The Flames That Bind Us

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Ch.17 Let Your Hair Down

The rest of the day went by in a blur. I had spent most of it reading the book I bought from the fair and trying not to think further of Aramis` words. Each time I caught my thoughts drifting there, I groaned and buried my face deeper in the book. I just didn`t understand how in hell am I going to make the King sleep with me if he won`t even look at me for whole five minute? And I still had that short conversation—if I can even call it that—to dwell about. I remember standing there for a couple of minutes trying to register the fact that the King had said words to me that weren`t insults, threats, or orders.

He actually thanked me—poorly if I may say—but he thanked me nonetheless. And I honestly didn`t know what to feel about that. So I decided to cast away all these thoughts and force my eyes shut till the next morning. I would worry about it after I had some decent sleep and fed my stomach well.

However, when the following morning came, I was whirled awake by the sound of the front door spun open. I didn`t even have time to comprehend what was going on. Luxus had fallen out of the bed with a loud shrike, and I had shoved my head out of the pillow I was drooling over.

My hair blocked my view but I could hear the sound of high heels marching over the floor, then the curtains of the windows being slid open, streaming in the blinding light of the sun that made me hiss and squint my eyes shut. What the hell is going on? What time is it?

From the gaps of the strands that fell over my eyes, I could see that it was 6 in the morning, and before I could even blink the covers were pulled away from my body, and I sat up looking like a confused, slightly panicked animal, brushing my hair away.

“Rise and shine, beautiful! We`ve got a big day ahead of us!” a woman I recognized vaguely beamed at me as her eyes travelled over my appearance.

“Uh…what?” I managed to say groggily, trying to rub away the sleep from my eyes.

She didn`t seem to notice my confusion. She just paced around the bed, looking around the room as if she was looking for something. I caught sight of Luxus climbing the sheets of the bed with his tail hung up. He edged closer to me and curled up at my side, still looking at the stranger woman.

She wasn`t a maid, that`s for sure. She dressed up all nicely and she had her long bright pink hair in a side-braid. She was the same woman whom I had seen when I fell down my balcony. But I didn`t know her name, nor what in Ignolia is she doing here at six freaking A.M.

“Ah, there it is!” She seemed to have found what she was looking for, heading into my walk-in wardrobe. I saw her disappear in there and in a few minutes she came back with a gleaming smile. “I knew it! You don`t have a dress. That will make my work easier.”

“And what are you still in bed for? Come on, get up and wash that pretty face of yours.” She motioned with her hands then tried to pull away the rest of the covers. Luxus gave a protesting shrike when she yanked the blanket he folded himself in.

I tilted my head, my mouth parted. “Um…I`m sorry. But…who are you?” This time I sounded less sleepy and more confused than ever.

She laughed. “Ah, of course, how silly of me. My name is Lysa, and I`m the one who makes all the fabulous dresses here.” She spread her hands and gave me a winning grin.

“So…you`re a seamstress?” I found myself asking.

She scoffed, though it did not suit her beautiful face. “Oh, don`t say that! That`s such a medieval term. You sound just like Gabriel. I prefer the word ‘designer’.”

“Sorry. But, um…I still don`t know why you`re here though.” I didn`t want to sound rude and she didn’t seem like she thought I was anyway. She clapped her hands together as if she was waiting for me to ask that, her face becoming even brighter if possible.

“That will be answered as soon as you get refreshed. Come on, now, off you go.” And with that she literally dragged my arm and pushed me gently towards the bathroom. I didn`t say anything as I lazily walked to the door and shut it behind me.

To be honest, I was afraid she would burst through the bathroom door any minute now. But thankfully she didn`t, and I did what I had to do in a few minutes of confused silence. After I had washed up and brushed my teeth, I stepped outside to see her asking Luxus if he could do tricks.

“No, I can only speak, ma`am. I don`t do backflips,” he told her in a bored tone, licking his paws.

“Curious,” she looked at him interestingly. “That`s the first time I`ve seen a talking cat in my many years of living.” At this point she was poking him and I had to stifle my giggles at the offended look Luxus gave her. “I wonder what kind of spell was cast on you.”

“It`s a potion that did this to him, by accident really,” I informed her as I walked to my mirror and started combing my hair, grimacing at its chaotic state. Sheesh! Did a hurricane came by my room yesterday? Cause I don`t remember having such bad morning hair.

Lysa seemed to lose interest in Luxus and skipped towards me yet with another clap. “Okay! We`ve got no time to waste. First, we need to take measures.”

“Measures for what?” I asked as I put the hairbrush back, turning to face her.

She grinned again. “Well, measures for your dress, silly! I can`t wait to start working on it!” She literally squealed, jumping up and down all while clapping her hands together.

“What dress?” I raised an eyebrow.

