After a long walk from Basilica Vadisium to the dormitories, Robert and Cristophe arrive in front of the room where Carol is resting. Chris knocks the door and Iris opens it for them. The elf acts a bit cold towards Chris, her boyfriend whose real identity she never knew until now.
Chris signals Iris to come to him so they can talk in private outside, and Robert comes in. He sees Carolyn, sleeping in her bed, with Father Andreas Marvellini beside her, treating her. Her face looks peaceful and normal, means that Zal’fira’s poison in her body is neutralized, just as Algaban, Andreas and Chris said. Now Robert verifies it with his own eyes, and his heart is now at peace.
I bet she’ll be very eager to see me. I better stay here until she awakes, and let her feel the joy of our reunion.
Robert takes a seat near the wall and prays. Suddenly he hears Carolyn’s voice.
Robert finishes his praying immediately and comes near Carol at once. But Andreas halts him, putting his index finger in front of his lips and says,
He points at Carol. She’s still sleeping. She keeps murmuring Robert’s name. Robert is startled to hear that.
Ah, Chris is right! She keeps thinking about me, even in her sleep! But... but I can’t accept her love. I just... can’t.
Robert quickly turns away and walks towards the door.
‘Wait, Robert,’ says Andreas.
Robert stops, but doesn’t look back.
‘Please stay and listen to me for a moment.’
Andreas comes near Robert, and as he establishes eye-contact with Robert he talks on.
‘You know, I know, Chris and Iris know that Carol cares greatly about you. What makes you feel so hard to embrace her love? I mean, she’s not bad-looking, right?’
‘It has nothing to do with her looks. I must admit that she’s intelligent, resourceful, active, careful, and caring. She will make a perfect wife, but not for me.’
‘Are you married? Or are you in love with somebody else?’
Robert pauses. It looks like he is gathering his courage to expose his innermost secret to another person. So far only Rael’charon, the Royal Advisor of Lore knows. After a long while, with a sigh Robert begins explaining.
‘Yes, father, I do.’
‘Well, want to share it with me?’
Robert wants to talk about it outside, but as he hears faint voices from Iris and Chris’ discussion there he decides to talk in the room in low voice instead.
‘You see,’ Robert begins. ‘I knew this girl since childhood, and when we grew up we grew fond of each other. Her parents are nobles, and so was my master. Although we were neighbors, my status as my master’s bodyguard and apprentice prevented us to see each other freely. Then, I went to battle as a scout under my master. My master fell, and then I was relieved from service.
My hope of being a noble was lost, and I parted with her, saying that we cannot be together. I chose a life as a bounty hunter to forget about her, but no matter how hard I tried, I’m in love with her still. My obsession to obliterate every orc in this world to avenge my family wasn’t strong enough to erase my love for her. At the end, I resolved that all is not lost. As long as we’re still alive, I can see her again. And, if Vadis is willing, I can be a noble or she gave up her title so I can marry her as equals. I’m working hard for that day.’
‘That’s why there’s no room for Carol in your heart right now. Such a great love you have.’
‘Ah, what is love, really? Love is about the merging of two different people with different paths of life. It takes sacrifice, selflessness and commitment from both parties so a relationship can grow. If one is forced or willingly chooses a separate path, the other has to sacrifice to follow that path. If not, well, that’s why couples break apart.’
‘So, in other words,’ says Andreas. ‘A true love means sacrificing our current paths of life and go together along the same path until death do us part.’
‘Exactly. I live for you, and you for me, even if we lose our lives along the way. No regrets.’
‘No regrets, you say? You could lead a much happier life with another. What if she has already married with someone else?’
‘I love her and she loves me in return, that’s all that matters. If she stopped loving me, that’s a different case. The real case is she still swore her love to me at the eve of our parting, so I know she is still waiting for me. Although we can’t be together, I’ll always cherish our memory and live on. I do what I do best, and by Vadis’ will, as my friend once said, maybe, just maybe, our paths will meet again in this world or another. No regrets at all.’
‘Someday I want to meet this friend of yours. I bet we can talk for days and never get tired.’
‘Yeah, I’m glad he enlightened me. Tell you what, when Carol is healthy enough to travel again, after our tasks here are done, we’ll go to Lore and meet him.’
‘... And meet your girlfriend too.’
‘Yeah, that too.’
‘Ah, how I miss my family in Grad.’
‘Let’s pray that your paths will meet again.’
‘Amen to that. Well, that thing also applies to our fellowship, right? I’m glad our paths meet again.’
‘And our bonds become stronger than ever now we show our true selves, not hiding in our masks anymore.’
‘Oh? You mean, you don’t mind having a prince around to travel with us?’
‘Well, as long as Chris keeps using his name “Christopher” and doesn’t go demanding me to bow before him every time I go near him, I really don’t mind at all.’
‘You do have a grudge with his brother, as I may recall. Doesn’t that bother you?’
‘A bit. But he killed my master in a battle, mind you. As the saying goes, “Everything is fair in love and war”. I won’t go punishing and hating all Arcadians to avenge my master. But one thing, if they dare set one foot in Lore to annihilate our countrymen, they must pay with their own lives!’
Andreas falls silent, now understanding the whole thing. Understanding Robert and appreciates him more.
‘Robert... Robert, it’s you!’
Robert and Andreas turn to look at the bed. Carol is now awake, and Robert embraces her like a brother to his sister. Carolyn cries on Robert’s shoulder and hugs him so tightly as though she will never let him go. As she does so, Carol’s face looks very sad and bitter. Robert just lets her pour all her longing and joy on him, and as usual, he rarely shows his smile.
So close, yet so far away.
Meanwhile, outside the room, the elf enchantress and the prodigal prince are hugging and kissing each other lovingly. After reaching a new understanding for each other and renewing their commitments, Chris and Iris pour all their love and affection into one sweet embrace. It strengthens their bonds and rejoins their paths of life.
From attraction to affection
We join in a mutual union
At first we
wear our masks
For many yet untold reasons
Why lie? Why hide?
kisses are so painful to lose
When rock steady is our way
We put our masks
And voila! Our roots of affection
Will mend our friction
away, tearing apart
Ripped in two ways, trunks depart
Truly, love is
When we wear our masks of soul