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It was only after great difficulty that he beat down the murderous intentions in his heart.

"What's the matter, have something you want to say?" Phaedra's sadistic smile, like that of a cheshire cat, widened noticibly as she baited him.

Lyle grunted, wanting nothing more than to launch himself at her and wipe the expression off her face. Which is what she herself wanted him to do, Lyle knew.

Had it not been for Jaime's firm order to not kill each other--what he really said was to not try and beat each other into submission, but for them it probably wouldn't have ended at that--Lyle and Phaedra would have already had a deathmatch.

But they listened to him. They weren't so stupid as to hold up the entire entourage just so they can duke it out.

It's just Phaedra knew Lyle couldn't do anything with Jaime's command in place so she took the opportunity to piss him off as much as possible. Taunting him, mocking him, generally getting on his nerves.

She couldn't do anything to him either, but that didn't stop her from deriving a sick sort of pleasure in his suffering.

Lyle ignored her.

"...Hey, where's the nearest cliff?" Lyle asked the elderly man riding a horse to his left. He was an expert that Jaime hired to help them on their travels. He knew a lot, like where the best camping spots were, where to go to avoid as much of the hungry predators or monster as possible, which roads to take...those kinds of things.

It was he who recommended this specific road to them, in fact. And so far, they had smooth sailing, not a bandit or ravenous wolf or bloodthirsty monster in sight. The only thing was that they would have to spend a night or two under the stars since not many towns would be built along not-so-well-known roads like this one.

The man pointed to the east. "About 40 miles that way."

Phaedra narrowed her eyes. instantly suspicious. "And what, pray tell, would you like to know that for?"

Lyle nodded amicably, answering readily. "So I can push you off it, of course."

Her cheek twitched, and he knew then that he had, with that one little remark, ruffled her feathers even more than she had his own. The woman was too easily angered, truly a hot-headed person deep down despite what her icy mask of a face would have you believe.

Lyle was satisfied even more when he saw her fingers jerk slightly and reach for the sword at her side. But like him, she could only hold it in.

Melanie and Cecelia in the carriage, Cecelia sharpening her weapons while Melanie was busy knitting something.

As for Iris, she had fallen asleep, once again, on Lyle's arm. This was odd to him, he noticed that she seemed more tired than normal the past few days and he took that as a bad sign.

He had a nagging thought that she was actively communicating with that thing inside her. Maybe it was trying to worm it's way around her, like a snake. He didn't know, but he had no power to stop it. He wanted to get to Zeshar fast, see if he could dig up any information on exercising evil spirits. Which he assumed these things were similar to.

More specifically though, he wanted to see if he would be able to find anything on they themselves. Surely a few of the older texts would have some information on them, right?

Since they have been sealed for so long, he could only check the really old documents if he wished to gleam any clues. He was not sure if he would even be able to find anything out about them at all, but information was something he needed and this was the best way he knew how to get it.

It was too dangerous and unpredictable to tell anyone about what was happening to them. He didn't want to implicate his father and mother in this.

If they knew then they would probably help him. But if the Council found out these things were inside him and Iris, who knew what they would do?

They had ways of knowing things, and he wouldn't take the chance they would turn hostile. It may be foolish to keep it quiet, but he would be damned if he would made a hasty decision like that instead of trying to understand what was happening to them himself.

The three inside his own body had still not talked to him at all, but he thought that they may be watching him even now. Maybe waiting for an opportunity to make him slip.

Phaedra's eyes glowed dangerously, a common thing when speaking to him. "Just you wait until we stop to rest for the night. We'll see who has the upper hand then. Remember, in battle anything goes. Before you go to sleep, I will get you back for this. Mocking me, only you would dare..."

"Oh?" Lyle cocked a brow at her. " Before I sleep, you say? Battle? Are you implying we'll have a bedroom brawl, then?"

Make no mistake. Lyle only made such comments because he understood that they set her off especially well. Whatever actual attraction he might have had for her was vastly overshadowed by an extreme dislike for the young woman.