She stopped jumping, pouting at me as if she didn`t get why I wasn`t as excited as her. “Your ball dress, of course. Lis didn`t tell you?”

“Tell me what?” Okay, I was feeling entirely like an idiot right now. I asked too many question, but it wasn`t my fault I didn`t know what the hell she was talking about.

“We are having a ball two days from now. It`s Imarina`s grand ball and everyone who is everyone is invited, of course. We are celebrating Imarina`s culture and its years of glory,” she said every word with pride and admiration. But that still doesn`t say what it has to do with me.

“So,“ she went on. “It`s natural for you to be invited, Lis insisted. She also insisted that I make you the finest dress there is, and I would never miss out the opportunity to make a dress for a Slifer!”

Me? Invited for a ball? Well, that isn`t good. First, I`m pretty sure that the King would be there and I don`t know what he would do if he sees me there since he clearly made it clear that he doesn`t want me mingling with the likes of him. And second, I wasn`t sure how I felt about it either. Sure it was nice to go to a ball where there will be many interesting people, but I don`t want to be ogled at. Especially that I am a Slifer. I couldn`t even stand how people from Vera looked at me as if I was carrying an extra head, and having the eyes of hundreds of high classed people seemed even worse.

“Err, look…I`m flattered but I don`t think I want to go—“

“Why not!?” She cut me off, looking horrified and slightly offended. “You have to come! People will be all over you.”

“That`s exactly why,” I rubbed my arm uncomfortably. “I don`t like having all this attention.”

“Pftt!“ She waved a hand. “Trust me when I tell you you`re not going to be the only one with attention. That water Slifer will be there with King Morrison. She`s such a sweet girl. I made a dress for her too. She kept blushing and thanking me all day.”

Wait, Ayana is coming too? Well, this might change things a little. I mean, with her there I may not feel like such a weirdo. And I wanted to talk to her more often. I didn`t have time to get to know her because quite frankly I didn`t know where she stayed in the castle. She must have been staying with King Morrison in a different wing than mine, so that`s why ever since the funeral I haven’t seen them.

But I still wasn`t very sure. “I don`t know. I don`t want to bother you—“

“Rubbish!” This clearly didn`t sit well with her. “You would be doing me a huge favour. Ever since I laid eyes on you, I kept thinking of many dresses to put you in. So, really, you would be helping me a lot. It`s not every day that I get to dress such a beautiful Slifer like you.”

That made heat rise up to my cheeks, and I smiled shyly at the ground. I wasn`t used to receiving compliment and getting one from a fairy—who were beautiful creatures to begin with—was really flattering.

She suddenly grabbed me by the hands, looking at me with pleading eyes. “So, would you please, please, please let me dress you up? It`s bad enough when Gabriel kicked me out for offering to dress him as well, I don`t need you to reject me too.”

“Um-“

“Come on! You could think of me as your fairy godmother.” She winked and I couldn`t help the smile that took over me. There was something about her that immediately warmed my heart and I found myself wanting to get closer to her.

I guess it was in the nature of fairies to be friendly and welcoming, but whatever it was it made me trust her enough and I honestly didn`t want to disappoint her when she seemed so eager to make a dress for me. What`s the harm, Lydia? It`s not every day that you get a dress made especially for you, so take what she was offering and enjoy it.

And so I agreed, and she seemed to be ready to bust her wings out and soar high into the sky.

“Oh, I know exactly what kind of dress I`ll be making for you, and it`s going to be a surprise. I`ll even make a little tunic for your cat too.” She beamed at Luxus, and he returned it with a frightful look, his ears tucking into his head.

I burst into giggles. Luxus hated being dressed in anything. It was either a ribbon or nonthing.

“Okay, first things first. We start with measures,” she pulled out a measuring tape from her purse, charmed it using her magic and it floated behind her as she walked. “Now, take your clothes off.”

Okay, maybe I should have thought this through. But without even attempting to protest—because I knew for some reason she won’t have it—I started taking off my nightgown and my bra. The measuring tape hovered around me and I lifted my arms above my head just like Lysa instructed, feeling very exposed and far from comfortable. But I just told myself the sooner I did it the sooner it would be over.

The tape started taking the size of my torso, breasts, waist, hips, and the length of my arms and legs all while Lysa scribbled down the numbers on her notebook. After it was over—thankfully—Lysa smiled as she wrote down the last one then undid the charm on her tape, stuffing it back in her purse while I re-dressed.

“Okay, your sizes are compatible with idea number two. I have the perfect colour for it!” she said excitedly.

“Can I see it after you`re done?” I asked, feeling a bit nervous cause I didn`t know what kind of ideas she had for me.

“Nope, top confidential! You`ll see it when it is time for the ball,” then she turned to Luxus. “Hey cat, mind if I ask what your favourite colour is?”

