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Chapter 16

Air hissed through Scarlet’s teeth. The sound of the wood upon wood mixed with her pounding heart, clouding her ears. Her vision was tunneled, focus on the attacking vampire in front of her. Blocking an attempt from them, she let out a small gasp as they responded. She found her wrist being bent in the most unnatural way, and released the wood from her hand to save them from breaking. They both watched the sword land just outside of her reach, and Claudia gave a wicked grin. Lifting her wooden sword, she swung it towards Scarlet. Sensing the move, Scarlet ducked, and sent her elbow into Claudia’s rib. The vampire grunted, falling back a step. Taking the moment, Scarlet sent a rather nasty right hook into the crook of her jaw. Claudia let out a small cry, before falling to the ground in a heap. A string of curses fell through her lips as Claudia rubbed her jaw. Scooting to her knees, she looked back at Scarlet. Her eyes scanned her, and she nodded. “Good job.” Scarlet smiled, falling to her own knees before finally coming to a rest on her side. Her whole chest burned, sweat stung her eyes and she lost feeling in three toes. The fight had lasted no more than five minutes and yet she felt near to death.

A hand fell into Scarlet’s eye line, and she took it. Claudia pulled her into the air, Scarlet coming off the ground a few inches before standing straight once more. “You are just blossoming my little Gibbon. I do believe you shall forever carry that title. I was a fool to think of you as a Loris. You were clearly born a Gibbon- my little Gibbon. Now we must be going, Pals is expecting us at 5 for our gown fitting.” Giving direction to the other trainers in the room, Renee included, Claudia strutted from the room. Scarlet followed silently, not looking back to meet Renee’s gaze. Scarlet couldn’t help or stop the feeling of guilt that rested in her. Renee was doing all she could to please her, yet Scarlet felt that by agreeing to be in Pals’ wedding that the wedge between them was being forced upon them more. Scarlet’s lack of trust, and Renee sensing it, did not help the relationship between the too either.

Claudia’s whole body shuttered and she yelped. From where she stood beside her, Scarlet watched with eyes wide. “Sorry Claud.” Pals spoke through a teeth of metal sewing pins, “If you got yourself measured routinely, then I wouldn’t be doing this.” Pals stuck another pin through a small bunch of fabric. “Pals you know I’m not one to rush to the fabric store weekly. If it fits and there are no holes- I’m a happy vampire. Ow!” Pals looked up at Claudia. “Stop moving. You should care, these measurements from a year and half ago are so inaccurate. You’ve lost easily two inches everywhere.” Claudia turned, cursing as she was stuck by a pin. “Well it’s not my fault! Loosing Larson meant I lost his family cooking. He may have been a real one, but the men in his family knew how to make good food. Especially their signature blood-wine. I don’t know how they did it, keeping it so fresh and tasty while also preventing clotting.” Claudia fell away into another world, moving away when Pals told her she could carefully change out of the dress. “The men in his family were also self-absorbed pricks.” Claudia said nothing, just left the room. Pals rolled her eyes, slightly shocking Scarlet. It was the most emotion Scarlet had ever seen her express. “This is why I like you,” Pals ran her hands over Scarlet’s sides, feeling the fabric of the dress. “You don’t speak. You’re simple, and I enjoy simple. Turn around and place your arms up in the air.” Scarlet did as she was told, feeling a gentle tug at her back. “Now down.” The fabric grew slightly loose, but was remained tighter than it’s previous state. “Out to the sides, both of them.” Pals pinned the fabric, and turned Scarlet back around. Her eyes scanned over her body, taking in her full shape. “I don’t understand you, Scarlet, what are you trying- never mind. Here, I have a piece of paper somewhere.” Scarlet, who had been attempting to ask Pals a question, watched the werewolf throw a number of things into the air or out to the ground before finding a piece of paper and a pencil in a drawer. “Use this.”

At your wedding, shall there be dancing?

“Of course.” Pals looked up from the paper. “It would not be a party without dancing. Rony loves dancing.” Pals reached for a skirt at her legs that was not there, she wore pants that hugged every muscle on her legs, and gave a twirl. “Nothing but the music and your partner. Feet shuffling and skirts swirling. Turn for me Scarlet, as if you were dancing.” Scarlet did as she was told, hoping she was doing it correctly. Scarlet had never danced in her life, so she never fully learned. She stopped when her head begun to hurt, and held it in her hands.