So these words were meant solely to piss her off. Though just saying the words made him feel sick to the stomach, it was worth it to see that stiff, hateful expression!

" Laugh it up, bastard. I don't believe I can't make you eat those words before the day is done! Be prepared for a world of pain and suffering, dog. I'll tie you up and--"

But he didn't let her finish. "No thanks, that's a bit too kinky for me. I think you're more suited to that role rather than me anyway. Oh, wait. That actually sounds like fun. Should we try it then? Don't worry, I'll be gentle. Well, at first."

"Disgusting pig." With that, she urged her horse forward.

When she left, that old man spoke. "You two seem to get along so well." He spoke mildly.

"Yes, indeed. You can see how much affection is just oozing out of our every pore at the sight of each other. As you can tell, sparks fly whenever we meet."

"Ha. Don't you know sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, boy?"

"You're allowed to use it, but I can't? That hardly seems fair."

"Life ain't fair. And besides, only old folk like me who's minds are rotting from the inside out should have the right to use it. Young people like you we expect better from."

"Yeah, I get that a lot. Too much, actually." He muttered that last part under his breath.

Lyle was a Greyborne, in the future there would be many people within the Council and the other world powers who would be expecting a lot from him. To not bring shame to the Greyborne family, he had been raised and trained with exceptional care.

He was being prepared to someday go out into the world and become a "great person". With a year or two his father would have even most likely sent him to be trained as a Knight whether he wanted to or not.

Lyle would have gone himself, and will, eventually, because becoming personally strong was useful in various ways. The biggest reason he wanted to train in the early days was to not hurt his sister by accident, and that was still a large motivator, but he later understood that even if he didn't do so himself he would have been forced into it one way or another.

Almost all the Greybornes in the past were strong, he couldn't be any different. And because his innate talents were so good, something that was tested and confirmed when he was but a child, he could only be better than those before. He had to be.

Because he had the potential, it couldn't be wasted. This is what his father and mother nailed into him. Perhaps not as much with words, but from the way they looked at him.

So although he, as of right now had a fair amount of freedom, it was never actually as much as he wanted to believe. It was an illusion, because at the end of the day he would still have to be the "best" version of himself that those who mattered would expect from him.

Whether it be in academics or martial combat, Lyle was "expected" to simply be better than others. He had to excel. Which is why his father hired two astoundingly capable teachers like A'daire and Miss Belle for him. And iris, to a lesser extent.

As such, Lyle really had no intention of meeting the expectations of people who didn't matter.

"You, kid, look like you may have a chip on your shoulder. I like that." The old man chuckled. His sharp ears had caught that remark of his.

"Thanks, I suppose. I'm sorry, I don't think I caught your name." Jaime had introduced them, but somehow Lyle couldn't recall the man's name at all.

"You can call me Bane."

I can call you, huh...what a weird way of phrasing it....

Usually when people said that they were being evasive. They were saying ,'This is what you can call me, but it's not my name'.

They were just being subtle about it. That wasn't true in every case, but in this one, Lyle thought it was. Maybe Bane was a nickname, perhaps? He shouldn't overthink it.

"Bane. I see. I'm Bellamy Greyson." He offered a hand, and the man shook it.

"A Greyson, is it?" There was a twinkle in his eyes, appearing to find something amusing. "Alright, then." He leaned back on his horse, getting more comfortable. "So tell me. What do you two have against each other? At first I thought this was all just sexual tension that you two didn't wanna admit to for some inane reason, but I really have never seen anyone so incompatible with each other as you guys are. It honestly does make me curious."

He stroked his long, white beard in thought.

Lyle was caught off-guard by the question."Huh." He said. "You know, it just occured to me that I don't even recall why we dislike each other so much. Or when it started, for that matter."

"Is that so? Does she remember, you think?"

"Yeah, probably. No one can hold a grudge like a woman can."

"Ain't that the truth..." The old man sighed deeply. "But I'm thinking she may not remember it either."

