The man sat up straighter in his chair, removing his hands from his forehead. He responded to the small girl without looking at her, "It's past midnight, Dearest. Why are you still awake at this hour?"
"I had a bad dream... I tried to go back to sleep, but I can't..."
They were in a dark room; the only source of light was that of a single candle atop the desk the young girl's father was seated at. In the dim lighting of the room all that could be seen was the silhouette of the man holding a letter in his hands, and the young girl's small hand, clutching the frame of the doorway. The girl herself remained in the shadows.
"Yes, Dearest?" The man sounded stressed.
"Can I stay with you for a while?"
Her father sighed, "Alright, but only if you promise to go back to bed in a few minutes."
She stepped out of the shadows engulfing her and into the dim candlelight, approaching her father. Her forest-green eyes reflected fear lingering from the nightmare that woke her, and yet happiness at the thought of spending time with her father, who spent a lot of time away from the family. Her short, dark red hair that was usually tidy, now messy due to the fact she had just gotten out of bed.
She was oblivious to the tenseness in the air surrounding her father; oblivious to the fact that her father was only ever this tense when something serious was happening.
With every step the little girl took toward the man she adored more than anyone else, the room seemed to fade.
Alex woke with a start. Someone was calling her name.
"Miss Alexandra? Please wake up."
A maid was knocking on the door of the girl named Alex's room.
The red-haired girl sat bolt upright in her bed, startled by the noise. She rubbed her eyes before stretching her arms and yawning loudly.
She looked out her window through half-closed eyelids and noticed that it was still pretty early in the morning, far earlier than she was used to waking up. Although she was a bit annoyed about being woken up so early, the view was pretty, and she was amazed that she normally managed to sleep through the noise the birds outside were making.
"What's going on?" she asked groggily, wanting to know what possible reason her parents had to have her woken up this early. It had to be six in the morning! Alex didn't usually get up until at least nine.
"Master Luke has returned from his absence. His Grace has asked me to inform you. He would like you to be dressed and ready to greet the Young Master and his travel companions when he returns to the manor."
"Al-alright," Alex said, stifling another yawn, "Thank you, you're dismissed."
"His Grace has also requested that you wear clothes appropriate for guests, as the Fon Master is with them."
Alex heard the click-clacking of the maid's heels fading away before she could respond. The nineteen-year-old girl groaned and fell backwards on her bed, her head hitting her soft pillow once again. She closed her eyes and pulled her blanket back over her head, attempting to fall asleep again. Her half-asleep mind had not fully registered what the maid just told her.
It took a few moments for it to finally sink in, and once it did, she shot out of her bed, blankets flying through the air along with the nightgown she had hastily pulled off and tossed to the side.
She stalled as she thought about the instructions from her father to wear something 'appropriate', and reluctantly grabbed one of the many untouched dresses in her closet, throwing it on with a scowl.
Alex didn't know why her parents insisted on wasting their money on dresses Alex would never wear on a normal day. The thousands of gald they spent on the frivolous clothes she wasn't even comfortable in would have been much better spent on things like helping the homeless, or feeding poor families in the city.
She hurriedly brushed her messy hair that ended above her shoulders, her bangs falling over her forehead in a way that almost covered her right eye. She made a mental note to trim them, they were beginning to make training difficult.
Not that she'd done a lot of that since Luke disappeared.
The redhead threw on a pair of gloves that looked okay with the dress, and reluctantly slipped her feet into a pair of heels before stumbling out of her room, walking slowly at first to get used to the lady stilts.
Alex hated when they had guests in the manor. They were the only occasions where her father would force her to wear clothes he deemed 'ideal for the image of the royal family'. She didn't know how her cousin, Princess Natalia, could wear the tight, uncomfortable dresses day in and day out. Alex preferred to be comfortable, rather than be praised for pretty clothes by people she didn't know or care about.
Alex used to wear the same type of dresses for years as well, until the day when she had joined her brother for sword training. That was when she realized that regular clothes were infinitely more comfortable than the ones forced on her until the age of fifteen, and she never looked back.
