The Flames That Bind Us

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16. Aramis`s Fatherly Advice

♛♛♛ Gabriel James Imarnia♛♛♛

“I told you, Brother. I`m fine!” Lis stated for about the millionth time as she paced around the bookshelves of our library. She sounded bored and a tad irritated, though I wouldn`t blame her since I`ve been asking her if she felt alright for about five times a day.

I sighed and trailed after her. “I know, Sister. But what happened to you is not something trivial. You were kidnaped by those bastards. Gods know what they put you through.” Anger sizzled at the back of my throat for even just thinking about it.

Oh how I wanted to have my way with them for hurting and daring to kidnap my little sister. But, the word of my kingdom was law and I made sure those men would never set eyes on the sun again for the rest of their pathetic lives. A lifetime in prison was less than those bastards deserved. I wanted to have their shadows all to myself before they were locked down, but Lis and Aero strongly advised me against it.

Lis rolled her eyes, putting back the book she was reading in its place before turning to me. “Oh, don`t be such a drama King. They didn`t lay a hand on me if that`s what you`re concerned about, though they may have been anything but gentlemanly. It`s bad enough that David is still freaking-out, I don`t need you to join him too.”

It`s true that her fiancé has never left her side since we got back yesterday. He kept insisting on accompanying her wherever she went one might think she was glued to his side. In fact, I don`t even know how she managed to get rid of him since he wasn`t with her. He must have been searching every nook and cranny of the castle now.

“Still, I demand to know if you`re feeling alright. And not just physically but emotionally too. I mean, this must have taken a toll on you, Sister.”

“Heavens!” Her eyebrows rose. “One might think I`m a fragile child in need of nurturing. Honestly, Brother, do you actually think I`m that weak?” She shook her head.

“No, but—“

“But nothing!” She stepped forward and placed her hand on my cheek. She had a soft, kind expression as she caressed my cheek-bone and I grasped her tracing fingers firmly. “I know you`re worried about me,” she spoke softly, “but that doesn`t even amount to the worry I had for you for these past eighteen years. Brother, you don`t need to concern yourself about me. I`m fine, I`m always am, always will.”

“You don`t understand how worried sick I was. I thought I would lose you.” I held on her hand tighter, and her expression softened further.

In the few seconds that I found out my sister was kidnapped by none other than Wizard Hunters, all sorts of emotions I had bottled up spread through me. I wasn’t even sure how I managed not to surface them, but what I did know is that I felt anger, worry, fear, and rage all at once.

It was like fire and shadows mixed together and consumed my whole body, and for some reason it worsened when I saw that Slifer fall down the White Woman`s bridge. It wasn`t until she was safe in my arms that the feelings inside me withered, and the bitter thought was that I didn`t know whom I actually referred to; my sister or the Slifer? And another bitter thought announced it was both.

Lis gave me a small smile then leaned into my chest, burying her face and tugging on my shoulders. I wrapped my arms around her and tried to shake away the thoughts of losing her. She was here. She was safe and unharmed, and that was all that mattered.

“I was worried too,” I heard her muffled voice, “I thought I might never see you again, that I would leave you alone.” I smoothed her hair and brought her closer. But what she said last stayed lingering. Alone?

“I`m not alone, Lis. I have my kingdom, you, and my friends,” I whispered into her hair. Though Aero was still on no speaking grounds with me. He barely said two words to me before he departed to do whatever it is that he does. My sister was more understanding. She still gave me an earful after we retreated back to my study that day Gerard Vastia came, but at least she didn`t have disbelief and disappointment in her eyes anymore. I felt her shuffle, and she pulled away, her hands resting on my shoulders.

I noticed she was looking at me humorously. “Yeah…”

Something about the way she said it seemed like she was playing along with me, like she didn`t actually believe it. I didn`t dwell on the subject any longer and let her go.

“I`m glad you`re that concerned about me, Brother. I really am.” She patted my cheek and smiled.

I raised an eyebrow at her. “Why of course I would be. You`re my sister. Why on Ignolia did you think I wouldn`t be?”

