420 Reasonable Expectations
Tycondrius quietly scrutinized the young Athena Vanzano. Her eyelids were swollen and her eyes were red... Most obviously, her teardrops had crystallized into small frozen droplets and were scattered about the inside of the carriage.
Tycon narrowed his eyes to concerned squints... Why did Parthenope leave him alone with her? He was not good with children, especially ones with Athena's... condition.
Was she hungry? ...No, lunch was only a bell prior.
Injured? Also no.
"...Would you like me to get footman Tanamar?" He offered.
The silver-haired footman was generally useless... but Tycon had run out of ideas. Tanamar could probably... fix whatever Athena's issues were.
...Unless he was the reason for whatever-this-concerned. Perhaps breaking the young man's arm for whatever he did would bring her joy?
"Oh, no... It's nothing," Athena forced herself to smile... Another icy tear sparkled down her face, which she quickly wiped away.
Tycon shook his head and sighed, "Even if you're being polite... I believe it's a poor habit to lie to one's friends, young lady."
The frosty haired noble continued to sniffle, but shot back a grin, "Ehehe... We're friends. Nice..."
"May I ask what's on your mind, Miss Athena?"
Athena looked out the window... "I'm happy that we won... but I was just-- I really wanted mom and dad to be here."
A deep loathing bit deep into Tycon's heart. Greer and Marigold... those people were not qualified to have a child as talented and successful as Athena.
He hoped they were dead. If that were the case, their absence would be somewhat permissible.
"I mean, it's fine," Athena rubbed at her already raw eyes with her wrists. "It's always fine. I'm okay."
Tycon sighed again, reclining back into his seat. "Thinking logically... did you expect your parents to be in the crowd?"
"Well... yeah!" Athena insisted, "That's what parents do! They support their daughters!"
Tycon grimaced... "Did you expect *your* parents to do so?"
Athena opened her mouth to speak... but her words stuck in her throat... "I guess not..."
"It is folly to dwell on what you'd already expected," Tycon gently chided. "The training was hard, was it not? You expected it to be as such... and yet, you've never complained."
Athena crossed her arms and pouted... "I just... I think... maybe I just want to complain, sometimes."
"That's fine..." Tycon chuckled, "Of course, it's fine. You are among friends, after all."
The young lady began to tear up again... "I... I don't know what I'd do... without Tanamar... without Theno... without you and Mister Z and... Ran-Ran."
Tycon nodded, "Your allies can support you, as you support them. These are healthy relationships that you must cultivate."
Her relationship with the people who called themselves her parents, not so much...
Athena pursed her lips... "Can... can I count on your support, Sir Tycon?"
"Tss..." Tycon scoffed, "To a point, yes. Be aware that I've completed my quest in the Holy Country. Lone and I will be moving on, soon."
"Oh..." Athena immediately became crestfallen, her gaze drifting to the floor... "You're going to leave me... just like Maximus."
That was unfair. Tycon wasn't planning on dying anytime soon.
Tycon pursed his lips, slightly amused at the young lady's twisted logic, "Are you trying to tell me that the young lady of House Vanzano isn't strong enough to stand on her own?"
Athena frowned, "I had help! Lots of help!"
"Everything we have done... we have done to enable you. By your own hands, you can prove your worth to those who dare doubt you." Tycon placed his hand on his chin in thought... "What would your brother say of this?"
Athena bowed her head, frozen tears dropping into her lap... "H... he would tell me... to be brave. H... he told me... that... I... I'd be strong... even stronger than he was..."
"Oh?" Tycon observed the weeping girl for a moment longer. "Would he be proud of you for your accomplishments?"
She nodded, sniffling miserably.
"Do you truly need me..." Tycon leaned forward, steepling his fingers... "--or is it just your selfishness?"
"I..." Athena hesitated... "It's... it's selfishness, Sir Tycon... You've done so much for me, already."
"But..." Her eyes widened, "C-can you stay just for a little bit longer? Let's go for a dungeon! Just one more! Please, Sir Tycon??"
Mulling over the thought, Tycon steepled his fingers together...
...He supposed he could stay for a short while longer. He'd save travel time from going back and forth from the Free Nation to visiting Sasarame. Anyroad, the completion of his three quests from Queen Rylania was not a time-sensitive matter.
Tycon chuckled quietly to himself, "Since you asked so politely, yes. One dungeon would be fine."
