absolutely not in the mood. He was an annoying little prat, he could stew in his own curiosity for a bit longer.

 

“That’s for me to know and you to find out,” she said, sticking out her tongue, and slammed the door behind her.

 

She leaned against the door, felt her whole body go limp.

 

God, she was exhausted and irritable where just a little earlier she’d been fine. Lars drained her energy faster than a vampire drained blood.

 

And what had he been laughing about, anyway? She was only a teacher’s assistant because she had arrived after the beginning of a term, so there had been no teaching vacancies…

 

What was that he had said? “I’ll be sure to request you for one of my classes”? What had that meant-

 

Oh, no. No no no no no.

 

There was no way.

 

But he had arrived before the beginning of a term, unlike her. He was- it was painful even to think it, it was painful even to think it- a… somewhat capable sorcerer.

 

She felt her cheeks burn red. No fair. Absolutely no fair, that she was a teacher’s assistant and he was a teacher.

 

“No no no no no,” she chanted, willing it to not be true.

 

He probably had the lowest class. His students probably hated his guts.

 

That was right. He was probably having a miserable time.

 

And she… was going to be fine. Great. Life was awesome. And she’d win the stupid bet, too. And he’d grovel at her feet. And then the world would be perfect and lovely and… and she really needed to go shopping and that was all that she was going to think about for now.

 

Dammit.

 

---

 

 

What was wrong with him?

 

He’d avoided going to their wedding specifically because he didn’t feel ready to see her yet. And then two days after the wedding here she was- and he still couldn’t, for the life of him, figure out why- and he’d gone running after her like an idiot.

 

That he’d managed to hold out for two hours was not a comfort. It irritated him that even two hours had been so hard.

 

His ribs ached. He’d spent a month swinging back and forth between anticipating and dreading a reunion and when it finally happened he’d collapsed laughing.

 

Because he was an idiot.

 

Because it had been so funny- his lips curled up even now, thinking of it- and he hadn’t been able to help himself. Even if it wouldn’t have been possible for him to explain why to anyone else (Te’ijal would have understood, though).

 

She got under his skin too much, that was the thing. She'd hang around for a while, and when she got bored of whatever trick she was up to she’d head back to Thais with her new, wonderful husband (that prick, he couldn’t help but think, viciously) and life would go back to being as wonderful and awesome as Lars himself.

 

Dammit.

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More. Mooooore...okay, I know I should stop sounding like a zombie, but Blurble, this is pure awesome. And as much as I like Lars (double if he's with Rhen XD), that part where she kicked him out was just pure win. XDD

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I realize I haven't even responded to any of the commenters... Because when I see your comments I feel all happy and I run off to the write more instead of properly thanking you.

 

So, um. Yeah. Thanks. ^____^

 

---

 

@smirksweetly: I love your icon, btw.

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“Um, hello,” Rhen said, looking around nervously. She felt awkward and out of place. “I’m… um… the new teaching assistant?”

 

The woman turned towards her and smiled. “Oh, come in. I’m just setting up the next lesson… here, let me show you, you’ll be helping me with that in the future. I’m Sirona, by the way.”

 

“Um,” Rhen said. And then, realizing that she hadn’t introduced herself properly- “Rhen. Rhen Darzon.”

 

She waited for a flicker of recognition, mouth dry, and wondered how she would explain why the Saviour of the World was now a teaching assistant.

 

But Sirona just nodded.

 

“Alright, now you’ll be in charge of helping me. This is class 3C for beginner swordsingers, just basic sword technique. You’ll help organize the kids, give me back up when I need it.”

 

“I- um- will I ever get the opportunity to teach?” She said, and realized as soon as the words were out of her mouth that they were the absolutely wrong thing to say.

 

Sirona stiffened. “No, you’ll just… I’m the teacher here.” She paused for a second and then continued in a rush- “It’s just that it’s a big class and each kid needs individual attention, so I- not that I can’t handle an entire class myself, of course I can,” she said, trailing off, and her smile was a bit strained.

 

“I’m… I’m sorry,” Rhen mumbled.

 

“What? Why are you sorry? Who are you sorry for?” Sirona snapped, and Rhen decided to shut up before she made things worse.

 

---

 

Well, that had gone awfully.

 

After her bad start with Sirona, she really should have just kept her stupid trap shut. And she tried, really. She passed out papers and pressed kids feet into the right positions and corrected, over and over, their stances (was it so hard to put the right foot two inches in front of the left, shoulder-width apart? Two! Not five, not zero. Sheesh.). And she also tried, very hard, to not look as bored out of her mind as she felt.

 

It was just… That Sirona had said something about the Boot-Slapping Mara that Rhen happened to know was just wrong, and she’d blurted out a correction before she could stop herself.

 

Sirona had stopped dead still.

 

A kid giggled.

 

And then Sirona had said “Ms. Darzon, I think I know better than you what beat the Boot-Slappin Mara is.”

 

And Rhen had opened her mouth to argue and then shut it again, helplessly. There was no point in arguing.

 

Why had she needed to make the correction at all? It just… bothered her, that a teacher, a figure of authority, could tell a bunch of kids something that was so incorrect. And what if they needed that information in the future? What if they screwed up their trials because they tried to do the Mara in the wrong beat?

