ORIGINAL POINT OF VIEW (AMY'S) I was gasping for air as I tried to bury myself in Bryle's coat. He was holding me tightly but the unceasing storm never expressed sympathy. I know in a flick of a finger, I could control the wind but certainly, I can't do that with Bryle around.
My eyes were in half-mast as I stared at Bryle's face. My Savior. I saw the gleaming red light a while ago and I knew I was in danger. Before Bryle lifted me, I saw the dagger with the illuminati sign deeply buried on the floor. If not for him, that weapon could've been piercing my chest at that moment. The Dark Knights found me. I was very stupid not to wear my amulet that evening. If not for him, I could've been dead.
Something in Bryle's speed was very unnatural. I was aware we rushed to the heart of the forest but it's impossible we did that in a fraction of a minute. I thought I was just hallucinating but I could feel that his every stride was almost fluid.
We stopped for a while as he obviously rested. As if feeling my icy cold insides, Bryle removed his coat and wrapped my chilling body with it. "We have to get out of here before they find us." He stood and we leapt once more on every tree branch. I didn't know if it was just my imagination but our acceleration per second can be compared to a bullet blasted out of a gun.
I was very dizzy because of the combined hysteria and freezing temperature. The blustery weather made my limbs useless that I just depended on Bryle's frame. Fog dominated my sight and before I could fight it, emptiness overshadowed my consciousness.
"Bryle? Where are we?" I tried to sit up along the wooden bed. Bryle's coat was still covering my legs as I did so. Looking around, I saw that bamboo covered the walls. The foggy glass window provided me a hazy view of what was happening outside. The storm was still very vicious and the violent wind was racing eastward.
Bryle was facing the fireplace while rolling the sleeves of his shirt up to his elbows. He half-turned to look at me. "In a small house at the middle of the forest. I used to play here with the Strausses when we were kids. When we get suffocated and annoyed we go here." He headed for the kitchen and grabbed a bowl from the counter and filled it with something that looked like a hot soup.
My mouth watered as he approached me and handed me the bowl of porridge. "Thanks," I muttered. I lifted a spoonful to my mouth and realized I was starving. It was delicious. "MmmThis is awesome. You cook?"
"Yep." He sat in front of me. "I was a kitchen boy at the palace when I was a kid. Well, I wasn't really the one cooking but the cooks were really fond of me back then. I ran errands for them and in return, they give me my favorite chocolate chip cookies."
"I could imagine you as a kid," I said. "Hm, I think you were a chubby little boy with fat cheeks."
He chuckled. "You're right. Then when I grew and stared fencing, I lost weight."
"Fencing's quite cool." I blew the hot porridge.
"Yes it is." He paced around the room until I could barely see his face. "Aren't you wondering why we're here?"
The horrid scene of the dagger flying to my direction and the red flashing lights returned to my memory. The bowl almost slipped out of my hands as I recalled all the frightening events. "Someone tried to kill me," I replied flatly.
Bryle's shoulders broadened as the muscles of his back stiffened. He was still staring at the crackling fire in front of us. "Do you know them?"
I tried to remain nonchalant as Bryle put his hands on his waist. I didn't know what to tell him but I swore a few weeks ago that if this time finally comes, I won't lie. "The Dark Knights," I finally said.
Bryle clenched his fists and suddenly, I was scared. He turned to me with a blank expression. "How did you know them?"
I sighed. My hands began to quiver as I set the porridge aside. I desperately wanted to lie but I know Bryle. He knows me too well. I looked away and shrugged. This is not yet the right time to tell him. "I just know them. Someone told me about their symbol. The illuminati sign."
"I don't believe you." In a few strides, he was sitting at my side. I kept my face away from him but I knew I could hide nothing from his infiltrating gaze. He covered my cold hands with his. "You can trust me with anything, in case you've forgotten."
I couldn't tell Bryle that I'm a Sentinel. I just couldn't. At least, not yet. "What do you know about the Dark Knights?" I returned the question.
"You haven't answered my question, Amy." His blue eyes were hypnotic. His defiant gaze was subtly replaced by placidness.
"Bryle, there are some things I can't tell you yet," I explained.
"Tell me, Amy." He touched my arms. It was a very light contact but it seemed to penetrate my wholeness. "Is your life in danger?"
What does he know? I asked myself. "Yes, Bryle. The Dark Knights are out to kill me. The reason behind it, I'm not yet ready to tell you. Now, can you still be with me?" I found myself asking. "What if Madison's description of me as a monster is true? Would you still love me? What if I'm dying? Are you ready to be hurt?"
