Waking up bound, and gagged to a chair was not something Emyria had planned for. She took a moment to process where she was, but realized the room was too dark to get a good understanding as to where she was. A single candle alight on a nearby table only allowed Emyria to see a table drenched in a crimson red liquid, along with various tools, and knives. Where am I? What is this place, Emyria wondered as she tried to remain calm.
Emyria could see three figures sitting by the candle light. She looked down at the rope that held her wrist down to the wooden chair, and the bindings around her ankles. Her shoes had been removed leaving only her socks on to allow the rope to wrap around her ankles without restriction. As she struggled to free herself from the ropes, she heard the voice of a girl speaking a language she had never heard before.
“Hän on hereillä.”
The three figures stood up from the table, and made their way over to Emyria. As they crossed the room through the shadows, Emyria couldn’t help but wonder if she was seeing things as the three figures seemingly appeared to mend into the darkness. Appearing in front of Emyria as if coming out of her nowhere, she was greeted by the three figures who stared down at her with an almost murderous intent in their eyes. One of the figures Emyria remembered was the girl she had chased through the alleyways, and rooftops.
“Greetings. Welcome to my home. I’m Sixty-six, and to my left here is Silvia.”
Sixty-six leaned in closer to Emyria’s ear. As she did, Emyria could see the number sixty-six on the left side of the girl’s neck.
“Just so you know, she has a foot fetish,” Sixty-six said as she whispered in Emyria’s ear.
Silvia had long white hair that was tied up into a ponytail, held in place two needles. She was dressed in a forest green top that revealed her slender shoulders, and petite arms with a matching small skirt that accented her bare thighs, and legs. Unlike the others, she did not wear any shoes or socks to speak of.
“Mitä aiot tehdä hänen kanssaan, pomo?” the other girl spoke in a serious tone.
“Kolme, can you at least try to speak the common tongue? It’s rude for our guest as she can’t understand you.”
Kolme cleared her throat as she smiled cheerfully in a nonthreatening manner.
“You know I hate the common tongue,” Kolme said in child-like tone.
“The small petite beauty here is Kolme.”
Like the others, Kolme had beautiful white flowing hair that flowed down past her shoulders, unkempt in a way that made it appear as if she had just gotten out of bed. She wore a pair of square-rimmed glasses with a burgundy red sweater—each of the sleeves continued past the palms of her hands making it appear baggier on her. While the sweater completely covered the shorts she wore underneath, she could be seen wearing two different colored socks. One was a black sock that stopped at her thighs with a white ribbon at the top while the other stopped at her knee and was white with a black ribbon at the top.
“Anyways, what’s your name?” Sixty-six asked.
“Oh right, I should remove the gag. That might help.”
Sixty-six removed the cloth that was tied around Emyria’s mouth, followed by the sock.
“Here’s your sock back, Silvia.”
Silvia shook her head.
“Right then, what was your name sweetie?” Sixty-six asked as she threw the sock across the room.
“E-Emyria… Maiola Hyteria…”
Sixty-six paced back, and forth as she repeated the name over, and over again.
“Where have I heard that name before?”
“It’s the name of the noble family, you kusipää,” Kolme said with a crackling laughter.
“So, you’re a nobleman’s daughter? You’re very pretty.”
“W-What do you want with me? Gold? My father can pay you.”
“Gold is so boring in this world. No, I don’t want your money. I want your face,” Sixty-six said with a creepy grin.
“Yes. I’m going to slowly peel off your skin until I have that beautiful face of yours,” Sixty-six said as she carefully peeled away the skin on her face like removing a mask.
Emyria did everything she could to hold back the gag reflex. She wanted to throw up at the sight of seeing the bones of a walking human horror, but even though she was sick to her stomach, nothing came up. The smell, combine with the sight, turned Emyria’s stomach into knots as she continued to stare at the abomination leaning close to her face.
“I lost my face some time ago, and I never could find it. So, I killed girl in another city far from here, and well, I took her face,” Sixty-six said as she gently stroke Emyria’s cheek with her hand.
“Actually, Kolme is insane. I’m bordering on psychopathic.”
“So, we going to take turns with this slut?” Kolme asked as her voice changed once again to sound like a royal.
“Fine, fine. Silvia, you can go first.”
Silvia nodded as Emyria started to fear what was going to happen to her.
The classroom was silence as Miss Feldia checked to see if all the students were present. She noticed that Emyria had yet to join them. It’s not like her to late, Miss Feldia thought as she looked out to the morning sunrise. Looking at the hourglass on her desk, Miss Feldia turned to Nolvet.
“Miss Faldur, have you heard from Miss Hyteria by chance?”
“No, Miss Feldia. She, and I haven’t spoken since yesterday when we had lunch together.”
“I see. Class, please study in silence. I need to go check on something.”
Without another word, Miss Feldia left the classroom. Maybe I’m wrong, but I need to see Aystaria, and confirm that Emyria is safe, Feldia thought as she walked the streets of the city. As she turned the corner, she felt something bump into her breast. Looking down, she noticed the white hair, and braid that was unmistakable.
