Agrias had decided to stay on outer patrol since returning to the room seemed not an option and she did not return inside until late at night.
Though ready to retire for the night, the dim light coming within the princess's room caught her attention. Some noises and moving shadows indicated that the people within were still awake.
'It's past bed hour. I should go end that mad party.'
Her head felt heavy, spelling capabilities disabled a good while ago while the words on her paper were somehow jumping and dancing around.
Alicia sent a hard jab into Lavian's ribs to be rid of the conquering seducer of sleep. The auburn knight yelped and immediately went back to work.
"It's late. Why don't you go to sleep first? Alma and I can handle this ourselves." Suggested Ovelia.
"Don't worry about it! We're not sleepy yet, right Lavian?"
She sent another jab for the delayed response.
"Yea!" blurted Lavian.
"Really, there's not much left. Sleep!" insisted Alma.
"No, we're not going to sleep until this is finished. For once in my life, I'm going to finish what I've started."
"I second that."
Despite what Alicia and Lavian were saying, they still felt guilty for troubling them with their own problem.
"Sorry for having to put you two through this." Said Ovelia, sadly.
"Don't say such a thing! We're friends, right?" came Alicia's immediate response.
"Friends are supposed to help each other out! We can't possibly fall asleep while you two are suffering in this hell!!" proclaimed the other knight passionately.
"Just relax. Together we could finish this!"
The princess smiled. Though the red head may seem silly most of the time, she was a true friend and trustworthy.
"Thanks, Alicia, Lavian! Your help means a lot. "
The immature but reliable knights gave their charges two thumbs up. Their reassurance really lightened Alma and provided her with renewed energy to continue. Lavian slapped herself a few times and was now wide awake and ready to work. The doubt that sat in their hearts was now relinquished.
Their loud voices, though muffled, were still clear from behind the door and she can't believe what she had just heard. Alicia and Lavian were actually trying to concentrate over such a task. But then again, they couldn't anything else right and the job suited them; no need for thoughts and skills and quite idiotic.
But...why? They have no reason to help them at all.
'Don't say such a thing! We're friends, right?'
They almost sounded happy in there, sharing this ridiculous burden.
'How stupid could those girls get? Troubling other people with your own problems is low and selfish.'
'Friends are supposed to help each other out!'
'There's no such thing.' Thought Agrias. 'There's no such thing!'
And then, she just realized it. She was angry. Angry at them for working together, supporting each other. A person should solve their own problems. Relying on others is being weak and incompetent. People around you can come and go as they please while your own self is always there.
'No one is more reliable then yourself.'
Her fists were unknowingly clutched tight as she sought refuge and peace in her room.
'We're out numbered'
Soldiers were fleeing. Caught in a trap, nowhere to escape.
And they ran, trampling over other injured companions, caring only for themselves. Being smaller, the sudden rush brought her to the ground, a victim from the trample.
'Wait!' the girl called out, too scared to run. Why were they abandoning her? She looked ahead and fear coursed through her.
They were approaching...fast.
Should she run, or stay? They had taught them that number brings power, but what if she's alone? Should she still fight?
Supporting herself with her sword, she stood up. The line of scary men were no longer scary.
'Cowards...I don't need them.'
She ran, but not backwards. She ran forward, alone.
Her eyes flew open.
A dream which she hadn't had for years already.
Agrias scolded herself for falling asleep during a review session. She had always set a time before sleep to study and uphold the family's excellence in this field.
Running a finger across her own work, she tried to remember a certain feeling she had when doing arithmetic but it brought back nothing. She can't even remember what she was trying to recall.
The noun felt like an adjective that well described herself and the things she felt. Neither happy nor sad. Maybe a little pride for performing her best to uphold justice but she immediately stopped herself from thinking too much. Dwelling on memories was disturbing, meaningless and unpractical.
Reaching above her desk, her hand started to search through the shelf which held nothing but books. Finally, within a corner, she found what she was looking for. Agrias pulled out the hidden packet and stared at it.
