IBHB 29 – Linked hearts
Another self-edited chapter. As always, leave any errors or typos in the comments.
Her face was hidden. But Minwoo could tell the identity of the suspiciously dressed woman as soon as he laid eyes on her. Clarice. But why was she here? But before he could say anything Clarice had already run away. She shrugged off the crowd and vanished down a side alleyway.
Minwoo flickered a glare at Orleia. Orleia shook her hands with a shocked expression.
“This wasn’t my doing! I have no idea why Clee is here either!”
Whether that was the truth or not, Orleia wasn’t the important thing right now. Minwoo immediately jumped off the stage and chased after Clarice. Orleia, who all of a sudden had become a woman who was abandoned by her fiance, could only stare dumbly at Minwoo following Clarice, disappearing into the shadows of an alleyway.
What. The. Heck. Was going on.
She was so stunned that not even a squeak came out of her. Orleia tossed off her disguise, eyed Senyun and Ericia who were approached her and coldly said.
“Just what all this is, you will explain to me, right?”
The sky seen from the alleyway was slowly darkening. It was a cold colour that chilled her heart as well. Having taken off her disguise, Clarice was hunched down with her back to the alley’s wall. Her sweat-streaked face was cool in the crisp early autumn air. But that was all. Her heart still felt stuffy as if it was tightly wrapped in invisible threads, which she still had no answers for.
Jealousy- At the truth that she was jealous of Orleia, and the chaos of her wavering gender identity shook Clarice’s frail shoulders as she buried her face in her knees. A vague ‘something’ started to surface. She wanted to turn her eyes away from it. She wanted to take her sweet long time facing it.
Because the courage to face ‘that emotion’ that she had been harbouring for Hero-nim since god knew when, she didn’t have yet.
“Hey there, missy~”
Clarice turned to face the voices that came from above her head. Although she couldn’t make out their faces due to the dim light, she could definitely tell their unique hairstyles. Mohican, buzz cut and regent. A trio that looked every inch the typical delinquent had dirty smiles on their faces as they looked down on her.
Meanwhile, the trio facing Clarice exchanged glances before they started muttering amongst themselves. A…, an incredible beauty! Her breasts are massive too! Why’s she carrying heads on her rack? Hey, doesn’t she look similar to someone? Who? Princess Clarice. You dumbass. Why would the princess be here? After a long debate they came to a conclusion. That they would bury their faces in those valleys even if they died.
Hiik. Clarice instinctively covered her breasts. She could hear everything. At that cute reaction, Mohican snickered and gestured.
“Missy~ we’re high-flying youths~ come quietly when we’re asking nicely. It’s not going to be fun if you don’t!”
Since Clarice thought it was plenty unfun already, horrified, she yelled.
“I, I’m a (former) man!”
“Yes. I’m a (former) man.”
Time out. The trio said before they went back to debate. Is that a girl with her head screwed on wrong? Oi, her breasts are just way out the ordinary. It could be a first time cross-dresser who put too much pads in her bra. But the voice is a woman’s. after a long debate they came to a conclusion. That even if it was a man he was really beautiful so it was ‘possible.’
And so just when the trio were about to lay their hands on Clarice without a shred of hesitation.
A hurried yell stopped the trio. How was he here. With wavering eyes, Clarice turned to see Minwoo standing in the entrance of the alleyway. Recognising Minwoo, Regent pointed a finger at him.
“You’re the hyung who saved our asses back then? Why is hyung here again… Do you know this lady?”
Minwoo and Clarice exchanged glances. Knew each other? No shit. Their relationship went way beyond just knowing each other. The two answered at the same time.
“There’s nothing between us!”
“Wh, what?! How the hell is there nothing between us?!”
“Eh? B, but…”
Clarice trailed off and avoided his gaze. Oh my god. Minwoo felt a massive scratch across his heart at that reaction. Had she really come to hate him because of Orleia. It wasn’t impossible. They’d openly gone on about being an engaged couple right in front of her so there was no way she wouldn’t hate him now.
“H, hyung. Stay strong. We’ll support you.”