Aystaria looked up from her position as she rested her chin against Feldia’s breast.
“What are you doing out, and about?”
“I could ask you the same.”
“Is Emyria sick?”
“No, she headed to school.”
Feldia had a worried expression on her face as she looked to Aystaria.
“Vestigium!” the two of them said in unison.
The two of them quickly followed the tracks that lead to the school. It took Aystaria a few moment to isolate the various tracks, but she quickly kept her eyes on them as she ran down the city street with haste—Feldia following behind her without missing a step. As Aystaria turned the corner she noticed Emyria’s tracks heading a nearby alleyway.
“Already on it.”
Speeding ahead of Aystaria by a bit, Feldia turned to face Aystaria, and cupped her hands together. Aystaria continued running until she planted her foot firmly onto Feldia’s hands. With the strength of one thousand men, Feldia launched Aystaria to the rooftop in one easy clearing. Aystaria landed onto the rooftop, and continued the momutum as she scanned for Emyria’s tracks. After finding them, she continued to follow the tracks until she came to a rooftop where not only Emyria’s tracks ended, but also the person that she was chasing.
Aystaria looked around as she tried to pinpoint where Emyria could have gone, or rather who had taken her. As Aystaria continued to search the area, Feldia had finally made it to the location. Where the hell is she, Aystaria thought as her expression started to worry increasingly worried.
“Aystaria, where’s your hair clip?”
“Right, I can use that to track her position.”
“Tracking footprints, and trying to find a small object in a large city is two different things.”
“I’m aware, Feldia. I have to try though.”
Aystaria closed her eyes.
“Semita decorarat atque auxerat.”
Aystaria looked over the city ensuring that she scanned everywhere carefully. After a few minutes, she had manage to spot a small golden spec off in the distance. While it was hard for Aystaria to make out exactly where, she knew that there was an old abandon tower that had not been used since the The Dark Year. I need to enhance this magic so I can see better, Aystaria thought.
“Et voi parantaa kohdetta, joka on epätarkka.”
“Sulje se,” Aystaria shouted.
“Tyhmä,” Feldia said under breath.
“All right, enough playful banter. We need to get there with due haste.”
Emyria could feel the sweat running down her legs as Silvia smiled seductively. Tears flowed down her cheeks as she felt violated in more way then one. Her body shook as she was unable to stop what Silvia had forced out of her against her will. Silvia stood to her feet as she licked her lips clean.
“If you’re done, can we get on with the fun part?” Sixty-six asked as she grabbed her dagger, and skipped over to Emyria.
Dancing around Emyria like a happy pixie, Sixty-six stopped behind Emyria, and held the blade just below her ear. A foul smell filled the air as Sixty-six paused to breathe in the odor.
“What is that smell?”
“Minä en tiedä,” Kolme said in a playful voice.
Sixty-six lifted up Emyria’s skirt as she giggled aloud.
“Oh, that’s you.”
“Näyttää siltä, että hän vihasi itseään,” Kolme said as she began laughing uncontrollably like an insane person.
“Right then, no more delay girls.”
Before Sixty-six could react, the agonising pain of a thousand needles shot throughout her eye socket as she fell to the floor screaming. While Sixty-six continued to cry out in pain, Silvia, and Kolme drew their weapons as they turned to the door. Two shadowy figures stood in the doorway, their red eye glaring with intent to kill. Emyria watched as Feldia, and Aystaria emerged from the shadows as silent as a graveyard.
“Aystaria? Miss Feldia? How did you two find me?”
Aystaria smiled cheerfully as she as she tried to hide her anger.
“Don’t worry, Emyria. Just calm down, okay?”
Sixty-six pulled the dagger from her eye as she looked stared back at the spherical white orb stuck to the tip.
“That’s going to leave a mark,” Aystaria joked.
Standing to her feet, Sixty-six threw the dagger back to Aystaria.
“Aystaria the Prideful, and Feldia the Formidable. Today must be my lucky day.”
“Long time no see, Sia,” Aystaria said with a cheerful expression.
“Otan kaksi ruuvipalloa,” Feldia said to Aystaria as she cracked her knuckles.
Aystaria squared off against Sia as Feldia carefully made her way over to Silvia, and Kolme. The room stood silent as Aystaria, and Sia watched each other closely, planning out the attacks, and counterattacks that each of them would take. Emyria’s safety is the proity here. Sia will likely go for her first. I have to time this right otherwise Emyria won’t live long, Aystaria thought as she noticed Emyria trying to undo the rope on her right wrist.
Emyria moved her hand for only a second before hearing the sound of metal hitting against metal, echoing throughout her ear. Shifting her eyes downward, she could see Sia’s dagger pressing down onto Aystaria’s sword, stopping the dagger from piercing her hand.
“Emyria, how about we not move around, okay,” Aystaria said as she smiled cheerfully.
