Chapter 1:

The Soldier and the Noble

Six


The sounds of the gentle blowing breeze annoyed Emyria as she continued to climb upward to the small blue butterfly that peacefully landed on the tallest branch of the tree. Emyria grow continuing more frustrated as she brushed back her bangs to keep it out of her eyes. Taking a second to rest on one of the branches, she allowed her bare feet to dangle freely as she looked to the ground below. She was at least 300 feet from the ground, and yet even with this risk of falling to her death, Emyria felt free. Looking up at the butterfly, she watched as winds picked up, and forced it to fly away. If only I could be free like that, Emyria thought as looked out at the world before her.Bookmark here

Guess I should get down before my paranoid maid gives me a lecture on how to behave like a lady, she thought as she slowly climbed back down the tree. The climb back down took Emyria a bit longer then it normally had due to her stopping to take a break now and again. She was annoyed that she couldn’t be faster due to her body’s inability to keep up with her. Once she had finally touched the solid ground, she could hear the voice of her servant who had been assigned to her since she had been born.Bookmark here

“Lady Hyteria, were you climbing that tree again?”Bookmark here

Reina was considerably beautiful for a maid. Her long crimson red hair appeared properly trimmed to shoulder length tied back with a large black silk bow that matched her eyes. Even though she was dressed in the same maid uniform like the others which consisted of a simple black dress with a white apron, white thigh-high stockings, and a pair of black single strap shoes. She continued to stare at Emyria with an austere expression as if she had committed a profound atrocity.Bookmark here

“No. I would never do that, Reina. You know me.”Bookmark here

“I do, and I know you’re lying to me. Anyways, you need to get ready, your tutor will be here in just a bit.”Bookmark here

“What’s wrong with the way I look now?”Bookmark here

“You do not want me to answer that. Come on now, let’s get you cleaned up, and looking more like a someone who didn’t just lose a bet.”Bookmark here

Emyria pouted as she followed behind Reina into the manor. Heading down one of the hallways, Emyria could feel the soft carpet against her feet as they passed by the various paintings on the walls of the Hyteria noble line. Emyria glanced over each painting taking note of the dates. The family had been through much during the years, and it was only 100 years ago that they started to see the benefits of their labor.Bookmark here

While the family was known for their skill in sewing, they were also adverse in cooking. Even though Emyria had been brought up in those skills, she hated the thought of being a slave to her family name. She had read many books of the great soldiers that had fought in war against the Ryiza—commonly referred to as shadow monsters by the commonwealth—as well as other noble families that trained their sons, and daughters to go on to be officers in military.Bookmark here

Why couldn’t I have been born into a military family, Emyria thought as she entered her room. The grand room was like all the rest in the manor. Simple plain white walls, golden accent trimming, pristine soft carpet, and bed sheets worth more than a commoner’s life. Emyria stood in front of the elaborate mirror as she looked over the eighteen-year-old girl before her. Slowly, Reina began to remove Emyria’s clothes. Long blond hair, and pale blue eyes where uncommon, often seen as a sign of nobility in world. Yet, Emyria didn’t feel noble in the slightest. She just wanted to be free.Bookmark here

Reina continued to dress Emyria up in an outfit fit for a noble princess. A simple black corset with crimson red accents, a pleated red skirt that stopped at her thighs, black fishnet thigh-high stockings, and red high-heels was enough to transform Emyria into the noble girl she hated to see. Reina smiled as she untied Emyria’s pigtails, brushing her long hair out—allowing it to flow down to her waist.Bookmark here

“There, now you look like a noble.”Bookmark here

“I hate this…”Bookmark here

“Just bare with it. When your tutor gets to know you, you can be yourself.”Bookmark here

“Do you know anything about him?”Bookmark here

“Her, and no, I don’t.”Bookmark here

“Okay, well, is she going to be teaching my little sister too?”Bookmark here

“No, just you.”Bookmark here

Before Emyria could ask any questions about the mysterious tutor, there was a knock at the door. Standing in the doorway was another maid with short red hair, and black eyes like Reina.Bookmark here

“Excuse me, Lady Hyteria. Your tutor is awaiting your presence out front.”Bookmark here

“Right. I’ll be there in one second.”Bookmark here

With a respectful bow, the maid left the room as Emyria stared back into the mirror.Bookmark here

“All right, let’s get this over with.”Bookmark here

Emyria made her way down the hallway, and into the main antechamber as she noticed the other maids were standing in a line, like soldiers awaiting their commander.Bookmark here

“She’s here, my lady.”Bookmark here

One of the maids opened the front door as Emyria’s suspense started to get the best of her. I wonder what she looks like. What if she’s strict like my parents? Hopefully she’s nice, Emyria thought as she fixed the small wrinkles in her skirt, trying to take her mind of the flood of questions, and nervousness that continued to pick at her brain. As the tutor entered the foyer, all of the maids bowed their heads. Emyria continued to stare at the person she was seeing before her, forgetting to bow.Bookmark here

