"I…" Leguna was at a loss for words. He knew he had misspoken. If he said something else wrongly, he would only make the sensitive girl even sadder.
Seeing Leguna's hesitation, Innilis's face became soaked.
"You know how I feel, Big Brother," Innilis continued, blushing, "I don't want to be just your little sister. I like you and want to be with you. I want to be your lover."
Kurdak shot two hurried glances at the others and the three left.
Leguna kept his silence. He had long known Innilis's feelings, but he didn't know how to respond. He had to deal with Annelotte and Eirinn and he didn't want to add any more troubles to his weak heart. No matter how Innilis pursued him, he didn't respond. But what was he to do now she'd brought it up explicitly?
"You know…" Innilis paled. "But you don't like me. That's why you've never said anything."
"No! Innie, don't–."
"Don't, Big Brother. I know you don't like me. I know you don't because I'm useless. That's why you only spoil me like a sister."
"Nonsense! I like you, how could I not?" Leguna panicked.
"You may like me, but you don't like me," Innilis said dejectedly, "Give me a chance. I will definitely grow! I will become someone useful! Promise me!"
Leguna fell silent again. Innilis's ideas were twisting, especially her perception of him. He didn't feel that way. He just couldn't deal with three women, especially not in his current condition. He didn't dare acknowledge her feelings because he knew he couldn't care for her. His heart was already too burdened. Even now, when the girl had forced him into a corner, he just could not take her.
At the same time, however, he could not change her mind. Just trying to would probably break her. He was the only thing she had left, and whether her emotions were true love or just a severe attachment out of fear of having nothing, he could not just yank it out from under her and crush her hopes.
He couldn't correct her. Correcting her would be breaking her. He had no choice but to once again go along with the flow, to let others dictate his life.
"Fine! I will keep an eye on you, okay? Now go show me what you can do!"
"Thank you!" Innilis's face brightened up the moment she got her way. She shoved herself onto Leguna's chest and stabbed a long kiss into his cheek.
"There, now I've given you a promise. You still have to stay here, though. The war is no place for a girl like you."
Innilis's eyes darkened considerably.
"I promise I'll come back in half a year and see what you've been up to, okay?" Leguna quickly added, "I'm also not just leaving you here. I've arranged for you to stay with Annelotte."
"What do you think will happen?" Vera asked, walking out of the room unwillingly.
"Don't worry, Ley will take care of it!"
"Tch, I don't think so," Vera countered, shaking her head.
"Come on, Innie looks tough and fierce, but she's a gentle girl at heart. Leguna just has to spoil her a bit and she'll be fine."
"What do you think, Eirinn?"
"I don't know. I hope they will not have a falling out," Eirinn answered.
"Hmph! Annie, you, and Innie are easily the best women in the world. What do you three see in someone so heartless?" Vera shook her head.
"Stop joking around! There's nothing going on between me and Big Brother!" Eirinn hurriedly said, touching her face, "I'm not a great woman. I'm just an ugly one."
Vera knew she had talked about a touched a touchy topic.
"It'll be fine. Ley will find a way to heal you."
Innilis and Leguna came out at that moment.
"Are you.. alright?" Eirinn asked after shooting Vera a smile.
"We're fine," Innilis answered.
"So, what now?" Kurdak asked.
"She'll stay here." Leguna sighed, "Sorry, Innie. I don't want to leave you here, but it's my only option."
Innilis shook her head.
"I know, Big Brother. Just don't forget our promise."
"Of course.–" Leguna stroked her blonde hair. "–I will watch you!"
The group met up with Annelotte a few days later.
"Hey, you didn't 'eat' Innie last night, did you?" Kurdak asked in a hushed voice to the black-eyed Leguna.
"Don't spout nonsense! I'm no beast!"
Innilis refused to let Leguna sleep alone on their last night together. She insisted on sleeping with him that night, but Kurdak, Vera, and Eirinn refused. Leguna, however, overruled them and locked himself and the little girl in the room.
There was no chance Leguna was not fumingly curious about the female sex, but he had at least enough restraint to keep his hands to himself. It did help that Innilis was just 13 and had yet to develop as a woman. He'd actually practically been forced to agree. Innilis was so dependent on him that if he didn't, she might just break completely while he was gone.
She didn't sleep that night, however, and neither did he. He just lay there awkwardly as she clutched his arm and stared at his face the whole night. If not for how awkward he felt at her stare, he might have lost himself to her smooth skin, smell, and heat, and she might just have become his first conquest.
Nobody believed him that nothing had happened, however. Eirinn especially, stared gentle daggers at him, as if completely disappointed in his utter lack of morals.
"Wait, you really didn't touch her?" Kurdak asked. His voice was tinged with both relief and disappointment.
"There was touching… She hugged me the whole night," Leguna answered through grit teeth.
"Holy hell. Yeah, you're not a beast, you're a thousand times worse!"
Leguna wanted to cry, but had no tears.
Annelotte's ice-blue hair, her trademark, had to be hidden. She used a glimmer spell to hide her appearance, so she looked like an average, bland girl.
"Innie," Annelotte whispered as she stroked the girl's blonde hair.
"Who are you?"
Only Leguna and Vera had seen that disguise before, so only they recognized her.
"It's me, Boss." Annelotte spoke. She wondered how Leguna had seen through her disguise. Vera had only found out because Annelotte spoke to her through a conference spell, but she didn't remember showing Leguna anything.
"A glamor spell?" Kurdak asked.
"Sis Annie!" Innilis cried, her mouth beaming a smile.
They talked for a bit before Annelotte nodded.
"I'll take care of Innilis. Don't worry about her."
"We're counting on you," Kurdak said.
"You take care as well… You must return alive."
"Don't worry! We'll be fine!" Leguna said, cracking a cocky smile.
Annelotte turned and left with Innilis. Leguna had once again stopped existing.
He immediately became depressed. He cheered only slightly when Annelotte waved at them over her shoulder before she and Innilis vanished.
"I'll build a reputation for myself! I'll become stronger! Wait for me, Annie! Innie!" Leguna yelled as the two girls disappeared around a corner.
"Alright, let's go pack up," Kurdak said, glancing at Eirinn, whose eyes were watery.
The start of a new journey! Leguna thought.
"Sis Annie," Innilis asked as they walked.
"Can… can you be my teacher? I want to learn magic."