“She has a plan in mind,” Ashelia said grimly. “We just don’t know what. I would have thought that she would have been glad that I was about to be killed.”
Ashelia, Lucas, Spiridon, and Stephen, along with Nicia were all riding horseback, Spiridon leading the way. Cassius’ home was not too far from there, and at the rate they rode, they should get there sometime tomorrow. Dominick was to stay, since Lucas would be on leave. Dominick assured them that he’d think of something to tell everyone to where Prince Lucas had gone, but still, they were uncertain. All they could do was hope.
“I’ve always known my mother was cunning,” Spiridon said, his voice carried by the wind rushing at them. “Even then, when I had decided to save Aeson— you, Ashelia, she wanted me stop. She definitely has a plan in mind.”
Stephen pulled up beside Spiridon; both their horses run becoming the same speed. Nicia held tight onto Stephen.
“High Prince Spiridon,” Stephen said. “I will warn you. My first priority is being Ashelia’s Royal Guard. If Queen Jade does anything that would harm her, I will not hesitate to draw my sword towards her.”
Ashelia watched as Spiridon’s expression darkened, and moments passed as they both looked at each other intensely.
Spiridon sighed and nodded. “It’s understandable,” he said. “Though be prepared if I raise my sword for her defense.”
Ashelia saw the uncertainty in Spiridon’s expression. He still loved his mother. After all, everything she has done was to make Spiridon have a tremendous life. But he still knew how wrong she had been doing everything. The things she had done require consequence.
“That’s how it is,” Lucas said, pulling up next to Ashelia. “The bond between them, I mean.”
Ashelia nodded, her eyes still locked onto Spiridon and his hurt expression. He was only a year older than her, and even then, he was still younger than Lucas. If she thought about it, they were all still so young.
“Everyone, no matter how old,” Ashelia murmured, “needs someone to be there for them like a parent.”
“Betraying them isn’t easy,” Lucas said, referring to Spiridon. “If I was in his situation with my mother, I would die inside.”
“Everyone would,” Ashelia murmured. Though she would never know.
Ashelia watched the flames of the campfire dance around, illuminating the grass around them. Everywhere she looked was empty grasslands. They were far out in the country, away from any towns and posts where guards stood watch, patrolling. All she could see was endless hills rolling around until all she was darkness of the starry sky.
“Sleep already Nicia,” she heard Stephen say, his voice faint. She turned to look at Stephen and Nicia. Nicia already looked exhausted, and was still probably shaken up about the incident with the wolves. Ashelia would have been too, if she had stayed being that Princess her whole life. Nicia may have been already five years older than Ashelia, but she hasn’t experienced a lot of things that Ashelia had. Ashelia was still eighteen, and couldn’t help but think how someone as young as her had to go through so much.
This just shows how age does not matter when it comes to life, Ashelia thought to herself.
She watched as Stephen walked off after Nicia finally listened to him. She was asleep in only a few seconds. She looked around and saw that Spiridon was already sleeping also.
Stephen walked up to her. “I’m going to take a look around the perimeter,” Stephen said, his eyes watchful around.
“Very well,” said Lucas.
Ashelia looked up from where she was sitting to see Lucas approaching.
“Do a radius of fifty yards around the perimeter. Ignite a fire if you see danger coming,” said Lucas.
Stephen nodded, bowing and walking towards the horse. Soon he got on and rode off into the night.
Lucas sat next to Ashelia on the grass, the flames starting to already burn out.
“You made quite an impression on Amicah,” he said, smiling at her.
Ashelia frowned at him, confused. “What do you mean?”
He let out a low chuckle, making sure Spiridon and Nicia wouldn’t wake up.
“That heroic deed you did in Braiosa,” said Lucas. “Made a wave of kindness throughout Amicah. The count of the homeless has been near to none lately. Wealthy citizens and even nobles all around the country are helping.”
Ashelia felt her face brighten, joy seeming to radiate off of her. “Is that so?” Ashelia grinned. “That’s wonderful!”
Lucas smiled seeing the joyful expression on her face. He reached a hand up and caressed her cheek, so gently that she might have been glass, already tipping off a table and could shatter in a million pieces.