“Yeah! Do your best!”
“We’ll coolly exit the stage here!”
The meddler trio read the mood and very coolly exited like they said. Leaving aside his wonders as to just what on earth they were, Minwoo approached Clarice. He wanted to ask her why she was here and also desperately wanted to explain about Orleia, but what came out of his mouth was simply the pettiest of petty questions.
“Did… Did you hate me that much?”
“You said, that, there was nothing between us…”
Clarice was shocked and stared at Minwoo. Ah. He shouldn’t have said that. Minwoo’s face flushed bright red with second-degree embarrassment.
“……No. That was not what I meant when I said that.”
Clarice gloomily looked downwards and replied. It was then that Minwoo realised that Clarice’s reactions were somewhat off.
“On the contrary. I said that because I thought Hero-nim would dislike it.”
It seemed like it would be a long story. Minwoo sat down beside Clarice and calmly asked.
“Why did you think I would dislike it?”
“That is… Am I not originally a man. Plus this marriage is nothing short of my fault entirely.”
Clarice explained the truth that if she hadn’t asked Hero-nim to remain in the kingdom, none of this would have happened. Minwoo’s face hardened as he thought. Was that what was on her mind. In that case there was only one thing he could say.
“You know. I’m okay with that.”
“I’m okay with this. If the person in question, me, is fine with that, then what’s the problem?”
Minwoo faced Clarice’s stunned eyes and smiled.
“Because of that I get to stay beside Clarice’s side.”
Clarice couldn’t say anything. A sudden burst of emotion threatened to spill over her again. Barely stopping them from escaping her throat, Clarice finally said.
“But, even though you ended up marrying me, who was originally a man?”
Mm. Minwoo stopped to think. Should he say this. But as Clarice started drooping again at his hesitation, his mind blanked as he quickly said.
“I’m alright with a man as long as it’s Clarice!”
Shock confession. Even the speaker himself went hul-and doubted his own ears. Dafuq did he just shit out. Oh no. Now just imagining Clarice’s disgusted look aimed at him made him just want to die there and-
“Me, me too! Even as a man… If it was Hero-nim then I, I wouldn’t mind…”
Shock confession. Even the speaker herself went hul-and doubted her ears. Dafuq did she just shit out. Oh no. All of a sudden Hero-nim turned rigid like a stone and he’s not moving.
But it was already spilt milk. Clarice jumped up and faced Minwoo with her bright red face. Her heart was hammering like mad and she was shaking so much she wanted to just collapse there and then. But she didn’t.
‘I will have, hold and cherish her for the rest of my life.’
‘I don’t want to lose my important person a second time.’
‘Are you alright? Are you hurt anywhere?’
‘Because of that I get to stay beside Clarice’s side.’
Hero-nim had always cherished an idiot like her simply and truly. Now she wanted to be honest with her own feelings.
At this moment, Clarice could finally face them.
Her own feelings for the hero.
“Hero-nim! Listen. From, from a long time ago I–!”
The sudden giant firework ate Clarice’s last words. The two of them both looked up at the sky at the same time. The fireworks of all shapes and colours turned into stars lighting up the night sky. At the spectacle, Minwoo said with a distant voice.
“It looks like the bonfires have started.”
Clarice turned back to Minwoo. Minwoo’s face was lit up all sorts of colours by the fireworks. Maybe it was because of the red light, but Minwoo’s face seemed redder than normal. As if he felt somewhat embarrassed, Minwoo rubbed the back of his neck and asked.
“But, eh, what was it you were saying?”
“Eh? Ah… That’s….”
Wow. Seriously. Just how on earth could the fireworks go off with that timing. Wailing and lamenting internally, Clarice could only fidget with her fingers before she finally said.
“Before that, everyone’s waiting, so let’s go!”
Even if Orleia called her a coward to her face she’d have no response. At Clarice’s words, Minwoo finally remembered Orleia who he’d left behind.
“True. Looks like I’m going to get another earful from Orleia again.”