Emyria could only nod as she tried to move an inch of her body.
“Just close your eyes, and relax. This won’t take long.”
“You think you can beat me that easily?”
“No, I know I can,” Aystaria giggled.
“Narttu!” Sia yelled in anger.
“Kiitos,” Aystaria said with a smile.
The sound of two blades rang out as Emyria continued to sit as still as she could. She felt her body tensing up with each sound that echo just a few inches from her ears. Each gust of wind was another heart-wrenching moment as she could almost feel the blades just cross her skin. Even though she couldn’t see what was happening in the battle, she could understand one thing that she never realized about Aystaria. She wasn’t human.
As the fight continued on, Emyria was barely able to make out some of the attacks as Sia, and Aystaria appeared to pop in, and out of existence from the shadows. Emyria continued to try, and follow the movements before realizing that it was hopeless. Come on Aystaria, win, Emyria thought as she continued to control her breathing. In the blink of an eye, Emyria felt her heart tense up from the sight she was seeing. The horror of Sia’s face, and dagger aiming to pierce her heart was what she believed would be her final thoughts. Closing her eyes from the fear of death, Emyria waited for her end.
Moments passed before Emyria opened her eyes again to the sight that would haunt her dreams. Standing beside her was Aystaria who continued to smile as she looked over to Emyria.
“See? I won.”
Looking down at her heart, Emyria could see that Aystaria had used her left hand to stop the impact of the blade. With the tip of the dagger sticking through the palm of Aystaria’s hand, Emyria found herself unable to move or even say anything. Blood had splattered onto her chest as a grim reminder that she could have died.
With a clean slice, Aystaria rendered Sia’s head from her shoulders. Like a limb doll, Sia’s body fell to the ground as Aystaria pulled out the dagger from her hand as if she was simply pulling out a needle.
“Took you long enough to kill her,” Feldia said as she wiped the blood off her gloves.
“Pretty sure I finished before you.”
Aystaria smirked as she cleaned the blood off her blade, and sheathed her weapon.
“You have it on you, right?” Aystaria asked as she looked to Feldia.
“Of course,” Feldia said as she pulled out a small bottle with a red liquid in it.
After tossing it over to Aystaria, she poured the whole thing over her hand. While she could feel the burning of the alcohol killing the bacterium from the wound, she continued to smile as she looked over to Emyria. Untying the bindings, Aystaria felt the warm embrace of Emyria wrapping her arms tightly around her neck. This was a traumatic event for her, Aystaria thought as she placed her hand on Emyria’s head.
“Shh. No need to talk about it.”
Aystaria could feel Emyria shaking as she held her in her arms.
“Let’s go home, okay?” Aystaria spoke in a calm, soft tone.
Emyria nodded as Aystaria picked her up in her arms, and carried her home. For some time, Emyria was silent as rested her head against Aystaria’s chest. She thought about everything that had happened, and could only wish that it had all been just a nightmare that she would wake up from. Before long, they had made it to the Hyteria manor. Making her way to Emyria’s room, Aystaria looked to Emyria who had appeared to calm down.
“We should get you cleaned up, okay?”
With a simple nod, Aystaria placed Emyria on her bed, and started to walk away. Before Aystaria could head for the door, she felt Emyria gripping her arm.
“P-Please don’t leave me alone… please…”
Aystaria smiled as she held Emyria’s hand gently.
“I won’t. But would you mind letting me get Reina, and Lyis in here.”
Sensing the fear in Emyria’s voice, Aystaria gently stroked Emyria’s hair, and smiled gently.
“Guess I can’t leave your side. Think you can stand, and walk on your own?”
“Yeah. I can.”
With a calm expression on her face, Aystaria helped Emyria to her feet, and held onto her hand. She lead her out into the hallway, and down to the bathing chambers, as she took note of the two maids heading down the hall.
“Excuse me, can you two do me a favor?”
“Whatever you wish, Miss Pynn.”
“Emyria needs clean clothes, same for me, and the lantern from my room with a candle in it. Oh, and if you see them, tell Reina, and Lyis to meet us at the bathing chamber.”
“As you wish, Miss Pynn.”
Entering into the bathing chamber, Aystaria looked over Emyria’s body.
“So do you want to take your clothes off or do I need to do that too?” Aystaria said with a nonthreatening smile.
“I can at least do that,” Emyria said as she pouted in a cute way.
Unbuttoning her shirt one at a time, Emyria stripped down to her underwear, before finally stand in front Aystaria as bare as the day she was born. Her face was flustered a cherry red as Aystaria smirked like a snickering schoolgirl—covering her mouth to try, and hold back her giggling.
“W-What’s so funny?”
“You just look cute.”
Emyria couldn’t help but cover her chest as she turned her gaze away from Aystaria’s eyes.
“Says the girl with the books under—”
“I told you to stop going through all those!”
