AN: I know this is going to take a lot of editing but bear with it for now please. I need to get some sleep and then finish the chapter for my other story. Its been a good few days since i last updated it and i feel like i will take another day to make two or three chapter to make up for it.

also, remember to rate, review, or comment on whatever you wish.


"I'm going with you." Cecelia asserted.

Once Lyle entered the door and invited her to take a seat on the plush couch in the living room he had explained to her what he planned to do. Well, in part.

"I was hoping you would say that." Lyle smiled, " But that I think about it, you probably shouldn't. " He would feel more at ease with Cecelia, who was about as close to him as anyone except Iris and a hundred times more reliable in a fight, by his side through all this but he felt that it might get dangerous with her around him and Iris due to their condition.

He couldn't tell mother or father or even A'daire about what was happening to them: That would be too foolish.

It could be argued that doing so was the more logical and wiser decision but these things inside them were, well, they were the manifestation of sin. Even worse than devils. Much worse. If he told someone carelessly about what was happening to them the World Council wouldn't let them walk free. Especially given Lyle's status as a future seat-holder on the Council. If knowledge of this spread, there would be chaos. Lyle was known by many and his name spread far and wide. Even though most thought him simply the son of a powerful noble house, that still carried much weight because of just how powerful that noble house, the Greybornes, were.

Few knew the full extent of their influence but what they allowed to be displayed to the public was enough for people in many nations to know of and respect his family. Even himself personally, who was known as the "combat genius young master of the Greyborne family". Or so he was called after that event he took part in some time ago.

No, keeping this to himself was simply safer. He would keep keep this secret from his own family, at least until he knew more. After he had gathered information on what these things exactly were and if it was possible to remove them, only then would he let his family know. He had to be truly cautious here. And until he knew more, he wouldn't let anyone know what was happening with him. Although A'daire might know, a bit, about what happened. He witnessed what Lyle did, after all, had fought Lyle in his empowered state. He must have suspicions. Though the man knew better than to tell his parents without confirming it himself.

" I don't care if it's dangerous, I'm not letting you go alone. It isn't a problem, my father encourages me to go out and gain experience. You know what."

That's true. Cecelia was the one who was being groomed to take on the position as the family head. As a militaristic family, Sophia who'd been pampered with a gentle lifestyle was out of the question. There were other candidates to inherit, though, should Cecelia die. Lyle had heard a bit about a branch family who had a few talents. Cecelia's cousins.

So her going wouldn't be frowned upon...but still he didn't like it. On the other hand there were a couple merits he could think of if she followed along.

"Why not let her go, dear? I'll feel better if she's by your side. And you would be too, right?" His mother interjected, prompting a grateful look from Cecelia.

There was something a bit more in Cecelia's gaze as she watched his mother. Like having her help was something she didn't expect yet was not entirely surprised by. It was an odd move, one he found himself questioning.

How could he know of the little deal the two had going on?

"Exactly. Besides, I can help watch and take care of Iris...." She prodded, looking at him carefully. She had brought out her trump card. Lyle most likely wouldn't refuse after she brought Iris' safety into this.

Iris never exactly liked Cecelia but as for herself she always made it a point to try getting along with the girl. The reason for this, she would not say. But Cecelia knew she was using a double-edged sword. Lyle was protective of his beloved sister but firmly believed he had the responsibility to manage her well-being himself. He was coldy and merciless while doing it too.

CecCecelia recalled the last time some ruffian rudflet's tried harming the listle girl in Lyle's presence. Let's just say Cecelia could still hear the screams caused by what Lyle had done to the man.

Only Iris, Cecelia thought, could make him react like that. What's more, the girl in question believed that any action of her brother was right, just and without error. Those pair of sibling were truly...unique. In varous ways.

Lyle was someone who could be warm and appear charismatic to all who saw him, but chillingly ruthless to those who crossed him or commited some act he couldn't forgive. This was simply the type of person he was. You could even say they felt like tep entirely different people.