“Hm, yes, the skirt is beautiful dancing.” Pals came over, picking up the fabric, and swished it around. She looked at Scarlet’s bare legs, and gave a small frown. “Tell me Scarlet, and I am just now realizing this- do you own pants?” Scarlet slowly shook her head no. “Well why not?” Scarlet shrugged, unable to give any more of a response. “That must be fixed. I have your measurements now- I shall contact a good friend of mine. Every woman should wear pants.” Scarlet quickly shook her head, and attempted to explain why she didn’t care for the fashion choice. Pals watched her, not saying a word. “You trust me Scarlet. I know your taste in fashion and will not steer you wrong.”

“Who won’t wrong what?” Claudia joined them, back once more in her ash grey jumpsuit. She pulled at her corset; adjusting it. “I wish to update Scarlet’s wardrobe. She owns not one pair of pants.” Claudia hummed. “I must say I agree, were you thinking Riann?” Pals nodded, motioning for Scarlet to go change. “Yes, she won’t question who I’m buying the clothes for.” The two continued to talk, the door muffling their voices as Scarlet entered into the small bathroom. Scarlet could hear their voices still, going on about Riann, and her work. Undoing the zipper at her side, Scarlet gingerly slid her arms from the fitted sleeves. The dress then fell from her near shapeless hips. She was careful to pick it up, aware of the pins in the back. Placing it off to the side, she slipped back into her own clothes. She buttoned the collar, glancing at herself in the mirror. Pants, she had never fathomed the idea really. Renee wore pants daily, Scarlet hadn’t seen her in a dress once since stepping foot in the King’s home. She took a step back, examining herself. Perhaps it was the lighting in the bathroom, or the slight color in her face; but Scarlet felt as if something had changed. Exiting the bathroom, Scarlet returned the work-in-progress piece back to Pals. The two looked at her, as she reached for the paper once more.

I cannot wait to see what you create for me. Thank you for your kindness.

Pals and Claudia smiled, as the vampire gathered a few more things. The three then left the large studio and saying her farewells, Scarlet left with Claudia to return to King’s home.

It was nearly seven by the time Scarlet found her way back to her room, and yet the sun was still setting. The summer was nearing, spring was coming to it’s end. Pulling herself free of her wide leather belt, Scarlet ran her hands over her sides. She realized then that her fingers ran over a smooth surface. Stumbling into her bathroom, Scarlet tore her shirt off. In her mirror she was meet with perfectly smooth skin, there was not one rib visible. She hadn’t gained weight, or at least she hadn’t thought she did. All of her clothing’s still fit, yet her body had filled out. Leaving the bathroom, she slowly moved away from the door.

Standing in the middle of her room, the sun rays casting long on the ground, she attempted to count how long she had been living in Voirol. She had lost track of the days that she was traveling with the Trade, her memories consisting of blurs. Once in the King’s home she tried to count the days, at first she did. Yet at some point, and she did not know if it was days or weeks, Scarlet stopped counting. Perhaps, even, stopped caring.

Six months. She had been taken from Tobus nearly six months to the date. Suddenly, she felt as if she wanted- no, needed to cry. Because at the thought of her old life, of her mother; she no longer yearned for it. Moments and thoughts that would have her broken in a fit; were now nothing more than a simple ache in the back of her chest. She frowned, and grabbed a dress to wear for dinner. Changing, she couldn’t help but watch herself in her full length mirror as she did. Each movement of her new body fascinated her. Once dress and unsure of what she should do next, Scarlet walked to her desk. Taking a seat, she pulled out her journal.

Journal Entry Number Two

I realized tonight that it’s been near six months of the day of my kidnapping. I cannot believe so much change has happened is such a small but of time. Once ago when I would think of… before, it would bring nothing but fitting sorrow to my body. Now, though, I feel as different as I do to most of my memories. Some people believe in Fate, goddess or higher beings that have unlimited control over us. I’m not quite sure what I believe in, but perhaps my life was always set down this path. I’m becoming something I would have never even imaged just a few months ago. My body has changed, my style has change. I have changed. I’m going to start wearing pants. I’m not comfortable in them one bit- a life-hood in dresses will do that to a woman. But I’m going to start wearing them. Renee, Claudia, Pals, and Theo all wear pants. Women in this country wear whatever pleases them. The only being I have yet to don a pair of pants is the Queen, but perhaps she prefers her beautiful gowns. Who am I to judge?! I am excited to try pants out.


