Ophion's voice echoed in the empty halls of the monastery as Alma struggled with every step from the heavy and troublesome dress. Amazing how she managed to walk and make faces behind the leading priest's back.
Ovelia, accustomed to such inconvenience, walked gracefully, suppressing a laugh as her friend tripped again.
"This knight is a renowned bodyguard among nobles and highly recommended by the royal family. A prestigious Holy Knight."
"Wow! It's so big here!" exclaimed Alicia as Lavian gave a shout of "hello~" to test its echo.
Amazed by the carvings and sophisticated symmetric patterns on the walls, the two enthusiastic knights giggled and ran through the halls of Illica monastery.
'This is so embarrassing.' thought Agrias, looking disapprovingly at her trainees' behavior.
Though the monastery was beautiful, she could feel the confinement the moment she entered it. This was her jail and she scowled at her fate as anger plundered her heart, knowing the cause. They did this to her...
Finally reaching the doors to meet her charge, Agrias glanced at Alicia and Lavian, reminding them of their position as she flung her long braid to the other side of her shoulder. After they were settled, Agrias pushed ahead and walked towards the altar.
The moment she saw him, he was entrancing as he approached with tall, proud, confident strides. His blond hair, tied in a braid with a few loose strands in the front, was the lightest colour she had ever seen and unlike the fake shimmer of gold like many nobles tried to achieve by dying their hair, Ovelia somehow knew that it was natural. But in spite of his appearance, the air around him seemed to shiver in fear because of his presence.
"Agrias Oaks of the Lesalian St. Konoe Knights greets your highness Princess Ovelia, and your grace, Lord Ophion."
That was all he said. No fancy greetings, title achievements; just his position and name.
"Lavian Flouris of Division 12." Said the girl with auburn hair who was a little more quiet when mentioning her division number. After all, there were only 12 divisions in the St. Konoe region with the first one being the most prominent and the last one nicknamed as "emergency knights"; only used in extreme shortages.
"Alicia Islay of Division 11." Followed the red head, whose division number was almost inaudible as well.
Ophion had an obvious look of disapproval but said nothing.
"You may all rise." Commanded Ovelia.
The three knights rose as instructed and Ovelia finally got a good look at Agrias's face. It was only a brief glance, but already her eyes could not leave him; perfect graceful features, tall and striking. But it wasn't just his handsome looks that made him incredibly alluring. There just seemed to be something else that attracted her to him but she was not sure what.
"Welcome to Illica Monastery, Agrias. I entrust the princess's safety to you."
"Rest assured, Milord."
"You must all be exhausted from your journey. Let me show you to your rooms."
But before Ophion could move a step, Alma sprung out from her state of silence.
"Wait! Why don't Ovelia and me--"
"Princess and I." Corrected the priest.
"Why don't the Princess and I show them to their rooms?"
"Lady Alma, I believe you have class with me right now which I know you're very eager to attend."
There was a mouthful of sarcasm in his words and Alma knew full well that Ophion had already discovered her true motive but it never hurts to try.
"But Ophion, as much as I want to, don't you think Ovelia and me--"
"PRINCESS and I."
"-The PRINCESS and I should show them around and get to know each other better. After all, we will be staying under the same roof from now on."
Just as Ophion was about to retaliate against the reckless teenager, Alma gave him a quick pat on the back and started to push everyone out of the chapel, leaving a lonely Ophion yelling to thin air as they disappeared into the halls.
"Wait! Alma! Princess! That girl just never learns!"
Soft giggling could be heard in the west wing of the monastery as youthful chatters touched the solid walls of stone.
"--And I thought the princess would be snobby and mean but you're both very nice!" exclaimed Alicia.
"I'm already liking this job!" quipped Lavian.
Though it had only been a brief conversation, the group of girls blended together without hesitation and by now, all formality had been dropped with a jovial tête-à-tête going on...except for the odd "male", who had remained silent for the most part. Agrias had been against such impertinence towards 'his' charges but with the insistence on Lady Alma's part, 'he' had no choice but to let it slide.
"Thank you. Besides, it's great to have other people around this place. You don't know how boring it could get in here." Smiled Ovelia "---and here are you rooms."
"Thank you, your highness."
Agrias bowed in respect as Alma shook her head in disapproval.
"Lighten up, Agrias!" She gave the knight a push on the shoulder who did not budge one bit from the contact.