“Welcome honored guest to the Hyteria Manor. We are happy to have you here,” Reina spoke in a formal tone.Bookmark here

Emyria was speechless by the beautiful girl before her. The girl had long white hair with a long braid that flowed down to her thighs. It was rare to see anyone with white hair, even more so at the two different colored eyes the girl had—the right eye being the same shade of blue as Emyria’s while her left eye was a dark crimson red. A golden ornamental hair clip held back her bangs to the left side. Emyria took note of the girl’s black frilly top, and frilly black pleated skirt that stopped just at her inner thigh, which did not appear noble-like in even the slightest. She wore a pair of black thigh-high socks with two small accent orange lines at the top of the left sock, along with a matching pair of knee-length boots.Bookmark here

What stood out to Emyria however was the white bandages that were firmly wrapped around the girl’s left arm from the hand to the shoulder. What kind of tutor has a bandage over their arm like that. Maybe she’s secretly apart of a band of mercenaries, Emyria thought as she continued to stare over the girl before her. The girl smiled a cheerful smile as she set her pack down.Bookmark here

“Nice to meet you, Lady Hyteria. My name is Aystaria Pynn, but please, call me Aystaria.”Bookmark here

Aystaria’s voice had a cheerful tone to it, as she smiled without a care in the world.Bookmark here

“Anyways, once I get settled in, we can begin your studies.”Bookmark here

“What do you mean?” Emyria asked with a puzzled look on her face.Bookmark here

“Did your parents not tell you? I am to stay here for a time while I teach you.”Bookmark here

“I didn’t agree to this…”Bookmark here

“Lady Hyteria—”Bookmark here

“No! My parents will not control everything in my life like this. I’ve had enough of it. Even if I have to denounce my family name, I’ll join the military, and start a new life.”Bookmark here

The room was silent. No one dared to speak a word as Emyria appeared frustrated, and mad.Bookmark here

“Might I make a suggestion?” Aystaria asked in a non-threatening tone.Bookmark here

“What would that be?”Bookmark here

“Simple, let’s have a match. If you can inflict a single cut on me with my sword, enough to draw blood, I’ll leave. If you can’t lay a scratch on me in time it takes for the sand to fill the bottom of this hourglass, then you will concede, and allow me to teach you. Does that sound fair?”Bookmark here

“Are you looking down on me? I’ll show you just what I can do.”Bookmark here

Aystaria continued to maintain her cheerful composer as she removed her sword that rested on the back of her hip.Bookmark here

“Here, you can use my sword, and I’ll use my sheath,” Aystaria said as she handed her blade to Emyria.Bookmark here

After handing the sword over to Emyria, she handed a small hourglass to Reina.Bookmark here

“You are going to stop smiling when I land a blow on you.”Bookmark here

Aystaria made her way to the front door as all of the maids stepped back.Bookmark here

“We will begin on your signal, Miss.”Bookmark here

“R-Right then… Begin!”Bookmark here

Emyria rushed forward as she readied the blade to cut down Aystaria at the gut. With a loose, wide swing, she could only watch as Aystaria jumped backwards, escaping the arc of the sword. In that moment, Emyria could feel the wooden sheath against her neck.Bookmark here

“You would be dead, Lady Hyteria.”Bookmark here

“The rules didn’t say anything about you hitting me, now did they?”Bookmark here

Without warning, Emyria swung the sword in another arc as she aimed to slice Aystaria in half. The sound of metal hitting against wood rang out through the large room as all the maids stared on in disbelief. Using the sheath to block the blow, Aystaria continued to remain calm with her cheerful express, using only the power of one hand to hold the sword in place. While Emyria looked at the blade, she struggled to get the edge to dig into Aystaria’s side. How is she able to hold back my strike without even trying, Emyria wondered as she reeled back for another strike.Bookmark here

“You’re strikes are too slow,” Aystaria said as she blocked another strike.Bookmark here

All of the maids watched in awe as Aystaria continued to dodge strikes like a skilled dancer, and block those with minimal effort. Emyria continued to struggle as she failed to land a single hit on Aystaria who continued to elude her like a nimble cat. Emyria’s eyes narrowed as she grew furious with how the match was going. She had practiced combat in her spare time, even though her parents detested it. Yet, even with all her training she wasn’t able to lay a scratch on this cheerful girl before her. Come on, I only need one hit, Emyria thought as she tried to ram the tip of the sword through Aystaria’s heart.Bookmark here

A smirk appeared on Aystaria’s face as she skillful used the momentum Emyria had built up against her. In the blink of an eye, the sword slid into the sheath as Emyria found herself face-to-face with Aystaria’s cheerfully annoy expression.Bookmark here

“And… that’s time,” Reina called out as she tried not to lose her composure by what she had just witnessed.Bookmark here

“Looks like I won,” Aystaria said as she took the blade from Emyria’s hands.Bookmark here

Placing the sword back on her hip, Aystaria picked up her bag, and looked over to Reina.Bookmark here

