Two shades departed the forest one after the other. One was bronze, and the other was violet. Karen’s aura was frantic as she pushed herself to the limits to drag the distance between her and her pursuer. She had no time to look behind her. A fraction loss of concentration could cost her the game.
She understood that Shazan was testing her. That was the reason why he had suppressed his realm of strength to that of hers. And there was no way she could let him down.
Shazan was surprised to see how much Karen had improved her control over the aura. Her aura was still a little frantic, but it was in complete harmony with her heart. He pushed himself a little more and reduced the distance between them a little at a time. However, to his surprise, Karen’s aura exploded under her feet, and in a fraction of time, she was dozens of meters away from him.
He chuckled and utilized the same technique. It was a technique that Renesme had taught him. And looking at how adept Karen was at this technique, he understood that she had been seeking Renesme to improve her strength.
Karen’s attention was solely on winning, and so she didn’t hold back and showed the efforts of her training. The Aura that exploded under her feet didn’t harm to the ground in the slightest, instead, her steps were gentle as feathers, leading her to glide in the air for dozens of meters at an insane speed.
The Palace was already in their sight, and it was a matter of a few seconds now. Shazan knew that he had underestimated Karen, but he was not going to give up so easily. His mastery over the Aura was way better than hers. His speed at the same realm of strength was faster, but he was still behind her because he had underestimated her.
The difference between them lessened with each step they took, but the backyard of the Palace was right ahead of them where some people were present.
Ilsa had just come back from a run with Isha, and her heart suddenly thumped hard as her instincts ran wild, she hurriedly turned to look at the other side, and her eyes widened in shock. The two shades approached her at a speed that she couldn’t discern with her eyes.
“Woahhh!” Isha cried out in shock because she was right in the middle of the path that shades were taking, and they were about to crash in her.
She didn’t even get a chance to get out of the way, and before she realized it, she was flying in the air with an invisible strength lifting her.
A sweet cry sounded in the backyard with happiness.
Karen was panting for breath, and there were drops of perspiration on her forehead as she lunged up in the air to wrap her arms around Shazan and Kaiya.
Shazan welcomed her with a chuckle and planted a kiss on her head as they touched the ground. He placed Kaiya on her feet before catching the falling Isha in arms.
“You have become a little heavy…” He mischievously hugged her tight in his embrace and whispered near her near.
Her heart trembled when he heard his words and her face was adorned in a bright blush. She instinctively looked down at her breasts that were pressed against his chest.
“R-really..?” She asked fearfully.
“Mhmm..” He nodded and kissed on her cheek. “And pleasantly squishy…”
She hurriedly buried her face in his neck and closed her eyes. Her heart was pounding hard, and her soft body was trembling against him. Despite all the chaos her mind and body were in, her heart felt sweet and at peace.
“Hmph…” Ilsa snorted. “Pervert”
Shazan chuckled at her complaint and ran his eyes over her body that was clad in fitting workout clothes.
“You look tempting in that outfit, Musclehead!” He smirked and commented.
Ilsa frowned at his words. Grimness flashed in her eyes as she clenched her fist, but she kept her cool. She realized the difference between their strengths. She would only fall in his traps and end up being embarrassed in front of her little sisters.
Besides, she had a more important thought on her mind.
Karen had a bad premonition when she felt Ilsa’s fervent gaze land on her. All the joy she had after winning against Shazan vaporized.
Sure enough, Ilsa didn’t give her any time to get away and appeared before her as she grabbed her hands with sincerity.
“Fight me!” She ordered and requested it at the same time.
Karen looked at Shazan and pleaded him to get her out of this mess. But he ignored her pleading gaze and chuckled at her misfortune.
She and Arianna had not revealed much of their strength to the people around them. The two of them always sparred against each other, and other than Shazan, Renesme, Keira, and Sera no one else was clear about their true strength.
Ilsa had always been skeptical about them, but she didn’t dare to ask Arianna for anything, and Karen had never shown any interest in fighting. She would usually concentrate on Archery and Shooting, and to Ilsa, they were boring games. But now that she had a glimpse of Karen’s strength, she was agitated to have a battle with her. Her blood was burning with excitement and anticipation, and her eyes were gleaming with expectations.
Karen could see how excited Ilsa was, but she still couldn’t agree to her request.
