"Ha. . .Ha . . . Ha. . ."
In a large open field was a boy, flat on his back, laying in an exhausted heap upon the ground.
"Heh, well done, young master Lyle! Ahahaha, very well done!" A muscular man, tall and mountain-like, laughed heartily with praise in his eyes.
He stared down at the boy, grinning wildly. He held a wooden sword in his hand.
So did the boy. Though his was smaller and slightly light, the workmanship of both of the wooded weapons were excellent.
Ther largest difference between the two right now was that while the man remained nearly spotless, the boy was covered with various wounds. Cuts, scrapes, bruises. Some not even acquired that day.
Lyle looked at him with annoyance, too tired to even try to smack the man on his bald head. Not that he could even if he wasnt. Lyle hated losing to him.
"Brother~!" A young girl's lovely voice rang out.
To his right an adorable young girl of around 10 or 11 wearing a light red gown raced across the open area rapidly with immense concern on her delicate, doll-like little face.
Her light blonde curls swayed in the wind.
Lyle suddenly found himself stared down at by a pair of eyes once again, this one a beautiful emerald color that was made all the more soul-catching as they began to mist at seeing him in such a state.
"Brother, are you okay? Please dont die!" She cried, cradling his head.
Ah, my dear sister, please don't worry, this brother of yours isn't so weak.
Lyle consoled her in his mind. Though his body didn't agree with his thoughts, currently.
The man laughed. " Heh, It'll take much more than this to kill the Young Master, Little Miss!"
Lyle felt a cheek twitch. This bastard, he really wanted to hit him.
The girl glared at the man hatefully, fearless.
"Shut up! This is your fault! Everyday you take my brother and reduce him to such a sorry state, how mean, how cruel! Go die!"
The man smile sheepishly, scratching his cheek in a show of embarrassment. " Ah, it seems i'm quite hated by Little Miss."
He knew very well the Little Miss' temper by now. He could only wait it out at this point. Though she can hold quite the grudge, he understood.
"Of course, just look at him, look at what you did! My dear brother, ah, why do you insist on such useless--?"
Hm, yup, it was time to step in. Lyle knew where this would lead if she continued.
"Iris. " He called out.
"Yes?" She answered dutifully.
" You do this everytime. Don't be so unreasonable towards Instructor A'daire, I'm the one who wanted this. Or do you think that I'm doing this because I like getting beat down? You think what I'm doing is useless?"
He himself hated being reduced to this, but it was necessary. He couldn't become some weak brat who let his family's influence be all that defined him. Well, that was partly why he endured this... The other reason was more for Iris' protection than anything else. Protection from himself.
Did he not tell her that at the beginning of all this?
Iris looked trouble, biting her bottom lip. " B-but brother, he-- To you, he. . ." She looked at him. Seeing his expression, she sighed. " Alright, I understand. Sorry." Iris sulked.
Lyle smiled, satisfied, "Good. "
He then painfully reached out a hand to pat her on the head. She grinned, pleased.
A'daire looked at the two, dumbfounded. "Subdued so quickly?" He blurted.
Iris glared at him once more at the interuption, making him go silent immediately.
Just now, Lyle definitely felt a chill? How odd.
"Brother, do you need help standing up?" Iris asked in worry.
Lyle shook his head and slowly stood up. "That's okay, I'm fine." He dusted off his clothes, a casual shirt and loose pants for ease of movement.
"See? Never better!" Lyle grinned at her confidently.
Of course, his mucles felt torn, and he thought he might fall over, but he gradually got used to the feeling and knew that given a bit of rest he would feel rather refreshed. The pain was the only indication he was getting stronger too. Not that he needed to get stronger, physically. Had he a normal physique this wouldn't even be needed. Lyle went through all this specifically to control his strength, not increase it.
But if this exercise didn't make him feel pain then he supposed he wouldn't be getting much benefit from it, he once read. You shouldn't let your body get too used to any set workout, though. Hence the reason A'daire made him do various tiresome things each day, ranging from running laps, lifting weights, to a strange set of movements he said would increase flexibility.