“Would you mind showing me to my room, Miss…”Bookmark here

“Forgive me, ma’am. I’m Reina, and I’ll show you to your room right away. Please, allow me to carry your bag for you.”Bookmark here

“Oh, thank you. I’m not used to having others do things for me. It feels… odd.”Bookmark here

“It is our pleasure, ma’am.”Bookmark here

“Please, there is no need to be so formal with me. Just call me Aystaria.”Bookmark here

“I-I couldn’t!”Bookmark here

“Then how about Miss Pynn?”Bookmark here

“Sure. Miss Pynn it is then.”Bookmark here

Without another word, and a face as red as an apple, Reina grabbed Aystaria’s bag, and made her way down the hall as Aystaira followed behind her. Emyria watched as Aystaria disappeared down the hall until she was finally out of sight. I already hate this girl, Emyria thought as she made her way to her room. Angry from the loss, Emyria quickly removed her clothes as she entered her room.Bookmark here

“Just who does she think she is?” Emyria questioned aloud as she changed into her previous outfit.Bookmark here

Laying back on her bed, she stared up at the ceiling. Why couldn’t I land a strike on her, Emyria wondered as she closed her eyes. A sudden knock at the door forced her to open her eyes.Bookmark here

“Lady Hyteria, Miss Pynn is here to begin your studies.”Bookmark here

Well, she settled in quickly, Emyria thought as she sat up on the bed.Bookmark here

“Come in then.”Bookmark here

Reina opened the door as she, and Aystaria entered the room. Aystaria smiled as she placed a book down on the nearby desk.Bookmark here

“Can I get you anything, Lady Hyteria, Miss Pynn?”Bookmark here

“We’re fine, Reina.”Bookmark here

“No, but thank you though.”Bookmark here

“I see. As you wish then. Call for me if you require anything.”Bookmark here

Reina exited the room, and closed the door behind her.Bookmark here

“Okay, let me make this perfectly clear. I don’t like you.”Bookmark here

Aystaria leaned against the wall as she continued to compose her cheerful expression.Bookmark here

“That’s pretty obvious. It doesn’t have to be that way though.”Bookmark here

“You humiliated me. A teacher who pretends they can’t fight, and then does something like that…”Bookmark here

“I never said I couldn’t fight. I merely offered you a proposal, and you took it. Still, your form wasn’t all bad.”Bookmark here

“What kind of tutor knows all to fight at all?”Bookmark here

“Me, it seems. Anyways, your parents hired me as your private tutor, so my job is to help you study. So, sit,” Aystaria said as she patted the chair.Bookmark here

Emyria made her way over to the chair, and sat down as she looked at the book in front of her.Bookmark here

“Now, open to page twelve, please.”Bookmark here

Opening the book to the page, Emyria was meet with a wall of black ink, and small sections of type that were a faded vermilion color—with images that accompanied the text. The subject was mathematics that invoked logical, and critical thinking. The rhetoric of the grammatical advanced textbook felt as nothing more than a sea of mumbled jargon to Emyria as her mind failed to comprehend the meaning behind the substance.Bookmark here

Emyria continued to read the words in the book as she listened to Aystaria explain the meaning behind each of the examples seen throughout the book. How does she even understand any of this, Emyria thought as she sighed heavily.Bookmark here

“Something wrong?” Aystaria asked as she looked over to Emyria with a concerned look.Bookmark here

“I just… don’t get any of this. Like how will any of this help me in what I want to do? How will it come in handy for anything?”Bookmark here

“Hmm. So, you’re not a text book learner. I see. Kind of figured as much.”Bookmark here

“Did you ever use any of this?”Bookmark here

“I did. How do you think I was able to read your moves, and know exactly how to dodge them?”Bookmark here

“You mean… you used all this stuff?” Emyria asked as she held up the massively thick leather bound tome.Bookmark here

“Okay, well, maybe not everything, but most of it I do use in my life. A lot of it just happens though without thinking.”Bookmark here

“Well, either way, I don’t understand most of this.”Bookmark here

“Guess this just means I’ll have to find a new approach to teaching you these concepts,” Aystaria said with a smile.Bookmark here

Aystaria picked up the book, and placed it in her bag. Before she could leave, Emyria gently grabbed her by the wrist.Bookmark here

“You don’t have to leave. Stay and tell me more about yourself.”Bookmark here

“Not much to tell. I was born…”Bookmark here

“Okay…”Bookmark here

“And then I became your tutor.”Bookmark here

“That is a horrible story.”Bookmark here

Aystaria gave a wink as she dropped to one knee, and kissed Emyria’s hand gently—like a knight.Bookmark here

“I am sorry my story is not to your standards, my lady. Please, forgive my transgression of infectious resonate that has radiated throughout these walls, and into the purity of your ears.”Bookmark here

Emyria blushed for a belief second, but quickly regained her temperament as she turned away.Bookmark here

“Just get out of here before you bore me with some lecture on useless topics.”Bookmark here