Same with Iris. Iris was a lovable girl by her appearance alone, yet her sharp tongue and fairly calculating nature her brother was equally dichotomous. Always playing the good, obedient sister to rack up brownie points. Then becoming spiteful and mean to everyone else at s moment's notice. Lyle was the only one she really listened to.

On one hand you had the over protective, trigger-happy older brother, and on the other you had the "cute little sister" who thought the brother could do no wrong. Such a pair was rather difficult to deal with.

In short, he might reject the idea of anyone helping him keep an eye on his sister. While Iris herself would make Cecelia's job of helping with her protection a nightmare.

And true to her predictions he stiffened ever-so-slightly.

Even so after a moment he just shook his head, relaxed his body, and smiled. "Well, since it's you....I think I can use the extra hand. She might not like this though..." He looked at Cecelia with a bit of worry. He knew well his sister's temper.

"That girl will be fine. Who knows, this could be a bonding experience between those two. I know you always hoped they would get along better. Whatever it is you are looking for at that place, having such a capable person like Cecelia tag along can only be beneficial."

Lyle considered. Maybe, but he doubted it.

But he did say that Melanie was free to come if she wanted, so why should he deny Cecelia?

The only thing he was truly worried about was the strange markings on his body. Especially that flower one...Melanie seemed entranced the second she saw it. Almost dazed. Would that happen to anyone else who saw it? Possibly. Or maybe not. That Azamat seems to rely on sexual energy to help fuel his power. So it likely only affected women.

The "positive" energy in males and "negative" energies that exists in women likely have something to do with it. Maybe how these energies interact during sex or sexual acts. Lyle could only theorize at this point, but it seemed similar to how Incubi needed sexual energy to live and grow stronger.

Lyle therefore may not have to worry if a male saw it, but Melanie, Cecelia and any other woman would probably be affected....Would Iris be affected as well, even though she's his blood-related sister?

The thought worried him and he didn't exactly want to find out. He wore long-sleeved clothing and had wrapped his body in bandages bandages up to his neck so the serpent, dragon and flower tattoos were covered. Which is why no one commented on them. He would have to take care when washing too. Some towns were far away and so at times travelers would have to sleep out in the open, make a camp site. Though that needn't happen now, since all the towns and such were within a half day's ride of each other at most. Later, though, he would have to be on guard.

Well, that aside, in regards to the flower design... As long as Lyle kept himself in control of his own body it shouldn't be too much of a problem.

"...Alright. Cecelia, do you need anything before we leave? If so, go and get it taken care of before meeting me and Iris at our usual place. After that, we'll be going to the Merc hall."

This was, as the name suggested, a place where various mercenary group representatives could go and get hired for a job. Similar to the Guild, the name of any building acting as headquarters for adventurers to come and go to receive missions.

She nodded. " Okay. I'll see you in around half an hour then." She knew that he would want to enlist the help of the merc group he was friends with. The one he, and to a lesser extent Cecelia, were honorary members of.

" Alright."

After another brief exchange Cecelia ran outside and got into the carriage which brought her here.

"That girl has always been a good one, hasn't she? " His mother suddenly said, smiling.

"Cecelia? Indeed. She's a reliable friend. There isn't anyone I would rather have by my side in a fight." Lyle agreed.

" Yes, I quite like that one. I hated them both at the start, but she reminds me faintly of myself at that age." She smiled lightly. "Although, I was a bit surprised by how close you two had gotten. You and Sophia, leaving things like you did between each other, and yet she still seems to not mind it at all."

He shifted uncomfortably, sighing. He did feel bad at not handling that situation better. And he did intent to fix it at some point. Even though Lyle felt rather betrayed at the girl's lack of trust towards him, he still didn't want to leave things how that were.

"I'm grateful for that, yes. And I won't allow our friendship to become ruined so easily. " Lyle smiled, laughing a bit. He was confident that their bonds, at least, were not so weak. She had never done wrong by him. And so he wouldn't do wrong by her either.

" After all we have done for each other in the past few years of knowing one another, I simply won't give up what we have because I and her sister left each other on a sour note. Which I still plan to remedy, by the way. Eventually."

