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"Hah!"

A faint glow emanated off a sharp blade deep inside a dark forest.

The strike was fast and swift, instantly cutting down the demon beast's head.

The beast was a wolf creature with fur like steel, eyes red and muscles bulging. A menacing sight. It was large, three times larger than any normal wolf.

"Good work, Cecelia. But damn, you took down the alpha while I got stuck cleaning up the small fry. Where's the fairness in that?" Joked a handsome youth, golden eyes glowing enchantingly in the darkness of the night.

The young lady with long dark hair and deep gray eyes sheathed her sword. She smiled wryly at the youth.

" Surely you dont mean that? Those dozens of corpses there, if those are small fry then you truly have a unique definition of the words. Honestly, compared to one slightly bigger beast, taking out those legions of beasts would be much more difficult, right? And look! Not a scratch on you!"

She pointed to him almost in accusation. " A person has the right to be injured when facing something like that. "She told him.

The youth looked indignant. " You want to compare me to a normal person, it seems. Do you forget the hellish training that bastard A'daire put me through?!" He shook his head.

" He simply wants to bring out your potential, stop being a baby." She walked toward him. " Anyway, thanks for the save earlier. The Alpha came out of nowhere." She referred to earlier when the battle first began

"No problem. What would Sophia say if I let you die?" the youth, Lyle, laughed.

Cecelia frowned slightly at the name.

Recently all this boy has on his mind is her sister.

...Even when he was here with her, his thoughts were of Sophia...

"But that A'daire, making us do this every night, this is just cruelty right?"

"...I come from a military family and even they don't make us do this. The forest beside Varric is dangerous at night. It can't be said this isn't a effective training method, but. . . " Cecelia expressed concerns.

"Well, at least we have each other to protect our backs, right? If you weren't here, I would have been dead countless times!" Lyle shivered at the thought. " I'm truly grateful you're here. I know you don't have to be. "

" Think nothing of it. " She smiled at him.

It's been nearly two entire years since they first met that day and Lyle's mentor, A'daire, had sent him on dangerous missions inside the forest. Extermination missions, to be precise. Usually it takes several adventurers to complete a quest like that but the two did it by themselves, and much quicker than a group.

But not only mission like this, he had also sent Lyle to far-off places. So he traveled fairly often. It could take weeks or even months. Cecelia also chose to go with him. She told him it was to gain experience from the travels.

Thanks to all the traveling they had made many acquaintances. They got to know a lot of people and groups that would be useful connections for them both.

Cecelia didnt have to go but she couldnt let him go out alone and risk him being hurt or worse. Her parents were not opposed to her running off since in her family travelling was to be expected. Being the type of family the Aldertons were they knew that fine steel was only able to be forged in hot flames.

And that was not all. They, Cecelia and Lyle, had grown much closer to each other. The time they first met seemed an eternity ago, at least to her. Now they were often laughing or smiling together. They truly build up a very harmonious relationship, one Cecelia was very happy to have.

Going back to the more recent Extermination mission...They would be here for days at a time in some cases, hunting for food, withstanding demon beast attacks and surviving by a hairsbreadth. They had to find shelter, too, where they could sleep.

As not many would ever even want to come close to the forest at night the two of them were undisturbed.

Alone. Only having one another for company.

Naturally such experiences brought the two closer together.

The times they spent taking care of one another, saving each other and surviving together were...well, innumerable.

The bond they shared due to all these life and death situations made them closer than most families.

" Anyway, lets take the big guy's head and get out of here. Sofia and Iris will be worried sick for us."

Lyle swung his sword down and the beast's head was completely severed. He took out a box and spoke a quick command word. Instantly the large head was sucked inside the box like it was swallowed by a black hole.

"By the way, Lyle. . ." Cecelia hesitated. "Your 15th birthday is coming up. Do you plan on proposing to her soon?" Her voice shook slightly, but Lyle didnt seem to notice.

He replid with a smile. " Soon, yes. I think its about time. My father had me meet many women these past two years, but none caught my eye like Sophia has. Iris may still be against you two, or any woman in general, but I know what I want. And I wont hesitate. I love her, Cecelia. Maybe using that word is a bit too soon, but even if we don't love one another in the way the word is usually meant we can still grow to love each other in truth as time passes. We at the very least know we like each other a lot, which is more than most young Nobles can say for their partners. You can rest assured that I will protect and cherish her." He promised.

