"Lady Mellissa has been lonely lately. Thanks for cheering her up."
Claire said as the three of us walked out of the room.
"The Lady is strong-willed, at times hard headed, but she has the mind of a merchant and businesswoman… but because of her unique circumstances, her life has mainly been confined within these walls."
Bellen explained. Claire turned back suddenly, squared up to me, and furrowed his gray brow.
“If you do anything to my Annabella, I will greatly prosecute you!"
I lunged back.
Claire signed deeply.
“Mellissa Ann Cafree. The Ann is short for Annabella.”
As we made our way outside, the sun shined brightly. Mercenaries looked my way, likely still on high alert. I’m sure they were irritated because I broke inside undetected. I expected some animosity, but all this attention was almost soul-crushing.
"Anyway, you call her Annabella… ah, Bellen, was it?"
“Yes, Annabella was her human name. That’s the name Flora and Jon Cafree, her father and mother, gave her.”
I recalled the man in the suit from last night. He was tall and had short graying hair and a beard. The mercenaries led him inside right before I snuck in.
“I… guess I’ll meet them properly soon. But anyway, why is her name Mellissa now?”
I had to clear up what they were saying. Claire led me into another building to the west. I stepped inside, and Bellen closed the door behind us.
“Mellissa is the name of the curse she’s inflicted with. The demon side that we all know well. Radiants give the name “Mellissa” to her after she was born.”
All of this was going over my head. To gather all the information, I put it into my own words…
"So, what you're saying is that Mellissa or Annabella was born as a normal human. And somehow, she was cursed with "Mellissa?"
Bellen stopped, causing us all to come to a halt.
"Yes and no. The curse Mellissa is a powerful curse that only humans are inflicted with. We don't know the origin of it… But we know that when Mellissa's host dies, another human will be born with that demon inside them."
There was a sudden pit in my stomach as I gathered all of this in.
“Why… only humans?”
"Who knows? But we know that Radiants protect us with the ritual, to calm the devil down."
With her hand behind her back, the blonde maid tilted her head.
“And if you didn’t know, Mellissa adores the knights and Radiants. So, if you two go on a date later today, maybe you can bring her to the Radiant Kingdom?”
My mouth parted a bit, thinking about the brilliant kingdom in the distance of the city. It echoed a sense of allure as I thought about it the first day I came. I didn't realize Mellissa was so fond of the knights and Radiants. This sounded like a good idea to make her happy.
"Yeah, I'll take her to the kingdom if we enter Radiant City today."
Claire smiled brightly.
"Good. Don't tell Mellissa I told you, though!~. That's a freebie from me to you."
We stopped at the door, and once she opened it, a luxurious room sat in front of me. The bed looked to the side of my cabin room. I’m sure that was a stretch, but I've never seen a bed so large before until recently. As I walked in, it was warm and even had a fireplace for cold nights. I… was in a rich person's paradise.
"Are you sure this is my room? You… You know I have night terrors and…."
Bellen stopped me.
"Right here, young lady. Everything is bolted down for that very reason. And if you must, please put on these latches hanging from the side of your bed on before you sleep. That way, you don't destroy everything…."
"As for your screaming and hollering… we tried our best to insulate the noise, but it's likely if we're close enough to this building, we will hear you. Don't worry; it will not disturb anyone but the patrolling mercenaries."
Both the maid and the butler stepped out.
"Lady Cicer, please enjoy your stay. And if need be, we can discuss more on the matter of the curse, Mellissa, if you wish later."
Bellen suggested. I nodded happily.
“I would like that. I really want to know more about Mellissa, please.”
With a wave, Claire closed the door, leaving me in this wonderful room. I instantly lay down, but the shock of my wounds made me jolt as I hit the sheets.
"Mellissa… is a curse? Who puts that curse on her, then? Or… the human race, I mean?"
There was a whole new layer to this than I expected. The mystery of who the kindest human and the cruelest demon was only deepened. Strangely, it was exciting to explore. I… was going to learn more about Mellissa, which made me happy.