Her father was unhappy when he noticed her starting to wear the looser clothes for training more often, and confronted her about it. After a long argument, and with her mother's help, Alex was able to convince him not to force her to wear the dresses anymore, and she was even able to get clothes more her style, instead of wearing the training clothes constantly.
The Duke still demanded that she at least wore something elegant when guests were around, and considering Alex was able to get away with wearing casual clothes any other time, she chose not to argue.
The green-eyed girl opened the door to the entrance hall and politely greeted Ramdas, who bowed in response. The maids who stood by the large doors leading to the plaza in front of the castle greeted her as well, and Alex chose a spot in front of a pillar that supported a brilliant sword with an indigo shine to its blade to wait for her brother to return.
The manor had been peaceful since Luke disappeared over two months previous...to an extent. Their parents and the maids were all panicking, and their mother, who was already sickly, had grown even more frail. Along with her own worries for her brother's safety, Alex spent most of her time with her mother, caring for her alongside one of the Lady's personal maids.
She'd hoped Luke would come back soon. Not only would it have erased doubts of whether or not he was alright, but their mother would surely show signs of improvement as well.
At least Natalia had been visiting them for the time they had been gone, but those visits tended to be more dreaded than anything else after a while, seeing as all Natalia could talk about was how worried about Luke she was - and while her worries were valid, sometimes Alex didn't want to think about the many things that could have happened to him.
Alex loved Natalia, and thought of her as very close friend as well as her cousin, but it was hard to look forward to her visits if her worry for Luke resulted in long conversations like that. The redhead spent most of those conversations zoning out and watching Pere tend to the gardens outside instead, which would only remind her that Luke used to talk to the elder gardener all the time, too.
The whole time Luke was gone Alex pondered how he had literally disappeared with the woman who had attempted to kill the Commandant. Van had even told them later when her parents were demanding answers that her name was Tear Grants, and that she was his sister.
This only worried Alex more about her brother's safety. If the woman was about to kill her own brother, who was to say she wouldn't kill Luke?
Shortly after they got their information, Guy was sent to go find Luke with little intel on where he could have ended up. It wasn't surprising in the least it took a couple months to locate him and get him home safely. Alex had really missed them, and was looking forward to seeing them again. She was thankful their lives would all go back to being normal.
It was a little under an hour before the doors to the manor finally opened, and Alex was greeted with both familiar and unfamiliar faces. Obviously, there was Luke, who appeared to be engaged in an argument with Natalia over a small girl with pigtails who had attached herself to Luke's waist.
Alex didn't ask. She wasn't sure she wanted to know.
With them, there was Guy, who greeted her with his usual smile, and the light brown-haired girl Alex recognized as Tear, the woman responsible for Luke disappearing. There was also a tall man with intimidating red eyes that wore a uniform from the Malkuth military, as well as a young boy with green hair and a long staff who could only have been the Fon Master.
"Welcome back, Luke," Alex said as they entered, a little surprised at how big the group was, "And Guy, too. Thank you all for escorting my brother back to Baticul."
"It was the least I could do for causing the trouble in the first place," Tear stated. Alex couldn't help but be surprised at how civil she was. The long-haired girl, who had to be barely any older than sixteen, was certainly not at all what Alex expected after the first time she'd seen her.
"Yes, don't mention it," the Malkuth military man said, adjusting his glasses, "It was certainly a...memorable experience."
"I don't doubt that," Alex laughed as she looked at her brother as he continued his argument with Natalia as if he hadn't even noticed his sister, while the girl in pink, who still had her arms wrapped around Luke's midsection, watched and smirked at the princess. Luke had given up on trying to push her off of him.
"Luke!" Natalia was shouting, gaining everyone's attention, "Please tell that girl that we are engaged!"
"It's not like I want her clinging to me like this! Besides, you know I can't remember that promise, anyway!"
"What kind of attitude is that?!" Natalia huffed, after Luke muttered a comment about how he may have been better off outside of Baticul without any nagging, "Do you have any idea how worried I was?"
