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AN: Ah, if there are any new readers then pls, if not a review (because i know the story is a bit wearly for that) then please at least comment on your thoughts on the story so far. especially if you make it to the latest chapter.

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It was now an entire day since his talk with father. For some time now the days were becoming colder, winter just around the corner.

Lyle, lounging on the sofa in the mansion's living room, watched as Melanie dusted off some curtains.

He thought back to his birthday.

Melanie had cried that day at Sophia's vicious words.

He knew because Iris had caught her in a hall with tears in her eyes. Apparently the words struck something within her and he didnt know what.

Whatever the reason she gradually grew more withdrawn.

Lyle, that day when he decided to help her and her mother, had felt himself responsible for the girl. She was older than him by at least two years and yet you would think that Lyle was the older of the two if you judged based purely on their bearing.

She was kind and caring, sweet and warm. She held a youthful energy to her you couldn't help but smile at. This was all in contract to Lyle was a bit more controlled and calm due to his upbringing, not to mention the experiences he gained during his training with A'daire as a teacher.

The numerous life and death fights that he had endured from A'daire's insane methods gave a slight feeling of oppressiveness to him, if what Cecelia sometimes said was true. He couldn't exactly be considered a normal 15 year old by any means, it had to be said. As such there were few people his own age that would be able to measure up to him in terms of maturedness.

He didn't feel very mature most days, but if what others spoke of were true then he could only believe it was really so.

Hence the reason why, despite their age, you could not think of Melanie as being the older.

Lyle may not say it outright, but he worried about Melanie. She had a rather frail view of herself, which he disliked. But this frailness and apparent lack of much self-confidence is what made him first start to become more concerned about her than he would be for normal people.

He had, at first, thought of himself as merely her benefactor. But he quickly grew to appreciate how she was always by his side, ready to help with whatever he needed. Never showing any sign of complaint, just quietly showing her support in whatever fashion he needed at the time.

Her concern stretched beyond that of a mere servant and she began to anticipate his needs or wants with such ease that is was as if she had been with him for many years already.

Thus he grew to reciprocate the concern. How could he not?

She had then, slowly but surely, become an important person to him. He couldn't deny it, wouldn't.

And this is why he had stayed with her at that time to console her. Only after did he go back and entertain the guests once more, enduring the many dances the young Ladies had made him go through.

Melanie had seemed to blame herself for the entire thing once she learned of it. She had apologised many times, saying that if she had acted more professional then perhaps the misunderstanding would not have occured at all.

After he heard these words from her his heart become incomparably heavy. She hadn't done anything wrong either, yet she still believed herself to be the cause of all of it.

Lyle couldn't let that thinking continue and told her that it was fine, that she had done nothing wrong at all. That no matter what, he couldn't blame her. And she shouldn't blame herself either.

After all, it was not entirely any one person's fault when you thought about it. Sophia was too shallow, too angered, too heartbroken, to listen to anything he might have said. And Lyle could have done more to try telling her the truth of what had happened, but instead the thought of her having such little faith in him had rooted him to the spot. When you got down to it, perhaps the relationship between them was simply too fragile to begin with.

He absolutely hated thinking that might have been so, but in all honesty, between the two sisters... even Lyle himself knew that he got along with Cecelia more than he did ever Sophia. No, maybe it's better to say that she just understood him more than her sister had. He, too, probably knew more about her, had more trust in her, than he even had for Sophia.

That wasn't right. For it was not Cecelia he was seeing, but Sophia. As time passed he grew aware that the bonds that tied him and Sophia was mere infatuation rather than real love. At their age, perhaps that was to be expected.

It did, however, sadden him.

What they lacked, they could have acquired later down the line...if only they had been given the chance...

He no longer blamed Sophia for being shallow though. In the same situation he believed that most would jump to conclusions. It was understandable. What irked him was that she still had not bothered to ask for an explanation. Would that not be something that anyone would demand after calming down?

No, he blamed their inexperience in matters of love and relationships. If they took the time to truly get to know one another than maybe this whole situation would not have escalated so quickly.

