207 Last moment of peace
The rest of the day went on without too much trouble.
Detra, Lilith, and Marcus asked Leona how things went on their side during the last couple of days and the fire mage began to share her experience while training Joseph and Claire.
She went on to talk about how the two had a bit of trouble at first but soon after began to catch the hang of it pretty well, about how weird it was to act on the role of a teacher alongside a talking frog, about how glad she was once Ashley arrived and started to lend a hand on the training.
Ashley, apparently, had become some kind of expert on the study of magic affinity and helped a lot with figuring out how the magic of the two kids worked.
She would spend every day talking with each of them separately, listening about their feelings, their backgrounds, their desires, their motivations, as well as spending some time with both Leona and Xadi, who kept his true identity a secret from Ashley due to how embarrassing he imagined it would be if his sister saw him like this, and also observed their performance during their training.
This lifted a huge weight from everyone's shoulders as it paved the way for Claire and Joseph to really understand how their powers functioned.
Leona also commented on how the two insisted on competing on magic duels every day to see who was improving at a faster rate with the final score being three victories for each.
A few other minor details were shared such as Joseph's annoying tendency to try and flirt with all of the female mages of the temple and Claire's tendency to sneak out by herself and blow up some important constructions by accident.
"So, overall, how was it to play the role of a teacher?" Lilith asked.
Leona began to rub her head as if she was trying to drive away some harsh memories, "stressful, not gonna lie... but watching them slowly growing every day was more than enough to reward me... I can't wait to see how they perform on the battlefield!!"
Lilith smiled as she realized that Leona had enjoyed her time. It seems like everyone had made a little bit of growth during these last couple of days.
"By the way..." Marcus commented, "where is Xadi??"
"Oh, he's hiding from miss Ashley..." Leona explained, "he keeps trying to hide the fact that it's him inside the doll from his sister... something about pride as the older brother or whatever..."
"Should we tell her...?"
"I think this kind of thing needs to be solved among themselves..." Leona assumed.
After that, they were alerted by one of the members of the temple that dinner was about to be served.
Marcus stood up and helped Lilith move towards the dining room, which she used as an opportunity to talk to him, "so how are you handling the whole speech thing?"
"Honestly... It feels so wrong..."
"Because this is Ellie's fight... We all went through the effort to survive the garden in order to pave the way for her moment... And now we are trying to put me in the spotlight? I just don't like this..."
"Marcus, relax... I'm sure Ellie doesn't even care about this stuff... As long as we get Evlin back, who cares how we do it?" Lilith tried to convince him.
"Still... I just don't feel like it should be me out there..."
"Mmmm... Maybe that's the thing... It's not that you want to steal Ellie's moment... It's more that you just don't want a moment at all..."
"Well... Maybe...? I mean... It's not like I deserve it..."
"Oh come on... You're still hung up on your past?? We just spent a whole week fighting our past!" Lilith commented.
"I know, I know... I shouldn't be stuck on things that were out of my control... But I just wished that when my moment came, it wouldn't just be handed to me... I wish I would have actually earned it..."
Lilith grabbed his hand and squeezed, "trust me... You earned it more than you know... You deserve to show the world what a true hero you are!"
Marcus just smiled, "thanks, Lilith!"
They joined the others and finally entered the dining room. Ashley showed up soon after with Ellie using her arm to help her walk without falling, much similar to how Marcus was helping Lilith right now.
Ashley just smirked at them while noticing their situation, "so... who wants to race?"
Lilith just gave a slight push on her shoulder while laughing off, "nice to have you back Ash... we missed you!"
"I missed you guys too... God, you have no idea how often I just want to escape from that guild and just embark on another journey with you guys..." Ashley commented while moving Ellie closer to a chair so she could sit.
"Trust me, you don't..." Lilith replied, "I would love to just stay the next couple of days stuck on a guild and not have to fight another monster or demon or whatever... I need some vacation..."
Ellie wanted to watch the two chat a little longer but her curiosity started to boil inside of her as she kept looking at the people gathered there, "Hey, where's Lance and Xadi?"
"Lance is in a room sleeping... I talked to him yesterday when we arrived an-" Lilith was about to talk a little more but she stopped once she heard the sound of a mug falling on the floor and breaking.
Ellie just looked at the broken pieces and raised her head to stare at the one who dropped it.
"Ashley...? You ok...?" the girl asked the woman who looked like she had been frozen by shock.
Ashley dropped on her knees and grabbed Ellie's shoulders, "Ellie... Ellie, could you repeat what you just said?"
"I... I just wanted to ask about Lance and Xadi... Oh!! That's right! Isn't he your brother? Have you talked to him?"
"..." Ashley stared at Marcus and Lilith with eyes of disbelief, "guys... what is she talking about...??"