These were only some of the things he had Lyle do.
Then it was time for sword training, which Lyle took quite seriously. Though the big man gave Lyle instruction on various types of weaponry. Still, swords were the main thing he was taught due to their versatility. Spears and knives also got more attention.
He showed his sister his good health by moving naturally, forcing himself to not show any sign of unease.
"As expected of my brother, even something like this doesn't faze you!" Iris said, letting out a prideful laugh.
Lyle soon motioned for her to follow. "Come, training time's over. Instructor A'daire, thanks for the lesson today. " He bowed to the man respectfully.
A'daire guffawed as if he said something funny. " Kid, you don't fool anyone. I can smell the blood-lust oozin' from your every pore!"
Lyle waved a hand. " Preposterous. I have nothing but respect and admiration for Instructor. "
"Yeah yeah~ Your words and actions speak differently!" The man expertly dodged the sudden sword strike initiated by the young boy.
Lyle tsked in irritation. "Hmph, I'll get you one of these days, old man!" He promised with a light, carefree smile that carried a faint hint of mischief.
A'daire taunted back, " HA! Little boy who knows nothing but the taste of his mother's milk, i'm only 35 this year! Who're you callin' an old man?!"
"Is there any old, stinky men around here other than you?" Lyle laughed, throwing him the wooden sword.
A'daire sniffed in mock disdain. "Ah, whatever. Damn kid. What Young Master, I only see an unruly little brat who-- AHH!"
"Don't say bad things about my brother!" Iris kicked his shins and reprimanded him sternly.
Her blonde curls, sharp green eyes and cold demeanor made one inherently cautious. She looked approachable and sweet, but that only really showed at certain times.
Specifically, when she was around her brother.
Though deep down she was a cute and lovable girl, she just had trouble interacting with others. Only Lyle seemed to believed this, though.
Lyle patted her head once more. "Alright, that's enough. Let's let him off here and go see mother.
"See you whenever, Little Miss, Young Master." The man waved as the walked away.
Lyle raised a hand, not even looking back
"Hmph, cheeky little brat!"
And with that, they were gone.
They entered their large, multi-storied home through the back and made their way to the main entrance where one of the servants picked up several notes that had been thrown on the floor.
"Ah, Young Master, welcome. "
"Hello," He greeted politely.
"Good morning. " Iris followed suit, after a moment of hesitation.
"Do you know where we can find Mother?" Lyle asked.
"Lady Greyborne is in your father's study, Young Master. She had something to discuss with him regarding--" She stopped.
"Regarding what?" Lyle asked, curious. What could Mother have to discuss?
"Well--That--I mean. . ." She glanced at the papers on the floor nervously. "Perhaps you had best speak to her yourself, Young Master."
"I see. Thank you." Lyle nodded easily and left her to her tasks.
The servant smiled at his retreating back. Ah, Young Master, and indeed all the Greyborne family, were truly kind and caring people to talk so casually to a mere servant like her and the others here. The servent nodded to herself while thinking as such and continued her chores.
As they neared their father's study, they heard a high, melodic voice.
" This isn't a laughing matter, Dear! Look at all these! For Lyle and Iris both! Ah, these mean people are trying to take my children away. " The voice lamented sadly.
Lyle opened the door. Inside were a young couple. One was a blonde-haired beauty who wore a light blue day dress, sporting a soft face which carried rounded cheekbones, a proportionally slim nose and high trimmed brows.
Her voluptuous pouty lips were a petal pink, that complimented her delicate chin and usually charming smile.
The woman's eyes were the exact emerald color of Iris' and they resembled each other greatly. Obviously the young girl would turn out just as beautiful as her mother, Lyle and many others knew.
As for the man, he too had high, elegant cheekbones. He possessed long, think eyelashes that put most woman to shame, full lips his blue-black hair went well with his startling violet-blue eyes which were deep and full of good mirth.
