Hours later, Joshun came down from the second floor of their sleeping quarters. Immediately, Aishinn stepped in front of him and bounced on the balls of her feet, looking at him in anticipation. He nodded his head in the direction of Anya’s room, and she quickly scrambled upstairs with a wide smile. Later, he would find her curled up with Anya, fast asleep. Their fingers will be intertwined as they held hands in slumber.

Terra smiled a bit. “Aishinn has always adored Anya,” she murmured. “It’s like having another baby sister.” Joshun sighed. “Good lord, not another one,” he muttered. He allowed the twins and Drugar to leave and report back tomorrow, but Slynn and Terra stayed with him. Joshun busied himself with putting the lanterns up and getting dinner ready. 

“So, you’re really doing this?” Slynn asked Joshun as they ate in the quiet of the incoming evening. “You’re really going to block Pleoz from seeing her?”

“He should be thankful that’s all I’m doing,” Joshun said. He tore off a piece of bread with his teeth. “You’re taking this all too personally, Joshun,” Terra cautioned. 

Joshun stopped chewing and slowly turned his head to regard his second. He swallowed as he bore his eyes into her. “My little sister almost DIED just a few hours ago, Terra,” he said in a low voice. “You tell me if I won’t be taking what he caused in her personally, because it’s fuck like I will NOT.”

Terra put her hands up in mock surrender. “I’m merely saying that Daron is influential, even with the Emperor himself. And EVEN without his father’s help. He could very well ask the Emperor to place us in some kind of restriction.”

“He won’t do that, not if he’ll bring up what he’s just done as well,” Joshun replied. “He’s too damn arrogant and proud. He’ll try to work it out on his own. I know his style.” Slynn lifted his mug to them. “Hear, hear. I concur. He thinks he can do everything by himself.”

“What bothers me is how he’s so set on seeing her, now that there is talk of him getting engaged. Won’t that jeopardize what he has with that noblewoman?”

“Anya is now seen as a challenge, and Daron HATES to walk away from challenges,” Joshun growled. “Especially now that he knows of her feelings for him. He doesn’t let women get away from him easily.” Slynn nodded again. 

Terra coughed a laugh while she sneered. “That’s so chauvinistic,” she chuckled. “Well, he’ll have to deal with the ever-protective older brother then. As well as us.”

“Thank you,” Joshun said. He looked at Terra and Slynn. “Aishinn will have to stay with her for a while. She presents the least amount of threat, at least visually. I’ll allow her to go back to the royal laboratories. The rest of you will go back to the usual posts to make sure that Daron thinks he has a chance.”

“Are you sure she can handle it? Anya?” Slynn asked. Joshun nodded. “She may be heartbroken, but she’s strong. She’s stronger than me.” With that, he took a long draught from his ale. The rest of the dinner continued in silence.

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