" You seem to share quite a strong bond with the girl." His mother observed.

"Well of course. You don't know what we've been through together. What she's done for me, and I her. We've saved one another numerous times, have risked our lives for each other, even. Cecelia is almost like a sister to me by now." Almost.

"You value her, don't you?"

He looked at his mother for sometime before he replied, his gaze seeming to consider something. " Yeah, I do. Other than Iris, Cecelia is probably the person who knows me best."

Melanie seemed a bit in admiration of him for various reasons, but that was something different.

" I see." She smiled. She chose not to say anything more.

Lyle, hesitated. " About father..."

"Hmph, don't worry about him. " His mother's eyes narrowed in anger. " He understands his wrong, rest assured. That foolish man, I swear..." She sighed. "Anyway, he isn't here. He got a call just before sunrise and he had to leave. It appears that the mysterious group he's hunting has made some unusual movements the past few days. Princess Su'Mei, that girl you used to be acquainted with, was attacked again."

Lyle was a bit shocked, full of concern. " Is she okay?"

"She's fine, thank the gods. That girl is truly resourceful. After the last attempt she took certain measures and captured the assailant."

Lyle's eyes brightened, knowing what that meant. " So they have more information now?"

His mother was quiet for a moment before going on, as if forcing herself. " No. It's worse now, really. The man who attacked was human known to be affiliated with several nations. A former officer in some army, a person of some repute before he retired. He gave away nothing. What's more, he apparently had poison hidden on his body and used it to kill himself."

Lyle's brows furrowed. This meant that the only thing that was accomplished in capturing the man was discovering he was a human with known relations between himself and numerous human nations.

That's bad enough but the man was also an officer in an army before retirement. With little else known this would only increase hostilities between the Demon continent and the Human continent. The majority of the demon race would be out for blood now.

Mei was always an advocate for peace between races but she may have some trouble handling this by herself. Lyle didn't talk to her often but they still had a decent relationship with one another. If he could help, he would. Well...not to say he couldn't help. At least, not directly. He had a few ideas on how he could give her some aid, but that would have to wait.

But disregarding that for the moment there was something that Lyle thought of instantly. "Wait, mother, do you think...?" Lyle began. From what he knew, this situation seemed almost as if....

Mother nodded. "Yes, I know what you're thinking. It was indeed too easy to catch him. I hear he didn't put up much of a fight, either. This entire thing reeks of something pretty fishy. But sadly as soon as the attack is made public, which it will eventually through some information leak or another, this will further cause enmity and the amount of hate the demons have towards our human race will soar to new heights. This is how popular Su'Mei. that girl, is among the general populace. Going after her is the best way to sow discord. This group your father is investigating...they truly aren't simple."

His mother's tone was without inflection, both calm and unflustered.

"So things are getting pretty bad then."

"Quite so. Your father will have his hands full soon enough."


Switching topics, she said,"You shouldn't try to hate him too much, dear boy. After all, he is your father."

"Yeah, I know. But Iris is my sister." He asserted, as if that said everything.

And it did. She knew what he meant. To him, there was probably no one as important as Iris. Those two were practically inseparable. Iris with her abnormal love and affection for her brother and Lyle with his fierce protectiveness of her that eclipsed all else.

Hell, sometimes one thought they were lovers instead of family. In fact, some of the more hushed rumours among the nobility hinted at that. Ridiculous, of course--especially given how young Iris was-- but the way the two siblings cared so deeply for each other made it seem plausible to outsiders.

And that husband of her's had put Iris in danger.

She couldn't blame her son for having some serious issues with him, knowing how much love he had for the young girl. Had it been anyone else who put his Iris in a position like that, Alyssa doubted Lyle would let them live. Or maybe he would, if only to prolong their suffering.

"Well, I won't try to convince you one way of the other. Still, it would be great if someday you can let it go." She knew it would be pointless to say anything more on the matter today.

Having said all that there was to say, Lyle went into his room to prepare.