Aystaria stood to her feet as she turned for the doorway. Without another word, she exited the room, leaving Emyria alone with her thoughts. Leaning back in the chair, Emyria took a second to clear her mind as she looked over to the window. The sun was just dipping below the horizon as a dark overcast blanketed the city. Guess I should get some sleep so I can make it to school tomorrow, she thought as she made her way over to her bed. Closing her eyes, Emyria allowed herself to drift off to sleep in the world of dreams.Bookmark here

#Bookmark here

Aystaria looked over the book she held in her hands. Placing it down on the nearby desk, she sat down on her bed, and removed her boots. A single light from a nearby lantern illuminated a fair portion of the room as she laid back on her bed. It’s been only a few months, and yet I still can’t sleep without a light on, Aystaria thought as she closed her eyes. Before she could have a single thought of a dream, there was a knock at the door.Bookmark here

“Miss Pynn, I bought the items as you requested. May I enter?”Bookmark here

Making her way to the door, Aystaria was greeted by the smiling face of Reina, and six candles that she held in her hands.Bookmark here

“Please, come in. Thank you for these.”Bookmark here

Reina placed the candles on the desk, and looked around the room.Bookmark here

“You sure you can sleep with that candle burning like that?”Bookmark here

“It’s how I sleep,” Aystaria said with a smile.Bookmark here

“All right, well, if you need anything else my room is just across the hall, and a few doors down.”Bookmark here

“Thank you. Have a good night, Miss Reina.”Bookmark here

“Same to you, Miss Pynn.”Bookmark here

Without another word, Reina left the room as Aystaria laid back down on the bed. She is young but it’s clear she is determined, even a bit rebellious to rules which is fairly obvious. There is a lot I don’t know about her, but our duel today helped me to understand where she is at, and where she is coming from, Aystaria thought as she closed her eyes. The hours passed by as Aystaria drifted between a state of being asleep, and alert. Her body had been trained to never fully allow for deep state of rest, even then she found it hard to sleep with everything she had witnessed.Bookmark here

Before long, the morning rays of the sunlight peaked through the window. Like the many nights before, Aystaria only managed to get little in the way of sleep. Yet, even with this small amount of sleep, she was able to remain alert, and focused. Taking a second to sit up, and stretch her body, she walked over to the window. The city before her was just breathing the breath of life as the common folk started about their morning routines as they always had. Everyone is trying so hard to forget they live in this world. Yet, they can’t ignore it forever, Aystaria thought as she looked down at her left arm.Bookmark here

Looking over at the book she had left on the desk, Aystaria picked it up, and thumbed through the pages. She had read every page in the book, and even memorized what each section discussed. Yet, even forcing her mind to memorize bits of information from a book didn’t take her mind off what crept in the back of her mind. I should see how the noble girl is doing, she thought as she placed the book back down, and headed for the hall. Making her way down the hall, she noticed many of the paintings on the wall. She had fathomed a guess that they were all Emyria’s great ancestors who had managed to build up the family name throughout the years until they had managed to make it to the status they were at now. As Aystaria turned the corner, she noticed a figure in front of her. Reacting without a second thought, she pivoted on the ball of her foot to avoid a collision.Bookmark here

“Oh my!”Bookmark here

The voice of figure suddenly made it clear to Aystaria what had happened. A pile of clothes fell from the hands of the figure that had dropped them. Acting quickly, Aystaria gathered each piece of clothes before they could hit the ground.Bookmark here

“I’m sorry if I scared you, Miss Reina,” Aystaria said as she tried to console Reina in a soothing tone.Bookmark here

“I-It’s okay, Miss Pynn. I can’t believe you caught all the pieces of that outfit without any of them touching the ground.”Bookmark here

“Just luck, I guess,” Aystaria said in a nonchalant way.Bookmark here

Looking at the clothes before her, she noticed that it was different pieces of clothing that all one formed one cohesive outfit. A black dress shirt with a blue plaid-patterned short skirt, complete with a pair of thigh-high black socks, and matching leather shoes.Bookmark here

“What… is this?”Bookmark here

“That would be lady Hyteria’s school uniform.”Bookmark here

“Hard to picture her going to school,” Aystaria said as she handed the uniform over to Reina.Bookmark here

“Forgive for my rudeness, but I need to get these to her at once.”Bookmark here

“Of course.”Bookmark here

With a simple nod, Reina made her way down the hallway at a brisk pace. Asystaria continued down the hallway before she finally reached the kitchen. Three maids were hard at work preparing meals for the lord, and lady of the house, but also Emyria. As Aystaria stood there in the doorway watching the maids at work, one of them stopped what they were doing, and bowed their head.Bookmark here

“We are so sorry, Miss Pynn. We were busy trying to serve breakfast for Lord Feriun, and Lady Alyzie, along with Lady Emyria that we didn’t have time to prepare food. The three of us figured you would still be asleep.”Bookmark here

Aystaria could tell by the worried look on the servants face that she upset from the fact that she had not gotten around to preparing the breakfast. With a kind, nonthreatening smile, Aystaria spoke calmly.Bookmark here