Nobody but herself knew what was in it, hell, no one ever went into her room before no matter where she stayed. It was exactly as she had last seen it; light, crinkled but unbent. She was about to open it but ended up returning it back into its hiding place like the many times she did. She proceeded to lift up her quill but placed it back down before the end touched the paper.
Standing up, Agrias left her desk and into the halls to find the dim light still flashing from the bottom of the door.
Her legs moved with its own will into the princess's room and as expected they were all fast asleep. Alicia and Lavian laid sprawled on the floor, snoring lightly while Alma slept with her face on pieces of paper that were scattered on the bed.
'How could Alicia and Lavian be serious about helping.' She mused to herself.
Agrias was about to kick awake her underlings until the princess stopped her.
"Don't wake them."
The voice surprised her and it was then did she realize that she hadn't knocked before entering.
"I apologize, your highness. I-"
But words were stuck at her throat. Apparently, her charge was too caught up in the assignment and had forgotten about the ink on her face. Not wanting to embarrass herself, Agrias immediately ran out the room, almost stepping on Alicia and Lavian. Ovelia followed her out and found her bodyguard just by the door, facing the wall.
"Agrias, are you alright?"
The knight tried to provide an explanation but an odd soft sound escaped her sealed lips instead. Despite her attempt to mask her emotion, the previous jitter came back as Ovelia continued to watch her with worry. Another look at the princess caused the strong jingle within her stomach to overwhelm her barriers, allowing it to erupt into a full sound.
The person whom they all deemed incapable of feeling was laughing. Ovelia listened to the low chuckling with an unexpected joy. It was pleasant to the ears, not piercing nor loud but more like a tenor's song. Seeing Agrias laughing somehow made her feel lighter as well. A more human and warm side of her bodyguard which she knew existed and Alma denied.
Then she realized why Agrias was laughing. With cheeks blushing red hot, Ovelia scrambled back into her room.
'What have I done?'
Laughing at another person was not only plain rude but insulting and it was the princess of Ivalice she had just made fun of though it was accidental. Her laughter immediately stopped and she unsurely entered the room again.
Explaining would be the worst part but it still needs to be done.
"Excuse me for my rude outburst." She bowed humbly.
"It-it's alright." Managed Ovelia, frantically wiping away the last of the ink.
'I can't believe I just let her see me like that!!'
Dabbing her face for the millionth time, she nervously waited for Agrias to say something since she was too self-conscious to speak but forgetting that her bodyguard never spoke first.
It took several more moments before she could even look at the older girl and the first thing Ovelia noticed was that Agrias was not wearing any armour. Without it, the knight resembled a refined high-class noble, not a warrior at all; taller, slimmer and most importantly, a lot less intimidating. The blue coat highlighted her blonde hair and matched those crystal blue orbs very well. And perhaps it was the dimness of the room or her exhausted eyes, but Agrias almost seemed like a different person. Surely she still had that frigid gaze and air of authority but she also seemed a little...vulnerable.
Ovelia immediately took the thought back. Agrias was a strong knight and definitely not weak. Not even near. But because of this observation, Ovelia now had the courage to speak again.
"You're up late." She forced.
Agrias had been expecting the princess's reprehension for her rude actions but was relieved that it was not what Ovelia had planned to do. However, she had not spoken to anyone for most of the day and didn't really feel like opening her throat now. But despite her discomfort, a question cannot go unanswered.
The sound was somewhat forced and came out unnaturally. It felt raw and Agrias further disliked this conversation. She desperately wanted to leave but the awkwardness around them bounded her to stay.
"So...what brings you here?"
She herself didn't know, so the knight just made up any excuse.
"I needed to check up on Alicia and Lavian."
"You should be in bed, your highness."
"I want to. But...I'm still not quite done."
"Most of it is done though..."
"Most of it?" she asked with surprise.