“Ilsa,” She sighed. “Arianna has forbidden me from battling with anyone. She will get mad at me if I accept your request.” She stressed on her words. “You should ask Keira. I will ask her to spar with you, okay?”
“Why would she forbid you…”
“Hey, Musclehead, don’t create trouble for my Kitty. She needs to take a nap after that exhausting run.” Shazan interjected her words and let go of Isha. “I will ask Keira to help you train for a week? Okay?” He had to give in something as compensation or Ilsa might lash out at him later.
“Okay!” She unwillingly agreed. But she was excited deep inside.
Getting a full week of training with Keira was worth it.
Karen felt bad for Keira, but she heaved a sigh of relief that she was spared.
“Let’s go,” she said and took a look inside the Palace. “Asaya and Helen are here.”
“I will go get ready!” Isha commented and hurriedly ran inside.
Shazan chuckled at her timely getaway. He turned to look at Kaiya who was staring at him with curious eyes. She lowered her eyes when their gaze met and tried to follow Isha inside the Palace.
“I will go get changed…” She whispered.
“You are not going anywhere.” Shazan stopped her and grabbed her hand. “Come, I will introduce you to Asaya.”
He pulled her inside the Palace. Karen and Ilsa followed them.
“But… I am wet.” Kaiya anxiously asked.
She didn’t want her first impression to Asaya be that of a clumsy girl. Arianna was fearful, and she had no idea what kind of a girl Asaya was. Everyone said that she was very loveable, but she was his little sister.
Kaiya looked at him pleadingly, but then she felt a warmth engulf her. Before her shocked eyes, her clothes that were wet and stained turned dry and clean as they were in the morning. The steam that gave off from their bodies vanished in the blink of an eye.
Karen went forward first and grabbed the free hand of Shazan.
He helped her clean off as well and then smirked at Ilsa.
“Come here, Love.”
Ilsa didn’t argue with him and went forward to allow him to wrap his arm around her waist.
He didn’t immediately help her clean off. He leaned in a took a deep breath of her aroma and planted a kiss on her neck.
Her body trembled at his playfulness, and her eyes turned a little misty.
“Such a shame…” Shazan shook his head and sobered up.
He wrapped his aura around her and guided it to dry her clothes.
“Okay, now?” He looked back at Kaiya and asked gently now.
She meekly nodded but didn’t look up to him.
They were nearly in the living room when Karen said something to him that surprised both Ilsa and him. She had blocked off Kaiya’s hearing to not let her hear her words.
“You are not allowed to meddle in what happens today. Also, Arianna wants you to clear things up between you and Helen. No more secrets.”
“Did she ask you to say this to me?”
“No. I am just warning you.” Karen sighed and shook her head.
Karen could not keep things from him, and she could never go against the wishes of Arianna. He nodded to her and didn’t ask anything more. He could more or less guess what things were about.
He glanced at Kaiya and sighed.
“Here comes the little devil…” Karen giggled.
Right after she said it, a small figure ran up to them from the living room.
Roselyn cried out excitedly and lept in his embrace.
“Mina told me you went to see Sino! Why didn’t you take me with you?” She pouted in a complaint, but her expressions were bright with happiness.
“I left early in the morning, and my little princess was sleeping at that time.” He kissed on her forehead and apologized.
She was in a forgiving mood today.
“Arianna mommy told me that I will sleep with you tonight!” She said expectantly.
“Of course!” He answered her with a bright smile.
“Yay!” She nodded. “Asaya and aunt Helen are waiting for you. Let’s go, let’s go!”
She wrapped her small arms around his neck, planted a kiss on his cheek before bursting out in sweet giggles.
Shazan glanced at Serafina and Keira, waiting by the door, and from their pale smiles, he could guess that only troubles awaited him.
He took a deep breath and walked inside the living room.
Everyone was present there except for his two Empresses.
“Where are Arianna and Renesme?” He asked Rose.
“They are in your room. Arianna mommy asked me to come here first. She was talking to Lucile and aunt Lyla on the call.” The little girl replied obediently.
His heart turned heavy.
“Come!” Keira grabbed Kaiya’s hand and took her to meet Helen who was chatting with Lena and Ella.
Shazan gently smiled at Helen and nodded when their eyes met.
The woman had a stiff smile as she nodded back to him. Her heart sped faster, but Serafina didn’t allow her to get flustered as she introduced Kaiya to her. Soon they were chatting happily.