"Luke's probably just embarrassed, Your Highness," Guy tried.
Natalia glared at Guy, "You have some explaining to do as well, Guy! Did I not tell you to inform me before you joined the search for Luke? Why did you leave without speaking to me?"
The blond scratched the back of his head, "Well, you know servants like me can't get into the castle..."
"He asked me to tell you for him," Alex chimed in, before Natalia could bite Guy's head off. It was actually a lie, considering Guy didn't even have time to tell Alex he was leaving after the Duke gave him the order to search for Luke. "Sorry, I forgot to mention it."
Her comment was completely ignored except by the others that she had never met before, who were all looking at her curiously. She realized she hadn't actually introduced herself to them yet, but she decided to wait until her friends were finished making a scene.
Natalia advanced on Guy, who backed away immediately in a classic display of his well-known female phobia. "Why are you backing away?"
"You know why!" Guy replied, and Alex had to resist the urge to point out how obvious the answer to Natalia's question was.
"Once Luke and I are married, you will become my servant as well," Natalia said simply, crossing her arms, "Get used to it."
"To be fair, Your Highness," Guy started, shaking as Natalia continued to advance on him, "I am Alex's servant, too, and I'm able to serve her without her coming too close to me..."
Natalia narrowed her eyes, causing him to shrink away even more, "You are a servant to House Fabre. You know better than to call her by 'Alex' while in the presence of others."
"Natalia, you know I asked him to call me that," Alex replied for him. She'd grown to hate anyone calling her Alexandra; it sounded too stuffy. The only ones who continued to insist on calling her that were her parents, Ramdas, and occasionally Pere. "We've been over this. He doesn't call Luke by any titles, either."
Natalia spared her a glance, "I understand that. Still, it's inappropriate for a servant to address the one he serves as a friend. I'm only suggesting he refrain from calling you and Luke in such a way while he's surrounded by his fellow servants. He would be punished if it got back to Uncle Crimson."
"Fine," Alex shrugged, "Then we'll say we ordered him to address us that way. You can't get mad at him for following orders, right?"
The princess sighed, giving up on the matter before looking back at Guy and shaking her head, "You're so strange. Look how pathetic you are, cowering like that because of a girl, I don't know what the maids see in you."
Alex turned back to the strangers, "Anyway...I haven't formally introduced myself to you. I'm Alexandra fon Fabre, Luke's older sister. But please, just call me Alex."
Natalia quickly stopped berating Guy as if she just noticed they had guests, and moved to stand beside Alex as the strangers went to introduce themselves, "And I am Natalia, the princess to this kingdom."
"Colonel Jade Curtiss, Third Division, Malkuth Imperial Forces."
Alex cracked a smile at how formal the man was being to her as she shook the hand he extended to her.
"Could I just call you 'Colonel' instead? It sounds like your full name's kind of a mouthful. I can't say I envy you for having to introduce yourself that way every time you meet someone."
"Strange," Jade remarked, "You've grown up in the same environment as Luke, yet at a first glance you seem...different from him."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Luke changed after his memory loss," Alex admitted, leaving his outburst at the colonel's words ignored, "We tried to raise him into more or less how he had been before, but he was never the same. It's probably because he's not allowed to leave the manor, and he's very limited with everything compared to before the kidnapping. We still hope his memories will come back soon, before he comes of age."
Jade nodded, and did not respond.
"At any rate," the Fon Master spoke, holding out his hand for Alex to shake, "I'm Fon Master Ion, this is Tear, and the young girl attached to your brother right now is my guardian, Anise. It's a pleasure to meet you."
"The pleasure is mine, Fon Master."
"Please, just Ion will do."
"Don't forget about me!"
Alex and Natalia both jumped at the high-pitched voice, and looked around the group for the source of the noise. It wasn't until they looked down and saw the little blue Cheagle staring up at them with enormous blue eyes that they figured out who had spoken.
Alex's jaw promptly dropped.