"Yea," This was the first time she had heard Agrias ask a question and it sounded...funny but amusing. "They're all done except 96 more 'I will pay attention in class and learn to became a proper lady'...and the math questions."
"Good." After some delay she added to her curt response.
"...and I apologize for Alicia and Lavian's intrusion. I'll warn them tomorrow."
"Actually, they were very helpful. It was Alicia and Lavian who did most of the copying." said the princess, pointing to the four stacks of paper on the floor.
Ovelia knew her bodyguard's opinion about her subordinates was not high but she also felt that Agrias should give them a chance instead of condemning them.
"Though they may seem a bit silly at times but they're very reliable if given a bit of trust." She added.
'There would be some major problems if they can't even copy nonsense.' Thought Agrias. Her charge was being naïve. Being a knight and this was two different things so she simply ignored what the princess was trying to imply and walked towards the desk to where the thick booklets sat.
Agrias flipped through a few pages as a distraction but immediately recognized some of the content. It was the manuscript she wrote for Ophion a few days ago and now she knew why he wanted it.
"Those problems are impossible. I couldn't understand a bit of it." Complained Ovelia.
'...great, our own princess is an air head.' Thought Agrias.
Two variable algebra was basic and simple. Done a million times since her childhood and she was sure her manuscript was very clear about it.
"Aren't you going to sleep?"
"No. That is not necessary."
Ovelia shrugged then settled down again for the math, wincing before even beginning. She had wanted Agrias to offer help. Her bodyguard looked intelligent and even calm when flipping through the booklet while she panicked at the first word. By mentioning her problem, it was her hint but then again, this was Agrias she was talking to. Ovelia took a quick envious glance at Alma who slept soundly. It was tempting, especially with the dim candle light which barely light the room, cascading a calming and warm atmosphere. Waking her friend up seemed cruel though it was both their work. Besides, a roused up, cranky Alma will only result in direct confrontation with Agrias, whom she wanted to stay longer. With no choice, the princess reverted her attention where it should be.
'Wrong wrong wrong! It's five--- No No! you don't do that! Put the X over there, not the Y!'
Watching the princess's slow and erroneous computations was really pissing her off. She picked up the booklet again to distract her frustration but when she read some of the explanations on the paper, Agrias understood the princess's difficulty. Ophion's 'modification' from her manuscript was terrible and felt more like a deliberate attempt to complicate things. The examples were terrible, similar to the ones she chose but much more problematic. Some of the concepts were even misinterpreted and expanded three times the necessary length with vocabulary only a calculator would know.
She looked back at her charge. Her brows were furrowed deeply in a bunch, breathing a little harder in aggravation. Ovelia almost looked sad sitting there restlessly.
Perhaps she was being a little harsh with the princess. It had taken her enormous amount of time and effort to learn many of the materials and the princess was trying. Shouldn't trying be enough?
'No...simply trying is not enough...'
Another look at the princess wavered her determination. It was her principle though it was not the answer she wanted to believe in.
"Princess, didn't you say there were 96 more copying to do?" said Agrias before she could catch herself.
"Yes." Replied the princess hesitantly.
'Is she...is she going to ask??'
"Do you mind if I did them?"
Ovelia's heart almost leaped with joy but immediately threw that feeling away. She shouldn't involve her bodyguard in this as if Alicia and Lavian wasn't enough. This was her work, therefore she should do it even though she had waited all night for Agrias to offer. The answer in her mind was 'No, it's my work so I should do it' but the words that were tingling on her tongue suggested otherwise.
"Not at all." Responded Ovelia, guiltily. "Thank you very much, Agrias."
She was very disappointed in herself for that selfish answer but it was too tempting to resist. Her bodyguard took a seat on the floor and removed her gloves. Long slender fingers came into the faint light, a very rare thing since they spent most of their time behind leather and a sword.
'Wow, she has big hands.' Noted Ovelia but frowned at the numerous scars.
Finding an usable quill, Agrias picked up the utensil and began writing.