"I should be the one asking you those questions. I can't understand," he whispered. "I thought I was the one they're chasing after."
"And why would they chase after you?" I felt a crease between my brows.
The door banged open as Belle, Via and Crissa entered.
"God! We almost died searching for you in this weather," Belle exclaimed before turning to Bryle. "Oh hi, Bryle. It's a relief you stayed with my cousin."
"No trouble," Bryle replied. His face was calm and collected but confused.
"How did you find me here?" I asked as Bryle slowly moved away.
"You perfectly know we can't discuss that in front of--er--" Via stuttered before mentioning Bryle's name.
"How could be so careless, Amy?" Crissa almost yelled.
"I know," I said. "And I'm so sorry. Can't we just talk about that later? As you can see, Bryle's here." It was obvious in Bryle's expression that he was curious about what we're talking about. But there's no way I was gonna tell him everything at that moment.
"Actually, I really wanna go home," Crissa said. "But I am clueless how to do so in this weather."
"Stay here for the night," Bryle suggested. "Perhaps the storm will cease tomorrow morning. I can cook. Don't worry." His voice was cold and his eyes were emotionless but I could see that he wanted to ask questions badly. I felt the same thing too but maybe we both knew we can't get anything from one another.
"Bryle knows something about the Dark Knights," I said as I faced the rest of the Sentinels who were then sitting over my bed. The storm outside was gone just as Bryle predicted.
"So what could that possibly mean?" Crissa asked.
I shrugged. "I have no idea. He was the one who saved me from the Dark Knight's assault. There's something extraordinary about him. I don't know what "
"Maybe that's the secret he kept on mentioning," Belle inferred. "Maybe he has special abilities like us. Or. Amy, do you know what I'm thinking?"
"I think so," I replied. ""I already speculated that he's a Sentinel. But I can't ask him. Asking him about it would entail to the revelation of my identity--of our identity."
"Love begets trust, Amy," Via spoke. "I thought you love him. If you really do, you must also put your whole trust in him."
"This matter isn't about love anymore, Via," Shawie said. "It's now a matter of life and death. It's too dangerous to take risks now. If Bryle's a Sentinel, then that's good. But if notwe already know what might happen."
"As we spend our days doing nothing," Asha stated. "Hades spends their preparing. Right now, we can consider ourselves desperate for the Strausses' protection. Without them, we would all die helplessly in merciless hands."
"I agree with Asha," I declared. "I need to sacrifice anything for our mission."
"Even Bryle?" Via looked at me quizzically.
"Even Bryle," I answered.
Sadness overflowed in me as I scrolled through my phone. Even a single message from Bryle wasn't there. That day had been the third day since he began ignoring me. It was just so confusing how he can do that. I knew he was practically avoiding me because I didn't see him in breakfast with his family unlike before. It that was about my keeping secret from him, he obviously didn't understand my situation. But I know I can't blame him for that. On the other hand, I've never known him to be so shallow! Really, is his secret more important than my secret?
I pushed my thoughts aside as I stared with awe at the fa ade of the Edinburgh Castle.Based on what I've read, Edinburgh Castle is located at the top of the Royal Mile, at the west end of Edinburgh's Old Town. The volcanic Castle Rock offers a naturally defended position, with sheer cliffs to north and south, and a steep ascent from the west. The only easy approach is from the town to the east, and the castle's defenses are situated accordingly, with a series of gates protecting the route to the summit of the Castle Rock.
That night was the last night of our cruise. It was said that to reciprocate the Warbauxes' warm invitation last Christmas, the Strausses invited all of us to the royal ball.
I was wearing a vintage-looking amber gown with a bodice that was intricately embroidered by exquisite patterns using golden threads. It had an off-shoulder design while the sleeves' length was cascading down to my wrists. My hair was pulled up in a chignon with a few tresses encircling my face. Wearing that gown made me feel quite ecstatic as I imagined myself as Juliet Capulet.
As we entered the enormous doors, I glanced eastward and saw Bryle talking with a number of men. He was annoyingly handsome in a gray suit and his aura made him look more intimidating than ever. I thought I was going to pass out when he threw a glance at my direction. Sadly, it did not take a full second. He turned away and approached another set of guests. As he did so, it was like something pierced the depth of my heart. I've never felt coldness quite that burning before.
I felt tears welling at the sides of my eyes. I turned away and sprinted to the opposite direction. The balcony was situated at the west side and the soft winter air erased some of my depression. The gentle drizzle dampened my bare skin. The wind loosened some strands out of my comb and a part of me wanted to go back inside. But I knew I can't face Bryle with so much pain in my eyes while he was looking all smiles. I perceived warm strokes of tears framing my face.
