Leclair Royal Family Summer Home, near the outskirts of Lindale, Elticia, 3 Years Ago
Lunging forth in clothes unbefitting of my status, I swung the oak sword at my older brother whose blond brows burdened and parried my attack as he skipped to the left, eyes locked on any opening as he blocked another blow and went behind me, leather pivoting against the snow-laden stone floors, my attention fixed upon the Crown Prince's action. A blow of wind's whispers pierced my ears and Time paused, I am now aware of the carefully crafted sword just a mere centimeter away from my eye. Elder Brother's lips were slightly apart, clouds of white billowing forth. Winter's touch could not repel the salty rain from traveling down his forehead where fair shining locks clung to. Gray highlighted with the slightest of white brushes did wonders, Elder Brother's softened gaze, and tender smile scented with his purity heart sang forth as he knelt on my level, azure oculars ever playful. "You should invest more in being unpredictable, Vivienne." He let off a boyish chuckle, ruffling my hair as he did. "I am investing in trying to solve your well-developed facade, Elder Brother Rahnier." I grinned, exposing my tongue out to the elements. Rahnier offered his hand as he pulled off the snow, white sheets crunching as we made our way indoors, Rahnier handed our practice swords to a nearby pageboy who bowed quite comically, shoulders all stiff and irises blazing as he ran off with high-pitched panicking.
Our personal knights, ever duty-bound, greeted our incoming selves with waves hardly formal. Rahnier's companion discarded his glistening silver armor in favor of chainmail and leather to provide room for sought-after cold-repellent clothes to avoid freezing to death. "You look less like a knight and more like some vagrant who finally managed to buy better armor, Pons." Jeered my brother as he playfully punched the young raven-haired man who blended in my brother's antics with only a meek giggle and nothing else. "Pons, you aren't still ashamed of your accent, are you?" inquired the other with locks inflamed, deepest of emeralds embedded in his eyes as he propped an armored finger to his chin. Pon smiled, stayed silent as we all took behind Elder Brother's footsteps. "Louvel, are you not cold? You should follow Pon's initiative and change into something warmer." Louvel stole the demeanor of a violet flower as he shrank with a bashful smile. "I...thank you, Princess Vivienne. But please don't worry about me, I'm used to the cold." I sighed, mustering all available willpower to stop my brow dancing to vexation's tune. "I have told you many, many times, Louvel. You need not be so formal with me." Elder Brother snickered but said nothing further. Louvel's verdant irises melted, frank gratitude etched into his fair-skinned face. "I'll keep that in mind," he replied, intentionally leaving out my name. Internally sighing, I faced my brother's back. Pon and Louvel went on ahead, postures stiff as they held the oak-double doors' handle and opened in unison, complete with bowing as they did.
There in the middle of our private living room, Mother sat on a grand chair facing the warmth of the calm fireplace. A child dressed in the grandest of Eltician silks sat on the pastel carpet with such innocence brimming within his cobalt eyes. The door behind us closed, Mother promptly raised her attention from our youngest sibling to us, her complexion and skin still as fair and as youthful as when Elder Brother and I were children. "Rahnier, Vivienne, how was your training?" she inquired in the gentlest of tones, warming us up as we straightened ourselves. "Not too shabby, but she could do some subterfuge as to not be so obvious." Elder Brother replied, hands behind his back as he shot apologetic glances towards me. I returned them with a smile, an action that made him quickly avert his gaze. I didn't somehow offend him, did I? "Goodness, is she not fit for combat?" Her son nodded, golden bangs obscuring his eyes from my perspective. Mother sighed, slumping into her seat so unladylike, I felt my nerves beginning rattle coupled with the chill making its way into the homely room. "Vivienne, I know your father told you you need not fight but, I'm afraid it will have to change. "
"Your father is gone and I will join him too someday, Rahnier will be king and he will obtain the ire of our enemies. Who will protect him? Who will protect your baby brother?" She stood from her cushioned seat, clad in a lackluster dress that makes a nightgown more fashionable, her blue skirts flowed at her feet as she strode over to us. Mother's smile was comforting, but her blue eyes... "Mother, you don't need to pressure Big Sister Vivi! I'll protect us!" my little brother beamed, inheriting Mother's azure eyes with subdued sadness in hidden in their depths. Running her fingers in her youngest's fair hair, Mother sheds a tear as her shoulders shivered. "I know you will, Lucien, I know you will." Mother turned her attention to us once more, Rahnier has let his hands fall freely as his brows longed to connect. "I'm sorry, for forcing you two to fight." I fervently shooked my head at her notion, Rahnier blinked with confusion shining in his gaze. I smiled once more, "You did not, I know you are only worried, Mother. Besides, I think I'd like to learn how to wield a pole rather than a sword." Mother openly wept now, she descended upon her knees with frocks flowing around and sobbed. Her cries joined the crackling of wood burning up, Lucien embraced her with an understanding look on his face, Rahnier joined in the close contact, arms easily holding the two within, reminiscent of the way Father used to hug us all together. Scorched strings bound and squeezed my heart, I all but threw myself into them with my own tears gushing forth.