But it was strange...For some reason, Alyssa felt she had something important to tell her son. How odd...She was never the forgetful type, so why...?

But an instant later, the thought vanished.


Around twenty minutes later.

"Well, don't you seem quiet today." Alyssa commented.

"Ah, no, i'm fine. Please don't worry." Melanie, waiting by Alyssa's side as she served her tea, spoke in denial.

Alyssa sipped from her cup calmly, glancing sideways at the girl as she did.

" No, something is definitely wrong. Please, my dear, speak." She prompted.

"As I say, my lady, i'm perfectly alright." Melanie smiled.

"You and your mother, such terrible liars." Alyssa laughed, shaking her head. The woman in question also had the same smiling expression when things were weighing on her mind. "Do you miss her? I can arrange for her to come here for a visit, it wouldn't be any trouble."

" No, no, that's not it."

"Ah but there is an "it", am I right? " Alyssa caught the wording of the girl and knew that there must be.

Melanie opened her mouth, but before she could speak Lyle suddenly came downstairs. His hair was different, a light, golden blonde similar to Alyssa and Iris'. And his eyes were changed too, turning into a brilliant blue like his father's. With a dark grey overcoat, deep red shirt underneath and black trousers along with an unadorned sword by his side he cut quite a fine figure.

Alyssa caught sight of several blades strapped to one of his legs, secure but easy to be drawn out. She wasn't surprised by his appearance.

Because he was fairly easily recognizable with his maroon hair and golden eyes he took great pains to disguise himself, even changing his mannerisms and overall aura to do so. Usually this wasn't needed but he had built up another identity for when he entered the city. A'daire's missions sometimes had to be carrried out with others and it was best to not expose himself as the heir to the Greyborne family.

But this may be the first time she saw what he chose as his disguise. It saddened her. The reason why he chose such colorings were obvious.

" Alright, I'm heading to Varric to meet up with Cecelia and then we'll be off to Ustrax. Iris will be down in a moment." He informed.

Ustrax was a smaller city located about an hour and a half away, the place where the Merc Hall was located. Lyle was going to take a carriage to Varric and from there he will buy another, more suitable to long journeys, carriage and take that to Ustrax with Iris and Cecelia in tow. She should have already done the same as Lyle by putting on her disguise and going to their usual meeting place in Varric.

Alyssa noticed Melanie suddenly stiffening ever so slightly at her son's appearance. Not because of his current look, but merely because he was there.

Lyle sent a questioning glance at Melanie but said nothing.

"Tell her I'll be waiting outside." He requested before leaving.

Alyssa watched her son for a moment as he exited the room. She turned to Melanie.

" Well, I think I can guess what is troubling you. Tell me, did that mischievous son of mine tease you again? I know he sometimes likes to play around a bit too much." She smiled wryly.

"N-no, my lady, Young master Lyle hasn't..." She faltered under her lady's stare.

"You know, I truly dislike when people lie to me. I can tolerate it up to a point, but when it reaches a certain point I find myself quite annoyed. I really would dislike to--" She began, but broke off. She continued, admitting, "Well, actually, I wouldn't mind at all. If telling me is too hard...You do know I can make it a bit easier on you."

Melanie was like a trapped bird in a cage as she looked into the woman's eyes.

"I..." Melanie hesitated. How could she just so easily speak about it? "Young master Lyle, the other day, he..."

"Yes? Come now, speak up."

"He, um...." She couldn't help the warmth that spread across her face as she attempted to talk.

Alyssa, seeing her blushing face and difficultty in speaking, had some idea of what happened. Very seriously, she asked, " Melanie, did Lyle..." She frowned. "Did he kiss you? Or maybe something more?"


The fierce blush that came to the girl's cheeks was all the proof she needed.

Alyssa was shocked. " He did!" She all but shouted, not quite believing. She paused. " Melanie, dear, come here for a minute would you?" A small smile was issued.

Seconds later, her hand glowed a deep green.


Iris was nearly trembling with joy.

