“Is this all you amount to by yourself after all that grandeur parade of your status and wealth?” Olivia goaded at the Asten, who’s breathing was in tatters.
“S-shut… up!” He growled raggedly.
The supercilious noble could only gaped at the girl of common birth in front of him as he struggled to rein in his breaths. He would love to engulf the glazed-eye Olivia with his flames but even forming words was a toil to his current state. He had a broken arm and bruises all over, in addition.
He had flew into a rage when Olivia belittled his status and manhood by reminding him of the Placement Test. The Arcane Bolts he shot out in his rage merely grazed her arm but it had been a deliberate act on Olivia’s part.
She was hurt and that became the sole reason in justifying her retaliation. Olivia reciprocated his actions, which forced Asten into cognizance. She held back during the Placement Test.
Meanwhile, Robert stood on the side along with Samara. He cheered and praised Olivia in his heart at the unfolding situation. He knew Olivia was good but what he saw made him recognized that he had underestimated her.
In a simple manner, she was better than him in almost every way in the arts of Arcane and melee combat. Her movements were methodical and efficient, and each movement were without any excess. She struck fast and true. Her Arcane spells bore the same traits, coupled with the fact she was in the Elite class.
However, that was before the dawn of today, before the fight with Qyoni.
Now, Robert’s Arcane Pool was the same as Olivia’s level, maybe even more. And unlike Olivia, he was nearing an Elite while she was a potential Elite. Olivia held not hesitation with her attacks, that was evident in her fight with Asten but she was still a pure soul, carnally and morally. She had yet to take a life. If Robert was to fight Olivia at this very moment, her hesitation towards killing would be the maxim of her demise.
Of course, that wouldn’t happen. Not if Olivia gave Robert a reason to.
“Once… my f-family heard about t-this…” Asten spat out with a coarse voice. “You’ll r-regret it… Y-you should b-be afraid…”
“Your family?” Olivia scoffed. “You mean the peoples who only could only lick the boots of their superiors and trample on their inferiors? What do I have to fear about them?”
Asten seethed with rage at the sneer he was receiving from Olivia. He wished dearly to bend her knees and had her cower and shriek at his whims and commands, but those were now no more than delusions. There was simply no likelihood for him to triumph over a genuine talent as oppose to a self-praised sham of a prodigy.
Even if he would never admit it, deep down, he knew his private tutors had only praised him out of bribery.
Not wanting to spare a second longer to entertain the self-indulging runt, Olivia sighed with creasing brows as she waved him off. “Run along now, you louse.”
“L-louse…!?” Asten stuttered through his gritting teeth. “Take…. t-that… back.”
“Make me,” Olivia challenged.
Their gaze collided.
Asten tried to summon flames into his hands but he had already exhausted his Arcane Pool. This was the one of the snag in obtaining a Unique Arcane before reaching the level of an Elite, the Arcane consumption was far too much for any Novice-level Arcane Pool.
“Dear me, this is so painful to watch,” Robert spoke out in his mind.
As if answering Robert’s sentiment, Olivia shattered Asten’s will by unleashing her Aura, a feat that could not be performed by any typical Novice-level Magus. This was a testament to her talent.
A talent that Asten did not have.
“Whoa…” Robert gasped voicelessly.
The truth laid bare before him destroyed any animosity Asten currently held. Even if there was lingering hatred within him, it was quickly douse by his shattered esteem. Finally accepting his lost, Asten dragged his feet out of the garden while leaving a trail of vindictive yet sombre gaze at Olivia.
Immediately after Asten left the grounds of myriad floral, Olivia shot a gaze at Robert.
“Okay… what now?” Robert thought.
She was scrutinizing every part of him with her gaze, Robert realized.
She had no masters for her skills nor simply a figure she admired but the closest people she could think of would be her parents. She learned everything about Arcane and fighting with her own wits while thinking only of the smile it would bring to her parents if her training ever bore fruits. In short, she taught herself everything and so, she could only judge others capabilities at her own calibre.
She frowned at Robert.
Similar to Samara, she could not understand the person that is Robert Ross. Although, she did understand that he at least wasn’t a malicious cunt like the Talron runt but something about him— or rather, the unknown parts about him was making her awfully wary of him.
