Shards swung her sword with all her might, the steel clashing against Riku’s blade. The villa was quiet apart from the sound of their swords colliding. Riku forced her back, but Shards spun on the spot, her sword outstretched. Riku leapt backwards, but had little time to recover as Shards swung again, only to be blocked once more.
A smile played on the Duchess’ face. “I can take him,” She thought. “I can beat him.”
Shards stepped forward, her foot aiming for Riku’s. As Riku stepped back, Shards forced his sword back as he had done just moments ago. A sideways slash way ducked by the Duke before he attempted a stab.
Shards sidestepped it and went to chop off Riku’s arm, but Riku retracted it and stood, spinning around in an arc, and Shards rolled forward just in time to dodge his blade. As she turned back, Shards deflected a stab skywards and attempted one herself, but Riku brought his sword down with all of his strength, knocking her sword to the ground.
The duel was over with Riku’s blade resting close to Shards’ throat.
As he withdrew his blade and handed Shards hers, a smile played on Riku’s face.
“Amazing,” he said. “Even though this is only your second sparring session, you’ve made incredible progress.”
Shards smiled as well. “I guess Arthur was a better teacher than you gave him credit for.”
“Maybe so, but for all your training, you still can’t defeat me.”
“I was close!”
This prompted a quiet laugh from Riku as the two left the villa. They approached the front doors of the Palace as the sky to the east began showing the oncoming sunlight, the colour turning from black to a lighter shade of blue.
“Riku,” Shards spoke up. “Can I accompany you to Authos?”
“The answer is no,” was Riku’s short but resolute reply.
“Oh, why not,” She complained. “I’m just as good with a sword as you are. Plus Nikz and Midnight get to go.”
“Those two get to go only because they have permission from Queens Terrya and Katherine. What’s more, if you go there brandishing a sword, everyone would be in on your secret and we would have some explaining to do.”
Shards’ head went down in thought. Deep down, she knew Riku was right, but her pride wouldn’t let her admit it to him.
“There is another reason why I want you to stay back Shards,” Riku went on, causing her to again look at him. “I need someone with adequate combat skills to remain here and aid Romeo in the defence of the capital, just in case the worst case scenario should occur.”
Shards nodded in acknowledgement, now understanding why. But something seemed off when Riku smiled again.
“What’s so funny,” She asked, placing hands on hips.
“You said you were as good with a sword as me, Duchess,” Riku elaborated. “However, if you were as good as me, we would have sparred for much longer than we did. And even if we did, I would still win.”
Shards pulled on a smile as she punched Riku’s shoulder, leaving him to prepare for his trip as she made her way to her room, carefully concealing her sword.
Terrya stood on her balcony, overlooking the beautiful morning playing out in front of her. There were barely any clouds to speak of in the sky, and the sun illuminated the court below.
Waiting for the signal was a group of around fifteen Royal Guards, all mounted and waiting around a carriage sitting idle. Walking towards the carriage were Nikz and Midnight in formal flowing dresses, being shadowed by Riku in full military uniform.
“Can I ask you something Terrya,” Asked a voice from behind, and Terrya turned to see her fellow Queen Katherine standing before her, dressed in a simple white gown while her streaked hair was still messy from sleep.
“Sure,” Terrya replied, flashing a smile which had become the mask she wore against the world. Katherine walked up to the edge of the balcony, resting her arms on the marble rail while overlooking the cavalcade down below.
“I do support your decision, but why did you allow Midnight and Nikz to go? It’s not like you to get involved.”
This statement drew a look of exhaustion of Terrya’s face. “I just thought they would enjoy the chance to prove themselves as future sovereigns. After all, Nikz has never been to Authos and Midnight has never left the capital.”
“That’s not what I was talking about.”
Terrya looked at Katherine, their hair now blowing in the slight breeze. “If this is about anyone else wanting to go-”
“Don’t consider me a fool Terrya,” Katherine’s voice shed its care as she interrupted Terrya. “It has been three years. Three years, Terrya! Don’t you think it’s time you moved on?”
“I do not want to have this conversation with you Katherine,” Terrya refuted, turning away and heading inside. Katherine, however, stood in her way with a determined look on her face.
“You may not want to Terrya,” Katherine stated firmly, “But I do. I think you need to accept the fact that he is gone.”
“Don’t you dare tell me what to do, how to feel!” Terrya shouted, sending shock racing across Katherine’s face. “Neither you nor anyone else have ANY idea how I feel, what I go through every day! So don’t you dare pretend to understand what pain I endure!”
While normally, had someone spoken to Katherine in that manner she would reply with as much if not more vigour, the fact that the one who said this was Terrya, a quiet and reserved royal, shocked her beyond speech.
With a very vile glare, Terrya turned and opened her bedroom door. “Now if you would be so kind, my fellow Queen, I wish to be alone.”
Katherine opened her mouth to respond, but saw there was no point due to Terrya’s glare. With a sigh, she walked to the door, turning to look at Terrya once more, the look of anger starting to fade.
“You do know that I worry you, that we all do.”
“I know,” Terrya replied before closing the door softly. Inside her room, Terrya was glad Katherine had left, as her mask of rage had now all but broken, showing the pain not of the past, but of lying to her fellow royals. She turned her back to the door, slid down to the floor and brought her hands to her face, her tears breaking through at last.
For a time she did nothing but sit against her door and weep, losing herself in her emotions. But when she removed her hands, her eyes spied an envelope resting beside her. Someone must have slid it under her doorway.
As she stood with the paper in her hand, she turned it to see two royal seals adorning the front; one the navy blue of Lady Lydia, the other blood red showing the image of a sword; the mark of Prince Ales.
Curiosity peaked, Terrya opened the envelope and read the contents of the letter, her eyes widening until she finished, and her heart racing like the horses now escorting three royals away from the capital.