My husband and I had been planning our next area of search when the messenger burst into my office with the news that my daughter, my dear Autumn, had finally been found. However, she seemed to be captured by bandits; the very same bandits that were terrorizing my merchants. I made the decision that our next move would be that Leon and I go after her ourselves. So, with only an hour's preparation, we set off into the wilderness of Orlania once again.
We rode side by side on our horses through the forest road. I cleared my throat. "Lovely day, isn't it?"
"Yeah." He nodded.
"Sort of reminds you of our first adventure, does it not?" I gazed around me at the greenery. Sunlight streamed in through the overhead canopy, speckling our route with gold and emerald light.
"My only hope is that I may protect you better this time around."
I could not help but wince at the memory of my old wound. The scar had, thankfully, been erased by Elvin magics, though the memory remained for all time. "Don't worry; I am more than capable of handling myself. I've matured since then."
"But have you gotten stronger?"
"Of course!" I held my head high with pride. I was quite confident in my abilities with my sword.
Leon gazed at me evenly. "Kat… You haven't wielded a sword in years. Five, at least. We should probably make sure you can still fight."
"Of course I can fight. No need to stop."
"Are you saying that because you don't want to, or are you trying to distract me?"
I felt my anger beginning to bubble. Taking a quick breath, I turned to him with a forced smile. "Darling, I'm fine. Let's just keep going."
"You know you can't fight."
"I was thinking that after we all return home, we should take a vacation to Emstarina Island."
"Kat, don't change the subject." His stern voice cut through me.
"I'm just saying that we should all have some family bonding time."
He moved his horse closer to me. "Kat."
I felt a sort of frustration building up within me. "I… I think it would be a wonderful idea!" My voice hitched two octaves, at least.
"Kat, listen to me." He grabbed my arm.
"Let go of me!" I screeched, stopping the horse and dismounting immediately. I wrapped my arms around myself and collapsed to my knees.
He followed suit and knelt before me. "Kat, I can't help you unless I know what's wrong." He gently lifted my face to his. "Tell me what you're feeling. I want to help you."
"I… I can't do this…" I bit my lip as I felt tears pool in my eyes. "I don't have any idea what I'm doing. I just… I'm so worried about her…" I threw myself into his arms as I began to cry again.
He grunted at the impact of my body. "Damn, when did you get so emotional…"
I sniffled and wiped my eyes. "Excuse me?! This is your wife you're talking about!"
"I know. You weren't like this when we were married."
I pushed away from him. "What are you saying?"
"The girl I fell in love with never would have given up. She would keep fighting. And she definitely wouldn't be sitting in the middle of a road in the forest crying her eyes out." He stood up and reached for my hand. "The girl I fell in love with would be laughing and singing with me."
I took his hand and allowed him to help me up. "Tell me more about your girl, Leon."
He smiled gently. "Well, she's amazingly beautiful."
I crossed my arms. "Oh really? Is she now?"
"Yes. Her hair is as red as the autumn leaves and her eyes are as blue as the ocean."
"She sounds wonderful." I stifled a giggle.
Leon nodded in agreement. "Oh, she is. Not only that, but she can fight with a sword better than many of my soldiers."
"Or at least, she used to."
"What happened to your girl, Leon?"
He became sad then, gazing at me with a sort of hopelessness. "Her father died and she became busy. Suddenly my girl didn't want to fight with me anymore. She didn't laugh or sing. I hardly ever see her now."
"Do you…miss her?"
"Yes. I miss her every day. I would do anything to get my girl back."
I embraced him tightly. "I'll help you find your girl, Leon. I promise."
He reached to cup my cheek. "See? You aren't crying anymore. The girl I fell in love with taught me that; distract someone and make them smile. Laughter solves everything. That's what she believed. Laughter and harmony."
"I know you'll find your girl again. I bet she misses you too."
"I hope so."
I drew my sword slowly with a smile. "In the meantime, why don't we have a spar?"
Leon jumped back and wielded his blade. "Wonderful idea."
In the middle of the road, we battled. I tried to perform some of the attacks I remembered from my youth; however, in my inactivity and older age, they were impossible. The match didn't last very long due to my exhaustion. I finally conceded defeat and leaned heavily on my sword as he stood over me.
"I told you." He placed a hand on my shoulder.
"I didn't even think I had some of these muscles!" I groaned, fumbling to sheath my blade.
He sighed. "We'll have to train you again every day. In the meantime, we should probably keep going. We've wasted enough time here." He went to mount his horse again.
"Agreed." I deftly climbed up on my own and turned it to the direction of the nearest town. "Just… Take it easy on me, won't you?"
He smiled, his icy eyes flashing. "Of course, love."
I grinned as we took off down the road. It felt good to be my old self; the self that wasn't obsessed with money and bookwork and papers. For the first time in a great while, I felt…free.