This...I wish Father was here.
"Thank you, my children," she said after a bit, we were all huddled up near the fireplace, though it did little to comfort the twisting ache in our hearts. Mother all too suddenly stood up, hand on her chest as she steadied her breathing. "I will have to arrange our King's funeral. Take your time to form a farewell speech, Rahnier. I'll tell your teachers to not pester you in the incoming days. Vivienne, continue your lessons and bring Lucien with you."
“You are not investigating Father’s murder?!” I am well aware of my rude tone, Mother’s brows only worried and my brothers had panic written all over their faces. But I cannot just stand here without knowing anything about Father’s death! “Vivienne, dear, I’m sorry but there no leads on the crime scene. Now please, drop it.” With the eyes of a General and tone harder than steel, the Queen strode off into the other door which led to the hallway leading to our rooms, I assume she would change her clothes and so we said nothing. Only our breathing resounded in the space. "I'll be in...Father's study. You two, don't wander off without any guards." Rahnier said, leaving for the door. Paper on paper clashed as Lucien closed the book in his hands. "About what Mother said," he began, smoothing his lap of imaginary dust. I waited for him to continue, body entirely rested against my elbow. "I want to help you get better at fighting!" he cheered, cheeks puffed out with pink blossoming as stars shone in his ocean eyes. His sincerity is a nice change of pace from all the frowns the servants have graced us when we arrived some days ago, I remember Rahnier trying his best to quell his sniffling in the carriage with Father's anthurium-embroidered waxen scarf around his shoulders. "I appreciate the thought but are you sure? Your literacy lessons take up your day time and you still have fencing to worry about afterward." Planting myself up, idly toying with laces on my leather boots as Lucien's shoulders drooped, expression sullen before he beamed once more and all but jumped in his shoes. "I know! I'll teach you about being unpredictable!" he brought his fragile fists near his chin, brows contorted with the resolute of a fledgling willing itself to soar the skies with fragile wings.
"Could Louvel join us? I saw him sparring with Commander Giustino and they tied! Isn't that noteworthy!"
"Commander Giustino? The Bear of Lindale? Truly?"
"Indeed, Big Sister! I think he'll do well as your partner!"
"Father did assign him as my knight, but do you think he has the time?"
"He spends his time either practicing or following you."
Ah, good point. I mentally giggled.
"Let us ask him first, I'd hate to just suddenly impose."
"Why are you two so formal with each other? Wasn't Louvel your best friend, Big Sister?"
Lucien's words struck a chord, everything all too suddenly—and uninvitingly—became surreal. A child's chirpy tune rang from afar only to disappear when I blinked and drank in my little brother's fretting gaze. "I'm fine, Louvel, don't worry." I vexed on fixing his concern with a smile but Louvel changed naught. "You only become informal when you are bothered, tell me Big Sister, did something happen between you two?" Shaking my head fervently, deflecting his question. Lucien gave up with a heave, headed for the double-doors as he did, and beckoned me to follow. Rahnier's knight hailing from the south was not present, Louvel greeted with a bow as we approached, metal shining against the sunlight that sneaked in through the window. "Louvel, do you mind helping with my sister's training?" Lucien's hard tone made it sound more like a demand, his smile was upon his lips though it was princely, it was not genuine. The red-haired man wavered as he hastily yielded, voice shaking. "Good, to the training grounds."