“That’s better,” Lucas said softly. “This whole time you’ve had such a worried expression on your face. This much stress is not good for you.”
Ashelia felt her face heat up, thinking how Lucas had been watching her so closely this whole time. She averted her eyes away from him, but reached her hand up to his.
“I already told you everything that happened,” she said softly. “Even about how I told Stephen it was alright to tell them your military information, and you still forgave me…sometimes I think I don’t deserve you.”
Lucas’ other hand reached up and cupped her chin, making her look at him. His blue eyes seemed to be brighter than the fire beside them.
“That could not be helped,” Lucas told her. “And stop speaking such nonsense. If anything…I’m the one who doesn’t deserve you.” His gaze shifted away and his hands fell back to his sides.
“What?” Ashelia asked, hurt that he would even think like that.
“It’s true,” said Lucas. “I had convinced myself that I would be the greatest general, and the greatest king, once that time comes. But what have I been doing this whole time?” he asked, more to himself than to Ashelia, His eyes were fixated on the fire, which gave the illusion that the fire were in his eyes, the blue had been taken away. “I’ve been given children money when I see them,” Lucas murmured, continuing, “I’ve been leading battles over and over again to a country that did not do anything to me. If I wanted to be the best General, I would fight battles and wars for peace. If I wanted to become the greatest king, I would ensure that peace, which is the thing that everyone in Alister needs. All this money spent on this war…it could go to things that were actually important.”
Luca turned his head a little, looking at her. “You made me realize that. This is why I am here now. You have been doing everything you can, and before you even realized it, you’re already changing how things are, Ashelia. If anyone could make this war end and have peace, it would be you.”
Ashelia stared at him, her eyes wide, all his words still trying to process in her mind. All this time she had thought that Lucas was the one bring to bring peace and change the tides of war, ending it all together. She always thought that he would be the greatest king.
Ashelia shook her head, reaching out to take his hands. “No,” she said. “Most of that was because of you. Without you, I would be dead. The thing is, Lucas,” she said, her voice becoming softer. “We’re both going to end this war. We’re both going to become the greatest King and Queen Alister has ever known. We’re both going to. Together.”
Lucas stared at her in wonder and amazement. He pulled her towards him, and kissed her, a kiss he has been wanting and longing for so long.
“I love you,” he whispered. “I love you, Ashelia.”
Lucas felt his stomach nauseate as he stared at the house, only a few yards away. It was a normal country house, painted white with luscious gardens all around it. But he knew better. That house was where his brother was.
“A town is located two miles from here,” Spiridon was saying. “So there might be visitors, though they’re still rare. If that happens, make sure to hide quickly. When we left the castle I just said that we were going to the castle in Adora, where Aeson had perished, so it’d be bad if they hear that we were here with Prince Lucas, also.”
Everyone nodded, but Lucas could barely focus. His mind was in chaos. Ashelia rode her horse beside Lucas’, and reached her hand to his over the distance between them.
“Are you ready?” she asked.
Lucas shook his head. “I’m not sure.”
It was the moment he had been dreaming of his whole life. But that’s what it was. A dream. He never imagined it would actually happen, and so he was never prepared for it.
And now here he was.
“What if they hate me?” Lucas asked softly.
“Why would they hate you?” she asked.
“My father banished them,” Lucas said. “They have every right to hate me.”
Ashelia shook her head. “It’s now or never, Lucas.”
He looked at her, seeing the hope in her hazel eyes.
He looked back at the house and sighed, nodding. “You’re right. Let’s go.”
Spiridon and Ashelia knocked on the door while Lucas stood at the very back behind everyone. He felt like he could collapse.
Ashelia watched as the door opened, and a boy appeared. He was at the age of about seven, with dirty blonde hair and brown eyes. He grinned widely when he saw Spiridon.
“Spiridon!” he called, running to him and giving him an embrace that could have knocked him down. Ashelia couldn’t stop staring. He was almost the spitting m=image of the Cassius in the picture she had seen. Jay didn’t really resemble Lucas, since they weren’t blood related, but somehow, he and Cassius were unmistakably brothers.