She just shook her head and laughed. “No, that`s not what I meant. It`s just…” she shrugged a shoulder, “I haven`t seen your concerned face in a long time.”

My eyes rolled back into my head. “Oh please, Sister. I`m not that stone-faced.”

“You would be surprised.” She chuckled, a teasing glint in her eyes. “But, I`m not really the one you should be concerned about. I mean, Lydia had it far worse than I did.” It was a reactive response, the way my jaw tensed at the mention of her name. And Lis seemed to notice that too.

“Look, Gabriel, I know you don`t like her but she did save my life—“

“It wouldn`t need saving if it weren`t for her. Those men thought you were her in the first place, didn`t they?”

“But it`s not her fault!” She defended. “She didn`t know she was going to capture the eyes of those hunters. And that`s not the point. The point is that she risked her life to save mine, and yours too. I mean, didn`t she send that man who had his weapon to your back flying?”

I didn`t like the fact that she was right, no matter how negatively I tried to look at it. That Slifer did save her life—well I wouldn`t give her all the credit since I was there too—but she did come up with a plan to risk herself for my sister and she did stop that sword from piercing Lis with her own bare hand. I still couldn`t get the picture of the sword impaling through the Slifer`s skin from my head. And I don`t know what made me grimace, the fact that the sword almost got my sister or seeing the blood pool down from the Slifer`s hand.

“And I`ve done my part of thanking yesterday. It`s time for you to do the same.” Lis went on. I almost thought that my body would flinch at the thought of thanking that Slifer, but it didn`t, mainly because thanking her was justified, no matter how I loathed to admit it.

I still was in a bit of a shock about yesterday`s events and how it turned out. To be honest, the Slifer`s actions did surprise me. From her display of power to her chasing down the lead hunter and almost getting killed. When she sent that man flying in the air I could feel a strong, very ancient magic fogging our surroundings.

It wasn’t like when I saved her from that werewolf. Her magic was much weaker then, so it must mean that sleeping with her did actually do some results. It was only once and that managed to make her magic strong enough to hold her own punches, imagine what it would turn into if this went on?

“Gabriel?” Lis snapped me out of my thoughts. “Are you listening? I said that it would be good if you thanked Lydia for saving you, and I know that—“

“Alright,” I said, and she immediately stopped.

Lis took two steps back. “W-what?” She now looked at me like I`ve grown three extra heads, clearly not believing I gave in so easily when she expected me to put up a fight.

“I said alright, I`ll do it. I`ll thank her.”

By now her eyes were bulging and her mouth was dropped open. “Are you serious?” She seemed a little suspicious, and I nodded. “Oh, well…“ She regained her normal expression back. “I guess that`s good then. Now, if you`ll excuse me, Brother, I have to go find David or else he`ll tear the entire castle down.” And with that she left the library, leaving me with my thoughts.

I sighed and exited the library, deciding not to think about the subject for a while now. I still had many things to do and as I walked straight in the empty, wide corridor my head was filled with them. First, I needed to tell Aero to send some of his men to the town to investigate any incidents that may have any connection to those hunters. I don`t care if he doesn`t want to talk to me, I`ll force his shadow down if I have to.

They might have attacked and stole magic before they spot the Slifer, so I needed to make sure no attacks have happened. Second, I had to check on how the process of the children orphanages were going. They`re supposed to be half-way done and ready to open by next month.

And there was the matter of Imarina`s grand ball I had to think about. It would take place in three days, and I was sure my sister had everything prepared and ready, from the decorations to the buffet menu. What was left for me to do was to write personal invitations to the high members of the Congress, and to both Queen Adria and King Calix. I would have done it sooner if I wasn`t preoccupied with all that happened for these past weeks.

Though honestly, I wasn`t the least bit excited for the ball, unlike everyone else I knew. Lysa, Aero, and my sister were talking about it for almost a month. You would think that they were talking about The Honouring Day; a far more exciting event than the ball.

I stopped mid-step when I heard voices coming from behind me, accompanied by frantic tapping of feet on the ground. For a moment I thought that a horde of horses was about to slam into me from behind, but it sounded more like the hurried and rushed steps of two people.

