The lounge echoed with giggles of the girls as they observed Ilsa’s ever-changing emotions.
“She’s so cute…” Isha teasingly said near Keira’s ear.
Her voice was low, but Maira and Ilsa heard it.
“Shush… Our dear Ilsa is planning to murder her husband. Ler her be.” Keira admonished her.
“She doesn’t love him?”
“It’s complicated…” Keira sadly replied to Isha.
“Sad. He even writes letters to her when away. And she wants to kill him…”
The little girl pulled a somber face and looked at the Kalstark Princess with pity.
And just as Ilsa glared at her, both Keira and her burst in giggles.
“Would you stop it?” Ilsa angrily walked over to them. “There are a lot of other things to focus on than wasting your time to pull my leg.”
“But this is fun…” Isha shrugged and replied with a carefree smile.
“Come on!” Ilsa helplessly shouted.
Maira, who was sitting on the other couch, appealed to them and then turned to look at Ilsa.
“What’s on your mind?” She asked seriously.
Ilsa frowned and looked at Keira and Isha. Only after the two of them wiped their smiles did she say what she had to say.
“Do you not find it strange that he wrote a letter to Ella?” She asked them.
“Why is it strange?” Isha confusedly asked.
“Seriously?” She unbelievably looked at the little girl. “Keira is here! What is it that he needs to say to Ella that he can’t say to us?”
“He must be worried about Ella. You know that she is still in that strange sleep of hers.” Isha reminded her.
“I think what she means is that why he needed to use such a strange language to convey something to Ella,” Maira explained to Isha. “It isn’t something that he wants us to know.”
Ilsa glanced at Maira and then nodded to Keira and Isha.
“Now tell me, is it not strange?” She asked again.
Isha stayed silent this time. And Keira did not say or add anything.
“What language is that?” Ilsa whispered.
“Who knows…” Maira depressedly lowered her head and sank back on the couch.
All of them had no answer for it. Even Ezio failed to decode it.
Seeing that no one had an answer, Ilsa’s agitation rose.
“And he dared to criticize me alone.” She gritted her teeth and narrowed her eyes. “All of you read the letter as well!”
“I wouldn’t have read it if you hadn’t opened it.” Isha readily shrugged and said.
“Same.” Keria smiled and answered. “He knew that only you would have done it for sure.”
Maira didn’t even have to answer as Ilsa was aware that she would have never read it. It was not how Maira was. She was strict when it came to the privacy of people.
“And why are you even mad?” Keira asked confusedly. “I heard your heart thump when you read it. And I am pretty sure that you are happy that he mentioned you in there and said that he loved you.” She ended her words with a wink.
A flustered expression passed her, but she recovered fast and turned her face away from Keira.
She did not bother denying her words. Deep in her heart, she was glad that he had not forgotten about her. But the only thing she was happy about was him expressing his love for her. Just like the others, she too loved it when he professed his love for her.
“I don’t like it when he keeps things from us…”
“He wouldn’t keep things from us if they were not harmful to us. And the last thing he wants is to make us worried about things we have no control over.” Keira got up and wrapped her arms around Ilsa. “Be mad at him, but don’t be sad. Okay?”
Ilsa nodded to her and took a deep sigh.
“I will go get some sleep.” She kissed Keira on the cheek and walked out of her embrace.
Keira turned to look that the two girls still there and bid them goodnight.
There was something she wanted to ask Ilsa in private. She followed her and soon caught up.
“What is it?” Ilsa curiously asked.
“You were with him when he woke up after that state, right?”
“Yes,” Ilsa nodded. “Everyone was there…”
“That’s not what I mean.” Keira shook her head. “You returned with him to the Palace as his wife. I want to know what made you accept him.”
She carefully searched for the change in expressions on Ilsa’s face, and to her relief, there were not any drastic changes.
“He proposed to me. I accepted.” Ilsa shrugged and answered. “It was not like I had a way out. And after what happened in the Balck Forest, my mind was always thinking of him. He was an enigma and a mystery to me, and I wanted to stay close to him to see past his secrets and learn what I did not know.”
Keira understandingly nodded and kept walking with her to her room.
“What were you worried about?” Ilsa asked her as soon as they arrived in her room.
“Side effects. I want to know what was he like when he woke up.” She sat down on the bed and looked at Ilsa.
