– I –
For twenty – maybe twenty-five seconds – I was surrounded in darkness, and contained within Brynhildr’s Sarcophagus.
I could feel it working on me, stripping me, and then clothing me again.
The Valkyrie Armor sheathed my limbs.
And then I was cast out of the darkness and into the light.
Actually, I was tossed back into the chilling black mist that billowed out of the breach between Pocket and real-space caused when my Sarcophagus poked its head into the battle.
Why had the Sarcophagus breached real-space?
For what reason had it pulled me into its confines?
Whatever the reason, it would have to wait because a heartbeat after returning to real-space, the black mist surrounding me was blasted aside…and I along with it.
Seconds later I crashed into a building wall, cratering it with my body.
And the one responsible for sending me flying into the building was a beautiful redhead dressed in a blue-white dress – her Skin-Regalia – and flanked by six floating angel wings.
She slashed the air with her sword-spear
“Hey Brat! Do you wanna die?”
I was half buried into the wall, alive only because of the Aegis-fields that wrapped around me, but it was still one Hell of an impact. I was stunned, addled, and my vision swam a little so it was hard for me to focus on her.
Nonetheless, something was odd about this situation.
I wasn’t in the street filled with acrid, nauseating smoke.
I was back in the school quadrangle that contained the central courtyard.
And the woman facing me from a hundred feet away was a redhead, not a brunette.
More to the point, though she was using a Celestial type Artifact, a Seraphim, it clearly wasn’t the woman from my nightmare from ten years ago. But even if it wasn’t her – and that was a good thing – the identity of this woman was still a mystery, as was her reason for being here.
“Hey Brat! Didn’t you hear me? What’s the big idea picking a fight with me?”
With a loud groan and some effort, I pried myself free of the wall, leaving my body’s imprint behind, and then staggered several steps into the central courtyard.
I took a better look at the redhead who regarded me with an annoyed glare.
“Well, Brat? You looking to get yourself killed?”
I shook my head cautiously because it throbbed painfully.
“Well, you’re lucky you caught me in a good mood.” The young woman slashed the air with her large sword-spear. “Any other day, and I would have cut you in half.”
“Who…who are you?”
The redhead sighed heavily, and then leaned on her sword-spear, using it like a cane.
“Listen, Brat. Not only do you charge at me like a bat out of Hell, but you don’t introduce yourself either. Where are your manners?”
“Huh?” I stared openly in confusion at her, until her words sunk home. Straightening my stance, I then bowed to her slightly. “My name is Caprice Steiner afil Lanfear. My Guardian is Arisa Imreh Lanfear.”
The redhead broke into a frown. “Imreh? Ah!” Her eyes widened suddenly. “You mean the boss’s little sister?” The redhead half turned around to look toward the opposite end of the school’s courtyard. “Hey, Lancelot. Did you hear that? This brat has Arisa for a Guardian. Isn’t that a laugh.”
From some distance away, I heard a man’s voice ask, “Which brat? This brat?”
“No, you block head. This one. The crazy brat that attacked me without saying hello.”
“Oh, you mean the one who screamed like a banshee.”
“Yeah, that one. I thought she was going to spit fire brimstone at me. Sheesh. Talk about a royal welcome.”
I frowned to myself. Is that really what I sounded like?
I remembered screaming for murder but did I really sound like a banshee?
Curious as to whom she was talking to, I stepped sideways to peer around the redhead’s angel wings for a better look at the opposite end of the courtyard.
A hundred odd feet beyond her, a large man clad in a white Skin-Regalia, layered with armor that made him resemble a cross between medieval knight and a Samurai warrior, was stepping on something lying on the ground. With an inward jolt, I realized that he was stepping on the girl with the Kavalier, and all it took was a foot to her chest to keep her down.
Eight black wedge shaped wings floated around him, and I recognized them as Vector Wings.
I suddenly understood he was using their power to keep the girl down, making it look easy in the process.
Having fought the girl, I knew she was no push over, but the blatant difference in power between him and her almost made me feel sorry for her…almost.
But it also scared me because it brought home the gap between an Artifact and a Fragment.
