Chapter 3:

Land of Survival

Azure Sins (Pure ver.)

Their trip continued for a little while before coming to a forest trail. In moderate time their escorts came to a stop and aided the nobles off the cart, allowing them to exit next to the priest who had already engaged in a conversation with the villager at the entrance. Exiting the cart they were amazed by the forestry, looking around leading their eyes to view the village they had traveled for. A bit of sadness hit them all. Seeing the very contrast of the life they were familiar with versus what they saw. There were no stone roads only dirt, the homes seemed sturdy but it was obvious the people here had little money, clothes, food, and many things the nobles grew to know as essentials. They all began looking at each other, having the same realization before they switched to smiles once they were approached by the priest and the villager. Introducing each noble individually and what their families have provided to bring this effort into fruition. The villager greeted them all, offering to guide them to the village leader while others helped guide their transports into the village where they could be unloaded.

The group was now being lead by the elderly woman who had welcomed them. Calmly she took the time to give insight into their village, their eyes looking at the villagers and children move about. They seemed quite satisfied with their simple-styled lives.

"Because of you all, a blanket of happiness will cover the village year-round and likely into the next as well. We live simple lives here but everyone does their part to make it a little easier. Our most common dishes are mainly soups and vegetation with the rare occasion one of the young boys catches something in the forest. The medicine and supplies you all brought as well are far more than we've had in the last near-decade or so. It's been quite a while since we've had enough so all bellies rest with ease in the night."

Sheilia Ciest: "...For the last decade?"

Aisellia Rae: "I guess what Laura said was true, the further away you get from the capitals, the harder it can be for people trying to make a home and life..."

Priest: "Your friend is quite right Miss Rae. The capitals are well protected, and as you and Shin are the only ones who've seen the middle and low districts, getting permitted into the city even has its prerequisites by law. In our continent Reia there are four other capital cities, just as well protected and functional as our own Freya although laws and rules shift depending on the leader of the capital. For our own, the Aifried lineage is the epitome of royalty in Freya. The utmost high families, The Dukes, rule large cities in their regions through noble partners who finance towns and act as a Marquis of different areas in the region. These places hire locals to ensure the creation, flow, and growth of towns but resources are not infinite so it's a slow process but each Temple is helping to expand that hand of help to all those further away from the main cities."

"So if some of those places are organized indirectly, could there be a chance someone is abusing their power somewhere?" Aisellia questioned the priest.

"Hm. Unfortunately so. I see your inquisitive mind might be the true success of your family's business success. To be young, brilliant, and such a shaker of hearts, your parents must have their hands full. You're parents indeed have been blessed with a gifted child."

He said, smiling slightly as he complimented her. She turned her head away from slight embarrassment. From behind her, Sheilia whispered to herself.

"Handfuls is an understatement..."

Cana and Aisellia managed to hear her low volume voice, leading Aisellia to look slightly more embarrassed, even though she could tell only the two of them heard her. Cana firmly nodded her head and attempted to hold in laughter.

The group now stood in the home of the village leader, an elderly man who sat at the center of the room. The priest once again took the time to introduce the group. Noting his please, the chief thanked them on behalf of the village, going on in several ways of how they practically saved many lives old and young.

"You're timing couldn't be more important on this day. It's been a long time since we've had enough for a fulfilling feast for the yearly festive to mourn those passed and to celebrate another year of life individually and among each other. With all that you have brought, we can easily have a celebration that far exceeds what we've been able to have for over a decade. With so much to do, Sir of cloth I ask that you could join me to further discuss the pleasant future between our people. If you young ladies and gentlemen would like to see more of our village, we have youths in our village committee outside who would be joyous to show you around on the way to the rooms we have prepared for you until we celebrate later in the festive hall."

After the short speech of thanks from the elder village chief the priest nodded in agreement with his request. Outside, the nobles are greeted by three individuals, a young man of unkempt messy hair, short stature wearing a proud smile on his face. The second was a young woman with gentle eyes to match her gentle facial features and lengthy silky smooth hair. Finally was another man, standing taller than the other two yet his muscular tone and definition standing out more than the others. Quickly they introduced themselves as Leo, Eileen, and Duke respectively. The nobles kindly introducing themselves yet at the end Dan remained silent. Gaining the villager's attention leading them to look towards the royal man who stood with a devilish smirk with the messy-haired guy who stood with a matching smirk that only read these two already found a liking to each other that quickly.