Luxus however, looked at her for a second then ignored her, getting back to licking his paws. But she didn`t look insulted, she just waved her hand around. “That`s alright, I`ll just match the colour with the dress.”

That earned her a hiss from Luxus and I glared at him. “Luxus! That`s rude,” I scolded, but he turned his head away.

“It`s fine. Cats don`t like us fairies. I don`t know why though, guess it`s because we`re too bright for them.”

She wasn`t wrong though. Cats, for some reason, didn`t like fairies or any creature that represented the light. It`s not that they liked creatures of the dark, since they were afraid of them, it`s just that they preferred the shadows.

“Well,“ Lysa checked the time on her wrist watch. “I better be going then if I wanted to make your dress in time. See you in two days, Lydia. It was nice to meet you at last.” She kissed my cheeks before grabbing her purse and dashing out of the room.

I watched as she slammed the door shut, my mind processing the last 30 minutes that happened. It`s like the moment she was gone I had forgotten that a fairy had woken me up this morning and demanded to make a dress for me.

“She`s weird,” Luxus commented from behind me.

I turned back to look at him then back to the door. I shrugged, smiling. “I like her.”

***

Two days went by and either I spent every hour in my room or worrying about Lysa`s dress. Like always, food was brought to my room three times a day and it only increased the feeling of being treated like a prisoner, except that I actually was free to roam around the palace but for some reason I had chosen to stay in my room.

I finished the book I bought in a day and a half and spent most of the time doing exercises and watching over the garden. I had went to the woods for a couple of hours for some fresh air then went back to my room for dinner. When the day of the ball came, both my excitement and stress increased. I was excited because in a few hours Lysa would bring my dress for me and I couldn`t wait to see it. But I was also worried that I wouldn`t like it because her taste might be different than mine, but all I could tell myself is that I needed to trust her judgment.

I had been thinking about the ball and the dress that I hadn`t thought about what Aramis told me, so I just pushed it all away until the ball was over. Maybe I could ask the King for a word? Maybe I could talk to him about it first and maybe we can decide on a schedule?

A schedule for sex!? How pathetic did am I?

I drifted all these thoughts away, deciding that tonight I wouldn`t be thinking about the King even if he was right in front of me. Tonight will be just about me showing up in what I hoped was a pretty dress and talking to Ayana, the Princess, and other interesting people.

It was now six o`clock and the ball was two hours away. I could see guest arriving and escorted through the garden, catching glimpses of their beautiful gowns and spectacular jewellery. My stomach churned with glee, finding myself really wanting to go downstairs and see those people up close.

Maybe it was because the only human-ish interaction I had for these weeks were with Princess Lis, the King, and Lysa. The maids don`t count because I only greet them at the morning and Luxus doesn`t count because he`s a cat.

And just as I was backing away from the balcony, the door of my room opened again and this time it wasn`t a maid whom had come through. Lysa was accompanied by two other women whom I didn`t know, and they were carrying so many things I didn`t dare to recognize one.

“Hey! Hope we`re not late,” Said Lysa as she glanced at the clock.

“Not at all.” I shook my head, smiling at her mainly because she looked so beautiful and radiant. Her dress was blue and decked with so many shimmering crystals it almost looked like it was made of ice. Her hair and make-up were done so perfectly you would just want to stare at her face all day.

“You look so beautiful.”

“I know, sweetie. But today is not about me.” She laid out what seemed like a dress on my bed, but there was something black draped over it so I couldn`t see it completely.

“Those are Nisa and Vircha. They`re going to help you with make-up and hair.” She pointed at the two woman who came along with her, and they were fairies too from their purple and green-coloured hair.

She breathed out a huge sigh. “I worked very hard on this and I think it came out exactly how I visualized it. Now, all that is left is for you to take a look at it and decide.”

I looked down at it, not wanting to show her I was hesitated to take a look and find something completely hideous. Luxus was curled up near the dress, giving me a look that said if you don`t like it I would be more than happy to tear it apart. So without even picking it up, I removed the black cover and gasped out loud. My mouth opened and my jaw threatened to hit the ground, even my heart gave out a leap and I couldn`t help it when I placed my palm over my chest.

“Oh my Gods…” I whispered as my eyes travelled over the most beautiful dress I have ever seen in my life. I saw Lysa smirk proudly from the corner of my eye, but I still couldn`t remove them away from the stunning gown.

I traced the soft fabric between my fingers, loving the feeling of how it seemed to melt under my skin. “Lysa, it`s beautiful. It`s so…overwhelming.” I turned to her, my face mirroring how I felt.