"Why?"

"Because you said she might. If you thought she didn't I would inexplicably think she would know."

"How does my answer have the power to change you thought on the matter like that?"

"I don't know. Kinda feels a bit like foreshadowing to me. As I said, can't explain it well."

Lyle felt that was a rather weird logic. Foreshadowing? In stories, maybe.

"It's not like voicing my opinion will have any effect on what actually is." He replied.

"Wouldn't be too sure about that, lad. It might. Your words or actions can indeed influence the way things are. Or at least, sometimes. It doesn't do it for everyone. When it does, though, the world will change it's own history or it's people, warping causality. It's all very complicated, you probably wouldn't understand. Have you ever heard of a universal constant, my boy?"

...He had. In fact, it was the second time he heard about it in the past day.

With a peculair frown, Lyle replied hesitantly. "Yes, but--"

"Good. Kinda odd that you have, but whatever. You see, my boy, this is similar to that. Or maybe directly related to that? Anyway, something that will happen, will always happen, and in every reality.

If it doesn't, then the universe will make it so that it will. This is where the whole rewriting of history comes in. When explained this way, it's simple, no? Kind of. Bah. Not that it matters. Whether you are one of those who can cause waves such as these to happen, I don't know, I'm just saying."

"That's...interesting." It was, but..."Is there a reason you're telling me this?"

"Maybe?" The old man questioned. "Who knows. You said voicing your opinions has no effect on what it, but you're wrong. It does. Or it can. For you, I think it can?" He asked. "Also, that aside, don't you think it's weird that you don't remember? I would be suspicious. For that matter, can you even remember clearly the first time you met her? I doubt you do. And that's what you should be questioning.

Because if you did remember, and everything was fine, then why would your Life's Essence be so out of sorts? It's not supposed to look that jumbled up, you know. It's like everything has been made into an incomprehensible series of knots. Never seen anything like it, really. And those three, obviously not normal spirits. Even I'm a bit scared of them, and they aren't taking on phyical form at all!" He stopped, tilting his head, as if listening to something. " Oh, wait. Sorry, this'll have to be cut short. Looks like they're here already. You should go and take care of them. As for myelf, I have to leave as well. It's been nice talkin' to you, boy. Maybe we'll meet again sometime. "

Now, Lyle found this entire thing to be very shady. Who the hell was this crazy, rulingng ld man? Lyle was just about to open his mouth to question the guy when a rough, low-toned voice rose up.

"Give us everything you have, leave those four pretty young bitches with us, and get the fuck out of here."

*********

When the Jagged Edge bandit group leader, Sabine, got the reports from his scouts that a group of mercs were heading this way, he was ecstatic.

Finally a fucking break from this boredom.

But what made it even better was that they told of four young, exceptional beauties were moving with them. This made Sabine excited more than if he heard they carried caravans stuffed with gold and rode on horse filled to the brim with precious gems.

How long had it been since he had a good woman underneath him? Fuck, how long since his men did? They had all become rather addicted to those Red Flower Dream Houses

Sadly, however, they hadn't been able to visit one in a while, and even if they did they wouldn't be able to afford it right now.

So hearing about four young and pretty girls making their way to his own doorsteps, Sabine was understandably eager.

He would have to let his men play with them a bit once he was done with 'em himself. They obviously wouldn't be at the level of the the Dream House beauties they fell in love with, but he always felt that there was a certain pleasure in the act of breaking in something new.

This would be the same.

His sent his scouts to keep track of their movements while he had his second in command take two dozen or so men, out of the total five dozen that where part of their little group, prepare to "welcome" their guests.

Those scouts of his were damn good, probably no one would be able to spot them in their own turf!

Sabine wasn't worried they would be found out.

in the span of an hour the mercs, and with them the new toys, were here.

**********

"Oh, look. They finally showed themselves."

This was the thought running through almost everyone's mind just then.

