She had spent the better part of the day cleaning the dusts and the cobwebs that had previously covered the entire classroom, boarding up the windows in order to deter light from escaping outside, found a table to host her favourite toys as well as smuggled in an extremely large Shahjahadian-made rug that covers nearly half the classroom.
Synnove had managed to do all this discretely without alerting the students and the teachers of her little renovation project, and all in the span of half a day. The boy is sure that given enough time, she would have soundproofed the room as well.
Gods Synnove... are you trying to turn this place into a torture dungeon? the boy silently contemplates. He can't help but ponder the frightful headway Synnove would make if she puts this sort of energy into winning a war or running a kingdom.
The boy looks at Synnove who is sitting in the middle of a classroom (not in the same chair from this morning, mind you. That one she had broken over his head when she found out he had been sleeping with another girl). She looks... different tonight.
It takes the boy a few moments to realize that Synnove didn’t have on her usual maid costume which he has grown accustomed to seeing. Instead the third year student is wearing a one piece white dress. Synnove’s long golden hair, which is normally braided into pigtails, is now flowing unimpeded down her back.
The same hairstyle and similar dress to ten years ago, the boy observes. Now he’s really worried.
Fourth floor or not, the moment she calls me daddy, I’m jumping out that window and getting the fuck out of here, the boy silently jokes in a lame attempt to calm his nerves.
“Master, you’re finally here.”
“Not like I had a choice. I’ve made a promise after all.”
“Thank goodness. I was about to…”
“Synnove? What’s wrong?”
*sniffs “Master, why do I smell Mistress Ricon on you?”
“Calm down, Synnove. I asked her to take a look at my right hand, you know, because someone broke it again with a bat this morning.”
“Is that so? Well I guess its okay then.”
“So you’re going to brush aside the small fact that you swung a broken leg of a wooden table against my arm, huh?”
“Did such a thing happen? Impossible. I would never injure Master, not unless Master did something unbecoming of his position. In which case it is a maid’s duty to guide her master to the right path.”
“I don’t think breaking my arm in three places is a good example of setting someone straight.”
“Speaking of which, if something like that did happen, then Master should have learnt his lesson by now. It’d be a damn shame if the left arm shared the same fate too.”
“Someone? Anyone? Help! There’s a maid here who’s threatening grievous bodily harm to her master.”
“There’s no maid here. I have the night off, remember?”
“Doesn’t explain the fact that you chose to spend it with me. Or why you still keep calling me Master.”
“I am here because Master promised to be here and to reward me properly…”
“Again, I would like to state that I made that promise this morning while being threatened with grievous bodily harm.”
“…and Master still hasn’t shared with me his real name.”
“So, would you like to reveal it to me?”
“Fine. Whatever. You can keep calling me that.”
“I thought so. Anyway, Master is Master no matter what he chooses to call himself.”
“A rose by any other name, huh? Are you into flowers, Synnove?”
“I’m more interested in the thorns, actually.”
“Besides, anything that has happened in the past is in the past. And any of Master’s wrongdoings, real or imagined, I would have forgiven them already.”
*sarcastically “Your kindness and mercy has no bounds…”
“Just make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
“Your wrath and jealousy knows no limit as well.”
“Anyway, let’s start immediately.”
“Whoa, slow down girl. I thought we could have dinner first.”
“No, Master doesn’t understand…”
“I really REALLY need to pee.”
“My first question would have been, what’s stopping y-“
“I need Master to come with me.”
“And then there’s that. Seriously?”
“But Master has promised…”
“Yeah, I was purposely vague on that, using broad, unspecific words while committing to nothing.”
“Fine. I’ll accompany you. Stop pleading me with those green eyes.”
“Yay. Thank you, Master.”
“Gods, you took out like five junior Ouroboros members alone and now you need me to hold your hand while we go to the little girl’s room.”
“Ah, Master misunderstood.”
“We’re not going to the bathroom… and Master won’t be holding my hand…”
*sighs “This deal is getting worse all the time.”
“Are you ready?”
“Yes. Master can turn around now. I really don’t know why you need to do that. After all, what we’re about to do-“
“What we’re about to do must never be spoken again, failure to do so will result in death.”
“Master is always so overdramatic.”
“And if you don’t understand why I need to turn around while you… change, well that doesn’t say a lot about me, but it does say a lot about you.”
“And shy as well. Don’t worry, we can fix that. But really, Master, you can turn around now.”
“Is Master entranced by my beauty?”
“If Master wishes, you can take me now.”