 

Of course you didn’t learn the Mara until after the trials. And the specialized instructor would explain that they were wrong and it actually wasn’t a two-three beat. And they would suffer absolutely nothing at all from thinking the wrong thing in the interim.

 

You are an idiot, Rhen Darzon, and your mother probably dropped you on the head as child, she thought furiously, and blinked away the stinging in her eyes.

 

When class was finally dismissed, Rhen could hear the ice dripping from Sirona’s farewell.

 

---

 

Rhen was miserable, and she was miserable that she was allowing herself to be miserable.

 

“Happiness is a state of mind”, she whispered to herself. “No one can make you unhappy but yourself. Happiness is a state of mind…”

 

It wasn’t Rhen’s fault that she was at an absurdly advanced level of swordsinging for her age. It was an unavoidable side effect of defeating the most powerful demon in the world. It was an even more unavoidable side effect of having ever wielded the sword of shadows… just once, but the memory hummed through her bones and tendons and made every other pointy object in the world seem laughably easy to wield.

 

No one seemed to remember that Rhen had saved the world, those that did seemed not to care. That was the thing- she hadn’t rescued them from a bad situation, she had prevented the bad situation from being allowed to happen at all, and so no one even noticed. Their comfortable lives had gone on uninterrupted, why would they know about how she had run around the world exhausted and dirty, nearly dying just so they could-

 

“No, Kyle, you should hold it like this, you get a much firmer grip that way.”

 

“But the teacher said…”

 

She gritted her teeth.

 

“Alright. I’m sorry. You’re right. Hold it like the teacher taught you, that’s a good boy.”

 

He was wonderfully obedient. He’d get A’s in all his classes and grow up to be a marvelously mediocre swordsinger.

 

But mediocrity was a good thing, wasn’t it? Being special just caused trouble and made people think you were an arrogant git.

 

This was probably what Lars felt like, all the time. No, scratch that. He had too much of an ego problem to care what other people thought of him.

 

She returned to her previous line of thought. No one cared! Ahriman had been the single biggest deal of her life, looming at the edge of her thoughts for over three years now, a mindless sort of terror that kept her awake at night, and no one here seemed to be more aware of him than vague rumors about some trouble with the druids that had sorted itself out.

 

Of course it had sorted itself out! She had been the one doing the sorting!

 

Bad topic to think about. Think about something else.

 

She had thought that talent was an asset to teaching. Apparently she was wrong, because now Sirona hated her, and it wasn’t like she ever got the opportunity to teach. She just helped the kids grip their swords and passed out the homework.

 

And the kids, for the record, were brats. Had she been this immature when she was twelve?

 

One day I am going to be High Swordsinger, she thought. All I need to do is bear with this just a bit more… Oh god, have only five minutes passed by? That was definitely twenty, that was… how much time is left? Three hours?

 

And finally, finally class was dismissed.

 

Thank god. She began to head out, when she noticed that someone- one of the kids- had left a bag behind. She knelt down to pick it up, but the strap was wedged under a bookcase… she pulled at it. Nothing. Harder, and the entire bookcase swayed.

 

She gritted her teeth, and with one hand steadying the shelf, she yanked. The bag pulled free.

 

She was about to get up when she heard Sirona talking.

 

“No, I’m fine, it’s great, thanks.”

 

Someone else, asking a question-

 

“Yes, well. It’s just that my assistant is so hopeless, y’know? She gets along terribly with the kids and yet she’s so stuck up. I’m thinking of asking to have her transferred.”

 

And they laughed and left, heels clicking-

 

What kind of swordsinger wears heels? She thought bitterly. She sank back down to the floor, staring at her knees.

 

---

 

On Tuesday, Sirona didn’t teach class, and Rhen slept in.

 

She woke to a knock at her door and dragged herself blearily from bed.

 

It was Neya, one of the office women-

 

“I’m sorry, miss. We forgot to tell you that your schedule’s been modified, you have a class Tuesday afternoons.”

 

“Guh?”

 

“We gave you a schedule,” Neya said, patiently. “But there’s been a change. So I’m notifying you now, because otherwise you might not know to go there. It’s our fault, really, but we didn’t get the chance to tell you earlier.” She paused, taking in Rhen’s bedraggled appearance. “I’m sorry. I did wait until I thought you’d certainly already be up.”

 

“’M sorry,” Rhen mumbled incoherently, “I zortuh zleep a lot. When I can.” (It was a habit you picked up, adventuring).

 

“I… I can tell. Have a good night- morning. Day. Thing.”

 

“Shuuure..” Rhen said, and yawned as she closed the door.

 

---

 

 

She woke with a start.

 

Crud crud crud.

 

How late was it?

 

Sunlight was streaming through the windows and she vaguely remembered that there was something she had to do today.

 

She glanced around frantically and saw a sheet of paper lying crumpled on her table.

 

Notice: Schedule Modification

Date: Thirteenth of Landsmet

Teacher: Rhen Darzon

Schedule slot: 12:30- 2:00

Change from: Free

To: Beginners Sorcery, Honors Class, Room 243

 

Huh? But she didn’t do sorcery, she was a swordsinger…

 

What time was it? Room 243 was all the way on the other side of the building, she was…

 

How had she even slept so long? She though, furiously, as she raced to get dressed.

