Lynn was tired.
A week of travel on foot had eaten away at her stamina. The metal canteen that contained her precious caffeine source had been completely drained, faster than she had predicted due to the unexpectedly humid weather. All she had to keep her going was the occasional rest at some random inn. Though fortunately, it was often free of charge after the owners recognized her family name.
Maybe if she had followed in the footsteps of her sister instead, she would have had a trained, toned body to make the journey more tolerable than the skinny stick she had for a figure. It was honestly hard to believe that she had considered the role a long time ago.
Whenever she looked at Eva, all she saw was pride.
From the way she puffed out her chest with such confidence to the trademark smirk she wore, Lynn was not surprised when Eva suggested to get a free ride on some expensive looking carriage.
“Come on, lil sis,” Eva nudged her younger sister’s elbow playfully. “I’m sure that you’re attractive enough to catch the eye of some noble prick. It shouldn’t be too difficult.”
“Y-You’re embarrassing me,” Lynn squealed, flustered by the idea. “And I don’t think this is a good idea…”
“Just trust me,” Eva winked. “My gut is telling me to ride the damn thing, and you know my gut’s never wrong.”
Lynn didn’t know what to feel. She was highly tempted to agree with Eva’s plan and ask the carriage’s owner for a ride, but at the same time, she also felt that it was highly rude. Not to mention the dangers! For a young lady such as her to travel in this day and age is trouble in and of itself. If it wasn’t for her elder sister, she wouldn’t be able to have the courage to make this journey. Still, it was best to avoid danger when possible, and Lynn opened her mouth to voice her concerns.
“Excuse me! Who on earth do you think you two are to break into my carriage without any permission?!”
Lynn jumped, startled. She whipped around to the person who had spoken.
There, standing in front of her was a blonde, wavy-haired woman who was glowering at her. She held herself haughtily, and her appearance suggested that she was indeed a noblewoman, a very distinguished one judging by the decorations on her black dress. Although, Lynn wasn’t able to recognize the insignia on her cape. Maybe it was the crest of the military organization she belonged to?
The woman sneered. “Don’t you recognize who I am, peasants?”
“Nope!” was Eva’s blunt reaction.
The woman clicked her tongue in annoyance. She placed her hands on her hips, holding her head up high and regarding them in disgust. “Be grateful that I’m personally telling you my name, as it seems that you are not from this region. I am Olivia Marie Elisabeth Tabitha Ginevra Yves de Trafford, second heiress to the noble Trafford family. As per proper conduct for greetings, I ask you this-who are you!?”
“Oh, forgive us for our most grievous error, madame!” Eva drawled, bowing like a gentleman would. “Well. My name is Eva Arkhangelsky, and this cute one here is my lil’ sis’ Lynn. We’re the heiresses of the Arkhangelsky family.”
Olivia seemed to do a one-eighty after that.
“Oh, so you are part of the esteemed Arkhangelsky family! I do apologize for my rude behavior! It is truly inexcusable of me. I do hope for your forgiveness in this matter, as I’ve had a very rough day. My carriage has broken down, and my temper never fared well in travel to begin with. Where will you two be going today? The marketplace, perhaps?”
“Actually,” Eva gave a tight-lipped smile. “We’ll be heading to Anfang, about a few clicks from here.”
“Oh? Ah, how wonderful! I will be passing through Anfang, so we may go together! Well, after the carriage is fixed, of course! I found two nearby mechanics who are currently working to solve the situation.”
“Oh,” Eva slightly frowned, the only part of her expression that betrayed her unwillingness to agree. “Sure.”
There was a loud crash that came from the carriage and a cry of pain. Lynn, already well-attuned to sounds of distress, immediately rushed over to dispatch her emergency healthcare services. She hoped it wasn’t anything serious.
Behind the carriage were two well-tanned boys. They both had brown hair, siblings perhaps, one older and one younger. The older boy was hovering over the younger one, fussing over something on the younger one’s hand. Lynn could take a guess from the abandoned blowtorch on the ground in front of them.
“Yo Bro, listen to me, you have to have that thing checked!”
“Derek, stop overreacting, it’s just a small burn!”
Olivia came stomping around the carriage, enraged, having heard the conversation. She immediately set her sights on the older brother, snapping, “You heard him mongrel. He’s fine, so go back to work and just fix the blasted carriage!”
The elder brother wasn’t having any of it. He scowled at the noblewoman, standing up to reveal his full height, towering over her. “Listen here you cold-hearted bitch, I’m not working until I’m sure that my baby brother is fully fine!”
“What did you call me you foul-mouthed mongrel?!”
Lynn bit her lip, watching awkwardly as the noble and the mechanic traded insults back and forth. Although Trafford had a point, something as ‘simple’ as a first degree burn would be enough to even drive her own older sister crazy. Maybe that was the life of being a younger sibling.
Well...they weren’t going to argue all day, were they?
After patiently enduring their pointless argument for at least...twenty minutes? Maybe thirty? She lost track the moment the blonde princess called the mechanic a ‘mongrel’ for the seventh time.
She was going to have to be the peacemaker, wasn’t she?
“I’ll treat his burn,” Lynn offered, preparing her medical kit. “I am a surgeon, so it shouldn’t be too much of a problem.”
The idea earned some raised eyebrows from the cold noble. “And why waste your time on something so pointless?”