The large man replied without looking back at the redhead. “Who did you say was the Guardian?”
The redhead inhaled noisily. “I said the brat’s Guardian is Arisa.”
“A—Arisa!” He stiffened sharply before jerking around to face the redhead sidelong. “The Goddess Arisa?”
“Haaaaah!” The redhead pulled the sword-spear free of the ground and raised it menacingly over her head. “Goddess? Who’s a goddess?”
The man she’d referred to as Lancelot waved his hands in a hurry, including the oversized longsword he held in one hand.
“Gu—Guinevere! Calm down. Calm down—whooops!”
Taking advantage of his distraction, the girl with the Kavalier pushed him away and then rolled clear of him.
She was on her feet in a flash, and the metal skirt of floating swords quickly surrounded her.
“Get away from me,” she yelled at them.
“Huh?” The redhead, Guinevere, sounded baffled. “What’s got your panties in a twist?”
The girl stared at her with hatred. “Useless. All of you are useless. Pathetic. Old. Useless.”
Guinevere dipped her head at the girl, and spoke coldly. “Hey, Brat. Watch who you’re calling old.”
The girl paid the warning no heed. “Where were you when my sister died?”
Guinevere and Lancelot both stiffened.
The girl railed at them. “Where were you when that traitor killed her?”
Guinevere and Lancelot exchanged a glance.
“Do you know what she’s talking about?” Guinevere asked and Lancelot shrugged his shoulders.
Seeing their puzzled response, the girl’s frustration boiled over into anger.
But she must have been rational enough to know that she could never win against them.
And so she ran away, bolting for the school behind her.
Guinevere shook her head slowly. “Hey, I didn’t say you could leave.”
The girl leapt toward the four storey building’s wall, apparently intending to then leap onto the rooftop, and flee from there out into the habitat.
Lancelot stepped forward. “I’ll bring her back—”
“No.” The redhead’s sharp tone stopped him in mid-step.
The girl with the Kavalier landed on the ledge running outside the third floor.
Guinevere tapped her shoulder with her enormous sword-spear. “I need to vent before I explode.”
Lancelot sounded distressed. “Wait, Guin—!”
Stepping forward, the attractive redhead swung the weapon, giving it momentum, then threw it as she would a spear.
It vanished from her hand and reappeared a split second later, impaling the girl in the Kavalier Fragment to the building’s fourth floor wall.
It happened just as she made the jump from the ledge to the rooftop.
The girl didn’t even get to scream.
I watched in horror as her body twitched about like harpooned fish in its death throes.
Lancelot sounded somber. “Guinevere, I think you went too far.”
“Relax. I missed her vitals.”
I didn’t see how that was possible. The sword-spear’s blade was a foot wide.
Lancelot didn't sound convinced either. “Doesn’t look like you missed by much.”
The redhead tossed her long curly hair. “I might have been off a by a couple of inches. Don’t worry, according to Seraphim she won’t die for another minute. Just bring her down before she kicks the bucket. And don’t forget to shove the worm into her. It’ll keep her alive long enough for the trip to hospital.”
I realized she meant the Symbiote, because a lot of Familiars called it the worm.
I called it the worm once, and Arisa almost slapped me.
It was the only time she’d ever raised her hand at me.
Lancelot gave Guinevere a grim look. “It’s no wonder they call you the Merciless Queen.”
Guinevere shrugged after planting her hands on her hips, the six angel wings rising and falling gently around her. “I have a reputation to uphold.”
She turned to face me.
“Now then, what about you.”
I swallowed nervously. “Me?”
“Are you going to give me any trouble?”
I shook my head firmly, and retracted my arm-blades. “No, ma’am.”
She narrowed her eyes into thin slits. “Ma’am?”
I spoke quickly. “I mean, no…your Majesty?”
“That’s better. Commoners should know their place.” She glanced at Lancelot. “What are you waiting for? Get that idiot down before she dies. I don’t want to be filling out reports all day just because you were too slow to pull her off the wall.”
Lancelot exhaled heavily and then proceeded to save the girl before she expired.