 

---

 

“Today we’re going to be learning something absolutely essential to a successful sorcerer. As I can’t supervise you all at once, I have requested an assistant, and…” Lars paused, smoothly, just as the door slammed open, “here she is, just a few minutes late. I’ll forgive her this once, but I hope you all understand that for any of you that would be an immediate tardy.”

 

The class laughed.

 

Rhen, doubled over from breathing too hard, shot him a death glare. He smirked.

 

The class listened attentively as he explained that, while sorcery was not as obsessed with waving about things as swordsinging was- the class snickered, and Rhen rolled her eyes- it still did rely on an object as a conduit of power and as such it was essential that a sorcerer never let go of his staff or wand in a battle situation.

 

“You’ll be expected to practice your grip with these rubber balls- Ms. Darzon, could you hand them out?” He asked, gesturing to a pile of ping-pong sized balls. She stared defiantly at him for a moment, and then, as he waited patiently, drooped. Glumly, she began gathering the balls to give out.

 

“Thank you, Ms. Darzon.”

 

You are so so so dead, Lars Tenobor, she thought, viciously.

 

“But that’s work you’ll be doing on your own. For today, I’d just like to make sure that you are all holding your staffs or wands correctly.” He said, unaware of the curses she was mentally wishing would fall on his head.

 

Rhen watched sourly as the class lined up obediently. Why were they behaving so well? Her class could barely get through a simple set of instructions without dissolving into a group of boys fighting and girls shrieking. But Lars… held the kids captivated, brought them to order with just a well-placed look.

 

A ball had fallen off a desk. She reached to pick it up and the other balls fell out her hands, scattering all over the floor. She scrambled to pick them up, scooping them into her skirt.

 

“You missed one,” Lars said, and she turned to see him resting his boot-tip lightly on a ball that had rolled away. She waited for a moment, and then realized that he wasn’t moving to pick it up.

 

Face burning, she stood up slowly, skirt gathered in her hands. She tossed her head, face held high, trying not to look as mortified as she felt. Then she knelt down by his feet and scooped up the ball, half expecting him to snatch it away at the last second. She glared at him as she got up, and turned sharply on her heel to finish placing the balls on each desk.

 

“Now, back to what I was saying…” she heard him say.

 

---

 

He could feel her glare burning into him even with his back turned.

 

“Lars Tenobor.” She said.

 

He turned leisurely around.

 

“Yes, Ms. Darzon?”

 

She sputtered. “Don’t you- Don’t you dare ‘Ms. Darzon’ me, you insufferable bastar-”

 

He couldn’t help himself. “Would you rather I call you Peta?” He asked, grinning.

 

She snapped her mouth shut.

 

“I-” She said, and, closing her eyes, breathed in deeply. “You didn’t need me for this class. You were fine on your own.”

 

“Why, but Master Harald himself agreed that I could use assistance, being such a… young teacher, you know.” The extra emphasis was maybe laying it on a bit too strong.

 

“I hate you,” she hissed.

 

He didn’t really have a response to that, so he simply smiled in the patronizing way he knew she hated and turned back to get his stuff.

 

“If that really is all you have to say…” he said, not trusting his voice to keep steady.

 

“No,” she said, “I also hope that you writhe in agony for a billion years. So there.” And she stomped out of the room.

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At this rate, I'm going to die from pure Larshen awesomeness XDDD

 

Seriously now, I like your take at this. Rhen's having a wonderfully hard time - and you balance it with a good dose of humor (and yes, her reflections are also interesting. It makes the 'hero of the world' idea 'unglamorous' and realistic). And Lars! Capable and annoying as ever :DD

 

Thanks about the avatar XD I've only picked it up somewhere though...XD

 

More please! XD

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She knew something was up as soon as she walked into the classroom and saw Sirona smiling and waving to her.

 

“Good morning?” She said, confused.

 

Rhen,” Sirona said, steering her towards the front of the classroom, “I’m so glad you’re here. Isn’t that right, Master Harald?”

 

And Rhen turned and saw Master Harald sitting in a corner desk, looking… well, stone-faced, but that was pretty standard Master Harald for you.

 

“Class,” Sirona said, “Master Harald is here to check up on how well we’ve been doing lately.” The class shifted uncomfortably in their seats.

 

“And I thought… I thought, wow, isn’t this a marvelous opportunity to have Rhen here show us what to do! After all, she certainly seems to know the material much better than a lot of people here.”

 

“I… what, no,” Rhen said, “I can’t possibly-”

 

“Don’t be ridiculous, Rhen, why suddenly so shy?

 

“I haven’t even- I don’t have anything prepared,” she whispered desperately to Sirona.

 

“Oh please. If you had any ability at all you would be able to think of something,” Sirona said, dismissively.

 

Rhen, realizing that no one was going to rescue her, turned towards the class.

 

“Alright. Um,” she said, swallowing. Her throat was suddenly very dry.

 

“So, I guess we can go over some basic vocal techniques…”

 

“We already learned that last Thursday!” A kid called out. Several other kids snickered.

 

She flushed.

 

“I- Alright, I’m sorry then, I suppose we’ll go a little more advanced than that…” When had it become so hard to breathe? Four rows of kids staring at her and all she could think was I can’t do this I can’t do this someone help me I can’t do this. But Sirona was yawning and staring out the window, and Master Harald was… taking notes.

 

Rhen felt her heart sink to subterranean levels.

 

“Um. An important dance to know is the waltz.” The class stared at her impassively. In the back of the classroom one of the girls whispered something to her friend and giggled.