Finishing her judgement, she turned her frown upside down as she faced her friend.
“Pleasure to see you here, Samara,” Olivia greeted as she stepped closer to the two.
Samara reacted by taking a step back while struggling to keep her gaze up.
Olivia sighed at her friend’s all too usual response before turning to Robert. “Robert Ross, was it?” she inquired.
“Was it?” Robert scoffed. “Loose the act. As if you hadn’t already affirm it with the professors beforehand.”
Olivia recoiled slightly from his response. She wasn’t expecting that. She then looked at Samara.
“Don’t mind it. He’s an arse,” Samara answered the silent question.
Olivia turned back to Robert. “Did you know I was coming?” she asked. “Is that why you did nothing?”
“You are correct,” Robert answered truthfully.
“What if I wasn’t coming? What if I hadn’t come?”
“I’ll make do.”
“Like two days ago?”
Robert narrowed his eyes but he quickly shifted into a smile. “Maybe,” he retorted.
“You don’t need to hide it,” she pointed it out. “A few had witnessed it but somehow, the news didn’t traveled far. As if someone had deliberately made it so.”
“Yes, I agree.”
“You’re not denying it. What a strange boy.”
“You’re quite odd yourself, lass,” Robert sent back.
Olivia chuckled with a sneer
Samara was looking at the two with an uncomfortable expression. She wished to excuse herself but she doubted she would be allowed to by these two imposing individuals.
Olivia turned her glance to the fidgeting Samara. “So, was he the one you were looking for yesterday, Sam?”
Hearing that, Robert turn his gaze to Samara. He grinned faintly.
Caught between the two, crimson rose to Samara’s face. “I was not looking for you, creep.”
“Sure you’re not,” Robert muttered wryly.
“What do you see in him, Sam?” Olivia threw a sudden question.
Samara shot Olivia a glance. “We are not an item,” she told her, sternly.
Olivia heaved an admirable sigh. “You never change, Sam.”
“I take it that you don’t listen to others,” Robert chimed in.
“Just the contrary, actually.” Olivia served back. “In fact, I do listen— I hear and see more than anyone else, things that were otherwise constantly overlooked.”
“Really?” questioned Robert.
“Really.” She leaned in, her hands curling into fists. “Not everyone is as gullible or stupid as you think, especially when one is attentive to what goes into their ears and what comes before their eyes.”
“Do you?” Olivia uttered and her right fist disappeared as soon as her words left her lips.
Samara could not register what transpired after Olivia’s hand vanished. The moment after, Robert was sprawling a few feet away from them and Olivia’s fist was thrust out to where Robert stood just a second ago.
“What was that!?” Samara cried. “Why did you—!”
“He’s fine,” Olivia assured. “Aren’t you, Robert Ross?”
Robert was not fine. Blood was dripping from his mouth as he raised himself off the ground he was sent onto with quivering feet. “Depends on your scale,” Robert retorted. “I can see who Samara got her proneness from.”
“You even know about our history, I’m not surprise.”
To anyone else and Samara, Robert was anything but unscathed. Yet, her friend claimed otherwise. Lodged between her childhood friend’s words and the sight before her, Samara could only come to a single conclusion. “How is he fine!?” she shouted.
“You remember little Calen, Sam?” Olivia asked in the spur of the moment.
“Of course, I do.” Samara said after a short pause. “But what does that have to do with—”
“He was quite puny, wasn’t he?”
“As I have said, what does that—”
Olivia cut Samara off again. “Calen was right around our age, wasn’t he? And he’s almost as feeble as your friend here, won’t you say? Maybe he’s a little bit tougher than Robert Ross here.”
“What are you trying to say?”
Olivia sneered at Robert but it soon turned into a scowl as she approached him. “You remember just a month ago when you shove him to the ground, Sam? And he couldn’t get up afterwards. You broke his bones, apparently. He had to walk with crutches.”
“You don’t need to remind me that,” Samara said sourly.
“But I do, Sam.” She glimpsed at Samara briefly before returning her sights to Robert. “Your friend here looked just as helpless and feeble as Calen. Although, he fared so much better even though I punch so much harder than your shove—!” Her fist disappeared again during her sentences.