"Yes, of course," Ion smiled kindly at the Cheagle, as if it speaking the human language was no big deal, "This is Mieu."
"Pleased to meet you!" the creature squeaked happily, bouncing up and down in front of Alex and the princess. From the corner of her eye, Alex noticed Tear trying to hide a faint blush.
As the redhead wrapped her mind around the idea of an animal speaking to her, she had to laugh at how enthusiastic he was, "It's nice to meet you, too."
"My," Natalia said, eyes sparkling in wonder as she knelt to get a closer look at Mieu, "How is he able to speak our language?"
Luke waved his hand in a nonchalant manner, "It's just that ring around his stomach."
Alex raised her eyebrow, and turned to Mieu hoping for a better answer. He only stared back at her.
Ion was the one that eventually spoke, "It's called the Sorcerer's Ring..."
Alex and Natalia listened with interest as the Fon Master quickly explained the ring and the pact made between the Cheagles and Yulia Jue. Alex couldn't help but wonder why they had Mieu with them in the first place.
Alex looked at Luke, who appeared bored out of his mind, "So how did he end up with a pet Cheagle, anyway?"
"Master saved my life!" Mieu squeaked happily in response.
Natalia smiled and turned to Luke, "How kind of you, Luke! I always knew you would eventually go back to the way you used to be. This is a fine start!"
Luke only rolled his eyes, "Whatever, it would have been a pain in the ass if he died. We needed him to talk to the liger queen."
Alex had no idea what he meant by that, but she didn't have time to ask.
"Would you mind if I asked some questions about how Luke was raised since the kidnapping?" Tear asked suddenly as Natalia continued to speak to Luke despite the fact that he wasn't listening. Alex turned to her and nodded.
"He seemed very sheltered while we were traveling, and at a first appearance it doesn't seem like you were raised quite the same way."
"We were both confined to the manor after the kidnapping, Luke's just had more on his plate, with his memory loss and all. I could focus more on my studies, and lessons on etiquette," she shuddered at the memories of those horrible lessons, they basically just taught her not to show guests like these her true colors, "While Luke had to spend more time on things like remembering how to walk and speak our language. Honestly, if you met me outside the manor, I would probably come off as a bit sheltered, too."
Natalia clapped her hands together, getting everyone's attention before turning to Luke, "Oh, that's right! I almost forgot to ask, did you hear about what happened to Van?"
Luke and Tear both looked curiously at the golden-haired teen.
"What?" Luke asked, "What about Master Van?!"
"Our fathers suspect Van of being behind your disappearance," Natalia explained, and this was news to Alex as well. Last she heard, they were just suspecting Tear.
Luke grabbed Natalia's shoulders, looking very much like he was going to shake her, "Tell me what's gonna happen to Master Van!"
"Van will likely be arrested as soon as he reaches Baticul," Jade explained, "Worst case, I presume he will be executed."
"That can't happen!" Luke shouted as he rounded on Jade, as if blaming him for the Commandant's fate, "Master Van's innocent!"
"The Commandant's in danger?" Anise asked, turning to Ion, who nodded at her.
"Yes, we must issue a formal protest from Daath at once!"
"Natalia!" Luke turned back to the princess, and he actually did shake her this time, though not hard, "You have to talk to Uncle and tell him Master Van wasn't involved! You've got to save him!"
Natalia nodded slowly, eyes widened. She was probably just as surprised as Alex was at the note of urgency in Luke's voice. Then again, the topic at hand was about Commandant Grants.
"All right. I can't turn down a request from you, Luke," the princess blushed as she removed his hands from her shoulders and held them, "But in return, I want you to hurry up and remember that promise you made to me."
Luke groaned and pulled his hands away from her, "I already told you, I don't remember proposing to you as a kid!"
"Yes, I know that," her eyes lit up, "But how romantic would it be if the first thing you remembered was your proposal to me?"
Natalia sighed, "Yes, all right. I'll go speak to Father."
She bid them all farewell, and started back toward the doors before stopping, as if she had just remembered something. She turned back to them, her eyes landing on Alex.