 

Rhen swallowed.

 

“The waltz is structured like a square,” She managed. “You step forward with the left foot, and turn as you step with the right…” She felt herself moving to her own instructions, “and as you are moving you bring the sword up for the left, slash with the right, and now you’re stepping back with the right and pulling back the sword at the same time, hopefully-” hopefully killing the monster in one slash, but if not, the great thing about the waltz is that it’s a box-step and really like a double-slash move, you barely need to sing at all because the dancing part is so effective and she never got the chance to say that because:

 

“But I don’t understaaaand,” a girl in the second row whined.

 

“It’s- look,” she said, and walked over to the kid’s seat, “stand up, here, I’ll show you,” and she guided the girl through the steps- “See, that’s how you do it, it’s not so hard, a little practice and it-”

 

“I don’t understand either,” a boy said.

 

“Don’t be stupid, it’s obvious,” the boy sitting behind him said.

 

“No it isn’t, it makes no sense!” The boy said, turning to shout, and the whole class began to talk at once.

 

“Stop! Stop, QUIET!” Rhen screamed. The class reluctantly subsided.

 

“Look, I’ll explain it again. All you need to do is bring your left foot forward, like this, look, it’s really not that hard once you break it into steps, and then you bring your right foot-”

 

It was all so clear and obvious in her head, why couldn’t she find the right words to explain it?

 

And her eyes were stinging and she couldn’t- she couldn’t cry in front of everyone, she couldn’t give Sirona the satisfaction.

 

Master Harald got up to leave the classroom- “I have some other classes to monitor,” he said, as he left, glancing at Rhen. As soon as he was gone Sirona stepped in and quieted the class down.

 

“Thank you, Ms. Darzon, that was quite enough,” she said, shooting Rhen a triumphant look. “Now children, what we were supposed to learn today was…”

 

----

 

He saw her leaving the classroom and paused, waited patiently for her to notice him standing there.

 

She bumped into him as if he wasn’t there.

 

“Sorry, I wasn’t looking where I was goi-” She began, and then looked up.

 

“Oh. Lars.

 

“Well, hello to you too. How was class?”

 

“Go jump in a sewage tank.”

 

“It was just an innocent question!” He protested. God, she was so touchy lately.

 

“Yes. You’re right. I’m sorry,” she said, smiling up at him, “it must be my fault that I don’t want to discuss my problems with someone who will probably collapse laughing at them.”

 

Oh. So that was it.

 

He thought that maybe he should apologize, but it stuck in his throat.

 

“I… I won’t laugh at you this time.”

 

“Good. I’m glad. Have fun not laughing,” she said, and stalked away.

 

“Wait,” he said, striding to catch up with her. She walked faster.

 

“I have longer legs than you,” he pointed out, and she broke into a run.

 

He started after her, but just then a classroom door opened and an entire class of advanced sorcery students spilled out. Cursing, he tried to press past them, and finally broke free of the pack to see Rhen rounding a corner at the end of the hall.

 

He raced down the hall and turned the corner without slowing, raced down the next hallway and paused, trying to figure out which way she had turned. To the right was a dead end. He turned and ran left.

 

For a minute he thought that he’d maybe he’d made the wrong choice, that she had thought to hide in a classroom down the right corridor and waited for him to pass. But then he saw her, headed towards the back stairs.

 

With a burst of energy he surged forward. She turned on the second flight and saw him coming.

 

“Stop chasing me!” She shouted, as she ran up the last flight. Was she crying?

 

“Stop running away!” He called, between gasps of air.

 

“No!”

 

“Then I’ll just have to-” up the stairs, past three students standing around laughing about something- “Keep chasing you, huh?”

 

Abruptly she turned towards him, buffeting him with punches and kicks.

 

“Why doesn’t anyone leave me alone?” She screamed, “Why can’t everyone just…”

 

He raised his arms to defend himself. “Alright, alright,” he panted, “look- I’m leaving you alone, now can you tell me what’s going on?”

 

“I…” She said, still breathing heavily, and then shook her head. “Forget it. There’s no way I’m telling you.” She had definitely been crying, her eyes were still wet, and as he watched she reached up and angrily rubbed them with her sleeve.

 

She walked away, sniffling, but this time let him keep pace with her.

 

---

 

When they reached her apartment she turned to face him, blocking the way in.

 

“Alright,” she said, “You’ve had your fun. I’m humiliated, you probably feel happy, now it’s time to leave.”

 

“I don’t understand what’s going on with you,” He said, pleadingly.

 

Going on with me? Oh, I’m sorry that I’m not being perfectly happy and joyful-”

 

“Rhen, at least try to be rational-”

 

“And you wouldn’t understand because your class listens to you and respects you and actually understands what you’re saying! And I just wanted to-”

 

He didn’t understand, she had that right. He didn’t even know what she was talking about, although it sounded like it had something to do with her class. But he was feeling extremely uncomfortable, watching her, her expression was making his brain shut down and all he could think was that he needed her to stop looking that miserable.

 

“Why don’t you take a break, go to Dameon and have him-”

 

Her face just… crumpled.

 

“I can’t, I can’t, oh god Lars I am such an idiot,” and she was sobbing hysterically and he had no idea what he had just said to make her react like that.

 

Come to think of it…

 

“And where is Dameon, anyway? It’s been a week, why hasn’t he shown up yet?”