When I turned my frame around, all I could see was a wild mass of black-flamed locks bouncing in the air as the Slifer literally bolted pass me. I could see a slice of toast dangling from her lips and panic mixed with horror contouring her face from the blur second I managed to set my eyes on her. She clearly didn`t notice me when she zipped pass me and almost made impact with my shoulder, seeming too busy rushing off to somewhere to even take note of her surroundings.

“Shit, shit, shit!” I heard her shout as she picked up her speed and ran as fast as her legs could carry her, her hair flapping behind her and it clearly looked messy and uncombed. “I`m so fucking late!” I saw her slip on her flat shoes and I noticed she was running barefoot.

She did it quite clumsily, and I don`t know what the hell came into me when the urge to smile amusingly twitched at my lips. She hopped, slipping a shoe in one foot, and hopped again to slip in the other one, all that while trying not to knock herself out of balance. “Aramis is going to kill me!”

Aramis? That short, peculiar looking man we saw yesterday?

I blinked, and in a second that black cat came rushing pass me as well. “Lydia, wait!” he called, trying to match her speed and catch up to her.

She took a turn and disappeared out of my sight, the cat following her shortly. I blinked again. What got her so worked up in the morning? And why was she meeting that Aramis character? Well, whatever it is it wasn’t my concern. She and whoever she spent her time with wasn`t my concern either.

But something inside me said that was a lie. She was actually one of the biggest concerns I was dealing with. I still was thinking over the words she said to me back in the forest, about how she wanted me to make her stronger.

She was fully accepting the fact that she would be sleeping with me to get more powerful, and there was something in the way she said it that told me she was determinate of what she wants. I don`t know why I took my time in thinking it over, even though I was the one to propose a deal with her in the first place.

Maybe it was the thought of touching her that held me back. Either I wanted to have her moaning under me, or I refused to lay so much as my fingertips on her. In any case, it was too distracting—she was too distracting. And I had places to be and things to do.

≼ ≼≼ Lydia Voltaire ≽≽≽

If looks could kill, I would be sleeping cold in my grave right now.

I sunk my head lower and pretended to be interested in the grass underneath my feet, fumbling my fingers together and noticing that I had let them grow longer than I liked. I even tried to busy my mind with the sound of birds humming in the trees, anything to avoid Aramis` deathly glare.

I swear his eyes seemed as if they were glowing red and steam was about to come off his head any minute now. His lips were the thinnest of lines and he was tapping his small foot on the ground quite irritably. “I`m sorry,” I whispered for about the fifth time, taking a second to glance up at him but quickly training my eyes on the grass again.

“What part of ‘at the break of dawn’ don`t you understand? I specifically instructed you to be at my house in the early break of morning yet there you are, three and a half hours late!” I flinched at his tone and continued playing with my fingers.

“I`m sorry again.”

“Well, sorry is not going to train your ass, missy!”

“Look,” this time, I raised my head and was met with his stone-hard expression. I sighed, rubbing my face tiredly. “I know I`m late, but I was really exhausted. Last night didn`t end exactly like I hoped, I kind of had a run with Wizard Hunters and they weren’t so friendly. In fact, I almost died last night so you don`t have to be so hard on me.”

He raised one very thick eyebrow. “And that`s exactly why I`m being hard on you. You need to be educated in the arts of fire. Now, please tell me you brought the book with you?”

Luckily, I didn`t forget to stuff it in my bag this morning, and as Aramis finished saying those words Luxus dragged my bag along with his mouth. I smiled at him, petting his head before I pulled the heavy book out. Aramis snatched it away and turned his back to me. I used the few moments he had his nose buried deep in the pages to try to tame my ruffled hair. This morning I was too panicked to even give myself a second glance at the mirror, and I realized I had left the palace with my hair looking like a bird`s nest.

I`m sure I gave some few maids whom I had skipped pass a hell of a fright. I brushed the ends with my fingers and tried to untangle some locks, but the wind kept making it almost impossible. After a few seconds of having my hair blown away every time I attempted to flatten it, I finally gave up and let it as it is.