She knew what he meant. Yes, perhaps it was a bit strong to say that he loved Sofia. But he still believed he loved her. To some degree. It might not be the sort of strong, tried and true love that Lyle's parents had. It was probably, in reality, still at the level of "liking". A very strong liking.

And that was enough for him. Lyle loved Cecelia's sister, Sophia. Probably. He thought it was so, at least. But even if not he was deteremined to make their feelings for each other grow to the point where he could say with one hundred percent surity that he, they, loved one another.

Many Noble children couldn't say that they even liked their significant other. Arranged marriages were a common thing so you had to start with nothing and work you way up. And even then it was no sure thing that the two would really grow to love each other.

Lyle and Sofia, however, had a solid foundation already.

Cecelia found that Lyle's words brought her no joy, though. She knew that she was supposed to rejoice at the news, but she's couldn't. Cecelia could not feel happy with his announcement.

She was supposed to be excited for him, and especially for her sister. But where such feelings were supposed to be located, there was simply...a hollowness? Maybe something along those lines, anyway. She simply could not summon up any sort of good feelings toward his words. His assurances that he would make her sister a happy woman, who would be protected and held precious. were all lost on her.

To be honest...for some time now she felt that those two, Lyle and her sister, were not a right fit for each other. Maybe...maybe that was why she could not feel anything in regards to all this.

...The sounds of the forest resumed now that the battle was over. The glow of the moon was in full blast and enshrined them in its pale radiance.

His golden eye locked onto her with intensity that made her heart skip a beat.

...Damn.

Cecelia struggled to control herself. But this reaction was not her fault. It was his.

Lyle's eyes had that effect on women, she had long since noticed. His gaze was not something that any heterosexual woman could remain unmoved by.

Maybe he was unaware of it, but others viewed him differently from normal people. Even if he did nothing they would still be a bit in awe, almost immediately having a good impression of him.

It was something that came deep down from within him.

His very bearing...the confidence in his step, the light in his eyes, the way he looked at you...everything combined, whether he knew it or not, to give life to a very magnetic young man who caught people's attention easily.

She listened quietly as he continued." So, before then, I would like to have your blessing. I already have your mother and father's, but yours is more important to me. You're not some stranger, you're not just her sister. You're my friend. There will never be another person I would trust to watch my back or be by my side more than you. So it would mean everything to me if you would--"

"I can't." A blunt refusal.

Her cold reply made him nearly choke.

"What? What do you mean, you can't?" He looked at her, his eyes showing signs of misunderstanding and hurt.

As close as they became the past year, he never would have expeced such a firm denial from her.

She didn't answer him for a long time. Then, "...Im sorry, but I won't be able to give you my blessing." She turned away from him, unable to meet his eyes.

"No, it's...Okay. Really." He said weakly. "Cecelia, is-" He hesitated. "Is something. . .wrong?"

"No, of course not." She shook her head. The lie came easily to her lips. It was probably the first she told him in a long time.

"But--"

"I said i'm fine." She snapped at him. Seeing his reaction, a slight widening of the eyes, she regretted the action. She was being childish. He didnpt deserve such treatment. What's more, she had rarely ever spoken to him like that. That made it even worse. But she didn't apologize. Couldn't. "Come on, lets go."

On Lyle's side of things, as he looked at her, he couldnt help feel profoundly confused and worried.

All the time they spent together made him think that there was nothing they didnt know about each other. Now it seems that he couldnt be more mistaken.

He suddenly got a flash of an idea as to why she was angry, but the very idea was so ridiculous that he threw it away instantly.

Usually he wouldn't let it die like that, but he knew she wouldn't say anything even if he asked. This was simply how she was when she got like this. And so he could only follow after her.

The silence between them lasted the entire walk back.


----------------------------------------

1 month later.

Varric city was large, with many people going through the streets at any given hour.

Currently two beauties were walking down one of the streets. One wore a blue floral dress and a ankle length skirt that hugged her slim legs and pert buttocks. She had a charming smile on her face. her eye brows thin and slender. Her face was delicate, full of youthful beauty and the vigor of life.

