The future is…
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Ragna was a very obedient and intelligent pet, immediately recognizing her name and clicking in response when Farin tried to call her. He could feel her hanging on his clothes, a small weight between his shoulder blades, tugging down but not uncomfortable.

The old temple master had stared at her in fascination while Farin held his hair over his shoulder, revealing the tiny animal that blinked at the foreign man with dark eyes.

"I admit I hadn't expected that they would do so much", the old man whispered thoughtfully. "To think they would dig out a path, just to do one of their people a favor..."
"I want to go take a look later, Master. Ragna will show me where the entrance is, I just want to go over for a while and take a look. I don't know how far it is from here." He brushed his hair back, hiding the animal again, and turned to face the old master with pleading eyes.

The man shook his greyed head, sighing lightly and walking forward. Farin followed, awaiting his answer.
"Wait until the sacrifice is over. You can go take a look when everyone thinks you are going down the mountain. I suggest you build a home somewhere in that area, maybe between there and here, and think of a good excuse as to why you live there. No one will be surprised if they can't find you that way, even if you're gone for a few days."

They conversed on the way down, the old master offering his opinion on how to lower the risk of being caught. He also added that he would think about how to use the temple's power to put him into an advantageous situation.

Farin felt that the master's words made sense and planned quietly.

What kind of 'work' could he do that would make people less suspicious about him living in the forest? Maybe there was something he could think up with the help of the temple master and Ives, something related to the temple, as the old master had already hinted? There had to be something, definitely. Building a house wasn't anything that he needed to hurry with, for now. For a while, he could get through with visiting over the week as long as he wasn't too obvious about it.
Maybe if he acted like he went exploring with Skari and Eylir? Although, neither he nor Skari was a hunter...

Lori held his hand as she walked, glancing up at him but deciding to stay quiet in order to not disturb his thoughts.
The temple master mentioned going to talk to Ives, which suggested he was going to inform his heir about the situation, and left. Farin spent the afternoon with the children, helping them with their studies and some daily tasks around the temple before someone came by to inform Farin that Ives wanted to talk to him.

Ives was very cooperative, inviting Farin to his private room to discuss the situation and possible ideas. He was instantly attached to Ragna, staring at her in fascination as she curled on his table and nibbled on a piece of bread while Farin carefully stroked her back with his fingertip.
The little one was so tiny, he was worried he would hurt her.

"She's incredibly cute. So this is one of the species that live inside the mountain?", Ives asked, watching her eat away with a dreamy look on his face, leaning on the table. Farin had a feeling that the heir would fall asleep if he continued watching her.
"Yes, it seems so. I was told she can somehow locate her mate? I don't know how it works."
"It certainly sounds like it's just a story told to children, but it's very useful for you. I'm glad you're getting your happy ending. How are your plans for the next years?"

Ives tone was conversational, as if he was talking about the weather, but Farin knew that the question was serious.

The carrier hesitated.
"I'll continue being a carrier, Lori can stay by my side until she's an adult. I guess I'll try to visit the mountain as often as possible without being suspicious... Maybe really build a house in a few years. I might share it with Skari and Eylir, depending on my idea. Eylir is a hunter, so no one would question him living in the woods for a few years. Lots of hunters do. Skari... would probably be more suspicious, sadly." He tilted his head in thought, looking down at Ragna.
"I will try to help however it's possible", Ives said amicably. "I am sure we can think of some reason for you to live so far away from both the village and the temple. Although, maybe not too far from the temple, depending on where the path is."

Talking to the heir was calming, as if everything would turn out alright. Maybe because he had such a soothing voice, Farin thought. He was hoping to find a friend in the man, feeling that they got along quite well.

"I really appreciate it. Honestly. So, if you have any trouble, you can ask me for help, too, alright?"
Ives just smiled without a word, stretching his arm to reach Ragna and hold a finger out to her. She clicked, looking at Farin, then sniffed at Ives' finger.

"Did she just look at you for permission to interact with me?", he chuckled, amused.
"It seems so. She's quite intelligent. I don't think I've ever seen an animal as intelligent as those. Alvarr can converse with them, even."