Boris, Val, Jaime, Murphy and the other mercs had noticed the scounts some time back. Jaime and the rest knew that Phaedra and Bell must have caught sight of them too, but were too preoccupied with verbally skinning the other alive to care over much.

Everyone had readied for a fight ages ago. Those in the caravans busied themselves with sharpening their blades just for this occassion.

No one was worried.

Since they had seen them, it meant the bandit group the scouts belonged too must not be so powerful anyway. Most likely not spanning more than forty or fifty. Maybe a bit more. And that was only in total. These people who blocked their way couldn't be over thirty men at the most.Obviously this was not even their full force, so they had even less reason to worry.

They themselves had only two and a half dozen, but they were all skilled fighters. One of them could take on two of the other side, juding from how those bandits carried themselves. Completely open to attack, lacking discipline.

They had Val and her small team of archers too, who could each probably shoot the wings off a damn fly if they wanted to.

Not just that, they had other means of fighting as well. So what reason was there to be scared?

Seeing how they just stood there, the first man blew up. "Are you deaf? Hurry it up! Drop yer stuff and the women, then leave! And bring that little girl to me so I can have some fun with her. On with it, or I'll have yer fuckin' heads on a spike!"

He was a decidely fat man, wearing leather armor that barly fit him with pieces of metal plated in certain places to protect his vitals. As he talked about the "little girl", a small tent was shown standing proud from within his loose pants.

Lyle's expression went flat. "Val. Give me your bow." Lyle, having made his way here to see what the hold up was, suddenly asked the woman. He had Iris go into the spacious carriage to rest. There was more than enough room for her to sleep comfortably inside.

As soon as he heard what this pudgy man said, Lyle knew that he had to kill him. He wouldn't be satisfied otherwise. But he wanted him to suffer first.

"...Don't break it." She handed it over, cautioning. That cold look in Bell's eyes made her pause. It was as frightening as always.

"Thanks."

The other man narrowed his eyes. Noticing the strange interaction, he was about to give an order to attack.

But just then--

--Lyle loosened an arrow from the bow. It flew through the air with an exceedingly fast pace, a total blur, the only thing you could see was the light that was reflected off the cold steel head as the dying rays of the sun hit it just right.

And mere seconds later, it plunged deeply into the area right between the man's legs.

The man stopped just as he opened his mouth, a look of horror upon his face. An instant later, he howled in pain. His breathing quickened to three times that of a normal person and screamed his lungs out, his crotch feeling a sharp, piercing agony that made him want to throw up.

In a matter of moments, he passed out from the intense pain and landed on his back.

No one was quite able to believe what they had just witnessed. Neither side moved an inch. The bandits just stared at their leader's fallen figure with a blankness, not understanding what had happened just yet.

Luckily someone explained it to them. "Son of bitch, he shot the man's cock!" Murphy exclaimed, laughing hysterically. As expected, having Bell with them made things much more interesting!

Every other man, however, shivered.

"Kill them!"

"Attack!"

The bandits launched a sudden assault, breaking from their reverie.

Lyle and Nyk, having drawn their swords, charged at the oncoming men. Boris, Murphy and about ten other mercenaries did as well while Val took back her weapon and began picking some of the bandits off along with her own bow-wielding women.

The arrows were deadly fast and accurate, none of them missing it's target. The eyes, throat, forehead, not one off the mark.

A rather tall bandit, along with another one armed with a dagger, honed in on Lyle.

As Lyle was about to clash with them, a hoarse voice whispered at the back of his mind.

" Massacre every one of these dogs."

"Kill..."

"Kill..."

"KILL...!!!"

A loud roar, an explosion, erupted inside his mind. Lyle, already enraged by the fat man's words, was incited to new heights of anger and hate.

The one holding a sword made a very crude downward slash at him, using his full strength.

He dodged, stepping to the side and allowing the blade to whiz past his face. Then he brought his own weapon up, cleaving the bandit's arm. It sprayed a rain of blood, cut entirely in half.

