Claude knew every hour of her schedule, every corner of her dorm room, and every item of hers like it was his own, except for one: the diary she kept at the back of her closet, alongside lace lingerie and stuffed animals.
It was one of those locked diaries, but it went above and beyond with the security, having both magical and mechanical locks to ensure that nobody else aside from the owner could open the pages. Impressive engineering, objectively speaking, but it also drove him insane.
Because not only was it a secret he couldn't access, it was a secret about Lysithea he couldn't access. And how was he supposed to keep her safe without knowing everything about her?
So one afternoon, after he finished the daily room check and made sure everything was safe-- no assassins or anything-- he went off to find her with a bottle of white powders in his pocket.
"What's the occasion?" Lysithea asked, heating up the tea pot with fire magic. "You never seemed like the type for these kinds of things."
"Hey, sometimes a guy just wants to talk strategy over some tea," he shrugged. "Is that so weird?"
"...I suppose not."
As Lysithea shovelled spoonfuls upon spoonfuls of sugar into her cup, he hid his smirk by taking a sip of the apple tea before launching the talk on how to take over fortresses.
"You could use...cannons and catapults in that case..."
Not too long into the discussion, her head and eyelids began drooping down. Every once in a while, she tried to shake herself out of it by blinking, sitting up straight, and pinching her own arm, but none of those stood a chance against the copious amounts of sleeping pills she ingested along with the sugar.
"Are you okay? You seem pretty out of it there," he finally commented, upon seeing one of her sidelocks dip into the tea.
"I'm...mmh...fine," she tilted her head up, eyes still closed, only for it to fall right back down a second later. "Please get back to the subject...what did you say about the defenses again...?"
He tsked and stood up to walk around the table.
"See, this is why good boys and girls don't stay up late," he said, helping her up from the chair. "Let's get you back to your room, since you clearly need some sleep right now."
"I can do that...perfectly well...on my own..."
Despite the drowsy protests, she didn't even have the strength to struggle by the time he scooped her up into her arms.
The first layer of security on the journal was a four-digit passcode and a separate lock that had to be opened separately after that. The passcode was easy enough to crack, but he couldn't find the key for the lock anywhere in the room, meaning that she probably kept it with her.
Sitting on the edge of Lysithea's bed, he carefully raised her an arm and felt her sleeve. Her outfit didn't have visible pockets or any other potential item-keeping slots, but a small key could be hidden just about anywhere.
It wasn't anywhere up her sleeve, so he moved onto removing her shawl and examining if it had anything inside.
Not there, either.
He momentarily felt like a creep as he began palming her slim torso over the purple fabric, but forced that thought down and continued until he felt a strange outline on the right side of her pelvis. Carefully lifting the dress, not any higher than necessary, he finally spotted the key-shaped bump underneath white stockings, right at the waistband of her smallclothes.
That was one way to keep it, he thought, and slipped his hand into the hoisery to pull out the key, trying not to let his hand linger on the soft, bare skin of her stomach.
"Whew, there we go."
A few seconds later, the cover was open, but the pages still didn't budge, as if they were all glued together-- at least, not until he cradled her hand inside his own and used her finger to turn it.
The pleasantly textured, medium-thick pages finally revealed themselves, and written on them were...
"...Memory altercation and brainwashing spells?"
He was no expert in magic, by any means, but he still recognized the equations for spells, usually questionable ones, that were useful in scheming and espionage. And it wasn't too surprising that Lysithea would know about such things-- she was a magic prodigy, after all-- but why write them here?
Using her hand, he flipped through more pages, until he spotted one that contained an actual entry:
Claude doesn't remember any of the spell-casting sessions happening, seemingly thinking that they were our usual tactics study sessions (good), but there are no other observable changes in his behavior and attitude (bad).'
Tactics studdy sessions...in all honesty, they were excuses for him to be around Lysithea in the past few months, so he didn't actually remember most of its contents.
Did she have the same idea?
His eyes went back to the page--
'Perhaps I'm being foolish, trying to make him fall in love with me like this, but I need to control him before my anger at losing him to someone else controls me.'
--and widened, alongside an involuntary gasp.
I've increased the intensity of the brainwashing spell tenfold, yet still, nothing changed.
All he does is continue to tease me and treat me like a child-- or compliment me on my "strategic genius" and talk about how glad he is to have me as an ally, which is just as frustrating.
Stupid Claude. How can someone so perceptive be so dense?'
The spell has been modified to be as strong as possible without outright killing a person. There is risk of insanity and delirium, but Claude doesn't seem like the type to go insane so easily. And even if he does, it's his own damn fault at this point.
All he needs is to say he loves me. If he does that, I'll do anything and everything I can to protect him.
But if he doesn't, if he's destined to be forever out of my reach, then in the very least, I want to be the one to damage him beyond repair and mark him.
Is that so bad?'
It's been a month with no results. I am tempted to give up, to be honest-- but I can't.
If I don't succeed now, I'll never have the opportunity again. Failure isn't an option.
He'll love me, even if I have to rewrite his entire memory for it.'
The entries went on and on, full of everything from fanciful romantic daydream scenarios, to seduction methods that she was too embarassed to actually try, to unbridled anger and frustration upon seeing him act a little too flirty with others. At one point, she even wrote out a quite detailed plan for knocking him out with excessive alcohol and taking advantage of him.
The more he read, the harder his chest pounded, ready to race out of his chest from pure joy.
It almost felt like a dream, learning that somebody loved him-- the unwanted, the eyesore, the runt, the outsider, an obstacle to be removed.
That she not only loved him back, but that she did it so intensely.
And people said romance was dead!
Several euphoric moments later, he finally put the journal down and looked at Lysithea, her eyes now half-open and quietly staring at him, the right side of her dress still hiked up.
"It's rude to undress people and read their journals without consent, you know," she muttered, tugging at his sleeve.
"Well, excuse my manners then, princess," he leaned forward with a soft chuckle, "how may I make it up to you?"
She pulled his face close and pouted.
"...You really are unbelievably frustrating."
After that long evening, neither of them could go back to knowing and having anything less than all of each other.
He wouldn't have had it any other way.