“It’s fine, don’t worry about it. I actually hate being waited on. I’m trained to do things for myself. Would you mind?”Bookmark here

“N-No, not at all.”Bookmark here

Making her way over to the counter, Aystaria washed her hands in the small container of still water, and grabbed a sizable chunk of dough. Kneading the dough into a simple spherical shape with a flat bottom, she looked over the doughy substance that would soon become her breakfast. Carefully throwing the dough into the brick oven, Aystaria waited as she pulled out a small hourglass filled with sand. Flipping it over, and placing it on the counter, she knew once the hourglass was fill, that six minutes would have passed.Bookmark here

The rest of the maids couldn’t help, but stare as Aystaria pulled out a dagger hidden under skirt, and carefully stabbed the center mass of the bread. Leaning against the counter, she took a bite of the bread, and enjoyed the plain bland favor of warm bread. Before she could take another bite, she noticed the other maids were staring at her as if she had enchanted them with a captivating spell.Bookmark here

“Is something wrong?” Aystaria asked with nervous smile on her face.Bookmark here

“We’ve just never seen someone do that.”Bookmark here

“Eat bread?”Bookmark here

“No, just… the way you’re eating it.”Bookmark here

“Oh. Sorry if it’s odd. I just find it easier to use my dagger to eat things like this.”Bookmark here

“What did you say you did before you became a tutor here, Miss Pynn?”Bookmark here

“I don’t believe I said I did anything before this, now did I?”Bookmark here

Aystaria grabbed the small hourglass from the counter as she finished off the last of the bread—stuffing a good bit of it in her cheeks before sheathing her dagger. Making her way down the hallway, she noticed Emyria up ahead. She was dressed in her school uniform, minus shoes or socks, and appeared upset as if she didn’t want to go to school in the first place.Bookmark here

“Good morning, Miss Hyteria.”Bookmark here

“What good about it? Also, just call me Emyria. I get sick of all the formalities.”Bookmark here

“Noted. And what’s good about living another day? I would say quite a lot.”Bookmark here

“It’s not very good when you have to wake up to go to a place you hate. Of course, I don’t expect someone like you to understand how I feel.”Bookmark here

“Maybe, but you never know.”Bookmark here

“If you’ll excuse me.”Bookmark here

Without another word, Emyria made her way down the hall until she was out of sight as Aystaria made her way back to her room. She seems like she has a lot to go through. The best I can do for her is try to make studying fun for her, Aystaria thought as she slipped on her boots, and made her way over to the window. She watched as Emyria made her way out the front door of the manor, and exited out the front gate before disappearing around the block. With the ray of light entering the room, Aystaria blew out the candle, and grabbed her sword that she kept sitting against the nightstand.Bookmark here

Making her way down the hall, Aystaria noticed Reina was busy cleaning, and dusting off the various vases that appeared at different intervals of the hallways. These were mostly just for a show of power, and status.Bookmark here

“Excuse me, Miss Reina. Could I trouble you for just a moment?”Bookmark here

“If there is anything you need Miss Pynn, I am happy to help.”Bookmark here

“I just was wondering what exactly does Miss Emyria enjoy?”Bookmark here

“Well, I can only speak for when she is around the manor, but mostly she climbs the large tree in the manor grounds. You can actually see it from my room. Do you wish for me to show you?”Bookmark here

“No, thank you. I’m sure you have a lot of work to do. I can find the tree on my own.”Bookmark here

“The other maids told me about how you made your own breakfast.”Bookmark here

“I’m truly grateful that everyone is so kind, but I just was never one to enjoy being waited on hand, and foot by others.”Bookmark here

“You’re a kind person, Miss Pynn.”Bookmark here

“As are you, Miss Reina. Well, I’ll see you around.”Bookmark here

Aystaria continued on until the large tree came into view. As stared up at the tree before her, she noticed a beautiful butterfly as it flew around her head. Holding out her hand, Aystaria smiled as the butterfly gently landed on the tip of her finger. Life is such a precious thing that people take for granted. They don’t realize what they have until it’s gone, Aystaria thought as she closed her eyes.Bookmark here

“Excuse me, Miss Pynn. Is there anything I can do for you? Miss Reina told me that I should lend my services to you, should you require them,” a maid spoke in a shy tone.Bookmark here

The girl had short red hair—the same shade as Reina. She was dressed in the same maid outfit, but Aystaria noticed her black socks stopped just below the knee.Bookmark here

“Correct me if I’m wrong, but are you Miss Reina’s sister, just curious.”Bookmark here

The girl blushed slightly as she smiled.Bookmark here

“Y-Yes. She’s my older sister by two years. My name is Lyis.”Bookmark here

“Lyis… That sounds like…”Bookmark here

Lyis smiled as she twirled her hair in a playful manner.Bookmark here

“Yeah, I’m a boy.”Bookmark here

Aystaria smiled as she allowed the butterfly to fly off into the world.Bookmark here