 

“Lars, you slow, stupid idiot,” Rhen said, still sobbing, “Dameon isn’t coming.” And for a few moments she seemed to be trying to say something that he couldn’t understand because she kept dissolving in tears.

 

Finally she managed: “Have you completely not noticed that I’m not wearing a ring anymore?”

 

He hadn’t. He wasn’t going to say that, though. “Oh god, Rhen, I’m so sorry-”

 

“Why? Don’t be,” she said, and was for a moment strangely calm. “I’m the one who left him, and came here, and-” There came the sobs again.

 

“Rhen,” he said, and very tentatively reached out to touch her shoulder, “it’s okay.”

 

She didn’t stop crying.

 

“I’m sure he’ll understand and take you back, he loves you very much. Of course he does, who wouldn’t? He’d be an idiot not to-”

 

“I don’t want to go back!” she shrieked. “I only just managed to get away in time in the first place!”

 

“Then… then I don’t understand,” Lars said, completely confused. “What are you crying about?”

 

“Nothing. Everything. The teacher I’m assisting publicly humiliated me in front of Master Harald and I’m going to get fired and then I’m going to go broke and die of starvation and absolutely no one will care!”

 

Lars blinked. “What?”

 

“I don’t know why I’m still talking to you!” She screeched, and ran into the apartment, slamming the door. A few seconds later she emerged again. “And why are you still standing there?!”

 

“Rhen,” he said, “Rhen, how about we just sit down in a restaurant and you calm down and tell me what happened?”

 

She stared wildly at him for a second and then moved to slam the door again.

 

“My treat!” He burst out desperately, “I’ll pay for it, the entire thing, order whatever you want!” and as she paused to look at him with reddened eyes he felt a huge wave of relief. Oh, thank god Rhen Darzon still liked free food as much as she always had.

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I figured you should all know that in two days I will be leaving for a 5-week vacation somewhere that lacks access to this site.

 

I will try to get up as much as possible beforehand, and will hopefully continue posting once I get back.

 

Sorry for the inconvenience =(

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Awww...no updates for some time...I'll probably die while waiting...no, just joking XD More Rhen misfortunes and...wow, a dense but caring Lars. The combination is pure love. XD I love this story of yours so much, Blurble. XD

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“Alright,” he said, when they were done being seated and Rhen had ordered pretty much everything on the menu. “What exactly happened?”

 

“When are they going to be done preparing the food?” She asked, looking around.

 

Rhen” He said. “You were bawling hysterically just fifteen minutes ago. I’m buying you a meal, so you owe me an explanation.”

 

She grimaced. “Don’t wanna talk about it.”

 

“Why?”

 

“Just want to pretend it never happened.” And then, in a rush of words, she said: “Lars, I suck at this. At this whole teaching thing, I totally wasn’t cut out for it and I wanna quit.”

 

“Wait, just… backtrack a moment. Why do you want to quit? I thought you were really excited about this.”

 

“Yeah, well… I give up.” She stared morosely at her empty plate. “I just want to eat now, okay? Thinking about it is dumb.”

 

“I never realized you were this pathetic,” he said, and she snapped her head up to stare at him.

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“So all those big promises,” he said, gesturing grandly towards the ceiling, “that was all just a bunch of crap?”

 

“It’s not like that…” She protested.

 

“Oh, really? What’s not like that? You’re just a week into the job and already you’re crying like a baby. Wah, wah, ickle little Rhenny-poo is so upset, she’s gonna quit.”

 

“Shut up,” she said, glaring at him. “You don’t even know what happened.”

 

“Because you won’t even tell me! All you can do is moan about when the food is coming. Wow, Rhen. Just wow.”

 

She flushed at the sarcasm.

 

“Basically, I…” she mumbled, trailing off.

 

“This had better be good,” he said, goading her.

 

“It-!” she began, indignantly, then wilted. She looked down at her plate, fiddling with her fork.

 

“I’m an assistant for Sirona,” she said. “You know that.”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“She hates me.”

 

“That’s all?” He asked, eyebrows raised. “I thought you could deal with a little hatred.”

 

“Well, you certainly gave me a lot of practice-” She began, and then stopped herself. “It’s not that I can’t deal with it. I was dealing with it, even if it was miserable. It’s just that-”

 

“Excuse me, ma’am. Did you order the Smoked Veldtian Salmon, Lemon Artichoke Chicken, Chef’s Special Twisted Chips, Pecan Chicken Lime Salad, Grilled Pepper Steak, and Cheese Lentil soup?”

 

“Um… yes. Also a Berry Stick.”

 

“Your orders will be arriving presently,” the waiter said. Lars wondered if Rhen noticed the use of the plural.

 

“Thank you.” She smiled at him (Apparently not, then). The waiter bowed and left.

 

“You were saying...?” Lars prompted, impatient, and then groaned as a different waiter placed down a steaming plate of food by Rhen’s seat. He barely noticed another plate being placed in front of him, he was so busy fuming.

 

Just great. He was never going to wriggle the story out of her, at this rate.

 

For a few minutes there was no sound at their table but that of a million cows chewing their cud simultaneously, emanating entirely from Rhen’s side of the table.

 

“Y’know,” she said finally, around a mouthful of meat, “I only really started liking food onshe I wazsh a slave. Because there wazsn’t ever very much and sho I started to really appreciate it when I had it.”