Marcus and Lilith tried to hide their discomfort but they couldn't bear it for long and just admitted the truth.
"Mia tried to attack Evlin with Xadi's soul... And Ellie and Daren stopped him and placed him inside a frog doll..." Marcus explained.
"The frog doll!!!???" Ashley shouted, "That thing was my brother this whole time!!???"
Ashley just stood up and stormed off out of the room to search for her brother.
"Uuhhh... Should I not have said that...??" Ellie asked wondering if she did something bad.
"Sigh... I'll go after her... Be right back..." Marcus said while rushing off as well, leaving Ellie and Lilith with the others while they waited for dinner to be put on the table.
"So... What did you two talk about?" Lilith asked.
"Everything honestly... She is pretty much just like I imagined..." Ellie admitted.
"Like you imagined?"
"Yeah! When my aunt used to tell me stories about her time here, I always tried to picture in my head what her friends were like and how they acted..."
"Really? And how did you imagined that I was going to be?" Lilith wondered.
"Oh! I thought you would be much bigger!"
"... Eh...? Bigger...?"
"Yeah! I mean... My aunt always said you were so strong, and fast, and powerful... always moving like a silver blur on the battlefield and just taking down all the enemies before they even know what hit them!! I always assumed you would have arms of the size of a truck or something..."
"But when I saw the actual you... You were very different... You were much smaller and naggier than I expected... You always complained about everything I did..."
Ellie then grabbed Lilith's hand, "and you were also much cooler, nicer, kinder, and way more beautiful than I imagined... To me, you're just as cool as my aunt!!"
Lilith began to blush with that comment and gave Ellie a deep hug to express how flattered she was.
Marcus finally returned with Ashley by his side who was still mumbling about how her brother didn't tell his own sister that he was back from the dead.
"I swear to God, the next time I see him I'm going shove that stupid face in a bucket of ice..."
The dinner then finally arrived. It was a dish composed of a large fried fish surrounded by potatoes, a few vegetables, rice, olives, and some sort of stew. For drinking, they were served coconut water, cold wine, and orange juice for the kids.
Despite having some trouble adjusting to eating with a different hand, which made her ponder how difficult it would be to get used to this new lifestyle from now on, Ellie loved the taste of everything and so did most of those present. Everyone seemed to be rather calm considering they were all going to take part in a huge battle in the next day. They were either really confident about their victory, were really good actors, or had no idea how serious the situation was.
"Why is everyone so calm...?" Ellie wondered.
"This isn't the first time we go to war, Ellie..." Lilith explained, "Everyone here has already been in this kind of situation before... And we know that during this kind of situation, it's important to let go of all indecision and just enjoy the good moments once they arrive..."
Ellie then understood. It's not that they were calm. It's that they had to be calm. If they lost their composure before the battle, then everything would be over before it even started.
She wanted to slap herself for assuming these people weren't taking the battle seriously.
She then took a deep breath, stood from her seat, and raised her voice.
"Everyone! I have something to say!"
The whole room went silent at the sight of Ellie shouting and looked at her while wondering what she was going to do. Ellie just stared at the room. Lilith, Marcus, Ashley, Joseph, Claire, Leona, Detra, and a couple of east followers who were helping with the dishes.
"This whole thing started because I made a mess... I went after Mia when I shouldn't have, and helped her take over my aunt's body and steal her power... This caused a lot of people to lose their loved ones..." she mentioned while noticing Lilith and Claire lowering their heads, "and led to that crazy girl gaining a lot of power and causing tons of destruction...
And for that... I'm truly sorry... I don't know what I would have done if it weren't for you guys... You all appeared in front of me when I felt there was no hope left... And gave me hope all over again... You made me believe that things would be ok even when I felt that there was no way out...
I want to thank you..." she then looked at Detra, "All of you! For helping me not lose hope! I want you to know... That every single one of you is my hero!"
"Even us?" Joseph asked.
"All of you!!" Ellie giggled, "I know this isn't about just me... But I just want you to know it means a lot to me!! Thank you!! Thank you all very much!!" Ellie finished while making a bow.
Marcus grabbed his glass and made a toast, "to Ellie!! The girl that managed to find hope once again!!!"
Everyone grabbed their glasses as well and followed him, "to Ellie!!!"
The girl began to blush with that gesture and hurried back to her seat trying to hide her embarrassment.
Once the dinner was over, Joseph came over to Marcus and gave him a small comment, "good luck topping that speech, mister hero!"
Marcus just laughed it off. Ellie's words of gratitude were more than enough to fill him with the motivation to pursue victory tomorrow. All he needed now was to find a way to convey these same feelings to the rest of the troops.
"Thanks... It won't be easy..."