The pair arrived two days early and left the house to Watson. Sally insisted that Tom spend the first day at rest.
They decided to stay at the Cauliflower Inn, owned by their father, Baron Claude Blanc. It was a small building tailored to the middle class. Sally thought it was too gaudy and bleak. It was a strange combination; heavy, unattractive curtains hung on every window. Maltreated potted plants lied on the receptionists’ counter.
“Ah, you must be masters Sally and Tom. Your father speaks highly of you,” a receptionist spoke as Tom drew near. It was a clear lie. Father’s sense of family was left desolated by Mother’s death.
The small room that Tom had chosen was unappealing. It seemed to cave in and choke him. No, he thought, those are aftereffects of his panic attack. He was unsure whether it was a panic attack or not.
Although Tom couldn’t sleep, and he guessed neither could Sally next door, they both felt refreshed next morning.
“I’ve already planned where we should go tomorrow,” was the first thing Sally said as they sat eating breakfast.
“We’ll visit the Royal Palace, the National Museum and we’ll pick up our paperwork and uniforms from Oakwood.”
“Sounds good,” was the only thing Tom could think of at the moment. He doubted that those places would take the whole day.
Tom decided to rent a small car. It was a four-seater so it left a sense of emptiness. The Royal Palace, known as many other names, was tastefully decorated.
Marble columns lined the exterior. A dome lied on top of the palace’s rectangular body. It was still an interesting building, but it paled in comparison to the palaces of other nations.
In the inside, the public was allowed into the dining room and throne room, both of which were empty. The throne was something to behold, not because of its glamour, but because of its simplicity.
It was a normal wooden chair. One might think it was misplaced from the dining room. The only thing that differentiated it from any other chair was that the Royal Crest was skillfully engraved into the wood and into the wall above it.
Perhaps this was a symbol, Tom thought. That thought was quickly dispelled. If that was the case why did the royals give out titles of nobility?
Ah, it was all a trick, Tom realized. He realized that even within the reigning family there was probably division. This chair holds no value by itself, so it was an empty symbol for the people wanting equality. Then again, the laws concerning titles of nobility were somewhat two-sided. Most likely, one of the monarchs supports the upholding of traditional values and the other is trying to reform society.
After quite some time, Tom nudged his sister and moved on to the museum.
There, free admission was given to the baronet class and above. Another example of special treatment, Tom noted. Sally noted the exquisite collection of decorative eggs while Tom was more interested in the weapons expo.
All of them were similar to his sword, so he figured they all had the same creator. All of them had a simple, but effective shape, and all had some precious or semiprecious gem. Next to the blades, there were portraits of the owners.
They ranged from prominent knights, to generals and admirals, and even past monarchs. “Wow, Grandpa’s blade must really be on par of those of famous people. Also, you were right ‘bout the jewels having a practical use, not that it matters,” Sally joked.
Oakwood was the next stop. The academy was a few miles east of the capital, too far off to call for help.
The uniforms were a dirty crimson. The color looked far too similar to the color of oxygen-exposed blood to be a coincidence. Both male and female uniforms composed of long, gray trousers, crisp white shirts, and crimson overcoats. Sally’s coat was longer and had sharper coattails. Besides that, the uniforms were unbelievably identical.
Tom cringed when he tried them on. He looked more like a butler than a student. He looked at his schedule with disbelief. Pain endurance, darkling anatomy, ancient history, and self-defense. “These classes were ridiculous. None of these help in combating darklings,” he said out-loud angrily.
The pair arrived at the inn shortly before sundown. “I knew it wouldn’t be enough,” Tom muttered. Sally didn’t reply at first.
“The reason why we finished so early is because I have to talk to you,” Sally said with an unusually cold voice.
“Fire away,” the cynical Tom responded. In the corner of his eyes, Sally could see the uneasiness.
“Tell me what happened on that night,”
“Not going to happen”
“You’re dodging me. You exactly which night I'm talking about. This is for your own good.” She was uncharacteristically direct. “I’m not letting you leave the inn unless you talk,” she threatened.
“Fine, Fine, I’ll talk.” Tom finally gave up. He described it the best he could. He left out gruesome details and the fact that his memory became abstract and painful at the end.
“You’re sugarcoating it, aren’t you?”
Tom was silent for a moment. For the first time, he didn’t know how to answer to his sister. “There are some things I wish to spare you from. I don’t want you to suffer too, not like me.” She seemed to understand immediately.