Finally, finally a trip with just her and big brother!

No pesky distractions!

Although she wasn't exactly told where they would be going she didn't care so long as big brother was with her. Such a great opportunity for some brother-sister bonding cannot be missed.

She fully intended to take advantage of this and have her brother spoil her constantly during the journey. She had not been able to travel with her brother often in recent years. His missions from that annoying old man A'daire had sent him not just around Varric, but many other places as well. And most times that Cecelia woman went with him.

Brother said that mainly it was extermination missions within the surrounding forrest but Iris knew there were other types of missions he was sent to during that long period. A year was a lot of time and though he was gone for weeks in some cases to exterminate a few monsters was something which would not usually take him so long.

She knew that there were many more things that he and that Cecelia had done together, knew there were many people and places they met or went to.

This annoyed Iris endlessly. The nerve of that woman, daring to go with Iris' brother to some far away place that she couldn't keep an eye on them.

Iris spent a long time in her closet trying to choose suitable clothes to wear. She was unsure what to do, really. She wanted to be wearing something cute at all times so that her brother would be overcome by his brotherly instincts and rain affection upon her. The thought made her giddy in anticipation.

But then again she also wanted something a bit more mature with a refined air so that her brother would see how much she had grown when he wasn't looking. Because sadly that was the case, him not paying much attention to her recently. So she wanted to surprise him. Perhaps, she hoped, he would even feel a bit guilty and spend more time with her.

This was truly a dilemma.

In the end she decided to go with the former category. Truthfully she didn't want to be seen as a grown-up by her brother. He already thought she was too old to be doing some of the things she used to do with him. She had no desire to reinforce the thought. No, being the adorable little sister that he adore and dotes on is much more appealing to her.

She was going for "innocent". The power of such a thing is not to be underestimated.

She didn't bother packing much other things since she knew her brother would buy her whatever she needed or wanted along the way.

So, dressed in a light pink sun dress and matching hat, Iris walked down the stairs to say good-bye to her mother before departing. She didn't know where her father was, which was a bit of a let down but one easily pushed aside as she knew he usually had to come and go when the need arised.

As she was walking down the stairs she heard two voices.

"...that mischievous son of mine tease you again?"

It was her mother's voice, Iris knew.

She hesitated on the next step down, her heart skipping a beat.

Mother was obviously talking about big brother, obviously.....but why? And with who? Was father still here?

"N-no..." It was Melanie who spoke.

Iris should have known. Her mother seemed to place a fair bit of trust in the girl. Probably because she favored the girl's mother so much. In any case, Iris felt her mood drop. Why would mother speak about big brother with Melanie, that girl? Wait, what was that about teasing? Could something have happened between brother and Melanie?

Iris hated that. Big brother sometimes did minor things like teasing and women would mistake that as interest on his part, getting all kinds of annoying misunderstandings. Iris found that unbearable. Making those kinds of assumptions in regards to her brother, the nerve....

Melanie continued speaking.

"... master Lyle hasn't..." She sounded as if she were trying to deny something. Her voice seemed just a bit too hasty.

But the words were a bit low, slightly hard for her to hear. With a sudden growing curiosity Iris chose to stand there quietly and listen.

Straining her ear, she stood there silently.

"...dislike when people lie to me..." mother said. She spoke more, but Iris only caught a bit or it." ...actually, I wouldn't mind at all. If telling me is too hard...You do know.... bit easier on you."

Iris was getting a bit miffed. Such garbled sentences filled with empty spaces, it was truly hard to understand exactly what they were talking about. It was annoying!

Moving a bit closer, just out of sight, she leaned.

"...Lyle, the other day, he..."

" Yes? Come now, speak up."

" He, um..." The girl trailed off.

Iris felt her face twist.

Damn girl, spit it out!

The words were on the tip of her tongue but were firmly held inside. Talking about Iris' big brother while using such a small, shy voice...

Iris could tell, with every fiber of her being, that this was some important conversation. She could simply feel the tension in the air as the servant girl whom Iris had come to know hesitated in telling her story.