He currently wore a rich gray suit cut from tweed that was tailored for comfort and style, with three silver buttons.
Lyle had once overheard some Noble Lady describe father as a "devastatingly handsome man", a compliment to his mother's own extraordinary beauty.
The two were people with both influence and good looks, praised by many of the Nobles in Drann kingdom as a couple made in heaven.
The two seemed dressed to leave for some occasion, but currently they talked with a heavy air created by the woman.
"Come, now, my sweet. These letters are expected. For our son, of course he would get so many." The man tried to calm her down with a smile.
"These are only half, I throw the others on the floor in a fit of rage. And what about Iris? She hasnt made her debut yet! Why are so many letters coming for her too?! I wont let anyone take my children away!" She wailed.
"Well, as for her, she was Lyle's main dance partner for his party. Those two, how could they avoid this?" He indicated the letters on his desk.
The woman looked distraught.
"Mother, father, what are you two talking about?" Lyle broke in and asked, Iris in tow.
"Lyle! So, you're here. Have you gotten through with your early morning studies with Miss Belle and your training session with Instructor A'daire?" He inquired
Lyle nodded. "Yes, father. Miss Belle said I am doing fine in all subjects, better than most. Though Iris is said to be nearly as good. I think she will surpass me soon though." He placed a fond hand on his sister's shoulder as she smiled widely.
"As for the old m- I mean, Instructor A'daire, I just left him. As you can see. " He smiled bitterly, indicating his appearance with a sweep of his hand.
"Very good! At least you aren't slacking. Miss Belle is a great teacher to have, its good we found her for you two. And that A'daire, he himself is a retired adventurer, rank S, no less. Other than those monsters at SS and above, he's one of the strongest in the entire continent. Having him as a Instructor will make you formidable as long as you don't grow too lax. Not that'd likely let you. " He chuckled.
"Father, about my earlier question. . ." Lyle reminded.
" Oh, right See for yourself." The father handed his son one of the letter while his mother looked at the man balefully.
He scanned the contents casually. " This is. . . A marriage request? Hm... Wait, for me?!" He let out a stunned gaze, blinking.
" Heh, yeah, you've been getting alot these days. Ever since your 13th birthday party, these things have came in nonstop. And some for Iris too, i might add. You apparently made quite an impression." The father grinned. " These dont only come from the families, but a good few of the young girls who attended sent some more personal letter addressed to you. Your're popular, son."
Lyle shook his head, amazed and a fair bit confused. "I haven't done anything all that great though? Why so many?"
"Well, the families themselves were fairly pleased with how well you carried yourself during the party, and that combined with your background made for quite a temptation. Iris too, she will obviously grow up to be like her mother. Although she has not had her debut yet officially, her dance with you that one day has earned her the attention of quite a few."
The father explained. " As for the girls, well. . . " He smirked but didn't continue.
Lyle didnt quite understand. " But, I didn't even talk to many of them? I mean, i had to dance with quite a few, as per proper decorum, but I should not have left any lasting impression on them for that alone." He said doubtfully.
He had one dance with each of them, made light conversationfor a few minutes and then that was about it.
Lyle shook his head in wonder, not knowing what actions of his could have caused something like this.
"Oh, my poor boy. . ." His mother sighed sadly at him.
How could her young son understand?
Young girls at that age were so very easy to impress. With his natural looks, talent and refined air, how could they not be even a bit smitten with him?
Even the slightly older among them expressed signs of favoring him.
Ai, he was his father's son through and through.
She sighed once more at the thought.
Iris exploded, her blonde curls shaking with anger. "But why! Those shallow girls, I made sure not to let them near big brother after their first dance with him! How can they be fixated on him to the degree of sending personal letters?! Mother, those pink, flower thing, how could you let them through? Ah, just burn them already! Big brother, although it's expected that he would be so popular, shouldn't have to be bothered to interact with such vile women!"
The young girl asserted firmly, clutching her brother's sleeve almost possessively.