I swallowed again. “Excuse me, your Majesty.”
“Um, your Majesty.” I pointed at the courtyard overhead with the missing fencing. “There’s an injured male student—”
“The ambulance is already on its way,” Guinevere said. “We called for one before we dropped into the school.”
I swallowed, took a quick breath, and then cautiously asked, “Then would you tell me who you are?”
The redhead grew very still. “Ah, that’s right. I haven’t introduced myself.” She pointed at herself. “I’m Guinevere. That lunk over there is Lancelot.”
I tried to hide my disappointment and confusion as that wasn’t what I was asking.
Guinevere then added, “We’re with Avalon.”
“Avalon…?” The name bounced around inside my head for a while, dislodging memories off the inside walls, and my eyes widened in recognition. “Avalon! You mean you’re Public Security Section Zero!” I leaned slightly toward the young woman. “Then your boss is Arisa’s elder brother?”
Guinevere looked like she’d swallowed something unpleasant. “Arisa Imreh. What’s so special about her?” Folding her arms under her breasts, the woman muttered bitterly, “What is it with men and giant boobs?”
I spared her chest a look.
“Oh...,” was all I said as I realized we were comrades-in-arms of a different kind.
Feeling faintly miserable, I looked down at my chest and froze in fright.
The Galatea Academy uniform I was wearing had vanished, replaced a black and gold bodysuit that fit me like a glove, thereby emphasizing my lack of breasts.
Is this…my Skin-Regalia?
Was this the reason why the Sarcophagus had opened the breach into real-space? Was it to dress me in the Skin-Regalia?
If so, this meant that I’d unexpectedly unlocked another piece of my Valkyrie Maiden.
In other words, I’d successfully levelled up while in the heat of battle.
Guinevere’s voice startled me. “I haven’t seen that design in a long time.”
I looked up and my gaze was caught by hers.
She regarded me through narrowed eyes. “Brat, your Fragment is Valkyrie Maiden type Brynhildr. Right?”
I nodded guardedly wondering how she knew my Fragment’s type.
Recognizing it for a Valkyrie was one thing.
But knowing which type was another.
She averted her eyes. “Seeing that pattern…reminds me of old times.”
Suddenly, she slapped her cheeks, then faced me with arms akimbo.
“Now, I wanna know what the Hell happened here. And you’d better have a good reason for tearing up the school.”
I held my breath for a moment, then replied, “In that case, I first need to give my Guardian a call.” I grimaced faintly. “And I may need legal counsel….”
I had a dream where I was lying on my back, pillowed by Celica’s body.
My sister was holding me from behind, and crying into my shoulder.
In that dream, I tried to chide her for crying. After all, she was the one that told me to be strong at our parents’ funeral.
When I woke up, I could still feel Celica’s breasts against my back.
Perhaps because it was a dream, her breasts were unnaturally large.
Way, way larger than I remembered.
I guess my preference for big breasts had distorted my memory of my sister.
I woke up feeling oddly at ease.
No, it wasn’t because my fetish had invaded the dream. It was because I felt as though seeing her again, and just saying those words to her, had lifted a little of the burden of guilt that had weighed upon my heart since her death at the beginning of the year.
Opening my eyes, I was greeted by the sight of an unfamiliar room.
It looked to be a bedroom, perhaps a guest room, and it was large and spacious, with ornate furnishings that I recognized as antique in design.
I noticed I was lying on a large, comfortable bed with white sheets and covers.
I also observed that I was dressed in pajamas, so evidently someone had undressed me and seen me buck naked.
Reaching up, I touched my chest carefully.
Even through the fabric of my pajama shirt, I could feel an enormous scar.
Holding back a sigh, I stared up at the white ceiling and its swirling embossed patterns.
“Yes, you are.”
My heart jumped in fright, and I scrambled to sit up.
Sitting on a chair some distance away from the bed was a young woman with flowing red hair and piercing green eyes. She was dressed in casual clothes, a pair of tight denim trousers, and black silk blouse with a few of its buttons undone.
I stared at her in awe for two reasons.
One, she was gorgeous, and I mean mouthwateringly gorgeous.
