Lunch went well, and everyone had enough to eat.
Jonathan carved and let the girls talk to each other. He knew it would be good for the two of them to have some more friends. The only real downside to this was that he either needed to make sourdough bread or buy some bread from the village when he went down there tomorrow.
There was a knock on the door, and Jonathan now found himself tired of surprise guests. He drew the line at two at the same time. Despite his misgivings, he still stood up and answered the door.
Two boys stood outside on the leaf covered porch; Jonathan kept forgetting to sweep it, but with the sudden influx of visitors, he found himself reconsidering the importance of the chore.
Kern—albeit it was a bit hard to tell his expression with the bangs over his face—looked unsettled; he had never really been in the deep forests and didn’t like it much. The plains and hills were far more welcoming.
Beside Kern, a bit shorter and with closely cropped hair was Bas Legen, the 4th prince of Malamut. Represented by his practical clothes and short sword at his side, he was used to travelling around various places. His expression held worry, but not due to the scenery. “Is Cornelia here?”
“She is,” Jonathan confirmed, and stepped aside to allow the two in.
“Who are you?” Was the immediate question asked by both Bas and Tam. As a result, the four teenagers, even Kern, looked at Jonathan.
Jonathan huffed and picked up the plates on the tables to start washing them. “Handle your own introductions.”
“I’m Bas.” The prince smiled as he sat down. “I like cards and travelling.”
There was an arrogance in her voice. “Cornelia. All of you know me.”
“Tam, a squire at the capital. I like hunting.” She waited a moment then glanced at Kern.
“I’m Kern. I’m the apprentice of the same swordsmith as Cornelia.”
“Anything you like to do?” Tam questioned.
“. . . I like gardening.”
Bas laughed. “Somehow, that makes complete sense. You seem like the type of person with the patience to wait for things to grow.”
Kern tilted his head. He was confused by the comment, but let the conversation move along.
Jonathan looked at Cornelia, then gestured to Kern.
Cornelia hesitantly nodded.
“Sorry to interrupt, but I need to talk to Kern and Cornelia about something outside.” Jonathan pasted a smile onto his face. “It won’t take long.”
“And what are we supposed to do in the meantime?” Bas complained.
Jonathan dryly replied, “Talk to each other and finish the dishes.” He ushered the two swordsmith apprentices out the door and walked a little bit into the woods, just to decrease the chance of Tam and Bas eavesdropping. Afterwards, the man stood at a distance to allow the two some room to talk. Of course, it was just at a distance that meant he could still hear the conversation without intruding too much.
“What’s this about?” Kern questioned. He was shifting uncomfortably, clearly uneasy with not knowing what was wrong or whether he had done something wrong.
Cornelia wanted to bite at her nails, but clasped her hands together behind her back to stop the nervous habit. “I wanted to talk to you.”
“About . . . ?”
“ I’m sorry. I hated feeling like I was ignored and that you’re progressing way faster than me. I’ve been feeling jealous and I’ve been ignoring you because of that. And that’s . . . that’s wrong of me.”
“Oh. So, I wasn’t imagining that.”
“I didn’t like that everyone seemed to like you.”
“Everyone likes me?”
“Yes! They do,” Cornelia declared. “Don’t say that like it’s some weird thing.” She shivered a bit as the chilly wind blew past her.
“It is, to me,” Kern stated. He drew his coat in and hunched into it, but the reaction wasn’t just because of the breeze. “I always feel like I’m behind. I joined later than most and everything is new. I’m trying my best, but I’m also not the best with people. I overthink everything.”
“I. . .” Cornelia paused and remembered what she had been saying before. With a bit of frustration she asked, “Do you accept my apology?” She hated getting sidelined, and she really didn’t want to repeat all of that again.
Kern didn’t seem taken back by the scathing glare, only amused. He was a bit sad that the young girl had actually been ignoring him; he wanted to get along with all of his fellow apprentices. However, this was a chance to move forward and deal with things. To phrase his feelings like how his father would, ‘You’d be an idiot or scum not to accept that’. “I do.”
“Good.” Cornelia nodded sharply. “Also, you don’t come off like that at all. You seem calm and confident, but not in the loud way, like Bas is.”
“That’s nice to know.” Kern seemed to be finding out some insightful things today.
“Friends?” Cornelia quietly suggested.
“I’d like to be friends.”
“I know some of the others do it, so do you want to study stuff once we’re off?” Cornelia muttered, just loud enough for Kern to hear her.
“Sure.” Kern patted Cornelia on top of the head.
Cornelia huffed. “You’re just like Jonathan.”
Kern glanced back to where the man was. He gave a soft smile, remembering the advice he had gotten when he was desperate that one night, desperate enough to ask a wandering traveler. “I don’t think that’s a bad thing.”
“Did it go well?” Jonathan called over, as if he didn’t hear everything. He had been leaning against a tree and whittling, but his mind hadn’t been on the dismal twig in his hands.
“I’d say so,” Kern affirmed.
The three went back to Jonathan’s cabin. A miracle of miracles, Bas and Tam had actually finished the dishes in their boredom; well, Bas had been bored and Tam actually felt sort of responsible because she had dropped by to have lunch on short notice.
Jonathan refused to answer questions about what had been talked about, and herded the kids onto the horses they had brought over.
He tacked Biscuit and took her out of the small stable by the cabin. The mud was still bad due to the recent storms and he hated how it pulled at his boots.
Jonathan took the kids back to the capital himself because he didn’t really trust them not to do something dumb on the way there. This somehow culminated in hugs being demanded for them all outside of the gates. Jonathan rolled his eyes, but caved. Before he left them, he quietly reminded Cornelia to talk to Bas while her best friend was visiting.
I have a bit of a soft spot for these kids, but they also need more screen time than they get in this series. Maybe sometime I should write an extra bonus chapter for Joseph, the scholar kid, or Kern, who managed to come to Alita.