The girl's lovely appearance, her soft eyes and even softer-looking curves captured the attention of many.

Her deep gray eyes were clear and shined with an inner light.

The other was identical in appearance to the other girl, her lips full and petal pink. Her hair was tied into a pontyail that rested on her left shoulder, sleek and fine as silken threads. Completely unlike the other girl whose own hair flowed down towards her back in cascades.

She, the poney-tailed beauty, had a slightly cold, bloodthirsty aura and refinement to her that contrasted heavilywith the other girl's naturalness.

This girl also wore a sword on her side, her eyes sharp. Cutting.

They scanned the crowd.

"Cece, are you sure he's here? I don't think Lyle would be in this part of the city."

Ever since they met, Lyle had come to Varric city much more often. His family moved back and forth between the Grayborne's own lands and here at a nornal interval. But recently he had moved here entirely, with his sister in tow.

His lessons with A'daire required his full attention and ever since a year ago her left his family home and lived at the estate near the outskirts of Varric.

He came to the city often but this part, the place where one would go shopping for gifts and such for their lovers or similar people, was somewhere he would most likely never come to.

Sophia couldnt figure out why Cecelia thought he would be here.

"No, look." Cecelia pointed to a small shop ahead. "There he is."

Sofia looked curiously. That place? But, a place like that, why. . .?

It was a jewelery shop.

Surely Lyle wouldn't be in a place like that. . .

She stopped.

There, inside the shop, visible past the glass windows, was the the figures of two people looking at pieces of fine jewelery together.

One was a tall, handsome youth with maroon hair. His body looked lean, fit, corded with compact muscles that were achieved and maintained, Sofia knew, through intense training. He carried a fierce aura, like a sheathed blade that could be drawn at a moments notice. He stood straight, with impeccable posture that bespoke a good upbringing.

He walked idly around with a pretty woman beside him, looking at the various pieces displayed in the shop. He had a certain fluidness in his movements that was oozing with confidance and a sort of primal grace like that of a predator.

She couldn't see his eyes but knew they would be a mesmerizing gold that could look both furiously warm or chillingly cold.

His long, strong fingers pointed at something in the shop. He turned a bit and she saw a small, inquiring smile on his face that he sent to the girl at his side.

She had lightly tanned skin, lush chestnut brown hair and a curvaceous figure that leaned in beside him to get a closer look. She was not a great beauty but she had a certain charm that Sofia knew would make her the object of desire for any male.

She had a body like that of a mature woman but her aura was that of innocence and purity. A contrast she knew was a devastating combination.

The mysterious girl seemed to nod vigorously at him in approval, giving him an affectionate hug for a second before letting go of him in embarrassment.

"Lyle..." Sophia murmured. "That woman, i've never seen her before. Who is she?" ...Or, no. Sophia thought that she had, in fact, seen the woman once or twice. Maybe.

"Ah, that must be Melanie, a girl he picked up quite a while ago, before you two met." Cecelia observed. "Apparently he saved her and her mother from debt collectors and took pity on them. He hired them as maids. However, her mother stays with his father and mother while this girl followed him when he moved to the nearby estate. You don't go to Lyle's house too often so i'm not surprised you don't know of her. You probably saw her a time or two, but you really aren't great at remembering people. They seem close, don't they? "

She commented casually, ending with a pointed question aimed towards Sofia.

Sophia felt an ache in her heart at her sister's words. " But, why would they be here? Why would he and this girl be looking at something like that togeth--?"

" Why do you think?" Her sister asked back with a raised brow.

Sophia had a lost, desolate look as understanding slowly dawned on her. "But he and I--We--Lyle would never--" Her lips went pale and she shook her head in denial.

...She had long since known her feelings toward Lyle, and had spent many days blissfully talking to him, enjoying their time together and hating it when they parted.

She had thought that she was special to him.

But looking at him now, in a place such as this, buying jewelery for another girl. . .Her heart didn't want to believe what her mind was telling her. But her sister's eyes held a sympathy in them, a sort of pitying look that made Sofia feel something within her beginning to break into tiny pieces before they fell slowly towards the pit of her stomach.