Mother's voice turned serious. " Melanie, did Lyle...Did he kiss you? Or maybe something more?"


" He did!"

Iris felt as if she were struck with lightning.


Around ten minutes later Lyle saw Iris walking out of the house wearing a light pink dress that matched her well. Her clear green eyes, her golden locks, her small frame, all of it felt unbearably familiar....yet what was this strange feeling he got from her now?

Something about her

Lyle was immediately on guard. Which pretty much never happened with his sister.

She walked towards him with a blooming smile, full of love and affection. She held a large bag in her hand.

"Ready?" He asked.

"Yup. Come on, let's go!" She pulled on his sleeve.


They had gotten off the carriage after they entered the city walls.

There was always many people running about, enjoying their daily lives. Holding onto Iris's shoulder, the two of them entered unnoticed among the masses.

Thankfully Iris rarely showed her face in this place or else they would be recognized instantly. The same could be said for Lyle, but a certain event from some time ago made his face more well-known than most.

" I really don't like this place, big brother. It always smells a bit dirty." Iris wrinkled her nose while.

Strangely enough she still held onto his sleeve. He didn't think she let go all throughout their ride here....

"It's not that bad, really" Lyle smiled. " I've been to places much worse, you know. This city is among the cleaner i've seen. Just bear with it for now"

"If big brother say so, then I'll try to withstand it..."

Lyle shook his head. Iris trule was quite a sheltered one, wasN't she? Well, perhaps she'll get a bit more worldly during this trip. It would serve well to have her not be cooped up in the mansion all day and night.

He looked at her out of the corner of his eye. She hadn't ever had much use for schooling, but maybe once all this trouble was over and done with he would try convincing her to go to one. allow her to open up a bit more, gain some friends.

After some time walking along the cobbled streets it was obvious they were getting some attention.

"Eh, it seems you're popular even at such a young age, Iris." Lyle grinned at the young girl to his side.

Iris looked around curiously, not having noticed anything until then. It was true. As they walked past there would be a good few people who took a second glance at them. Mostly it was young boys but there were adults of both genders smiling and admiring them.

Lyle knew that they couldn't look away from the adorable golden-haired Iris. Though a bit pale from not getting too much sun she was still very striking and lovely to look at. A bit frail, a tiny little thing you wanted to hug. There were some few gazes that had a few ill intentions....which Lyle handled easily with but a look of warning and dark promise.

Mother was a devastatingly beautiful woman, even Lyle, her son, knew that. Iris would be the same. The girl had turned thirteen not long ago and already her destructive power was something to fear. How much would it increase when her body matured more?

He would have to beat back the legions of suitors who would come running. Something he would probably enjoy. He smiled wryly at the girl and patted her head.

But Iris noticed something that her big brother either hadn't noticed or chose to ignore. " It seems that you are equally popular. Which is expect of my big brother." This was spoken with pride and utter confidence. Then her voice went flat. " But all those lustful gazes towards you is a bit too annoying. Truly, such base women are hopeless. They should keep their tongues in their mouths. They look like bitches in heat."

This was spoken with a fierce glare, her words venomous, sharp and cold. The volume was raised just enough to allow the women surrounding them to hear.

Their faces looked surprised, then angered. They couldn't believe such thorn-like words could come out of the mouth of such a cute, innocent-looking girl!

"Iris." Lyle sent her a admonishing look.

"It isn't I who had done wrong! These harlots who dare look at my brother like that need to know their place!" She said seriously. " Hmph, this is ruining my mood. Brother, why are we coming here? Ah, for that matter, where are we going exactly?" She tilted her head in curiosity.

Lyle suddenly remembered. "That's right, I never told you, did I? We're heading to Zeshar."

Iris widened her eyes " So far? Why--?"

She stopped herself. No, asking questions was useless. Whatever the reason, it allowed her and brother to have some quality sibling bonding time.

But Lyle heard her question. "I just wanted to research something that recently piqued my interest. Don't worry and just have fun on the journey, alright?