Aramis`s house was actually a small, wooden hut with a chimney that emanated grey smoke. And I don`t even know what was the fire on for because it clearly wasn`t winter yet. Maybe he was cooking something in there?

Anyway, it took me about 20 minutes to find his damn house, further adding to my delay. Not to mention that the map he gave me was completely useless. I understood nothing of it and it wasn`t until I saw the smoke from a clear distance that I had managed to find his house. And it further added to my dismay when I saw him standing by the doorway, with his arms folded firmly over his chest, and a furious look on his face. I had spent about five minutes apologizing and he had spent another five scolding me.

“Well,” Aramis slammed the book shut loudly, making some of the birds sitting on the trees behind us scatter away. “I know what to start with. Now all I need is to see how much your power has grown.”

I beamed at that, my eyes widening. “I actually think you were wrong about my flames. Here, look!” and just as I finished saying that, I flicked my fingers together and bright, orange sparks sprawled from my hand. I looked at them in pride, watching them sway and glint in the slow movement of the wind. But when I looked back to see Aramis, his expression didn`t match mine. In fact, he seemed to have a frown deeply carved into his face and that made my excitement drop.

“What`s the matter? Look, I promise they`re stronger than they seem.”

He shook his head. “Trust me, honey, I know what I am looking at and your flames are so sorry they should just turn themselves off.”

If his expression managed to down whatever shred of glee I had, his words completely washed it away. My shoulders slumped and I waved my hand away to make the flames disappear. When I looked over at Aramis, he seemed to be deeply in thought, muttering something under his breath that I couldn`t understand.

Then he drew in a huge breath and turned his eyes on me. “Come into my house, I think tea is just about ready.” And with that he marched off to the small, wooden door of his hut, and Luxus and I followed.

Surprisingly, Aramis`s house wasn`t as tiny and cramped like I imagined it was. I thought that my head would reach the ceiling and I would have to crank my neck to the side, but thankfully the ceiling hung a good few feet above me.

For starters, his house looked normal, though everything seemed to be made of wood. However, my nose immediately cringed at a horrible smell that lingered in the air. It fogged my senses and I could tell it effected Luxus as well for we were both coughing for about a solid minute. It smelled like he had brewed whatever rotten things he could find and mixed them all together. I tried to ignore the wrenching aroma as I took a seat on one of the small, soft sofas, with Luxus planted in my lap.

I distracted myself with stroking Luxus`s fur as Aramis went to the fireplace. I noticed that he had a big, silver kettle and steam was coming off of it. He grabbed a large, pink mitten that was honestly too big for his hand and grabbed the handle, pouring three portions of tea into three cups.

He put them all in a tray and walked towards us with a wide, beaming grin. “Ah, pumpkin tea! My speciality. There`s nothing that this tea can do, from making you feel as if you were floating on the highest clouds to feeling like you have all the energy of the world.”

His laugh filled the house as he offered us the tray. I took mine and placed Luxus`s on the table, and he leapt off my lap to circle around the steaming cup. I brought up my drink to my lips but immediately jerked it away, my stomach almost gagging as I realized that the smell came from the tea itself.

Even Luxus took one sniff and jumped off the table to wrap his tail around my ankle. Out of courtesy, I forced myself to take a sip from the orange beverage. It tasted sweet and bitter all at one and I held back the urge to twist my face in disgust. Whatever was in that tea, it was definitely something more than just pumpkins. Aramis though seemed pretty content as he gulped his while taking a seat. He practically almost sunk in the cushions and the sofa was larger than his form, but he looked comfortable enough.

“Okay, kid, I`m going to be straight with you. Listen,” he began, placing his cup back on the table as I did the same. His face looked more serious now and he regarded me with his eyes. “I consider myself, well…in the place of your father. I know you have just lost your guardian and I`m willing to allow myself to be somehow in a similar position as he.”

“You see, you are my mistress, and I`m here to guide you into becoming the Slifer you deserve to be. And in order to do that, I need to make sure you are strong enough. So, mind if I ask,” he paused, his eyes lingering on me before he cleared his throat.

“How many times have you exactly…you know…” he shrugged his shoulders, raising both his eyebrows.

“What?”

