(1310-09-19) Liaison Dangereuse
Summary: Belmont finally finds out about his sister’s illness and pays her a visit at the palace.
RL Date: 19/09/2018
Related: None.
irene belmont 

Eresse Residence — Noble District

Irene has been a quiet child since her very early days. A fact that her presence is unnoticed for a few days or more used to be common. She used to withdraw into her chambers and indulge into her hobby to sketch her thoughts in the notebook. However, this time she has been barely seen around since the first day of autumn, except that one time when a young woman cheered for lord Cyriel Charlot during the Sword Duels.

After she has been caught by the rain, Irene’s health grew worse with each day. It started as a simple sneezing but her condition has been worsened by fever to the point where her coughing caused pain in her lungs and she started to spit out some blood. It was the young lady’s personal request not to inform her family of her condition in the hopes that they wouldn’t be worried too much. She did not want her mother to suddenly drop all her duties back at home and come here to Marsilikos. She knew that her brother Gauge is absolutely occupied by the troubles of the head of the house. Finally, her dearest Belmont has been married recently and should enjoy a life with his beloved instead of sitting at sister’s side with a grumpy expression.

The young lady was taken care by a local healer known as Mademoiselle Orienne at d’Eresse Residence. However, when her condition reached the point of blood cough, she has been moved to the Palace by the agreement of Duchess Armandine whose lady-in-waiting Irene was for a few months now. Her health was trusted to the lady Emmanuelle Shahrizai nó Mandrake instead. A talented woman managed to deal not only with an illness but Irene’s teenagery tantrums and the young lady’s health is getting better now. However, a request to stay quiet of her condition remains and she did not receive any guests so far.

“I still can not believe that you took her out to the tournament,” a well rounded house servant speaks with another. This middle-aged woman has been working to the d’Eresse family for over twenty years. She is known to have a strict but cheerful personality.

“Could I say no to our Irene? I did not want to see her heart bleeding. The young lo-…” Antonin tries to explain himself while cleaning off the dusts from a small table. The man is also over fifty and has been very faithful to the d’Eresse family.

He is interrupted by Mademoiselle Greer, “It didn’t help our lady to get better, Antonin. She has to learn. Her heart will be broken thousands of times. But one can ruin their health only once…” She tidies some figures and small sculptures on the fireplace.

Antonin sighs, “You blame me for this and yet you agreed upon her decision not to tell anything to lord Belmont.” He tries to show Greer that they both did not act wise in the situation.

“No no no. This is different!” Greer frowns. “Lord Belmont has his own life now.”

“That doesn’t mean he is no longer d’Eresse,” Antonin opposes.

Visits to the Eresse residence had become scarce indeed. Ever since Belmont’s return, he had been more or less staying at his new home, the residence of House Delaunay. A newly wed man is expected to spend a lot of time around his wife. Even so, Belmont had been seen at times roaming the city without Gabrielle at his side. The reason? Duties, perhaps. The Comté is in the midst of their harvest season, which means a lot of paperwork. Duties, Gabrielle’s mother is starting to transfer onto younger shoulders, and so his red-haired wife had additional things to deal with, beyond the matters of the Vicomté de Rognac.

That Irene was indisposed, had been a fact Belmont had learned of. Also, of a certain, very dramatic incident, when she was allegedly carried into the house after the duels, and someone had been kind enough to make sure she made it home safely. A cold. Nothing more. That was all Belmont would have expected. She had not been around at the closing feast of the tournament. Nor had Belmont been able to spot his sister, in his great moment, when he excelled at the melee and emerged as the winner. He had been meaning to pay her a call earlier. But as it is, the Vicomte arrives today at last, a few days since the busy two weeks of Marsilikos have concluded.

“Good day,” Belmont greets the servants that hover about at the manse, his expression cheerful and perfectly oblivious to any ill news they may have for him. His gaze flicks towards the stairs that lead to the upper hallway. “Is Irene there?”

“Oh!” Mademoiselle Greer is caught by a surprise. She immediately turns toward the man and offers a deep curtsy, “M’lord…” Her gaze wanders to Antonin who also offers a polite bow of his head. The woman nips a fabric of her rag a bit nervously while Antonin dusts his attire. Both servants stare at each other a bit longer than they should. However, when a name of a lady is mentioned, their eyes spring to the lord.