“Baby steps, Synnove. Baby steps.”
“Master’s insistence at taking things one step at a time is also very cute.”
“What happened to your urgent need to pee?”
“Urges can be overwritten, taken over by stronger desires.”
“Hold this please. I’ll lead the way.”
The boy follows the third year student around the dark academy. The cool air and the moonless night envelop them while the various empty buildings, now devoid of life during this time become their silent witnesses. Sometimes that boy would indicate that it’s unsafe to proceed, and they would wait in the shadows as an inebriated guard patrols by, drunk on the wine the boy had supplied earlier.
On one occasion, as an impaired guard (the fourth one they’ve encountered that night) staggers by them, Synnove takes a step back and stands closely to the boy who is right behind her. The boy would have also taken a step back but a wall prevents him from doing so. Before the third year student could brush up to him, the boy sidesteps and pulls the thing he has in his hand.
“Let’s continue, the guard’s already gone.”
“Don’t act disappointed. And seriously, aren’t you cold walking out in the open like that?”
“Master’s love for me chases away the cold and is keeping me warm.”
*rolls eye “Can we get on with it? I have a busy day tomorrow and I’d like to be in my bed soon.”
“Is Master so anxious to return to your manor and be with Rolfe Primero again? Is she waiting for you in your bed, keeping it warm for your arrival?”
The boy stops in his tracks. Synnove had used the word ‘she’ to refer to the entity. Synnove doesn’t stop walking, making the leash the boy is holding in his left hand grows taut. The boy has no choice but to continue following after her.
“You knew? About Rolfe being a girl? Since when?”
Synnove doesn’t look at the boy as she continues moving amongst the trees. During daytime, this area is popular with the elite students who would spend their free time here, playing or reading a book or having a picnic if they have no classes in the afternoon. But now, in the dark, the place looks gloomy and devoid of life.
The boy checks to see if Synnove has hidden any weapons here, maybe the third year student is walking him into a trap or hidden pitfalls. The boy breathes a sigh of relief, there doesn’t seem to be any but the boy decides to keep his guard up.
“Took me a while to figure it out but I finally realized it while I was waiting for Master in that classroom.”
“Four hours in the dark gives you a whole lot of time to think.”
“Are you angry?”
“Why would I be angry? It’s not like I saw you first and yelled out dibs for everyone to hear.”
“Oh, you’re definitely angry.”
“But I did mark Master with my scent, which should have been a clear sign for her to keep her grubby paws off.”
“I may have to look it up in the ancient law books regarding the basics of human rights, but I’m pretty sure peeing on someone doesn’t automatically make him your property.”
“No, I’m not angry.”
“The killing intent you’re emanating from your body seems to suggest otherwise.”
“What’s the difference?”
“Angry would suggest a feeling of powerlessness. Vexed means I will pay her back for this indignation. Any light that brightens up her life I will personally snuff out. Any tree that would give her shade I will fell down with my bare hands.”
“Okay, so you’re extremely pissed. Got it.”
“Master is not concerned for her?”
“She’s a big girl. She can take care of herself.”
“Master doesn’t think I can harm her...”
“Rolfe is tough enough to chew nails and asks for seconds. She’s been through a lot, you can trust me on this.”
“The only way to hurt her is if she lets you. In order to do so you need to be methodical, exacting, and most important of all, patient.”
“I don’t believe this, Master is actually advising me on how to deal with Rolfe. Why?”
“Let’s just say I had a glimpse into the near future and was appalled by your childish attempts. I don’t want you to waste half your life away on doing something futile. And before you ask, yes, you did end up relying on your father’s help, something you swore you would never do, but that failed miserably as well.”
“And even when I’ve said all this, you still won’t give up. Which is why the only other piece of advice I can give you is for you to bring your A-game right from the start. That’s the only way you’ll be satisfied in the end, no matter what the outcome is.”
“I also know it’s also useless for me to tell you to get along with her. A woman can never be friends with another woman, not if there’s a man involved. Not even when one of them is willing to share.”
“A woman’s natural enemy is another woman after all. Rolfe said she’s fine with Master going out with the both of us at the same time?”
“Now I really hate her.”
“While we’re on the subject of being pissed, we’ve been wandering around for nearly 20 minutes. Can’t you just pick one tree and do what you set off to do?”
“Master should know it’s not wise to rush a girl in an event such as this.”