"Training grounds? Are you resistant to the cold?" I asked, furrowing my brows at my little brother's eagerness, while I am not discouraging it—quite the contrary—I am worried it might affect him negatively. Lucien grinned, no longer faux. "I can take it, a little cold never hurt anyone." I sighed, nodding at his reply and letting him lead us, I turned to Louvel and his verdant irises were already affixed to mine, they widened for a split second but he did not avert his viewing. "Are you sure you have time? I remember Commander Giustino assigning you as his right hand." A warm smile decorated his handsome features, jawline sculpted by the Gods as he chuckled lowly. "I'm sure he won't mind, I am performing my duties as your knight." he chirped. It sounded irksome, so displeasing it leaked out into my voice. "I see." He must have noticed, for his amicable staring trailed off and his grin fell. Lucien thankfully has not taken note, resumed leading until the passage to the backyard training grounds was right in front of him, he opened it with little effort and proceeded to break out from his prim and proper self and ran outside with his arms flailing and a cheery song escaping his lips.
"He reminds me of you when we were younger." I glance to Louvel as I said, he nodded. "I apologize about earlier, I did not mean to sound so...agressive." He shook his, crimson locks flowing with the motion. "Louvel, you never did tell me why you stopped treating me like a friend, did I do something wrong? Please, tell me. I want to fix whatever it is I broke." I pleaded, longing to touch his hands or fall on my knees and beg. Neutrality melted, emerald eyes now open as did some emotions I never thought I would see on him, he took a breath and, "You broke nothing. This I swear to you."
"Nothing? You hardly act like it's nothing! Please, just tell me the truth!"
"All right, you two! Let's get started!" Lucien came with crunching snow, huffing out whispers of ghostly pristine. Grin as pure as Spring's blooming pink asters and as bright as Summer's blossoming lilac hydrangeas, Louvel seemed relieved at Lucien's appearing out of the blue. Shooting a remorseful look to me and returned to his dutiful knight persona. "First, we need weapons! You said you wanted to train with a polearm, Big Sister?" he turned with such hopeful eyes washing irritation away, I nodded. "We have plenty of those but would you be so kind as to be specific? Poor Louvel here will have to carry every bardiche, corseque, faushard, halberd, glaive, partisan, spear, and voulge that he finds."
"I want something that can counter swords while also being lightweight."
"I know what you want," Louvel said, pride overflowing in his voice as we went off to fetch the mystery. Smiling as he strode, "Get a wooden staff as well!" Lucien added, he faced towards when the knight's red hair clashing against the sheets of chilling white faded into a corner. "While he is gone, I will tell you the basics of not dying against an enemy!"
"Should you say something so crass? You know how Father perished." Lucien shrank, eyes snapping wide. It worried me but he quickly cut me off before I could mutter out an apology. "I'm sorry," he said so quietly, I shook my head at him, rested my palm against his flushed cheek, it was cold but did little to bother me. Lucien shivered a bit, did not falter away. "You were going to tell me something?"
"Oh, yes! The key to being unreadable during combat is looking at your opponent straight in the eye, by doing so, you can follow where he looks and counter when he strikes. You can also move your weapon to and fro just to confuse him!" Lucien explained, finger stiff and pointing up to the gray skies emitting inclement frost lulling you to sleep and never wake from its freezing embrace. "I have to ask, why do you want to learn how to use polearms rather than a sword?" he tilted his head, golden locks tumbling. I closed my eyes, recalled Father in his shining armor not befitting of a king but, it suited him. It gave him the aura of a tiger, one that genuinely serves the betterment of everything he cares about with the wind caressing and his red cape flourishing. "I want to protect you all," I reply, breath whisking. "I should’ve protested when Father halted my training, I should’ve done something, I was right there!" He gaped, widened ocean irises as he gasped. "Do you mean...?"