Chapter 5 – Always together
The breakfast, therefore, went smoothly. Everyone was happy, relaxed and content; the gathered talked, chatted, laughed almost as if nothing had happened. Merlin and Arthur already left for Camelot that morning, urged as it seemed by the need to rebuild the kingdom as soon as possible. But the rest of the Seven Sins were trying to look forward with the optimism that comes from knowing that evil is behind them.
“Hey. “What do you say we spend the day out today?” Proposed Meliodas with his eternal joy. “Just like in the old days, when we met again.”
“I think it’s a great idea!” Elisabeth echoed. “We can go to the lake east of Liones, by the western forest.”
“Yeah, let’s go!”
Diane got excited. Ban and Elaine, for their part, merely exchanged complicit glances before nodding almost simultaneously.
“I’ll take care of the food, Cap’n. No problem.”
At that statement, even King’s eyes shone, although it was Hawk who first expressed everyone’s thoughts aloud.
“Oops! If… There is a Ban-made banquet not even I would resist it!”
Liones’ market, especially at that late hour, was a veritable hive of people doing their last shopping for the day’s lunch and dinner. Ban, despite reluctantly returning some greetings from holy knights and ordinary citizens, all excited about getting a closer look at one of the kingdom’s legendary heroes, kept his attention focused on what each stall was displaying. Of course, he told Meliodas that if he wanted something moderately acceptable, Ban would need enough money to buy it. And what did Meliodas do? Exactly. He had asked his future in-laws for half of it. Ban shook his head, amused.
Cap’n is and will always be incorrigible.
At shoulder level, Ban heard a chuckle and, without almost intending to, chanted it.
“Get out of my head, missy,” he barely scolded her, lovingly. “Or during the trip, you will ruin more than one surprise for me.”
Elaine repeated that sound, heavenly to Ban’s ears, in response. Before releasing her arm, she put her hands behind her back with an innocent air and purred:
“Yes, sir. You’re in charge.”
Again, Ban barely held back his fun as his eyes settled on the not entirely acceptable looking vegetables.
“Gods… Is there no way to find anything decent in this market?“ he grumbled wearily.
“What’s going on, Ban?” Elaine asked, curious.
He made an eloquent gesture towards one of the stalls, located right next to one selling vegetables.
“If I take this to the Cap’n, he’ll eat me raw for not bringing him anything of quality” the human complained. “We should be able to find something…”
Ban and Elaine stopped in their tracks and turned in time, looking for the source of that sound. After a couple of seconds, they discovered a shopkeeper waving to them from a slightly off-road position. Cautiously, they approached.
“Are you looking for quality food, my lord?”
Ban contained the need to squirm at that name. Where other men and knights liked pompous treatments, he hated them with all his might.
“What do you want and what do you offer me?” The Fox’s Sin demanded, wearingly.
But, to his surprise, the shopkeeper only smiled with a mysterious air before waving to them and, seen and unseen, disappearing inside the shop. After barely a minute of tension, the two lovers saw the shopkeeper come out with a box full of vegetables that looked far fresher than those they had seen so far.
“For you, sir. For only five silver coins.”
“What does this mean?” Ban inquired, pissed off. “Five silver coins are almost an insult to the quality of those vegetables.”
The shopkeeper showed a strange, though not aggressive, smile.
“You should know by now, Mr Fox’s Sin, that nobody here gets the best of the best at first glance. Only if someone is willing to buy it. But–For someone like you, I d not know how they did not throw in their best stuff as soon as they saw you appear.
Ban was stunned, so it took him quite a while to be able to respond. When he did, a grateful grimace had finally come to his face.
“All right, salesman,” he agreed, before crossing a meaningful look with Elaine. “Let’s do one thing. I’ll pay you ten silver coins if you deliver three times as much product like this. Pick it to the eastern gate of the city, let’s say in half an hour, shall you? I want seasonal vegetables, the best meat you got, bay leaves, salt and Southern spices. Deal?”
The shopkeeper looked at him with wide-opened eyes.
“Three times this…?”
Ban showed a wolfish smile.
“No offence. But even though this quality is better, I can tell that it’s been in your warehouse for at least a day. So– I think it’s the best offer you’re gonna get today. Ain’t it?”
The seller’s face, for a moment, seemed to go through all the possible colors. Before, of course, succumbing under the burning gaze of the former Sin and accepting the agreement reluctantly. Ban smiled, pleased.
“Half an hour! Don’t forget about it!”
The human and his flying companion then turned around and went back into the marketplace, laughing low about what had happened.
“Did you see the look on his face?”
“C’mon. He couldn’t have the nerve to sell us that like that, could he?”