The other man was behind him, ready to stick Lyle with his dagger.

But Lyle was already prepared, he hadn't lost sight of the second man at all.

He shifted to the right, and the dagger struck the first man in the gut. Lyle then kicked the man away, surely causing broken ribs. Next, he reached behind him and and took the shorter man by the throat. With seeming little effort, he raised he man and threw him on he ground a few feet away. He crashed into another bandit that was currently fighting with Murphy.

He took deep breaths, his entire body feeling hot. It felt so...good.

The younger boy looked at Bell. "You really are a crazy strong bastard, aren't you? How the fuck can you lift a person like that?"

Murphy really was scared of Bell in that moment. Whenever he saw him fight, it happened. So coldly, calculating, methodical....yet somehow full of a wild sort of aggression. Like a beast in human form.

One who traded their claws for a sword.

The only thing that was different was that he now felt even more savage than before. Raw, somehow.

Lyle ignored him and left, leaving to take care of more bandits. All of his attacks were fast and made with pinpoint accuracy. He tore through them, his sword cutting into flesh like they were butter and bone like they were sticks. Every motion was executed fluidly, like water, with no pause whatsoever as he made one move and slipped into another.

His sword was not the one that Murphy and Nyk got for him, because it was still good to use. Even though it was an ordinaly blade, it was still an instrument of death in the hands of someone trained in it's use. And Bell, that guy, was a reaper. No one escaped his onslaught.

Murphy watched him a moment longer, thinking that he seemed different just but but couldn't understand how.

He then charged into the fray once more. Murphy was a person who specialized in speed and sought for the opponent's weak spot. He saw an opportunity, he would take it.

Nyk and Boris fought side by side. Like machines programed for slaughter, they cut into all the bandits unlucky enough to be caught in their crosshairs. Boris, a large battle-axe in hand, lopped the head off an enterprising young bandit. Smilling from ear to ear as if he was having the time of his life.

Nyk was different, he was more serious. He used his broadsword and struck whenever he saw a lapse in the enemy's guard, much like Murphy. His attacks were not as fast as Lyle and Murphy's but he didn't lack speed and had a calm nature when going for a kill. None of them had any difficulty.

Loud shouts were issued, and the sound of dying bandits was everywhere.

Phaedra was fighting against no less than three, they had her surrounded. But she had no trouble at all.

She was swift and graceful, cold and ruthless. When a sword came at her, she parried it with her own. When it looked like an attack would hit, she moved to the side and dodged with a razor-thin margin. All while launching her own counter-strike in one seamless motion.

She had no change of expression at all as she killed. She had long since grown numb to death. It meant nothing to her now.

In little time, all the attacking bandits had either been killed, crippled or severly injured in some fashion or another.

Blood had splattered across Lyle's face, giving him a terrible visage when in combination with the overbearing aura he let out. Of all those here, probably he was the most fearsome.

Those who knew him were not surprised, but those who hadn't were a bit weary of this youth. In the short amount of time the battle lasted, they had seen him cut up all his enemies like they were made of cotton.

Once, they even witnessed him crush a man's face into the ground. Literally crushed it. Like putting an egg onto the ground and pushing down until it broke.

Such a powerful bloodlust...

It seeped out of him, seeming to form a red cloud over his body....Some of those here, halfway through the battle, even thought that his eyes had turned a crimson color....but of course that had to be impossible...

In fact, probably the most kills went to that young man there. He was akin to a war god, sowing destruction everywhere during the fight. He seemed to lose himself, viciously striking out with all that he had in a wild frenzy and getting more crazed with every passing second.

A veritable Berserker rage had seemed to come over him. And no one wanted to get in his way. Because they could feel that if they got too close, with that massive bloodlust he had at that time, that hazy look in his eyes....the ones he would come after could be them, whether he did so deliberately or not.

That aside, none of them were too tired. They were a bit bloodied but almost completely without injury. This was in large part due to the excellent back-up Val and her archers gave.

