The Shadow Priestess Part 2: Power
Author: Moanna

Chapter 29
Chapter 29

I resisted the temptation to roll my eyes, and exited the room. I let Claude heal my wounds and massage my muscles for a while before going over to my closet and looking for something presentable. I was so over skirts that reached mid-thigh for a formal gathering, and I sure as hell was not going to wear a corset ever again.
Without saying anything, I went to the massive room on the second floor that served as the clothing shop, skimming through all the black dresses until I found the perfect one.
"I'm taking this," I told the cashier.
"Excellent choice, my lady!" she said with a bright grin. I raised an eyebrow at her as she wrapped the dress, the grin never leaving her face, and returned to my room on the fifth floor. I put the dress on by myself along with the wedged heel shoes I had worn who-knows-how-long-ago at Niklaus's birthday party.
"Claude?" I called, and he entered the room.
"You look beautiful, my lady," he said.
"Thanks," I said.
I allowed him to tie my hair into a French plait, and he placed a purple flower above my ear before highlighting my eyes with black eyeliner and dark grey eye-shadow, and gave a maroon tint to my lips. He led me down the stairs and into the dining hall. I guessed there were around twenty people, including Aurora and Arrow. Some I recognised as Niklaus's most favoured warriors from the villages surrounding his mansion. There were four, however, whom I had never seen before. I pretended not to notice.
"Ah, Lady Victoria," Niklaus said with a warm smile, and all heads turned to face me.
One of the four I did not recognise, a girl with wavy blonde hair, grinned when she laid her eyes on me. I frowned and took my seat beside Niklaus.
"As I was saying, I have updated all the equipment in the training rooms," Niklaus said, "You can each take your pick as to where you wish to train. But now, I wish to introduce our newest warriors. Tyron here," he gestured to a man that looked to think himself majestic and superior to everyone else. He had shoulder-length, dark blonde hair, grey, scrutinizing eyes, a strong jaw and a muscled build, "was head of the guard in Nuria. He specialises in defensive strategies, which I found particularly interesting, considering the size of the weapons he carries."
Niklaus smirked and nodded at Tyron, who grinned and lifted a sword almost as big as Lunarian's, and a shield that must have been just as tall as he was, off the ground. I could not stop my eyes widening. Some of the people around the table chuckled, some clapped softly, and some grinned appreciatively.
"His sister, Lucretia," Niklaus continued, gesturing at the girl who had been staring at me all this time, "has a very interesting ability. Why don't you show us?"
She pretended to be blushing - I knew she was pretending, because even despite her would-be blush, she stood up immediately and took off her coat: no shy person would be so eager to show off - and underneath her coat was what looked like dull rose-coloured, leather sleeveless jacket, only strange pieces of leather protruded where wings would be, and they were shaped like distorted hands. She wiggled her own fingers, and the leather hands mimicked her movements. She reached out her arm, and the leather hand stretched until the other end of the table, taking a little bottle of salt before retracting and placing it in front of her. More people clapped softly with gleeful grins.
"Wonderful," Niklaus complimented, and she sat down. Big whoop. She focused Ceilos in weird leather arms and controlled them. I was eager for one of the other men to be introduced: he was very handsome. However, Niklaus gestured to a flirty-looking teenage heartthrob with everything I hated in a guy: shaggy blonde hair, piercing blue eyes and tanned skin. "Flynn here also has a very interesting ability. He fights with poker cards. I found him in a pub in Quasdar. Would you care for a demonstration, Flynn?"
"Of course," he said, winking at me. I pulled a face in disgust, but he had looked away before seeing it.
He took a playing card from the inside of his brown leather jacket and muttered an incantation. It started glowing a yellowish orange shade, and he threw it down on the table. A great explosion sound erupted, but his hands seemed to be containing the power it had: a great bubble of power circled the card, and he seemed to be pushing it down until it became a tiny bubble, and then disappeared.
"These cards probably have enough power to turn this mansion into ashes," he said with a cocky smirk.