Silence. House servants take one more glance at each other. Antonin is the first to speak up, “M’lord, lady Irene is no-…”

“… occupied!” Greer interrupts and steps forward. However, she can not hold her attention long on the lord and her mildly ashamed gaze wanders around the room seeking for a proper distraction. A small spider-web in the corner of a sill offers an escape and she moves to clean it off. One of her eyes peek at Antonin, though.

The man gave a small shake of his head and was ready to part his lips and provide a proper explanation when Greer cuts him off again, “Shall we inform lady Irene that she should pay you a visit once she will be available?”

Antonin lowers his gaze down.

<FS3> Belmont rolls Perception: Success. (4 3 7 1 6 3 6)

The young Vicomte de Rognac may be oblivious, but he is not dumb. He looks from Greer to Antonin and raises his brows in a no doubt inquiring look. “What is going on here?”, he asks. “Occupied? What’s the matter…?” And he already starts towards the stairs as if inclined to check for himself. “She can’t be too occupied to see her own brother!”

“She is not at home! She…” Antonin blurbs what earns a stern look from Mademoiselle Greer. But, of course, if Antonin plans to be blunt, another house servant doesn’t want to stay on the wrong side of a potentially upcoming small issue. So, Greer speaks up as well. “Lady Irene has been moved to the Palace that a lady Emmanuelle Shahrizai nó Mandrake could look into our lady’s si-tua-tion…” The last word is drawled and both servants grow quite grim.

“It was lady’s request not to inform you, m’lord,” Antonin explains. “She did not want to worry you. Lady Irene has fallen ill since the first day of autumn. It seemed to be but a simple cold but it developed to a worse conditi-…”.

“It wouldn’t have developed if you wouldn’t have taken her to the Sword Duels!” As if to push away her blame of not informing the family, Greer pokes at a more serious issue.

“Lady desired to see her…” Antonin tries to explain himself but Greer left him no chance speaking further herself.

“Her condition worsened to the point that she felt huge pain in her chest, fever did not fall down and she coughed out blood. That was the last time we saw our lady,” the woman explains.

“She is not — ?” Belmont stops and turns, glaring at the servants. “What are you meaning to tell me?” Brows furrow as Greer explains. “To the palace? What situation?” A shake of his head at the name mentioned. “What, by the Companions…?” The lord’s expression shifts from faintly annoyed to increasing concern. He grows pale, grey-blue eyes darkening as the information slowly begins to sink in.

“She is at the palace?” It is a statement more than a question. “That’s where I’ll go then.”

At which Belmont turns towards the door and leaves. Not even in the mood to scold servants that probably acted only on orders.

Irene’s Chambers — Dome of the Lady

Upon his arrival to the Palace, Belmont will be able to navigate around and find the chambers in which his sister has been located only with the help of a few servants. But finally, when he will knock on the door, a young servant woman will look out. She will eye an unknown lord with a few grains of fear in her gaze. “Y-yes, m’lord?” she mutters and peeks her head out more to look around. “If you wish to visit lady Irene, lady Emmanuelle Shahrizai nó Mandrake has demanded that she can receive not more than three visits per day and only for twenty minutes. How shall I announce you to the lady?”

“Who is it?” Irene’s voice speaks up. “Has my sketching equipment finally been brought?”

The servant girl looks back at the lady and shakes her head, “No, a lord is here to see you.”

“Oh? Please, let him in!” A ruffling of bedsheets can be heard as Irene is trying to sit up in her bed, make those piles of pillows around her more comfortable. Her fingers quickly brush her hair to make sure that no strands are sticking out untidily. “Let him in!”

The servant girl opens the door wider to let Belmont in. She herself would leave and close the door behind herself.

Whomever Irene may have expected, it probably may have been someone else. Or not? Belmont wears a frown as he pushes past the servant and enters the chamber, “Tell Irene, her brother is there.” A somewhat redundant request, as he is already entering. “Sketching equipment,” he mutters more to himself, a reassuring observation that his sister is still well enough to consider drawing.

Confident steps come to a halt, as Belmont finally catches sight of Irene — and for a moment he cannot help but stare at her. “Irene! You are looking awful.”, he cannot help but observe, rushing over to where she is laying in her bed. “Why didn’t you let me know? Why haven’t you sent for me? You silly little sister of mine?” Sitting down he leans in, arms wrapping around her in a hug. “If only I had known…”, Belmont murmurs. “I would have come sooner.”