"Oh, Alex, may I have a word?"
The girl blinked, surprised slightly at being called over. Speaking to the king about Commandant Grants was more important, wasn't it? From the look on Luke's face, he was thinking along the same lines.
Alex nodded anyway, moving over to where the princess stood waiting. "Sure. What is it?"
As soon as she was close enough, Natalia grabbed her hand and pulled her toward the door without so much as an explanation, earning strange looks from the others.
"Let's speak outside. Do not worry, I won't take you away from the manor."
She led Alex outside, and once the doors were closed behind them, she started speaking in an urgent whisper, not paying any mind to the White Knights standing guard.
"Father has issued the order that Luke go to a mining town in Malkuth by the name of Akzeriuth. He will be acting as an ambassador for Kimlasca."
"Okay..." Alex frowned. So he was leaving again? She hadn't even greeted her brother properly yet or had the chance to ask him what happened, and already he was planning on leaving? She wasn't even that concerned about being left behind, but their mother's health was likely to get worse for worrying more about her son. At the very lest, she would know he wasn't kidnapped this time. "Why is he going?"
"Akzeriuth is having severe problems with a poisonous gas being referred to as miasma. The people inside with Luke, excluding the Fon Master and that girl, will be accompanying him there to help."
"So they're leaving again?" Alex sighed, less than enthusiastic about the idea. It sounded like it could be dangerous.
Natalia nodded, "Yes. I believe it's a grand idea for them to send Luke as an ambassador, but what would be even better is if they sent us as well. What better way for Malkuth to see that Kimlasca truly means to help them, than to send more members of the royal family, including their country's princess?"
Alex raised an eyebrow, "Sure, but would it really be wise for them to send all their successors? What if something happened to us?" She was a little confused, Natalia made it sound as if it was already decided that they would be joining the others, "You can't really be telling me our fathers are okay with this?"
A flash of bitterness appeared on the princess' face before disappearing just as fast. It was all Alex need to know Natalia already had asked her father, and didn't care much for the answer.
"Do you not wish to come?" Natalia asked plainly, crossing her arms, "If that's the case, I would be perfectly willing to accompany them without you."
Meaning she was going to sneak out. There was something about the idea that sent a thrill up Alex's spine.
"That's not really what I'm saying. It sounds like it could be dangerous, and I don't know how much use I'll be to them."
"Nonsense," Natalia replied, "We've both had training, and I have studied healing extensively. We will be useful to them."
"Real battles won't be the same as training."
Natalia sighed, "Alex, would you like to come, or not? There happens to be much more to life than what is inside the manor. You cannot honestly tell me you're all right with spending your whole life within those walls until the day your father decides on a suitor for you?"
Alex thought for a moment. She was almost of age, and her father had already started setting up suitors for her. She hadn't met any yet, and she was dreading the day she would have to. Even if this journey would be dangerous, she had to admit the idea was infinitely more exciting than staying behind on her own to deal with people she had no desire to meet, let alone marry.
"How would we leave without being noticed?"
Natalia smiled, "Leave that to me. Be waiting in your room tonight, I'll inform you of the plan then."
With that, Natalia left, and Alex re-entered the manor. She was mildly surprised to see that most of the group wasn't there, and only Guy was left, looking at the same sword Alex had waited by for them earlier.
When the doors closed behind her, and the maids lined at the entrance all welcomed her back despite the fact she hadn't actually gone anywhere, the blond turned and gave her a considering look.
"What was that all about?" he asked cautiously. She hadn't even had to start lying yet and already he must have had suspicions about Alex and Natalia sneaking out to accompany them.
"Nothing," Alex lied nervously. She was never any good at lying. "Natalia just told me that you guys are ditching me again. Where's Luke?"
"Tear wanted to apologize to Lady Susanne for what happened, so Luke showed her the way to her room."
Alex nodded, "And the other people you were with?"
"They're just taking a look around the place before leaving. Ion said he wanted to see where Luke grew up. So what did Princess Natalia really have to say?"