He told Melanie all this, voicing his thoughts to her in an attempt to get her to understand. To stop her from thniking she was the problem when the truth was something entirely different.

Even after hearing all that, however, Melanie still probably felt a twinge of guilt. Still, she had calmed down considerably.

He found it ironic at the time. There he was, comforting the woman that Sophia accused him of seeing behind her back...and yet he had left her alone to think things through herself. If that wasn't a sign that something was deeply wrong about their relationship then he didn't know what was.

...He felt horrible at even having the thought.

Some day soon he would have to man up and visit her. He di'dnt want them to be enemies or have any bad feelings between them. He thought that they both should simply have a clean break, find others that suited them more.

"Young master?"

Since long ago Melanie noticed his intense stare and a blush of embarrassment began to slowly creep it's way up to her cheeks in response. Finally she couldn't handle it and dropped the brush, hurrying to apologise for her clumsiness.

But she looked at him and discovered that he didn't even react to the noise, simply staring at her in deep thought.

She then called out to him, worried.

...His lustrous golden eyes came back to their senses at her calling. "Yes?" He asked suddenly.

She stammered. "Ah, n-nothing. I was just noticing that you seemed a bit... distracted?"

"....Oh. Yes. I am indeed quite distracted at the moment. " He nodded easily.

"About what, if I may ask?"

He gave her a vague, almost mysterious smile. Having gotten pulled from his thoughts Lyle suddenly got in the mood to tease her.

" Well if you must know, I was thinking that the uniforms of maids were awfully outdated and inefficient."

One could practically see the question mark abover her head. She looked at herself.

Inefficient?

"What do you mean, young master?"

" Think about it. All that clothing, stretching down to your feet and covering you up. Isnt it a bit tight? Inconvenient? I mean if you are to perform cleaning duties then is it not better to wear something more light and airy so that you can move around easier?"

Ah, thats true, she thought.

Her clothing was indeed a bit restrictive and got in the way of her chores. Her long skirt went down to her legs and it didn't offer much room. Her top had sleeves that were alao very long and stopped only at her wrist. It made her not able to move her arms as freely as she would like.

"But young master, if that's all then why were you wearing such a thoughtful look just now?"

" Because I was thinking of changing and modernizing the uniform we issue. So I was going over various designs in my head and used you as a model. However, as I was putting on various differnt outfits onto you in my mind I began thinking how pretty you looked in all of them--"

"P-pretty..."

"--And then, of course, I began to think how you would look out of them."

"W-Why?!" She felt her ears redden.

Lyle's eyes seemed to brighten naughtily"...And by that point the image in my mind was so enticing that I quickly became lost in my own fantasies."

"Enticing...you say..."

Melanie blushed even harder as she realized what his last words were, making her have very strange pictures pop into her head that refused to go away.

Lyle nodded lightly. "Indeed. Quite enticing...very much so..."

His eyes roamed up and down her body in appreciation, as if drinking her in, before coming to a stop at her face.

Melanie could clearly see the fire that was burning within their golden depths, making her feel like she was trapped in the gaze of a hungry wolf.

The heat contained inside those eyes of his was scorching, making her unable to think at all.

Melanie was frozen in place, unsure of how sudden this change in him was. Her body began feeling a bit hot and she had no idea what was going to happen next...or if she was mentally prepared for it...

"W-What sort fantasies were they, exactly?" Melanie asked in a small voice, having gathered her courage.

...Seeing how great her reaction was Lyle very nearly couldn't hold in his laughter any longer.

" Oh? Do you truly wish to know? Because my thoughts just then...they definitely aren't safe for work, if you catch my meaning. But if you really want, I suppose I could explain in more det--"

"No, p-please dont!" She cut him off hurriedly, changing her mind fast. What had she been thinking, asking him him about it at all!

Lyle couldn't take it.

Seeing her distraught face, flushed adorably in a bright crimson color, he wasn't able to stop himself from chuckling.