"You really don't have to be so formal with us! Let's all be friends and have some fun!"
Blink. Blink. Ovelia watched him blinked twice then refused the request, suggesting it as inappropriate as Alma rolled her eyes. Knowing her friend's stubbornness, Ovelia intervened the confrontation.
"Umm...Why don't you all go unpack first and then Alma and I could show you around the monastery?"
Alicia and Lavian obviously agreed to the suggestion for it implied that they would miss practice but the Captain had other ideas.
"Thank you for the generous offer but Lady Alma now has class with his grace."
"But-but... The garden is really beautiful around this time of the year! You just have to see it! Class could wait!" added Alma, quickly. After all, class with Ophion was the last thing she wanted to do.
"Just be honest Alma and say that you don't want to go. Why don't we be nice and let her off this time?" laughed Ovelia.
Just as an agreement was about to emerge, Alma's hope in missing her worst nightmare shattered.
"That would not be possible. Lord Ophion is expecting you there, Lady Alma. The garden and the tour can wait. Classes cannot."
The calm, hard tone broke the gleeful atmosphere, inducing a tint of fear, as silence naturally befell the halls.
"Alicia, escort Lady Alma to her class at the library."
Alma was already scowling at the new bodyguard as Ovelia gave a nervous laugh, trying to break the tension.
"A-Agrias, missing one class won't do any harm. Besides, this one is on court manners. You know boring that can be."
"I understand your concern but classes are an obligation which disregards interest. I do not want to squander your ladyship's time. We'll manage on our own."
By now, Alma was fuming with anger but because Agrias's words were of validity, she was unable to refute the claim. 'He' gave a short glance towards Alicia, ordering her to leave without words.
Ovelia watched the trainee coil in fear as she led Alma towards the other end of the halls.
"Sorry Alma." She whispered.
"Don't blame yourself. It's all his fault."
'His'? thought Alicia but dismissed it as a small slip of a tongue.
"So...where are you from?"
"Were you born there as well?"
Short responses. More like an interrogation process then a conversation despite the princess's gentle voice of curiosity and with Lavian missing for a bathroom break, the dialogue was even more bland.
"Fovohom...wow, it's a long way north from here. Isn't it cold there?"
Ovelia slowed herself in order to walk side by side the knight that strode behind her and when she glanced up at the unwavering straight face, she noticed that Agrias looked not only handsome but beautiful as well. Even though she already had a firm conclusion on his gender but upon close examination, it became increasingly difficult to be decisive. His lips were well defined but full with a rosy pink color while the contours of his prominent features held a certain softness and femininity. The long braid swaying behind him further prompted her doubts but at the same time, the armor betrayed no other hints to facilitate the puzzle.
"No." he replied. Another baffling trait; his unique voice. Smooth and low like a steady, rhythmic drum but not gruff and rough like a male's voice. But no matter how handsome he was, this conversation was not, especially with its large gaps of silence in between answers and limited topics.
"So...What are some of your hobbies?"
'What an annoying princess.'
Agrias's eyebrow twitched in irritation but kept her frustration to herself. She had kept her answers short so the princess will run out of ideas but unfortunately, her charge's curiosity obviously held no limits.
It was an odd answer but Agrias purposely chose this response to help clarify their duty-based relationship and end this meaningless exchange.
"Duties? Now that's a first. I mean, I do not find any of my duties a bit fun. But then again, you're a knight so you get to do all the fun stuff. How long have you had your knighthood? Was it hard?"
Ovelia felt triumphant and excited. Agrias was a knight and if he was as good as Ophion had said then he must had been to different places, met different people, and had many adventures. Now this was the stuff she was interested in; things about the outside world, which she was certain that Agrias had much to say.
But instead of earning information, his face remained stoic while his eyebrow twitched yet again.
'Why couldn't she shut up!'
Keeping a relationship professional was one of the first things she was taught and following her bodyguard instincts, Agrias gave an unnoticeable sigh of aggravation then set her mind into ending the conversation, stopping her steps.
"Princess, you don't have to pay any attention to me. I do not want my presence to be of any bother and disturb your daily routine."
Though the words were sincere, his tone held a hidden message of wanting solitude and Ovelia felt hurt to be rejected, her excitement gone. Taking the hint, the rest of the tour continued in awkward silence.
To be continued...
Yep- Part 1. I hoped you people out there liked it!