Alex gave him a look, "Are you really playing off being on a first name basis with the Fon Master as no big deal?"
Guy looked amused, "Sure, he asked us to call him by his name. And what the princess said?"
"I told you," Alex replied, avoiding his gaze. She had been hoping he would drop it. "She just explained what was going on in Akzeriuth!"
"Uh-huh," Guy said, clearly not believing her, "And that's why she had to tell you without the rest of us around?"
"Hey, don't ask me. Natalia's mind works in mysterious ways."
"Fine," Guy sighed, scratching the back of his head, "Sorry about leaving you behind again."
Alex raised an eyebrow at him. She was thankful for the change in topic, but the apology made little sense. "Why would you be sorry? It's not your fault."
"I guess not," he shrugged, "I just feel a little guilty about leaving you alone while we're off traveling. I can only imagine how bored you must have been here by yourself these past few months."
"You have no idea…" Alex sighed. Just the air of paranoia in the manor had been suffocating since Luke disappeared, and the concern for her mother's health had only made it worse. He'd only been home for a few minutes, but already the atmosphere was so much lighter. "But it's not like you're going on vacation or anything, either."
"Right," Guy agreed. His expression turned more serious, "So that's why it's important I make sure you're not planning on sneaking out or anything."
Her lips twitched into a mischievous smile, "I didn't plan to..." she lied, placing a finger on her chin, "But you know..."
"Please, don't," Guy said, his eyes narrowed, "It'll be dangerous. I couldn't guarantee you wouldn't get hurt."
"I know that," she replied, "I'm not being serious! I promise."
She smiled a little too innocently as she extended her pinky to him. As expected, he recoiled immediately. She hoped it would be enough to get him off the topic.
"I'm joking!" she laughed, lowering her hand, "I know well enough that you're afraid of women."
"Then stop doing that!" he told her, a slight look of terror still on his face.
She backed away from him for good measure, "Okay, okay. Sorry."
Guy relaxed again, probably too preoccupied with what just happened to be worrying about her still thinking of joining them somehow. There was no way she was putting up with months of boredom again - how dangerous could traveling be, anyway? It wasn't like they would have anyone actively trying to stop them from getting to Akzeriuth.
But how would she get out of the manor unnoticed? Natalia seemed to have a plan, so she wasn't too worried about it.
"Shouldn't you be getting ready for tomorrow?" Alex asked, looking up at him; she was about a head shorter than Guy. When he nodded, she added, "I don't know if I'll be up in time to see you off tomorrow; Father probably won't want me up so I won't be tempted to go with you…so I guess I'll see you later."
"Yeah, I have a report to give to the White Knights on what happened while we were gone. I should probably get that out of the way now," The blond smiled, "We'll try to come back as soon as possible."
"Be safe. And make sure Luke doesn't die either, alright?"
Guy laughed, "Don't worry. I'll look out for him."
"What, no hug?"
Luke rolled his eyes at her as he made his way out to the courtyard with Tear in tow, having finally finished speaking to their mother.
"I couldn't before," he explained as he let her hug him, "Anise wouldn't get off of me, and Natalia was nagging at me again."
Alex nodded into his shirt, "I'd noticed. What was that about?"
"She keeps flirting with me!" Luke complained, "But she's so young, and totally annoying! It freaks me out."
Alex laughed. The girl was probably just interested in the money that came with their name. She didn't think Luke would quite understand that. "Well, I guess you might be appealing if you stopped complaining about everything."
"What is that supposed to mean?!"
From the corner of her eye, Alex noticed Tear smiling bemusedly at him as he glared balefully at his older sister. When the brunette noticed Alex watching her, she made a polite bow.
"I'd like to properly apologize for the worry I caused, and taking your brother so far from home."
Alex blinked, startled at the sudden apology. "It was an accident, right? You brought him back safe, that's what matters. Besides, seeing the real world for himself probably did him some good."
Tear nodded, and glanced at Luke, "I didn't know him well to start, but I believe he has grown since we arrived in Tataroo Valley."