But Robert caught it this time, just before it met his jaws.
“Careful now, lass.” Robert’s voice was low and it even made Samara shuddered but not Olivia. “You’re nothing but a commoner. I don’t have to be considerate.”
“This is a performance, isn’t it?” Olivia asked. “Your body is frail, that’s a fact. But your vitality, that’s a different story, isn’t it? A huge contrast, won’t you say? And how do you stop my punch, pray tell.”
“Everyone has their secrets. Why do should I tell you mine?”
“Because they aren’t the one idling around Sam.”
With a hanging look, Robert glanced over to Samara and pointed at Olivia. “She’s your friend?” he asked.
“I’m sorry.” Samara buried her face into her palms. Samara had her own habits just as everyone else had their own but Olivia’s antic was something Samara found quite vexing and embarrassing. It stemmed from her past of always being needed to be the eldest among the other children in the orphanage. It was a huge responsibility, one that she managed by being particular with her inquiries when it comes to problems pertaining the children. While the children found her reliable, they also found her a chore.
Shaking off her fist from Robert’s grasp, Olivia peered at him. “I don’t know what you did or what Arcane you used to make her trust you despite your oh-so-suspicious background but—”
“I don’t trust him!” Samara interrupted with a bellow but her tone that came after was soft, “at least not completely. ”
“You don’t?” Olivia canted her head at Samara.
“She doesn’t,” Robert muttered with candor.
Olivia stuck her gaze on Robert. “You’re hard to read.”
“You don’t see yourself as convoluted?”
“That’s the problem with the lot of you.” Robert let his eyes wandered to the trees and flowers around him. “Always looking between the lines. Always trying to gauge for any hidden intentions. But when something dull and flat is thrust before you, your brain could not accept the simplicity. These overly suspicions, unreasonable distrusts, it clouded your judgement. Paranoia, the scholars called it.”
“Bunch of fancy words for a commoner.”
“I read a lot.”
“And where do you get all of your reading materials?”
“Bought, stole, gifted, found, picked up, just about every way.”
“And what about your time? You fought well, you read a lot, and you seem to have other experience for other various other things. How do you even manage?”
Robert stiffened at that inquiry.
“What’s this? No answers? No quick-witted response?”
“Would you believe me if I said sleep is not a need for me?”
Olivia eyed Robert dubiously. “Would I, I wonder?”
“Olivia, stop this.” Samara spun her around, having approached the two during the bout of their wits. “I know his motives are questionable but I don’t believe he meant any harm to me.”
“How can you be so sure, Sam? After everything you have been through.”
“That is exactly why I can be sure,” Samara shot back which stunned Olivia. “He’s a scum, I am sure of that.
Robert arched an eyebrow.
“He frightens me too, at times. I don’t know what he’s hiding but I do know that he’s a decent person, at the very least. And I—” Samara paused, twisting her face sullenly. “And I can’t believe I’m saying all this…”
Olivia stared. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing. Due to her frame, Samara was belittled to no end by others. It shaped her personality into one that distrust and spurned anyone who even looked at her. But now, that same girl was defending a person other than the children from the orphanage.
“Well,” Olivia uttered, “seems like my sister really trusts you.”
“Hmm,” was the only response from Robert.
“Since Sam trusts you, I’ll let you off. But remember,” Olivia reined him in by his collar. “if you hurt her and I will—”
Her speech was cut short as Robert struck her face with his head and Olivia went stumbling back away.
“Robert!” Samara exclaimed as she stared on in disbelief. “Why did you do that?!” she shouted at him.
“A lesson,” he told her, coldly.
Robert shifted his glance to the staggering Olivia. “I understand I must have look like a subservient fool to many as my acquaintances have repeatedly pointed it out. You seemed to share that opinion too, Olivia Harix. So, I will warn you just this once, for the sake of Samara. Do not confuse my restrain and patience as mercy or weakness.”
To those words, Samara could only gulp. Suddenly, all the notion of socking his abdomen or breaking his jaws abandoned her mind. She only wanted to cringe in terror.
Having regathered her bearings, Olivia glared at Robert. “I take it back. I’m not going to let you off,” she growled.