“I do have a request for you, Lyis. How tall is this tree?”Bookmark here

“Pretty sure it’s close to three-hundred feet or so.”Bookmark here

“I see. Thank you, Lyis.”Bookmark here

“Was that all you needed, Miss Pynn?”Bookmark here

“Please, you can just call me Aystaria.”Bookmark here

“A-Are you sure?”Bookmark here

“Yes, I insist.”Bookmark here

“Very well, as you wish… Aystaria.”Bookmark here

Lyis could feel his heart stop for a brief second as Aystaria’s cheerful expression graced his eyes.Bookmark here

“Now, if you don’t mind, would you accompany me around the city? I could use a hand.”Bookmark here

“If that is your request, then I shall.”Bookmark here

Aystaria walked the city streets as Lyis followed close by. The streets were slowly starting to brim with life as the sunlight peaked over the horizon, lighting the city streets. People went about their daily routines as shops started to open their doors for all to view the wears that they sold. While the smell of herbs, spices, and other hints of freshly baked goods flooded the air, Aystaria continued to weave through the various streets, and alleyway as if she was a native.Bookmark here

“You seem as if you know this city like the back of your hand, Aystaria.”Bookmark here

“It would be pretty embarrassing if some who grew up here didn’t know their way around,” Aystaria said with a nervous laugh.Bookmark here

The two of them continued on until Aystaria turned back to Lyis.Bookmark here

“So, here’s a question for you. What does Miss Emyria like?”Bookmark here

“Lady Emyria? Well, what exactly are you hoping to get for her?”Bookmark here

“Her favorite food, or maybe a flower? The idea is to show her that I care about teaching her. There is little I can do if I don’t know her.”Bookmark here

“That’s extremely sweet of you. But I hate to say that I don’t know what she likes. My sister knows her better.”Bookmark here

“That’s all right. Guess we just need to find something.”Bookmark here

While Aystaria turned to look for a shop, a man in large brown coat—his hands buried deep in his pockets—made his way past Lyis. Aystaria watched as the man didn’t care that Lyis was in his way, and preceded to push him out of the way with his shoulder. Aystaria rushed with haste to catch Lyis before she fell to the ground. After steadying him to his feet, Aystaria’s eyes glared at the man.Bookmark here

“Sir, you need to apologize to him. It was rude of you to do that.”Bookmark here

Aystaria’s tone had gone from gentle, and kind to stern, and serious. Lyis could see in the look in her eyes was one of conviction that she was ready to fight for. The man turned back to Aystaria with a look of a dead man. Aystaria could tell the man was dead, hollow, and reeked of a strong alcoholic abuse. It was clear to her that this man was angry at the world, and everyone around him.Bookmark here

“Oh? And why would I apologize to some guy who dresses like a sissy?”Bookmark here

“You shouldn’t take your anger out on others just because you’re unhappy with your life. Work to fix it, and be the man that you want to become.”Bookmark here

Without warning, the man reeled back his right arm in hopes of landing a punch to the face of the annoying girl in front of him. Aystaria stepped to the side with little effort as she grabbed the man’s wrist, and flipped him over onto his back. It didn’t take long before many on-lookers had gathered around to see a man in his late thirties be thrown to the ground by girl who was only twenty-one years of age. As the man continued to try, and land a blow, he grew furious that he was constantly being forced onto the ground. Pulling out a small dagger hidden in his coat, the man rushed forward—hoping to end her life without mercy. Aystaria stood there for a second before she spoke under her breath.Bookmark here

“Praesidium.”Bookmark here

The dagger stopped just a few inches from Aystaria’s eye as she took the small second she had to grab the man’s wrist, and disarm him before tossing him to the ground with haste.Bookmark here

“You shouldn’t play with daggers. You’ll hurt yourself with these,” Aystaria said as she twirled the dagger skillfully in her hand.Bookmark here

“What did you do?” the man asked in shocked tone as he staggered to get up to his feet.Bookmark here

“Disarmed you? Wasn’t that hard.”Bookmark here

“I saw you do something. There was a black… thing that gripped my hand.”Bookmark here

“You must be seeing things. Oh good, the Maiola Knights are here to take you to a quiet little cell.”Bookmark here

The sound of horse hoofs clacking against the cobblestone paved road could be heard coming around from the next street over. Rounding the corner, a black horse dressed in mid-night ebony armor draped with a black cape. It was pulling a black wooden wagon that bared an emblem that was feared by everyone who gazed upon it. The wagon stopped as everyone remained silent. Two knights clad in the same armor as the horse, their weapons rested on their hip as they exited the wagon. With each step, their armored boot created a sound against the stone that terrified all who heard it.Bookmark here

“State what has happened here,” one of the knights spoke in a deep demanding voice.Bookmark here

“Judge, my friend, and I were figuring out where to go when this man pushed him to the ground. I asked the man to apologize, but he refused. That is when he tried to attack me.”Bookmark here