"You shouldn't be in our ball if all you planned to do is isolate yourself and cry."
I looked up and saw a tall male figure beside me. His complexion was slightly darker than any European but he was strikingly gorgeous. He had a black hair that swayed with the smooth dance of the wind. His eyes were very dark and his nose was perfectly shaped.
"You don't know me, do you?" He glanced sideways but didn't turn to me. "Where have you been all these years, Diamond Sentinel?" That was the time when he turned to me with a spark in his dark irises.
As he emphasized the last syllables of my identity, it was like seven knives stabbed me. I stepped backwards and decided that that strange man was a threat. I poised to call the winter wind and attack him when
He grabbed my elevated wrist and prevented me from summoning the earth element. He twisted my wrist and held me tighter. "Let me go!" I gritted my teeth and tried to push him away.
"So I see you have already discovered your elemental ability." His face was still calm and his expression controlled. "That's quite impressive to know. I thought the Diamond Sentinel would be someone idiot and coward."
"Who are you?" I was still struggling for liberty as he pressed my figure closer.
"And I never expected the Diamond Sentinel to be a cute little lady." He chuckled. "Are you aware that your precious life's in danger? You probably know that you're gonna need me yet you closely killed me. is that the right way to welcome a Strauss?"
"Strauss?" I stared at him dumbly as I quitted fighting. "You're a Strauss?"
He smiled and slowly leg go of me. "Let us tart all over again. I'm sorry if I scared you. My name is Theo Strauss?" He held out his hand.
Reluctantly, I held out mine in return. "Amy Clarence," I said.
He lifted my hand to his lips while his eyes never left my face. "It's my pleasure to meet you, Amy."
The thousand-year-old gesture never failed to make any woman's nerves tingle. "How did you know that I'm the Diamond Sentinel?"
"I possess the gift of omniscience." He touched my elbow lightly and led me to the farthest portion of the balcony. "I have the capability to know anything and everything. Why do you sulk in here rather than enjoy the ball we organized?"
"I thought you know everything," I retorted before glaring at him. I hated him for seeing me cry.
He laughed. "Your wit quite fascinates me. No wonder Bryle fell in love with you."
At the sound of Bryle's name I struggled to keep my expression serene. "What do you know about Bryle?"
"He's my childhood friend," he said. "And rival. I hated him even before we met. And when I was a kid, he's the only boy who can to whatever I can do with equal skills. He was the only boy who could easily break my records so I had to elevate my standards and make sure he can't defeat me anymore. I hated him because my father adores him and my sister fell desperately in love with him. With Bryle Warbaux around, being a Strauss is quite senseless."
"He's also stubborn," I added. "How can he make me feel so helpless?"
"He probably told you I'm a heartbreaker." Theo smirked. "And I haven't known him to possess that skill too. Making the Diamond Sentinel cry is a big NO if you love your life." He shook his head and faced me. "You know, the two of you are fighting over a senseless matter. You're hiding similar secrets yet you don't have the courage to reveal them. You act like children and you're both stubborn. If you think love is just all about trust, you're dead wrong, Amy. Trust won't get that love anywhere if you don't have the courage and you're too scared to take risks. Loving is taking a lot of risks, Amy. As much as I want to make things clear between the two of you, I think it won't be appropriate to play a cameo role in your relationship. Besides, being a bridge won't do any good to my ego."
"Why do men treasure their egos so much?" I snorted.
"It's in our nature." He smirked. "You think Bryle's ego was the reason behind avoiding you?"
"Wrong," he said. "He avoids you because he wants to prepare his emotions when he leaves you."
"Why would he leave me?" Panic was all I felt.
"Because of his secret," said Theo."Look, Diamond Sentinel." He cupped my shoulders and forced me to look at his hypnotic eyes. "Why are you wasting your time over a stupid love affair? The world needs you now. Focus, Ammica."
"It--It's hard ." Tears trickled down my cheeks again. "Eversince Bryle came into my life, he's been likean addiction. The hurt I'm feeling right now is unbearable. I thought everything was so perfect then "
Hastily, he pulled me in an embrace I could barely feel because of the pain that dominated my senses. "Okay, Ammica. Cry your heart out until there are no more tears left. After that, promise me you'll never shed a tear again. And because I could never take a girl cry, I confirm my family's alliance with the Sentinels' Circle."
"Really?" I muttered as I moved away slowly.
"Yes," he answered. "But I don't know what I can do to Bryle when I see him again. I loathe him for making you and my sister cry. I can't promise you I'd be peaceful with him."
"What does Bryle had to do with the alliance?" I wiped the teardrops desperately.