Aystaria smiled as she maneuvered behind Emyria with haste, and wrapped her arms gently around Emyria’s waist. In that moment, Emyria began to feel light headed as her breathing increased.
Oh no, she’s experiencing the traumatic stress what happened to her, Aystaria thought as she pulled away quickly. Moving to face her dead on, Aystaria gently placed her hands on Emyria’s shoulders, and whispered in a calmly soothing voice.
“Emyria, it’s okay.”
“Shh. Just listen to my voice. You’re okay. She can’t hurt you.”
“Stop talking. Just relax, there is no need to say anything.”
After managing to calm Emyria down, Aystaria noticed Reina, and Lyis entering the chamber. In her hands, Reina was carrying two sets of spare clothes, while Lyis held a lantern in his hand.
“Emyria, are you okay with being with Reina while I step outside for a second?”
“Promise you’ll come back?”
“I promise I will.”
Making her way over to the twins, Aystaria took the lantern, and tied a small string to the handle before placing it around her neck. After grabbing the clothes, she looked to Reina.
“Don’t leave her alone, or stand behind her. I’ll explain it to your brother, okay?”
Aystaria turned to Lyis.
Lyis nodded as he followed Aystaria out into the hallway. Aystaria explained everything that had happened as Lyis processed everything.
“Do you think she will be okay?”
“Based on my experience, she’ll likely have that fear in the back of her mind from now on. She will mostly likely need someone by her side when she goes out.”
“Yeah, we can do that. We should have done a better job watching out for her.”
“Don’t blame yourself. Even if you had, Sia, and her group were highly trained. You would have lost in a few minutes.”
“Exactly how many are out there, aside from you, and Feldia?”
“That is one thing even I don’t know.”
“Was Sia the exception?”
“She, and her group were. They were likely struggling to adjust after what happened, and turned to a life of crime just to survive.”
“That is sad.”
“It’s just how life is.”
“How are you holding up though?”
Aystaria leaned against the wall as she crossed her arms over her chest.
“Not the first time I’ve had to kill someone.”
“Anyways, I’ll try to help Emyria through the trauma as best I can. Just watch over her when I can’t, okay?”
The day of the exams had finally arrived. Emyria had managed to make up for the lost time by studying extra hard. Her daily routine didn’t vary much until it was time for her to make her way to school. She found it impossible to leave the safety of the manor without an escort. Aystaria walked with Emyria, and kept her company until they reached the school gates.
“You’ll be okay with Feldia, right?” Aystaria asked with a smile.
“Yeah, I think I just don’t like the idea of walking the streets of the city alone.”
“It’s okay. I’ll help you get through. For now, focus on your exams, okay?”
Emyria nodded as she headed off for her classroom. After ensuring that Emyria was inside the school building, she noticed a looming shadow at her feet.
“Good to see you too, Feldia.”
“She still needs you to escort her I see.”
“Who can blame her.”
“Why don’t you job the school. I could easily get a school uniform for you.”
Aystaria twirled on the ball of her foot, spinning in a half-circle as she smiled, and posed in a cute way that looked as if she was relaxed, and calm. She smiled her usual cheerful, and happy expression.
“You just want me to be your dress up doll.”
“No, I’d never ask you to do that. I’d force you to,” Feldia said in a joking tone.
“Tyhmä,” Aystaria giggled as she played with the tip of her braid.
“Really though, if you change your mind, let me know.”
Maybe I’ll wear one just to mess with her. Perhaps, Emyria would like it too, Aystaria thought as she took note of where the sun was at. Before she could make her way back to the manor, she notice Wyiss walking along the street.
“Wyiss, hey!” Aystaria called out as she rushed over to her.
“Oh, Aystaria. I didn’t expect to see you here.”
“Ah. Yeah, that’s a long story.”
“I have plenty of time to kill.”
“Sure. Do you like tea by chance?”
“I think I know the perfect place.”
A few blocks down from the school was small cafe that served tea, and other small light snacks. The two of them were greeted by a girl dressed in a maid outfit. Her long blond hair was tied back into a ponytail held in place by a navy blue ribbon that matched her eye color. She smiled as she bowed politely.
“Welcome home, princesses. How may I serve you today?” the girl asked in a cute tone.
“We would like a cup of your Jasmine tea, and one slice of cake,” Wyiss said.
“I’ll actually just take the tea. I already ate,” Aystaria said with a smile.
“So two cups of Jasmine tea, and a slice of cake. Got it, let me show you to your table.”
The girl made her way over to one of the empty tables by the window. While the place was small in size it had an anachronistic feeling about it that felt calming. Before either of them could sit down, the girl pulled out one of the chairs.
“Here you are, princess.”
Wyiss started to sit down as the girl pushed the chair forward. Afterwards, she moved to the other chair, and held it out for Aystaria with a smile on her face.
“Right, I so used to doing things myself,” Aystaria said with nervous smile as she sat down.
“I’ll be back with your orders in one moment.”
As the girl headed for the kitchen, Aystaria couldn’t help but watch the girl as she walked away.
