I was sitting in my office, counter-productively playing with the pen I should have been using to go through some royal administration, going through mine and Lady Winter's conversation.
How could she expect me to ally with Niklaus? He had caused nothing but chaos for everyone around him. He only cared about himself. He nearly destroyed the entire world, and torn apart so many families - Lucian, Dante, Rynth, and several of my other, most trusted warriors - just on the off-chance that he might get an indestructible body.
This led me to thinking about this Morrow Obsidian. No one had been able to find any reference to him in any of the libraries all day. It was as though he did not even exist. Was that the reason he was invincible: he could not be found? Was he human at all?
I did not go to the training session with the village citizens today. Ylnor decided to go in my place. I only allowed him because he had been badgering me for weeks, determined to start training again, and something as simple as a training session with the rest of the village seemed ideal.
I sighed, throwing down the pen in my hand, wondering what on earth I should do.
It was a few minutes before midnight, and I was apprehensively heading to the third floor, room 18, where Sebastian had instructed me to meet him. Lord Niklaus was still "dead", so luckily I had the entire day to prepare myself for what may come. A few maids were following me and, as I reached the third floor, I saw that several more were circled around the room.
"Has anything happened yet?" I whispered to one of the maids who had been standing there before me. The door was open, revealing Claude standing in front of the immediate wall, staring ahead of him with glassy eyes.
"Not yet," she whispered back, "We're still waiting for Sebastian."
"And here he is," Sebastian's voice said from behind me, making me and my fellow maids jump. I glared at him as he walked into the room. The jug of water was clasped firmly in his gloved hand.
"What are you going to do?" I asked.
"Just wait and see," he replied with a smirk.
He approached Claude with cat-like stealth. After waving his hand in front of Claude's face to make sure his brother was sleeping, he slowly took Claude's right hand and turned it facing upwards. Claude was like a clay statue, simply complying. Afterwards, Sebastian poured some of the water onto Claude's gloved hand.
"Oh dear, I think I know where this is going," I said softly, more to myself than anyone else.
Anxious about what would happen when the prank was completed, I decided to move toward the wall and the back of the crowd, but no one paid me any heed. Most of the maids were grinning foolishly, actually excited to see Claude's reaction.
Sebastian took a small pocket knife from inside one of his trousersí pockets, pull the blade out and placed it on Claude's face. I frowned as Claude's eye twitched. Sebastian dragged the blade across his face - strangely, the substance that oozed out of the wound was not red, but glittering silver - and pulled away just as Claude's hand shot upward and slapped his own cheek.
Several maids gasped, a few shrieked, and I simply stared with wide eyes as Claude yowled in pain. His face sizzled and burned, and his eye socket appeared to be empty. Sebastian was now standing on the other side of the room, laughing himself to bits as Claude grabbed the nearest maid, his remaining eye glowing red and his canines menacing.
"No, please-" the maid started screaming, but Claude effortlessly severed her head from her body, spraying us all with blood. Her head rolled down the corridor and came to a stop against a distant part of the wall.
All the maids scattered. Some staggered and fell, one other simply fell to the floor, crying, and another fainted, but I found myself unable to move. My legs trembled and my heart accelerated tenfold due to fear.
Just as Claude's gaze fell on me, and he started walking forward, someone appeared in front of me, blocking him from view.
"What is the meaning of this?" Lord Niklaus asked.
The effect was immediate. Claude's eyes returned to their original amber, and his canines shortened. He looked at the blood on his hands in shame.
"I apologise profusely, my lord," he replied, "Sebastian played a prank on me, and I lost my temper."
"What have I told you about feelings?" Lord Niklaus asked dangerously.
"To discard them altogether, my lord," he replied.
"And did you discard your feelings?"
"No, my lord."
"Go take a shower in the basement," Lord Niklaus said. I frowned, but did not say anything. My limbs could finally move, so I wiped some of the blood from my face with my sleeve, but I did not say anything.
"Yes, my lord. I apologise once again," he said, walking away. Sebastian appeared in the doorway.
"Why did you play a prank on him, Sebastian?" Lord Niklaus asked, "You know he gets like this."
"He started it, my lord!" Sebastian said defensively.
"What was the reason this time?"
"He is jealous of me because I get better chores."
I felt my eye twitching. This was like a father confronting his two annoying sons.
Lord Niklaus sighed and turned around to face me. I immediately look downward at his tie, "Are you all right, Sapphire?"
"Yes, my lord," I said, "Thank you, my lord."
He nodded and told Sebastian, "Clean this up, and calm the maids."
"Yes, my lord," Sebastian replied.
Lord Niklaus turned on his heel and walked away.
"Why is Claude's punishment a shower in the basement?" I asked.
"That specific shower head produces real water," he said with a smirk, "It will teach him not to pick a fight with me again."
The last thing I remembered was being attacked by those horrifying creatures living in the woods. When I banished myself from the mansion, I had not taken into account that Niklaus warned me numerous times about the things living in the woods, and what with my frequent blockages in my Ceilos wires ... I really had been stupid.