A few of the bandits were even killed before they could draw their blades. There were a few archers among the bandits, maybe five, but they were killed at the very start of the battle. Useless.

As everyone was busy catching their second wind, stretching their muscles casually, Murphy and Nyk saw Bell walk towards the leader.

He hadn't moved at all from the spot, but stayed on the ground while everyone else was fighting. He was only now coming to, his pudgy face leaking sweat and jiggling vigorously.

He didn't dare move, because every single twitch brought untold amounts of agony. His ruined member was causing blood to pool around his legs and his pants were soaked in reddish brown liquid.

Lyle walked over to the man with even steps, not in a hury at all.

"That little girl you talked about was my sister." He said. As he approached closer, he took out a knife that was strapped to his leg.

" I'm going to hurt you now..."

He was speaking slowly.

"Please, don't...!" The man's face was a mask of terror. "I-I'll give you anything you want. You want money? I can give you ten bags of gold! Just don't...don't ..." He blubbered. "No, stay away!"

The man bawled, shrieking, his pupils becoming tiny little beads. Seeing that his previous words had no effect, he screamed angrily.

"If you fucking kill me, when my brother learns of this, he'll find you, your mother and your sister and rape them in front of you! He'll make them beg for him to fuck them, then kill them, and later feed your cock to a dog! If you don't want to have that happen--!"

"Noisy..." Lyle's hand shot out, and using two fingers, he grabbed the man's tongue. An instant later, he cut it off.

A muffled scream.

"Next is the eyes, then the nose, then I'll cut open your skull and see if I can't do a little experimenting."

A minute later, he heard something. "Lyle..."

Cecelia saw what was happening and came over. She was shocked to find out that Lyle was about to torture the man. This...this wasn't like him.

Maybe cutting him up, but to look like he actually derived pleasure from it....that was...it really just wasn't like him at all.

"What are you doing?" She held onto his shoulder to stop him.

"I'm..."

Lyle stopped.

"No, that...I'm...What was I..."

He felt like a veil had been lifted just then.

"Are you alright?" Cecelia asked in concern.

"...I'm fine. I'm good."

"...."

He was lying. He was shaken. She knew he was. Maybe not by what he was about to do. But something else. And she didn't know what it was or how she could help.

He was never an easy person to see through, but Cecelia knew him very well. She could see that he was in pain, and that it wasn't physical.

But if he didn't tell her what was wrong, what could she do? Nothing....

Lyle looked down at his handiwork. The man was missing a tongue and an eyeball. He had once more passed out.

He didn't understand why he would do this. Yes, he would have roughed him up, cut off a few fingers and make him cry, but he wouldn't try his best to torture him like this. Lyle, when it came to Iris, was capable of being cruel.

But for those words alone, he wouldn't have done this.

If he had touched even a hair on her head, he would have done it. But otherwise, what was the point of going this far?

And just now...Lyle felt...

He wasn't sure.

Hate?

Something like that.

But that hate had nowhere to go.

Or maybe it went everywhere, touched everything...

He didn't know what came over him, but that's what it felt like. A hate that he couldn't explain, deep, unfathamable. Molten lava pouring into him and needing to be let out or he would explode.

"Come on." Cecelia took his arm and urged him to follow her.

"Wait."

Lyle couldn't leave him alive. For talking about his sister like that, his mother, how could he let him live? If he had even a .1% chance of living with having said those previous words of his, he didn't after that little threat he had made.

Brother? Who was his brother, he was nothing. Just a common bandit that could never hope to touch his family. But still. It was the principle of the thing.

Lyle took his knife and drew it across the man's throat, the thick dark blood coming out like syrup.

"Alright. We can go."

**********

"Big brother, what happened?"

She heard a lot of loud noises that woke her up, but that Melanie woman made her stay inside the carriage. Even covered her ears. So Iris didn't know exactly what went on.

An attack?