“So, you’re into boys, are you?” Wyiss asked with a smug expression.
“I can actually go either way. Totally thought he was a girl from appearances alone.”
“Nope. He’s a cross-dresser. Noryika fled the city of Garalda when he was able to, and came here.”
“Right, because they don’t believe men should dress like girls.”
“Men work outside, and women stay in the kitchen,” Aystaria said as she looked out the nearby window.
“And we women suck while the men f—”
A cute cough could be heard from Noryika as he served the girls two cups of tea, and a slice of cake.
“Here’s your order, princesses,” Noryika said as he smiled.
“Thank you,” Aystaria said, returning a warm smile.
“If you need anything else feel free to call me over.”
As Noryika returned to front entrance, Aystaira took a sip of her tea.
“This is good.”
“I agree. This is why I always come here. Their tea, and cake is to die for.”
The sounds of birds chirping from a nearby rooftop could be heard, along with the various sounds of horse hoofs clacking against the cobblestone.
“Anyways, what brings you out, and about?” Wyiss asked as she cut off a small slice of cake.
“I was escorting our nobleman’s daughter to school,” Aystaria said with a smile as she looked at the cake Wyiss was eating.
“Was there some reason? Let me guess, you got bored.”
Aystaria giggled as she played with tip of her braid as she smirked playfully.
“Well, we can always see each other. I escort Nolvet from time to time. That manor can be… suffocating.”
“Oh I’m completely aware. I just didn’t say anything. It’s as clear as the rising sun what goes on in that place.”
“I am unable to say anything. I was hired to simply teach Nolvet, not ask questions.”
“I know. Also, I’m starting to wish I had ordered a slice of that cake.”
“You want a slice?”
Aystaria’s eyes lit up with excitement.
“Mhm,” she said as she nodded vigorously.
Grabbing a small bite with the eating utensil, Wyiss held out the cake on the end of her fork. With a happy expression, Aystaria swallowed the fork in her mouth, and ate the cake in one bite. Her face turned to one of delight as she looked like a girl happy that her crush had finally said a single word to her.
“This cake is exquisite!”
“You act… just like a kid.”
“Hey, don’t judge me,” Aystaria said as she pouted.
“No judgment, just stating the facts. Anyways, that school trip will be a week from now. You got any plans once we are there?”
“I didn’t actually think that far ahead,” Aystaria said as she rested her chin on the palm of her hands while resting her elbows on the table.
“Same. Maybe we should enter the arena, and try to aim for the prize money.”
“Pretty sure that’s cheating.”
“Please, it’s not cheating. It’s just two friends teaming up to fight.”
“And you know it’s completely one-sided because I’ll beat the group before you even get a chance to attack,” Aystaria said with a smug expression.
“Where do you get all that confidence?”
Aystaria giggled as she played with her braid.
“If you’re not confident in yourself, then why would anyone be confident you? Believe in yourself, and what you can do, because the world will always try to break you.”
“I somehow found that inspiring.”
“Really?” Aystaria asked with an upbeat tone.
Like a candle who’s flame had been snuffed out, Aystaria’s expression changed to one of annoyance.
“Don’t be mean, Wyiss.”
“Sorry, I just can’t help it. You just remind me of my little brother.”
“Oh? You have a brother?”
“I do. He’s still living with my mother in Athelas.”
“Guess we need to stop by your mother’s place, and say hello.”
“Um… When did I say that we would go?”
“Oh, you don’t want me to meet your mother? I thought we were taking our relationship to the next level,” Aystaria said with a cute, and innocent tone.
Wyiss found herself blushing as he stared back into the innocent face that Aystaria was making. She was like a sad stray dog that was lost on the streets.
“R-Relationship? We’re not dating.”
“But you were on top of me… at the beach, remember?”
“Oh my,” Noryika chimed in.
“It’s not what you think, Noryika! We were fighting and—”
“She rolled on top of me, pinning me down into the sand.”
Aystaria placed her hand over her mouth as her expression changed to one of a bashful child.
“She even kissed my feet.”
“I didn’t peg you as having a foot fetish, Wyiss.”
“This is a misunderstanding!” Wyiss yelled as she slammed her fist down onto the table.
“A misunderstanding that turned into love at first sight, teehee,” Aystaria continued to tease as she playfully stuck her tongue out the corner of her mouth.
Wyiss stood up from the table with her face a bright red.
“Hehe, yes, my love?”
The room fell silent. Aystaria head tilted to the side in confusion. She had trained to deal with many things, but this had completely taken her by surprise. In a mere moment, Aystaria’s face became flustered as she felt her braid started to—as if by some compiling force—stand curl upwards.
“I… Uh… Hold on… M-Marry you?”
“So it is possible to get under your skin,” Wyiss said as she sat back down, and sipped her tea.
“And here I thought you were serious,” Aystaria said pouting with her arms crossed.
