XVI. A Knuckle Sandwich with tea, please!

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[An hour ago]


“Why do I have to dress up to meet him again?” Layette asked.

Dickus sucked his teeth and let out a boring sigh. “Do I really have to explain myself again, dear daughter?” He shrugged. “I guess it can’t be helped. I guess your prowess does have its limits in exchange for your beauty.”

Layette frowned and grunted angrily. “What do you mean by that? My prowess is better than yours for sure!”

“Ho-ho, surely you jest! But if it’s a challenge you seek, then I shall give you one for sure.”

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“I gladly accept, father! There’s nothing I cannot do!”

“Alright, then this is what you have to do!”


[Now]

Layette grasped onto her banquet of flowers and glanced at the door in front of her. She was hesitant to knock and started to breathe abnormally. Some thoughts surged through her mind: Do I look okay? Is my hair messy? My breath? What will he say when he sees me like this? She shook her head.

“You got this Layette. Impressing him is no mere task! I’m a lady. I’m pretty… Right? W-Who cares, this is easy!” Layette mumbled to herself. She gulped, and her trembling hand made its way to knock. This was her chance to prove her father she was better than him!

The front door went flying across the room, slamming through the windows and crashing to the ground several floors beneath. Layette barged in, crushing the flowers in hand with her raging spirit.

“G-Good morning! I got these—” Layette gasped as she saw the destroyed blossoms fall to the floor. “O-HO, THE FLOWERS. HOLY SH—”

“What the… It’s too early for this. What’s going on here?”

Her mouth dropped the moment she saw him. Layette stared at the hard-iron pectorals and abs of the man in front of her. Any girl with a quirky mind would rile some mystical fantasy in their mind and in her case, she couldn’t help but “imagine” what she could do with those muscles. Without her knowing, Layette shoved her fist to his stomach, sending him up through the ceiling and splatter back down onto the living room floor. It was silent for a moment and the young maiden realized what she’d done.

“A-A-Aren! A-Are you okay?!” Layette shrieked. She screamed upon seeing his ghost. Miraculously, his spirit zipped back into his body and he stood up, groaning in pain. Afraid to see his body again, she covered her eyes and turned away.

“Argh. What the f**k? Is this how you say ‘hello’ to people?” Aren scolded, cracking his bones back to place. “I guess it’s—”

He yelled and pointed up, seeing the ceiling cracked above him. “Layette how did that ceiling break?! It’s like some brute recklessly came in and destroyed it!”

“S-Shut up! Why are you walking around half-naked?! You’re the one at fault here!”

Two hooded mages immediately rushed into the room and started repairing the damage. After a couple of seconds, the ruined ceiling and wall was as good as new. They went on their knees, slamming the floor with their hands.

“We are sorry for the inconvenience!” the two said.

“Why are you apologizing for this…?! Ugh, thanks anyway. Here, have some coin for the trouble.” Aren handed them three golden coins each, which they gratefully accepted.

“Thank you for your generosity!” the two thanked, then walked backward on their way out, closing the door to leave Layette and Aren alone.

Aren rubbed his neck and looked at Layette, who was shivering and covering her face to hide her flustered expression. He sighed, telling her to sit on the dining chair near the kitchen while he went to get a new pair of clothes. After a while, he approached her with a white shirt and black pants. He didn’t receive a punch from her that time, but she was puffing her cheeks and frowning at him. Aren ignored her and proceeded to make tea. Both of them were silent for some time.

“A-Are… those real?” she came out.

“What is? My sense of security and dignity?” he responded.

“Your… muscles and…”

“What the—of course they are stupid. Do you think I painted it on my body?”

“Just asking.”

Aren rolled his eye and sat comfortably in front of her and slurped on his drink while glancing at her silently. Layette didn’t say a word and Aren slammed his cup on the table. She jumped up, surprised.

“Where’s my sorry, young lady? Are you going to apologize for ruining my morning?”

“It’s your fault…” she trailed on.

“The hell you mean it’s ‘my fault’? Would you like it if I kicked your door and did an uppercut on your rectus abdominus? Not only that, you destroyed the room like a madwoman!”

“If you weren’t half-naked, I wouldn’t have done any of this!” she argued.