She was pretty smart, so obviously knew what the most likely scenario would be. When her brother came inside the carriage with them, she and Melanie thoroughly checked him for wounds. He had no say in the mattter, Iris forced him to let them do it.

After that, she asked her previous question.

"Nothing too eventful." He understood that Iris knew what went on, but didn't want to give her any details.

"Oh." She just nodded. " I'm just happy you're okay, big brother." She hugged him unexpectedly, her arms winding their way around him.

"As if it's possible I wouldn't be." Lyle laughed. He turned to Melanie. From her haunted look, he knew she must have heard everything and feared the worst.

"Are you alright, Melanie?" His voice was soft, gentle, not wanting to somehow scare the girl. It was almost like he was speaking to a frightened animal.

"Oh, yes...I...I'm..."

She stopped

An instant later a few tears built in her eyes. " I'm sorry, um, I'm just a bit...worked up..." She averted her gaze and tried to wipe the tears away.

She heard the fighting, heard everything. And as it dragged on, she grew to fear the Young Master... and Lady Cecelia...might end up...

It was not something she had experience in, fighting. She listened to the low moans and pained cries with a numbness. It didn't feel real, but it was, and her heart pounded at the thought. She felt like a mountain was perssing down on her.

It was at it's worst when the fighting stopped. That dreadful silence...

"I'm sorry you had to hear that. It's over now, don't worry. I won't let anything happen to you or Iris. Alright?"

Lyle hated when women cried. It always made him feel bad. He would probably do anything to make them stop. But he had little experience in comforting women when they teared up.

So in this moment, he did the only thing he knew what to do in that situation.

He reached out, and patted the girl on the head. It had always worked with Iris, and he hoped it would work here too. It was a bit awkward for him, but that was all.

Melanie froze. Suddenly being touched like this, so intimately, made her on guard. Surprisingly, though, it did help...After a while, she even got used to it. This feeling...it was very strange.

"Hm. Are we interupting something here, I wonder?" Murphy appeared, having opened the door. Next to him was Nyk.

"Are you implying there is something to interupt, I wonder?" Lyle shot back.

" Yes, I can see you're in the middle of trying to tame an innocent young maiden. How despicable. You really are a beastly man, my dear Bell. I would expect no less from my best wingman. But doing such things when you already have a girl, you're too much. How envious...no, I mean despicable."

Murphy drawled.

Melanie was both ashamed and angry at that. She was not some pet to be tamed, like the man seemed to imply! Also, the Young Master was not like that. These words, even if you looked over the fact that they stepped all over her dignity as a woman, weren't they making light of his good name?

...Well, he wasn't using his actual name, but still! The Young Master definitely wasn't like that. At all. Sure, maybe he liked teasing her from time to time, but...

...And there were those...those things he did to her the other day...but...something like taming, he wouldn't...Wait. Did the Young Master not say once that she reminded him of a small animal? And he is pretty much petting her right now...

This...she didn't know what to do. Was he really trying to tame her? No. Surely not. Melanie rejected the idea outright. Young Master Lyle would of course never do such a thing! Probably...

...Melanie was going to say something to the man, but now found that she was too embarrassed--and confused--to speak.

Lyle had no idea that his image in Melanie's mind was undergoing somewhat of a change at that moment. If he knew, then he would have throttled Murphy for those foolish words.

But of course the main reason for the change would be due to his own actions and words towards the girl, causing the small kernal of doubt to appear in the first place.

Not knowing any of this, he simply shrugged and stopped his actions.

"So is there something you wanted?"

"Yeah, help up throw the bodies out to the side so we can move on. There'll be all kinds of ravenous animals--Among other things--coming once they smell the blood. Best we be long gone by then." Murphy said.

"You killed a lot. You have to help." Nyk said. " Come on." They would leave the bodies to be eaten. The rest of the bandits that hadn't come, unless they attacked, didn't matter to them. Why would they waste time hunting down a group of outlaws when they had things to do?