Her heart beats seemed to become louder, knowing this really was the moment of truth.
“Hey, Jay,” smiled Spiridon, patting him on the head. “Where is your brother and parents?”
Jay stepped back; an expression of focus crossed his face, trying to remember. That too seemed familiar. It was a little vague, and Ashelia couldn’t think of who that reminded her of.
“Papa’s out on a trip for a while, he should be back soon though. Mama and brother are upstairs,” the boy said. “You want me to get them?”
Spiridon nodded at him. “Yes.”
The boy ran back into the house, disappearing up the steps. The four of them went inside, looking around at how much it looked like a regular, ordinary home.
Nicia and Spiridon went to sit down on one of the couches, and Stephen leaned against a wall, submerging into his Royal Guard mode.
Lucas could hardly move. His eyes were fixated on the steps, knowing soon two certain people will come down. One of which was his brother, Cassius. After being there only a minute or so, Lucas already figured out a lot. Cadence remarried and had another son.
Jay came running back down, followed by other series of steps. Hearing them, Lucas almost stopped breathing. As Jay appeared from the stairs, he ran to Spiridon, sitting next to him on the couch.
And then a woman appeared. She had long, straight, dirty blonde hair with brown eyes that were tied up in a ponytail. She was wearing a vibrant, flower dress that made her glow she was the summer itself.
Her brown eyes scanned everyone, pausing at Spiridon, and stopping altogether at Lucas. She stopped mid-step on a step and her hand shot up to her mouth, gasping.
“Mother,” said a voice behind her. Lucas’ blue eyes grew wider by the second. “Why did you—“
Another man of about twenty appeared, Lucas’ age. He stopped, his brown eyes staring at Lucas. At first it was confusion, and then a moment later it was recognition. Lucas felt as if time had stopped.
Ashelia couldn’t stop staring at Cassius. If the world was black and white, ignoring colors of hair and eyes, she would have a hard time figuring out who was who. The only difference would be the hair. Cassius was straight dirty blonde while Lucas’ was his curly black hair tied back at the nape of his neck.
The silence was agonizing, and everyone’s eyes were on the two brothers.
And then Cassius ran to Lucas, bringing him into a tight, hard hug.
“Lucas?” Cassius was asking, voice strained and broken. “Is it really you?!”
Lucas was frozen for a second, and then happiness hit him all at once. He embraced his brother, knowing that moment was exactly what he had missing his whole life.
“Cassius,” Lucas said, his voice near shaking. “My dear brother.”
In that moment, Ashelia was truly happy. And everything that has been causing her worry seemed to drift high above her, like all of it has been some sort of dream. Though in that moment, she didn’t want to wake up. She lay on her back, out on the deck, feeling the cool breeze and the colorful rays of the sunset fall upon her. She closed her eyes, and in that moment she could see Aeson’s smiling face again.
Inside, Lucas and Cassius were talking. They’ve been talking for hours on end while everyone else was already taken to rooms upstairs so they could rest already. Lucas and Cassius spoke about everything that happened while they were separated, and other things. The thing that have stayed the same about them, the things that have changed. New tastes in food or music, new accomplishments. Everything. And Lucas couldn’t have been happier.
“I still can’t believe it!” Cassius said, his eyes bright. “So you snuck into Marcellus just like that?”
Lucas shook his head. “All thanks to the Prince and Princess of Marcel.”
Cassius let out a laugh. “Leave it to you to befriend the royalty of the enemy country.”
Lucas smiled, shrugging.
Cassius’s eye narrowed, his smile becoming suspicious. “Or…is there something more with Princess Ashelia?”
Lucas grinned, getting up and walking to the door to the deck. Ashelia’s eyes opened and she looked over at him, her hazel eyes watching him.
“Lucas?” she asked. “What is it?”
Lucas grinned at her, holding out a hand. “Come here, Ashelia.”
Ashelia took his hand and he led back to the couch. Cassius watched in amusement.
“Damn, Lucas!” Cassius explained, understanding. “I don’t whether to think you a legend or an idiot. So I’ll do both. You’re a legendary idiot.”