“Belmont?” A bewildered surprise mingling with a small disappointment echoes in the room. The confusion of a sudden presence of her brother leaves Irene quiet till he is finished with his own talks and she ends up in his embrace. A young lady smiles and taps her hands on the brother’s back. “And what would have you done then, Belmont? Withdrawn your sword and dueled my illness? You are good with a sword but if I remember right you are not the best healer?” She withdraws from his embrace and gestures toward a chair a bit further away from the bed, “Lady Emmanuelle wished that all my visitors would sit there. I must listen every rule she has mentioned. Otherwise, she is going to beat that poor girl up. She said that my failure to follow her orders will cause the servant girl pain…” Irene sighs.

Her eyes focus on Belmont’s. Smile comes back to her lips, “I am getting better. Lady Emmanuelle is wonderful! Better tell me how are you? How is lady Gabrielle? And…” Her smile broadens, “CONGRATULATIONS!” she shouts out what is followed by a cough. Irene covers her lips to muffle the sound. “Sorry. I am just very happy for your victory.”

“I would have liked to know.”, Belmont replies plainly. “I would have made sure that you are getting the best available healers. I take it, you sneaked off to attend the tournament? A pity you weren’t there, when I won the melee… But then again… it was probably better that way.” He sighs when Irene pulls back from his embrace and he lets her go. Only to follow her request, to sit down beside the bed. “I’m not any visitor,” he dares to contradict, “I am your brother. There must be different rules in regards to me, but maybe… maybe I shall have a talk with this Lady… Emmanuelle. Who is she?” A faint frown remains on his features. “Why is she threatening the maid?”

But now it will be on him to answer questions and receive congratulations. “Gabrielle is fine, I am sure she will wish to pay you a visit, to make sure you are alright. She was there at the tournament field, when I… saved Eisande by winning the contest. So many other contests were won by people not hailing from here…” He smiles faintly. “We are hoping she will be with child soon. It’s after all what is expected, when you marry. Delaunay needs a heiress, to follow in Gabrielle’s footsteps. But… truth be told…” His demeanor clouds a little. “I had expected… hoped for her to have more time for me, now that we are husband and wife.”

His gaze focuses on Irene and he leans forward. “Now… what is this disease you caught, little Irene? When will you get better again?”

“I am sorry that I was not there to see your victory,” Irene lowers her gaze down apologetically. “That day I was barely conscious. My condition grew worse after I forced Monsieur Antonin to escort me to the Sword Duels. I wanted to see if the lord used my favor or simply put it aside.” She bites on her bottom lip. A pause. A few deep inhales. “I thought it was him who came to visit me….” She immediately raises her head up and looks at Belmont, “But I am glad to see you here! I missed you!”

To the further questions Irene answers with a shrug, “I think it’s in her blood to threaten everyone in her presence. She is Lady Emmanuelle Shahrizai no Mandrake, the duchesse de Mereliot's own half-sister and the Dowayne of Mandrake House on Mont Nuit. I believe she is retired… I had a small conflict with the woman when I wanted to leave for the closing feast. But she strictly forbid me and repeated that the servant girl’s life depends on my decision. I respect her but I am absolutely scared of her. But she was also kind enough to provide me with some advices in regards of Kushelines the other day.”

She hears out her brother further and a thin smile fades. “Aren’t you happy anymore? You both seemed to be absolutely in love and now I hear that you feel left alone?” She sits up more straight and focuses her attention on Belmont. “I believe that she has many duties but I know that she loves you. The times when I met you both she was not able to remove her arms and her eyes away from you. You stole her heart fully and she was incredibly passionate. One could only be jealous of what you both have. I also am sure that you both will have many children and I will have a chance to become the best auntie!”

The last question is waved off, “I have never asked her. Something with my lungs I believe. I coughed blood!” She rolls her eyes. “But now I am much better. Lady Emmanuelle believes I should be able to go out and about in few days.”

