The room was dimly lit by a small lantern at the middle of the table. The twelve faces that surrounded the table were serious ones, each drawn into its own pool of thoughts. Dark shadow casted over the face of the one at the head of the table, his face drawn into a hard image of annoyance and frustration.
Goben sat next to him on his right and as he pulled the lantern closer to read the small piece of paper on the table again.
"This is in Canilus' language." Goben said, stating the obvious.
"You think I can't see that?!" DL asked, clenching and unclenching his fists.
"Can you read it or not?" He added, frustrated and angry.
"I can only try, Dragon Lord. The language of Canilus Kingdom isn't what I am really familiar with." Goben said, focusing really hard on the paper. He was trying really hard to even see the words.
The whole room fell into silence, the anxious tapping of someone's boots interrupting it as they all awaited what the result would be.
"And where in Heaven's name is Aliyah? She knows this language, she can read it perfectly. That is where she is from!" DL said angrily, muttering more words to himself, trying hard to calm himself down. He glared at Roc, a man with black spiky hair, and the tapping stopped abruptly.
They had caught another bird again, a bird with information about the coup. The first time they did was when they found out that the uprising were all linked to a major one. They caught another one and they considered it as been lucky. This had rarely happened since DL had to be faced with this new challenge against him. He had to admit, no uprising had ever thrown him into so much confusion and frustration as this had.
It annoyed him to no end.
"I can't really tell but it says something about Water Tribe and..." Goben paused as they all listened intently.
"... this is no use! I can't tell what the rest means." Goben said in frustration.
A tall lady in a black ninja assassin custom rushed in then. She pulled down her hood. A part of her black short hair fell over a part of her face, the other side shaved.
They all looked up at her as she tried to adjust her eyes to the little light provided in the room.
"You are late!" DL stated, still angry.
"My profound apologises, Dragon Lord." Aliyah said as she bowed swiftly.
"This part is filled with houses like this one and I, though not proud of it, must admit that I was lost." Aliyah said as she walked over to the table, waiting for a invite for her to have her seat.
The Dragon Lord's eyes twitched in amusement.
They always got lost...
Goben was always careful with their location for their meetings. They never stood in a place for too long and when a place was picked, it was always something tasking to find. Though he still wondered if he should be disappointed that Aliyah got lost or if he should be proud of Goben for being so talented.
While he wondered in silence, his eyes caught the paper still in Goben's hand. He had to have Aliyah read that immediately. The more they tarried, the more they gave the enemy more chance to get to them.
"Sit, you have a message to read." DL ordered and Aliyah sat down immediately. Goben handed her the paper and she drew the lantern closer to her.
The room fell silent again.
"They are having the next meeting at Water Tribe, a bar just around the border. The meeting will be the day after tomorrow." Aliyah said, dropping the paper.
"They didn't really give a detailed description about this bar?" Roc asked toying with his hair.
"And who are you to do the questioning?" Rina hissed, twirling her long silky hair in her hand.
They were always at loggerheads. They stared at each other angrily in the darkness, each one refusing to back down.
DL sighed to himself as he wondered if ever picking them to be part of this was ever a great choice but still, they were great at what they did so he thought it was alright after all.
"Answer him, Aliyah." DL said, his voice bringing all attention back to what was important.
"No, they didn't." Aliyah spoke.
"There are many bars around the border. This is frustrating, what if we get to the right one when they are already done?!" Goben asked annoyed as he flew up from his seat.
A look from DL put him back down.
"They want us to be confused, a well thought out plan." DL smirked darkly as he caressed his lips in deep thought.
"Aliyah, Roc and Malik," DL started "start your journey to the Water Tribe at dawn. Remember to be very careful and not let yourselves be recognizable. Gather as much information as you can. I don't want them to know that we know of them yet so you'd better not attack."
He ended his order and they all acknowledged.
"Yes, Dragon Lord."
Then someone shuttered in.
His eyes were filled with urgency as he tried to adjust his eyes to the little light. He searched the faces around the table till he could, at last, see the one he was looking for.
Goben frowned, already coming up with a remark about his lateness.
"Dragon Lord!" Lewis said bowing swiftly. Hearing that, Goben sank deeper in his seat and pressed his lips together. It seemed that something was going on. The silence vibrated with curiosity.