“What are you specifically after?” Ilsa frowned and asked.
“His primitive desires. And were there any mood-swings, and was he sad?”
“He was hungry… and he ate a lot.” Ilsa nodded to her. “And you know how lustful he is, but no, he was in control as usual. About the Mood-Swings…” She frowned as she tried to remember the events that had followed. “He was not teasing me anymore. And sometimes, he was lost in deep thoughts. But he was still attentive to everything around him and dealt with things normally.”
“His normal… or normal?”
“His normal.” Ilsa grinned and answered. “When the Elders of the Wise-Blood arrived as back-up, he had not lashed out at them for being late, but he did not spare them any respect either. He was not upset about the misinformation of the Intelligence Network, but he did not tell the Order any details for what transpired inside the Forest. And as much as I feared that he would turn bloodthirsty again, he did not pursue the matters further, and let the Tribes be.”
Keira nodded to her words and heaved a sigh of relief.
“And it was the first time he ever apologized to me,” Ilsa happily smiled. “He apologized for scaring me. Yeah, if anything, he learned some manners after that, but sadly it was all short-lived.” She shook her head in disappointment.
Her words made Keira burst out in giggles, and all her worries washed away.
Ilsa seemed to have figured out why she was asking all these questions, and that was why she was not asking her the reason behind them. Sometimes, this muscle-head would show the wisdom that surprised everyone.
“What we need to worry about is his that state, and what he turns into when he loses that state.” Ilsa changed into her pajamas and crawled up in the bed. “He turns pathetically weak, and even a child can kill him at that time.”
“Why did not you take the chance then?” Keira laughed and teasingly asked.
“Huh…” Ilsa scoffed. “I would have if Ezio and Gerald were not protecting him.” She suddenly smiled brightly. “And do you know, Ezio scolded him when he woke up. It was the only time I saw Ezio mad at him.”
A smile crept on her lips when she heard that. Keira regretted missing on such a scene. They had all heard that Ezio used to scold him a lot when he was a child. But as he grew up, the manner with which Ezio treated him changed as well.
“Can I borrow your pajamas?”
“Sure!” Ilsa nodded and smiled. “Hop in.”
The two of them continued chatting for an hour before they both lazily closed their eyes. The silence soothed their hearts and brought their minds to peace, but strangely, they found it hard to fall asleep.
“Are you worried about Rose?” Ilsa suddenly asked.
“No.” Keira smiled brightly and answered. “I am glad that Renesme took her away during this time. She must be having a lot of fun.”
“And don’t you worry,” Keira turned to face her. “Sera is fine as well. No harm can touch them as long as Renesme is with them.”
“I know…” She lightly smiled and kept looking at the ceiling.
“What is it?” Keira found her expressions odd and asked.
“She’s a mystery… I never understood her.” Ilsa frowned. “I have never seen her sad. And I have never seen her angry.”
Her words made Keira recall the day she had met Renesme for the first time. A mere look had enchanted her, and then she was deeply drowned in her insecurities.
“I never understood her either. But I do understand one thing.”
“She loves him. And he is everything to her.” No matter how hard she tied to smile, she couldn’t. “She can hide all emotions from people’s eyes, but once she is in his arms, she is just like you and me, drowning in his love.”
“Do you not envy her?”
Keira shook her head at the question.
“Why?” Ilsa frowned.
“She’s not someone I can ever catch up to.” She calmly answered. “I know that I can never be compared to her. And frankly, I don’t wish to be compared to her either. I would lose myself if I chased her. And the case is the same with Arianna.”
Keira glanced at her and found Ilsa blankly staring at the ceiling. She did not need to ask to know that Ilsa felt the same.
“How are they even mortals… It is unfair.”
Her words made Keira burst out in laughter.
“I am serious!” Ilsa scolded her.
“I know.” Keira tried to suppress her laughter but couldn’t. The expressions of Ilsa’s face were priceless.
“Every time I look at her and Arianna, I find myself enchanted to them. And it is not just their beauty. There’s something about their presence that makes me want to kneel to them.”
“And do you not find the same feeling when you look at him?” Keira grinned and asked.
Ilsa took a moment to think about it, and then stubbornly shook her head to deny it. And as she did that, her cheeks kept warming up.
“Right…” Keira started laughing again and tickled Ilsa on her belly.
“Stop!” Ilsa begged her under her laughs.