“What do you mean that—Gah! This is like the second time we meet and the second time you’d sent me up into the stars!”

Layette grunted and folded her arms. “Yeah, yeah, whatever.”

Aren raised his brow. “So, what are you doing here? Have you come to annoy me?”

“No idiot. I… um, came for my father’s behalf. It was his idea to come in looking like this… Anyway, he says he needs some information about last night’s attack. I dunno what’s he talking about, but from the looks of it, you’re working for him.”

“You got it. Oh yes, I remember. Wait a moment.”

Aren got up from his chair and went into the bedroom. After a minute, he came back with a broken knife and a torn down black robe. He gave it to Layette and she examined both items.

“This… This is just a regular kitchen knife and a regular black cloak from the Academy. This is your information?” she asked.

“That was the attacker’s weapon last night. I was spying on Bral until a mysterious man showed up. He assaulted both Merlin and the young lord: both almost died from the encounter. Oh, three other kids were involved as well and are critically injured. Anyway, Merlin gave him a good beating and the guy took his chance to escape. I pursued, but he disappeared with those items on the ground,” Aren explained.

 “So, you just… Found this on the floor? Would any sane person leave evidence behind?”

He shrugged and chuckled softly. “The man didn’t want to leave a unique trail behind. No one would be able to distinguish his appearance if he had ordinary items like those. He could be anyone in this place and doing a search throughout the entire place would cause some ruckus for the folks here. Smart move, if I were to say myself.”

Layette nodded. “I didn’t get most of that, but alright. I will have this given to him as soon as possible. Thank you.”

“Just doing my job.” He took a sip from his cup. “Damn the tea wasn’t heated enough. Want some?”

“Oh, um, yes. Before you heat up the tea, may I ask something?”

“Shoot it.”

“Um… How do I… look? I kinda put some effort into this so…”

The young boy turned around with a raised brow, glancing at Layette. He shrugged and placed the teapot on top of the stove. “Alright I guess,” he said.

“W-What do you mean I look alright?!” Layette exclaimed.

Aren sighed. “Hey, you asked me a question, I gave an answer. Don’t need to be so riled up on it.”

He set the fire gem on maximum, seeing a blue flame violently sparked from the stove. The teapot trembled, and liquid started to boil out after a minute. He quickly turned down the heat and poured the tea into two cups. He gave one cup to her and kept the other for himself. It was awkward for them sitting there doing nothing, so he went on to drink from his cup. Aren forgot the tea was freshly boiled, so his throat burned like a thousand suns and he choked, struggling to breathe due to its hot intensity.

“A-Aren, I’m coming to help!” Layette said. She was holding onto her tea and before she knew it, she poured the seeming hot liquid on his face. The young boy groaned as sparkles of liquid slither elegantly from his face. He fell to the floor and his ghost radiated again from his frail body once again.

OH. MY. GAWD!” Layette shouted. “MEDIC, WE HAVE A MAN DOWN AND IT’S TOTALLY NOT MY FAULT!”

The two mages who came before kicked the door down, coming in with a stretcher. One of them made “wooing” sounds and they carried the poor Aren to the infirmary. Layette stared into the distance with a blank look on her face.

“Um… He’s fine! Nothing out of the ordinary, haha…” she quivered.

Someone appeared behind her and immediately went to his knee, bowing within her presence. It was one her father’s informants and the masked agent lifted their head upon Layette’s order.

“Madam, Lord Harley Eadburt is here to see you personally. Your father commands you to bring Aren along with you.”

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“Oh, uh, about Aren… He’s kinda gone and because he poured some hot stuff on himself. And EMPHASIZE that it wasn’t my fault, okay? I will be on my way.”

“Yes, your grace.”

“Oh, and here.” She went back and gave the agent the items Aren found. “Tell my father this is what the attacker has left. I don’t know why since Aren was babbling about stuff, but apparently, he’s smart to do this. You do your thing and explain it for me.”

“As you command.”

The masked person disappeared out of thin air, only leaving a feather behind in its place. Layette sighed and turned around, making her way to the central headquarters of the Academy.

What are you doing here… Eadburt? She gravely thought.

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- my thoughts:
A chapter to kinda break the "serious" mold. Awkward transition, but I guess it's worth the risk :D
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