Her mother nodded. "Indeed, Iris. How can we let him be taken away at such a young age by some faceless bitch we never met before?" She caught herself. " Ah...no, that was a bit too much. I shouldn't be calling young girls that." She felt guilty over the slip.
"Iris, don't be like that. Though I understand your attachment to your brother, this is all getting blown out of proportion. Did you really do such a thing? You shouldnt meddle in his personal life over much. One of those young girls could be your sister-in-law someday. " The father admonished her.
" Dear, she is only doing that in her brother's best interest. She was right to keep them away! Hmph, trying to take my son away from me, they deserve it. But she was sloppy, she should have held back that day. I could have done that myself. But now that everyone saw her, she's been getting these annoying pieces of trash too."
" Don't call them that. We should at least consider a few. Look, the Alderton family sent oneasking for Lyle to be engaged to their daughter Sophia. They have quite a bit of influence, we shouldn't so casually dismiss such an opportunity. And look here, the Williams family want to have their grandson meet with Iris and see how they do. They're wealthy merchants who can't be overlooked." The father reminded his wife.
Iris cut in. "Overruled. For mine, throw them in the garbage. I have no need of inferior beings like that. Only someone who can show 1/1000th of big brother's coolness , kindness, ability, grace and style can have the qualifications to even have me simply look at them with a second glance. Though such a thing is probably impossible for these monkeys. Even if they did, I would still not be interested at all."
Her voice dripped with obvious disdain and coldness.
The parents showed uneasy expression at this statement.
Though the mother felt hatred at having her children engaged so young, as was the norm, she still wanted them to find someone suitable for them. A person who can bring them joy.
But that was not for years to come, she wouldn't give them up anytime soon!...Well, maybe for her son, if there was some girl she truly thought was a alright match for him... Some able to support him when need be...
That aside for now, she still wanted her daughter to find happiness too someday.
And though she liked how close she was to her brother, it brought many headaches as it seemed she was unwilling to interact with others, choosing instead to chase after his shadow day in and day out.
She only really showed her cute side to him.
Though the parents sometimes thought even that was a calculated move on her part. Lyle, her dear son, didn't really believe his sister was a bad person. Neither did they. Yet Iris was certainly a troublesome daughter and sister...
Simply put, they were both slightly concerned in regards to their adorable young daughter.
Ignoring them, Lyle looked at the letters with a peculiar frown.
As the Heir-apparent to a Noble House he had to consider making the right connections. He was nearly a man now, only two more years to go. He couldn't afford to simply thrown these away, could he? His family was powerful, not needing others, but having friends with a little pull could never be a bad thing.
Plus, marrying one of these young Ladies, he'd not exactly be averse to it, provided they got along well and had time to develope feelings for one another.
That said, he looked at one with a serious expression.
Iris snatched it from him, tearing it up. "Hey!" He yelled.
She was unrepentant. "No! Brother, don't take any of these things into consideration! Dont worry, I will someday find you the perfect bride who has beauty, brains, and a good, weak temperament who wouldnt dare interfere with us! Though big brother would still be too good for the sow, rest assured that her body would at least be to your liking!"
The little girl promised with stars in her eyes shining brightly. She didn't entirely understand what a man and woman did together, exactly, but she had a rough idea.
The three looked at her oddly.
Was this the speaking level of a girl at only 11 years old? She was a little genius, but wasn't this too exaggerated?
These words, did she really say them?
They could hardly believe a young girl was saying such adult things.
"Iris, I think that's a bit. . ." Lyle began with an awkward smile.
"And if I can't find one that is acceptable, then I suppose I myself would simply marry big brother. " She shrugged.
The room was filled with a taut atmosphere, quiet enough to hear a pin drop.
Lyle felt a cold sweat built at his back in response to her words.
",,,,No, no, dearest sister....that would be a bad idea. For various reasons." He told her.
"Y-yeah. My sweet daughter, you shouldn't joke so excessively. " His mother laughed.
" Though that is one option, it would only be the very last resort. " The father said off handedly.