Ashelia smiled at that, and Lucas burst out laughing.
Cassius smiled, and then a thoughtful expression came over his face. “So what are you two planning to do?”
“Get married,” Lucas said bluntly.
Ashelia’s face turned hot and she gawked at Lucas, not believing he just said that.
Cassius smiled. “Is that so?”
“After we end this war,” said Lucas. “Yes.”
Cassius raised a brow. “’End this war’, huh?” His eyes drifted off, dazing at thoughts that were running through his head. “How are going to go about doing that?”
Lucas shrugged, seriousness coming over him. “I don’t know.”
“I planned to announce my legitimacy,” Ashelia said. They both looked at her. She looked straight into Cassius brown eyes. “You already know, right? That Spiridon isn’t the real heir.”
Cassius nodded. “I know.”
“I planned to,” Ashelia said. “Though I am not certain…”
Cassius shrugged. “Spiridon would thank you for it, you know.”
Ashelia nodded. “I know…though to announce that, I can’t just do it randomly. It’ll come off as rumors and Jade and my father would stop them immediately.”
Lucas looked at her. “So…you need to call a meeting.”
Ashelia nodded. “There is no possibility of that happening though.”
“You don’t know that,” Cassius said. “Just think of all the meetings that have been called in history. Maybe you’ll get an idea.”
“Idea?” Ashelia asked. “The only types of meetings that have been called lately were because of historical discoveries.”
“So what you’re saying is,” Lucas said. “We should find some historical discovery.”
Cassius shrugged. “I don’t know. But that works also.”
Ashelia and Lucas looked at each other, thinking.
“I heard there were hidden ruins somewhere in Alister,” Ashelia said. “A long time ago I learned at someone had discovered century old writing of the beginning of Alister, dating back to the first kings of Alister. But I also heard that the hidden writing and clues to where the ruins of the first kings were was in Amicah.”
Lucas frowned. “Amicah? We never heard of any such writings that lead to any sacred ruins.”
Ashelia laughed a little. “Well it’s not like we would tell you. It’d be quite a disadvantage if you knew. Amicah would have the treasures of history.”
Lucas nodded slowly. “True…but that could take forever to search for.”
Ashelia bit her lip. If she thought of it with reasoning, he was right. Lucas wouldn’t know the first place to look for any clues to ruins.
“You two will figure out something,” Cassius said, optimism radiating off of him.
“I sure hope so,” Ashelia murmured.
Ashelia had left Cassius and Lucas alone, and Cadence even came to speak with them. Lucas could see the fatigue wearing her down so he told her it was alright to go rest, and that he will come up soon after. Ashelia listened to him, and made her way up the steps to the last room on the left that Cadence had directed her.
“—we can’t do this, Stephen, so please, stop.”
Ashelia froze at Nicia’s hushed voice, and her eyes wandered to a door only about an inch open, faint light coming out. Ashelia slowly walked over to it, ready to open and ask what the matter was.
“I love you, Nicia,” said Stephen, voice full of strained and shattered emotion. “But…you’re right.”
Ashelia couldn’t help it, she knelt down and peeked in through the small opening. She could see that they were both sitting up on the bed inside, and Nicia had her head down on her knees, her wavy blonde hair flowing around her.
“Don’t hate me,” Nicia murmured, her voice close to breaking down to tears. “Lately…I’ve been starting to have strong feelings for you. Really, I have.” Ashelia watched Nicia lift her head and look up at Stephen. “But…how can we do this? We both know this wouldn’t be happening if Aeson was alive.”
Stephen wasn’t looking at her, but he nodded, his expression hard to read. “We’d be betraying him.”
Ashelia’s mind was racing. Stephen had always loved Nicia, but he gave her up for Aeson. But now that Aeson was gone…they fell in love.
Sudden sounds of steps started to echo from the staircase and Ashelia, out of pure reflex, quickly ran to her room and rushed in, flopping herself on the bed and pulling the covers over her.
After a few moments, Ashelia heard the door creaking open.