When she began to scrunch up her face in mild anger Lyle finally decided to calm himself and apologize. "Sorry, sorry. I'm only playing, you know that, right?... Well, mostly. After all, you are pretty, it can't be denied." He grinned.


"Young Master. . . Do you really enjoy teasing me that much?" Melanie asked him with a look of helplessness.

She should be used to it by now, but she was weak. She knew he didn't have any mean intentions so she couldn't stay angry at him. But...! But even so...! Melanie really felt that his ability get a reaction out of her was much too high! She really thought that...that...that he'd actually begin to do this and that to her!

His acting skills, they were already too good weren't they!

"Rather than that It's more of a reflex if anything. Plus you make such cute expressions that I really can't help it." He shrugged.

Another voice called out. " You know, Young Master Lyle, although you don't know it that teasing part of your personality is actually not anything new. Though you are a bit inexperienced, you seem like just the type of person who will be truly troublesome to deal with once you mature."

A small sigh. "I can already imagine the number of women who will be put into a considerable amount of distress due to that side of you. Your powers of destruction are already so strong, I shudder to think what you'll be capable of in the future. I hear your father was much the same in his day, though I think perhaps you'll be even more mischievous than he was. Like father like son, I suppose."

From upstairs came a youthful-looking middle aged woman. Her hair was in a stylish bun and her clothing was a dress that reached down to her ankles.

The years had been kind to her, her face still carrying her past beauty and showing little signs of wrinkles. It was all well-sculpted angles, her lips and eyes seeming to look contemptuously at everything with a sort of arrogance. And yet somehow not appearing unkind.

There was a fluidness to her steps, a certain authoritative bearing that gave her an almost severe aura.

She looked like a strict taskmaster, eyeing the two younger people in the room with an amused expression.

Upon seeing her Lyle nodded his head in respect. "Miss Belle, whatever could you mean by that? I do admit liking to tease from time to time but I hardly believe that warrants such words. "

She snorted coldly and gestured to the still-embarrassed Melanie whose eyes were strangely averted for some reason. " The fact you can so easily bring down a girl who is even older than yourself, and so naturally, is what I mean. Look at the poor thing. I think perhaps she was truly expecting something to happen? And I'm not quite certain she'd dislike it. By all rights she should be much angrier at you. And yet that isn't that case. Is this not enough evidence? Your skill really is something to behold, being able to make her forgive and forget so easily. "


"...I wasn't expecting anything..." Melanie broke in timidly.

It was just that the Young Master was a little convincing, that was all....

Who could blame her if she thought she may actually be eaten up by him?

Ah...even thinking of that was embarrassing....she wanted to run away and bury her head under her pillow in shame....

Lyle contemplated Miss Belle's words."I feel that I vaguely understand what you're warning me about... But I don't believe something of only this level can cause anything of the like, right?"

"Of this level, you say? So you can raise it up a notch? I underestimated you, Young Master." The woman shook her head, amazed. "As for your question, perhaps you're right. Although words have a powerful effect it may indeed not bring too many problems towards you for that alone. But you seem a natural at sending others signals you don't mean to send. You don't make your teasing obvious enough and this is why many women may misunderstand your intentions, or rather lack thereof. That Cecelia girl is a good example of this. " Her eyes seemed to drill into him, " Be more cautious of your words and actions, dear boy. If you don't, then trust me. Someday they eill bring you a world of trouble."

"Signals? Cecelia....?" He stopped himself. Though he had suspicions, he wouldn't voice them.

As for that warning. . .he didn't quite understand yet but somehow her words caused a feeling of foreboding to trickle itself down his back.

...Lyle supposed that maybe he did take teasing a little far sometimes. It had almost always been a part of his personality, for whatever reason that may be. Genetics or whatever, he didn't know. He didn't consider himself a person who would play around with the hearts of others, especially women.

He assumed anyone would be able to tell that he was only joking. But if he really was playing with people like that, even though he would only be doing it unintentionally, then he should be more careful in the future.

Misunderstandings, he was coming to hate them.