But she was met with an apathetic gaze.
“If we’re having this fight, know that I doubt I would come off without some serious wounds,” Robert took a step forward. “But you should also understand that you will be worse off.”
In that instance, Olivia felt shivers crawling down her spine.
Robert was right and Olivia knew that. She knew she wouldn’t emerge victorious should they fight. While she had not dubiety of her skills and Arcane, she lacked one glaring edge in the possible fight— genuine experience, not just spars.
“You’re not Asten. You’re not a noble,” Robert said. “I don’t have to be discreet with how I deal with you. Know your place, common born. Peasants like us die everyday but you don’t hear about it. Why? Because no one cared.”
When his threats grazed her ears and pricked her skin, she was made privy of Robert’s innocence in handling a life. Unlike Asten Talron who was only used to trampling on those weaker to him in status and power, Robert had trampled people superior and inferior to him.
“Now, if you’ll pardon me, I have other obligations.” Robert looked at Samara. “Good afternoon,” he greeted.
Before he sauntered off the gardens, he stopped just right beside Samara. Sharing a sincere glance, he leaned in to Samara’s ears. “Thank you,” he whispered and walked out of the garden.
Silent draped the two.
Samara was still frozen from the cold display of Robert. Her shuddering persisted long after Robert had left the small compound of flowers and trees. Trepidation set in to the regards of her future meetings with him but… a part of her was at ease. While many others might saw him in a terrible light, to Samara, he was only being sensible and blunt.
If honesty can kill, Robert would be the one making that saying a reality, Samara had no qualms about it.
For Olivia however, she was still shivering from Robert’s words. She had went up against men larger than her and also men with wicked notion but standing in front of Robert brought up a whole other emotion. It reminded her of her first encounter with a wolf when she was only a toddler. She won with her talent but it ingrained a primal fear into her.
What’s more, she had never been in a fight where the only choices of the outcome was her life or her opponent’s, which was what she knew it would come to, if she had proceeded with the fight.
Olivia cursed her heart for giving out in the one moment that had mattered. She failed her sister and she was still weak in comparison with the likes of Robert, she begrudgingly acknowledged.
“Olivia…” Samara called out in a quivering tone.
“He’s dangerous, Sam,” Olivia said, barely withholding the crumbling of her voice. “And he doesn’t even care to hide it if pushed.”
“I know.” Samara took a much needed deep breath. “I’m not fond of his character but… I think I can trust him, to some extent. That’s more than I can say for others.”
Olivia grumbled incoherently under her ragged breaths. Her words were tangling on the fears that bound and shaken her resolve. “W-why….?” she managed a word.
Olivia swallowed. “Why did you associate yourself with him?”
“He can help me.”
“With what?” Olivia stared into Samara’s eyes. Being someone she grew up with, Olivia was able to read everything off her eyes. “You must be joking.”
“He said it can be done and I felt the effects. Besides, he’s not one to lie.”
“How can you be so sure?” Olivia ground her teeth. “After what he had just displayed, even if he doesn’t lie, that’s not enough for a reason to keep mingling with him.”
“Oliva,” Samara placed a hand on Olivia’s shoulder and matched their gaze. “I am grateful for you and your parents. I am sorry for what I have done to Calen and I will see to it that I recompense my faults. But I did not leave the home just so I could walk in your shadows again.”
“You won’t be safe, Sam.”
“I have been safe all my life, thanks to you!” Samara raised her voice. “And please, just look at where did that bring me to— right back into your shadows.”
“Sam… I didn’t—”
“Stop it. Just stop it,” Samara pleaded. “I won’t be any different and I won’t change if I keep living in your shadows. So please, tell your parents, tell them… that I love them. I’m doing just fine and I don’t plan on coming home any time soon.”
Olivia gaped her mouth, astonished at the abysmal change in her friend. To think just the day before, Samara was still seeing enemies in every person, but for that boy, Samara willingly trod on to a unfamiliar path.
Torn between the change in her friend and the repercussion that would surely follow, Olivia bit her lips until red percolated.
“Just what happened to you?” Olivia asked.
“Nothing,” Samara answered, a faint smile forming on her lips. “I decided to grow up, that’s all.”