 

“Mhmm,” he said, watching her decimate the piece of steak. He didn’t want to hear about what it had been like when she was a slave, it always made him cringe. He hadn’t been a particularly nice human being back then. (Nowadays, of course, he was absolutely perfect in all respects, but that didn’t make remembering his less-than-perfect days any more pleasant).

 

“What’sh wrong? Why aren’t you eating?” She said, gesturing with her fork. In the process, a glob of gravy dropped and fell onto his bread.

 

He winced. “No, it’s nothing. I’ve never had a big appetite, don’t mind me.”

 

“Figures,” she said, having moved on to next plate of food, which arrived as they were talking. “You’re a total pansy.”

 

He opened his mouth to reply, but suddenly she sighed and slumped back in her chair.

 

“I don’t really know what happened to me,” she said, softly. “I’m not really sure when my life got out of control, but it did and now I’m trying to figure out how to live normally and I realize I’ve forgotten. And I don’t know what to do. I’ve never had to find my own direction before, Lars, but now I did, I took things in my own hands, and I’m… I’m so scared I made the wrong choice.”

 

He started to respond but she cut him off.

 

“I’m not talking about Dameon right now, so please don’t start.” He hadn’t actually been about to say anything about Dameon, but he let her continue anyway.

 

“I mean, Dameon would have been easier, yes. It would have been the same thing as always, people telling Rhen what to do and Rhen doing it. It would have been easy but it would have been miserable and I’d probably have been dead of it within a year.”

 

“I thought you liked Dameon.”

 

“I-” She seemed like she was about to say something, and then stopped. “Never mind. The point is, it wasn’t what I wanted. And just once, when I’m, you know, deciding my entire future, can’t I have what I really want?”

 

He felt like he should argue with her, explain that it was stupid to leave a man you loved just to prove some point to yourself. Well, maybe he should, but he wasn’t going to. He had never liked the priest and he had been miserable when Rhen had declared she was marrying him, even if he would never, ever admit that. Dameon could give his own arguments, if he ever decided to come after his wife-

 

As if she had read his mind, Rhen said suddenly: “I didn’t even marry him. I ran away before that. And he’s not coming after me because he’s not the type, and because I left him saddled with the responsibilities of an entire kingdom.” She paused, and smirked. “That might have been a bit nasty on my part, actually. You must’ve rubbed off on me.”

 

“Oh,” he said, and looked down at his plate, trying to hide his grin.

 

“What’s with you?” Rhen said, suspicious. “You’re being weird.”

 

“Nothing,” he said.

 

She looked at him for a moment and then apparently decided to continue.

 

“I came here. I could’ve gone somewhere else, I dunno. Could’ve gone to Veldt and gotten myself a whole load of husbands to replace Dameon, had I wanted. But I instinctively thought of here. And now I dunno if I made the right decision.”

 

Finally they were back on topic.

 

“What happened to make you think that?”

 

“You wouldn’t understand,” she said, gesturing dismissively. “You have such an easy time teaching, you have such an easy time at everything…”

 

“And…?” He said, feeling his irritation rising.

 

“Today I got the opportunity to teach I’d been dreaming of and I froze up in front of the entire class, and Master Harald, too.”

 

“Why was Master Harald there?” He said, completely confused.

 

“I dunno, he was inspecting, or something. But that was why Sirona made me teach, because he was there, so I could mess up and look like an idiot-”

 

“Wait, what? What has Sirona got to do with this?”

 

“Sirona is the one who made me teach, because she hates me!”

 

Lars pinched the bridge of his nose, trying futilely to follow what Rhen was saying.

 

“I’m sorry.” He said. “If you could maybe start over, from the beginning?”

 

She gave him a look of utter disgust.

 

Fine. I walked into my classroom today and immediately knew something was wrong…”

 

---

 

When she finished telling him the whole sorrowful tale, at one point breaking into tears again (in between her third and fourth plate of food, washed down with that really delicious red wine they served here), she waited expectantly for him to offer her some sympathy.

 

He looked… annoyed.

 

“What?” She said, defensive.

 

“I don’t understand why it took you so long to say that. You could have just gotten to the point. Your boss hates you, she tried to embarrass you in front of Master Harald, you let her embarrass you.”

 

“First of all, I did just say that to begin with, remember? But you’re so stupid you didn’t get it, so I had to explain. And second of all, I didn’t let her embarrass me. It’s not my fault, I don’t get why you’re trying to blame me.”

 

“I’m not ‘trying to blame you’,” he began.

 

“Yes you are!” She said. “What, did you bring me out here just to make me feel even worse?” There were tears welling up in her eyes again, and she blinked them back furiously.

 

Damn him.

 

“Now wait just a- I didn’t bring you out here to make you feel bad. I was… I was…” He swallowed, apparently unable to bring himself to say the rest of the sentence.

 

“You were what? Gloating over the fact that you’ll be able to win the bet now? Telling yourself that you were right all along and I’ll never amount to anything?”

 

“That’s not it at all, you’re getting all worked up about-”

 

“Well, screw you!” She practically shrieked. “I’m not going down that quickly. I’m Rhen Darzon, I’ve already saved the entire stupid thrice-cursed world, so you can just take your stupid… stupid… face, and go… cry in a corner or something.”