My Ceilos wires caused internal friction between my organs, the wires themselves and even my bones. I was constantly aware of how close the wires were to touching, but there was nothing I could do about it.
The angels had fixed my Ceilos system as best they could every night, but not even together could they fix it completely. I could not Summon Gabriel, because that would instantly give away my whereabouts, so I trained as best as I could with a messed up Ceilos system.
I could now fully resist any attempt to penetrate my mind. The thing that worked the best was not, to my surprise, thinking about Mordax's blood on my hands, or even Lunarian's arms around me, but a fully-fledged Ceilos shield I had made within myself with Elemiah's help. She maintained that even Gabriel would have a hard time breaking into my head.
My vision remained black for what seemed like forever. I was vaguely aware of my Ceilos wires being tampered with, but as time wore on, the constant pain wore off. I wondered if I was safe, of whether the angels had taken me to a secure location within the woods - there were so few - and finally figured out how to fix the damned wires. I needed to get proper training in.
The creatures that attacked me before I passed out were the most horrifying things I had ever seen - even more so than the frequent hallucinations I got. At first glance, they looked like large dogs, but only when they grew dangerously close could I see the strength in their shoulders, so much so that it seemed like a great hump on their back. They had no fur, but glossy, leathery skin. Spikes ran up the length of their spines, and their two tails. Their teeth were as big as my hand and, even though they had no eyes, they did not need them, because all their other senses were so sensitive that it was damn near impossible to attack them. After struggling for almost an hour against two of them, I had finally managed to Summon Appoloin, and then I passed out.
Through the black, I started to see a white speck. It gradually grew larger, and finally had the form of a cloaked man. I had no fear in this place, because I was aware that, inside my head, nothing could harm me. I wondered whether this person was some sort of vision implanter, whether it was one of the angels in disguise, or simply a dream. Either way, I did not like the atmosphere it was giving off.
"Who are you?" I asked.
"Even if I give you my name, you will not recognise it, so there is no point," it replied in a ghost-like, deep voice. I could safely conclude that it was male.
"Then what are you doing here?"
"I want to talk to you," he said, "You have a problem, and I am offering the solution."
"I don't know what you're talking about," I said uncomfortably.
"Your Ceilos is out of control," he said, "By now, I am sure almost the entire country knows it. I can strip your sword of its wicked nature."
"And why would I want that?"
"Because otherwise you will die," he replied, "Unless, of course, you want to be stripped of your control over water instead."
"Over my dead body," I said dangerously.
"Soon your body will be dead, unless you allow me to help you."
"And to what do I owe this act of generosity?" I asked irritably.
"I want you to join the Shadows. I am much stronger than Niklaus. I can make you twice as strong as him in half the time it would have taken you by yourself. You can kill your father and the world will go about being a happy place again."
"How do I know that anything you say is true?" I asked.
"I will force you to wake up in a few hours' time," he said, "Your brain is not ready yet, but Niklaus is skilled enough to treat that, at least. In the days that follow, you will see what I mean."
Before I could reply, the figure disappeared, and my vision was simply black again.
I felt kind of bad for Claude the following morning when I passed the corridor on the first floor that holds the entrance to the basement, and I heard his agonised screams, but then I convinced myself that it was his deserved loan for falling in love with his master's ward.
I started helping Lord Niklaus that moment my chores were finished, which had been lessened because I help him. The ancient book we were working from, I found out, is the reason it takes so long to create a technique, and the cure for one. One has to work through every possible combination of hand seals - there were more than forty different hand seals - and throw in any kind of personal flair. The book had more than a thousand pages.
As we worked through the book, the backfiring of the techniques became increasingly brutal. The worst so far had been when Lord Niklaus had been sent across the room with each of his limbs bent to the opposite side. It had been the first time ever that I had heard Lord Niklaus make any gesture of pain, and it was only just a grunt.
After I had re-broken the limbs so that they faced the correct side he, for the first time, took a break. He fell down on his bed and closed his eyes. I took it as a hint and left the room after a curtsy, heading toward Lady Victoria's room.
"How is Lord Niklaus?" Sebastian asked from beside me, making me jump.
"Damn it, Sebastian," I said, clutching the cloth over my heart, "One of these days, you're going to give me a heart attack ... he's fine. He's taking a break."
"Excuse me?" he asked, coming to a stop. I also stopped in my tracks and looked at him expectantly. "He only ever "takes a break" when he is very close to giving up hope."
"Well, he wouldn't give up hope on this," I said confidently. I had seen it with my own eyes. "Lady Victoria is too important to him."
"That may well be, but-"
"But nothing," I interrupted, "He won't give up on Lady Victoria."
After a smirk, he disappeared again. He could think whatever he wanted. What was wrong with taking a break after having died about fifty times because of over extensive use of the body? Nothing, in my opinion. He could rest for the whole day, for all I cared.
"No, please ..." a moan came from Lady Victoria's room. I stopped in my tracks, waiting for another moan to verify my sanity. "Don't kill me ..."
Taking a knife from the pouch strapped to my thigh, I took a deep breath, not knowing what to expect, and burst into her room.
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