" Miss Belle...so was there something you needed of young master?" Melanie asked after taking a deep, calming breath. Honestly, sometimes young master Lyle said things that really brought her difficult feelings to deal with.

"Ah, yes. Thank you for reminding me, Melanie. Young master Lyle, you need to have a serious talk with that sister of y-"

"Miss Belle, dont tell big brother! If you dare do so I wont forgive you!" Iris, her blonde hair running free down her back, strided down the stairs and glared at Miss Belle. Her breating was quickened and sparks seemed to fly between the two.

Miss Belle ignored her then, turning to Lyle. " Young master, take a look at these. She's been sketching them during lessons lately and I cant keep this a secret anymore or else I fear she'll not learn a thing, No, I fear she will even become a type of person that cant be brought out in public."

She handed him a thick sketchbook that she had held to her chest.

"Brother, no!" Iris cried out and reached a hand to stop him.

But it was too late.

He skimmed through it curiously. The drawings were quite good, very detailed and done with care. . .

He didnt see why this. . .

. . .However as he went on he gradually grew more and more serious until finally he closed the book with a snap, unable to continue.

"Young Master?" Melanie glanced at him, wondering about the book's contents. What was able to give eevn him such a troubled look?

"Iris, this. . .This must be destroyed. You know that, don't you?" He said, looking reproachfully at his sister as if in disappointment.

She smiled awkwardly."B-big brother, that. . .that isnt. . . what it looks like. C-can you hand it back? Please?

Melanie, seeing the young Iris in such plight, wasn't able to just keep quiet. "Young master, I dont know what that sketchbook has inside of it...but it seems quite important to her, so..." She started hesitatingly.

He said nothing, simply handing the sketchbook to her.

She opened it slowly and took a peek. She displayed a bewildered look. "Young master, what wrong? Aren't these just drawings of y--...Wait....Hold on..." She looked closer.

...Eh?

These...these are....oh gods...

She closed the book quickly, her face even redder than before, unable to look Lyle in the eyes. "This . . .should probably be destroyed, right?

Iris looked at the three older people in horror. " Big brother, don't let them! My precious treasure, please dont!" She looked at her brother with whisps of moisture in her eyes, the emerald green making them look like precious jewels as they did so.

Her golden hair, flowing in waves down to her back, her hopeful expression, the way she held her hands almost in prayer, all these things gave the little girl a saintly feel to her.

But he didnt waver. He looked at her mercilessly and showed her the book, opening it to a random page to put up to her little face.

The two women averted their gaze. " Iris, I don't have to explain to you how this cant continue to exist, do I? "

" Big brother. . .I was simply trying to capture your form. Your essence."

"This trash is my essence?" He looked at her, disturbed.

"T-trash?! Big brother, you have always praised my great drawing skills! The skills that you made me so proud of, how can you say they produced anything even resembling trash?! This, this is art!" Her eyes ignited with fervent passion and locked onto him fiercely, defending her work with all her little heart.

". . .Back then I didn't know that your talents could be used for such purposes. I'm sorry, but it's either the drawings or me. Because as long as one exists the other cannot. Choose. Which one do you want?"

"Big brother. . ." She looked up at him, begging.

When he said nothing, unmoved, she heaved a great sigh. " I understand. . ." She pouted, repressing tears of blood.

He smiled. " Good. "

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After the trash had been disposed of the four went their seperate ways. Iris took the book's ashes with her, looking pale and heartbroken, despairingly demanding four hours of being allowed to hold his arm and having her head patted before she finally left with a near drunken sway.

Miss belle excused herself and went to Varric, something about a few errands she had to run. Melanie did the same, wanting to buy ingredients for dinner.

As for Lyle, he went to the back of the house and trained for a bit. A'daire wasnt there today and was with his wife, thankfully. However he knew Lyle would still follow the regular training pattern he set up.

The end of which involved him trying, usuccessfully, to split a boulder in half.

"Hah, what was that! By the time I was your age I was able to do such a thing easily!" The man would have gloated.

