Written on October 10, 2020 (♎)

Author's Notes: I assume this fic exemplifies terrible firearms safety; also, there are a lot of swears.

Ovelia had never fired a gun before, but Ovelia had never done many things. She had never been struck. She had never been kidnapped. She had never rode so many leagues out in the open air. With practically everything she experienced these days being a novelty of the highest degree, loading up a strange artifact of a bygone age with some terrifying alchemical powder and using it to explode holes in various objects seemed a far less frightening prospect than she had imagined it might be.

Mustadio had explained everything in meticulous—almost nervous—detail, as though once she had the pistol in her hands she would be liable to blast the lot of them to pieces if she didn’t didn’t have an encyclopedic knowledge of the firing mechanisms. She had followed along as best she could, and then—with his leave—she annihilated a small sapling several feet to the right of the potion bottle that they’d placed on a stump as a makeshift target.

She tipped backwards a little from the force of the gun going off, giving a sharp shout as she watched the little tree snap where it had been struck. It drooped over slowly, collapsing as if it were some poor player making a grand melodrama of his death scene.

“Fuck yeah!” whooped one of the sellswords from somewhere behind her, evidently just as enthused for her to destroy some of the surrounding flora as they would be should she have actually hit true. Mustadio coughed loudly and gave whomever it was a mortified look. He seemed suddenly self-conscious about the men using the same language they always did regardless of the presence of princesses.

“Your majesty, if you’d like to try again—”

“I would!”

“Well, I…”

Mustadio trailed off. He moved over to reload the weapon for her and then, after making a few sounds that seemed on the precipice of starting a sentence, he fell silent and moved behind her. Ovelia smiled awkwardly—even knowing he couldn’t see her—-as he reached to place the weapon back in her hands and steady them with his own.

“You won’t have anyone holding you steady on the field, you know, but I thought—"

“I doubt I’ll be on the field anytime soon, Mr. Bunansa, We’re only a few days out from Lionel, and I—” She laughed, feeling very palpably for a moment the shape of the hands that were buried under the cracked padded leather of Mustadio’s gloves. “Well, I don’t think that I’ll be up to shooting anybody if we do meet with trouble.”

Mustadio adjusted his grip a little, bringing the weapon they both held to point just a few degrees higher.

“Well let’s hope you have a long reign ahead of you to take up the art!” He paused. “Not that, you know, I’d—uh—want you to have a rule where you need to be constantly shooting people.”

“A queen with a fucking gun is what this country needs, Bunansa!”

Mustadio looked over his shoulder as if he were about to bid the rowdy (and possibly drunk) youth who had spoken to leave off his running commentary. Someone from his company seemed to be already taking him aside, however. There had been some rumor they’d all been expelled from Gariland a year prior—perhaps there was still some hope one or another of them still retained some of the manners of academy men.

He turned back to find Ovelia looking over her shoulder, such that when he moved his head, they were quite nearly nose to nose. She giggled as she watched him redden. She imagined she must be reddening as well; her face suddenly felt very hot in the early April air. In all the multitude of nevers that Ovelia was now experiencing—being so close to a man whose hands were upon hers was one that was only beginning to fully register.

“In any event, your majesty, if you wanted to… ah—” Mustadio cut off as Ovelia turned away from him suddenly. It was almost a flinch, as if she were recoiling from the thought that there might be anything improper about the configuration of their bodies or the familiarity of their speech.

She forgot, in that instant, that her concern above and beyond propriety perhaps ought have been that she was holding a pistol.

Mustadio was taken off guard by suddenly having the full weight of her hair flung in his face. Ovelia was taken off guard by the sudden motion of his body trying to balance itself. Neither of them was in any shape to be on guard for the gun going off, which is precisely what happened next.

Ovelia yelped as she heard the clatter of glass breaking, which gave way thereafter to the excited whoops and claps of their audience.

She had dropped the pistol. Somehow, in however many fragmented seconds had passed, Mustadio had clapped his arms around her—apparently in a protective gesture. They both parted from one another abruptly while the mercenaries continued to cheer.

“My apologies, princess…” he said sheepishly, taking a step back.

“Apologies for what?”

“This just—ah—seems like perhaps this wasn’t the best of ideas?”

“We hit it, didn’t we?” she asked brightly, looking briefly to where the doomed sapling still bowed to her.

Another cheer went up; the motley of language intermixed with it was as colorful as ever.

“I just thought…” He grimaced and looked away. “Maybe all this Gougish stuff isn’t quite proper to inflict on a princess. Firing guns, oiling gears, digging up automata...robots… whatever they are: I feel like its—uh—”

She stepped towards him, craning her head a little playfully. He fell to silence once again. Perhaps it was the giddy rush of having so thoroughly destroyed something that lent her a sudden reckless confidence, but she drew close to him again very suddenly.

“Mustadio Bunansa.” She lowered her voice. "I would fucking love to go dig up some robots."