The Flames That Bind Us

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13. The Light in The Shadows

Later that night when I got back from meeting that curious fella named Aramis Lester, I had immediately retired back to my room and kept the book he gave to me glued to my nose. I was so consumed by it that the first thing I wanted to do when going back to the castle was to see what this book beheld.

I was so fascinated with the various forms of fire displayed in the pages, but some of them were too complex for me to understand. There were hardly any words written in some pages, and others had instructions that I couldn`t possibly do at my level of power now.

A part of me wondered if Aramis can really teach me all of this. It looked complicated, to me at least. Not to mention there was about 400 pages to this book so I really wondered if he can teach me all of this in the right time.

And most of all, what if I can’t do this? What if I’m not capable to learn all of this magic? What if I’m not strong enough? So many questions and thoughts piled up in my head, and I didn’t know if I was happy about finding a way were I could still train, or depressed at the thought of not being able to pull this off?

I groaned, closing the book which made a rather loud thud. I looked at Luxus who was sleeping peacefully to make sure that the sound didn’t wake him up, but he didn’t even stir. It was only 10:30PM and my eyes wouldn’t catch some sleep. In fact, I felt rather energetic this evening.

“What to do, Lydia?” I mumbled to myself as I got off the bed and paced around the spacious room, looking for something to do in this never-ending boredom.

The book shelf didn’t have any interesting books. They were mostly historic book about the history of Imarnia and other kingdoms. I didn’t feel like getting a history lesson at the moment so I stayed far away from those book, not to mention I already learned enough in school.

There wasn’t much to do anyway, in my room that is, and I didn’t want to explore the castle since I had no idea where to go, and I also didn’t want to run into the King anytime soon. I know it wasn’t an answer to keep avoiding him, but I believe he avoided me more than I avoided him anyway.

I decided that instead of walking around my room aimlessly, I was going to check out the fair happening in the town. I passed by it when I was coming back from the woods and it looked pretty neat, but I didn’t have money in my pocket then.

Seeing that Luxus was soundly asleep, I would leave him behind this time. Maybe I’ll buy him something cute from the fair. I changed from my night-gown to a black cardigan over a pale pink dress. It was very simple but it also was one of the nicest dresses I owned—which weren’t much really.

The skirt reached my knees, and I wore short black boots and black leggings. I draped a cream-colored cloak over my shoulders, then braided my hair to the side and covered it with the hood. I didn’t want people to keep staring at me like that other day. I wish I could do something about my eyes too, like wear those contact lenses some girls in my school used to bring from the mortal realm. But they didn`t work on me. I learned that the hard way.

I grabbed my white bag and made sure to open the door slowly before closing it gently behind.

***

As I walked through the crowded pathway, I couldn’t help but let out a gasp every now and then at how marvellous and beautiful this fair was. I’ve seen many fairs before that took place in Vera, but this was something else alright.

Colourful Pixie stones illuminated the streets as they shone above the masses in the tall post-lights. They changed colours from red, to purple, to faint blue, then bright pink. It honestly looked like we were inside a huge rainbow.

Many shacks and carts were scattered over both sides of the street. And they were all filled with whatever merchandise the sellers brought in from the mortal world, such as clothes, books, small tokens and many more.

I approached a small shack that sold some cute tops. I picked one that was the colour of sky blue and had the words ‘No one can be just like me anyway’ written in big white letters. I smiled and thought that actually suited me very well, but my smile immediately dropped when I looked at the price. Forty golden coins!? I can’t afford that! And why is it so expensive, anyway? I don’t remember these fairs being that overpriced back in Vera.

Well, it must be different here since this is a kingdom town and people can actually afford all of this. I shook my head, frowning as I put the top neatly back where it was. Oh well, it’s just a top. I tried to convince myself but I was actually a bit upset since I really liked it.

Oh Lydia, stop being such a whiny brat!

I decided to go over the book section, which was my absolute favourite. I remember driving my grandpa crazy when I would come back home with a pile of books in my hands, having spent half of my allowance money. My chest panged at the bittersweet memory, and I felt as if a grey cloud has suddenly overwhelmed my entire body. I guess that’s never going to happen now...

I immediately brought myself out of it, giving myself a mental slap and pushing the thought somewhere far at the back of my head.

Distracting myself with the various book displays, I tried to pick one for I knew I could only manage to buy one if I wanted to get something nice for Luxus. My eyes caught a book with a creepy-looking young girl at the cover, and it read Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Hmm, that sounds interesting.

I read the summary at the back and I was instantly hooked to read it. I can’t wait to go back to my room and sink myself in this one. It would be nice to read something that didn`t cause a headache every time I tried to understand it. Buying the book, I shoved it back in my purse and then continued on my way.