Cecelia said nothing for several moments. She watched her sister's changing expressions impassively.

Then,

" Would you like to go and talk to him? This could all be a simple misunderstanding." She looked at her sister closely.

Sofia shook her head numbly. "Why bother? It's obvious what's going on." Her tone was bitter. She knew what her sister was thinking. That look in her eye said it all.

Sophia trusted Cecelia's judgement. She knew that Lyle and Cecelia had gotten fairly close recently, which made Sophia happy. And so knowing that they were such good friends...Knowing that right now even Cecelia doubted him...How could Sofia let herself refuse to see what was right in fron of her? She could lie to herself, but wouldn't .

Although she truly wanted to...

" All this time, I thought that he...That he..." She couldn't finish the words. Her throat felt raw.

Sofia's felt pinpricks of heat building by her eyes. Her vision brew blurry.

Cecelia smiled sadly. Dear sister, it looks like your trust in him is much too shallow. To not even ask the situation and merely come to your own conclusions without knowing everything.

It seems that I was right. You dont suite each other at all. What would you do if you knew the real reason he was here? But, its too bad, you have already proven you are not a good match for one another. If only you go talk to him...but no. You won't. Because you already believe so much more in your own assumptions. Truly not a good match at all...


She remained quiet for some time, thinking about the reprecussions this could have. However, she didnt even consider backing down now.

"Come on, lets go. "

And just like that, she gently took her tearful sister and went back to their home.

----------------------------

1 week later.

It was his 15th birthday. The estate was brightly-lit and various treats and foods were scattered throughtout the place. Numerous nobles came from every corner of Drann kingdom, all shaking his hand and giving him flattering comments with false smiles that Lyle knew hid sly intentions.

The ballroom was filled with guests, many pretty young ladies looking at him with heated gazes that he tried to avoid.

As he was now considered an adult, his status increased dramatically. What young woman would not want to wed the currently unmarried and unengaged son of the powerful Duke Adarian Grayborne?

The Grayborne family's power reched far beyond Drann kingdom, how could they pass up such an opportunity?

And so Lyle was surrounded by numerous girl until A'daire showed up and scared them away with him mountain-like figure, shiny bald head and hard look.

"Heh, thanks for the aid, old man." Lyle spoke provokingly at the man.

A'daire let out a snort. " Old man? Where? Im merely a 37 year old youngster with dashing good looks and a charming smile. "

"What charming smile? What dashing looks? Please don't confuse reality with delusions of grandeur."

"Young master is especially annoying today. Well, don't worry, this daddy will cut you down later. For now, congratulations. I can't call you brat anymore, at least not in Drann kingdom. But where I come from one is not an adult until they get piss drunk, shave off a dwarf's beard and spoon a pretty barmaid after a night of friviolity and merriment. You, boy, are not yet even close to being able to even flirt with a pretty barmaid." He sniffed in mock disdain.

Lyle raised a brow. " I have Sofia, what use have I for a pretty barmaid anyway? Could the two be compared? Hmph, and I wont be shaving off any dwarf's beard. They're too hard to find anyway. "

" Heh, so lazy. By your age, I was already an honorary dwarf and was even was shortly engaged to the daughter of one of their master blacksmiths. Ah, Regina. She knew how to throw drink with the best of 'em. " He reminisced.

Lyle grew interested. "Meet any Elves?"

"Oh, of course. Damn beautiful buggers. Can only tell the males from females one way."

Lyle waited for him to elaborate. When he didn't, he asked, " How can you tell them apart exactly?"

The man laughed lecherously. "Hehehe, the females are pretty well-endowed, if you know what I mean. Must be what they eat."

"What do they eat?"

"Nothing but this fruit. Large, like a pear but at least the size of a watermelon. Pinkish, soft like a woman's breast. Hm, tastes like heaven and sex. Hard to describe if you haven't had it yourself." He shrugged. " Met my wife in the Elvhenan Imperial city. Which is a pretty amazing place. Grown from the ground up. Hm, my daughter is a half-elf."

Lyle's mouth dropped. "You have a daughter?" He was shocked. He never heard about that!