After a bit of settling in, I exited the room. A few mercenaries approached me, and instinctively, I touched the end of my blade.
"Calm down, and we just had a few questions for you, Feodora Cicer."
One was male, and the other was female. The mercenaries were in uniform outfits of black with golden trim and pants. Their armor looked pretty sturdy, and I'm sure getting into a fight with them would be… a pain at the very least.
“What’s the question?”
On guard, I ask.
"You're a dark vessel. I've never met one, which goes for everyone here. We've been chatting about how you managed to get inside the manner undetected."
I placed one hand on my hip and leaned back slightly. The element of surprise was one of the best points of being a dark vessel. Our actions aren't well documented, at least not in the common space of society.
“Sorry, that’s a trade secret.”
The last thing I needed was for them to catch wind of my methods. If I ever had to go against them, I wouldn't want them to have a "Feodora Cicer manual" to deal with me. They both glanced at each other and gave an accepting nod.
"We figured you wouldn't tell us. Just know we're keeping a good eye on you from here on. You've sparked the interest of even the most veteran of our workers."
With a peace sign, they disappeared into the blinding light of the day. I'd felt eyes on me all morning, so it didn't surprise me that I was a target to keep their eyes on. But it was causing me anxiety. So, I signed deeply to calm myself down.
“What would I sacrifice to be with Mellissa? I guess my solitude is the start.”
I wouldn’t lie about missing the silence of my cabin. If only I could be there instead of here. In a perfect world, Mellissa wouldn’t have that demon side to her, and we'd enjoy our time away from society. But then… would Mellissa like that kind of life?
(“Maybe… Mellissa wouldn’t like that. She’s different than me in that way.”)
As I walked towards our meeting spot, I thought deeply about it. Mellissa seems to be the type that loves being social. She wants to go to school, have friends, and do normal things like normal people. But her curse, as Bellen and Claire called it, prevents that from happening. I bet in her perfect world, she wouldn't be gated by these walls but free to roam the city, tending to the wounds and hurts of others while exploding with friendship and happiness.
Would… our relationship work if she could do that?
My feet stopped at the fountain. The blue water glistened in the wonderful sun as I overcame my insecurities. I was coming off the high of our confession and sending doubt into my mind.
(“So, what do I want out of this?”)
That was the start of my goal from here on out. It started simply out of curiosity about who Mellissa was. And it's still there too. But after I find all the secrets regarding her, what am I striving for?
And it was simple when I thought deeper into it.
(“I like her… because she’s so different from me. It’s… like a new perspective in life.”)
That would be the seed of my feelings. I told Mellissa I was falling for her, which was true. Since my feelings were out there, I had to show her that I was willing to try and make things work… even if she had that insane side to her. And that starts… with making her happy and never letting her cry like before.
“Feodora, I’m ready!”
I turned to see Mellissa walking alongside her mother, Flora Cafree. The scowl she had on her face subsided, and what replaced it was a genuine smile. It was… almost as sweet as her daughters. Those bright green eyes bounced up and down in excitement as Mellissa stopped at my feet.
"Feodora… my mother had a question for you~."
Mellissa chimed as we both turned to face Flora.
"I was wondering if you'd like to have dinner with me and Jon, Mellissa's father, this evening?"
"Y-Yes, I would."
Without hesitation, this time, I accepted. I was almost too eager, causing Mellissa to giggle at me.
"She's so cute. You see, mom! I told you she's a dork."
Embarrassed, I turned away and curled my finger in my hair. I can’t remember if I ever acted this way in front of anyone before. Mellissa was too good at teasing, for sure.
"Okay, that's enough, Mellissa. You're embarrassing her. Can't you see if you bully her too much, she'll grow to hate you."
The tall bunny stiffened up.
“Hate me?! Mom, that’s rude. I’m just having a little fun.”
She patted her daughter on her head with one hand on her hip.
"Geez, okay, you have work to do today. Terra is waiting at the gates for you…."