"We may come from different lives village boy, but I can spot kindred spirit a mile away!"

"Same, so you too are one who also enjoys fine fruits of life of the greatest proportions!"

The two quickly shook hands, leading Leo to offer to show Dan some of the only good things he's able to enjoy here. Joyously Dan agreed and the two walked off, leaving both groups stunned at how quickly that had happened. Suddenly the silence was broken by Eileen.

"I don't mean to offend but I should warn you, Leo is the biggest pervert that's ever crawled out of the dirt..."

This took the nobles by shock at how sweet the girl appeared but her opinion of Leo was surprisingly aggressive. Yet they all knew what she was trying to imply, leading Aisellia to make a statement of her own.

"...Dan's one of the biggest rats that's ever wiggled its way out of the capital's sewers."

The two stood side by side, watching the guys walk away, disgust expressed on both of their faces. The others chuckled at the sight. The remaining village man offered to show Ian a few places of interest and the festive hall before the celebrating started. Eileen offered to show the girls to their rooms to wait until nightfall in a couple of hours for the event to begin.

Moments later Aisellia, Sheilia, and Cana could be seen in a room, small in size but still a decent amount of movement room. Cana and Sheilia sat on a bed's edge while. Eileen sat in a chair in front of Aisellia who gently brushed the young woman Eileen's hair in front of a mirror, adorned with a new necklace and a bracelet. Both looked rather expensive. The noble girls smiling seeing the joy on Eileen's face, seeing her in the mirror, and watching Aisellia brush her hair.

"A few gifts from us to you!" Sheilia announced proudly of the combined gifting of the noble girls to Eileen.

"A-are you sure? These things look more expensive than I could imagine."

"It's no issue at all, they look better on you for sure! If there's a guy you like at the party tonight these will go with the dress!"

Cana said teasingly from her sitting position in her own seat. Eileen responded with a giggle and a gentle shake of her head in disagreement.

Eileen: "The guys are hard workers, but I don't have feelings for anyone. Quite honestly I can't say for sure who I like. I've never left the village to know what types of men are really out there. I was in love once...but I noticed it was love only after they passed away. Not able to be sure for myself I guess I should say. Most people know little things they like about other people, but I feel it's more important to know what you personally like. Not just in a person but the different ways someone can really touch your soul. I'm sorry, I'm somewhat of an extreme romantic at heart."

Cana Sigried: "Wow...that was REALLY deep."

Sheilia Ciest: "Yeah, I think she's really onto something there."

Aisellia Rae: "Somebody who touches your soul huh?"

Eileen: "An old friend of mine used to say those words to me often. She used to say anyone can find out what you like and do it to please you, but it's different when someone is able to be themselves and it affects you in a similar way that really touches your heart."

Aisellia Rae: "I think I might have an idea of what you mean...maybe I've just been thinking out of perspective. Not just in a romantic sense."

Eileen: "Hm?"

Aisellia Rae: "Oh nothing! Just thinking out loud a little!"

She said nervously finishing the last strokes of Eileen's hair. Joy filled Eileen's face at the sight of her slightly new appearance. Happily, she turned in her seat to face the girls.

"If I may help or answer anything during your stay here please don't hesitate, you've done so much. Just this bracelet is likely worth more than our whole village twice over in resources."

Hearing Eileen's proposal, a thought came to the noble's minds, the three looking between each other before one spoke.

"Well, we made it outside of the walls...if no one's going to tell us for sure asking someone wouldn't hurt right?" Sheilia questioned the other two girls, her eyes shifting to Cana who was at her side, leading her friend to be the first to respond to her question.

"She has a point. Asking anyone might get us a few bad looks but we're in a private space and she's very nice."

Eileen sat looking at her reflection in the mirror until their words drew her curiosity, standing from her seat to face them while they debated among themselves leaving her to only continue looking with the utmost curiosity in what it could be.

"I don't know how to exactly ask this but do you believe-" Aisellia began to stay before Eileen spoke up, having an idea of what they were going to ask.

"In Demons...I'm guessing is your question?" Eileen interrupted the group of nobles, looking at herself sadly in the mirror on her wall.

"You've been kind to me, and happens around here less than the people may let you on to believe. Before you all came we were told to hide the fact that dangers like demons exist but you're in no danger at all...which is only odd to me. For no one of our village has had the faintest of sightings in just five years ago."