"'Kay~" Iris readily agreed. Indeed, she should simply focus on having fun. Since she has big brother all to herself for now it was time to enjoy it.

For the longest time that Sophia and Cecelia had dominated his attention, lessening the time he and Iris spent together. She even thought it was those two that made brother start this nonsense about Iris getting too old to do certain things like sleeping or bathing with him.

Truly, those vile sisters angered her to no end. Butting in on her and her brother's lives, the nerve, the sheer audacity of them....!

Ah, that's no good, she thought. Calm down, me. I can't let those two get to me. This trip is something that proves the gods favor me. Indeed, this wonderous opportunity to play and spend more time with big brother is due to my good behaviour, something which the gods have decided to reward me for.

"The gods' favor always comes with a price, my dear girl. Though I doubt they would concern themselves with something like this. Be glad for that, girl. As for this brother of yours....well, he already belongs to the two of us but there will be some troubling times ahead for him. The three don't seem eager to help him through it, either. Luckily you have me in you, else you would have all sorts of misfortune." Livia laughed.

Iris frowned. Old hag, shut up.

"Iris, are you alright?" Lyle suddenly asked.

"Ah, I'm fine." Iris smiled.

She listened for a few seconds. Nothing.

That woman. she talked whenever she chose. How irksome. It would be best if she stayed quiet.

Whatever this voice in her mind was, Iris hoped it would stay away for good. And what did it mean, "the two of us"? Brother didn't belong to anyone. Even if he did, it could only be herself and no other. As siblings, if anything, they could only belong to each other. This was obvious.

That voice was growing too presumptuous.


Lyle loved rain: He simply hated the mud that comes with it.

To explain, it was currently raining. It happened just a few minutes ago as they were walking, without warning or any time to prepare.

The clouds today had looked a little grey, though....

In any case, as it was still in it's early phase, it wasn't too bad. But he knew it would get worse soon.

Lyle was nearly to his meeting place with Cecelia when Iris tripped. She still held onto his sleeve so he was able to catch her but...

"Brother...I think I twisted my ankle...." It was hard to tell in the rain but there were probably small tears forming in her eyes due to the pain.

"We're not far from the place I need to go. Let me carry you. Then once we meet up with Cecelia I'll go and buy you some medicine for pain relief before we go get a carriage for the journey. Come on."

He didn't want her getting too wet so he took off his long coat and had wrapped her in it before quickly lifting her body up and holding her with both arms in a princess-carry.

Before he spoke the words Iris was enjoying her brother's scent from the coat....but then she realized what he said and she instantly stiffened.

"What do you mean, Cecelia?" Her voice was cold.

Lyle explained as he picked up the pace. " Oh, she's coming with us. It's a bit dangerous this time of year. There could be bandits, monsters, all kinds of things. Of course, I'm more than enough to handle things like that but she felt like coming with us. Though she needn't have, really." He mused. Then, " I'm going to get the aid of some mercenary friends since I didn't want to take any chances. Still, I fell better that she's coming. Ah, also, she's going to be in charge of keeping an eye on you. I will too, but she'll help. So listen to her and behave, alri--?"

"No!" Iris shouted, causing a few to look in their direction. " Brother, I can accept a few mercenaries, but why her? I thought it was going to be just the two of us this time! Y-you can't do this! The two of you had always gone to many places together, right? Yet you always left me behind! That's unacceptable! Do you not want to spend time with me anymore? Why do you have to bring that Cecelia into this?"

She was breathing roughly in his arms, narrowing her eyes at him.

"Iris, don't be like that. " Lyle frowned down at her. "Cecelia likes you, you know? She wants to be your friend. Let her. I'm sure if you allow it, she and you will become the best of--"

" That woman only wants to befriend be so she can get to you!" Iris all but snapped at him. " As they say, the fastest way to a man's heart is through his beloved sister!" This caused Lyle to look at her oddly, his face showing doubt at such words. He was fairly sure no one said such things. "She only ever has bad intentions!" Iris finished.