Ashelia smiled to herself, already knowing it was Lucas. She heard the door quietly close and footsteps come closer her. She was unbelievably happy for him that he got reunited with his brother, and she realized that some things aren’t impossible after all.
As she felt the weight of the bed shift as Lucas started to climb on, Ashelia thought it would amusing to pretend to be asleep. As she closed her eyes, her senses of hearing and touch became stronger, and she could feel him leaning over her.
And then she felt soft, gentle lips on hers.
As she felt him pull away, she didn’t move, though her heart was beating frantically. “I know you’re awake,” Lucas whispered, and Ashelia could hear the smile on his face. “Even in the dark, I can see your face turning red.”
Ashelia opened her eyes, her face heating up even more. “That’s not fair,” she said,
Lucas looked down at her, his blue eyes shining. His hand brushed against her cheek. “You’re cute, Ashelia.”
Ashelia sat up then, looking at him. “Are you…supposed to share a room with me?”
Lucas shook his head. “Cassius offered me his room, and he’d take the couch. But I told him it was okay.”
“So he’s not sleeping on the couch anymore?” Ashelia asked.
Lucas nodded. “Well I told him I’d just share a room with you and he quickly agreed.”
Ashelia’s face turned red.
Lucas laughed under his breath, laying down and pulling her down with him. He pulled the covers up so they could stay warm.
“We’re both tired,” Lucas said. “So let’s get some rest.”
Ashelia looked up at him, knowing they were so close. As she snuggled in closer she could feel his breath on her hair, and arms wrapped tightly around her.
“I love you,” Ashelia murmured, hoping it was too soft that he couldn’t hear it.
“I love you,” Lucas whispered in her hair, kissing her head, and pulling her to him tighter.
“I don’t understand what you’re doing, Jade,” King Ezio said, his expression confused. His eyes wandered over to the fire place that they were sitting in front of, the flames illuminating the dark room around them.
“I do not see why you are complaining,” Jade said. “I know you do not want to kill her.”
King Ezio let all emotion fade away from his face, letting his expressions become void. “It does not matter what I want. What matters is how she had committed the biggest treason that Alister has ever known.”
Jade gave him a seductive smile, walking over to him and sitting on his lap, wrapping her arms around him. She stared into his hazel eyes. “What matters,” she whispered, “Is if the public knows about this. You ensured that no one will, correct?”
King Ezio nodded at her. “That’s right.” He looked down at her, watching her carefully, as if trying to read her intentions. He had been married to her for many years now, and yet he can never read her. “What are you thinking? I have always assumed that…you hated Ashelia.”
Jade raised a brow. “Me? Hate Ashelia? And why would I feel so?”
“Because she is Ahleya’s daughter,” he said, still cautiously watching her.
Jade’s jaw tensed, and she got off his lap, standing in front of him. “Haven’t I told you that I have gotten over that?”
King Ezio’s eyes followed her as she walked over to the couch across from him. “You’re a cunning woman, Jade.”
She smiled. “I know.”
“So tell me why you’re allowing Ashelia to live.”
She leaned back on the couch, her eyes becoming languid. “Tell me why you’re hesitating.”
King Ezio and Jade looked at each other, having to come at a cross. “What do you mean?”
“You know what I mean,” Jade said, her voice starting to rise. “Those ships and those men had been ready to set sail and attack Amicah for months now, and you haven’t done anything. As of right now, it could already be too late.”
King Ezio sighed, and the burden of the war started to weight him down once again. “I know…but, it just seems to not be the right time.”
“It’ll never be the right to you, Ezio!” Jade exclaimed. She rose from her seat and crossed the distance between them, leaning down to stare into his eyes. “I thought you wanted to avenge Ahleya’s death? Her murderer is right there, and you seem to give up the opportunity to kill him!”
A slight frown started to cross the Kings face. “I never understood,” he said slowly, “Why you were so supportive of avenging Ahleya’s death. Most women would get jealous.”
Jade straightened up, a tight, stubborn expression coming over her face. “I’m not like most women.”
King Ezio nodded in agreement, for he knew that all too well.
Ashelia stifled a yawn as she walked back downstairs. When she had woken up, Lucas was already gone and the sun was beating down at her, already high in the bright blue sky.