Which was unfair since, unknown to Lyle, A'daire had asked an old friend of his to enchant the boulder with a minor spell to make it increase in hardness for each blow that failed to split it.

Of course since mages were very rare in Drann Kingdom this would have costed quite a sum if not for the long friendship and favor the man owed A'daire.

The scarcity of mages was partly why it had cost Lyle so much for the ring. It was made from precious metal and stones, along with some fairly high grade spells that altogether was a great amount of money.

But disregarding this tidbit of information, Lyle had no knowledge of the trick A'daire had played and was staring quite angrily at the boulder as if it had done him some personal wrong.

Finally he had enough and struck out with all his might, his sword a mere flash of light as it descended upon the arrogant oversized pebble.

A loud clang! was heard, reverberating for some time before quieting down

Lyle glanced at his sword and spoke with disdain. "tch! Broken. "

He was about to give up when, out of the corner of his eye, he saw something that brought him endless joy.

There, in the center of the boulder, was a large fracture that began to spread down the middle.

"Come on, come on. . ." He whipered intently, willing it to happen.

At last there was a sharp, exciting crack!. . .

. . . and the boulder oh-so-slowly split apart.

"Ha!" He shouted out jubilantly. " Damn pebble, acting so high and mighty. Just look at how this young master broke you!" He spoke arrogantly with a look of extreme self-satisfaction.

"Lyle?" A lovely, almost musical voice called to him.

He turned his back and spotted a familiar girl looking at him.

She had a hourglass figure, slim yet already showing her womanly charms. "Heh, Cecelia, come and look at this. The pebble thought it could dare laugh at me and now it lays in ruins, a shadow of its former self. I almost pity it, he was a worthy opponent."

" Oh? Ah, indeed, quite an accomplishment. " She let out an amused, beguiling half-smile that lit up her face and sent electric currents through even Lyle. Her pencil thin eyebrows eased down gently towards her thick onyx-black lashes. Her gray eyes, usually cold like the edge of a blade, were filled with warmth as they landed upon his figure.

Her shirt was a deep violet that drew out her eyes and gave them a magnetic quality which made him want to stare at them, to become lost in their depths.

She also wore black leather pants that hugged her shapely legs and pert bottom, leaving nothing to the imagination. She wore a sweet perfume, teasing his nose and enticing him to take a whiff. A few weeks ago this would have surprised him but for some reason she seemed even more charming than usual recently.

At her wrist her saw a charm bracelet made of gold-like material, but far more valuable. On it was a number of ornaments that held significance only to the two of them.

He nodded. "Thank you. So, what brings my second favorite person here today? A spar? Im up for it if so."

"Second favorite?" She asked, wrinkling her nose. The motion somehow made him notice the bit of silver string around her neck, upon which hung a delicately crafted ring.

As she saw him staring at it Cecelia brought a hand to the ring and gently stroked it as if it were an irreplaceable object to her. She smiled faintly at him, her eyes holding some sort of softeness that he wasnt used to seeing on her,

A small voice broke the silence. "Hmph, well of course. This adorable little girl here is big brother's favorite, you know?" Iris appeared like a wraith behind Cecelia's person before she moved to stand by her brother's side. " Damn vile woman, I sensed you coming from a mile away. Go away. Shoo. Big brother has no use for--"

Lyle stopped her with a pointed look. She paused. Then, ". . .Don't think i'm scared of you. If big brother weren't here. . ." Iris began laughing eerily.

" . . ." Cecelia felt a chill. How did this little girl always know she was here? How did she get here so fast?

" So, Cecelia, you were saying?"

"Right. I dont really have a special reason for being here. . .Is it wrong for me to simply want to see you? " She asked.

"Ha, keep saying that and sooner or later people will misunderstand, you know. " He gave a small grin.

" Although I wouldn't mind if they misunderstood, really. Whatever others may think or say has nothing to do with us. And it's not like I would exactly be opposed to... "

"What was that?"