“Well,” Belmont says with a grin, cocking his head a little to the side. “This mysterious lord, who wore your favor… I hope you aren’t disappointed that is just me.” A light tease there in his tone. “It was stupid though to risk your health. I think you already had your cold.” His brows twitch upwards. “Apparently you are in need of a stern hand to keep you in check. Mandrake? Companions!” The Vicomte rolls his eyes a little at that. “As for how life has changed or me? It has. Back in Aix I was already assigned some duties — and I am not speaking of the matrimonial duties here.” He rolls his eyes again, with a smirk. “Those are… quite diverting, yes. But the Comtesse… my mother-in-law stressed that she would wish me to learn swiftly, so that I can support Gabrielle, and take some of the load off her shoulders. It is not that I feel lonely, Irene. It’s just… hard to say. Gabrielle loves me, and I love her. She is a delight in the bedroom, and I am sure she would say the same of me.” This has him chuckle despite himself.

“Don’t worry about me, Irene, or her. We are settling in quite nicely, and are happy to be settled in this match that benefits both of our Houses. It is just not all about pleasure. Sometimes she needs to fill me in about political… things. Economical considerations. You know. I’ve never been good at that. It is something I still need to learn… So, yes… call me dumb. But sometimes I need to go out to brush off that feeling.” The admission is made, and only tempered a little by the mischievous wink he offers his sister. It is a fleeting impression. When her next words has his features darken in a frown of concern. “You coughed… blood? Irene! And you didn’t even mean to let me know? When were you thinking to have me find out?”

Irene listens to her brother attentively. Though, his open thoughts in regards of the performance in bed brings a deep blush onto her cheeks. The young lady has always been quite shy when it came to the pleasures of life, she even refused to go through the so common traditions upon her sixteenth birthday. So, she turns her gaze away when her brother adds too many details for her. But a low chuckle is let out as a sign of participation in the conversation.

The rest of the conversation receives more attention. Irene slides closer to the side of the bed that she could extend her arm and place her hand on Belmont’s. “You are not dumb. You are very talented, devoted and a quick learner. You will do everything what is required and you will make us all proud the same you did till now. Everything will be fine.”

Instead of answering to the last remarks, Irene beams broadly and changes the subject, “By the way, have you and lady Gabrielle received the cake I’ve sent to you as a wedding gift? Mademoiselle Audrialla is very talented. I asked her to make the cake and sent it to you both!”

He did not give any details, did he? Even so, Belmont notes the awkwardness that seems to settle on his sister, once he merely expresses his joy at one particular area at least working very well. Irene’s reassuring words are accepted, and with a soft sigh, he glances towards the window. “Thank you for your high opinion of me, Irene. I will try, of course. And be it just to make you and Gabbie a little proud.” He leans back a little and stretches his legs. The smile returns, when she mentions the cake. “Ah. That! Yes, it was absolutely delicious. Didn’t I write you back to express our thanks? Ah. Kushiel. I suppose I forgot.” A sheepish look he gives her. “You have a great brother, forgetting to give proper thanks and even come and inquire when he doesn’t hear from you… A brother who prefers to attend an ambassador’s feast and get drunk on uisghe while you are coughing blood? Oh Irene, can you forgive me?”

“Don’t be silly, Belmont! There is nothing to forgive!” She rolls her eyes and encourages her brother to calm down looking at him with a warm smile. “You have been busy and angels know that you need time to enjoy yourself. I would have told you everything if that would have been a severe situation. I knew that everything will be fine now. So, I simply wanted that you would enjoy yourself. I love you, Belmont, and you are the best brother one could have!” she leans back in her seat then. “I myself am not the best sister. I did not congratulate you on time during the wedding. I actually could have been there to celebrate but chose to run after the man who doesn’t even want me here. Then you come back and I still do not visit you and we are almost neighbours!” She chuckles. “Will /you/ forgive me?”

Belmont seems to be in thoughts, one corner of his mouth curling upwards in a wry smile, as he glances towards the window once again. “I am still a little mad at you,” he tells his sister. “With Gauge being back in Beaucare, I am somewhat responsible. He would kill me if something happened to you, and I didn’t prevent it.” His train of thought is suddenly cut short, when Irene once again makes an enigmatic remark about her mysterious crush. Her brother moves to stand, taking a step closer to the bed upon which Irene has reclined. “Who is this, that has managed to give my sister confusing thoughts?”, he asks, half-amused, half-worried at that fact. “You said, he wore your favor at the duels?”