 

“Oh, shut up,” he said, “I just paid for you to eat, not one meal, oh no, but six, and all you can do is rant and rave about-”

 

“Did you just say something about my eating habits?”

 

“Yes,” he said, standing up, “yes I did, you gorge yourself like a pig and it’s disgusting-”

 

“At least I stay skinny!” She said, standing up as well. “And I don’t eat like this all the time!”

 

“Oh, so you only stuff yourself when you’re not the one paying, that’s so much better-”

 

“Yeah, well- well you’re just a stuck-up, arrogant, spoiled rotten brat, so shut up!”

 

“That’s a brilliant response. I am so hurt, look, I’m reeling, oh no, someone cast a healing spell, quick!”

 

“If I had my sword on me I’d beat you up right now, I would.”

 

“Oooh, I am so scared, look at me, I’m simply quaking with fear.”

 

“You… I… Bastard,” she hissed, and stormed out.

 

---

 

She walked into the school building still fuming.

 

“Rhen!” Master Harald said. “Just the person I wanted to see.”

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Back from my 5-week long break.

 

Expect that tomorrow will be full of me getting AV3 out of my system with a few short (really) ficlets and then I'll look over my screenies, get myself back into a Rhen/Lars mood, and pick up where I left off (Lars knows Rhen's dress size. Someone write me a fic explaining how. It hast he potential to be truly hilarious, warm and fuzzy, disturbing, or all three)

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“Master Harald!” she said, forcing a smile. (Not now, not now, I can’t deal with this right now, she thought desperately.)

 

“I wanted to discuss something with you,” Master Harald continued, and her heart sank.

 

“Oh, I- ‘Discuss’, that’s very... I hope it’s not something bad?” She said at last, with a little giggle.

 

Master Harald frowned. “Well, I wouldn’t say bad…”

 

Rhen closed her eyes. Maybe if she just… counted to three, she would wake up and the past 24 hours would turn out to have been a horrible dream.

 

“Rhen?” Master Harald said. “Are you coming?”

 

She opened her eyes. “What? Oh… Yeah, I’m coming,” she said, and miserably followed him to his office.

 

“So,” he said, sitting down at his desk. “I spoke with Sirona today.”

 

She gulped.

 

“Um. You did? That’s… that’s…”

 

“I have decided that you might not be suitable, personality-wise, for teaching a class.”

 

Funny, how something she’d been telling herself for the past hour could sound so awful coming from someone else’s mouth.

 

“No, I- Master Harald, I’m just getting used to it, it’ll be fine-”

 

“So,” he repeated, “I spoke to Sirona.”

 

He paused. Rhen could hear the clock ticking, could feel the floorboards shifting ever so slightly.

 

So this was what it felt like to have your dreams crushed. Sort of like staring into an endless black pit, and the silence and the misery was like a stadium of people yelling “Jump! Jump! Jump!”

 

There was nothing she could say. All the protests had died before they could reach her lips. This was pretty much it.

 

“I understand, Master Harald,” she said, and noticed distantly how dead her voice sounded. “I guess I’ll… go clean out my room…” she said, surprised by how painful it was to force the words out. Had it been a week ago that she had been so excited about getting an apartment? What a stupid little girl she’d been.

 

“What do you mean?” Master Harald said.

 

Rhen blinked. “Well, if I don’t have a job here anymore-”

 

“You think I’m going to let one of the most talented swordsingers this Academy had ever produced walk away?” He said. It was his tone of voice more than anything that got through to her- somewhere between amused and incredulous, even if his face was still as perfectly deadpan as always.

 

“But… But you just said that I-”

 

“That you pretty clearly can’t teach a class, yes. That doesn’t mean there isn’t what you could be doing for us here.”

 

She straightened up proudly. “Master Harald, if you’ll excuse me, but I don’t want a consolation job. I have a certain dream and I can’t-”

 

“I would not do you the injustice of offering you a ‘consolation job’, Rhen. I am thinking specifically of something you are uniquely suited to do.”

 

She stared at him.

 

“Would it… would it include the possibility of eventually becoming High Swordsinger?” She blurted out, and then with a gasp covered her mouth. She hadn’t meant to say that.

 

Master Harald stared at her for a moment and then very slowly began to chuckle.

 

“I see you have very grand dreams,” he said.

 

She flushed. “I didn’t mean… I’m not trying to be disrespectful or anything, of course I’m far too young, it’s just a… just a dream…” She trailed off.

 

“Well,” he said, “Who knows? Maybe you will, someday. But if so,” he said, expression stern, “standard protocol is that you will need a recommendation from us first.”

 

“Um,” she squeaked.

 

“As I have already said, I don’t think you are suited to teaching. It takes a very specific set of skills to do that, not just swordsinging. But I do think you would probably make an excellent tutor.”

 

“Tutor?” She repeated, numbly.

 

“There are certain students in Shadwood Academy who are… unique. Difficult, if I may be frank. But I think that you… and your unique experiences… would make an excellent match. I noticed today that your style is more suited to one-on-one interactions. I have already checked with Sirona and she has agreed to give you up as an assistant.”

 

“Agreed?” It was barely a question.

 

“Yes. With some enthusiasm, I noticed. She also said some things it is not necessary to repeat.”

 

“I would… I would be tutoring students?”

 

“It can be a difficult, time-consuming job,” Master Harald said. “If you’re unwilling, I suppose I could-”

 

“Tutoring?” She said.