Keira was not going to let Ilsa get away so easily, but she had to stop. Her senses caught a drastic change in the atmosphere, and her heart palpitated in anxiousness.
“The temperature is rising… And it is coming from Ella’s room.” She answered and immediately got out of bed.
It only took them a few seconds to dress up, and then they rushed out of the room.
They found Isha running out of Ella’s room and shut the door behind her in fear. And right before it was shut, they saw the inside of the room brighten up in a vermillion light.
Isha panted for breath, and her entire body was covered in sweat. The expressions on her face were solemn, and her heart was restlessly pounding.
“Isha…” Keira rushed to her and grabbed her shoulders.
“Ella…” She stammered. “She woke up… but then her entire body was covered in bright flames.”
Isha shook her head.
“She seemed fine. And asked me to run out of the room.”
“I will go check…” Ilsa said and reached for the door, but Isha grabbed her hand.
“Stay,” She worriedly said. “Ella will come out in a few minutes.”
Keira scanned her expressions and frowned.
“Why are you scared?”
“Ella… She…” She stammered as she tried to collect her thoughts, and then took a deep breath before answering them. “Just turned prettier… and her hair changed. The flames around her are beautiful, but looking at them, I could tell that even a spark could end my life.”
The three of them had the same question on their mind; what was going on here?
Despite the restlessness, they did not enter the room and decided to wait outside. The fear in Isha’s eyes was real.
“Did you give her the letter?” Keira inquired.
“Mhm…” Isha nodded. “I placed it on the table right before coming out.”
The temperature stopped rising after it reached a certain level. Since Isha was not a Zeros yet, the change affected her more. Her body kept sweating profusely, and a few minutes later, she even started to feel short of breath.
“She woke up?”
Maira arrived a while later and came to stand by their side.
“Yes,” Keira nodded to her.
The Aryan princess assessed the situation and did not ask any more questions. She worriedly looked at Isha but did not say anything.
“It’s been more than 15 minutes…” Ilsa reminded them but did not finish her words.
The temperature started dropping, and in a matter of a few seconds, it returned to the normal state. And then the door finally opened.
All of them looked at the girl that exited the room with an enchanted gaze. She was wearing a vermillion dress that had sparkles in it, and with her beauty, it dazzled on her.
“Why are you staring at me like that?” Ella asked nervously.
None of them answered her. Their eyes kept running all over her.
“You are beautiful!” Isha exclaimed.
“That dress is gorgeous!” Ilsa cried out.
“That necklace is pretty!”
Even Keira couldn’t hold onto her composure.
Only Maira remained silent, and her eyes were fixed on the flute that Ella held in her hand.
“Thank you!” Ella giggled and finally felt better. “You think he would mind the hair?” But her nervousness did not go away. “I thought I could change them back to the previous state, but these streaks are permanent.”
“Why would he not love them? They are beautiful!” Isha readily nodded her head and assured her.
And the rest of the girls too nodded in agreement.
Keira stepped forward and wrapped her arms around the girl. She tried her best to sense the changes inside Ella’s body, but she found herself incapable of seeing through her.
She gently brushed a streak of Vermillion hair and set them behind Ella’s ear. A simple touch mystified her. The smoothness of her hair, the scent that she as emanating, and the warmth of her skin was bewitching.
Ella now had a few streaks of Vermillion hair mixed in with her original brown hair. And when Keira brushed that streak of hair, she found that it was unusually warm, but the rest of her brown hair was not emanating any heat.
Her hazel eyes were the same, and her fair skin was now dazzlingly soft to touch. It was to the point that Keira felt waves on envy rise in her heart, but it made her happy at the same time.
“You have a lot to answer us…” She warned the girl.
“I know!” Ella nodded her head with a bright smile. “But first, I must eat!” She placed her had on her belly and pouted.
They wanted answers, but seeing how cute Ella looked, they could not bear not hearing her request.
“Alright. I will cook for you!” Keira pulled her hand and led her to the Kitchen.
None of them had expected to see the day when Ella would eat even more than Shazan normally did. There seemed to be no end to the girl’s appetite, and only after she finished everything that had been prepared by the girls for her did she feel like answering them.
“Umm…” She looked at their expectant expressions and embarrassedly lowered her head. “I don’t know where to start… so, ask a question.”
And that was it.