The other knight stepped forward, and looked to the man.Bookmark here

“State what happened here.”Bookmark here

“J-Judge, you see, I was walking, and this excuse of a boy got in my way. I merely pushed him slightly, and then that girl attacked me. She is at fault, and hurt me. Arrest her.”Bookmark here

Both knights looked over to the many different on-lookers.Bookmark here

“Witnesses, state step forward, and state what you saw.”Bookmark here

Six people steeped forward, all of them stating the same thing. Once they were done stating their testimonies, both knights turned to the man.Bookmark here

“Your defense does not hold up against the overwhelming statements. The stench of alcohol is a clear sign you have been drinking too much.”Bookmark here

“But Judge—”Bookmark here

“Silence! You are sentenced to life in the mines of Grozath.”Bookmark here

“What?! No, she attacked me!”Bookmark here

One of the knights stepped forward as the man stepped back in fear. Aystaria could tell that the man was going to try to run.Bookmark here

“No, you won’t take me there again.”Bookmark here

The man quickly turned, and tried to head for the nearest alleyway. And there he goes, Aystaria thought as she watched one knight unsheathed his blade. Hurling it like a javelin, the blade pierced through the rib cage into the man’s heart, and outwards before stopping. In a single instant, the man floor to the hard stone as the flame of his life was extinguished. Gasps echoed out from the bystanders while some covered their mouths from the gruesome sight—a macabre reminder that the knights were not to be taken lightly.Bookmark here

“Undertaker, your presence is required,” one of the knights called out in the direction of the wagon.Bookmark here

“Oh, it’s my turn? Goody goody!” a giggling cheerful voice spoke.Bookmark here

Sitting a top the wagon was a sharp dressed girl who appeared short in stature. As she jumped off the wagon, the girl twirled on the ball of her foot, and winked—striking a cute pose at the end. Her long purple hair flowed down just past her ribs—with two asymmetrical pigtails—as her violet colored eye rolled into the back of her head. She was dressed in a black corset that revealed a small bit of her averaged size bosom, and a frilly ruffled skirt that was short at the front, with the other half flowing down to her ankles. Around her arms were a pair of fishnets that stopped just above the elbow, with a matching pair of thigh-high fishnet stockings that ended with a bow, and the same frilly theme seen throughout. A simple pair of dark purple high-heels, and a black small top-hat completed the look—along with a black choker that she wore around her neck.Bookmark here

Everyone left the area as quickly as they could while Aystaria, and Lyis continued to stand by. Even now, the undertakers still send a shiver down my spine, Aystaria thought as she watched the girl skip over to the dead body like a happy child that just got a present. With an unnerving grin, the Undertaker pulled out a silver rod that was about the length of her arm. Poking the body with the rod, she appeared almost engrossed with what she was doing.Bookmark here

“Judge, I conclude that this man is dead,” the Undertaker said as she looked to the knights with an innocent stare.Bookmark here

“I am aware, Death Dealer. Do your job.”Bookmark here

“Gotcha, Gotcha!”Bookmark here

The Undertaker grabbed a small vial with a small red skull labeled on it. Inside the bottle was a clear substance that carried a potent smell when the cork was forced open. With haste, the Undertaker poured the liquid onto the body as she giggled. In mere moments, the body started to dissolve until not even the bones were left.Bookmark here

“Hehe. It’s finished, Judge.”Bookmark here

“You two are free to leave,” the knight said as he looked over to Aystaria, and Lyis.Bookmark here

“Thank you, Judge.”Bookmark here

Without another word, the two knights headed back to the wagon. As the Undertaker walked past Aystaria she sniffed only once, and turned to Aystaria. The Undertaker’s right eye rolled into the back of her head as a large grin formed. She moved in closer to Aystaria as she tried to remain calm.Bookmark here

“When two are one, and one is two, a girl or boy, which one are you?” the Undertaker riddled in a creepy tone.Bookmark here

“Two can only be one, and one is never two, a man or a woman, that is for me to choose,” Aystaria riddled back without missing a beat.Bookmark here

The Undertaker giggled as she tipped her hat.Bookmark here

“Male or female, I’ll take whichever, bed you forever, that’s now my endeavor.”Bookmark here

With a seductive yet chilling wink, the Undertaker made her way over to the wagon, and took the reins of the horse. A simple crack of the reins told the horse to go, and within minutes the Maiola Knights were gone from sight.Bookmark here

“That was scary…”Bookmark here

Aystaria quickly caught Lyis before her knees gave out on her.Bookmark here

“Don’t worry, many people fear the knights, especially the undertakers.”Bookmark here

“What was that exchange you had with her though?”Bookmark here

Aystaria smiled.Bookmark here

“Best not to worry about it. We still have some shopping to do, right?”Bookmark here

