Stolen looks when he wasn’t paying attention. Him going out of his way to ask her how she was doing and bright genuine smiles at responses which gave nothing away – he gave no hint or acknowledgement of how she replied the same “I’m fine” “I’m good” each time, accepting even the sliver of attention.
Philia allowed herself just this, nothing would come of it anyway. She’d savour his sleeping face, sweet laughter and sparse touches for when she wouldn’t see him again at the end of all this.
“Hey Philia, your eyes are really pretty.”
Too close, too close.
“Philia, let me help you find your glasses.”
Hands briefly touch as she can’t place her blurred surroundings.
“Come to me if you find yourself doubting yourself again. I’ll convince you. Hehe, I said yourself a bit too much there.”
This wasn’t supposed to happen. He wasn’t supposed to return her affections. He wasn’t supposed to give her hope.
And she wasn’t supposed to tell him her feelings either.
Yet here she is.
It was all over, she’d be returning to the temple once they got back and then she wouldn’t see him again. She’d go back to her days of experiencing the outside world through tedious descriptions in worn pages. Philia wasn’t sure if she could settle for that now that she had a taste of what it was like out there. Back then, she had felt security in not having to go out herself, just experience the world through what they described, even if her curiosity went wild at the mere mentions of things she did not know. Now though… could she go back to that life?
There was no choice. She didn’t have anywhere else.
But she had a choice in this right now.
It was rare for Stahn and her to be alone like this. If she wasn’t going to see him again then…
She clenched her slender fingers into her dress and spoke up.
“Stahn I,” her voice shook slightly as she-
“We are getting close to Seinegald.”
…As she got interrupted.
“Oh finally! Philia, let’s go see.”
When did they get so close to... never mind.
The frustration passed as quickly as it had ran through her. This was for the best. It was a bad idea in the first place. She knew that deep down but the thought of what he would have reacted with ran rampant in her mind.
“Yes. That’s right,” she responded, whether she was responding to what he'd said or her own thoughts she really did not know.
The farewell was short.
Even if Stahn knew she had more to say to him, she never would tell him. Her bravery in that confession fell as soon as it had started. Cut short before it even began. She didn’t need to mess things up further. What could have come from it anyway?
And as she walked back to her temple, no Swordian in her hand, no evidence of the strength that she'd gained, Philia felt absolute emptiness fill her, knowing that she’d come too close to the sun and it was too late. She had let herself fall without thinking of the consequences.
A part of her was glad she’d gotten too close because she had more memories to fondly smile about as she rifled through ancient books and teachings.
And just as she was coming to terms of living in her memories, she was sent to go gather the rest of her old group.
“It’s good to see you Philia. I’m sorry you had to see that with me and Lilith back there! Let me show you around my town?”
Of course, she accepted. She hadn't learnt her lesson.
Anyone could see Rutee and Stahn’s chemistry. They all could see that she liked him, wanted him. Except Stahn, of course.
Was she this obvious too?
She felt glad he himself couldn’t see; the embarrassment would have killed her. Philia kept this close to her chest for a reason. And as they travelled more still, as the stakes got higher and the gravity of the situation got worse, she found that nothing coming of her and Stahn meant more than not seeing each other again.
She was not the one for him. It never had been her.
Clemente knew about her crush. Crush didn’t seem like the right word, but love was far too strong, felt too real.
He’d tried to encourage her to tell him, that she was a good girl who deserved good things. Deserving didn’t mean that she could have him. Being good had nothing to do with it. If being good and deserving good things was all that was required, then Stahn could have the world and whatever else he pleased in a heartbeat.
Stahn did not need to know.
The final night before the end of it all. She’d gotten the hints. To say what you want to say before it’s too late.
The fact that Stahn needed a push in the right direction and that it was left to her to do it made her feel sick. No one realised of course, maybe she was better at hiding than she thought.
She’d shown courage once before and it had ended in her being cut off. She was showing it now and it had worked.
The difference was she’d tried to make herself happy the first time while now she was doing it for his sake, for Rutee’s too. For their future, whatever they planned to do with it. They could throw it away and she would have wasted this all. For them.
“I don’t have to say anything else, right?”
“Thank you. I’m going to step out for a bit.”
And as he walked past her, going to the one he loves (not her, never her), she deflated. She’d let him go.
It was for the best.
It really was.
It was true, this is what she wanted to do before she even knew it. Philia had never planned on telling him. Never planned on letting herself take a chance with him. Maybe it was fate interrupting her confession back then. She was never meant to be with him, and she knew it, safe in the security of never seeing him again to confess with no consequence.
Seeing them smiling as they came back to the inn together, was all she needed to know that she’d done the right thing, no matter the ache in her heart. He was never hers.