Ilsa and Isha bombarded her with dozens of questions, and Ella was utterly flustered.
“Calm down, you two!” Keira shook her head and sighed. “Are you okay?” She looked into Ella’s eyes and asked gently.
“I am fine!” Ella gratefully smiled at her and assured her.
“Good!” Keira nodded and proceeded to ask the next question. “And what happened to you was that you awakened?”
“Sort of yes…” Ella nodded to her. “But I am not a Zeros so don’t get confused there. I am a Djinn now.” She proudly smiled.
Keira was shocked to hear her words. Isha was confused. Ilsa raised her brow, and Maira frowned.
“There are no other Djinn on this planet, so you may not know about them,” Ella explained to them what a Djinn was.
Minutes passed after Ella finished explaining to them what she was, and they were still in shock.
Keira’s mind was in chaos, and she did not know how to react to the news. Everything Ella told them seemed like a fantasy, and even for them, it was hard to let it settle in.
“So you are Aaleen now?” Maira asked.
“Yes. And I am Ella as well.” Ella replied with a smile. “Our souls have merged completely.”
“So what should we call you now?” Isha confusedly asked. “Ella or Aaleen?”
“We had decided that our names would stay. Since I never had a surname, I took Aaleen Kulsekzar as my middle and surname. It is Ella Aaleen Kulsekzar now. You can call me Ella or Aaleen.”
“And that Necklace?” Keira smiled and asked.
They had all seen Ella make the flute vanish when she started eating. And Keira guessed that it had something to do with the Necklace.
“It is a Soul Stone.” Ella nodded to her. “It is a treasure that Mother left for me. I can store some power in it and use it at times of need, and in addition to this ability, it also resists attacks that target the soul of the wielder. And finally, it is a storage artifact.” She drew her hand near the necklace, and the flute appeared in it. “All it requires is a thought from me. And as I get stronger, this Stone gets more powerful.”
“I see…” Keira did not know any details about these things. Renesme had only informed her that such artifacts existed in other worlds.
“Ella…” Maira frowned when she laid her eyes on the Flute. “You can control it?”
“Don’t worry. I have control over it now.” Ella assured her. “I am not the Envoy of Annihilation, and so it lost most of its Powers when it was refined with my Soul. But it still retains some powers, and I can turn it into a weapon designed to have a different path than before.”
“It can control those Creatures?”
“No. Perhaps only the weak ones, but it can confuse all of them.” Ella smiled and answered. “That reminds me. Who wants to go and help Master with me?” She got up from her seat and smiled brightly.
“Is that what was in the letter?” Keira frowned and asked.
She knew that Shazan would never mention such a thing in the letter directed to Ella.
“He only asked me to come, but you can come with me. I will protect you all.” She nodded to her. “And… since the countdown has begun, it means that the channels to other Base Worlds have opened as well. You need to get stronger.” She whispered as she ran her eyes over them.
“What is your realm of Strength?” Ilsa did not immediately agree and asked with a frown.
“I can not answer that question for now.” Ella calmly answered.
The calmness in her voice made them feel safe for some reason. And it made them realize that Ella had changed. There were subtle changes in her personality, but her confidence was radiating the most.
Ilsa nodded and turned to look at Keira. Since Shazan had asked her to follow Keira’s lead, she would follow her lead.
Keira felt the weight of responsibility push on the heart. She looked around, and her eyes stayed at Isha.
“Her case is different,” Ella said. “Even if she is not a Zeros yet, her physical strength would still see gains, and so would her mental strength. And when she finally awakens, her realm of strength would be adjusted as well.”
Her words made Isha expectantly look at Keira to allow her to come with them.
“Alright.” Keira finally nodded after thinking for some time. “We will leave at dawn. And Uncle Ezio will come with us as well.”
Keira could see the determination in Ilsa’s eyes, and Maira was just as determined. None of them wanted to miss out on this chance to increase their strength.
“Thank you.” Ilsa nodded to her and then quietly got up from her seat and left the Kitchen.
“Good Night.” Maira too decided to leave right after her.
“What happened to them?” Ella confusedly asked.
“They are hungry, and you just gave them an Invitation to a feast.” Keira giggled. “They need to prepare their nerves and get some rest to be ready.”
Keira did not tell her that her change had struck a blow to Ilsa and Maira’s pride.
♛ Author’s Note:
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