"Hm, did I say something like that?" He crossed his arms in front of him. "It's impressive how you can pay attention to details. Anyway, all I can tell you is talk to Bryle. That alone can solve everything."
Taylor Swift's Love Story filled the ballroom as couples danced to the rhythm on the floor. The pairs were intimately clinging to each other in an old-fashioned way. I suddenly remembered the way Romeo Montague first met Juliet. I recalled how romantic that was.
After retouching my makeup, I decided to come back to the event hall. Though I knew Shawie and the rest would be searching for me, I preferred to be on my own. After all, I would just taint their excitement and good mood with my own sadness.
Succumbed by the sorrow I could feel, I grabbed a glass of champagne from the walking waiter's tray. In three gulps, I emptied the glass. My stomach was churning and my throat was burning but I didn't care. The same waiter walked in front of me again and I held another glass. I emptied it again before licking the last drop. I felt my head wobble and my vision blur a little. But the physical pain could never overpower an emotional assault.
Minutes passed and I was feeling drowsy. A servant approached the crowd again to offer refreshments. But I could see liquor placed on the other side of his tray. As he passed by me, I reached for a goblet but a hand covered my wrist and prevented me from doing so.
"No thanks. But she had enough," Bryle told the servant.
"Why did you do that?" I could feel intoxication numbing my receptors.
"Amy, what's happening to you?" He was still gripping my wrist.
"Can't you just leave me alone?" I blurted out with my eyes drooping. "That's what you planned to do anyway, don't you?"
"What?" There was anger in his voice. "Did Theo tell you that?"
"Theo? Ah yah! He's so nice. And friendly." My brain lost control with my mouth. I felt like vomiting and the continuous dizziness added to it.
"You're drunk," Bryle said in obvious observation. "Let's get out of here."
Bryle practically dragged me out of the ballroom and brought me to a room I hardly recognized. Then he almost threw me on the sofa. He raked his fingers angrily through his hair and faced me with blazing eyes.
"What do you think you're doing, Amy?" His voice was very load.
"Drinking," I replied. I was nearly out of my mind. "Do you care?"
"Of course I do!" he retorted. "I thought you're not alcoholic."
"I was not. But you were the one who taught me, remember?" I yawned. "I felt so helpless and alone. I thought I could feel better if I get drunk. Like what happened before."
"Why do you feel so alone?" His voice softened.
"Because of you," I replied. "You're avoiding me and it's making me insane."
I heard him sigh. "I admit. I was planning to leave you because I don't know if after you find who I really am, you'd still want to stay with me. Besides, it'll be too dangerous for you. It would kill me if I see you hurt."
"You've done that before, right?" I spoke. "You left Theo's sister even if you know she loves you so much.Do you really intend to hurt everyone around you that way?"
"I left Sasha because it's for her own good," he replied coldly. "And if I leave you, it won't mean that I don't love you. It'll be for your safety."
After some seconds of silence, I said softly; "Stay with me, Bryle." I felt tears flowing again. "The right time will come for both of us to establish a great trust and break all the walls between us. But that won't definitely come if you leave me now. My life is in danger, Bryle. And I know I couldn't fight for myself without the man I love "
Bryle knelt in front of me. "And it won't be easy for me to desert the woman I would love forever. Bit it would be harder to see you suffer because of the designed destiny that compels me to die for the people I love." He stood with his back facing me.
It took me a hard time to stand and face Bryle. When I did, I held his hands and stared at his dark eyes. "I love you, Bryle. And you know that I do. When I learned the truth about me, I knew immediately that any person I would love in the future is susceptible of being jeopardized by the danger I'm into. I wanted to leave you and do my mission on my own but I just couldn't. There's something in you that binds me closer to you. As stupid and selfish as it may seem to be, if you would die, I want to die with you."
His firm hands held my arms. "If I die, I want you to live. That's my way of loving you, Amy."
"Bryle, please," I pleaded. My vision was hazy because of the tears. "Stay with me. I'll die without youWe can do our missions together. Neither of us can survive apart so why can't we just stay with one another?"
There was silence. Bryle and I just stared back at each other. I didn't stop crying. Of course, I was ashamed. But I was willing to cry gallons just to make him stay.
Quickly, Bryle pulled me in the warmth of his embrace. He stroked my heaving back as he said, "Yes Amy. We can do our missions together--no matter what they are. You and I will face fate together."
"Thank you, Bryle." I wasn't sure if he heard what I said. As I closed my eyes, my consciousness drifted with it. What happened after that, I couldn't remember. All I could recall was the comfort of his touch and the sincerity of his words.