Two, she had an equally mouthwateringly impressive bust.
So for a short while I couldn’t decide where to look.
Her face, or her bust.
It was impossible to decide.
Eventually, with an effort of titanic proportions – I won’t say biblical as I don’t wish to offend – I succeeded in foregoing staring at her bust, and locked my gaze at her face instead.
The young woman smiled at me.
I could tell she knew exactly what I’d been struggling against.
I swallowed and tried to speak, but my voice broke.
It took me a third attempt to say, “Hello.”
She reached over to the bedside table where a platter, glass cup, and pitcher of water rested.
Filling the glass cup to the halfway mark, she handed it over to me.
“Drink up. Your throat will be dry.”
I took the cup, and sipped at the water.
As I did so, she stood up and readjusted the pillows behind me, thus helping me to sit up more comfortably on the bed.
With her body nearby, I could smell the intoxicating scent of the perfumes and lotions she used.
I tried not to peek at her cleavage or bosom snug in its designer bra, but I failed.
What was the point of fighting against the natural order of things?
I hid my disappointment when she sat back down on her chair.
But then she brought it closer.
She smiled at me again, and I sensed there was no malice behind it.
She was smiling at me warmly, sincerely, with just a hint of mischief and I realized I’d been caught red handed.
“Well,” she asked me softly. “Did you enjoy the view?”
I blushed hotly but I decided not to turn away and met her gaze. “Mistress Victoria.”
She blinked and frowned fleetingly. “I’m sorry.”
“Your bra. It’s Mistress Victoria.” I frowned to myself in thought. “From their Twilight Mistress line…?”
I realized I was staring intently at her chest, and yanked my gaze back up to her face. “Sorry. I think it’s Twilight Maiden.”
The beautiful redhead’s eyebrows drew together though the rest of her face remained placid and composed. “Pervert.”
I sighed and my shoulders sagged. “I know….”
“And you’re half correct. It’s Mistress Victoria but from their Midnight line, not the Twilight range.”
My eyes opened wide as I listened to her. “Ah, of course! The embroidery along the—”
“Stop!” She raised a hand sharply. “Let’s save that discussion for another time.”
“Huh? Oh!” I blushed again, and bowed to her from a seated position. “My apologies. I’m truly sorry. I get carried away. Women’s lingerie is a passion of mine.”
“It’s fine. It’s fine. I won’t slap you for it, or for peeking down my blouse.” She raised a finger. “Consider it a freebie. The next time it will cost you.”
“Huh?” She blinked sharply.
“For another peek. How much?”
I pressed my lips together and mulled it over. “Okay. That’s a fair deal.”
The redhead stared at me quietly for a long while, then calmly folded her arms under her breasts. “Forget I made that offer.”
Pressing my lips together to hide my immense disappointment, I chose to change subjects. “Then may I ask who you are?”
She blinked sharply again. “Oh, of course.” She patted her chest lightly. “My name is Arisa Imreh Lanfear.”
“Lanfear? Then…you’re an Aventis.”
She nodded gently. “Yes, I am.”
“You must be a Pureblood.”
She arched an eyebrow at me. “Why do you say that?”
I swallowed before reply, “Purebloods are born with the Symbiote inside them. They don’t acquire it during their teenage years.”
She gave me a single nod this time. “That is correct.”
“Pureblood girls are prettier than other Aventis girls.”
“Heh?” Her lips parted slightly and she may have blushed.
“So it stands to reason that you’re a Pureblood,” I deduced.
“Why?” No, she was definitely blushing.
“Because you’re very beautiful.”
For a long while she said nothing. Then she rose from her chair, and said, “Excuse me.”
She left the room but would returned a few minutes later.
During the time that I was left alone, I sipped the water in the cup as I looked about the room, and then turned my attention to the view visible through the curtained window.
The sun shining overhead indicated we were in a habitat that possessed a sky-field, but I didn’t know which habitat.
Turning to the bedside table, I noticed my palm-slate on it.
Picking it up, I turned the device on, and after waiting for it boot up, I used it to check my location using the map function. As I was doing so, I noticed that it was Saturday morning, but then I saw something that made me shiver in fright.
