The moment happens not too long after the journey begins, when things still aren’t too bad and Boey is mostly worried about how things are holding up back home.
They’ve taken Barth’s keep, formally introduced themselves to the trio of Valbar, Leon, and Kamui, and are otherwise are just resting before they set out again the following dawn. The captives they freed from the dungeon are grateful, and understandably so—there are even a few sailors Boey recognizes from Novis, who hug him like he’s their own son and beg him to tell them how their families are. No one is ashamed as the food storehouse is raided and everyone indulges in what hasn’t gone bad. Boey just wishes that, despite their overwhelming victory, everyone would be just a bit more serious around here. There are still pirates out there, ones that haven’t heard that their leader has been felled, and they can’t afford to let down their guard. Not ever.
The halls of the Pirate Throne are dim as the golden sun sinks behind the horizon. The scent of blood still lingers in the air, but the scent of salt, spray, and fish overpowers it. Boey is glad, as while he is used to charred flesh and pools of red by now, he would rather sleep that night with thoughts of the sea on his mind rather than battle.
“It’s weird, don’t you think?”
Boey pauses. Admittedly, he has been looking for Mae for a while now—just to chat a little, maybe boast about how well he did that day during the battle. It was his second time exercising his Thunder spell, after all, and he’s pretty proud about it. Of course, he’s not fond of stepping in on private conversations and even less so of eavesdropping. Were it not for Genny piping up, he would have turned right around and gone in the other direction, forgetting that he had even found Mae to begin with.
“I don’t think so. You’ve known him longer than Celica, or me for that matter.”
Boey stops mid-step. Him. It is obvious which him she is referring to. The fact that they’re talking about him is enough to override his common sense this one time, and he does not like it one bit.
May the Mother have mercy my soul if I am caught, he bitterly thinks.
Still apprehensive, Boey carefully flattens himself against the wall and looks in their direction of their voices. He can see the very tips of Mae’s blossom pink twin tails, and they sway as she shifts her weight.
“I don’t know. I mean why should I even be thinking about it? Besides the whole bickering thing, we could be dead tomorrow and or in another month! What’s the point if there isn’t even a chance for anything to happen?”
“Mae, that’s very…pessimistic of you,” Genny says.
My thoughts exactly. Boey feels his lips twitch in a frown. Without context, he has no idea what she is talking about in regards to it, or for anything to happen. He is also concerned that the conversation is clearly about to take a heavy turn. This isn’t like Mae at all.
“Hey, gotta be realistic about this whole trip,” a white glove briefly appears from around the corner, probably in a dismissive hand wave. “I mean I would like for us to all go home safe and sound, but there is a chance we might not make it out alive. Just gotta hope that the worst doesn’t happen, I guess.”
Then again, she is talking about it as casually as she would the weather. Mae has always had a habit of downplaying serious topics in order to keep a lid on her own insecurities. There are only three people she has never kept the facade up around—Boey, Celica, and her own mother. The white-haired mage almost lets out a sigh of relief knowing that she isn’t being too odd this time around.
“I hope it doesn’t,” Genny says with a slight whine. “You and Boey both have families who care about you. And Celica—”
“Hey, all of the clerics back home LOVE you, okay? Don’t act like you’re the only one who doesn’t have people who would miss you if you disappeared!”
Mae lets out an aggravated sigh. Yeesh, and Genny hasn’t even said anything relating to not having a family of her own. She did seemingly predict where the curly-haired cleric was going with that statement, however, and Genny sounds a tad flustered when she musters the courage to speak.
“Y-yeah, sorry…” she pauses for a moment. “I think you should try, though. I mean you and Boey. If you do die—which I hope you don’t—do you want to have any regrets?”
And now, the conversation shifts back to him. Maybe he should walk away now. If there is anything that he shouldn’t be hearing—
“Ha! What are you? Sister Joyce?” Mae barks out a laugh. “Not that you don’t have a point. I just keep wondering if he feels the same way.”
Boey feels a dull thud in his chest. Heat flares up in his cheeks and he covers his mouth to stifle the surprised yelp that threatens to spill out. Wait, feels? The same way? Still, that could refer to anything, really. Right? Right?!
“If I have to confess something,” Genny says. “It’s been as plain as daylight for years now.”
“Wait, what do you mean?”
Okay, he really should be walking away now. He should. Try as he does, it’s as if his feet have been nailed to the floor. He can’t move, can’t stop listening, can’t run away even though he wants to.
“Well, let’s see. At every meal, he always sits next to you. The only time he isn’t with you is when one of the clerics needs him for something, or it’s bedtime and you gotta go to your rooms. He often invites you to come with him on his monthly visits home and unlike with everyone else, he never talks to you in that funny, fancy way of speaking. He’s comfortable around you and smiles the most when you’re around.”
Boey squeezes his eyes shut. His palms are all sweaty, his face feels as though it’s burning, and he suddenly feels very dizzy. Thoughts run rampant through his mind, trying and failing to fit together, and it isn’t until the next exchange that everything arranges itself.
“Okay, but friends are also like that with each other and that’s what we are! Friends!”
“Mae, he loves you. At worst, he probably just hasn’t realized his own feelings yet.”
The words hit Boey like a sword to his chest. His heart pounds in his ears, fast as a rabbit, and he doesn’t know what to do. He just doesn’t know what to do.
At last, he bolts. He bolts down the dirty hallway and doesn’t look back. Genny is just spilling nonsense now. Nonsense! There is no way that he loves that annoying, goofy, adorable, bundle of energy. No way! She’s just putting ideas in his head. This whole situation was set up just to play a cruel prank on him.
That is what his mind tries to convince him. The heart, on the other hand, always speaks the truth and will eventually defeat his denial, one way or another.
“Do you think that was him?”
Mae peers down the hallway. Unless a barrel counts as a person, there isn’t anyone there. Even so, she could have sworn she heard someone running away frantically just now.
“I don’t know,” Genny shrugs. “If it was—”
“I hope it wasn’t!” Mae’s cheeks turn as pink as her hair. “That would be the most EMBARRASSING thing if he knew I liked him. I can just see it now; him, laughing with the other guys about how stupid little Mae has an requited crush on him. Ugh!”
“Mae? Can I be honest with you?” Genny asks.
Mae laughs dryly. “You’ve been honest with me up until now. Why stop?”
“Okay,” Genny takes a deep breath and speaks in the softest, gentlest voice possible. “You really need to stop lying to yourself.”