“I’m sure that, if I think about it, Hawk will steal our food seen and unseen–“
They walked absorbed in their thoughts that they didn’t realize they have reached the Eastern city gate without almost pretending to. It was open, so both lovers sat down next to some barrels to wait for the delivery. Just enjoying the sun, the quiet and the mutual company. After a while, the rest of their companions arrived with them, turning that corner almost into a private party.
However, once the food arrived, Ban accepted the wagon under the promise of returning it that same night, he dropped two more silver coins to the astonished driver for the inconvenience. After he and Elaine settled in the davit, the rest of the troop sat with the packages in the back and the group left Liones towards the lake that Elisabeth mentioned a few hours earlier.
Once by the water, Ban prepared to cook lunch among some nearby rocks. Elaine went to help him while the others enjoyed the sun and water. The atmosphere could not be more idyllic. The respective couples were eating side by side, getting into a frenzy of fun and nonsense every few minutes. Meliodas, in his line, didn’t miss a chance to get his hands on Elisabeth whenever he could.
However, near sunset, when everyone was sitting on the sandy grass on the shore recalling old fun facts, at one point, King got up and flew away into the woods without giving any further explanation. Elaine immediately turned to see him leave, before saying a swift goodbye to a Ban as surprised as the rest of those present. Then, without saying much more, she marched after her brother. As she imagined, she found him standing on a high branch, sitting; looking into infinity with a contrite expression.
“Brother. Are you okay?” Elaine asked as soon as she reached his height, leaning on the closest branch.
King, for his part, took a long time to respond. When he did, it was a barely audible whisper.
“Yeah… It’s just that…” The Fairy King turned slowly, facing his younger sister. “You and Ban… You’re not going back to the Forest with us, are you?”
Elaine sighed, feeling dejected.
“Harlequin…” She whispered, getting closer to him. “I–Well, we–Now that all is over–We want to be together. To take advantage of the fact that–”
The girl hesitated, not knowing how to express it. The rage that flooded King whenever Ban was present had never gone unnoticed; but, at the same time, the blonde perceived her brother’s inner struggle as an open book.
“You love him, don’t you? “ Asked King, without looking at her.
“More than anything else in this world, brother,” she muttered, before moistening her lips and going on. “Now that evil has been defeated in all its forms, I need to know what it feels like.” Elaine bent her chin with turned cheeks. “Ban and I– We never had a chance to do or live what regular couples would do; we couldn’t even know what it would be like to be together for real. These past few months–” Elaine smiled unwittingly. “I must confess that, despite being between life and death, I’ve never been so happy in my entire existence. To be with him, to feel how he cared for me, how he loved me–and believed in me–” Elaine’s heart crushed a bit as she remembered their reunion. That moment, guided by the malicious hand of Melascula. “I– I’d love you to understand it,” concluded the fairy with a bit of regret. “Although– Say you can’t stand Ban. But he’s my whole life, Harlequin– And I don’t intend to give it up for anything in the world–Whether being in the Fairy Forest or not.”
King shrugged himself off and looked away. He had stared at his sister while she spoke, not quite knowing what to say. It was true that he was stung by the fact that, of all the damned humans in the world, Elaine would have had to fall in love with ‘him’. But, on the other hand, she was right. If for other things Ban had always been and would be the most carefree person in the world, alcoholism aside, as far as Elaine was concerned the young Fairy King knew that the man would give his life for hers. Without any hesitation, moreover.
“I don’t want to lose you again either, Elaine,” he confessed then, rather embarrassed. “I–I know what I did to you. I know it was wrong and–I want to make it up to you. As I can.” The Fairy King faced her with tears in his eyes. “Will you please let me do it?”
At that point, Elaine, moved, immediately approached him and took his hands, looking him straight in the eye.
“Brother,” she whispered, “you will always, always,” she stressed, “be a part of me. We are of the same flesh, of the same blood–The same sap.” With care, Elaine turned the palms of King’s hands and caressed the lines of his palms. “I forgave you a long time ago for running away from the Forest,” she said, smiling lovingly, “but I also know that no matter what happens, we’ll always be connected. You are my big brother, aren’t you?”
King, feeling that he could no longer hold back the crying, hugged her back as he buried his face in her shoulder.
“I love you, Elaine.”
The fairy parted and looked at him lovingly.
“You’ll be a great king–And you’ll have a huge queen by your side. Of that, there is no doubt.”
A strange joy seemed to glow in King’s eyes before that.
“Well–Let’s say that’s pretty literal.”
Elaine burst out laughing against her will.
“Come on, let’s go with the others before they miss us. Shall we?”
The Fairy King nodded. At least, before letting herself be held by his hand and fly back to where the others were. He remembered, like a precious treasure, the phrase she had said and with which he could not agree more:
We will always be connected. You’re my brother, aren’t you?