 

Yes, Rhen, tutoring.”

 

“One-on-one? Not in front of a classroom?”

 

“If you have been listening to a single thing I have said this entire time-”

 

“I… I… I’m so happy right now I think I might hug you.”

 

“Please don’t.” Master Harald said. “I take it you are interested in the job, then?”

 

“Yes yes yes yes please.”

 

“Alright,” he said, almost smiling (very impressive for Master Harald). “Well then, I will have the paperwork delivered to you later this evening.”

 

---

 

She walked up to her apartment wallowing in the glory of the opportunity she’d been granted- an escape from Sirona, an escape from the classroom she hated, an opportunity to actually teach the way she wanted instead of being forced to parrot things she disagreed with… even the students she was being assigned, who would probably not be the kind that mindlessly went along with whatever an adult said…

 

Actually, she could see how that could become a problem. But.

 

But she hadn’t anticipated that things could possible turn out this well. This was much, much better than she had dreamed of. She hadn’t even thought tutoring was a possibility but as soon as it was presented it seemed obvious, that she’d prefer the chance to individually work with someone and to have time to explain, carefully, exactly what she meant instead of having to go with what would work for the majority of the class even if it left some kids behind.

 

She was so distracted by it that she didn’t think of Lars until she reached her apartment.

 

That nasty, horrid little…

 

Why was she so angry? She couldn’t remember anymore. There was just a white-hot rage coursing through her, so violently strong it left the tiny part of her mind that was standing apart from the storm rather surprised.

 

He had taken her out to dinner.

 

She wasn’t sure why.

 

Everything else fit into what she expected of Lars. Gloating at her misery? Nothing new there. Making nasty comments? Practically standard.

 

This was Lars, for heaven’s sake. The Lars that had taken Rhen the innocent, happy girl and tortured her into Rhen the angry, repressed teen. Admittedly some other people had been involved as well, notably Ahriman, the slave trader… But it had always been Lars she had blamed, in the back of her mind.

 

The realization gave her pause. She hadn’t- She hadn’t really realized that she hated him this much.

 

No, she hadn’t realized. Adventuring had held it off for a little while. She had been too full of what needed to be done to have any room left for what needed to be felt.

 

When she felt herself cringing when people looked at her, she was always aware that once upon a time she hadn’t been so shy. No, as a child she had been very outgoing and talkative. Introversion hadn’t come naturally, it had been forced upon her by a year and a half of slavery in which she had been harshly punished whenever she dared to open her mouth. And when at last she had gotten a chance to escape and be free, he had followed her and made her life miserable once more. She knew that there had been happy, wonderful moments during her time at the Academy, but what she remembered most vividly were the miserable ones.

 

And in her mind Lars had, for a very long time, been the cause of all that misery.

 

So of course she hated him. It made perfect sense.

 

It was just that… Somehow, things weren’t the same anymore. It was all well and good to say that her feelings had been held in suspension during her adventure, but life had not. Lars had… Lars had apologized, as if that would ever come close to being enough-

 

But what more could he do? He couldn’t turn back time, he couldn’t… He had fought by her side all the way until the very end, he had been the only one who had never, ever left her, even if it was only because of his stupid, stubborn pride. And she had said she’d forgiven him. She had meant it, too.

 

Only… that sometimes she got confused. She was so used to hating him. She had been for such a long time…

 

And why had he brought her to that restaurant anyway? She struggled to come up with an answer, with no success. And when she finally went to sleep that night it was still turning round and round inside her head.

 

---

 

At three in the morning she sat up bolt upright in bed.

 

Oh God.

 

She had walked out on him.

 

The hatred and anger from earlier that evening had left her, like a bad dream or a bout of insanity. She was left cold-sober, staring blankly up at the ceiling, pretty much ready to curl up into a ball and die.

 

What the hell was wrong with her? First of all, she didn’t hate Lars. She hadn’t, for quite some time now. You run around the world with someone through all kinds of hell, you don’t hold on to little grudges from back when you were just kids. She was supposed to be beyond that. That day in their house in Sedona when he had apologized she had been fully aware of what she was doing when she had forgiven him, and she’d thought herself mature enough to go through with it anyway.

 

And last night…

 

He had gone to the trouble of taking her out to a restaurant and suddenly she realized that he had probably done it to comfort her, for reasons presumably understood only by Lars Tenobor.

 

And then she’d had a breakdown and walked out on him.

 

Well, of course she had, she’d been miserable and depressed and positive that she was going to be fired, or that worse she was going to have to face Sirona again the next day.

 

But now neither was going to happen. The future was bright and rosy and wonderful, and she had behaved perfectly abominably towards him.

 

He had behaved perfectly abominably back, but he was Lars, wasn’t he? Acting like an insufferable jerk was his default mode, he probably had it etched into his DNA. She’d spent three years traveling the globe with the guy, she had thought she’d finally learned how to look past the… the… insufferable jerkiness.

 

In any case she certainly should already have known that it took him special effort just to act like a normal human being. And he’d probably been trying, and in any case there was no denying that he had in fact paid for a meal for her, which meant that in any case she owed him some gratitude, not just a…

 

Walking out on him.

 

She rolled over and stuffed her face into her pillow, willing herself back to sleep. Tomorrow she’d find him and… sort this out, somehow.

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