I wonder what I should get Luxus? I really wanted to buy something for him, but what? I’m not going to buy him a book or a top that’s for sure. A fish, maybe? Nah, he deserves something nicer. I decided to buy him a cute, red ribbon with a small bell that dangled from the back. It would look great on his black fur and would match his eyes very well, I just hope he likes it.

“Thank you.” As I was done paying for my purchase, I was about to turn around when I momentarily ran into someone’s shoulder. The impact made me almost lose my balance and stumble back, but I held myself on the ground firmly.

I quickly looked up to apologize, even though they were the one who ran into me. “Oh, I’m so so—“ my entire body froze when a pair of stormy grey eyes looked down at me. Even though his hair was hidden underneath that black hooded-cloak he wore, and the lower part of his face was covered with a black mask, there was no mistaking those eyes.

And when his grey orbs widened a bit with recognition, my assumption was put correctly. Immediately, I felt my whole body tense up as if it had suddenly turned into nothing but hard stone. I don’t know why my fingers were shaking and why I found myself sucking in deep breaths, but my flame-coloured eyes could not be removed from his storm-coloured ones.

What the hell is he doing here!? So much for not running into him!

“Y-your Maj—“ I didn’t get to finish my sentence for he grabbed my arm and started dragging me with him across the busy crowd.

His hold on me wasn’t strong enough to cause a bruise or anything, but it did make my whole being shudder at thought of his hand touching my skin, and I didn’t know if my body liked it or was repulsed by it. I didn’t even get the chance to protest for he was pulling me along rather hurriedly, seeming as if he didn’t have any trouble with dragging my small form.

Looking at my surroundings, I noticed that we were now out of the heavy traffic of people and he was bringing me to a quieter place nearby some shops and libraries. He took a turn and I turned along with him, still having no idea what to say to him, and I don’t even know why I let him drag me around.

We arrived at a dark, narrow alleyway near some library. And the next thing I knew, I was pushed into the wall and my back was pressed against it. He leaned his back so he could be at eye-level with me even though I still had to lift my chin. He rested one hand near my head and the other one was removing his mask down.

I couldn’t help the breath that caught in my lungs and I had to avert my eyes somewhere else so I wouldn’t look directly at his beautiful face, which caused a mixture of unknown emotions to stir inside me.

They were somewhere between wanting to smash his face with my bare fists and wanting to kiss those tempting lips of his until both of us were out of breath. But there was nothing at this moment that I wanted to do than to slap myself fifty times in a row for even thinking about that.

“What are you doing here, Slifer?” His eyes showed a hint of annoyance at the mere sight of me, and I fought the urge to roll my eyes.

“I could ask you the same thing, Your Majesty.” I crossed my arms over my chest and he narrowed his eyes at the gesture.

“I asked you first.”

How old was he again? I huffed, keeping my temper in check. I felt as if I was being interrogated for no reason what so ever. “I’m here because I wanted to buy stuff, happy!?”

I don’t know what was wrong with my mouth and my ability to not show my annoyance, but they were pretty much my weak points. Anyway, he only clenched his jaw and didn’t say anything regarding my attitude.

“I’m here because my sister forced me to come,” he grunted, sounding very much pissed-off as he straightened his back and removed his hand from the wall. “I don’t understand why she’s so fascinated with this mortal crap.”

He scratched the back of his neck as he looked over the crowd of people passing by, and I caught a glance at how his biceps twisted underneath that long-sleeved leather tunic he wore.

I shook my head and glared at the thin air for allowing myself to lust after him. What the hell is wrong with you, Lydia? No matter how attractive he was, he was still an entitled ass who called you a whore. And at the memory, my body was filled with disgust once again. It’s then that I noticed that Princess Lis was nowhere to be seen.

“Where is the Princess, anyway?” Didn’t he say that he came here with her?

I heard him faintly groan, running his hand all over his face and down to his stubble then to his neck. “I lost her somewhere in that bloody crowd,” he admitted.

So he was looking for her, eh?

“I’ve been searching for her for half an hour,” he added, and I knew what was coming next. It was bubbling from deep within my stomach and threatening to burst out of my mouth. Don’t say it, Lydia! Do. Not. Say. It!

“Would you like me to help you look for her?”

Dammit, Lydia!

You had to say it, didn’t you!?

I did not want, under any circumstances, to be with that wretched King for more than a micro second. But I was worried for Princess Lis that my stupid mouth had to say those words. His head snapped to look at me and he was about to say something but a man’s laughter cut him off.

The next thing I knew there were two men that were hurling a girl to this alleyway. “No! Please let me go!” the girl cried, but all they did to her was laugh louder before pushing her to the ground. She fell back with a whimper, her hands extending before her to prevent them from reaching further.

