When the light of the warp faded, Aldrich found himself in the familiar space of Medula's library. Specifically, around a rectangular work table fashioned from stone and studded with magic crystals that probably supported a variety of functions.
"Let us begin appraising this quaint item of yours." Medula snapped her fingers, and her coat jacket materialized around her. She dragged her hands across her eyes, materializing red tinted glasses. "Place it upon the table."
"I'll let you handle this," said Aldrich, nodding to Fler'Gan.
"It will be a pleasure." Fler'Gan took the case and gently placed it on the table. It was already coded to his voice at this point, giving him free reign over it.
Which was good, because Aldrich did not actually have the time to be poring through the journal. Not when he had the Blackwater raid to prep for in just a few days. But this was the perk of having a dedicated researcher on the team.
Might as well use it.
For now, Aldrich touched base with Valera, checking if she was alright considering her sensitivity to all things romance loyalty related. Generally, though, it was more a surface level sensitivity, all things considered.
It was said that vampires were naturally passionate beings, their emotions raging and flaring like tornadoes, and for Valera, her particular emotional trigger lay in her love for Aldrich.
But Valera had trained her mind and body as a knight. She could place duty above her emotions and reel them back when she wanted. She just could not help temporarily feeling a surge of passion before higher reason cooled it down.
Valera, physically, was a little antsy, shifting her balance about on one heel to the other, biting a lip in nervous concern.
"Did her words get to you?" said Aldrich.
"No, not her words. Well, perhaps, in the moment, but that was simply an emotional reaction," said Valera.
"Your emotions are still valid," said Aldrich.
Valera shook her head. "Not these. Momentary flare ups of passion. They are vampiric impulse, much like our urge to drink blood or, in my clan's case, the added urge to kill.
In other words: irrational. A noble vampire such as I, especially with my training, should not fall to such base urges."
"Right. I figured as much," said Aldrich. "But I wanted to ask, just to make sure."
"Yes. Though, I do worry about the Death Lord." Valera leered, her pupils narrowing into fierce slits. "I hope she is no barbarian, but if she truly has taken a liking to you, she may try to take you by force…
In which case, I must get stronger to challenge her."
"If that happens, the fight I'll put up will be enough to make her back down," said Aldrich.
"Are you certain, my dear? She is a powerful opponent-,"
"Raw power isn't everything. Remember the last time I came here? When Medula made me pull that threat?" Aldrich tapped his temple. "I'll think of something. You won't have to worry."
Valera smiled and hugged Aldrich, much to his surprise. When not addled by bloodlust, she was surprisingly shy to physical touch. Probably because of her training as a guardian knight: it did not look good to have guardian knights that liked to woo their noble clients, after all.
"I know you will. I always do. But hearing it from your lips still comforts me." She spoke into Aldrich's ear almost seductively, or maybe it came naturally to her as a vampire, before pulling away.
She fidgeted, holding her arms together, gaze averted, a rosy tint blossoming on her pale cheek.
"Forgive me if I was being too forward," said Valera. "It only seemed that, you know, after our talk before, about moving ahead in our relationship, that, well, it would be right to start being more-,"
Aldrich reached out and took Valera's hand in his. With Volantis removed and taking care of Chrysa in the Alter realm, Aldrich's cold, undead skin touched with hers, though where he was cold all over, he could feel the warm pulse of flowing blood under her skin.
"You're right. If we're going to be something more, we should start acting like it," said Aldrich.
"W-wha!?" Valera turned beet red as she looked down at Aldrich's hand clasped over hers, but instead of drawing back, she just instinctively grasped tighter. "Where did you learn this…this sorcery!? You must have been corrupted by the Death Lord's lecherous ways! Or…or…I did some research, and I saw that in your realm, images on the matters of the flesh on the quaint space of the 'Net' is quite common…perhaps you have been corrupted there?"
'What were you doing on those kind of sites in the first place?' was the thought that went unspoken in Aldrich's head.
"I don't know how to do any of this. It's true," said Aldrich. "But you made the first move just now, didn't you? I'm just following your lead. Doesn't help that I'm a quick learner, too."
"Ah, well, that…is true. I did move on you first," said Valera. Her blush faded as she got to accepting the situation more and her vampiric tendency for strong emotional bursts faded. She smiled. "I do like this, though.
Hand holding…I had only read about it in romantic tales in my father's old library. To think it would feel this…special."
"Bleh." Medula spoke from her work table, looking up with a lazy glare. The journal lay removed from the case atop the table, root-like tendrils of blue energy wrapping around it from the table's stone surface. "Such blatant displays of affection burn my eyes and soul."
"Hmph. Jealous now, are we?" said Valera, standing triumphantly, channeling more confidence just by holding Aldrich's hand.
Medula sighed, closing her eyes. "Perhaps. It has been nine centuries since I last felt anything similar."
The surprisingly honest answer, especially when it came from Medula, the most deadpan, least emotional out of all the Death Lord's colorful crew of carnage, put both Valera and Aldrich to silence.
Medula broke the silence by opening her eyes and pointing down at the journal. "I have finished appraising this tome. Now stop holding hands and prepare to listen."