“Not pressuring a girl for a kiss is fine. Restraining one’s self from shouting at the wife to hurry up putting on her makeup or else we’ll be late for dinner, I understand as well. Hell, even waiting and holding her handbag while she’s on a five-hour shopping spree, I sympathize entirely. But this… this isn’t one of those occasions.”
“There’s a first time for everything.”
“I have this sinking feeling it won’t be the last time.”
"Does Master know, some male students might consider escorting a proper lady such as myself on a night like this to be a privilege… nay, an honour.”
“I like it how you can say the term ‘a proper lady’ with a straight face.”
“A girl in my position has two faces; one for the world, and one which she wears in private. With you I'll be only Synnove.”
“Only two faces? I thought as a woman, you’d have more.”
“Opps, Master is right. The two faces thingy is a lie we tell men to make them feel good about themselves. I forgot I’m dealing with Master here.”
“Wasn’t that hard. I did see one of them when you were trying to stab me this morning.”
“I have no idea what Master is talking about. All I remember is Master holding me down, kissing me and promising me things.”
“I’m really beginning to worry about your selective memories, Synnove.”
“Anyway, we all wear masks. Each and every last one of us. For your own sake… and the happiness of the people around you… you live by killing the part of you that you most want to let out.”
“Judging by the way you reacted this morning, you seem to have no qualms about trying to kill me as well.”
“Again, Master is speaking of things I have no recollection of.”
“Synnove, you really need more fish in your diet to boost your memory.”
“Back to the subject of masks, it’s not fair really.”
“What’s not fair?”
“Master has the ability to know everyone’s true face, but you’re not willing to show me yours, even when we’re alone.”
“Hmmm? You don’t think this manic, frenzied, balls to the walls behaviour isn’t my real self?”
“No, I think it’s ramped up to disguise other things. Perhaps Master’s various eccentricities can be explained because of your fall through the Time Abyss… or amplified because of your special abilities… but there’s a side to Master you’ve kept hidden. But not completely mind you, I’ve managed to catch a glimpse of it, every now and then.”
*smiles “You did? Then please tell me what they are.”
“Shame and longing.”
“Interesting observation. Shame and longing of what exactly?”
“Well, for the shame part I figured Master feels guilty because you got most of the commoner students, future knights in the Order of Enahel, killed in the war you started.”
“You were paying attention, but it’s really not that impressive. I actually declared it the first night I came here in the north hall.”
“Well then…” Synnove who has been walking in front of the boy all this while suddenly stops and turns towards him. “How about the fact that Master’s wife is from the Kingdom of Trev?”
The boy freezes, his blood runs cold. Before Synnove could continue speaking, the boy tugs hard on the leash he’s been holding in his left hand. The third year student who is wearing the collar attached to the end of the leash finds herself being pulled forward. The girl with the long flowing golden hair would have stumbled face first onto the ground if not for the fact her neck is caught by the boy’s left hand.
Before Synnove fighting instinct, honed through years of self-defense classes at the training center could kick in, the third year student finds herself being slammed against a nearby tree. Not too hard, because even though her Master is in an agitated state he is still well aware of his own strength and didn’t want to injure Synnove. But the action is enough to knock the wind out of her.
“Tell me how you knew about her! How did you find out she’s from the Kingdom of Trev!”
The third year student doesn’t answer him. Instead she lets out a small groan of pleasure.
“Godsdammit Synnove! I’m not fucking around. Tell me!“ the boy continues shouting at Synnove. He doesn’t have to worry about anyone running over, alerted by the noise. He knows no one heard it.
Just as the boy is about to shake Synnove, he suddenly realizes that he’s been chocking on the third year student’s vocal chords, limiting her ability to communicate. Plus the third year student’s air supply has been cut off so the boy decides to let her go lest she passes out before he could finish his interrogation.
The girl with the long flowing golden hair falls to the ground, gasping for air as she rests her back against the base of the tree. There’s a look of disappointment plus satisfaction mixed in her green eyes.
The boy crouches in front Synnove, bringing himself within eyelevel with the third year student. He growls menacingly.
“Who told you my wife is from the Kingdom of Trev?”
“Remember what I said about longing? Well, on the rare times Master has a sad look on his face, I figured that’s when you’re thinking about your wife, Master would sometimes turn and gaze in one particular direction.”
“Wasn’t too hard to figure out Master was looking in a North West direction, the Whiteford Academy lies right in the middle of the Grandiel Continent after all. Anyway, there are only two countries that lay in that general direction, the Kingdom of Marak and the Kingdom of Trev.”