Lyle looked at him, shocked. "Father!" He hissed.
"What? The family line needs to continue. Though such relations between two siblings are rare, instances of doing something similar between cousins are practiced in various places to keep the bloodline pure. This would be a more difficult path due to childbirth mishaps, but that can be fixed using some higher leveled magic. As I said, it's only the very last option. You know, if every other female in the world went barren or died." He laughed nonchalantly.
"I understand you're just joking, father, but please don't. " He pleaded.
Lyle loved his sister dearly, but at the very least at this time he could never view her as such. No, rather, it would be disturbing if he ever did.
"Why?" Iris said, seeming to read his mind. " First off, I don't think many would even mind? We don't look much alike, big brother. Even father and mother don't resemble you all that much. If you were said to be the secret adoptive son, and once again announced as the official heir to the family name and title, then not many would question us."
Unknowingly, her words struck a bitter chord in her brother.
It was true. He didn't look like either of his parents in any significant way, and neither did he share much resemblance to his sister.
Bother mother and daughter were blonde, green-eyed beauties while the father was a dashing man with blue-black hair and violet-blue eyes.
While his own looks didn't lose at all to any of them, his coloring was different.
His hair was soft, silken and straight, a lustrous maroon color that curled a bit at the nape of his neck and lightly brushed just past his ears. His eyes were a mysterious dark golden color that his mother had said made one feel unable to look away.
But his facial features, while not below his parent's in terms of beauty and attractiveness, differed from their own.
Neither of them could deny he was their child, but he didnt look like them. He did share some similarities but that was all.
His father said his maroon hair came from one of his ancestors, and that it proved the blood of the Grayborne family ran strong in his veins. Natural born warrior, he called him with pride.
As for the eyes, his mother insisted that her own family were powerful mages back during the time when mage-kings were rulers of the world, and that it signified her own family bloodline was especially concentrated in him.
If fact, she said that it was not something common in other families, now or in the past, and that only the most talented members of her family held the same golden eyes in those days. Though it dwindled over the years as they mixed with other families' bloodlines.
She held that he would likely have great accomplishments as a mage, while his father insisted he become a Knight.
However, he wasnt happy at all to have these traits and talents, as looking so different from the other three made him feel a bit resentful.
Even the family portrait that they had made some time ago served only to increase this resentment.
He looked at it at times and found that he was the only one who seemed as if he didn't belong
The father, sensing his son's sudden change in mood, quickly interrupted the flow of the conversation and change topics. " Anyway, get ready you two."
Mother asked, " Why?"
He looked sheepishly at her. "Well. . .I kind of already arranged for Lyle to meet that Alderton girl. He's supposed to meet her at her family estate for tea and whatnot in an hour. Did I not mention that?"
She went pale. " You what!"
"Father, no!" Iris blurted out, horrified. " I remember that one, we can't let them meet, we cant!"
"Well, let's ask Lyle. What do you say, my boy? Will you go?" He looked at his son, begging for cooperation.
Lyle had some memories of the girl in question. She seemed to have a good head on her shoulders, from what he remembered of her.
Naturally, since he was a member of the Grayborne family, he had a duty to memorize the names of those he met at the party.
Such a simple thing, remembering a person's name in the face of all the other people at such events, went a long way in making one have good thoughts about you.
His father explained this to him many times, and he knew it to be true.
"Sure, why not? I'm free anyway." He shrugged.
"Alright! Well then, let's get you properly bathed, clothed and then head out. " He said, relieved.
"Big brother, you can't!" Iris looked at him with anger and betrayal.
"Calm down, Iris. Though i don't know if I will want to have her as my wife someday, establishing a friendship with someone of her status is a wise idea, is it not?" He calmed her down, smiling placatingly.
"Hmph, if big brother thinks it's for the best, then fine. I suppose I'll be there to watch her anyway. . ." She relented.
I really hope she wont do anything excessive while we're there, though, Lyle thought.
This little sister of his, it looks like he would have to keep a close eye on her.
He sighed inwardly.