“P… Princess, are you okay?” Lilly asked.
“Just call me Axra,” Axra said. “We’ve been over this.”
“S… sorry, Axra,” Lilly said.
“I guess I just didn’t know how terrible my mother was,” Axra said. “I thought she was a perfectly good person before she lost her mind. Now, now I’m hearing that she used a bunch of people to try to grab power and tortured Twila’s uncle.”
“Well… maybe it’s not that simple,” Lilly said. “Is… isn’t it likely that she thought she was doing the right thing?”
“How so?” Axra inquired.
“Well… if she thought it was important for everyone to have a say in the government,” Lilly began “it would make sense for her to try to pursue the highest seat of power, right? Maybe… when she failed, she couldn’t find any other option but violence. So… she wasn’t a monster just greedy for power but a good person trying to help people who, unfortunately, had to resort to violent methods.”
“Do you really think so?” Axra asked.
“Oh… definitely,” Lilly said. “I… I couldn’t imagine anyone related to you being a bad person.”
“That’s sweet,” Axra said, she squeezed Lilly’s hand. “Thank you.”
“That was a good meal,” Lysara noted.
“Is Velvet still eating?” Axra asked.
“No,” Bonnie stated. “He finished shortly after you two and said he was going back outside with his dogs. Mister Lulu took some meat out for them.”
“Did you get enough?” Twila asked.
“Yeah,” Axra said. “It was really filling.”
“Still, your uncle is scary,” Lysara said.
“You think so?” Twila asked. “I suppose I can kind of see it. He doesn’t like people much and is quite blunt.”
“He seemed to like Lilly just fine,” Bonnie stated.
“That’s right!” Lysara said. “I wonder why… Maybe he thinks she’s cute.”
“I… I’m sure that’s not it,” Lilly murmured.
“Lilly does have adorable features,” Twila admitted. “But I very much doubt that’s the reason. He’s probably nice to Lilly because his wolves like her.”
“Because of the dumb wolves?” Lysara asked. “Really?”
“Wolves are far from dumb,” Twila explained. “They’re very smart, social animals. Uncle Lulu trusts their judgement.”
“They growled at me,” Lysara muttered.
“Girls,” Elaine said, walking in. “We don’t exactly have a bunch of guest rooms. So, we cleared a space for your sleeping bags in the library.”
“Thank you,” Axra said. “That’s very kind.”
“How can a place this big not have guest rooms?” Lysara asked.
“Well, most of our space goes to the necessities,” Elaine stated. “I know it sounds weird from a surface dweller’s perspective, but we use virtually all of the space of our living areas. We only have two bedrooms. Even if Shin wasn’t using the extra, you wouldn’t all fit. The wolves take up a huge amount of space as does the library. Twila, you can lead them there, correct?”
“Of course,” Twila said. “Follow me.” She led them down the hallway, which they had to walk single-file in, and into a massive room. It put the royal library in Axra’s home to shame. Even the ceiling had books lined all the way across it. Axra looked down. The floor as well. She reached down but her hand didn’t reach the books.
“It’s a see-through plastic,” Twila stated. “Let me show you.” She slid a segment of the floor open and grabbed one of the books.
“Amazing,” Axra stated. “It certainly puts our library to shame.”
“It’s nothing compared to the Great Library,” Twila said, replacing the book and sliding the floor back into place. “But I do love this room.”
“It certainly has enough room,” Bonnie said.
“Twila, let’s sleep together!” Lysara cried.
“We’ll all be in close enough proximity to call it ‘sleeping together’,” Bonnie said. “Calm down.”
“You’re surprisingly innocent, aren’t you, Bon?” Lysara asked.
“Well, while you’re setting up I’m going to talk with my aunt,” Twila said, she’d already unrolled her sleeping bag. “I’ll be back soon.”
Axra unrolled her own bag next to Twila’s, but being careful not to get too close. Lysara unrolled hers on the other side of Twila’s, as close as she could get it.
Bonnie and Lilly unrolled theirs at the other end of the room.
“Aren’t you a little too close?” Axra asked, looking at Lysara.
“Don’t worry,” Lysara said. “It’s just the way we are.” Axra had to make a conscious effort to not show her jealousy.
“Isn’t that just on your part?” Bonnie asked. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen Twila do anything to indicate that she feels the same.”
“She’s just shy!” Lysara declared. “Speaking of, this is a great opportunity to learn more about her. I can talk to her au… Wait, she’s with her aunt. Her uncle’s too scary. I’ll talk with her brother!” Lysara ran off, whistling.
Learn more about Twila from her family… Axra hated to admit it, but it was a good idea. “I have to take care of something,” she left Bonnie and Lilly on their own.
Axra headed back towards the sitting room. If Lulu was feeding the dogs, she could catch up to him when he came back in. She paused in the hallway. He was headed towards her.
Axra cleared her throat. “Excuse me.”
He stopped walking and just stared. His hetero-chromatic eyes gazing at hers was disconcerting, but she had to see this through. “Can we talk?”
“Talk,” he said. “Fast.”
“I wanted to talk about Twila,” Axra said. “I…”
“Twila,” he interrupted. “Yes, we should talk about Twila.” He turned around and headed towards the sitting room. “Follow me.”
Axra followed him into the sitting room. He remained standing, back to her. “You’re planning to go with my niece into a dangerous situation.”
“Danger…” Axra said. “Well, I suppose it is. Yeah.”
“We have to find information to help Lilly,” Axra stated.
“That’s not an answer,” Lulu said. “Why are you going?”
“Me specifically,” Axra said. “I’m… I’m going to protect Twila and Lilly.”
“Can you really do it?”
“Sure I can,” Axra stated.
“Grab your sword, follow me.”
She hesitantly obeyed. He grabbed a scythe from beside the door and led her outside, past Velvet and his wagon and into a patch of dirt with large luminescent mushrooms growing all around it.
He held out his scythe towards her. “Show me the strength you’re going to use to protect my niece.”
“What?” Axra asked. “I couldn’t.”
“Is that how weak your resolve is?”
“My resolve has nothing to do with it!” Axra cried. “I heard all about your… condition. I couldn’t fight you. It wouldn’t be fair.”
“If you think like that,” Lulu said. “You can’t win. You might as well just go back home to your kingdom.”
“Fine,” Axra said. “But don’t blame me if you get hurt.”
She drew her sword and lunged at him. He parried the swing and his right knee shot up, hitting her in the stomach.
She went right back to the fray. Slashing and jabbing. He effortlessly evaded her swings. “So fast,” Axra thought. She spun around, trying to hit him with either her fist or blade but she hit nothing but air. She felt cold steel against her neck.
She looked down. The blade of his scythe was against her throat. He was standing behind her.
“You’re too weak to protect Twila,” he said. He pulled the scythe away from her throat. She could hear him walking away.
“One more time!” she cried. His footsteps stopped. “Let me fight you one more time.”
“It won’t do any good,” he said.
“Even so!” She was fighting back tears.
“Do you hate losing that much?”
Axra shook her head. “It’s not that. I just don’t wanna be separated from her. I… I want to stay by her side!”
“I see,” Lulu said. “So that’s how it is.” He walked away, leaving Axra alone.