Justus took in a short breath, his lungs refusing to fill on account of his pounding heart, "I asked you to marry me, Gia. I plan to stay with the Rhodoks but... you can-- you can serve as an Immunes or something, a weapons trainer or a quartermaster."
His hands were trembling, his palms covered in sweat. He was beginning to lose feeling in them, too, from how fast his heartbeat was going.
"Centurion Cyrac offered me a promotion to Tesserarius... I'm going to accept the offer. It pays well-- I can support you. Y-you don't even have to work, not if you don't want to."
Gianna averted her gaze, her cheeks flush, "You know Justus... My class may be Shield Maiden, but I'm not so pure... I'm... not really sure if--"
"I don't care, Gia. I love you," Justus declared. "Everything's going to be okay. I'll take care of you. Please... just let me."
He kissed her small hand, wet from small droplets of his tears, "I don't want to lose your smile. It's... it's the only thing keeping me together."
Justus closed his eyes, trying not to bawl his eyes out. So many different emotions whirled through his mind... Regret, loss, anxious anticipation for what the future held...
"You mustn't cry, dear Decanus..." Gianna cooed. Taking Justus' hand in hers, she softly kissed his fingers. "No one should see my husband cry-- none but me. Your pain... it will also be mine to bear."
Justus sniffed. He looked up to the love of his life... at her eyes, bright blue even in the lamplight... at her perfect, comforting smile... and his breath was taken away, once more...
The woman tilted her head, closing her eyes, curved upward. Gia was a gentle goddess, healer of his heartache.
Ah!! He was staring again.
"Gia... you mean?"
"I accept your offer," She said simply... but those few short words made him so happy...
"I... but I..." Justus' mind, his entire thought process shattered. He didn't think this situation would play out as it did. He had been toying with the idea in his mind... but it was just that, an unattainable fantasy.
Opening her eyes, Gia raised her eyebrows.
"Oh, were you not serious, Decanus Justus? You really shouldn't play with a woman's heart like that," She laughed politely to herself, but her eyes stayed serious.
Justus wiped his tears with his wrist, gripping Gianna's hand tightly, "I'm serious about you, Gia. Please marry me."
Her smile still hid something... a hesitation... She lightly ran her fingers across Justus' palm, "We... can start slow, if you'd like. It might turn out that you don't really like me all that much."
Justus shook his head rapidly, "No, I've thought this through, Gia. Really, I have. I've liked you since we've met-- your demeanor, your temper, your virtues and your vices, all of it. I want to spend the rest of my life with you--"
"No..." He hardened his gaze, "--whatever challenges lie beyond, I want you at my side."
Gianna gasped in surprise, holding her hand in front of her chest, her eyes sparkling, reflecting the dim lantern flame. Her voice quavered as she spoke, "My... my heart won't stop racing. I knew... I knew you liked me but... I had no idea... You really..."
"It's true," Justus' lips trembled as he spoke. "All of it. Please, Gia... Accept my feelings."
He bowed his head to show his sincerity... and to hide his heated cheeks and swollen eyes.
"I've already accepted, dear husband." Gia sighed as she stroked his hair, "But I think instead of becoming an Immunes, I'll remain as your shield. I'll need some time to heal my broken arm, though."
Justus shot his head back up, revealing his ugly face full of tears, "Gia? You're-- you're going to be okay?"
"Well, yes. Fortuna's healing magic is quite effective..." Gianna pursed her lips, "Decanus... was all that only because you thought I--"
Holy Swordsman Justus embraced the love of his life, "I'm... I'm so glad... I'm so..."
He thought he looked pathetic. The tears... they wouldn't stop. But he didn't care... She said yes.
"Ow... ow... Justus, please..." Gianna's pained voice made him leap back in sudden worry.
"By the Flame, I'm so sorry, Gia-- Are you okay? Oh-- ahhh!! I'm so dumb!!" Justus wanted to smash his face against the dirt to beg for forgiveness.
Gia smiled, a trace of pain still evident in her expression, "No, it's okay. I... I do like being held by you... But I'd prefer you be gentle...
"Justus..." She whispered, "I want you to be sweet to me... like I know you are."
Her words made his heart thump painfully hard in his chest. He placed his tearful face on Gianna's lap, "I'm... just so glad... You're going to be okay..."
She continued to stroke his hair... calmly... lovingly, "Dear husband..."
He lifted his head up, emotions spilling from his heart. He didn't know what to think... This entire quest had been a series of unfortunate losses... but something unexpectedly good came from it, "Y-yes... w-wife?"
Placing her finger beneath his chin, she lifted his gaze up to meet hers, "Will you lie with me, tonight?"
Justus' heart soared to atop the highest mountains... yet sank to the lowest hells. Those words... he had never thought-- not in a million years, that he would hear them. But... he couldn't. It was too soon.
With Gia's condition... he was afraid he'd hurt her... And besides that, guilt still plagued his heart from Rena's death.
"Mm... maybe that was unfair of me to ask right now," Gia added, taking the silence as his answer.
"No, I want to... Gianna, you're... the most beautiful woman I've ever laid eyes on..."
Gia leaned forward to kiss his forehead, "But?"
"But... just... your condition," Justus curled up his lips. He didn't know how to decline her without hurting her feelings.
Her kiss filled his entire body with warmth.
"And it's Rena," She offered.
Justus nodded, gulping, and holding back another wave of tears.
"Then I shall ask tomorrow... and perhaps the day after that," Gia smirked. "Until you are cured of your heartache-- and still after that... until you get tired of this old crone."
Justus felt his eyes well up again, and he buried his face in Gianna's soft lap, "Thank you, Gia... I'm sorry, and thank you..."
"Dear husband... I'm sorry, too... I should have never ignored your feelings for as long as I have."