"Arise, Lewis." Dragon Lord said.
"It is a matter of... urgency?" Lewis said, not entirely sure of how important what he was about to report was, yet he knew that it had to be reported.
Dragon Lord growled lowly in frustration then he signalled that Lewis stepped up to his side. He felt that the report was about Daimant and whatever it was, he wanted it to be for only his ears.
Lewis went to him and gave him the report about what had happened to Diamant.
DL's face twisted in annoyance and he slowly clenched his hands. He dismissed Lewis for the day and whispered to Goben.
Goben nodded and left immediately.
DL then looked at the group at the table, his group.
"You are all dismissed!" He ordered as he stood up and left.
Diamant ran out of breath as she placed her hand on a tree. The wild beating of her heart filled her ears and the breeze softly blew across her skin as she shivered, her sweat causing her to feel cold.
She breathed loudly, blinking her eyes repeatedly.
Was she lost?
She looked up to the moon and back around her. It was dark now and she could hardly see.
Her heart squeezed at the thought of him, at the thought of what he had done and even tighter at the thought of what he could have done if she hadn't fought back. Her eyes misted with tears that threatened to fall but she stopped herself.
Now was not the time to think of that. Right now she had to get out of here. She had long stopped running away from Aaron and had started running away from getting lost, running away from the dangers that could be lurking in these woods.
Still, she was so confused. What if she continued and was walking right back to Aaron's Abode? What if he was looking for her?
What if he was dead?
Her heart leaped at the last thought and she shut it out of her mind.
"Not now! Now isn't the right time to think about that." She thought to herself.
So she resumed her journey of walking her way out of the woods.
"Lady, if you are trying to get home then it will be my pleasure to inform you that you have spent some quality time on the wrong path." A manly voice said out of the darkness.
Diamant turned quickly to the direction where the voice came. Her heart raced, panicked.
"My Lord has sent me to fetch you." Goben said stepping out of the darkness, allowing the moonlight to illuminate his face that had an evil grin. His tightly packed hair made him look scary.
Diamant took the information in. She knew she was being watched but she didn't know it was this accurate.
Then her heart squeezed at someone that Aaron had made her forget. The very reason she went to see him in the first place.
Had something happened to Sunain?
Diamant was made to go through a passage which led to the Dragon Lord's study. It was just like it was that evening, just that it now had candles everywhere.
Dragon Lord sat on his Chair, focused on the scroll in his hands. Goben stood further away by the door.
As Diamant stood at the other end of the table she grew aware of the small cut on her gown, the one showing little of her breast. She brought her hands up to cover it.
"Away with the man of the woods?" DL asked when he finally looked up at her.
Her face squeezed with confusion, not understanding his question. Then her face lit with realization.
"I owe you no answer to that!" Diamant snapped.
Goben face turned into stone.
The nerves of this woman! Her disrespect to his Lord was just unbearable. She was nothing but a big mouth and a terrible personality. He saw no reason why DL still kept her alive.
DL smiled darkly. Of course, she didn't need to say a word. Her rumpled dress and rough hair said it all. That was if Lewis hadn't even said enough already.
Diamant saw his smile and fear rushed into her veins, "What have you done to her?! What have you done to Sunain?!"
As much as she wanted to hide it, her voice trembled with fear.
DL eyes flashed with satisfaction.
That was what he wanted. That fear, it felt so good.
"I don't owe you an answer to that." He said back, using her own words on her.
Diamant recoiled, her mind imagining the things that they might have done to Sunain.
DL stood up from his chair and walked towards her. Diamant wanted to move away from him but she stood her ground till he stopped some steps away from her.
"Sunain's life is tied to yours and she will also bear the consequences of your actions." He said silently.
"Don't do anything to her! Please, don't do anything to her!" Diamant pleaded.
"She just pleaded?" Dragon Lord thought to himself. This was getting better and better. She was getting to the stage where death would finally be the greatest punishment. Her or even Sunain, who cares?
He laughed in his head.
"You should be scared of what I will do to you." DL said, a mischievous smile tugging at his lips.
"What do you mean?"
"Lives are tied together and you think only one part will suffer?" DL raised one of his dark eyebrows at her, his eyes conveying how stupid he thought she was.
There was silence.
Diamant's mouth hung open, the statement meaning having more depth in her mind. She tried to say something but her mouth failed her, her racing heart made her feel weak.