He let the girls be, and walked over to the girl who was sitting with Marilyn on the couch.
Asaya had not realized that he had entered the living room. She was lost in her worries with her head lowered. Bells was in her arms, sleeping peacefully.
“Asaya!” Roselyn called her name. “Father’s here!”
Her words broke her thoughts and she hurriedly looked up.
“Brother…” She looked at him with misty eyes. “Arianna hasn’t come to see me… She’s mad at me, right?”
Her words caused his heart to tremble.
“I told you. It is not you that she’s mad at. It is me.” He palely smiled at her. “She will be here.”
Asaya nodded and got up from the couch. She walked in his embrace pressing her face in his chest.
“I miss her…”
“Me too.” Shazan sighed and smiled.
Little Rose lovingly patted her head. Her actions brought a smile on Asaya’s face and she let the little girl hold Bells.
“Alright, you two play with each other, I am going to have a chat with Helen.” He placed Rose on the couch, and Asaya nodded to him before sitting by the side of Rose.
Marilyn caught his hand when he was about to walk past her. She got up from the couch and pulled him to the corner of the room.
“What’s wrong, Mother?”
“Arianna…” Marilyn looked at him worriedly. “She made me tell her everything I knew about Helen.”
“I haven’t seen her so sad in a while, Shazan. I am worried.” She said and her body trembled. “She’s mad at me and Serafina for keeping things from her. And she’s hurt that you kept things from her.”
“Did she say anything to you?”
“She said she was disappointed in us…” Her voice was despondent and there was pain reflecting in her eyes. “But she said that she could understand why we did it. She wasn’t so mad at Sera.”
Shazan nodded to her and hugged her.
“I know her better than I know myself. She is not mad at you or anyone. She is only mad at me, Helen, and Grandpa Kaizuki.” He assured her.
“Mister Kaizuki?” Marilyn was surprised by the last name he took. “Oh…” She understood what it was about.
Her worried gaze landed on Kaiya.
“Shazan. Whatever it is about, Kaiya isn’t the type of girl who would play tricks.”
“I know. Everyone knows.” He nodded at her. “She will be fine. And if she gets hurt, we will be there for her. Everyone will be there for her.”
“Mhmm…” Marilyn nodded back and wiped away the tear that had escaped her eyes. “Go talk to that woman. I will go play with Rose and Asaya.” There was bitterness in her words when she referred to Helen.
He couldn’t bring himself to say anything to her. He knew that Marilyn didn’t like Helen for what had happened back then. The relationship Helen had with his father was a secret to everyone. But Marilyn knew about it, and so did his late Grandfather. And for good reasons, they didn’t favor Helen much.
Marilyn didn’t dislike her or hate her because she was, after all, Asaya’s mother, and a woman he had accepted. She had long ago accepted Helen as a family member, but she tried her best to not come in contact with her.
Shazan turned to look at everyone present in the room. Some were laughing, chatting happily, and others were playing and having fun. He glanced at Kaiya, and then he glanced at Helen. They could have been his mistakes, but they were now his. He knew what was about to happen to them, and he could only put his trust in Arianna. The reason he could make mistakes was that she would always be there to correct them for him. But she wouldn’t help Kaiya or Helen, all she would do was guide them and make them accept the ways of this family.
And he knew better than anyone what would happen to them if they failed. He did not have the right to save them if that happened. His life was not his alone.
An enchantingly happy voice called out a name.
The room was suddenly silent, everyone looked at the two girls that had just entered. And they were left bewitched by the beauty of the two girls.
Renesme was not dressed in her usual maid-outfit. She was wearing a blood-red dress that looked dazzling with her wine hair and eyes. She didn’t mask her beauty today, and it was before everyone to witness it. And the red tiara on her head announced to the room that she was not there as his maid today, but as his Empress.
A similar tiara was on Arianna’s head. She wore a snow-white dress, and even with all its simplicity, it dazzled the eyes of the beholder. And no matter how hard everyone tried, they could never decide which one of the two Empresses was more beautiful.
Asaya had not answered back Arianna’s call. She stood there enchanted by her beauty, and her body trembled. The fears in her heart vaporized, and two pearl-like tears streamed down her eyes.