She found everyone downstairs, conversation rising around them
“Good morning,” Ashelia said as she watched everyone scatter about. Nicia was helping Cadence cook something, running around the kitchen getting supplies. The four guys were in the living room, shining their swords as if they were about to leave.
They all looked at her and smiled in greeting.
“It’s actually the afternoon now,” said Stephen, handing Ashelia her sword. She took it, unsheathing it and seeing the sharp shine.
“Are you serious?” Ashelia asked. “Why didn’t any of you wake me?”
“You deserve rest,” said Lucas, grinning up at her from the couch he was sitting on. He dropped the cloth that he was using to shine his sword and sheathed it, standing and strapping the holster to his waist.
“Are you going somewhere?” Ashelia asked, seeing at what they were doing.
“We’re going to town,” said Cassius. “You want to join us?”
“You should probably stay here, actually,” Spiridon said. “You can help Nicia and Cadence with the cooking. They’re making a special feast for us. We’ll be at town for most of the day so when we come back it’ll already be dinnertime.”
Ashelia frowned at him. “You’re saying that because I’m a girl,” she said flatly.
Spiridon walked to her, taking the sword from her hand setting it down. “I’m saying it because you’re my sister. But yes, you need to remember that you’re still a woman.”
Ashelia gaped in disbelief. It was understandable, since Spiridon had spent most of his life being taught the ‘proper’ way of things, but personally Ashelia didn’t think it was the right way. It was always the men who went out and did everything while the woman stayed home and cooked and cleaned and watched the house.
She didn’t see the reason why it should be that way.
“Understand, Spiridon,” Ashelia said to him. “I’m not just your princess sister anymore. I joined the army and already faced death so many times, and survived. You have to realize that the world is changing.”
She grabbed the sword holster back and strapped it onto her waist. She scoffed at Spiridon and said, adamantly. “I’m going.”
“He’ll understand soon enough,” Lucas said as they walked through the streets of Kyma. “That you’re not just a princess anymore.”
“I guess,” Ashelia grumbled under her breath. Lucas laughed.
Kyma was an average sized town for Marcellus. The streets weren’t dirt, and were actual streets. Unlike Amicah, the buildings had no fences around everything, since they were tightly close together. And instead of extravagant gardens, there were grand white marble statues with fountains lining the streets. The road had many carriages pulled by horses running through, and voices were heard all around.
As they walked through the streets, Ashelia pulled her hood more over her hair. They’ve only been there for a few minutes and Spiridon was already bombarded with citizens. What was even more surprising was that he knew a lot of them by name, and the same with Cassius.
Ashelia recalled how Spiridon and Jade left frequently when they were young, and realized that this place was like a second home to him already.
“This place is amazing,” Lucas said, his eyes glancing around. “Marcellus is beautiful.”
“So is Amicah,” Ashelia said. “I miss all those beautiful gardens.”
“But here there are so many fountains and statues,” Lucas said. “And everything is so…white.”
Ashelia scoffed. “You should see Marcel someday, it’s blinding to your eyes.”
The next few hours they went around Kyma, going to various stores, ranging from a simple grocery to a weapon stores.
“We should go there,” said Cassius, pointing to a large building. “I go there quite often. It’s combat training.”
“Combat training?” Lucas asked.
Cassius grinned at him. “Combat training.”
Ashelia watched as they sparred over and over again. There were a lot of men there, training for the use of swords. Some were even just kids practicing, and others were full on veterans from the army.
But Lucas was the best swordsman there though. Stephen was at a close second. It was understandable, since Lucas had started training at an extra early age, and therefore had more experience in the army. Ashelia was just glad that Amicah and Marcellus hated each other so much that they don’t even have pictures of the enemy royals, or else Lucas would be swarmed by the whole army at this moment from recognition.
I walked around, wondering where all the girls were. A loud piercing sound caught my ear and I looked to over to see an arrow pierce right through a target, hitting the middle with perfect accuracy. Ashelia smiled, wanting to try it.
She went over to where you get the bow and arrows and the man smiled at her. “You want to try, young lady?” he asked.
