Offspring

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Chapter LXVII

K A I T L Y N

“Up here?”

My gaze flickers to the stairway that leads up to the second floor of the castle. The hall Audrey, and I exited leads into a small open room with the stairs located in the middle, its deep red carpeted surface blending in with the areas’ aesthetic. Audrey steps beside me, moving to ascend up the steps.

“Yes, the library is just down the hall.”

I couldn’t help but sigh, the thought of walking upstairs after venturing down the lengthy hallway did not settle well within my head.

“Why is everything so far from each other?” I voice out, taking the first step. “No wonder everyone seems to be in shape.”

Audrey chuckles beside me, our steps finally reaching the landing, a set of double doors within our sights. Walking the path toward the library, my mind shifts from reality and into the depths of my thoughts, venturing down memory lane of yesterday’s existence, I recall the conversation between Delano and me; shock still breathing its life inside my veins. A part me of still assumed that he would withhold information from me, his utterance of his and Adam’s plan rendering my heart at a standstill— the crack that has formed among my heart tears further, the contents caged inside flowing in a small stream.

The function of my mind reels me back to the moments before I drifted to sleep, the scent of his being cocooning me in a bubble, stripping me of my own breath, and exchanging it with his aroma. I took notice of the change in his demeanor, the one I was originally was accustomed to long gone as if it never existed and, in its place, a more settled one.

He was calmer, collected, and. . . gentler when he spoke to me, my heart thudded more frequently in my chest than its slow pace: pumping blood through my veins with its awareness of his change.

To fall asleep while he still occupied the space beside me wasn’t my intention, but the comfort he brought caused my eyes to weigh heavy, slowly slipping into a sweet slumber with no regrets; and to wake with his scent of pine-cone and woodsy aroma in the spot he once filled— still warm and indented with his weight— alerts me that he stayed longer than he has before.

The pestering thought of him watching over me as I slept, Adelia and Cassius sheltered between us sent my being into overdrive, memories, and sensations flooding my system with warmth.

“Ms. Kaitlyn?”

I blink rapidly, brought back to the realm of the living. Casting a glance toward Audrey, her brown orbs glitter with a question, analyzing my form. Swallowing away my distracting thoughts, I provide her with a smile to assure she had my full attention before returning my gaze at the open entrance. . My eyes are immediately drawn above, the rich cream color of the ceiling contrasting deeply with the woodsy appearance of the library, though it was not the color of the ceiling that draws me - the embroidery that is carved into it; each groove, crease, dive, and lump etched with years of stories beneath creation.

I glide my attention to the rows of bookshelves that lined parallel from each other and stretched as far as the area would let them, their bodies full of books, thick and thin, seizing the surrounding area in its aroma. The glow in the room intensifies, my thoughts of stable lighting fueling the ball of energy that feeds into the flame of light. The smell of ink and wood slams against my nose, dragging a deep sense of content from my veins as it seeps from out of my pores and removes any tension from my muscles.

“Wow. . .” I breathe out.

“You’re a book lover too?” Audrey asks, coming to guide the way.

“Yes, I actually love reading,” I quirk a brow at her form, “Who’s the other person?”

“His majesty.”

A flicker of memory crosses my mind’s eyes, blue irises shielded behind clear glasses, their direction focused upon a page from a book; devoted fully to the story unwinding beneath his fingers.

“I see,” I mumble.

My steps are softened by the slender rug lined in the middle of the walkway, my purpose for visiting surfacing to the forefront. I scan the rows of shelves, aiming to find more knowledge of the world; the tops of the shelves presented letters of the alphabet, encased in clear casings. I follow the line of letters until I landed on ‘G’.

My feet carry down the middle aisle, the smell of paper growing stronger as I moved deeper into the library, I turn the corner into the destinated aisle and slow my pace to let my gaze skim the spines of books on both sides of the shelves, their dull colors and shades of dark letting me know of their age. Locking onto one, I raise my hand, my fingertips running among the printed letters.

‘Geografico di Buio Dimension’

Tipping the book backward, I slide it from its place on the shelf and into my hands. It wasn’t too big or too thin, holding the bare minimum of information that I needed, I scan the books once more, mentally picking a few to read before I let my fingers pull the cover open. I’m met with a faded map.

The map details a bird’s eye view of the dimension, the different regions labeled above their sections. Turning the page, the table of contents appeared at the top, though, the numbered titles with information about each region were written in Italian. A thought strays into the running mill in my head, conjuring up the image of revealing the book to Delano and ask for him to translate; I slam the book close, seizing the image from progressing further.

“What is it actually that you are looking for, Ms.?” Audrey asks as I move, piling other books onto the one I was already holding.

I glance at her from over my shoulder before turning back. “I’ve just became acquainted with this dimension’s history and I want to know more.”

“I see. Why don’t you ask his majesty? He’s very well informed about our world’s custom.”

My heart skips a beat, fractionally reverting to its previous state before stabling and recurring its slow pace. Pivoting away from her, I wall to the end of the aisle, finding a place to sit.

“I. .I rather do this alone for the time being,” my lips form pathetically around the sentence, sounding unappealing to my own ears.

She doesn’t push farther, and I appreciated it before placing my attention back on the books, my feet carrying me to a seating area. Cream-colored sofas, to match the aesthetic, formed in an L-shape at a right angle. Located in the center of the bookshelves, the sitting area has the right amount of lighting for me to read: with eager steps, I arrive at the sofas within a blur of movements, appearing on top of a cushion in seconds.