A moment later, Arisa Imreh Lanfear returned to the room, and resumed sitting on her chair. “Now then. Where were we—” She noticed my state, the palm-slate in my hand, and then sighed softly. “So, you noticed.” She sighed again, and folded her hands demurely over her lap. “Yes, it’s been three weeks since the incident.”
I turned to face her. “Three…weeks…?”
She nodded somberly. “You were in a coma for more than two weeks since the incident. You woke up two days ago for a short while, then fell unconscious again, but the doctors said it wasn’t a coma this time. I decided to have you moved here, to my family’s home in Island One.”
The palm-slate trembled in my hands, so I lowered it to my lap.
“I’ve been…asleep for three weeks.”
I looked away from Arisa. “Would you…would you tell me what happened?”
“In due time,” she replied smoothly. “But for now, there are some things that I need to tell you first.”
I shifted my attention back onto her, and her eyes met mine.
“What things?” I asked, feeling dread creeping through me.
“That you are alive and well.”
“And that your body has Awakened. You are now no longer a Regular.”
I had the uncomfortable sensation of dread wash through me. “Am I…an Aventis?”
“No.” She shook her head slowly.
“Then what am I?”
“You are a Familiar, and you Awakened to my blood.”
“You Awakened to the Symbiote inside my body. As a result, you are now affiliated with the Lanfear Pride.”
I stared at her in abject disbelief.
A long while later I cleared my throat and nervously said, “But my body has no compatibility with the Symbiotes.”
She shook her head, then crossed her legs. “You have no compatibility as an Aventis. But as a Familiar, your compatibility is extraordinary.”
“Yes. In fact, it’s so exceptional that it saved your life.”
“What do you mean?”
“You died, Caelum. On that rooftop. You died.”
My chest tightened and I couldn’t breathe. “What? But I’m alive. How could I have died?”
“You died. And the Symbiote resurrected you.”
She said it so matter-of-factly that I could only stop and stare her…and not her boobs.
After a short while, she continued. “Your childhood friend, Haruka Amiella Avenir, injected you with my blood. She did so at the behest of my ward, Caprice Steiner afil Lanfear, who supplied it to her. Caprice then dealt with the girl who’d stabbed you through the chest.”
I didn’t remember much about what happened.
I did recall being stabbed but everything else after that was a blank.
I sensed Imreh watching me, and met her gaze. “Haruka was on the rooftop?”
“Yes. Don’t be concerned. She’s alive and well. But we’ll get to her later.” She tipped her head slightly to a side. “You’re not fully grasping how momentous your resurrection was.”
“I wouldn’t say that all. But doesn’t the Symbiote do the same for the Aventis?”
“No, it does not.”
I broke into a frown. “It…it doesn’t?”
“While an Aventis is alive, the Symbiote does its best to ensure they are in the best physical condition possible. The younger an Aventis, the more time the Symbiote has to improve up them during their teenage years. That’s why Aventis are for the most part—how shall I say this—closer to the human ideal.” She laughed softly. “That’s why Aventis girls are prettier.”
I nodded shallowly and continued to listen quietly.
“In a Pureblood, the Symbiote gets a head start”—she smiled at me coyly—“in making us pretty.”
“I can appreciate that.”
Her smile turned into a smirk but it only lasted a moment. “So all is well and good while the host is still alive. But when the host dies, the Symbiote makes no attempt to save them. The body stops. The Symbiote stops. Surprising, isn’t it. Not at all what you would expect.”
She was right. It wasn’t what I was expecting to learn at all.
From the get go, Regulars were taught about how superior the Aventis were, and while that was true, expecting the Symbiote to just give up on their host when the going got tough was a little disappointing to hear.
“You’re saying you only get the Symbiote’s benefit while you’re alive.”