When her brother asks again about that mysterious lord who stole her heart, Irene cannot hold her wide smile and excitement in her eyes. Though, that excitement is more a blind adoration. She curls her legs up and wraps her arms around them. She raises her gaze at the brother and it is so clear that she kept mentioning the other lord now and then since her heart beats wild with a wish to tell someone. ANYONE. Why not her closest and only one friend who is her brother as well? The young lady lowers her voice to a whisper. “Yes. He had my favor. He won. He won Sword Duels. This man… Belmont… This man…” Her cheeks once more bloom in roses. “He has become my first man. Like THE MAN. He is just perfect but he keeps calling me a little lamb…” She sighs and pouts. “He says that we are not even friends. He said that we might be allies but nothing more. Ever. I even asked Gauge to ask lord Cyriel’s liege for a marriage between me and Cyriel. His liege kind of agreed… Maybe… But lord Cyriel said - never.”

As if he had known or at least suspected she was dying to tell him. And yet Belmont looks slightly perplexed when confronted with the depth of his sister’s admiration for… a Kusheline? The glitter in her eyes is contagious, however, finding a mirror in his own, even as the smile on his features fades. “Ah. Lord Cyriel Charlot.” His brows furrow as he recalls the man with the hawkish nose from recent memory. After all, both of them had received their prizes for their wins at the closing feast only a few days ago. “Your… first?” His brows twitch upwards, the notion perhaps hard to get used to. “My little sister… has finally elected to become a woman?” This at least makes him smile again. “What a rude thing to do,” he murmurs, but it remains unclear what exactly he is referring to — Lord Cyriel declining her wish to marry, or the fact that one of Kushiel’s province had found an oh so willing prey in Belmont’s little sister.

He blinks and shakes his head as if to get certain images out of his head, and then focuses his eyes once again on Irene. “It was he then,” Belmont muses in half-question, “who brought you back to the Eresse residence, after the duels?”

Irene nods, “It was him. Unfortunately, he felt obliged to escort me back home since I was feeling unwell. He did not do it on his own merit or just because he wanted to spend time with me. My fever raised while we were in the carriage and he had to bring me to my bed. But I saw how uncomfortable he was during the whole ride. He did try to make sure that nobody would notice us. I believe he finds me as an annoyance. But he needs me… He is up to something. Potentially dangerous.” Irene sighs one more time. “He needs information from me. He wants that I would tell him things about what is going on in the palace since I am a lady-in-waiting to the duchess but that is all. Otherwise, I am a small weak lamb and he would not be interested to someone like me ever. I am almost quoting his words.” She drags a blanket up placing it on her knees and then leaning her chin on it. “But that is fine. I simply wanted him. He was very different from everyone whom I saw around. You know how I enjoy unique features and personalities as they inspire me? He is exactly like that. So, I wanted him. Just simply wanted and basically threw myself at him after sending him a gift after a gift… I do feel mildly ashamed about it, though. I wish I could stop thinking of him. But instead I allowed him to keep my favor for as long as he desires.”

<FS3> Belmont rolls Politics: Good Success. (7 5 5 2 6 6 7)

“If he is dangerous, I wish for you to stay away from him,” Belmont tells Irene with a grave look, his index finger scratching thoughtfully over his chin. A bit of concern flickers in in his grey-blue eyes. “Obviously, as you say, his intention is to use you for his own… doubtful purposes. What if he intends ill against Her Grace… and he wishes of you to spill secrets to him, knowing you are one of her ladies? Perhaps… perhaps you should tell what you just told me to this fearsome Lady Emmanuelle Shahrizai. With her being half-sister to the Duchesse, she can advise you on how to get cured of this infatuation you have for him. She will know what to do… maybe she could… have a word with him. You said she threatened to kill the maid? Maybe she can utter some very convincing threats towards this Charlot, so that he will leave you in peace.”

Her brother seems to disapprove, protective instinct taking over at the very disturbing revelations. His hand touches against Irene’s cheek, patting it gently. “He should return that favor to you… Or it will give him funny ideas that he can do whatever he pleases.”

Irene’s amused laugh ripples across the room. She also raises her hand and cups Belmont’s cheek into her palm, if he allows. “Oh, silly and caring brother of mine!” She shakes her head couldn’t believe that the man so badly misunderstood her. “You are so protective but if someone needs protection - it’s lord Cyriel. He never had such an intentions for me. Now, he does, but because I asked for it. You see…” A beat. “I desired him and I threw myself at him. Since the day I expressed my feelings to the man he gave me a warning. He said that he will never marry me and me, a little lamb, will be thousands of times safer away from him. He did everything what he could to push me away but I kept coming and I told him that I admire him, I want to learn from him and I want to assist him. It was me who said to him that I can become a very valuable little lamb. I thought it will make him change his mind.”