"No! Don't!" She finally said, her voice breathy.
"The crimes of one must be judged on them both." He continued, picking up a scroll.
"No! You can't! That was never how you said it will be." Diamant said in desperation.
"Well, I am the King. What do you think?" He laughed, mocking her.
Her heart squeezed, she suddenly hated that laugh.
"You can't! You mustn't do this!"
"Are we begging now, Diamant? Looks like that confident part is dead." He tusked mockingly.
"You can't do this. I must remain here for Sunain. I must help her to get out of there." Diamant said, her eyes burning with desperate unshed tears.
"You will be taken to the dungeon."
"No! You can't!" She screamed.
DL became infuriated. She kept saying he couldn't. How dare she? Say what he could and couldn't do!
"Watch me! Goben, take her away." He ordered then returned to his seat.
Anger swindled in his eyes while he watched Goben drag Daimant away as she resisted.
Soon he couldn't hear her voice anymore. He looked away to the stack of invitation card in his table. Soon he would be married to a woman he couldn't even bear the thoughts of touching.
He picked up one of the letters and read the words on it. The word "union" stood out to him. It disturbed him. Rage boiled in him, he clenched the letter in his fist tightly till he could feel his nails dug into his palm then abruptly, he swept his hand across the table.
Clara placed the cup of tea lightly in front of Nana while she held the long sleeve of her white gown back. She never really knew how to act with the redhead old woman. She had never really spent time with her and tonight she had wanted to have a cup of tea herself without her maids getting it for her when she ran into Nana who wanted a cup of tea herself.
"You make such lovely tea, Clara." Nana complimented after her second sip.
"Thank you, Nana. I am greatly honoured." Clara bowed her head lightly and smile. She then resumed sipping her tea.
"How excited are you for your marriage?" Nana asked smoothening her elaborate high neck green gown.
Silence fell across the room. Clara was confused about how she would answer that? Should she say how she truly felt or how it was taught that she should feel.
She wrapped her palms around her teacup, warmth seeped into her palms as she watched the vapour disappear.
"Do you fancy the idea of marrying a man you do not love? This is no longer your childhood, Clara." Nana asked again when she got no response.
..a man she didn't love?
Clara's heart raced. Did she know about Lewis? Would she be another Daya? Was she trying to test her loyalty to her Grandson? Many thoughts ran across her mind quickly.
"Why shall I not love a King that wholeheartedly rules Alusa? Why shall I not love a King that loves Alusa completely? My full loyalty is forever with the Dragon Lord." Clara bowed slightly again and smiled.
"Clara, Clara," Nana chanted as she took another sip from the teacup.
"You didn't answer my question. Do you love my grandson?" She asked placing the teacup back gently.
"I don't even have a choice. My heart has no say in the matter." Clara raised her head slightly, her eyes misted with tears.
"I know how that feels like." Nana muttered to herself and smiled, her eyes staring away distantly.
"Still, if you had a choice, if you could choose, if your heart had a say, will you marry him?" Nana asked.
Clara fell into silence. Was this a trap? Why was she asking her? Thoughts ran across her mind again. She raised her head and sucked in a deep breath.
"If my heart had a choice then I would never marry him." Clara declared.
Nana leaned back into her chair and smiled.
"My grandson would never marry you too if his heart had a choice."
Clara didn't know how to take this. Was she saying that they both didn't want the union but had to go on with it simply because of an heir? Just to prevent the occurrence of another Daya if he didn't pick her this time around? Her throat hurt her from how much tears was chocking her. It hurt badly and she placed her hand on it, caressing it.
"I will help you." Nana said, standing up.
She looked down at Clara who sat frozen in surprise and confusion.
"This is one lovely tea." Nana smiled, "You should make some for me often."
With that Nana chuckled as walked into the hallway, her maids followed closely behind.
Clara could still hear the gown swished as they moved though the door that wouldn't allow her to see them.
Suddenly her maids started patting her gown with towels and checking her over for something. She came back to herself and looked at them.
"Are you hurt?"
"It is really hot!"
"Are you okay, Princess Clara?"
Her maids kept on asking as one slowly took her teacup away from her. She looked down at her white gown that had been smeared with brown liquid.
Being surprised and shocked, she had mindlessly spilled her tea.