“Wait… I wasn’t completely joking. I also wasn’t not joking,” Wyiss said as she turned away from Aystaria’s gaze.
“Relax, I know you’re joking.”
“So you weren’t fooled by any of that?”
“Nope,” Aystaria said with a smile.
“Wait, so you two aren’t getting married?” Noryika asked.
“No,” Aystaria, and Wyiss said in unison.
“Oh, that’s a shame. I think you two would make a cute couple,” Noryika said as he started heading back for the kitchen.
“Now that we’re off of that tangent, what was I going to say?”
“Something about the school trip?”
“No, there was something else. I got sidetracked though.”
“Probably wasn’t important,” Aystaria said as she finished off the last of her tea.
“If I remember, I’ll be sure to ask when we meet.”
Aystaria looked over all the things she had packed for the trip into the city of Athelas. She ensured that she had twelve candles, a large lantern for her room, a small portable one, and a single change of clothes. All right, that’s everything I need. I hope Emyria is packed, and ready to leave in the morning, Aystaria thought as she looked out her window. The sun was just starting to set as she lit the candle in the lantern on her nightstand. She recalled her fight with Sia as the flood of memories returned like a raging river. I was only able to keep my mental state in check because I was so focused on the life or death struggle. Why can’t I go back there? It is something I can do, something I’m good at. Without it, my mind stagnates in this peace to the point it makes me paranoid, and remember all these things that I just want to forget, Aystaria thought as she grabbed the lantern, and made her way out into the halls.
Knocking on Emyria’s door, Aystaria entered as she took note of the fact that Emyria was still packing various items into the large leather bag. Inside, was a mound of books, and various other items that were of little to no use. Aystaria placed her lantern on the nightstand, and stood beside Emyria as she looked over all the things she had packed.
“Any reason why you’re packing so much?”
“Always good to be prepared, right?”
“I mean, this is just a school trip. Travel light, take only what you need. Clothes, and a few books should be fine.”
Emyria looked over the items she had placed in the bag.
“Yeah, you’re right. This is too much.”
“I know I’m right,” Aystaria said with a smile.
A few hours passed as Aystaria helped Emyria pack the essential items in her bag. Once they were finished, Emyria laid down on her bed as Aystaria sat down in the chair over by the desk.
“Thanks for helping me. I feel tired after that.”
“Why don’t you come outside, and watch the stars with me?” Aystaria asked.
“Sure, why not.”
Like a cat scaling a wall, Aystaria exited through the window, and onto the roof in a single fluid motion. Soon after, Emyria followed suit as she made her way onto the rooftop, and leaned against slanted section of the gable roof. Aystaria stared up at the night sky as she looked at all the stars that lit up the darkness.
“It’s really beautiful.”
“Do you know which star is the north star?” Aystaria asked as she looked over to Emyria.
“Pretty sure it’s that one,” Emyria said pointing at one of the stars.
“Move your finger to the left by two stars.”
“Oh, wait… Yeah, that one does look brighter.”
“You excited for the school trip tomorrow?”
“Yeah, it’ll be nice to see a new city for the first time.”
“You’ve never left Maiola?”
“No, I’ve never even been outside the city gates.”
“Well, that all changes tomorrow,” Aystaria said with a smile.
“What should we do when we get there though? I’ve read a lot about the city. I know there is the arena, some unique shops, and they have tons of exotic food.”
“They have quite a lot there. Just be sure to always stay with Nolvet, and the others. Do not go off alone, understand me?”
“Don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere without you.”
“I may not always be around, you know,” Aystaria said as she looked back up at the night sky.
“You make it sound as if you’re going to die.”
“Pretty sure death can’t stop me,” Aystaria said in a playful tone.
The Grand City of Athelas was a hub for trade, and various goods that were sold throughout the city. It had been a three day travel to the city, but it was a sight for Emyria as she stared in awe at the grand structures before her eyes. While the city of Maiola was lively with people walking the city streets, Athelas held a higher population density. Swarms of people went about their lives to the various jobs they had.
“This city is far more larger than Maiola,” Emyria said as she continued to look out the window of the carriage.
“What do you think we should do when we stop?” Nolvet asked.
“First, we check into the Grand Mysteria. Then I assign all of you your rooms,” Miss Feldia said as she calmly read a book with one leg crossed over the other.
The sight of a grandiose building stood out from the rest of the city streets in terms of the size, both in area, and the massive size of the structure. Made of paved brick, and mortar that had been laid by a craftsman of professional skill, the building was strong, tall, and stood firm, showing no weakness in its foundation. Among the other buildings that populated the city square, the Grand Mysteria stood out from it with its dark matte bricks, accented by the embellished golden bricks that scaled in a single column at the various corners of the building.
“How much does it cost to stay a night here?” Nolvet asked as she looked to Miss Feldia.
“A lot more than you make.”
As the carriage made its way into the inner grounds, it stopped in front of the entrance where six maids were lined up to greet the students. After the driver of the carriage opened the door, Emyria, and the others disembarked as the other six carriages pulled up behind them.