She looks down to her lap, “He has no ill intentions toward the duchess. He is looking for a missing relative and I provided him with the information I acquired.” She shrugs, “After a long push, he finally gave up. He agreed that we can be allies and I asked him for a lesson. A lesson of Namaah’s arts. That is when he agreed to sleep with me.” She looks up to the ceiling out of the shame for her confession.

<FS3> Belmont rolls Composure: Success. (6 4 5 3 7 6)
<FS3> Belmont rolls Empathy: Failure. (6 4 4)

Belmont considers his sister with a somewhat doubtful expression, his brows furrowing. While Irene’s confessions spill so enthusiastically from her mouth, he seems to be torn between concern and amusement. “How can you tell?”, her brother counters. “Maybe it was he who baited you into thinking you did it out of your free will. And honestly, Irene, would you refuse him, if he asked you to act against Eisandine interests?” For a moment it seems, his worries are keeping the upper hand, until his posture relaxes and he chuckles with a light shake of his head, hardly scandalized by her candid confession.

“Well. Apparently he has been at least good for that one thing,” Belmont allows with a faint smirk. “But sister… don’t make the mistake to focus all of your hopes and pleasure on him alone. You will be in for a heartbreak, or at least disappointment.”

“Well… It’s not that I have anyone else to focus my attention on. I tried going to the Night Court afterwards. Just to forget lord Cyriel. I have signed a contract with Master Baptiste but he is still not sure if he likes me enough for a more serious and long term contract. The rest of the lords are distracted by other ladies,” Irene explains. “That is absolutely fine. They are many times more beautiful than I will ever be, and they are more charismatic, and more cheerful, and more wild, more care-free. It’s easy to fall in love with them or just enjoy every moment in their presence. Me? I am a bore, I am too fat on my hips but I lack charms on my bust, and my nose is too long. My cheeks are too puffy. My hair does not carry the beauty of a sunlight or flames. I just have very plain brown hair. How could I even hope for something different than a heartbreak everytime when I meet another lord? Of course, you will tell me to enjoy the Night Court but those people there have a duty to love, and we pay them to love us. It’s not the same as it could be with a simple lord. So, I better focus my attention on the man who at least desires no women not the one who just does not desire me. Less of a heartbreak then.”

“Elua, I wish you would hear yourself talk, sister,” Belmont sighs. “This is absolute nonsense, and you know it. You are a lady d’Eresse. If the world would see you as you trying to convince me it does, they would truly be undeserving of your wit, your beauty, your charms. Aww, come on, Irene! Look at you.” He lifts his palm of her cheek, hand turning to lace his fingers with hers. His brows jump upwards, a light tease there in his tone as he shrugs his shoulders. “Okay… not as you are looking right now, of course. What did I say when I came in? You look awful?”

Already expecting a nudge, he backs away half a step as to evade a punch he would be most deserving of. “As for the Night Court? You know it is not as simple as that… It is more the physical and the religious aspect of love you can sate there. Or… go to the Salon de Coquelicot and find a Heliotrope flavored courtesan there.” Belmont is teasing. Is he?

“Be careful though, when playing with Kushelines. Did I tell you I was once infatuated with Desarae Mereliot, when she was still a novice at Rose Sauvage? Knowing I would never be able to afford her debut, I still nurtured faint hope… After she sacrificed her handkerchief to keep me from bleeding to death. That Ferraut incident.” That is all he offers, the House of a lord who had elected to besmirch Irene’s name with offensive lies. “I was aware though, that this sort of worship of Naamah would not work for me, as would have been necessary on Lady Desarae’s debut night. Oh what a comfort it was, when I learned that she would never truly enter service to Naamah, and there would be none eventually, whose win I would have to envy. She has Morhban blood, from her father’s side.”

His fingers let go and he steps closer to rearrange the blanket about his sister’s frame. “I shall leave you now, sweet sister. For any sort of focus, you need to recover first. Get better, or I shall get very angry with you.”

Aware that he has already exceeded the recommended twenty minutes by far, Belmont Eresse Delaunay turns to leave Irene to her recovery — but not without placing a brotherly kiss to her forehead. “Stay strong.”

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