"Nothing." Came the casual reply, then a small shake of the head. " Doesn't matter. Anyway. . .While im here, I should tell you that father has been quite distressed since he found out about you and Sofia. "

Iris felt alarm bells in her mind. She, with her acute hearing, had easily heard the woman's utterance. This girl . . .So, she wanted to take him away? The audacity!

My big brother, the only woman that is allowed to covet him other than myself is that Melanie person, and only because her weak personality is perfect for being bossed around and kept in line by me! She thought.

She was about to say something but her brother spoke first

Lyle frowned, remembering his father's vague warning about the Marquis. "Let him be. I know he doesnt need the business with us anyway. From the start he shouldnt have a reason to dislike the current situation. It isnt like we've become enemies or anything."

Iris nodded. "Big brother shouldnt have to be restrained by such a shallow woman. Hmph, can't recognize big brother's majesty, she didnt deserve him. Ai, he wasted so much time on that harlot that he could have spent with me. I thought that now he could spoil me more, but unfortunately there is another certain bug flying sround these days"

She looked accusingly at Cecelia.

The girl ignored her. " The situation is a bit more complicated than that. . ." She began.

"Oh?" He grew curious.

Her face was solemn. " Indeed. You see, the Alderton bloodline has gotten much weaker in recent years. We Aldertons have naturally superior strength and combat instincts in comparison to normal folk. That is why we defend the weak points of the kingdom.

Since we get weaker in every generation now, father had been trying to find suitable partners to restore our strength. If we weaken past a certain point, we will no longer be able to keep our status. So that is why im guessing he's so stressed out by your crumbling relationship with my sister."

Lyle didnt quite understand. Neither did Iris. "Why would big brother be involved in that? How does this have to do with big brother?" She demanded suspiciously.

Cecelia looked at Lyle apologetically. "Lyle. . .Your maroon hair comes from your father's side of the family and hasnt been seen since the great grandson of your families first ancestor, the original Grayborne.

Even your mother's family, the mages of the Bathory clan, have only seen those golden eyes of yours in the most talented of their members. . .And that only when their clan was at the height of their power. Although this means don't much like your ither fsmily members, it also means your bloodline is extremely pure. It could help booster other bloodlines, he believes."

The words, though true, still stung. Lyle, even now, was still bitter about that point. He wasnt sure why he didnt look like them. He was his son, he was sure. Why was he different?

He had no answer.

"So," He began calmly, a twinge of contempt in his voice. " What you're trying to say is that the Marquis wanted to solve the problem of your bloodline using me. Nice. " He shook his head, disgusted.

Iris flared up in rage. "What! That man wanted to use big brother like a breeding horse?! Unforgivable!"

" Well, its true that he was hoping for a union, but. . ."

"But? Sophia and I probably wont get back together. She hasnt even sought me out for a real explanation yet."

Cecelia looked at him guiltily. " Actually. . .She wanted to demand an explanation days ago, but father stopped her and confined her to the house. Odd, since he wanted the two of your to be together. Then he up and left."

Lyle looked at her. " Strange, yes. I wonder why he would. . ." He thought back to his father's warning once again.

It seemed the Marquis did indeed have a lot riding on things going well between Sophia and he. So, why confine her?

Lyle concentrated on another fact for a moment.

So, she did want an explanation. A least that meant she calmed down. Maybe, if she apologised. . .

He shook his head.

No, he didnt want to be hated for whatever misunderstandings she would have in the future.

Cecelia looked at him, struggling internally. " Lyle. . . Please be careful. Father, I think he may be involved in something-"

"Young Master, your parents are here~!" Melanie, from across the yard, yelled at him.

"Okay, tell them I'll be there in a bit!" He called back. " So, you were saying?" He turned to Cecelia.

". . .No, its probably nothing. . ." She said.

"Hmm." He looked at her. After a while he shrugged. " Alright then. Iris, come on. Lets go talk to mother and father. Cecelia, you coming? Im sure they would be happy to see you."

"Yeah, sure. " She smiled.

However, as she followed his back she couldnt get rid of this strange dark feeling of dread in her heart.

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