“Welcome to the Grand Mysteria, honored guest. Please enjoy your stay here as we show you to your rooms,” one of the maids said with a smile.
Emyria was taken aback for a second as she looked at the maid that had spoken. She was eerily similar to Aystaria in every possible way—the only differences being her golden strawberry hair, and the glasses that complimented her beautiful ocean blue eyes.
“Wait a minute… Aystaria, you work here?” Emyria asked as she looked surprised by what she was seeing.
A tap on her shoulder made Emyria turn around to see both Aystaria, and Wyiss dressed in the school uniform.
“Do you have a twin or something?”
“No, I’m an only child,” Aystaria said with a puzzled expression.
“But you both look so similar!”
Aystaria looked over the maid carefully as she tried to understand what Emyria saw that made the two of them similar.
“I mean… Still, I don’t have a sibling.”
“That would be my little brother,” Wyiss said calmly.
“Nice to meet you. My name is Lystaria Wynn.”
“You see, Emyria. Two completely different people.”
“But you both literally look the same!”
“I mean, I’m not seeing it,” Aystaria said as she looked Lystaria over from head to toe.
“Both you… You know what, never mind.”
After settling the events that had transpired at the front entrance, Emyria followed Lystaria inside the building as she took in the sights around her. Off to the side, she noticed a large glass shaped cube that appeared built into the wall. The pale blue water was crystal clear, and showcased the varieties of aquatic animals inside. What stood out though was the odd cactus that sat at the bottom of the sand, with a small jellyfish wrapped around it like some bizarre mating ritual.
Deciding to ignore the oddity before her, Emyria followed Lystaria up a nearby stairwell, and began the ascent up to the sixth floor. The hallway, like the rest of the building was elegant in its layout, and design. A simple red velvet carpet covered the hallway, with each door falling in a symmetrical order of six on one side of the hallway, and six on the other. Even though Emyria didn’t understand craftsmanship or what went into creating a structure, she could see that each of the doors were made from a solid thick black wood that was decorated with a small gold accent lining around the trim of the door. In the center of each door at what felt to be the golden proportional ratio from the top of the doorway, sat a gold plated ornament that had the engravings of the room number on them.
Miss Feldia quickly assigned the room numbers with each student getting four members assigned to a room. Once all the students were assigned rooms, Miss Feldia turned back to Emyria, Nolvet, Aystaria, and Wyiss.
“Looks like I forgot to assign you four to a room,” Miss Feldia said with a smirk.
“Mhm. Sure you did. I think you just got the four of us together on purpose,” Aystaria said with a smile.
“Well, enjoy room six, I’m going to go find the nearest tavern,” Feldia said as she headed for the stairs.
“Allow me to get the door for you,” Lystaria said with a smile as he held open the door to the room.
Inside, the room just as grand as the outside of the building. Two beds faced the south wall, both lined with soft black linen sheets that followed the same theme as the building itself. Opposite to the beds was a doorway that lead out onto the balcony. East of the beds was an open area that held a small counter space with a table, beyond that a washroom.
“This looks fancy,” Emyria said as she looked around the room.
“This feels far too small,” Nolvet remarked.
“Be nice you two. You have yet to see the whole building,” Aystaria said with a smile.
“These are just the rooms, but we have a hot springs on the ground floor, a reading room filled with books, a training room, and many others that I completely forget we have,” Wyiss said as she laid back on the bed closest to the door.
“Sis, could you not put your dirty boots on the nice bed?” Lystaria asked with a smile.
“Oh bite me. I own this place just as much as other mother.”
“I see. So what you’re saying is I should go fetch her so you can tell her this wonderful information.”
Wyiss quickly removed her boots, and threw them at her brother as hard as she could, nailing him in the face. Even after being hit in the face, Lystaria continued to smile cheerfully.
“Wyiss, that was mean,” Nolvet said as she looked over to her.
“Don’t worry, he enjoys it.”
“You shouldn’t make it sound like I’m a pervert, sis,” Lystaria said as he blushed slightly.
“Very well, if you need anything, please don’t hesitate to call.”
Lystaria smiled, and bowed politely before leaving the room.
“I love my little brother, but he is strange sometimes.”
“I still think that was mean.”
“Like I said, he loves it. How do you think I found out?”
“Oh I see where this is going,” Aystaria said as she removed her boots.
After placing her lantern, and candles on the nightstand, Aystaria laid down on the bed beside Wyiss, and closed her eyes.
“The two of us were kids at the time. I was being a bully, and pinned him down. Needless to say, I felt something that day.”
“What was it?” Nolvet asked innocently.
All eyes turned to Nolvet.
“You… actually need me to spell it out?” Wyiss asked.
“Oh? Oh… Oh! OH!”
“Now you get it,” Wyiss said as she closed her eyes.
“So you’re into your little brother. Guess that means the three of us are taking our relationship to the next level,” Aystaria giggled.