He didn't like the tone of her voice there. Wasn't she being too harsh? "Iris, I know you don't like her but that is no excuse to accuse her of being that type of woman." He told her. " Besides, what you say makes no sense. I, too, once briefly entertained the idea but in the end I realized that it's utterly preposterous. Cecelia, despite what you might believe, has no such feelings for me. You act like every woman is an enemy. I get that you're...." He searched for the words, "....protective of me, but isn't it going a bit too far?"

Iris sulked. " That's not true. I don't treat all women like that. Mother isn't an enemy." A pause. She considered. Finally, " No, definitely not. But everyone else is! Well, every other woman, that is. Maybe even some men. But still! Cecelia, at the very least, is an enemy!" She stated firmly. Melanie, too, was an enemy. But one that was tolerable. Iris did sort of like the older girl, and knew her well. So she couldn't say she hated her.

"How do you figure? She's never been anything other than nice to you. Or tried to be at least."

"As I said, she's only nice to me because of you. Hmph, that woman, why else would she be nice to me? Big brother, I know that the idea of her liking you seems ridiculous to you, but to me it's perfectly understandable. Think, you spent so much time with her. Even more than Sophia. Also, I know that you must have went through many tribulations with each other, unfortunately increasing the bond you guys share. You two have had experiences I cannot even guess at."

She looked up at him as if she blamed him for this. " You're as close as two people who are not related to each other can get. You trust her more than most anyone. What you two have is, sadly, not something even I currently have the ability to tear down and smash into tiny insignificant pieces." Iris looked truly regretful that this was the case. " Given that, how can she not have developed feelings for you? The only thing stopping her was your relationship with her sister, but now that obstacle is gone! Do you not understand? Why else would she come over so often these days? Her true intentions, I see right through them!"

Her anger at whatever she was thinking of at the moment made her eyes burn with sudden determination.

Lyle merely shook his head and said nothing more. It was true he once, very briefly, thought the same. That time he asked for her blessing he felt her reaction strange, almost....angry, perhaps jealous?

No, it was something a bit more complicated. Whatever it was, it made Lyle also think that maybe she had felt something for him that wasn't mere affection between two good friends. But he immediately discarded the notion before it took root.

Why wouldn't he? The two of them never had that sort of feelings for one another: They were the best of friends, comrades in arms, but neither of them ever showed any sign of feeling that way towards the other.

During all this time Cecelia had thought that Lyle would eventually become her brother-in-law. To have those sort of feelings for someone who may one day be family is foolish. Of course, the reason she would think that is because it would have been a natural progression.

The first time they met was, literally, for a marriage interview. It was meant for her sister Sophia, not her, but still. And everything after that was similar. Basically it was already a foregone conclusion that he would marry Sophia. Not entirely, but close enough. Unless there was another woman that captured his heart at some point there really was nothing that was in their way.

Sophia had the proper temperament and background to become part of the Greyborne family. So barring any complications Lyle would have chosen her as a wife eventually. He merely had to get to know her better before he made the final decision.

Cecelia knew this and so always treated him like family.

And that's all there was to it. Iris was misreading things. She did that often, he knew. So he kept his silence as it was pointless talking to her when she felt that she was right to such an extent.

Besides, his situation with Melanie was still unresolved. She had known she was welcome to come along as well but didn't prepare anything. Lyle could have even bought her clothes along the way if she asked. But she didn't do anything, didn't respond to his questioning look a while ago.

Obviously she still had no idea how she wanted to handle the situation and wanted time to think a bit more in solitude without him as a distraction. He was in no rush anyway so it mattered little to him if she took a bit of time with making her choice. maybe that was for the best as well. With his current state...Well, he would rather she get back to him after this matter is resolved.

Even if Cecelia truly did have feeling for him, which he currently doubted, as long as the case with Melanie was left unfinished he didn't even want to think of such delicate matters. And if Cecelia had feelings for him, that would definitely qualify as one extreme extreme matter indeed.

While sighing once again to himself, with Iris in his arms, he finally arrived at his destination.


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