“Correct. But for a Familiar, it’s different. When a Familiar ingests the Symbiote into their bloodstream, it grows at an accelerated rate, and boosts a Familiar’s strength, resilience, and healing ability beyond those of an Aventis. But as the saying goes, the candle that burns twice as brightly, burns twice as fast. The Symbiote lasts a week, perhaps two, within the Familiar’s body. But during that time, even the weakest Familiar outshines the strongest Aventis. And unlike with an Aventis, the Symbiote does attempt to heal, and resurrect a Familiar in death. In other words, it goes the extra mile.”
She leaned toward me in her chair.
“In your case, it went an extra two miles. According to the specialists who examined your body in our medical lab, it patched up your wound, plugged your perforated lung, did a little spinal repair work, and then restarted your body long after you had clinically died.”
Hearing her talk about me dying in such a calm, yet earnest manner, made me queasy. I struggled to keep it down, and it was a tough fought battle.
“Why? Why would it do that?”
“Because the Symbiote likes you,” she replied softly. “For some reason that our specialists can’t determine, your compatibility is rarely seen amongst Familiars, and it’s not a mistake. The tests were not wrong about you.”
“So that means…I’m special.”
“You are indeed. And my Pride would like to take good care of you. To be specific, the Imreh Family would like to take good care of you, without looking like we’re being too preferential.”
“What do you mean?”
“We have other Familiars that we manage.”
“Manage? Like a talent agency?”
Imreh smiled thinly. “That’s one way of putting it. Giving preference to one over the others wouldn’t go down well, though in truth, it’s for us to decide whom we support and how we employ them. To do that we need to determine their value. One method is to test their compatibility with the various Fragments in our possession. Some of them are prized items and quite valuable to the Imreh Family and Lanfear Pride. Some are thought of as heirlooms that date back to the War of Supremacy. And we would like to test your compatibility with them, to see which one suits you best.”
“So I’m valuable to you, because I’m of use to you.”
“That’s a rather cynical way of putting it, but very much true.”
“Well at least your being honest. And my reasons for resenting and despising your kind are justified.”
“You blame the Aventis for your parents death.”
“Of course. Your actions, your philosophies, your ideology and practices toward Regulars and Familiars gave birth to Crimson Crescent. Bad karma. You treated them like shit, and it landed back on your dinner plate. But it cost people their lives. It cost my parents their lives.”
“I lost my parents in that explosion as well.”
My breath caught in my chest.
Her eyes were unwavering as she looked into mine. “I know what loss is.”
I swallowed and it sounded loud in my ears. “Were your parents innocent like mine?”
“I don’t know. That’s the question I’ve been trying to answer for more than six years. What was my parents involvement in that incident? What part did they play? What is the Imreh Family—my family—hiding from me.”
Puzzled, I cocked my head at her. “What do you mean you don’t know?”
“Adults have many secrets. Families have many secrets. Mine is no different. And they are keeping the truth from me. They know this. I know this. That’s the current state of play.”
Swallowing again, more quietly this time, I studied her expression but she was giving nothing away.
“I’d offer you my condolences, but I don’t feel for your loss.”
She gave me a subtle nod. “I know. I don’t blame you for the way you feel.”
“And you shouldn’t.”
“But despite your animosity toward the Aventis, I would like to hope that you and I can work together.”
“As master and slave.”
“As Guardian and ward.”
“Just what exactly does that mean?”
“It means that we take care of you, while you learn to unlock and master the Artifact we assign to you. And then you employ that Artifact to benefit our interests.”
“So I’m being drafted.”
“Think of it as training with benefits.”
I looked away from her, and glanced at the view out the window, the habitat buildings indistinct behind the curtain.
I cleared my throat gently. “That girl said my sister was a Familiar.” I turned back to Imreh. “Is that true?”
She gave no sign of being surprised by my changing the subject of the conversation. “Yes.”
Her reply knocked me off balance. “That can’t be.”
“Your sister Awakened when she was sixteen. According to the records on file, she was already a Familiar at the time of the death of your parents.”
I tried to accept what she was telling me, but I couldn’t. “That can’t be. That can’t be. Celica would have said something. My parents would have said something.”
Imreh tilted her head at me. “Would they? How did you feel about Familiars back then?”
“I…they scared me. I don’t know why but they scared me.”
“How would you have felt knowing your sister was a Familiar? How would you have felt knowing this after your parents died?”
