– Malkuth - The Pure Virgin. The reward of the Magister Templi.1 –
"My selfishness is like an incandescent, sharp storm that, ruthlessly, won’t be stopped by anyone.
Once awake, this burning monster opens paths never seen before,
demanding a world of his own, a world I know that doesn’t belong to me.
Even so, the impulse that drives it forth is pure and, like such, irresistible ...
This is the true voice of my heart.”
In a silent agreement we waited until he left, to be sure we could talk without being overheard.
Lea smiled happily and hugged me again.
“Thank you, Mari! Thank you so much!”
“What for?” I asked, holding his small, apparently frail body against my chest and he looked up at me, his eyes looking even brighter.
Once more I remembered how much I’d missed him. How much I’d missed the smell of wet dirt after the rain of his hair, or his mischievous smile. I didn’t know for sure how many times I’d hallucinated, hearing the sound of his golden bell echoing all over the house, or even his fast running footsteps on the stairs.
“For letting us stay.”
“You have nothing to thank me for. To tell you the truth, I’m being very selfish right now,” I confessed and smiled at his puzzled expression. “I’m doing this for me. Because I don’t want to be left alone, again,” I admitted and he looked at me with a serious expression. And I knew if anyone could understand the true meaning of my words, that person was Lea.
“You won’t be alone anymore, I promise! And you don’t have to worry about anything. We’ll protect you!”
The absolute confidence in his voice left me slightly embarrassed and I tousled his hair as if that could maintain the image of the small child I tried so much to hold on to.
“I know that! And I’m sorry. I’m sure I’ll only end up making everything much more difficult for you all. And that you would all have it easier if you would just leave. But even so, I don’t want you to go! I know I’ll never forgive myself if anything happens to any of you because I’m being stubborn. But still, I can’t make it weigh enough to change my decision.” Lea seemed to seriously ponder my words for a moment.
“It’s not really like that,” he said. “Although I might not have liked it all that much in the beginning, and sometimes I still struggle against it, the truth is that your presence has a big influence on all of us. These last few days were ... very difficult. Master was always in a bad mood, hardly speaking to us unless to talk about ways to destroy our enemies, even though he never wanted anything to do with this war before. He never smiled and rarely slept. All he did was give orders to everyone,” he lamented with a sorrowful expression. “I missed being here a lot.”
I recalled the letters Steph had given me and smiled.
“But he never stopped thinking about you, not even for a moment. He knew you missed me,” I told him.
“Even so, he kept telling us we were never coming back,” Lea said with a sigh. “Even when he was hurt. He forbade me from bring him here, and I waited for him to get better, hiding him while Alexander distracted our enemy. But he didn’t get better at all! And I didn’t know what else to do. And I thought that if I disobeyed him he’d get mad and punish me, that he probably wouldn’t want me anymore.” The anguish in his voice told me exactly how hard it had been for him to make that decision. “But I just couldn’t watch him suffer any longer. And so I decided I didn’t care what would happen afterwards, if it meant he’d get better. Not even if he decided to kill me. But then ... everything changed. He didn’t get angry at all, or even punish me for disobeying. He began smiling again and playing with me. I think he’s also much happier here. I guess Master also missed you very much, but of course, he’d never say anything like that,” he added, lowering his voice to a whisper as if he were afraid someone other than me might hear him, and I couldn’t help laughing at his secretive expression.
“I guess it’s hard for him, dealing with things like feelings,” I supposed after our previous talk and Lea nodded.
“I suppose. Because Master rarely deals with other people and he’s kind of indifferent to everyone around him.”
“Except you.” Lea smiled at that, his eyes alight with pride.
“What about you, Mari? Did you miss us?”
“I almost died from missing you so much!” I confessed. “I guess I don’t know how to live without you anymore. Which is probably not good at all. But I don’t really want to think about that right now. I was also really, really happy to see you all again. Even though you scared me to death!” I scolded him and Lea smiled.
“I knew you would help him!”
“I didn’t do anything special. I’m quite sure that if he’d been Human, he’d be dead without a doubt.”
“Even so, you did help him!” he insisted and his expression became more serious. “And by the way, let’s see it.”
“See?” I asked unable to understand, and Lea poked my ribs with his small finger, making me cringe in pain as I tried to avoid his touch.
“You were hurt yesterday, when Master threw you across the room.”
“It’s fine. It’s nothing, really,” I told him, but I still placed a protective hand over the area that hurt, so that he wouldn’t poke at it again just for the sake of argument.
“Let me see.”
“Really, Lea. It’s fine.”
Lea folded his arms and gave me a threatening look, but still I wouldn’t capitulate.
“Fine then! I’ll just tell Master to come and take a look,” he decided, nimbly jumping from my lap, and I hardly had enough time to get ahold of him, stopping him from walking away.
“Wait! Fine! I’ll let you see,” I conceded and took a deep breath, pulling my pajama top up.
I looked down at the area that had been hurting since last night. I still hadn’t had the chance to do it myself, and couldn’t help feeling impressed by the large purple area that covered the skin over my ribs. No wonder it hurt so much, I mused as I noticed it had even spread to my back. Lea’s grave expression made me smile and pull my top down again.
“It’s not as bad as it looks,” I assured him. “We Humans bruise easily.”
“But it’s so big.”
“It’ll be fine in a couple of days,” I insisted but he looked unconvinced. “You can’t tell him about this, Lea. He’ll be angry and he’ll use this as another excuse to go away. And you don’t want that, right?” I urgently added and he shook his head. “So please,” I pleaded once more, knowing he never hid anything from Gabriel, hoping that the idea of having to leave would be enough to persuade him to keep one small secret, and Lea sighed.
“I won’t tell,” he promised me, but his expression remained grave. “But now you have to take care of yourself, Mari. Okay?” I nodded trying to reassure him and he sighed again. “I better go and see what Master is doing. You get some rest. I’ll come and call you when lunch is ready.”
“Okay.” I decided it best to play the good girl, wondering if a lunch at four o’clock could still be called a lunch, and Lea gave me a last worried look before leaving me alone.