He made gesturing noises. “You know, played in the night? Unleashed your inner goddess? Frick-fracked to the dawn?” His eyebrows wiggled suggestively, and I found myself looking more like an idiot than I actually felt.

I glanced down at Luxus, who looked at Aramis the same way I did. Meanwhile, Aramis kept doing things with his eyebrows—that I didn`t know one can even perform—and twitching his head to the side. My face contorted into confusion and I moved my eyes side-ways before settling them on Aramis, who had his lips puckered up, and was making strange movements with them.

“Uh…what?”

He groaned and rolled his eyes. “My Gods! Sex! How many times have you had sex with your King!?”

My face exploded, Luxus`s tail straightened-up, and all blood came rushing up to my cheeks and painted them crimson. I sunk my head so low I wanted to bury it in my lap and cover it with my hands. Oh my Gods, why? So that was what he meant…

I found the courage to speak despite my embarrassment, but I didn`t dare to look up, staring at my hands instead. “O-once.”

“Wait, one time a day?” he bellowed, and I heard him shift in his seat.

“Um…actually, it`s more like only one time.” I kind of hope he didn`t catch what I was saying, but from the cry he gave me he heard every syllable.

“Oh no, no, no. This is not good,” I saw his feet jump off the sofa, and I looked up to see him pace backward and forward. “We can`t proceed unless you reach a certain level with your powers.”

“What does that mean?”

He turned to me. “It means that you need to get those hips moving if you want to learn anything from my master`s book.”

Another blood-rush. “And…how do I do that?” I mumbled, more to myself than him. I knew exactly what he meant, it was what I asked of the King in the first place, so why the hell was I acting so dumb?

“What do you mean how? Use what the gods gave you and get that King in your bed, and I suggest you do it soon. And try to do it more than once. You know, the secret is to meet his every thrust, like this—“ I cut him off as he was starting to make thrusting motions.

Oh ground, please swallow me whole…

“It`s not as easy as you think. Him and I…well…we don`t exactly get along that very much.”

“You get along enough for him to pull out his friend for you.” Friend? Oh Gods! Why am I listening to this?

I sighed. “But—“

“No butts, unless he likes it that way, I mean who am I to judge?” Gods kill me. “Anyhow, you won`t get anywhere unless you get that King into your secret treasure as soon as possible. In fact, I suggest you go now and lay naked in his bed or something.” He waved his hand to the door.

If faces could explode, bits of mine would be scattered all over Aramis`s windows. I tried to say something, but he cut me off with a look I now knew all too well; it was when he in no way would take a no for an answer. “Now go, and don`t come back for another week. That will surely give you the time.”

***

That was Aramis` final say as he practically kicked me out. It took me less time to find my way back to the castle, but neither Luxus nor I said a word to each other, my mind did pretty much all the talking and I found myself blocking all sounds except for the sound of my own head.

A week? How am I going to get the King to sleep with me in a week when he wouldn`t even look at me for a minute? Did Aramis really think it was that easy? I can`t just burst into his room, naked, and demand him to touch me. One, because I don`t think I would ever want him to. And two, he would probably kick my ass out the moment he catches the sight of me.

But I knew too well I needed to do it. For now, it doesn`t matter what I want, what matters is what I need. Because if it came down to what I want, I would be out of this place as fast as my legs could possibly go. I would live up to my grandpa`s will and have all the adventures I dreamed off. But what I needed was power. Strength. And the only person who could give this to me was the last person I would ever want to see.

I don`t know how many times I sighed during my way back, but I pretty much lost count. The looming towers of Imarina`s palace came into my view and I skipped pass the trees to the edge of the garden. I noticed that Luxus stopped trailing behind me and saw him chasing down some birds. “You`re staying?” I asked him.

“Yeah.” His paws went up as one blue bird flew pass his ear. I shook my head and smiled at him. What a cat!

“Okay, just don`t get stuck in a tree or something.”

“Got it!” Came his reply as I turned away and went inside. I climbed the huge marble staircase, leading up to my room, walking pass some maids who were dusting off paintings hung on the wall.

