Since Alec was accompanying him, a random guard from god-knows-where insisted that Farin and his friends eat their lunch in town in a private area rather than the public ones.
Farin was quite unhappy about realizing that they had been followed all the way down the mountain but calmed himself by thinking about the fact that a noble like Alec would never truly be alone anywhere. Cyrille, as well, was watched no matter where he went, so it shouldn't be too much of a surprise that Alec was.
Lori, on the other hand, looked quite intimidated by the muscular, grim man that stared Farin down and went to hide behind him. Gently, he reached out to pat her head while nodding to the guard.
"Are you responsible for paying then?", he asked with a sweet smile. The guard's face twitched before he bowed.
"In that case, I have no complaint."
Skari and Eylir had sour faces while looking at the brawny guy but relaxed immediately when they heard they'd be getting a free meal. Skari waved Lori over to himself and lowered his head to be on the same height as her.
"We'll have some nice lunch together thanks to your friend", he whispered amicably. Lori fiddled with her hands and glanced over to the haughty Alec standing in front of Farin. Skari wasn't really aware of their relationship, but the two of them had arrived behind Farin together so he assumed they got along well. The carrier had only shortly introduced Alec.
Eylir was already grinning and rubbing his hands. "Let's go upstairs then. Is Mister Serious gonna follow us or can we eat in peace?"
The guard's eyes lowered. "I shall not intrude unless necessary."
"So you're gonna be out of sight? Good. Farin, come on, I'm starving!" Eylir grabbed Farin's collar and pulled him back, causing the carrier to stumble and swallow a curse.
Alec soon walked up front, going up the stairs with a pleased face, explaining to Lori how the restaurant worked. The three men walked a step behind, with Eylir slightly set back and glancing at the door where the guard had left.
"Cyrille's cousin, huh... Is that guy still annoying you?" Eylir clicked his tongue. Farin hummed slowly.
"No, he stopped. Let's say he... got into a troublesome situation. He owes me."
The carrier stared at Alec's bobbing head and Eylir followed his line of sight. He didn't inquire about it, aware that Farin would explain if he wanted to. One way or another, the hallway wasn't the right place for serious talks.
The small, private room wasn't the same as the last time, but nice nonetheless.
"I should invite my family into eating here sometime", Farin thoughtfully said, letting his fingers slide over the even surface of the table. "I think the kids would enjoy the luxury."
"I think so, too", Skari answered loudly, and when Farin glanced over to him, he pointed at Lori with an amused face. The orphan girl was running around, making excited sounds and touching the furniture, flowers and even the window - through which she could only look when standing on the tip of her toes. It was obvious at first glance that she had never been in such a place before and her delight was heartwarming.
"Now there you can see what it looks like to really appreciate luxury. Just look at the brat." Eylir pointed over his shoulder to Alec, who followed Lori like her shadow but instead of looking happy, had a scrunched face and complained about every scratch and blemish he saw. Truly an amazing difference.
"I think I like Lori better", Eylir whispered and the other two found themselves agreeing. Being so dismissive of how much money had been spent to make the place look as it did, the thought was absurd to them.
They observed the two darting through the room, then quietly conversed while waiting for someone to come take their order.
"How long are you staying this time? It's almost the weekend already."
"The past weeks were a bit... messy. You're right, I need to go back up tomorrow, but I felt I needed to come down here for a while." Farin lowered his eyes. Hearing the truth about the mountain, becoming Alvarr's lover, seeing the Gods' village, the children being in danger... He brushed some stray strands out of his face, breathing out slowly. He had expected his life as a carrier to be calmer.
"You do attract these situations. Hundreds of years with the carriers having no problems, and then you come along and mess it up", joked Eylir, earning a wry smile from Skari.
"Don't be so rude."
"It does seem like the truth, though...", mumbled Farin. Just how would things have turned out had he just put on the blindfold directly after losing it? He fell deep into thought until he felt someone approach and looked up to see a youth in uniform.
"Alec, Lori, come and order", he called out, giving Skari and Eylir the first turn.
Alec professionally ordered everything he liked but Lori fidgeted, looking at her feet. "I don't know what to order..."
"Hmm, Alec, why don't you order something for Lori? But make it something simple, not too spicy and smaller portions."
The little noble's eyes lit up and he nodded, taking Farin's suggestion to heart. After all, the boy had noticed that the carrier was trying to help him with his relationship, and he knew Lori better. So Alec followed his advice and ordered two simple dishes - smaller portions so she could try both - and a sweet dessert.
His bright eyes turned to Farin, who nodded appreciatively. "Don't order too much for her, us commoners want to finish everything. We don't like leaving food to be thrown away."
"It's so cute how you're teaching him to get along with common people", Skari whispered with an amused tremble to his voice.
"The boy is quite close to the princes. I'm hoping that him having some understanding of how normal people live might influence them."
"Do you really think we'll be that lucky?"
"Who knows. It certainly won't do him any harm to know it."
"How long will it take until the food's finished? Are there any rules I need to know?" Lori went up to the table, leaning on it.