“I wasn’t really sure which country Master’s wife is in, so I took a gamble and picked the Kingdom of Trev. Judging from the strength of Master’s grip, I’m guessing I got it right. Ahahaha.”
“Something funny, Synnove?”
“Right now, Master is doing his best not to look in that direction.”
“Don’t worry, Master. I’m not going to expose your secret to the world. Without knowing her name or which village she’s from, the information is worthless. I doubt Master has enemies capable of putting a kingdom full of girls to the swords just for the chance to hurt you.”
“Is there a point to this exercise, Synnove?”
“Yes. I needed to show Master that I’m intelligent and more than just a pretty face.”
“What does that mean?”
“I’ll explain it to Master later. But right now, I really REALLY need to pee.”
The boy and the third year student decide to return to the classroom where they’ve kept most of their stuff and continue the discussion from there. The boy lets go off the leash he’s been holding and begins flexing his fingers. Strangely, his left hand seems to miss the sensation of leather rubbing against his palm.
Synnove takes off the collar which was attached to the said leash and heads straight where she left her white dress folded neatly on the floor. As the third year student begins putting it on, the boy turns and averts his gaze as usual.
While straightening her dress, Synnove sighs as she looks at the back of her master’s head. She doesn’t know if she should laugh or cry at his behaviour.
“Still waiting for that explanation, Synnove.”
“I’m surprised Master hasn’t used your powers to find out for yourself.”
“I kind of want to hear it from your mouth first.”
“The reason is simple really. I want Master to pick me.”
“What’s that again?”
“I want Master to choose me and be by my side.”
“Yeah... I’m still not getting it.”
“I want Master to look at me and no one else. I want to be the first thing on Master’s mind when he wakes up, and to be the last thing he sees before he goes to sleep. I want Master to dream of me and only me. I want the name that parts from Master’s lips every time he breathes to be my name.”
“Wait. Is this...”
“In exchange, I, Synnove Ciro, offer my entire being to you. My father, Prince Nigel Ciro is heir to Jazwin Kingdom and first in line to succeed the throne. Counting my sisters and the various children my father has with his other wives, I am fifth in line to succeed the throne after him. If you take my hand, I swear to move heaven and earth and gain the throne for you.”
“Our horsemen are the finest cavalry in the whole Grandiel Continent. When I win the throne for you, and I will, they are yours to command. Your enemies shall be my enemies, your burden shall be my burden, and your pain shall be my pain. I will make the whole continent kneel to you if you would only kneel to me.”
“So, what says you? Do you accept my proposal and take my hand in marriage?”
“Well, say something.”
“This is genuinely one of those rare times where I’m at a loss for words.”
“Still waiting for that response, Master.”
“Okay, not the kind of answer I was looking for.”
“Well, what do you expect? You kind of sprung it up on me out of nowhere all of a sudden.”
“If Master says he needs time to think, I will be vexed.”
“Can’t you be the regular kind of angry? You know, the one where you throw rocks at my glass windows or nail dead animals against my doorstep?”
“Nope, I will be vexed, but now with a bigger motivation to win the throne so I can set my army on the one who broke my heart.”
“That’s improper usage of your country’s resources! Apologize to your countrymen and the taxpayers now!”
“Also, if Master says no, I will be extremely vexed.”
“Not just vexed but extremely vexed? Doesn’t that mean I have only one option left?”
“It does, but if Master prefers it you can always pretend you were going to choose that option right from the start.”
The boy looks down at the unopened basket near his feet. Inside are sandwiches and cakes that the boy had originally planned to eat with Synnove. He had intended to talk with the third year student and reason with her. But now that plan is shot to shit.
The boy looks up and stares into Synnove green eyes. The girl with the long flowing golden hair looks at her master happily, as if she already knows what will be the outcome.
The boy hesitates before finally speaking.
“If I say yes, does this mean I have to ditch Rolfe?”
“It is expected. After all, a king shall only need one queen.”
“Then I’m sorry Synnove, but my answer will have to be-”
“Why are you rejecting me? Why are you picking her over me?”
“Is it because she got her claws into you first? Was she that good in bed?”
“Is it because she’s stronger and more intelligent than me? That you’ll have a higher chance to succeed in your mission if you’re with her rather than me?”
“That’s not the real reason...”
“THEN TELL ME WHY?”
“It’s because I’ve already made a vow to Rolfe.”
“I’ve told her that whatever is left of me, whatever I am, I’m hers.”
“I’m sorry Synnove but even if the whole world turns to me and tells me to abandon her...”