"If you favour your hands, I would advise you not to test that hypothesis," Niklaus said. More people chuckled and others clapped, but Flynn frowned at the word 'hypothesis', and I prayed to the Spirits that he knew what it meant. "And last, but not least, Syrus. Later the same evening that I found Flynn, these two happened to have been in a fight."
"Thank you, my lord," he said formally. My heart fluttered despite myself. He was incredibly handsome. He had black hair with the faintest blue tint, dark blue eyes and was dressed very formally, in a waistcoat and trousers and all. He pulled a violin case from his back and placed it on the table, retrieving a pitch black violin from it.
As soon as Syrus played the first note, I felt an incredible power emanate from it. It was on the same level as my elementalism, and that scared me. Niklaus had always been the only one who could intimidate me with raw power, and was certainly stronger than this, but this ... this was terrible.
As I watched, I saw vibrations become visible, like magnificent segmented cylinders that emanated power I felt suffocated by. One of the vibrations slowly hovered over to Flynn, and lowered before shooting upward, catching him on the chin and sending him flying across the room. The sound faded and Syrus placed the violin back in its case. My ears rang terribly.
A lot of people clapped at this performance, and through it, Flynn pointed a threatening finger at Syrus and spoke words that were inaudible to me.
"My lady?" a voice said, and I felt a tug on my arm. I breathed for the first time since Syrus's song started, and my hearing returned. I saw that everyone at the table was staring at me. "Victoria, are you all right?"
It had been Niklaus who spoke to me. I took a slow, deep breath and said, "Yes, I'm fine. Just a little fatigued because of all the training, I suppose."
A few people smiled and nodded, apparently relieved that I was fine. Niklaus gave me another, second long look of concern before clicking his fingers. The door opened to reveal a maid whom I recognised only by sight, but whose uniform was so short I felt myself glaring at her: how dare she give such an impression in Niklaus's mansion? She looked to be around my own age, which disgusted me even more. She was followed by four other maids, and all of them carried dishes, plates and cutlery, which they set down on the table for each of us. The maid I was glaring at, bowed particularly low when serving one of the warriors sitting directly across from Flynn, who smirked appreciatively at the sigh she was offering him, even though she did not really have much to show.
"Oh, dear God," I said, unable to contain myself any longer. I asked Niklaus, "Who is this slut?"
"That, I believe, is Alice," he said, "She seems to have a keen eye for Flynn."
"It's gross how obvious that is," I said as my plates and cutlery were placed in front of me. I reached for some roast turkey and potatoes.
"Well, neither Alice nor Flynn are ones for long-term relationships," he said, "As long as their attitudes toward each other do not interfere with their training, I see no point in trying to keep them apart."
"Hn."
"What are your thoughts toward Flynn, my lady?" he asked, dangerously sweetly. Dear Spirits, did he honestly think I had a thing for that moron?
"My thoughts?" I answered sweetly, "He's ... gross."
Niklaus smirked. We ate in silence for a while: the other guests were talking merrily, and the girl named Lucretia was staring at me while eating. I began fearing that she might be a vampire or something. I tried to ignore her as best I could, and instead watched Flynn try to flirt with her. She fake-blushed too much: so much that it was obvious that she liked him. I could not believe this: the guy batted his freakishly-long-for-a-guy eyelashes and every girl seemed to fall for it. Even one of Niklaus's warriors at the other end of the table, a female I had only seen a few times, seemed unable to keep her eyes off him. Aurora, to my surprise, did not look at him at all. Instead, she had a steady eye for Syrus.
I kept a steady eye on Syrus, too: it unsettled me that he walked around with such power in a violin case. He seemed very uptight: he sat upright and took small bites carefully held with his knife and fork and stared ahead of him while doing so.
When dessert arrived, I recognised one of the maids faintly as someone who used to be Sapphire's friend. I struggled to remember her name, but then it finally came to me: Jayla. She had helped take down the wolf poster that used to haunt my dreams.