The return trip to Silva was relatively uneventful.
No brigands seemed foolish enough to attack a caravan of carts and a fancy carriage. Perhaps it was the black armored riders... or maybe the dark banner of Guild Letalis dissuaded a raid.
A group of a half-dozen goblins stole Shao Ran and his barrel one night. Tycon had to give the whelps a stern talking-to, but a lesson was learned by both parties. Ran was recovered without issue.
Near the city proper, the caravan took a detour to drop off Parthenope at the Aldini estate. Athena and Guild Letalis were invited to stay for dinner, but Zenon had personally requested a celebratory meal at the local Olea Garden.
In winning the championship at Caeruleum, Centurion Zenon Skyreaper had nearly died. If the man wanted Olea Garden, Tycon would ensure the man got his Olea Garden. Friendship and loyalty were displayed, not with words, but with action.
Upon their return to the manor, however... one of Tycon's fears had come to light.
Athena's parents, Lord Greer and Lady Mari-whatever had returned from Passage in the meantime. More surprising... was the fact that they were both alive. Horse and Jeremy had *not* murdered them.
The two poor excuses for humans waxed and waned about their trip.
They did not ask about the tournament... nor did they make mention of Caeruleum at all.
Tycon knew that Athena would be upset... but as an awe-inspiring credit to the young lady, she wore a patient smile and listened politely to their drivel.
Afterward, the young Miss Athena excused herself to her room...
Tycon did not consider himself very good at dealing with the nuances of human emotion. A few suns prior, he had spoken with the young lady about perspective... If a negative outcome is expected, an overly negative emotional response is illogical.
Still, even though Athena handled the situation well, she was clearly unhappy about what had transpired.
Again and again, Tycon was placed into shite situations. To fix them, he'd murder or destroy what he could... and he'd escape from what he could not. He was not immune to cursing the gods... sometimes, he would mock or berate his subordinates for their foolishness. Nonetheless, he would act to mitigate whatever difficulties he and Sol Invictus faced.
The most efficient solution, concerning certain difficult situations... was to swallow one's pride in order to focus on survival.
As Tycon surmised that Athena would not be keen on murdering her parents, he sought to raise her morale, instead.
He immediately sought the assistance of footman Tanamar.
Tycon entered the door to the male servants' quarters. Because of the awkward timing in the sun, all of the Letalis members were out training, while Victorius was elsewhere in the manor.
Tanamar was alone, which allowed Tycon to speak freely.
"Good afternoon, Tanamar," Tycon greeted the silver-haired footman. "Go see to Miss Athena."
"Wait, what?" The young man furrowed his brows in confusion, "What's going on?"
Tycon grimaced... He was hoping for a different, more positive response.
"I apologize. Did you need... the situation explained?"
"Tch, yeah." Tanamar crossed his arms, remaining guarded.
"Through the process of induction..." Tycon began, "I believe that Miss Athena may be 'upset' because her parents are selfish, insensitive human beings that don't care about her achievements."
"Oh... That's pretty rough," Tanamar uncrossed his arms, finally sharing Tycon's look of concern.
"So go to her, then," Tycon gestured towards the door.
The footman averted his gaze, "I uh... I don't think it's a good idea."
...Tycon narrowed his eyes, "Please. Explain."
Did those two get in an argument? He couldn't think of any other reason that Tanamar wouldn't be rushing over to the young lady's side like a Knight to a damsel-in-distress...
...or a... Tyrion Champion to a... High Priestess?
Tanamar shrugged noncommittally, "I'm not really good at cheering people up. How about we send Doe? Or Sorina?"
Tycon resisted the urge to strike the young man out of frustration, "You told me the other sun that Athena deserves happiness. You, Athanasius Mors, are capable of bringing that to her."
"It's not me."
...Tycon felt his blood boiling in annoyance at the young man's impotence. He unclenched his teeth and tried to keep his voice calm... "What. the hells. is that supposed to mean?"
"Just what it sounds like..." Tanamar shook his head, staring at the filth-covered floor... "I'm not the one that's supposed to bring her happiness."
"You can't be serious..." Tycon rolled his eyes so hard he feared for a moment that he might go blind, "Who in the seven hells is it supposed to be then?"
The silver-haired footman grimaced, gulping hard... "It's... it's Tancred..."