A'daire and Lyle walked over to the long table stacked with foods. After grabbing a piece of meat and stuffing his face, he replied. " Oh, yeah. I didnt tell you? 22 this year. I had her when I was 15 during a fling I had with her mother. Didn't know my wifey was an Elvhenan, did you? Well you never met her so I suppose that's to be expected...Didn't even know I had a daughter till I was already 20 either.

She teaches combat at a certain school now. A really prestigious one, though I can't remember the name. You should go find her one day, you two might hit it off. Though you would be talking with your swords most of the time. Heh, you're the most talented student I have had, but she's my daughter so how can she not be amazing? I want to see how you two would get along. "

"Interesting. I might do that someday. Seek her out, that is."

" Yup, go right ahead. And you know, if the thing with Sofia doesnt work out you can always try your luck with that daughter of mine. Honestly, unmarried at her age. I fear for her future. " A'daire sighed.

Lyle was very interested in seeking the woman out. He itched for a good fight.

" Well, thanks but I dont think me and Sofia will be having any problems for awhile. " He refused.

A'daire shrugged. "You only say that cause you've not seen her. Ai, that daughter of mine is a real beauty, just like her mother. She simply has a bit of slightly sadistic tendencies, that all. Offer still stands though. Despite being a brat, you're a pretty decent brat." He seemed reluctant to say it.

...And he just said he wouldn't call him brat anymore...

" So, how do you like the party?" Lyle spread his arm out to indicate the people around them.

From the start every eye was on them, but they had little choice but to give them room to talk.

One was an incredible S-rank retired adventurer while the other was heir to the illustrious Grayborne family who was rumoured to be an amazing talent in swordsmanship.

Both exuded a cold, sharp aura like blades. Who but the ignorant young ladies dared approach them? They had no wish to bother them while they were conversing so friendily

" A bore. Nobles offering you fake smiles to get in your good graces, young ladies hoping to get in your pants and become the next Lady of the Grayborne family. Jealous young men, sending you glares for your apparent popularity. A few sending you heated gazes of another form. All of them are damn annoying. Too much pomp and overinflated egos for this daddy's liking. "

The man took a bite of the meat.

"Glad to know you're having fun. " Lyle said drily.

"Where are your parents? I thought I saw them. . ."

"They're with Marquis Alderton, talking in father's study. " He was a bit anxious, thinking about Sofia and the small black box in his pocket.

"Brother~!" A lovely voice called out. A blonde-haired green-eyed Iris came running at him in her violet dress.

"Iris, what--"

However, she didnt stop and jumped into his arms.

"Brother!~ Help!"

"Miss Grayborne, wait!" A young dark haired boy came out from among the throngs of people.

" David, you pest, go away! Can you not see i'm talking with big brother and cannot entertain you? " She glared at him.

"But--"

" Go!"

The boy looked unsure, hesitating a bit before he sharp tone made hum run away hurridly.

Lyle looked at her, letting her down gently. "Care to explain?"

"Oh, nothing important, just an annoying monkey. Anyway, brother, how do I look?" She asked, doing a little twirl

He smiled at her indulgently. "Stunning. " He patted her head, something he found himself doing much more often lately.

She leaned into the pat, laughing quietly.

A'daire clapped his hands softly. "Oh, indeed quite lovely, young Miss. " He praised. She felt her mood sour.

"Shut up, damn old man. " Her cold reply floored him.

"...Why am I always so hated?" He shook his head in wonder.

"Hmph, your fault for always doing mean things to big brother." She glared hatefully at him.

"Young master!" Suddenly Melanie appeared as well. She wore a typical maid outfit that couldnt hide her curves at all. Her brown hair was glowing freely down her back and she looked at him with a smile.

"Ah, Melanie. Thanks for helping me with that matter a week ago. " He whispered in her ear.

She shivered. "N-no problem, young master. Happy to help. " She stuttered slightly, a bit uncomfortable with the sudden proximity.

"No, I really appreciate it. " He said seriously. They were talking quietly so Iris and A'daire didnt hear them. Thoug Iris was too busy verbally tearing the skin from A'daire's body to take notice.

"Young master. . ." Melanie looked at him with a strange expression, almost sad, that he didnt quite understand.