Orleia. For a moment, something passed through Clarice’s mind. Alright then. So what says I can’t. She would no longer sit idly sucking her thumb. As Minwoo was about to leave the alley, Clarice tugged shyly on his sleeve.
“Hero-nim, can… Can we, link arms?”
With a dumb face, Minwoo dumbly asked back.
Red fireworks lit up the night sky once again.
The path back to the city square. Clarice told Minwoo of Orleia’s dark plot, and how she, along with Senyun and Ericia, had been tailing them up till now. Minwoo rubbed his butt and shuddered.
“Damn it. So that was her plan…”
Holy sword or no, no mercy if he caught her. Clarice’s feet stopped. Her attention was on a certain street stall. It was the same street stall that Minwoo had visited with Orleia that morning.
“Want a bite?”
Clarice turned to face Minwoo. Because their arms were interlinked, their faces were extremely close together. Without being able to say who was the first, both of them turned their heads away, both their cheeks bright red. Both of their hearts were hammering so hard they thought the other could hear it. But neither of them let go of each other’s arms.
The vendor was speechless on seeing Clarice. A, an incredible beauty! And her breasts are massive! But like a pro he calmed down and took their order. Oddly enough, the man beside her that was as handsome as she was beautiful seemed somewhat familiar. Almost as if he’d seen him that morning…
“Iya. My eyes are feasting today. Such a radiant couple here at my stall!”
At his words, Clarice and Minwoo turned to each other, before turning away again, embarrassed. It was a textbook reaction of a couple that had only gotten together recently. The vendor was convinced that his sense of familiarity was a mistake. The lad he’d seen in the morning had a face of frost and pushed his girlfriend away no matter how much she’d clung to him. It couldn’t possibly be the same man as this happy chappie. Yep.
………..Because if it was the same person then he would be the greatest asshole of the age that changed two incredible beauties in as many hours.
“We’re not a couple.”
Clarice’s bright and cheerful voice brought the vendor out of his thoughts. Wow. Even her voice is beautiful.
Clarice leaned her face against Minwoo’s shoulder and smiled shyly.
“We’re, betrothed to each other.”
Dhuk.(1) Minwoo, the vendor, and the surrounding men who all had their eyes on Clarice froze instantly.
When the two people left after some more small talk, the vendor, who couldn’t take his eyes of Clarice’s slim rear, had a very odd thought.
‘Now that I think of it, that woman, kinda reminds me of the princess.’
Especially her breasts.
The square where the bonfire was being held was filled with men and woman pairing up and dancing, much like a ball. Affectionate lovers, men and women whose eyes just met, young daughters and their fathers, grown sons and their elderly mothers, the way their hearts were linked were all different, but each and every one of them were enjoying themselves.
Clarice murmured, watching the people dance with a smile on her lips.
This was a festival celebrating the marriage of royalty. A festival that celebrated a star-crossed love that defied the odds to create a couple. Because of that, to fit the theme, it was also a place for men and women to get together. And so, the people asked their long-time crushes to dance, or exchanged words of love as they danced.
Because this was the best way to celebrate the princess’s marriage.
“Do you think, that everyone’s blessing our marriage?”
Minwoo wordlessly snuggled his arm into Clarice’s. The warmth where their bodies met spread through them both.
The world was full of the sound of fireworks, the crackling bonfire and people dancing. All of a sudden, Minwoo thought.
“Would you like to dance with me?”
Clarice smiled gently. Just like back then.
“I suppose I won’t take the lead this time?”
Their hands gently met each other.
At this moment, their hearts were linked as one.
“Ha. This is my complete loss.”
Orleia laughed uncontrollably. Let alone having her most anticipated event having been stolen from right under her nose, she even had it confirmed right in front of her as if to show off. But unexpectedly, Orleia’s heart was calm. Because she’d felt the gap between them that was so obvious and unbeatable that she couldn’t even get mad.
She couldn’t make darling smile like that. Right now, Orleia was certain. The only one that could was Clarice. The one that should be by daring’s side was not her, but Clarice. Damn it all…
No, perhaps she’d already known that from the very beginning. This serenity in her heart was the proof. Perhaps, out of pride, she had deliberately avoided facing the truth and tried to get darling at all costs.