I really did feel overwhelmed. This dress was so beautiful I didn`t deserve it, or maybe I just wasn`t fit for it even though I knew this dress in particular suited every inch of me. How am I going to go down wearing this? I wasn`t sure I had enough confident in myself to walk so boldly wearing such an eye-catching dress.

“You deserve it. This dress is you. No one else can wear this other than you.” My eyes stung and I felt stupid for wanting to cry. Why did I feel so emotional? It was just a dress. Except it wasn`t. It was the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me.

“Thank you.” I realized my voice was a bit choked-up, but she only gave me a kind smile that reminded me of the Princess`.

“Ready to put it on?”

And so they spent the next two hours getting me all dolled-up, while I sat there looking awkward. They styled my hair and put so many brushes in front of me that for a second I was afraid I would look like a clown. Then, and what seemed like a life-time, they finally put me in the dress and walked me to the mirror.

If seeing the dress made my heart leap then seeing myself made it burst. “Holly shit!” I heard the women giggle at my choice of words, but I only had my eyes glued on my reflection. The girl in front of me wasn`t the same one who was embarrassed of her hair and her eyes. The girl in front of me showed them proudly to the world.

The dress I wore was the colour of roses, a mesmerizing red. It was an off shoulder dress that showed my olive-skinned shoulders, neck, and collar-bones. From above, the dress had a tight bodice that curved around my waist and gave my breasts a seductive shape.

But it was the bottom that was indeed hypnotizing. Towards the middle, it was the exact colour of my hair, fire. And like fire it flared into different shades from red to orange making it seem like real-life flames were burning at the bottom. The low sleeves of the dress were the same. The sleeves were wide and had a slit that reached my elbow, but the ruffles were the same colour of the dress from below. A black choker-necklace was clasped around my neck, and two black-stone earrings hung from my earlobe.

My hair was styled so that it was left in its natural waves, all the way to my waist, but Vircha took two small sections and braided them down its length. They ruffled my hair to give it more volume and further add to the colour of my dress. My make-up was done very simply, using a dragon stone (a very traditional way) to apply a black colour to my eye-lids that made the bright, flaming colour of my eyes gleam. They also used a dark-red mermaid pearl to make my lips look fuller.

“I-I don`t know what to say.” I tore my eyes away from the mirror to the smiling women behind me. Lysa was forcing a very small tunic the same colour as my dress down Luxus`s head, and that made me laugh out loud for she struggled with him for a few minutes.

Eventually, she won. “Oh you don`t need to day anything.” She huffed, tucking her hair back and glaring down at Luxus who did the same.

“You look cute,” I teased him.

“Shut-up,” he grunted.

“Now, the last touch.” She motioned at Nisa, and the green-haired woman placed a black laced-high heels in front of me. Thankfully, they weren`t too high that I couldn`t walk in them. They were actually the right length, adding just a bit to my rather average height. I put them on, feeling content that they were comfortable.

“Alright, now it`s the time for the grand entrance!” That made the joy lessen slightly. Oh, I forgot that I had to appear in front of a hundred people looking like this. Can`t I just have the ball in my room?

Lysa offered me her arm and I tried my best not to look as reluctant as I felt. Luxus trailed after us, looking quite grumpy, as we exited my room and headed for the main hallway. As far as I knew, the ball was held inside the grand ballroom, used to house the biggest number of guests Imarina could invite. So it was safe to assume it was pretty big, and that only furthered the anxiety forming in my stomach.

Maybe it was best if I didn`t eat anything tonight…

As we got nearer and nearer my tummy dropped lower and lower, for I couldn`t mistake the loud voices of chatting people even if I wanted to. We descended down the grand stair-case to see a couple of guards and butlers standing by a huge double-doors. And from the sound of it, I would bet my life there were about a hundred people right behind those doors. Maybe more.

“Don`t worry, you`ll be fine.” Lysa patted my hand reassuringly, and I nodded quickly at her, choosing to stay quiet for I was afraid I would puke if I opened my mouth.

Maybe it wasn`t too late to turn back now? No! What are you saying, Lydia? You`re going to waste such a beautiful dress and a marvellous occasion just because you felt socially awkward? I won`t let such feelings stop me from enjoying this evening.

I mean, I never cared what others thought about me back in Vera, so why should I care what those people behind the doors think about me too? Sure their stares and pointing always felt rude and hurtful, but I always dismissed it.

Besides, it might be just like Lysa said. Maybe they won`t care after all? Maybe seeing a Slifer to them wasn`t such a big deal unlike the folks from small towns? Yeah, maybe that`s exactly how it is. I would walk straight into the room and no one would pat an eye at me. No one would turn my way, or even acknowledge me.

But unfortunately, I was deeply wrong. Because as soon as those doors were pulled open, and Lysa and I stepped inside the marble floor, everyone whipped their heads to look at us. And the once lively room turned deadly silent.

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