"You want to use the Mime Mammon? It's faster."
Agrias looked where the princess was pointing at and almost faulted at the sight.
"It's Alicia's invention. Pretty smart, eh?"
'Pretty stupid.' thought Agrias otherwise though she could clearly imagine Alicia and Lavian using that ridiculous gadget.
"I'll go with the quill."
After several more moments, Ovelia called her again, much to her dismay.
Her eyebrow twitched.
"Yes, your highness?"
Her tone was still neutral though she was getting annoyed with the princess again. She hated being disturbed so constantly.
'Why can't she quietly work!?'
"Would you like to use the desk?" offered the princess.
Ovelia was about to return to work again but decided to change her workplace to the floor as well. Her bodyguard looked up, showing nothing, but she could feel the questioning gaze.
"It wouldn't be fair." She smiled and began to write.
Weird. Everything about Ovelia was weird. She was the opposite of royalty's (Ruvelia's) definition. Maybe that was why she had decided to help. Her charge was a pleasant person much to her surprise but annoying. Very annoying. A chatter box, though incomparable to her 'friend', Lady Alma. She could almost laugh at the word 'Lady' in front of that rash and wild girl with strong slaps.
Ovelia too, noticed the handprint. It was still visible though somewhat hidden by the lack of light and she blushed at the remembrance of the disaster that was caused by their little misinterpretation. The princess wanted to take this chance to apologize for Alma but talking about it would be too uncomfortable.
'Now is not the time. Work, work.'
Agrias took a quick glance at the princess's progress and it was traumatizing. The things her charge was writing down was infuriating, insensible, illogical, irrelevant...simply entirely wrong. The scratching at her patience and sanity was getting really irritating and unbearable.
'How could something so easy be done so wrong and so slowly?!'
The need finally became irresistible.
"Princess." She called.
"Would you like me to do the math?"
"Would you, Agrias?" asked Ovelia, excitedly. She scolded herself again for her irresponsible eagerness.
"I don't mind." She replied bluntly.
They switched and Agrias immediately felt much more comfortable and relieved. After a while, she stretched a bit but just when she was about to continue, her eyebrow twitched yet again for the night. A closer examination of the sleeping princess caused it to twitch another time.
She was helping and this spoiled brat decided to take a nap with only five and a half sentences completed.
'Why did I even bother in the first place.'
Agrias stood up, almost storming out the door but stopped just as she passed the door.
The stacks of completed paper, the princess reading and rereading that impossible manuscript and Alicia and Lavian's help.
She looked back at the princess and the condition of the room which was now covered with ink, loose leafs of papers and broken quills. Ovelia's head hung hard from her neck while her entire body sloped downwards, looking quite uncomfortable. It was obvious that this was her first time working so late and they tried, hard.
Agrias almost hated herself for walking back as she gently laid Ovelia's head on her arm and reached under her knees. Pushing her legs up, she gently carried Ovelia to the bed and placed her softly on the soft sheets. Her charge shifted a bit but continued to sleep. Cute. A word Agrias never used before but suited the princess well.
Just as she grabbed the blanket, a significant amount of resistance stopped her. The knight's brow twitched yet again but at Alma this time.
'Even in sleep she bothers me.'
It was tempting to push off the annoying brat who slapped her but Agrias decided that tugging the blanket over her charge was the better and wiser solution.
As she yanked the blanket, Agrias noticed the papers under Alma and snatched it away.
'Some more questions, copying, along with that crazy Beoulve's arithmetic...'
It would be unfair if she only did the princess's and not her other charge's. She didn't hate any of them, just simple dislike for annoyance.
Agrias pulled out the chair from the desk and began.
'Just this once.'
Sometimes, trying should be enough.
To be continued...
Author's note: A wacky episode. ^.^; I didn't intend for this part of the
story to take that long as an entire chapter but anywayz! But the math part
will be important later in the story. *hint hint* Look forward to your comments!