“Yes, please,” Ashelia smiled.
The man went to the rows of bows and arrows and gave her a small, delicate looking bow.
Ashelia stared at it. Then she abruptly gave it back to him, causing a confused and shocked expression to cross his face, and walked over the row of the bows. She grabbed a bigger one, and got a quiver of arrows.
“Uh, miss?” called the man to her as she walked to a lane. She stood her ground and stared at the target, yards away.
“Miss,” the man called, uncertain. “I don’t think that’s a good bow to use…”
Ashelia ignored him. It wasn’t like she had gotten the biggest bow there was. The bow she had was average, and it was small enough for her to pull back.
She got an arrow from the quiver and set her formation, then with all her strength, pulled the string back, focusing and concentrating hard.
And then she let go.
The arrow flew through the air with a rushing wind…
And missed. It pierced at the wall right above the target.
“Good try for your first time.”
Ashelia turned to see Cassius grinning at her.
“Is it that obvious that it’s my first time?” she asked.
Cassius laughed softly, walking towards her. “You’re formation is wrong.”
Ashelia already figured.
Cassius held the bow up, letting Ashelia take formation.
“Place your feet shoulder width apart,” he said. “And the bowstring and arrow are only held with three fingers.”
Cassius helped move her fingers right, and Ashelia held her stance. “Like this?” she asked.
Cassius smiled. “Yes. Now when you release the arrow, just relax, or else it could harm where your aiming. Now, did you find your target?”
Ashelia nodded, aiming the arrow at the middle of the target.
“Then let go,” he said.
Ashelia did as he said and the arrow whizzed through the air…and hit the target. It wasn’t the middle of the target, so it wasn’t near perfect, but it still hit it.
Ashelia grinned, excited. “I did it!” she exclaimed. “I did it!”
The girl’s voice made Ashelia tense. She could recognized it, though couldn’t remember exactly who it was. It wasn’t Nicia, so she wondered who else it was.
She turned around and froze. “Catherina?”
A huge grin spread across Catherina’s face, and she ran to Ashelia, giving her a hug. “It really is you!” she squealed.
Lucas, Stephen, and Spiridon came over, seeing, confused expressions on their faces also. Lucas, Cassius, and Spiridon didn’t know who she was though, since they weren’t there when they found Philo’s mother and her new family.
“What are you doing here?” Ashelia asked as Catherin pulled away.
“Training, of course,” Catherina said excitedly. “I decided that when I turn eighteen, I’m going to join the army!”
Ashelia stared at her, eyes wide. She glanced at everyone, uncertain, and pulled Catherina away to the corner of the room, where no one could hear or disturb them.
“Is Maria and Jonathon okay with this?” Ashelia asked, worried. Catherina was only a year younger than her, but going out alone is dangerous.
“Kyma is only an hour and half horse ride from my home,” Catherina said. “I just tell them I’m going out. They don’t need to know.”
“They do need to know,” Ashelia said. “They’re your parents.”
“You’re parents didn’t know. Nobody did.”
Ashelia sighed. “That’s different. Your parents love you with all their heart and you’re the only one they have left.”
A hurt expression came over Catherina’s as she remembered how the brother she had always dreamed of but never meant was dead, and Ashelia immediately felt bad for bringing it up, but knew that she need to know.
“I know,” said Catherina. “Even more reason to do this.”
“I don’t think you understand,” said Ashelia. “You’re so excited about joining the army, but it really isn’t so great.”
“I know,” Catherina said. “I know…it’s not like I’m excited to battle and fight with weapons or something because I think it’s going to be fun. I want to because I know I’ll be of some help. All my life I’ve seen how some people just go about their life just surviving. But I don’t want to be like that. I want to actually live, and be of some importance to the world… Like you.”
Ashelia stared, and bit her lip, still hesitating. It’s not like Ashelia has ever had a dream or goal. Instead, she had taken on Aeson’s since he had died. But now…she wanted her dream of peace.
She glanced over to Lucas, who was speaking to Cassius as they laughed together in pure joy. She was happy that Lucas finally got to be with his brother again. She wanted him to be happy. Another dream of hers is to be with him for the rest of her life.