“It was brilliant. I didn’t know darling could dance so well?”
Clapclapclap. After the number was over, Orleia appeared in front of the two, applauding them. The sweet mood changed instantly as if cold water was dumped on them. Orleia felt a quaint satisfaction at that. She should be allowed at least this much.
“Why are you scowling like that? I’m simply here to give darling the good news.”
Yes. Although it’s extremely bad news to me. Without any more useless words, Orleia pulled the holy sword out. Startled, Minwoo pulled Clarice behind him and watched her warily. So she’s going to go there in the end. Those were his thoughts as if it was only natural.
But Orleia’s next actions were billions of light years beyond what Minwoo could have imagined.
Orleia slammed the flat of the holy sword down on her knee. Snap! With a crisp sound the holy sword broke into two.
Looking at the two dumbly asking her with dumb faces, Orleia chuckled mirthlessly.
“Now. You’re free. So darling, see how well you do without me. Even if you come back to me begging and crying, I’m neeeee~ver going to take you back.”
Hmph. Orleia turned back and left. She was about to leave. If Clarice didn’t call out to her.
Orleia scowled as she turned around.
She was going to leave all coolly, too.
“Orleia. You asked me previously. Whether I wasn’t ashamed to face Hero-nim. That answer, I will tell you now.”
Orleia scoffed as she sarcastically said.
“Ho, now what would that beweiiik?!!!!”
…she couldn’t say sarcastically. Because with a ‘thud!’ and a crisp sound that felt that it would have taken at least three teeth with it, Orleia did a 360 in the air and flopped to the ground.
“This is my answer. ‘Fuck off, bitch.'”
Clarice spat out savagely with a face that reeked of bloodthirst. The previous hit was a punch to the face that used Womb Power’s breast momentum. It looked like she had something else to be thankful to Ericia for. As Orleia flailed back to her feet, she spat out saliva flecked with blood.
Wow. Shit. She really did lose three teeth. Unable to contain her horror, Orleia pointed at ‘what used to be’ her teeth and yelled.
“D, da, darling! Look! This is Clee’s truweeek?!!!!!”
…she couldn’t yell. Because with a thud! And a heavy sound of impact that sounded like it worth around about six teeth, Orleia did an amazing 540 in the air and collapsed.
Ah, now her hand started to hurt. Shaking out her swollen hand, she spat out savagely.
“And that was for the time you nearly raped me.”
Orleia backpedalled frantically to avoid Clarice’s determined steps. Since her mouth was ruined to the point she couldn’t take she couldn’t even borrow Mitohi’s power. Orleia sent darling a pleading look. Save me darling! This kid’s gone nuts!!
Perhaps her pleas reached him, Minwoo put a hand on Clarice’s shoulder.
Clarice bit her lip and glared at Orleia, before she stepped back. Whew. She survived. As Orleia breathed a sigh of relief, Minwoo spat out savagely.
“Because it’s my turn now.”
Ha? Orleia made a dumbfounded noise. …..aaand she couldn’t.
That day, as Orleia paid the price for the mockery she made of others, she became acutely aware of one particular truth.
The holy sword wasn’t simply a proof of betrothal, but also the lifeline that had been keeping her neck intact.
We won! Holy Maiden arc end!
The Holy Maiden arc that had a lot of talk and a lot of spite is finally over. ㅠㅠ
It might have been really boring, but it was necessary for the lovelove developments ㅠㅠ all the developments were so cancerous I finished it quickly with several releases!
To be honest I wanted to write the CLC selling goods and following them and causing all sorts of trouble but for the sake of quick development I had to hold in my tears and cut it.. ㅠㅅㅠ
Now all that’s left is the grand finale…. heh
Yeesh. Long chapter, this. Just over 3k words including the AN. Welp. That’s the end of the Holy Maiden arc. Stand by for more author-on-drugs developments.
Oh shid I’m outta stockpiles
(1) Think of it as a variant of the ‘hul’ SFX