"Right..." Lyle extracted Iris from his body, then stood up. "Sorry, I have to go. Iris, by the way...do you have to go to the bathroom?" He asked, whispering softly inter her ear.

He was worried about that. There was no toilet around and they were unlikely to find any small towns around. Given how pampered she was he figured going out in the middle of a forest wasn't a very pleasant thought.

"No, big brother." She replied, blushing faintly. It wasn't due to the question. "I went before we left Ustrax and I hadn't eaten anything. I didn't drink much water either." She informed.

"Oh." He frowned. "Don't do that, though, you're a growing girl. If you need to go, tell me."

"Alright. I will."

"Good. Let's leave then." He followed Murphy and Nyk, closing the door behind him.

As they were walking to the front, he looked at Murphy. "Hey, have you seen Bane anywhere?"

Lyle hadn't seen him since the start of the battle, It's like he just vanished out of thin air.

"Who?" Murphy questioned back, puzzlement drawn on his face.

"Bane. The guide."

"Did we have a guide?" Murphy looked at Nyk for help.

"I don't think so." He said simply.

"Huh..."

Lyle felt this was all very strange.

Fifteen minutes later he walked up to Jaime, who was talking to his sister. As soon as she saw him, she disappeared. He ignored her, too.

"Have you seen Bane, the guide, anywhere?"

Jaime made a face, like he had no idea what he was talking about. "Who's Bane? I don't know anyone by that name."

"The guide. I just said."

"I heard you." He said.

"So where is he?" Lyle asked, knowing, fearing, the answer.

"Bell. There's never been anyone here with that name."

"...What're you saying?"

"I'm saying I don't know who that Bane person is. Bell, we don't even have a guide."

**********

Currently, in a dark room overlooking a mountain pass through it's windows.

"Ahh....I finally found it."

Bane held a glowing, golden ball in his hand. It was an eye, it's pupil a deep gold and the source of the light.

"Who knew it would be in a place like this. A treasure, wasted in the hands of these fools. Truly lamentable..."

Behind him were several figures with lifeless eyes, standing at attention. Their hearts had been ripped out.

And two of those figures were dead. Well, they were all dead, but those two more so than the others.

These armored warriors had hollow eyesockets and skeletal frames. As previously said, they were dead.

More specifically, they were Undead.

"Now that this thing is in my hands, I can finally achieve true ressurection of life. Or would it'd be closer to reincarnation? I was never clear on that....Either way, I'm glad I found this little bugger."

Bane was talking to no one but himself, muttering softly. Or maybe not. Maybe he was talking to the Undead beings withi him, He wasn't sure. He had a habit of doing that, talking aloud. Had ever since he became what he was all those years ago.

"I wonder if I should have brought that boy along with me. He smelled like a Bathory, that one. It was strong too, like how I imagine a pureblood would smell. Bathory clan, eh. Hm. Frightening. It likely would have not gone well if we were to butt heads had I taken the boy. And Greyson, he said...how nostalgic. Those people, I wonder if they still exist. Those Greyborne slaves. But why would a Bathory clan member bear that surname? His name probably wasn't his real one, but even so, it's odd he would choose that. A coincidence? Maybe. Oh well."

"I think I would have liked to have him here. I'm not young anymore, afterall. A helper would have been nice. The young sister of his, too, would have been good. She might have a talent for it as well. Though she seems to have more affinity for the Lighter aspect of things. Never a good thing. Ah, now that i think or it the boy did too, but it seemed like it was in a slightly different way than she. Can't put my finger on how, though, It's unfortunate that they both felt tampered with.

Those things, were they his guardian spirits? No, a person only has one in their lifetime, not three. There was one on the girl too, like the others inside her brother. I've never seen guardian spirits like them, either. So possessive. Especially the girl's. It's almost like she had become one with her's. Yet the boy rejects his. Most curious indeeed.

Forget it. I probably won't meet them again."

The eye disappeared from existence, and Bane smiled faintly. "Come, my pets, let's be off."

In a burst of black and steel-grey light, they all vanished.

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