"Five years ago? I'm not too sure but didn't the chief say the festivities were for mourning the dead a decade ago and celebrating life on the other end? So they ARE real?!" Cana asked, the suspense waiting for confirmation had her on the edge of her seat.

"It's the very same. After everyone gets intoxicated off of their desires two pairs are sent to pray at two separate shrines to continue the good faith and protection of our people. Most of the villagers see it as a necessity to keep the demons away; others are just fond of the tradition."

The three noble girls seemed stunned. Each remaining silent dealing with the weight of what was revealed to them.

"All we have are words...but this means so much more than you could imagine to us." Aisellia said, taking the girl Eileen's hands into her own with tears forming under her eyes before she simply began to fully cry, catching everyone off guard.

" looks like it's true. Your stories and pain. They made things always hard for you but I always could tell by the look in your eyes they weren't just stories."

"Are you...okay, Aisellia?"

Asked Cana. Aisellia wiped the tears from her eyes and quickly she began giggling, releasing Eileen's hands and using her own to wipe the tears from her face.

"I'm a little embarrassed. I just started crying in front of everyone but I'm fine. Thank you."

Sheilia rose from her seat next to Cana and approached Aisellia with a look of concern dominating her expression.

"That's your friend's name, isn't it? You said before me and Cana reminded you of you two so that must mean you two are close. You're not just out here to help and you're not just out here to get outside the walls Aisellia?"

"Mm, I want to find the truths in the world and what's really unknown to us for the better or for worse. I've noticed even just in the capital, there's such a wide gap socially and how they have to live. A normal Noble in the high district normally wouldn't know or more so care what happens to someone in what just the middle district alone goes through or struggle."

Aisellia looked down at the brush she held in her hands for a second. Diving into her thoughts about the matter. Soon nodding her head, deciding to be fully honest with them all.

"As a little girl it would make me so mad seeing people with so much money who didn't care but eventually I realized everyone would keep working and smiling doing their day-by-day things. There was a struggle but there was happiness, a happiness most nobles couldn't understand, which made them envious of even the less fortunate and abuse that money and social status just to see someone already doing worse off than them suffer more. For a while, I would just wonder what for?"

They all looked at Aisellia who told her tale, Aisellia looking out the window with sadness in her eyes but a faint smile rested on her face still.

"But eventually I met a girl from the lower districts, she was a strange girl but we quickly became friends after. One day she was nervous to tell me a story. It had been a secret story since people thought she was making up things. She told me a story about outside of the city and how dangerous creatures were the reason her family had traveled far to get into the city. It sounded far-fetched but the look in her eyes made me believe her, so I asked her to tell me all of her stories and the look of truth over time never left her eyes. Yet no one would believe such stories other than me, especially for those who have lived their entire lives in a capital city. That's when, just slightly, I began to understand the reasons nobles aren't that interested in what happens to others who aren't like them. It's simply not the reality they have lived. After becoming a noble I realized most were just taught or raised on some type of superiority complex or another. You can't help everyone but I can still choose to help someone."

She ended with a smile. The others returned smiles, being pleased with hearing some inner thoughts of Aisellia for the first time, feeling her kindness through her expressions. Aisellia's eyes looked over at Sheilia who sat with tears streaming from her eyes from her new friend's story.

"Damn. I was honestly kinda on the fence about Eileen saying demons are real but your whole story opened my mind a little more. Not only do I feel like a selfish rich bitch now, but your story is also pretty convincing. The Temple and Nobles deflect everyone's thoughts on demons. Having thought about it now there is no demon anything that happens there..."

"So nobody has to believe what they never see proof of in front of them and what they're being told doesn't exist." Sheilia added on to the end of Cana's statement. Suddenly Cana rose to her feet angrily, her anger evident by her facial expression and clenched fist.

"If the gap is that big in the even live far away from have your nightmares come to life and take everything have your whole suffering denied by the people who could help the most. Just how are we all living but the gaps between us are so large? What the fuck have our parents been doing? What have WE been doing? Food and medicine are bad enough to not have, I wanted to not be like my stuck-up parents and be a noble that actually does something for people. My father gave me an opportunity to choose something for our family to invest in like some test. To his disliking I heard about this expedition and once I knew what it was for I chose this."

Looking heavily saddened, Sheilia revealing more information about her friend's story.

"Her father attempted to cut it off but knowing Cana since we were little, I saw it's something she really wanted to do so I made a deal with MY parents to put their name and finances into the expedition. Our families grew together hearing it was something my parents were going to do helped her change his mind."

