All Strings Attached

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Chapter 10:Hard Truths

 ~Sin-Vira's POV~

 The message was clear, but doing it would be near impossible. So long as Ivy would be assigned to him, she'd cling onto him and never leave. Her name was a subtle bit of irony. Any attempt would make him look suspicious.

 "Hey, Ivy. Could you please give us a moment in privacy? There are certain things we were hoping to discuss…. Alone," Sin-Vira asked in a calm tone. It wasn't a lie, so he wouldn't have to fumble with it.

 Ivy shook her head. "I'm sorry, Vira. But the queen assigned me to never leave your side. Even if it's for privacy. Besides, that woman is still suspicious. Who knows what she'll pull to get you in trouble again."

 "Well I wished to speak about last night, but it's a bit embarrassing someone else has to hear about it." Sibylla looked over at Sin-Vira. "I was too exhausted to properly thank you for helping me. It's rare for me to be so careless."

 Ivy glared at her. "You seemed to walk just fine and were able to jump on our carriage with ease. Sure you weren't faking an injury just for sympathy?" she questions bluntly.

 Sin-Vira "Ivy! I was there when it happened, it wasn't broken, just a sprain. I wouldn't let her go back on her own, so if you want to blame someone it's gonna be me."

 "I can't believe you're defending her! You two barely know each other. What makes you think she's such a frail saint?" Ivy questioned. "Her type play damsel in distress to any man foolish enough to trust her. I can tell."

 The prince looked over to Sibylla who was likely close to snapping. She likely wasn't used to people criticizing her.

 "Since you can't leave him alone-" She looked over to Sin-Vira. "May you please cover your ears and close your eyes for a moment?"

 Without wanting to know why Vira did as he was cold and faced the door just in case. His hands were firmly covering his ears.

 ~Arika's POV~

 "Vira?" Arika asked to confirm he couldn't hear. "Perfect! Now that we have that settled-" she looked back down at the woman before her. "Listen, sweetheart, you speak as though you're holier than thou, but your type is worse than mine."

 Ivy looked taken back by the sudden tone Arika gave. "Excuse you? I'm far from your lower level."

 "You honestly wouldn't care if I was sweet or catty, wanna know why?" She leaned closer to her with glossy eyes. "You're just envious he doesn't want you. So you'd hate me either way and do everything you can to make him change his mind. Sure, we've fought a lot and probably aren't compatible, but we're sticking through till the end. So save your useless breath on trying to take him back. Be civil or stand at the end of my blade, your choice."

 Ivy gripped her hands on her dress as tears began pricking in her eyes. "Y-you're the worst…"

 Arika took out a lace cloth and wiped her tears away. "Maybe. But even if you don't believe me, we're going to get back at my father for what he's done. He's taken more than your home and dignity…"

 The maid glared at her but struggled to get her words out. "I hate you and want nothing more than to see you burn. So if you ever hurt him or anything, I'll kill you."

 Hearing such a threat brought Arika's memories of what her father frequently told her. Once she was no longer needed, she'd be killed. Her life was already meaningless, she didn't need reminders.

 "You're so cute when you threaten me! I don't like how trashy you've been, but I'm in a good mood seeing you like this," Arika teased with a forced grin.

 "You're a monster…"

 "I guess I am." Arika went over to Vira and tapped his shoulder. "Vira? We're done."

 He hesitantly removed his hands from his ears and looked back at her. "Is everything okay now?"

 "Yep! She's aware that we're merely partners, not love-struck morons!" She exclaimed.

 Ivy wiped her eyes. "I won't ever apologize, but I'll stop meddling. For the sake of our kingdom…" Sin-Vira gently hugged her and tried consoling her.

 Arika watched her before looking at her gloved hand. She questioned if she could do it as well. Whenever she wanted to cry, nothing ever came out. Ivy wasn't the only one who was envious. She wished to express sadness like Ivy and feel comfortable hugging someone. She was made up of porcelain and wood, no one wanted to hold her.

 "Sibylla? Are you alright?" Sin-Vira asked. Arika looked up at the concerned prince. "You seemed a bit distracted."

 "I just wanted some bread! But Suni's refusing orders to prepare for the festival." She clasped her hands together. "It's going to be our first date, Vira! I do hope you know how to be a gentleman~" she teased.

 He rolled his eyes with a smirk. "Luckily for you, I have no experience taking women on dates. So you're in for a good time."

 Arika laughed and pat his shoulder. "Then we're both in for an interesting night!"

 "What's would you even do there?" Ivy asked without a bitter tone. "As far as I know, festivals aren't that grand…"

 Sin-Vira leaned against Arika's desk. "I am curious as well. Suni didn't tell me much about them. She just wanted me to go."

 Arika tried recalling the few she attended. "There's eating competitions, dance performances, fireworks, I believe there's a more formal dance for royals. Are you a good dancer, Vira?" she asked in a teasing tone.

 The prince waved his hand dismissively. "It's dancing, dear Sibylla. I'm sure I can manage."

 "Prince Sin-Vira, you will embarrass yourself in front of the entire Gardenia kingdom. Once word spreads, you'll bring second-hand embarrassment to your kingdom," Ivy glared at him before sighing. "How long does he have to learn?" She asked.

 "Geez. I think three days? It's going to be the night of a new moon for sure!" Arika answered. "I have my practicing to do, so I can't help! But it's okay, he'll manage!" she laughed.

 Ivy took a deep breath as she closed her eyes. "As your servant, I must protect you. That includes embarrassment. Princess Sibylla, I'm aware we only just arrived, but we must depart. He is a slow learner when it comes to grace, so we need as much time as we can get."

 The two ladies laughed at the remark, while the prince stared at them both.

 "I understand! The most I can do is provide the attire for him to wear! Please excuse me for a moment." Arika quickly left and closed the door behind her. "That silly fool, thinking he can brute force dancing…" she smiled as she walked towards the fitting room. Her measurements on Sin-Vira's size were a guess. She knew the maids would be too afraid to get close to him. "Them being cowards just shows we have a long way to go."

 She tensed up when a door suddenly opened. The atmosphere in the hallway became unsettling as the King appeared. His eyes were as cold as ever, but he seemed more upset than usual.

 "S-Sir…" She mumbled as he approached her.

 "I've heard you've been careless with your vessel again. Need I remind you that you aren't a cheap fix?" He asked as he reached his hand out.
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