"Melanie, you have been a good servant--no, friend. And I want to thank you properly for everything you have done for me thus far. You and your mother are almost like family. If you ever need anything, tell me. " He spoke sincerely.

She shook her head. "Young master, you saved me and mother from a terrible life. Those debt collectors would have taken everything we owned and more. If you didn't show up, then...I don't know where I would be. I'm glad simply to have been of help to you. I only want to repay you, to serve you and be by your side. "

To serve the young master of the Grayborne family, to serve him, who always treated her as an equal, she felt that she could spend the rest of her days like this.

Her life was good. Her mother's life was good. They were happy. The Graybornes were a kind family, a good one. And to serve them was a great honor.

Young master Lyle, someday, would become a great man...and she wanted to be by his side when he did. To repay him for what he had done in some meager way...

The large open doors showed two figure wearing matching dark blue dresses.

One was pretty as a blooming rose while the other was cool and aloof.

Their faces were identical, and few could tell them apart.

Lyle's eyes flashed as he looked at them.

Of course he could tell them apart easily. To him, they were different as night and day and he could always tell which was which.

"Hmph, arrogant girls. Big brother, when are you going to dump that Sophia-bitch? " Iris asked with a tilted head. Although she was so adorable when she didn't talk...

"I don't plan to. " He said simply.

"So beautiful. . ." Melanie muttered.

The two flowers put her to shame, no comparison.

She looked at young master Lyle and sighed.

Indeed, only someone like them could be his match. They all belong to a different world from her's.

"So late, I thought you two wouldnt come." Lyle walked over to them, the gazes of everyone upon his back.

Who wouldn't recognize the daughters of the Alderton family?

Both stunning, breathtaking beauties and from a good family to boot. They were the object of desire for all the young men and the envy of the young ladies present.

" We came, did we not?" Sophia's cold, indifferent voice shocked him.

"Sophia, are you okay?" He asked in concern, reaching out to feel her head.

She smacked his arm away. "Don't touch me. " She said, looking disgusted.

Lyle paused. What was wrong with her? Was she mad at him for some reason?

A girl came over to them, and as soon as she saw the girl walking to their location Cecelia wandered off. "Lady Alderton, welcome." It was Melanie, who came and bowed to her respectfully. " This is the first time we have officially met like this, I believe, but young master Lyle had told me many things about you. This humble servant is at your service at any time." She bowed again.

Sophia looked at her oddly. " Any time?" She asked.

"Yes, my lady."

Sophia smiled. "Good to know. For now how about you get your filthy self away from me so that we can all enjoy the party without having to smell the dirt and grime wafting off of you?" The words came out smooth and without malice, yet each word was like a poisoned dagger covered in silk. Extremely vicious.

Melanie froze.

After several second she bowed deeply for a long moment. "I will do as you say, my lady."

Lyle watched her leave, not believing what just happened.

"Sophia, that..." He clenched his fists. Something like that, such harsh words.... why?

"What?"

" . . . " He looked at her angriy but suppresssed it. Surely there must be some reason she was being so prickly today. She was usually so kind and soft-spoken, there was obviously something wrong...

Cecelia seemed impassive and ignored his questioning glances.

He would deal Melanie later. Lyle felt terrible about this decision yet he had to bear with it for now. He was angry at Sophia's cruel words, but...

" Come on, let's talk somewhere quiet. " He motioned for her to follow.

Iris frowned at them from afar. She moved to go after them but A'daire stopped her.

Lyle brought Sophia to the roof of the building, far away from any listeners. The moon's rays shined down on her, bringing out an almost ethereal beauty in the young woman.

He didn't even notice that Cecelia had followed openly behind them.

He looked at her, and right before he opened his mouth,

"So, you wanted something?" These flat words made Lyle swallow what he had been about to say. It was these words, more than anything, that made him truly understand something was off with Sophia today.

Lyle had already pulled out the small black box. But he just held it behind his back, unsure of what to do with the current her. Taking a deep breath mentally, he decided to continue.

"Sophia, listen, I asked you here because--"

She interupted him. "I know about your relationship with that woman." She said abruptly, nearly spitting the words out.

Her words stopped him in his tracks. He looked curiously at her." Woman? " He frowned. " What are you--?"