She stopped and then turned to me.
"Feodora, would it be better to take Mellissa around instead of Terra? She's only here because she was appointed the rosary. Maybe you can use it instead?"
The rosary, that tool made by the Radiants to keep Countess in check. I almost forgot about it until she brought it up.
“Sure, I was going to take Mellissa out after she was done with her work. Having the rosary on me is a good idea.”
"Alright then, when you get to the gate, tell Terra I am relieving her of those duties. As of now, I think it'll be best if you keep the rosary on you."
She smiled charmingly.
“I mean, you are my daughter's girlfriend, right?”
Mellissa squealed as if those words were her weak point. I… still couldn't grasp that I, the loner, was officially in a relationship. Just the other night, I complained about dying alone, and here I am, stomping on Maxwell's creed like it was dust from a fire.
With that, Flora walked away, but not without giving us a brief wave first.
“Shall we go?”
Together, we walked to the gates of the manor. I looked down, and… for the first time, I took the initiative. If I wanted to do what I set out for, to make sure Mellissa was happy, I would need to start taking the foreground and doing my best to make sure I… protect her.
Our hands clumsily met, and I fumbled to smoothly transition into her palm. But the result was right. I was holding hands with her. Feigning ignorance, I looked up at her.
I smirked as our hands tightened together. Mellissa rubbed her nose on mine, sending a jolt through my body. The sweetness of her breath enchanted my body. It was like we were in a war about who would do the cutest things to one another. Easily, she was winning in my eyes.
“Feodora! What are you doing here?!”
As we reached the gates, the fiery-haired knight, Terra, screamed at me. But she came to a pause when she looked at our hands.
"Terra, Feodora, and I made up last night."
She lifted our hands, showing the knight our bond.
"I-Is that right? So… you did break in, didn't you, Feodora?"
“Let’s say I was invited.”
Annoyed, she rubbed the back of her head.
"Well, I'm taking Mellissa into the city to do her merchant duties. Are you coming along with us?"
I scratched my cheek.
"Flora Cafree told me to tell you I'll relieve you of that duty… at least for now."
Confused, Terra tilted her head. In response, Mellissa pushed both our hands out again.
“Ohhhh, oh, it's like that."
It seemed to click to Terra as she hurriedly brought out the rosary.
"I didn't think… ah, after all of the chaos that happened ah…."
Instead of finishing her sentence, she dropped the rosary in my hand.
"Okay, I'll inform the knights that Feodora Cicer will hold the rosary for now. Ah… a personal question, I guess. D-Do you want me to inform them of your relationship?”
I wasn't sure why that needed to be done, but…
“Yes! I would love that.”
Mellissa jumped in first, excited to spread the news to the world. That went to show how vastly different our thoughts were on the matter… but refreshingly. It… made me think differently about her all the more. And that was a good thing.
“Well, I’ll be off to do other knight duties. If you have any questions, please call me, Feodora, Mellissa.”
She began walking, but she turned back to us before she left.
Cutely, Terra said with a bright red blush before racing off. A few mercenaries laughed about the entire strange situation.
"Anyway, if Countess comes out, I'll be in charge of stopping her. So… don't worry, I guess?"
I held the rosary in my other hand, showing it to Mellissa.
“I’m in your care.”
She agreed as she led me to one of those… vehicles that traverse the land by spectrum power. We got into the back seat, and a mercenary entered the front. This seemed to be the way Mellissa got to and from the city.
"My duties are brief. I just need to collect the ledger from our merchants and bring them back home. Everyone is in the shopping district, so it'll be quick."
“Oh, good. I… wanted to do some things with you today.”
“Did you? Where would you like to go?”
I closed my eyes…
"Can we go see the Radiant Kingdom? I heard you like it up there, and I've never been there before."
Excitedly she clapped.
"Yes! We can! Oh, I would love to show you all about the kingdom."
With a sigh of relief, I sat back in my seat and leaned closer to Mellissa. Together, we relaxed as we made our way to the Radiant City.