"It won't be too long. The tea should be here in a few minutes, before the food. As for rules, you're with us, so you don't need to worry about manners." Skari had interacted with Lori several times in the course of her running down the mountain to deliver letters and was quite pleased with the girl who had a thirst for knowledge. "If you want to, I can still explain some of them while we eat."
"Please do!" She showed her teeth while grinning, then ran back to Alec who was staring out of the window at the people in the streets.
Eylir leaned back in his seat.
"So? How are things? Better now?" He crossed his arms across his broad chest, mustering Farin.
The carrier shrugged lightly. "What should I say? I got caught in some things I can never talk to you about, but other than that, it's alright."
Even if Skari and Eylir knew about Alvarr, they still assumed that Alvarr was a young God with an uncommon interest in Farin. That was about as much as Cyrille, Alec and Lori knew, in a slightly different variant.
The whole story, he'd never tell them. He couldn't.
"That sounds too nice for its implications but whatever you say. The most important is that you're safe and sound."
"That reminds me, a different topic but my mother commented you are moving out from home?"
Skari and Eylir nodded at the same time. "Yeah, gotta get used to managing things on our own. We will still stay in the village, though. No desire to leave here just yet."
"I'd like to travel", Skari chimed in. "Go to the capital. But I'd like if you came along and we're young, anyway. We can go some other year."
"Maybe in a few years, when Alec takes Lori as his bride. I'm sure we'd have a very nice carriage if we accompanied them for the marriage", Farin suggested, earning raised eyebrows.
"Alec is determined to marry Lori right now. She said she'd think about it until they're adults."
"But he's a noble?"
"He doesn't care. Everyone else probably will, but he doesn't."
The door opened after a soft knock and the same person as before brought in a tray with cups and a teapot. The scent wafted over, attracting Lori. The little girl hurried to her seat, obediently placing her hands on her lap and stretching her neck to look at the intricately designed cups. The waiter smiled sweetly at her excitement. "The lady comes first", he explained, placing her cup before anyone else's.
Lori blushed brightly at the gentle tone of the handsome young man. Alec's face darkened.
"Your food will be ready soon", the waiter informed them before leaving after a bow. Farin watched him close the door and sipped at his tea.
"Farin, are those two going to follow you around from now?", Eylir finally commented, pointing at the children.
"Yes, they'll stick quite closely to me." Eylir raised an eyebrow but didn't ask why Farin had phrased it so weirdly, guessing that there was some sort of story behind it.
"I'm helping Farin! I'm not just following!" Lori huffed out a breath, crossing her arms before her chest. "I help him with tasks, and comb his hair, and help him put his robes on..."
The carrier hummed in agreement. He didn't need Lori for most things, but the girl was always so eager to help him that he didn't have the heart to reject her. Besides, that she had taken a liking to his hair was quite useful for him, since that meant he didn't have to comb it himself.
"If I was the carrier, then you'd have to help me, right?", Alec suddenly wondered. Farin immediately shut down the idea.
"You're not suited to be a carrier, Alec. I don't think you'd pass the test. Besides, I'm not planning on giving this post away for quite some time."
The noble ignored the first part and focused on the second half instead. He tilted his head thoughtfully. "Oh, is it because of that servant? You're together, right?"
Eylir opened his mouth and Skari pinched his thigh. With an annoyed hiss, he shut up, wilting under Skari's glare. Farin mentally sighed in relief when Eylir didn't ask how the 'God' that was interested in Farin suddenly became a 'Servant'.
"Yes. I have no other way to meet him, after all. Besides, it pays very well. It might be confusing to you, Alec, but I want to support my parents with money. I have several siblings and I want them to have a good life", he explained patiently.
"Oh, is that so. Can't you just get money from relatives if you need it?"
There was no malice in his words at all. His world simply was that easy. Everyone except him sighed at the same time.
"I think you need a few lessons on how life is for people who aren't born into rich households", Farin began, then added an argument that would surely make it more interesting for Alec. "Lori won't like marrying you as you are now. She will probably prefer living frugally."
Alec stared at the table, then at Lori who was nodding. "Wasting money is no good!"
"Am I wasting money, though...?", Alec whispered in confusion, drawing a chuckle from Farin.
"You still have some years to learn. Take it slow. In the meantime, you can be my servant as well. Lori can teach you what she usually does, so you can learn and be around her at the same time." And I can hear what you talk about, he added silently.
"How nice", Eylir mumbled. "I want servants, too."
"What for, to wash the animal blood out of your clothes? I'd feel bad for your servants." Eylir winced at Skari's comment.
"Hey, it can't be helped! I can't always avoid getting bloody as a hunter... Especially during blood-letting and skinning..."
"No, you're just clumsy when it comes to working cleanly", Farin interjected, rolling his eyes in a joking manner. Dejected, Eylir placed his head on the table.
"There, there. You're doing great", Lori purred, reaching out to pat him on the head. Eylir gave a long, exhausted sigh.