"Don't act as if you dont know!" A sudden snarl, full of hate and hurt and sadness. Tears seemed to form at the corner of her eyes but they refused to fall. "Do you think I'm stupid? Do you think I wouldn't know? That servant, I saw you buying her jewelery. That place, with a pretty young girl, what else would you be doing? So, how long have you had her warming your bed?" She looked him with a disgusted curl to her lips, glaring at him, her voice breaking near the end.

Lyle's brain went momentarily blank. He caught himself quickly. Did she see him and Melanie that day? Did she misunderstand something?

"You have to mean Melanie, right? No, you have it all wrong, I was only--"

"Melanie? You really call a servant's name with such a familiar and affectionate tone? And you want me to think this is all some sort of misunderstanding? Please. Don't treat me like an idiot. I know. I saw you two, I saw her hugging you, pressing against you. You can't tell me you two aren't...aren't lovers." She choked out the last words with a pained expression, staring hateful daggers at him. "I thought that you were a good person. I thought you liked me. But all this time, you've probably been seeing her behind my back. You two must have had a good laugh, right?" She sneered. " I feared this would happen someday, but I...I had hoped..." She shook her head, trailing of in a hoarse voice.

Lyle couldnt help feeling dazed. The ground seemed to shake beneath his feet. She couldn't really think...

"Sophia, no, the situation isn't what you--!" He tried to tell her the truth.

"Don't spout nonsense!" She cut him off. "You may have fooled me once but I won't be reduced to a position that's lower than that of even a maid! I dont want to see you ever again! You and that whore, I don't want to see either of you!" She cried, turning to leave.

"Sophia, I-- Wait, this is all just a mis--!" He called out desperately.

However, she was already gone..

Lyle stood there, not quite believing what just happened.

She didnt even give me any chance to explain...

He thought, numbly.

She didn't even care what he had to say.

She simply assumed things on her own.

...She didn't trust him at all...

After all this time, after the countless meetings and dinners and dates they had, the private moments that belonged to only them, the laughs and smiles they shared...In the end she didn't think of him highly enough to listen to his side of the story.

...He couldn't help but sigh. While stood there alone for several long minutes, his thoughts a mess, he suddenly heard someone calling out to him..

"Lyle, what're you still doing up here by yourself?" A crisp, clear voice spoke his name from the roof's entrance.

He looked a bit pale, a small half-smile on his face as if ridiculing himself. He seemed to look past her, but he still murmured the name unconsciously. "Cecelia. . ."

She looked at him in apology." I overheard what you were talking about just now. I thought you would run after her, but..." She shook her head. "Well, sometimes things should simply run their course. Maybe once she calms down--"

He shook his head sadly, not able to meet her eyes. " She thinks I cheated on her with Melanie. Didn't even give me any ground to tell my side of things. She doesn't even want to hear what I had to say and jumped to her own conclusions. I think we can fix the misunderstanding, but now that I know how little she trusts me how can I continue to have a relationship with her?"

There was no excuse for it. She had been to Lyle's home before, she should have seen Melanie often, right? At least once or twice...So why would she simply think that the two of them were doing something behind her back?

He sighed again, wearily, tired.

Indeed, the misunderstanding could be easily fixed but he couldnt be with someone who didn't trust him. After all the time they spent together, if she wouldnt even let him explain himself before judging him then how can he want her by his side?

He felt torn inside. He wanted to run after her, like Cecelia said. Maybe that would be the adult thing to do, the mature thing.

But he couldnt bring himself to. A relationship was built on mutual trust. And it was obvious she didnt trust him to any substantial degree. He loved her, but without that trust he felt that his feelings were simply too one sided.

He trusted her more than anyone. Or at least, enough that he wanted to have her by his side. To share his life with her.

Though he was very young, he was a Grayborne. He had to have a wife and child as soon as possible to ensure the bloodline would continue. But he would choose someone he decided upon. And until now, he had decided upon Sofia. She was smart, funny. kind. The two of them spent many hours together, had grown closer to one another.

...He thought that after all their time together that she understood him.

His trust...was obviously misplaced.