It wasn’t her place to stop Catherina from going for her own dream. Aislin was the same, and Ashelia knew there were a lot of woman out there in Alister who wanted to be part of something bigger than just cooking and cleaning.
Ashelia could already see something in Catherina. A drive that was rare. She was actually going to do everything she could to achieve it now.
“There’s a high possibility you could die if you join the army, Catherina,” Ashelia murmured.
Catherina shook her head, not caring. “Joining is enough. I want to feel closer to Philo, somehow, knowing we’d have common experiences. And it isn’t really the army that I desperately want. I just want to do something in the world that could change it. A woman joining the army is enough. It could change lives.”
“It will change lives,” Ashelia said, smiling at her. “How about tomorrow, you come back and visit us as Limesia’s household? I’m sure we could train you so much better than here,”
“What do you mean I’m going to town again?” Ashelia asked the next day. “Catherina’s going to be here in an hour or so and I have to train her.”
Lucas smiled. “Sorry to say this, Ashelia. But you’re a good student, not a good teacher.”
Ashelia frowned at him.
“It’ll be great, Ashelia,” said Nicia, who was smiling at her. “Please, just come, I promise you won’t regret it.” She gave the others a glance, which made Ashelia extremely suspicious that they were all planning something.
She put her hands on her hips and narrowed her eyes. “What’s really going on?”
“What’s going on is,” Spiridon said, walking down the steps. “You, Lucas, Nicia, Stephen, Cassius, and Jay are going to town while I stay and help your friend train for you.”
Ashelia frowned. “You don’t have to, really.”
He shook his head. “It’s fine.”
“Please come,” Nicia begged. “I haven’t gone shopping in so long.”
“Brother Cassius and I want to go back to the combat building,” Jay said, showing Ashelia his big brown eyes. “I want to be strong too.”
“You won’t destroy a boy’s dream, can you?” Cassius asked, resting a hand on Jay’s head and giving her his big brown eyes too.
Ashelia stared at them in disbelief. What was going on with them? Have they gone mental?
“You should go,” said Cadence as she started down the stairs. “I’ll be gone anyway, picking up my husband. He’ll be coming home today.”
Ashelia felt hands intertwine with hers and she looked over at Lucas. He gave her one of those grins that she absolutely loved and looked at her with the blue eyes that she loved so much.
“Will you come?” he asked.
Ashelia bit her lip, knowing they were all just pulling on her heart strings, yet she didn’t even have a clue to why.
She sighed. “I suppose.”
“Wait, wait, wait,” Ashelia said, utterly confused that her head hurt. “Where are all of you going?”
“Training, of course,” Cassius said, pulling Jay to him, who gave Ashelia a mischievous smile. “You don’t have to come with us, so just go on.”
Ashelia stared dumbfounded as the two of them left. Then she whipped her head to Nicia and Stephen who were also leaving.
“Nicia?” Ashelia asked. “I thought we were going shopping?”
Nicia looked over at her and smiled. “I changed my mind. Just go shopping with Lucas, okay?”
Ashelia couldn’t believe what she was hearing.
“Stephen?” she called. “You’re supposed to be protecting me!”
“Lucas is there,” he called over his shoulder. “And don’t you trust your own skills also?”
Ashelia watched as the two of them left and disappeared, confused and a little annoyed. She didn’t understand. All of them spent so much effort to try and get her back to Kyma, and yet they all leave her.
“What is with them?” Ashelia exclaimed, turning back to Lucas.
He shrugged and grinned at her. “Well we’re alone now, so why don’t we go on a date?”
Ashelia stared, and everything seemed to hit her at once.
“You all planned this!” Ashelia pointed out. “You all tricked me!”
Lucas gave her an innocent look, smiling at her. “Are you saying you don’t want to go on a date with me? Well I’ll say, that is hurtful.”
Ashelia’s face started to heat up as everything else processed in her mind.
A real date with Lucas.
She looked away from him, knowing her face was extremely red. “Well, since we’re already here, I guess we should.”
Lucas laughed and laced his fingers with hers.