“Oh, look what we have here,” one of the men, who was leaner and shorter than the other turned his eyes towards us and grinned. I grimaced at the sight, wanting to hurl all over his face even though he honestly looked well-dressed and attractive. But the way he was eyeing the girl beforehand revealed how ugly he really was. “Looks like this alley is occupied, Othor. Better find somewhere else,” he spoke to his much larger friend before grabbing the girl by her collar and lifting her up.

They didn’t even recognize that their King was right before them. Maybe it was the darkness of the alley that stopped them from noticing. The girl screamed, kicking whatever her feet managed to reach. “No! Don’t touch me! Help! Hel—“ her mouth was muffled by the larger man’s hand.

Suddenly, fire spread through my veins and all I could see was red and those men’s corpses burning underneath me.

“Sorry about that, she’s a bit of a screamer,” said the leaner man, scratching at his defined jaw. I noticed how he eyed me like a piece of meat, his dark eyes glinting with something that made my spine tingle. His tongue swept over his large lips, grinning at me before turning his back towards us. “I’ll leave you two be, then.”

His friend started walking away, carrying the horrified girl whose screams were unheard because of that man’s hand. My body reacted on its own, blinded by the anger that was slowly filling me. Those bastards! They think they can get away? Well I don’t think so!

Before I could even take one step, the King’s hand took hold of my shoulder, preventing me from going after them. I turned with flaming eyes to say something but he beat me to it, the anger I had disappearing when seeing the King’s clouded and furious eyes.

“Unhand this girl immediately, you filthy scums.” His voice was commanding, sending shivers down my back from how powerful and threatening it sounded.

The men immediately tensed, but put on a brave face as they turned to face him. “What did you call us, eh?” The attractive one pulled out a small jewelled dagger, as if daring the King to repeat what he just said. He slowly paced towards us, acting as if he was the hunter and we were his prey.

“I said, let this girl go or you will suffer severe consequences,” the King simply spoke, and I was surprised that he actually repeated himself before the man. But either he was giving him a chance to back down, or just merely toying with him. There was no knowing what was going on in that head of his.

The man with the blade snickered, licking the tip of his steel. “You’ve got some balls in you. Let’s see if you still have them while Othor and I fuck your pretty little girl and this bitch right in front of you.”

My fists balled at my sides and I wanted to punch his face oh-so terribly, maybe burn his dick off too.

The larger man, Othor—who honestly looked like a squashed potato—chuckled loudly as he dug his huge fingers further into the girl`s face. “Hey, Mace, he`s not so bad looking either. Maybe we can have a turn with him after we`re done with those pretty cunts!”

The two men howled with laughter at that, and I gritted my teeth at their vulgarity. The King however, didn’t take that so well, because I was suddenly caught off guard when I sensed a strong amount of magic fogging the air. I glanced up from my hood to see the King’s eyes darkening along with his body.

My own eyes widened when his entire form turned into black mist, slowly beginning from his legs to his lower body then all the way to the upper part of his being. The men seemed to have noticed that too, for all the mischief and challenge was gone from their eyes and replaced with utter fear.

In the next second, the King was completely gone from my sight as the black smoke he transformed into rushed to the direction of the two men. It blew them upwards as if they were nothing but small feathers, causing the girl to be released from their hold and I rushed to her side when she flopped to the ground.

“Are you okay?” I asked the girl and she nodded rabidly, eyes bulged in terror.

I turned my attention to the smoke that was now pinning the two men to the other side of the wall. They were screaming, begging for it to let them down but all the smoke did was transform into the King once again. His body formed gradually until he appeared clearly before me, each one of his hands gripping the men’s necks as he lifted them off the ground.

“Let go of me, you freak!” screamed Othor.

“Unhand us, you demon!” the one named Mace barked.

“As you wish,” the King replied, tossing both of them roughly into the air and out to the pavement where many people were startled at the whirling men who suddenly flew out of a dark alley.

They both screamed as they landed on the hard ground with a loud knock, probably breaking some few back bones during the process. Certainly, I could hear some few things breaking in their bodies. Whatever they were, I hoped they were permanent.

The King put his mask and hood back on, completely blending in with the darkness the alleyway had to offer. And I don’t know why I had my mouth opened like a fish out of water as I gazed at him.

Maybe it was the unexpected, selfless action this man had done right before my eyes. It seemed so farfetched and out of place with him. But the thought of him having some good in him bewildered me. And then I remembered that he was a King, he wanted the best for his people and he would protect them at any cost.

So, I guess it was natural for him to act like that. But it still shocked me a bit to see that this King; this dark, twisted King who had made my life a living hell…just saved someone else’s life.

I didn’t realize that the King was staring right back at me as well, as if waiting to snap myself out of whatever was in my mind. And when it seemed that I have gone back from my wandering thoughts, I got off the ground and helped the girl to her feet as well.

The King took one last lingering look at me before flickering his cloak behind and turning to walk away. However, I did catch what he said underneath that mask. “Now that’s all done, let’s go find my sister.”



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