Cecelia patted him on the back comfortingly. " Too bad. But who knows, some doors close while others open. I'm sure that you'll find someone that is perfect for you eventually" She shrugged, clapping him on the shoulder encouragingly.

But he didnt even seem to hear her. " I just dont know how she saw us together. The place we were at, was somewhere she never goes to herself. And only a few people knew about my being there." He frowned in thought.

Cecelia shrugged. " Does it really matter? What happens, happens. "

"I guess you're right." He calmed down, " But shouldnt you be with her?"

"My sister is the type to be alone when in times like this. She needs time to be by herself and calm down. But I cant leave you right now. Afterall, you were going to..." She stopped.

He laughed bitterly. "Propose? Well, I won't be doing that. Even if we got past this, I don't to marry a person who can so easily come to the conclusion that i'm unfaithful for no other reason than something she saw from a distance." He took out the black box. Opening it, he found a ring, delicate and bearing a large stone.

"This thing, it would be able to buy a large city. It will never lose its shine, never bear a scratch and will never get dirty. The ring itself gives one increased stamina and endurance. The stone is made from a special, enchanted diamond that absorbs life energy and keeps one healthy, it even slows the aging process. Not only that, but with it I would always know how far away I am from the wearer. 500,000 platinum coins...Probably the most expensive ring in the kingdom... What a waste. " He laughed, though it wasn't funny.

Cecelia's eye widened in shock at the price.

"Lyle, you..."

" I won't have any use for this now. I could return it, maybe sell it, but...It should have some use, right?" He looked at her. "Here, take it. It should have a bit of use to you. The stamina and health increase should serve you well."

He threw it at her casually.

"I couldn't. I-I cant." She tried giving it back. This was something meant for her. How could she take it?

"Go ahead. I understand perfectly that this isn't appropriate but I dont want it to serve no purpose after all I spent to have it made. Oh, and here." He took out another box, longer than the last. "This is something that I wanted to give you for your birthday in a few months, but I dont think I'm going to make it. For various reasons I think I won't be welcome. But just so you know. . .I wont let this thing between me and Sophia ruin our friendship."

He turned to leave, but paused. "Cecelia, that night. . .You never gave me your blessing. Why was that."

She shrugged. " I didn't think you two were right for each other. That's all."

He peered at her, and to Cecelia his golden eyes looked so trusting and familiar that it was unbearable.

As for him. as he looked at her lovely figure, dark thought flashed in his mind. But he rejected it with every fiber of his being.

" I see. I suppose you were right, then." He said.

Without another word, he left.

Cecelia felt awful. What she had done, what she allowed to happen, had torn apart the two people she loved most. Lyle was the type of person that believe once something was broken, that it could never return to how it was. Faced with Sophia's shallowness, with her accusations and lack of trust, he would never feel at ease around her again.

He would never be able to like her in the same way again. Cecelia knew that he thought their bonds--his and Sophia's--were flimsy, but he wanted to make them stronger as time went on. Now he wouldn't get the chance, and whatever they had was forever gone.

While he loved her, or thought he did, he would simply not be able to get past Sophia having such little faith in him staying true to her.

And Sophia herself was always worried that someone would snatch him away. She didn't see Lyle as an equal, but as someone superior to her that she was lucky to have. Never had she been comfortable around him, because she always thought herself unable to measure up to him, to be with him.

She had an inferiority complex from the moment she met him.

From the very first day, she was smitten. But also very self-conscious, and that had never went away.

Now that she saw him together with another girl, a servant, what little pride she had was diminished. Sophia would never get back with him because she would live in fear of him leaving her for another.

Cecelia knew all this. She knew what sort of person Lyle was, knew he couldn't get past knowing his time with Sophia wasn't able to make her more trusting of him.

And she also knew that her sister would always be fearful of being not good enough, living in a constant state of suspicion that someday she would be cast aside. Which meant that while she truly cared for him, she couldn't be with him.

Using this knowledge, she drove a wedge between them easily. It wasn't hard at all. If you just knew what buttons of theirs to push, it was a simple thing.

A thing only she, who understood them both so well, could do.

In essense she took the two people she would give her life for, people that had been happy with each other up to that point, and broke them apart.

Yet she didnt feel any regret.

Because those two...truly weren't suitable for each other...

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