The next day, in the hours after her morning lessons with the King and her afternoon training, Scarlet found herself roaming the gardens. The sun warmed the air, its rays warming her skin. She milled by workers, fingers brushing over a flower petal or two. The clear sky had never seemed so blue and Scarlet felt as if she had never heard so many birds. The whole world felt alive. As if it was alive for her only. Hoping off of the pebble path, she slipped her shoes off and walked to the edge of the lake. She sat her shoes, and basket down by the edge before moving closer to it herself. Settling down, Scarlet reached for a roll of bread from the basket. Ripping it up, she tossed a few pieces into the water. Waiting, she watched the pieces get soggy and slowly start to sink. As they did, the pieces were suddenly scooped up by a small duck. Smiling, Scarlet tossed a few more pieces towards it. The two played a game, Scarlet would throw pieces to get the animal to slowly move near her and the duck would get bread. Just when it seemed that the duck would eat straight from her hands, a small chirping filled the air. With slight dismay, Scarlet watched the duck rush off to a set of cattails. Following the creature, bread still in hand, she brushed aside a few of the long blades. Peering down, she smiled at the small batch of ducklings crying for their mother.

“You should give them dry grain.” Startled Scarlet’s body grew stiff and she lost the last bits of crumbs. Turning, she was met with the shadow of the King. His frame blocked the sun, and he held a rather large case in his hands. “I’m sorry. I must have startled you.” Scarlet nodded, and started to breath once more. She couldn’t remember when she had stop.

It’s okay. What’s the box?

The King looked down to the case in his hand, “Oh this?” He held it up, giving her a smile. “It’s a camera. Look.” Bending down to her level, the King placed the case in between them. He unlatched and opened the lid. Scarlet studied the contraption, and at the nudge of the King; picked it up. It wasn’t too large, but somewhat heavy in her hands. “This is the main piece, there’s a flash but it’s rather a pain to work with.” She sat it back down in it’s case.

I’ve never really seen a camera before.

“You haven’t?” Scarlet shook her head.

No, it was against the Code. And my mother never had the money.

The King frowned slightly, and picked the camera back up. “Well, now you do. I’ll even show you how it works.” The King hit a latch on the side, and suddenly the front came popping out at Scarlet. “You have to unlatch it first, and then slid in the still. Like this.” Reaching into a pocket, she watched him take a small square and stick it into the camera. “This will give me four photos. All I have to do is hold it up, point and click. Now…Smile.” Scarlet frowned, and shook her head.

No, no. No photos. Not of me.

There was a slight nudge at Scarlet’s knee, and she looked down. Letting out her own laugh, she reached out her hands and picked up the group of baby ducklings. She held the three little creatures in her hands, unable to keep herself from smiling. Holding her hands up, she turned to the King. As she did, the King held up the camera and there was a clear click. Frowning, she sat the restless babies back to the earth. “I’m sorry.” The King lowered the camera, a small smile on his face. “I couldn’t help myself. Everyone deserves to have at least one photo of themselves.” Slowly, the frown on Scarlet’s face turned into the tiniest grins. The thought of her face, for one single moment, being frozen in time forever, was thrilling. Growing up she had always been taught that photos of oneself were vain. Vanity rarely ever led to anything good, and so the Code discouraged them.

Scarlet casted a glance at the camera, watching as the King aimed it at the nest. With another click, he lowered it. Sensing her eyes, he looked over to her. “Would you like to take a photo?” Scarlet was going to decline, going to shake her head no, but instead she nodded. Her smile grew. The King stood, and offered her a hand. She took it, her warm fingers wrapping around his cool skin. It almost felt to her as if they were perfectly fitted. Releasing his hand, he held the camera out to her. She took it once more, and held it up- just like he had. “Aim it at whatever you want.” She looked through the eye hole, seeing the world through the small round lens. “When you find something, place your pointer finger over the small button on the upper right side.” Spinning, she focused on the King, and clicked the button to take the photo. Lowing the camera, Scarlet gave her own laugh. She handed the camera back to the King. “That was unexpected.”

We’re even now.

The King took the camera, unable to not chuckle himself. Bending down he kept the camera out but closed the case. “Would you care to spend the afternoon with me? I know you have training this afternoon but perhaps you’d like to take a few photos first?” Scarlet nodded her head, and followed after him.

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