"Wait what deal did you make?"

"...I was going to tell you on the way back. You know that spoiled girl's dream I've had since we were kids?"

"Of course, unlike all those girls getting set up marriages we won't settle and find someone we actually like, and we'll actually be happy wives. You know I keep it secret since according to people it would ruin our family name, but growing up I realized I liked something else entirely."

"Yes, so If my father joined this event that I'd allow him to start picking out candidates for me to marry. I'm their only daughter so it was easy for him to agree."

" You should never give up finding YOUR prince charming no matter who it is."

Listening to them, Aisellia brought a finger to her bottom lip as she went into thought, soon speaking up in response to the personal conversation Cana and Sheilia held.

"If it helps, you wouldn't have to accept anyone he brings to you."

The looks of sadness between Cana and Sheilia were replaced by an expression of surprise as they simultaneously turned to look at Aisellia. Seeing the look of surprise on their faces, Aisellia continued her response to clarify.

"You're aren't aware? You're really not forced to marry just because you're someone's daughter. Your mind, body, and soul. The matter of that fact comes first. Secondly, A lot of nobles force their daughters to marry someone for various personal gain reasons but a parents word isn't exactly law, they just make it seem like so, then when they tell you to marry you think you are forced to say yes and marry a pig. Since it's not really supported to be known it's actually something the Temple wouldn't allow if you didn't want to. It's just gone by happening because the girls have never been taught they could say no or pressured into it. A girl deserves to find her heart's desires in whomever she feels right. But of course, you'll be slightly at a disadvantage in the courts but you're above the legal age now right? So you can terminate arranged marriages if you're already of a higher Noble descent."

"So he can pick and choose candidates and make me meet them because of our deal but I'm not forced to marry anyone my heart doesn't want to?"


Sheilia quickly launched herself at Aisellia, colliding in a hug while Sheilia began to cry tears of joy

"You saved me you incredibly smart woman you! I thought my life was over!"

Cana and Aisellia both smiled being able to see and feel the relief Sheilia felt, the decision to compromise her life to see someone close to her smile at their largest, her best friend. Cana would look off to the side, embarrassed in what she had just realized she had openly revealed about herself. Her eyes nervously looking at Aisellia as she opened her mouth, struggling to get the words out.

"Hey, Aisellia. I hope it doesn't make you feel weird or-"

"Hm? Not at all. I took a hint when we were changing clothes. There's no issue with a woman liking other women or a man liking another man. The way you were staring at first, you had the same look as Laura whenever I get changed in front of her. I personally don't mind if a girl who likes girls sees me a little. I'm fully aware of my body type and It's like you said on the way, we women know what we're doing. I even knew you were enjoying the bumpy road as much as Ian was."

She said smiling, Sheilia separating herself from Aisellia and in turn, Aisellia laughed.

"Ooooo she caught you the whole time!" Sheilia said, beginning to giggle alongside Aisellia. Cana's face turned red with embarrassment at the realization Aisellia watched her unknowingly on the cart while she took in the full sights of her instead of her surroundings with Sheilia already knowing just what her friend was into but what she was doing during the ride as well. Keeping her friends secret and happily sitting next to her friend was in heavenly bliss. The three nobles turned and becoming shocked seeing Eileen standing in front of her chair in tears bawling her eyes out.

"I'm sorry. You girls are such fantastic people. You all remind me of a dear friend of mine I lost years ago. She died protecting me from a demon and I...I just think all of us would get along very well if she were still with us today. We lived together for a while and I think she would have been overjoyed to be friends with girls like you. She was my best friend, quite the airhead but very adorable."

The three noble girls all shuffled around in their own spaces looking quite embarrassed from the compliment. Suddenly, Eileen and Aisellia's facial expressions became solid and obvious of a major annoyance, catching Cana and Sheilia off guard and into wonder.

Cana Sigfried: "What's-"

Aisellia & Eileen: "I sense a creeping diseased rat..."

Sheilia Ciest: "What?"

Quickly Eileen and Aisellia turned towards the single window present, seeing a messy head of hair duck down while blue eyes still crept over the window's edge paired with blonde hair on its head before noticing they were looking and attempted to hide. Eileen and Aisellia quickly muttered the name of the rats they spoke of in anger with rage-filled eyes.



Cana & Sheilia: "WHAT?!"