“R-Right.”Bookmark here

“Can you stand, and walk?”Bookmark here

“Yeah, I can. Thank you, Aystaria.”Bookmark here

“It’s no problem.”Bookmark here

Aystaria steadied Lyis to his feet, and looked up at the sky. The sun was just starting to peak fully over the horizon. After the events that had happened, Aystaria held Lyis’ hand as they walked down the street. Lyis could only blush as he felt safe with Aystaria by his side. Even though he could tell something about her was different, she still managed to smile, and hide whatever was on her mind. The two of them continued on until they came to a small bakery on the corner of the street that was known for it’s baked goods.Bookmark here

Entering into the shop, Aystaria was greeted by a young girl who appeared younger than her by a sizable margin. The girl smiled as she greeted the two of them with a polite bow.Bookmark here

“Welcome, please take the time to look around, and if there is anything you need feel free to ask. I’ll gladly be of assistance.”Bookmark here

The girl appeared slightly frail, with a pale complexion that signaled she had not seen the sun for weeks on end. She was dressed in a simple brown colored dress with a white apron over it. She wore no socks with the wooden shoes that were obviously painful on her feet. Even though Aystaria could tell that she was struggling, the girl was doing something right to keep the shop well, and alive.Bookmark here

“Thank you,” Aystaria said in a calm tone.Bookmark here

Aystaria looked over the shelves at all the different loafs of bread, and other baked goods that littered the carefully constructed sections.Bookmark here

“Any idea what Miss Emyria would like?”Bookmark here

“Well, like I said, I don’t know, but I think anything from here would be fine.”Bookmark here

As Aystaria continued to maul over what she should get for Emyria, the young girl made her way beside Aystaria, and looked over the section of baked goods that Aystaria was fixated on.Bookmark here

“Need some help?”Bookmark here

“What would you recommend to a nobleman’s daughter?”Bookmark here

“Schokoladenbrot is a must.”Bookmark here

“Good, I’ll take two of them, please.”Bookmark here

The girl grabbed two of the baked goods, and headed over to the counter.Bookmark here

“Okay, that’ll be two silver coins, please.”Bookmark here

Aystaria smiled as she pulled out a small bag of coins, and placed five of them on the counter. Without giving the girl at the counter time to process the exchange, she took the two baked goods that the girl had wrapped up neatly into a special packaging paper, and headed out for the exit—Lyis quickly followed behind her, trying to keep up.Bookmark here

“Keep the rest,” Aystaria said as she exited the shop with haste.Bookmark here

Aystaria, and Lyis rounded a corner before Aystaria stopped, and turned to Lyis.Bookmark here

“Here, I got one for you,” Aystaria said with a smile.Bookmark here

Lyis blushed as he took the treat in his hands.Bookmark here

“F-For me?”Bookmark here

“Yeah, you were a big help today. So, thank you, Lyis.”Bookmark here

“You’re too kind, Aystaria. Thank you.”Bookmark here

“Anyways, let’s get back to the manor. Unless there is something you want?”Bookmark here

“No, I’m good with just this,” Lyis said in a shy tone as cheeks flushed a light shade of red.Bookmark here

The two of them headed back to the manor as Aystaria headed for her room. Placing the baked good down on the nightstand, she looked out the window, and took note of the position of the sun. Unless things have changed since a few years ago, she should be home by the time the sun peaks above the clouds, Aystaria thought as she removed her boots, and socks. Before Aystaria could settle into her bed, there was a knock at the door.Bookmark here

“Miss Pynn, may I come in?” the voice of Reina asked though the door.Bookmark here

“Of course.”Bookmark here

Reina entered the room, and bowed slightly.Bookmark here

“I need to thank you for looking after my little brother.”Bookmark here

“It’s no problem at all. You have a kind, and caring little brother.”Bookmark here

“Thank you. He was always shy growing up, and as you can tell, he grew to enjoy rather feminine apparel.”Bookmark here

“Nothing wrong with that,” Aystaria said with a smile.Bookmark here

“Anyways, I just wanted to thank you for standing up for him.”Bookmark here

“It was no problem at all. Actually, if you have a minute, would you care to sit down, and chat?”Bookmark here

“If that is what you wish, Miss Pynn.”Bookmark here

Reina sat down on the edge of the bed soft as Aystaria lean across from her against the wall.Bookmark here

“I would like to know more about Miss Emyria, if that is okay.”Bookmark here

“There’s not much I can say. Why do you want to know about her, Miss Pynn?”Bookmark here

“A teacher that doesn’t know their students are doomed to fail at teaching. Someone once said that to me.”Bookmark here

“They sound like a wise person.”Bookmark here

“Yes… yes they were,” Aystaria said, her tone slightly mellowing in intonation.Bookmark here

“Forgive me for asking, but what is that necklace you have there?” Reina asked as she eyed the silver chain around Aystaria’s neck.Bookmark here

Aystaria stared down at the necklace as she held the six small metal plates in the palm of her hand. They were no more than one inch wide and two inches tall with several names on the front of them. Closing her hand, Aystaria looked Reina, and smiled the same cheerful smile that she had always given.Bookmark here

“Just something to remember my friends by.”Bookmark here

Bookmarked
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