“He’s obviously not going to back down,” Lynn said, sparing a quick glance at the stubborn mechanic. “And I’d like to take a look at it myself. The sooner I treat it, the faster the carriage will get fixed.”
“Hmph,” Olivia scoffed, overtly displeased. “I should have expected that, knowing typical Arkhangelsky behavior.”
At that, Lynn held her tongue back, restraining any insulting comment towards the haughty woman. She could tell that her sister was also trying to do the same, clenching her fist and gritting her teeth discreetly. Lynn shook her head. No time to be angry. Focus.
Her patient was clearly more affected by the embarrassment rather than the burn itself. Cheeks flushed crimson, he was no more than a few years younger than her - with untamed brown hair and the most timid pair of amber eyes she had ever seen. Oddly enough, he smelled like a confusing concoction of soot and marshmallows.
“Can you show me?” Lynn asked and he swiftly nodded, exposing his right forearm. Indeed, it was nothing more than a first-degree burn - a blotch of angry, red skin glaring back at her.
Finished with her diagnosis, Lynn quickly proceeded to treatment. She began by gently applying ointment on the burned area, carefully observing her patient’s reaction as he winced from the sting of the antibiotic. He was probably the most quiet patient she’d ever met…
Conversation. She need to make conversation to put him at ease. But where to start? Her gaze went towards the elder mechanic, when something caught her eye…
“Your brother,” Lynn started. “Is he using a F78 Brachium Arm?”
The boy tensed. Lynn watched as the boy’s eyes widened, shocked, but he didn’t avert his eyes from hers. Whenever Lynn would see someone broach the subject of their loved one’s prosthetic, they would look away. In shame. In anger. In anguish. Or it was simply in denial, because they refused to believe that their loved one would never be same again.
She saw no trace of those emotions in this boy. Instead, she saw eyes that glimmered with all the brilliance of a joy that couldn’t be contained. The words were spilling from his mouth as he stammered to correct, “A-Actually, th-the F78 m-model was used as a base, but i-it’s mostly. . . custom-made…”
“I see,” Lynn replied, her interest piqued. She ran her fingers over the affected area, smoothening the last bit of ointment on his skin. “Where did you get it, if I may ask? It seems to be a really sturdy model.”
“I-I, um, I was the one who. . . you know. . made it,” he nervously laughed. He shyly rubbed the back of his nape with uninjured arm, his cheeks fully flushed as his eyes turned to the side. He said quietly, in a soft breath, “B-But I’m surprised that you knew…”
“Ah, well,” Lynn smiled meekly as she prepared the gauze. “I studied a little bit about it during my medical training in college. My ex-boyfriend specialized in those kinds of surgeries.”
“Y-Your ex?!” He yelped, wide-eyes.
Lynn had to stifle a giggle. “Don’t worry about it. It wasn’t a terrible breakup or anything, it was actually on mutual terms.”
“O-Oh…” He muttered, looking a little sheepish.
“How about you? Did you ever have a girlfriend?”
“N-NO!” He shouted. Upon seeing her startled gaze, he cleared his throat and looked away, saying in a much gentler tone, “Ah, no. I-I’ve never really . . . been in a-a relationship before. . .”
“Oh,” She commented, and she watched his shoulders sag in relief.
“So you swing the other way?”
He immediately jerked away from her, appalled. His eyes widened as he yelled, “THAT’S WORSE!”
“Aha, sorry about that,” the doctor apologized, although her cheerful demeanor denoted the opposite. “You’ve seemed to loosen up a bit though. Pardon me, but may I ask for your name and age?”
“X-Xedrik Xircut,” the mechanic stammered, as if introductions were a completely foreign concept to him. “I’m nineteen…”
Nineteen? A mere three years younger than her then, although Lynn knew not to measure a person’s worth by their youth. The Arkhangelsky name alone had been enough to secure her and her sister a position. The fact that he had made a rather advanced prosthetic of an already-existing top-tier model told Lynn everything she needed to know.
“Lynn Arkhangelsky,” she returned the introduction and saw the recognition of her surname in his eyes. Gently, she wrapped the gauze around his hand, the mechanic’s face as bright as a tomato. Damn. This was just too cute to ignore. “If this is the first time a girl has held your hand, then I’m sorry for stealing the moment.”
The mechanic let out a loud yelp, pulling his hand away at the speed of light. “F-First my brother, now you...What’s with everyone embarrassing me today…”
“I don’t really see anything wrong though,” Lynn presented her opinion, slightly shrugging. “Your brother is just doing his duty as the older sibling. And part of that duty is being the overprotective one, I guess. My sister is the same as well.”
“I-I know that, but all this fuss over a tiny burn…”
“Which, if infected, could cause more problems in the future,” Lynn stated, before handing him a tube of some form of medication. “Apply this ointment once a day on the affected area. If it does not show signs of getting better within a week, come to me. Also, please get some sleep whenever possible.”
He blinked, taken aback, and then wondered, “Sleep?”
She sent him a flat stare. “I know sleep deprivation when I see it, Xedrik.”
At that, Lynn let the mechanic boy run off, watching him resume his work on the broken carriage. She felt someone tap her shoulder and she turned, only to see her older sister with the widest smirk of the day.
“I swear, you’re the most hypocritical person I know lil’ sis,” Eva lightly teased. “Really, now sis. Who’s the sleep deprived one here? You should take your own advice you know.”
“No buts. You’re gonna go straight to bed once we get to base.”