“Shut it, Aystaria.”
“I don’t think I want to know. So, what do you two plan to do?” Emyria asked.
“Sleep,” Aystaria, and Wyiss said in unison as they both cuddled each other.
“Wow, you two…”
“…are boring,” Nolvet said as she finished Emyria’s sentence.
“That’s fine but…”
“…we’re tired so…”
“…have fun exploring.”
Emyria looked over to Nolvet.
“Let’s go check out the rest of this place.”
“Yeah, sounds fun.”
Without another word, Emyria, and Nolvet left the room as they closed the door behind them.
“Aystaria, you’re hands are on my breast.”
“Too tired to move them. You can do it.”
“Don’t feed me that lie.”
“And yet, you still haven’t moved them.”
“I’m just too tired.”
“We stay like this then, agreed?”
Aystaria, and Wyiss soon fell into a deep sleep as they had dreams that were of questionable taste.
Emyria, and Nolvet wandered around the lobby floor as they looked over the various different rooms. Some were rooms behind closed doors such as they library that held a vast amount of books, and art. Others were more open such as the bar that sat against a wall which served many different types of alcoholic beverages—from fine ales to elegant wines.
Entering into the hot springs area, the room felt as if it was a separate part of the building itself. The springs itself appeared as if it was naturally formed from the ground with exuberant green foliage that matched well with the various rocks of man-made design. Even thought the rocks themselves were of nature, they had appeared crafted through the use of trimming, and polishing.
“I see you two decided to check out the hot springs,” Lystaria said with a smiled as she approached the girls.
“Yeah, I’m actually surprised that no one else is here,” Emyria said as she looked around the area.
“Most guest tend to come at night because it’s relaxing to look out of the candlelit window.”
“You don’t say. Well, guess we’ll come back when it gets dark. Do you know of anything else that we could do? Like around the city?” Emyria asked.
“Hmm. Well, you could try the central market. They have loads of shops there.”
“Cool. Hey Nolvet, you want to go shopping?”
“Nah, I want to actually see what they have in the library.”
“Mock me all you like, but I’m still smarter than you.”
“Pretty sure I scored higher than you.”
“By one point! Quit bragging,” Nolvet pouted.
Emyria giggled as she placed her hand on Nolvet’s head.
“There there. We can meet up here at the hot springs, okay?”
Emyria made her way back to the room only to hear strange sounds from beyond the door.
“A-Aystaria… h-harder… do it harder… p-please!”
Without thinking, Emyria opened the door, surprised at what she was seeing.
“Oh, hey Emyria,” Aystaria said with a smile.
“You thought something dirty was going on, didn’t you?” Aystaria asked with playfully smirk.
Emyria’s face lit up like a cherry.
“N-No… I was just going to ask… if you wanted to go shopping with me.”
“That sounds fun,” Aystaria said as she got off of Wyiss.
After getting on her boots, Aystaria looked over to Wyiss.
“You want to join us?”
“No thanks, you two can go. We can meet up though at the Tower’s Watch for food.”
Aystaria smiled as she looked to Emyria.
“Okay, let’s go!”
The Tower’s Watch was known for two things, it’s elegant five-star meals, and the large tower where food was prepared before being thrown down to the customer’s plate. No one knew the nameless chef that was able to cook these wondrous meals or even how they were able to serve food without ever leaving the tower at the top floor. What continued to remain a mystery however was the true gender of the cook.
Aystaria stared up at the tower as she smiled. At least she is still doing well I see, she thought as she took a sip of her tea. Leaning against the terrace railing, Aystaria stared out at the eight bright lights that shined out in the distance.
“So, down that long road is The Pit?” Nolvet asked as she pointed to the road leading to the lights.
Wyiss leaned on the railing as she rested her cheek against the palm of her hand.
“That is The Pit, yes. A dark cruel place where only the brave go. The giant wall around The Pit is always guarded by the Light Bearers who ensure those eight towers are always shining bright during the night hours. They keep the monsters there at bay.”
Pulling up the sleeve on her left arm, revealed a tattoo on Wyiss’ left wrist that had an emblem of a lit torch with a number six in the flame. Aystaria knew the mark well, as she held onto her own wrist.
“This symbol identifies us as Light Bearers, and it is our job to ensure we keep the people of this world safe.”
“But what’s exactly down there in The Pit?” Emyria asked.
Aystaria continued to stare off into the distance as she began to recall all the memories she had.
“I don’t know what’s exactly down there. I didn’t go very far, but… whatever is down there isn’t human or friendly, that’s for sure.”
Wyiss looked over to Aystaria who appeared as if she was in her own little world. I think I remember that question I wanted to ask her now, Wyiss thought as she looked back out at the lights gleaming from the towers.
“Hey Aystaria, are you okay?” Emyria asked.
As if being pulled back into reality, Aystaria blinked for a second, and then turned to Emyria.
“Don’t worry, I’m fine,” Aystaria said with a cheerful smile.