She had felt the warmth in Arianna’s call, and she knew that her sister was not mad at her. She didn’t waste any more time and rushed up to her and hugged her tightly.
“I am sorry!” She cried.
“I know you would never hurt me or anyone. You are too pure to even think about any such thing.” Arianna giggled and squeezed her in her embrace. “Also, I have been a little occupied with a few things. Sorry for not answering your calls.”
Asaya shook her head hurriedly. She was happy that Arianna was not mad at her. She could care less about everything else in the world right now.
“I will go set the table for lunch.” Lena smiled and excused herself from the room.
Renesme smiled at her and stooped her from leaving the room.
“There are a few things we need to work on before lunch. And the family needs to be here.” She said and turned to look back at the corridor she just came from.
“Sorry, I am late…”
A girl hurriedly entered the room, but her words were caught in her mouth when she saw the Tiaras on the heads of two Empresses.
She was born in a Royal family, and she suppressed the instincts to kneel before them, and bowed.
“Isha greets the two Empresses…”
“You look pretty.” Renesme smiled and nodded at her.
“Thank you…” She blushed and answered.
To be complimented by someone as beautiful as Renesme, any girl would feel elated. A smile blossomed on her face, and she walked over to stand by the side of Maira.
Arianna turned to look at her beloved, there was warmth on her eyes, but there was no smile on her face.
“Shazan…” She called out his name.
“All yours.” He nodded to her and took a deep breath.
They never needed a lot of words to communicate with each other.
Arianna then turned to look at the girls, grabbed Asaya’s hand and walked to the middle of the room with Renesme.
“There are a few things I would like to say, but first,” She looked at Helen. “Welcome to the Palace, Helen.”
There was a pale smile on her lips, and Helen felt herself fall in a bottomless pit when their eyes met. She immediate;y lowered her head and nodded.
“Oh, no, no.” She shook her head. “It is not yet time for you to say that. Tell us now,” Her voice turned grave. “What did my brother promise you for you to decide to come here?”
Everyone frowned when they heard her words. Most of the girls didn’t know what Arianna meant by that, and the rest looked at Helen for the answer.
“The people of this Palace had asked you multiple times over the years to come and stay with us, but you always refused. Why now?”
Helen frowned when she heard those words. Her heart was constricted, and it skipped several beats.
Seeing Helen not reply, she turned to look at Shazan.
“My Love, you have been making a lot of promises to people lately,” She gave him a bright smile, “What did you promise your beloved Helen?”
“I promised her anything she would ask of me,” He sighed and answered.
“Anything?” She palely smiled at him.
Shazan frowned at her words but nodded.
“And if I refuse to allow her to get that thing?”
Everyone felt a chill run up their spines when they heard her words. There was no warmth in her voice. Her words were grim, and they were directed at Shazan.
“I will give her whatever she wants, and if you feel like it is not appropriate, you can take it away from her then.”
Helen’s body trembled when she heard his words. Her eyes turned misty, and she clenched her fists.
“You heard him, right?” Arianna looked at Helen. “Be careful what you ask for. Now tell us, what is it that you want.”
The woman hesitated, and she felt as if the world had never seen so silent before. She felt the eyes of everyone on her, but she didn’t dare to look up. She was in pain. After all these years, she heard the same words that a woman had once said to her. Only this time, it was the woman’s daughter that had said those words.
She wanted to give a rebellious answer like she had given back then, but she knew that Arianna was different from her mother. She was even more terrifying than her older sister.
Tears streamed out of her eyes as she tried to muster up the courage.
“Mother…” Asaya worriedly called her out and reached for her, but Arianna gripped her hand tightly and made her stay where she was.
Helen looked at her daughter’s worried face, and the last resistance in her mind paled.
A mother’s only desire was for her child to be happy and be honored.
“I want him to marry Asaya, and I want him to give her the rights of an official wife.” She said resolutely but didn’t lift her head.
“I am glad you kept your initial thoughts to yourself.” Arianna gave her a bright smile. “What a waste of a wish. I had already decided on it years ago.”
She smiled at Asaya and kissed her head.
Asaya blushed at her words.
“But do you know, your mother wanted you to have the same status as I have.” She whispered, but everyone heard her words. “Tell her, if you desire to become his Empress?”
The little girl’s face paled when she heard those words. She disbelievingly looked at her mother who was now shivering uncontrollably.
♛ Author’s Note:
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