"Lucretia seems unable to keep her eyes off you," Niklaus said after several minutes.
"It's creeping me out," I responded. He chuckled.
"Why is that?"
"Either she's homosexual, or she's planning to cut off my face and sell it, or hang it on her bedroom wall," I said. He chuckled again.
"Do not worry over such things. She is much weaker than you."
"Are you sure?"
"Positive. She does not permanently carry weights on her body, and your elementalism would give her jacket a run for its money."
I smirked. "So, what's the deal with this Syrus guy? What's up with that violin of his?"
"He procured it while on an expedition with his father to the Country of West, a few years ago. It seemed to call out to him, and happened to have been in the cave they were sleeping in."
"I don't believe in coincidences ... do you think it's something similar to a Spirit Blade?"
"It is a Spirit Blade," he declared. "Spirit Blades were originally only swords, but as people started experimenting with other things to keep as weapons, they were too lazy to think of other names as well. Any weapon with a mind of its own is called a Spirit Blade."
"A mind of its own?" I snorted.
"But, of course. They choose their wielder because of certain character traits. Can you imagine Dominatio per Malum in any person's hand other than your own?"
"Definitely not. That's just ... wrong."
"And can you imagine that violin in anyone's hand other than Syrus?"
"Well, no-"
"Then, I think, you can safely assume that he was chosen by it."
"Does the violin have a name?"
"I did not ask," he said. We remained silent for a while, after which he asked bluntly, "You are attracted by him, are you not?"
I smirked and glared at him coldly, "I am not going to dignify that with a response."
"That means 'yes'."
"No, it doesn't."
"I think it does."
"I know it doesn't."
"My lady-"
"My lord-"
"Victoria-"
"Niklaus-"
"You are being very immature-"
"I know I am," I said, snorting with laughter, "I love that I'm the only one who doesn't get punished for interrupting you."
"I can see that you enjoy it."
"In any case, no, I'm not attracted to him," I said firmly, convincing myself as well as him, "My training is the only thing I care about. When Mordax is dead, everything will return to normal."
"What will you do once Mordax has been taken care of?"
"I'll return to the Village, I guess," I said with a shrug, "I'll cross that bridge when I get to it. There's no point trying to now."
He smirked faintly again. We finished eating, and then Niklaus bid everyone good night before disappearing with a fast-to-evaporate cloud of smoke, like he had done on my birthday the first time I met him. I headed directly for the door: I had stayed up much later than I intended, and I needed to get a proper night's sleep. Just as I exited through the door, however, I felt a tug on my arm.
"My lady?"
I turned around to come face to face with Lucretia. What the hell was her deal? "Yes?"
"I was wondering - well, hoping really - I didn't really know how to - well-"
"Spit it out," I said irritably.
"Could I ask you a few questions?"
"No. I have an early morning ahead of me," I said, turning around, but she tugged my arm again. I grabbed her hand and twisted it at the wrist so that she turned around and faced the other way, "I said, no. If you ever touch me again, I'll break your hand."
"Whoa, whoa, whoa," a voice said, and I looked up to see Flynn striding cockily over to us. "What's going on here?"
I let Lucretia go, and turned around to go to my room. I was not having the best night and, on top of it all, I was incredibly tired. To my annoyance, I felt yet another tug on my arm. When I turned around, I saw that it was Lucretia's brother, Tyron.
"If you ever treat my sister like that again-"
"No, if you ever touch me again, I'll have you whipped," I growled, "Dare to threaten me again, and it might be the last thing you ever do."
"Is there a problem here?" Claude asked, having just appeared. Lucretia and Flynn both grabbed the cloth over their hearts and were breathing heavily. Tyron, however, was still glaring at me.
"No," I replied to Claude, once again turning around.
These people did not make the best first impression, and they had better learn to behave themselves around me, I thought. I don't have the time to deal with crap like this now.
The last thing I heard as the group of freaks disappeared from view as I ascended the stairs was Lucretia's annoying little voice saying, "She's so cool!"

 

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