That was an ability he was a bit jealous of. He'd love learning how to understand their sounds, but he couldn't even tell apart those clicks and couldn't imitate Alvarr's language, either. At least Ragna appeared to be able to learn his language, even if it would be one-sided.
He wondered if the people in Alvarr's village would learn how to talk to him if he came over often. Going down there would only make sense if he stayed for a while longer, the way was rather troublesome.

"I think you can carry her out in the open. She looks a bit like a mouse, I guess you could say she's some kind of crossbreed you found. If you don't let people stare at her too closely, she looks quite normal", Ives suggested, squinting at the animal.
"I had the same thought. It will be more comfortable for her if she can sit on my shoulder or climb around, rather than hiding behind my hair all day. I'd feel bad if I made her endure that."

They both spent a moment with their own thoughts, not speaking. Ragna stretched on the table, obviously comfortable.
Ives spoke quietly into the serene mood.

"Do you have an idea of how you wish to live? Not just the next years. You know what I mean."
Farin closed his eyes, leaning on his elbow.
The coming years, the time after that... He did have an idea, he just didn't want to spend too much time thinking about it before he could tell that it would come true. Until then, he'd rather face whatever would come.

"Let me just think until the coming week, Ives", he whispered peacefully. "Let me just enjoy the days of the sacrifice, and the times I can visit him in between. I won't think farther for now. I'll just think a few days at a time until I'm sure that things are going well."

Silence answered him, then a gentle chuckle. "That sounds like a good way of thinking to avoid feeling stressed. Be aware of what might come, but focus on the days that are close."
"Exactly. Right now, I'm enjoying myself. I'm just so selfish that I don't want to care about anything else right now."

He stood up from the comfortable chair. Ragna twitched her tiny face, then clicked and jumped over to his arm, climbing up. Farin tapped his shoulder and the animal, after a moment of hesitation, settled down right there instead of climbing to his back.

"Lori and Alec are still waiting for me for dinner, so I'll be leaving. I'll see you tomorrow at breakfast?" He smiled, eyes curving with the movement.
Ives hummed and yawned, then grinned back. "Yes."

Farin walked out of the door, closing it behind himself. Lori and Alec stood up from the ground when they heard and saw him, eyes growing wide at the sight of Ragna.
"What's that? Where did you get it from? Can I hold it?", Lori immediately chirped, running around Farin like a puppy. He stopped her by reaching out to pat her head, glancing at Alec who followed behind with a curious look on his face.

"Let's go get ourselves some food, I'll tell you where I found her."

Outside, the evening sun began to dye the world in a gentle red hue. People were gathering for dinner, greeting him as they walked by or falling in beside him to talk about the day. When the other children spotted Lori and Alec they came over, settling on the same table.
They ate under the loud murmur of mingling voices, in the large, shared room.

Farin kept his eyes on the children, watching them bicker and play, sometimes stop guiltily when their playing got too messy for the dinner table.

There were some things that he would like to plan for the future, an idea or two that he would have to check. But right now, the most important thing was to finish tomorrow's sacrifice and then he could ask Ragna to lead him to the hidden path. Sneak out like a little boy to meet his lover...
His heart tickled and he felt his lips tug into a permanent smile.

Since he had even managed to become the lover of a God, that should indeed be proof that nothing was impossible.
The future he wanted, he'd work for it. Surely it would turn out alright.

Having someone to accompany you into the unknown future - it really was a nice feeling.

Amused, Farin wondered whether he would have to thank the demon beasts for causing him to stumble and lose his blindfold in the first place.

Aaaand... that's it. Yep. The only thing left is the epilogue + a few extras about future scenes, but other than that, the story is over!

I'm not planning to write a comment under the epilogue, so: Thanks to all of you who read the story, I'd be happy to hear your thoughts in a comment or review, so I can learn to be a better writer for future stories :) The next one has already started if you're curious, and I promise the couple will be just as sweet as this one!

With that said, once again, thank you very much! I hope I'll see those of you who liked the story around again (。・∀・)ノ゛