“Now,” I murmur to myself, organizing the books on the coffee table that settled in the center of the rug.

Soon, I let myself become consumed between books, trying my best to decode the sentences and understand the little detail of what I could. My thoughts drift to the possibility of if I still had my phone, would it even function correctly depending on how this dimension’s energy worked. Time flies with me flipping through pages and growing agitated with each flip, the only information I was able to decipher was the allianceEyprakingdom has with the surrounding kingdoms, Delano being the overseer of them as well. I lean back into the cushion, letting my head rest on the edge with a deep huff, the air wooshes from my lungs and brings with it the small tension that inhabited my shoulders.

Suddenly hands cup over my eyes, blocking my sight.

“Guess who?” a voice sings in my ear.

The smell of flowers and honey enters my nose as a smile spreads my lips wide.

“Kyri,” I call out, her hands slipping from my eyes as I move and stand to my feet.

She stands behind the sofa, the pale and smoothness of her skin contrasting with the baby pink dress she wore, her ginger locks braided in two sections, down to her nape. Those baby blue eyes, bright and heightened with intensity glitter beneath the library’s glow as we make eye contact.

“It’s good to see you,” she beams.

“You as well!”

I round the sofa and bring her smaller frame into a hug, inhaling her scent as she hugs me back. Happiness flows through my system, her appearance sending a wave of calmness rushing through my previously taunt muscles.

“Where have you been?” I demand eagerly as I pull back, holding her at arm’s length.

She gazes up at me, a mist of maturity in the depths of her eyes, different from the last time I have seen her. Along with this maturity there lingered a gentle entity, as if her soul has grown and reshaped her. Her lips spread into a smile.

“I spent some time in my mother’s garden, trying to heal myself,” she says softly, “I apologize for not visiting often.”

My eyebrows turn down at the mention of her mother, sympathizing Kyri for a short moment, my own heart pulsating with grief. Shaking away the feeling to nod in her direction, I speak. “There’s no need for that,” I say, stepping away.

Before she speaks again, her eyes cut towards something over my shoulder, turning, I come to see Audrey standing by the other sofa; where she was originally sitting, reading a book. Her eyes were downcast as she stood with her hands clasped in front of her, silent.

“Leave us, please,” Kyri directs this toward Audrey, the girl stricken into action.

She bows one more time, her feet crossing over the back of her ankle. “As you wish, Princess Kyri.”

Then she was gone, scurrying down the pathway between the bookshelves and out the door. I turn my attention back to Kyri as she widens her smile and guides both of us to sit on the sofa where the books were still scattered across the coffee table. She positions herself to where her body was turned to face me.

“So, what have you been up to?” she questions me.

“You know the usual, taking care of the Cassius and Adelia.” I then gesture toward the books laid out before us. “Trying to gather my insight of this dimension.”

If possible, her smile grows wider with the ever-growing emotion of excitement in her eyes, her hands clasped together, her gazes skating across the titles of the books. “He’s told you about the world’s history, hasn’t he?”

“He has,” I confirm, “I’m just finding it difficult to read anything more about it since everything’s in Italian.”

Kyri chuckles airily, leaning forward to pick up a book that hasn’t been opened yet.

“You know we have copies of all the books in English as well.”

“Really?”

“Yes.”

“I feel played,” I say, looking exasperated at the books I’ve spent trying to read.

Kyri laughs out loud, the sound vibrating like bells, a twinge of her innocence in the midst of it. Turning the book over, she reads the title, her smile turning a bit sly one.

“He’s also told you about beloveds, I see. . .”

“What?!”

My head snaps in her direction, her fingers splayed across the top of the book’s cover, the wordsAmatiprinted in cursive, contrasting with its rich brown color.

“He hasn’t, why do you say that?”

“This book is titled Beloveds,” she acknowledges me, mirth filling her eyes.

My mouth gapes open, the odds of me picking a book like that slim, the rush of blood roars through my ears as my cheeks rise in temperature.

Reaching forward, I grab the book from her hold, slightly embarrassed. “It wasn’t my intention to grab this book,” as I say this, I could not deny the growing curiosity of learning a little more about what connected Delano and me.

Observing me from the corner of her eyes, Kyri fingers the end of her dress, playing with its material, her lips pursing to the side in thought.

“Have you thought about asking him directly?”

“Heavens no!”

She scoffs, playfully, waving her hand. “You have birthed his children and fought alongside him to kill Victoria and those creatures, you’re still afraid to speak to him directly?”

“Not exactly. It’s hard to be around him, to control myself when we’re in the same room,” I voice out, “If I were to let myself be completely overtaken by this feeling, I want to know more about what it is.”

“I promise you; you won’t regret it if you ask him instead of him.”

Her eyes glitter as if she knew what was to come.

“Delano has been drowning himself in the work of keeping the kingdom running, aiming for it to become a safe and divine place for the children to grow into. With the upcoming battle, he has more work than ever.”

“Ever since the death of our parents,” she inhales, the flash of pain still exposed in the depths of her eyes, not as sharply as before but still existing. “It has changed both Delano and me for the better, however, Delano approaches you about the situation, which is how he truly feels.”

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