Side Story: The Expedition Begins
Editor(s): Joker, Speedphoenix
“The mission we are to embark on is one on an unprecedented scale!” Carlotta’s voice carried easily through the hall and reached all two hundred of the paladins that gathered within it. “It must end without any sort of mishap whatsoever, lest we want to be forever branded as failures. Double check all of your equipment, and make sure you leave nothing behind. We don’t have enough nannies on staff to bring you your bottles if you forget them.”
A chuckle briefly rippled throughout the crowd, but soon died down. Every knight was disciplined enough to keep his or her eyes on either the lectern or the speaker standing behind it.
“Be proud, men. Today is the day we forever engrave our names in history. Now move out!”
Many of the knights cheered as the commander stepped down from the platform, but again, soon regained their calm. The entire unit then began to leave the hall in a manner so organic that it could’ve been mistaken for a single creature if viewed from afar. Carlotta nodded in satisfaction, glad that the results of their training and experience showed.
Just about everything seemed to be in order. Their supplies were ready, and morale was at an all time high. Of all the factors to consider, only one caused the veteran any concern.
Nell. The frown that sat on the girl’s face had been present since she first saw her that morning. It was like the hero was lost in thought, brooding and unable to conquer whatever it was that was frustrating her.
Remarkable was the best way to describe the growth she had demonstrated over the past year. The timid teenager had blossomed into an incredibly reliable soldier capable of handling creatures that left her peers with nightmares. And she did all of it cheerfully. Nell was always willing to work through her queue, knocking out one difficult task after another without pause.
Her physical abilities had always been high. Pairing that alongside her newfound mental fortitude had allowed her truly to become the hero that Allysia had required. But the matter of fact was that she remained a young girl, one that had yet to fully mature into adulthood, and that was something that only time and experience would resolve.
Carlotta felt it necessary to psych the other girl up. Her involvement was too crucial to their success, and the state of her mind was sure to have an extensive influence on her net output; if anything went wrong, Nell’s full attention would likely be required to rectify it. As her boss, and as an adult to a younger counterpart, she felt it was her responsibility to help Nell sort through her troubles, even knowing that she was the type that generally had it together.
“Is something bothering you?” Carlotta approached Remiero’s successor, whose brow remained furrowed even now.
“O-oh, hi Carlotta.” Nell reacted with a start.
She’s never been the greatest at hiding her feelings, thought the older paladin. “I’m here if you need someone to talk to. I know you’ve been stuck on something all day.”
“Well, I wouldn’t say it’s bothering me, exactly…” Hesitantly, Nell nodded herself and began to elaborate. “But there is something I’d like to consult you about. Would you mind giving me some advice?”
“Of course not.” Carlotta consciously softened her expression in order to make it easier for Nell to open up to her.
And after a brief moment to gather her thoughts, she did just that.
“C-can you tell me the best way to seduce a man!?”
Carlotta’s initial reaction was to speak with confidence, but most of it turned to confusion as her mind processed Nell’s question; the conversation had taken a sudden turn in a direction far outside her expectations.
“I-I thought about being direct and telling him I want kids, but that’s not actually true. Having kids now would get in the way of my work. I considered just asking him directly anyway, but that would just make him realize that I uhm… want to do it, and I don’t want him to think that I’m dirty. I-I think it’d be best if he came onto me instead, but I’m not really sure how I’m supposed to get him to ask.” The words came out of her mouth with all the speed of a hurricane.
I have no idea. Why are you asking me…? Carlotta opened her mouth to voice her first impression, but stopped before the words left it. She realized that she would have to be very careful with her response if she wanted to accomplish the goal that had led her to initiate the conversation. The best way to do so, as far as the commander was capable of discerning, was to outright solve the concern such that the worry would no longer arise. She wanted to give the scenario some serious thought, so she asked an obvious question to buy herself some additional time.
“Are you considering seducing Masquerade?”
A wave of lethargy washed over Carlotta’s mind, followed by a minor migraine.
“Given that the two of you are already married, I’d say it’d be best for you to be honest and inform him of your desires.”
“Even about things like this?”
“Especially about things like that,” said Carlotta. “If you aren’t able to be honest with him, then your relationship will be brittle and fragile. It won’t last forever like that. In the first place, I don’t believe it to be healthy for a married couple not to engage in any physical intimacy.” She pat the other girl on the back. “While men often take the lead, there’s no reason why a woman couldn’t, and in some cases, shouldn’t. Waiting for him to make a move on you doesn’t have to be your only option.”
“Of course.” Carlotta wasn’t confident in her statements, but doubling down was the best choice to remedy Nell’s indecisiveness, so for duty’s sake, she continued. “Any man with a pair between their legs would love for a pretty little thing like you to come onto them. Admittedly, we would prefer that you don’t have a child immediately, but if that’s what you really want, then I’ll make sure to give you my full support.”
“D-don’t worry, I wasn’t planning on having one just yet either!” said Nell, now once again full of energy. “It’ll be really embarrassing to talk to him about it, but I guess I’ll have to give it a go. Thanks for talking me through this!”
“I’m glad to have helped.”
After observing the hero for another moment and concluding that her job was done, Carlotta murmured a statement under her breath. “That should be enough to keep her in a good mood…”
Carlotta almost wanted to comment on the shift in Nell’s personality—she’d become bolder and a lot more shameless. In a way, she’d started to resemble the mask-wearer that she had married—but she didn’t.
The awkward, drained smile on the commander’s face conveyed everything that needed to be said about her thoughts regarding the change.