"Stop talking about me as if I'm not here!"
Alex waved his comment off, which only seemed to irritate him more. There was one thing that was bugging her about Tear that she couldn't help but mention.
"I think the only thing that concerned me was that you were here to kill the Commandant. When he told us you were his sister, I worried that might mean you wouldn't care enough to keep Luke alive."
Tear looked a little uncomfortable at the mention of her brother, and Alex noticed Luke looking pointedly at Tear, expecting an answer as well. "Luke had nothing to do with that, it would be unfair of me not to help a civilian back to their home after causing his disappearance in the first place."
Alex couldn't help but notice that she didn't say anything about Van or her reasons for attacking him, and by the look on Luke's face, she guessed Tear had been avoiding that particular subject the entire one-hundred and fifty-two days they were gone.
Before she could ask anything else, Tear excused herself.
"You're leaving?" Luke asked.
Tear nodded, "Yes. I have a report for Grand Maestro Mohs." She went to leave before turning back to Luke, "You have a kind mother. Make sure you take good care of her."
Luke crossed his arms behind his head, "As if you're in a position to be telling me that."
"I suppose you're right. Farewell, then."
"Hang on a sec."
Tear tilted her head at him, "Yes?"
Alex noticed a slight blush on Luke's face, embarrassed again. Well...that was different. How much effect had this woman had on him? She made a mental note to never mention this to Natalia.
"D-don't worry about it too much," Luke said, not looking at Tear, "Mother was frail to begin with, so that's why she was so ill."
Tear wore a look of surprise for a split second, and then her lips tugged into a small smile. "I see. Thank you."
As she left, Alex lightly elbowed Luke in the side. He gave her an irritated look in response.
She rolled her eyes, "Details, what else? What was it like out there?"
Alex spent the better part of the afternoon listening to Luke explain his grand adventure. He went into events with great detail, almost enthusiastically. Alex was sure he was over-exaggerating on some bits to make them seem greater than they actually were, and when Guy joined them later on after he was finished getting ready for their departure, he explained some parts of the story in a way that made a little more sense.
She was happy that things finally seemed as if they were back to normal in the manor, although she had to admit she was a bit jealous about some of the things Luke had seen. She was sure there were some not-so-great parts to the story her brother wasn't telling her, but he looked more alive than she had seen him since the kidnapping.
Before long, Ramdas approached the trio, informing them that the Duke had summoned Alex to the drawing room.
She stood from the bench she had been seated on next to Luke, "I'll be back in a bit. I'm glad you're both home. I really missed you around here."
"Yeah, same," Luke waved her off lazily, "It was kinda weird not having you around all the time."
Alex laughed, knowing that was the closest she would get to hearing Luke say he missed her. She made her way to the drawing room, not wanting to keep her father waiting - everyone knew what he was like when someone kept him waiting for too long.
"Alexandra," the Duke said as Alex entered the room and sat at the table in the seat adjacent to him, "You're finally here."
"Sorry to keep you waiting, Father."
"I'm sure Luke's told you by now about Akzeriuth?"
"And I'm sure I won't have to listen to you pester me about going with them?
"No, Sir," Alex replied bitterly.
"It's only because we want you to be safe, Sweetheart," Susanne smiled. Alex had almost not noticed she was there, but that was usually the case whenever her father was around. He tended to do most of the talking in any conversation he took part in, and whoever he was speaking with would end up overshadowed.
"Is that all you wanted to talk to me about, Father?"
"Yes. I wanted to make sure your brother didn't plant any ideas in your head about joining him. You may leave."
Alex couldn't suppress a smirk as she turned from them and left the room. Little did they know, it wasn't Luke who had planted the idea in her head.
A/N: I do not own Tales of the Abyss.
This story will have romance in it, but it's not the main focus.
The whole story is undergoing major edits, as current me is not so happy with a lot of the things past me thought were good ideas. xD Please keep that in mind as you continue, because you will notice random changes in the writing style when you get to chapters I haven't redone yet.