All I thought about right now was getting into my bed and taking a five hour nap. I know it was only 11 by now and I only had a slice of toast as breakfast, but my urge to sleep overwhelmed my urge to stuff my face.

I still felt tired and achy from the previous night. Luckily, the Princess has managed to heal all my wounds leaving no bruises behind, but my body still felt as if a huge pile of rocks toppled over it. I don`t know why I felt this tired since I didn`t really get any serious injuries—except for the sword that sliced through my hand.

Maybe it was because of all the stress of having the Princess kidnapped and then rescuing her finally took a toll on me. Last night I wasn`t thinking about myself, my only thoughts were of the Princess`s wellbeing. I guess now I have the time to worry a little about myself.

I was just about to get into my room when I caught something black standing nearby a window. At first, I thought that it was a shadow and quite frankly it gave me a bit of a fright, but I realized it was none other than King Gabriel.

The sight of him—again—startled me. But I noticed, even though his front was facing me, his attention was completely elsewhere. His eyes were trained on the window. He had his tall frame leaned over it as he gazed down at something, and the expression he wore completely bewildered me.

For the first time since I met him, he had a ghost of a smile on his face. It was closed, thin, but it was still there. He wasn`t angry, or concerned, or emotionless. His eyes seemed calm, as did his whole expression. And there was something in the way he looked down at the window, almost like he was looking fondly at something.

For a few seconds I just stood there, mouth hanging. He looked so different that for a moment I didn`t recognize the dark, furious eyes of the King whom I had come to know. And it did things to me I didn`t understand, and honestly I was too scared to understand them.

Curiosity was bubbling up, and I found myself moving silently to the window to see what had him looking like that. I glanced down to see three children, two boys and one girl, playing with wooden swords and chasing after each other. Their laughter reached to our ears, and they looked so joyed and care-free as they tried to outrun each other. They were the servants` kids, but I didn`t understand why they had the King`s interest?

It was in that moment that I felt eyes burning a hole in my face, and I quickly looked up from the window to see those grey orbs settled on me. And just like that, his blank, well-preserved expression was back on as he moved from his spot and walked towards me.

I figured I should say something, but what? Suddenly my throat felt very dry and I don`t know why I was even attempting to say something in the first place. Maybe because I felt I was intruding on his secret moment?

“Good morning,” he spoke curtly.

“Why?” Wait—what? Why the hell did that came out instead?

He didn`t seem to notice, or care. Why was he even addressing me in the first place? He cleared his throat, looking a tad uncomfortable. “Did…did you sleep well?”

Am I hallucinating? What the hell did Aramis put in that tea of his?

“Um…sort of.”

There was a very awkward silence, and for long endearing minutes none of us said a word. Why am I even still standing here? “Uh…so, I`m just going to…” I was about to make a slow getaway when he clamped a hand around my shoulder.

“Wait!” He still had his hand pressed on my shoulder, and I`m pretty sure he could feel it stiffen under his skin. For a brief second, his eyes loamed over my face and the spot he was touching, and he snatched his hand away almost like it seemed he had burned it.

“I—“ he sighed, seeming a bit frustrated with himself. He ran a hand through his hair, closed his eyes briefly, then opened them again, and took once step towards me. “Look, I just wanted to thank you for saving my sister last night. She feels grateful, clearly, and so do I. So, I`m giving you my thanks. Get it, Slifer?”

I wasn`t sure if he was thanking me or scolding me. Either way, he didn`t wait around to hear whatever I had to say, he simply walked pass me with his head held high and his shoulders squared. I could hear his steps getting further away until I turned around and he disappeared entirely from my sight. I just stood silently, processing the words his mouth spoke and making sure it was indeed him who had said it.

I tried my best to keep my jaw from hitting the ground, blinking rapidly at the spot where he disappeared and playing his words in my head over and over again.

“Uh…you`re welcome?”

★★★ End★★★

Gabriel`s way of thanking someone sounds a lot like threatening! XD But hey, at least he said thank you! What do you guys think of this chapter? You get to see more of Aramis, and I`m really excited to know what you think of him, and his advice ;) Please don`t forget to comment and vote!

Love ya all!

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