I don’t know why my stomach twists into knots as I make my way toward the shrine. Each step up the stone stairs brings me closer to Valmong, and though he all but told me he wanted me to stay, I can’t help but worry. Wanting me to stay amidst the stress of our quest – the constant danger we were in – is completely different from the reality of our situation. I’ve already interrupted his life so much – do I really need to throw another wrench into it by sticking around? We barely know each other.
And yet it feels like no one has ever known me quite as well as he does. It’s too late to change my mind anyway – Claritas made that crystal clear.
When the shrine comes into view, I freeze. I know he’s only a few yards away, meditating, having gained a new acceptance of his connection to Tenebrin, his duty to the temple. My hand holds the railing, and I can’t bring myself to move. Around me, the sky grows darker, until only a few scattered lanterns light the path. In the valley below, I can see the faint glow of the temple’s torches. The shrine’s light is a beacon at the top of the path, beckoning me to keep going. Rather than continue and potentially interrupt Valmong, though, I decide to stay put and wait for him. Maybe it’ll give me the time I need to calm my nerves.
No such luck, though.
The sound of footsteps startles me from my thoughts, and I jump, turning in place.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to…” Valmong’s eyes widen when he realizes it’s me, “Camilla?”
“Hi.” I try to smile, but once again my nerves get the better of me and it comes off as more of a wince.
“I thought Claritas sent you home.” He comes closer, but keeps a little more than a foot between us, his approach careful. “Is everything okay?”
“Yes, everything is fine.” My reassurance does nothing alleviate the concern in his eyes, though. They practically glow, and like so many times before this, I find myself almost falling into them, his gaze intense and unyielding. “She, um, gave me a choice.”
“A choice?” There’s a note of hope to his voice, and some of my nerves fall away.
“To stay or go back.” I fiddle with the front of my cloak, twisting and turning the material as the words fall out of me. “There’s nothing for me to go back to. And you said you wished I could stay. And this place is amazing. I don’t know how I’d be able to go back to my old life, knowing that this one exists. Knowing I’d never…never see you again, and-“
Valmong closes the distance between us in a single stride, cutting my words off with a kiss. His hands brush my cheeks as his tail wraps around us, pulling us closer. For the first time, I don’t hesitate and kiss him back immediately, relief settling into my bones.
Be sure to check out the rest of the responses at the prompt.
As always, keep on keeping on!