I opened my mouth but the reply I had was impulsive, uncertain, and so tossed it away.
Imreh nodded as though she understood me better than I did. “Regardless of what she was, your sister is still your sister. That will never change. Nor will her feelings toward you as her brother. She worked hard to ensure that you were raised properly. And it was hard for her as a teenage girl to do so.”
Yes, it was hard for Celica, because I wasn’t the best brother I could have been.
It was hard for her because I made it hard for her, and that is a deep regret of mine, one I will carry forever, until the day I die and see her again in the afterlife…and tell her how sorry I was for being such an asshole.
My throat felt tight, and not wanting to show weakness before this Aventis woman, I fought back my tears and focused on my next question.
“Is it true…was my sister the target of a covert operation?”
“That I don’t know,” Imreh replied without hesitation, “and it’s something we’re looking into with quiet inquiries. However, the truth is that your sister did not work as a civilian contractor for Paladin, the largest Private Military Consortium operating out of Pharos.”
“Then…who did she work for?”
Imreh hesitated for a second. “Your sister worked for the Sanctum as the Meister of a Valkyrie Maiden, and she led a squad of Valkyries.”
I stared at Imreh blankly for a short while, before finding my voice. “She was Valkyrie Maiden.”
“Yes, and by all accounts she was a very good one. Top of her class. And on the fast track to rise through the Sanctum’s ranks. What she did for the Sanctum is classified, but what is known is that special operations were her forte, and that she died in a black op that took place around this time last year. That is the official answer we received from the Sanctum. But whether that is true or not is something we are trying to determine.”
“Who is Constance Peligree”
Imreh glanced away, and I wondered if she was going to sidestep my question, but didn’t. “Constance is the younger sister of a Familiar in the employ of the Sanctum, and a member of a squad of Siren Maidens, a termination unit known as the Sirens of the Slaughter.”
I had to swallow again before I could ask, “Then it’s possible that what she said was true?”
“It’s also possible that the Sirens of the Slaughter were the targets and not your sister. However, we aren’t getting an answer out the Sanctum, so what we know is barely better than speculation”—Imreh straightened in her chair—“which is why you shouldn’t let it cloud your thoughts or judgment.”
I glanced down at the palm-slate resting on my lap.
Imreh was holding back on me. I had no doubt of that. But pressing her too much here and now, didn’t feel like it would work.
I needed to try a different approach.
Like she suggested, I needed to be rational. I would also need to be patient, but I had one more pressing concern.
“You said Haruka saved me.” I faced Imreh. “How is she?”
Imreh’s lips parted and she stared at me fixedly for a moment, before relaxing.
Then she brought her chair a little closer to the bed.
“Haruka Amiella Avenir is fine. She wasn’t injured.”
I narrowed my eyes at Imreh. “But?”
Again, Imreh was very still. Then she sighed and bowed her head slightly.
“This is going to take a while to explain. Maybe I should bring us some tea….”
All the chapters were renumbered to make it easier to sort and read.
They are listed below:
Kaiser's Blessing - 01 - Reflections 0
Kaiser's Blessing - 02 - Intro I
Kaiser's Blessing - 03 - Reflections I
Kaiser's Blessing - 04 - Intro II
Kaiser's Blessing - 05 - Reflections II
Kaiser's Blessing - 06 - Intro III
Kaiser's Blessing - 07 - Reflections III
Kaiser's Blessing - 08 - Intro IV
Kaiser's Blessing - 09 - Reflections IV
Kaiser's Blessing - 10 - Intro V
Kaiser's Blessing - 11 - Reflections V
Kaiser's Blessing - 12 - Run in with a Princess.
Kaiser's Blessing - 13 - Reflections VI
Kaiser's Blessing - 14 - Run in with a Countess.
Intro III and IV were split up to make them smaller and more manageable.
Reflections I and II were rewritten to make them more informative.
I'm sorry for any confusion this has caused.
Thank you for sticking with it thus far.
The original version of the novel, Pride X Familiar ReVamp can be found here on Amazon.
It'll be free until the 28th.
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