“Even if I made an enemy out of every single inhabitant in the Grandiel Continent...”
“I will never leave her side.”
The third year student looks down to the floor, her hands are shaking while the rest of her body is trembling. The boy knows that all sorts of emotions are currently running wild throughout Synnove’s mind. He decides to be quiet for now and let her deal with them on her own, there’s not much left that he has to say anyway and any more unnecessary words from him would probably sets her off.
The boy chooses instead to focus on his surroundings. Luckily, no night guards were patrolling by during the brief commotion Synnove raised. Looks like we’re clear on the outside, the boy exhales his breath. Not so sure about the inside...
The boy looks at the still silent girl with the long flowing golden hair. I’m sorry Synnove..., the boy quietly contemplates. You should have never made me choose.
“Why can’t I have the things I want...”
“Synnove, I’ve already explained to y-“
“It’s just that... I’m still vexed about it.”
“Why can’t things go my way? Why is Fate so cruel to me? Why can’t I have that extra cake? Why did I manage to make that impossible jump?”
“Is it because I didn’t pray enough? Is it because I’m sinful? Is it because I’m impure?
“Why am I not normal? Why am I so fucked up? Why am I twisted beyond recognition? Why do I do the things I do, even when there’s a huge risk that I might get caught and die from embarrassment and shame? Why do I sometime wish I had never made that jump? Why do I fantasize my parents finding together the cold corpse of their five year old daughter, neck snapped from the fall? Why do I dream of her lying in the flower bed outside her father’s bedchamber, her body broken and wet with the morning dew?”
“Why do I choose to follow Master in the first place? Why do I hate my dad for fucking all those maids in the palace, yet jump at the opportunity when you offered me to be yours? Why am I waiting ten years for a hug and a kiss to the forehead from my mother that I know will never come? Why can’t I find myself to hate you for breaking my heart? Why can’t I bring myself to quit you? Why am I unravelling myself to you like this? Why did I lower my armour and let my guard down for you?”
“Is it because I want to be shattered? Is it because I want to be wrecked? Is it because I want to be ruined in every way that is humanly possible? Is it because I want someone to see me for the real me? Is it because I didn’t want to continue hiding in plain sight? Is it because I got tired of being so alone in a crowd? Is it because I want to reveal this hole in my chest, deep like a hunger that can never be satiated? And even though I know it’s not possible, is it because I had hoped for an existence, someone who can fill it?”
“Even though he won’t look at me. Even though he won’t turn my way. Even though he doesn’t choose me. Even though he’s with someone else. Even if there’s a possibility I’m discarded after being used.”
“Even if I’m hurt, even if my wings melt, even if I’m broken into a thousand little pieces, even if I can never be put back together in the same way again.”
“Even so, I…”
“I want to be destroyed along with the morning dew!”
A heavy silence falls on the classroom, occasionally pierced by the sobbing of the third year student. Synnove tries her best to halt her crying but the tears just won’t stop. The girl with the long flowing golden hair has both her hands covering her face, attempting and failing to hide her true face.
“Once a week...”
Synnove lifts up her tear-streaked face. There is a look of puzzlement spreading across it.
The boy continues speaking.
“Once a week, I will give you a night off from being my maid. I’ll tell you the time and the place. Anything that happens during that time and I’m yours, no matter what.”
Before Synnove could say anything, the boy steps closer and raises his left hand to the third year student’s face. For a brief moment, Synnove thinks the boy was going to caress it or to wipe away her tears, but his hand brushes past her neck. The boy’s fingers grab the hair behind Synnove’s head, not too roughly, but enough to nearly let a groan of pleasure escape from the third year student’s lips.
The girl with the long flowing golden hair is brought down to her knees, guided by the boy’s commanding left hand as he towers over her like a titan. The boy looks down at Synnove, his face twisting into a cruel grin that’s generally reserved for his enemies, but the third year student knows it’s not genuine. He’s just putting it on tonight as a mask… for her sake.
“I will not be gentle with you. You will receive no kindness from me. I will make your wish come true. You will be… unmade.”
The boy looks into the green eyes of Syynnove and whispers the words that make the third year student trembles with excitement.
“You are mine forever to be tormented.”
END OF DAY 3
Here's another something for you guys to make up for the lack of updates
Before I forget, I would like to thank Shiroyuki who was kind enough to make an epub version of chapter 0-51 a few weeks back.
The reason why I haven't shared them with you is because I realized there were a few typos and grammatical errors that I needed to correct first.