Kalliste and Rowan continued to amble through the forest. They were not in a hurry. At some point, the two heard an unusual sound. Like a crackle of lightning that resonated in the area. Kalliste even felt the strong buzz beneath her feet. It travelled up to her fingertips.

”What was that? ” Kalliste carefully examined the surroundings. It was lined with red mapple trees. She slowly inhaled and the whiff of sweet cherry and almond flowers wafted in her nose. A small smile etched on her face. Seeing the huge, red mapple meant that a waterfall was nearby.

When her eyes caught something from a distance, she quickly grabbed Rowans hands.

The boy could not even say anything as they ran forward.

Her hands felt so soft against his. He felt his blood rushed up to his face at her sudden action. He had no idea why she suddenly ran, but he still gripped her hand tightly.

It took a few more minutes before Rowans questions were answered.

”I was right, ” Kalliste whispered.

From where they stood, the whirruping waterfall looked like a sheet of turquoise blue velor on the wrinkled face of a high mountain.

The water swished down over the granite rocks with thunderous sound. Its edges were hemmed with whipped-ivory lines. When it toppled into the serene pool, it foamed at the bottom.

Kalliste was left speechless. The idyllic scene instantly took her breath away. The heaven-leaking rays of the sun added a golden tint to the face of the falls, and it was like a paradise made of magic. A startling eureka moment came unbidden, which involved the beauty of nature.

The water looked like a polished mirror of silver, enabling them to see down into the rocky and vodka clear bottom.

Kalliste strolled along the small slates on the edge of the stream. It was buffed with pillows of verdant moss. She also noticed the ferns that grew in between the rocks.

Even the lemon bacopa got her attention. Caressing gently the beautiful, bluish five-petaled flowers sent tingles on her fingers. Its leaves released a wonderful lemony scent that seemed to flit in and out of her awareness.

Kalliste got down on her knees and gently scooped some water on her hands. It tasted like the nectar of the gods. In this paradise, sight, smell and taste vied for her complete attention. Without any hesitation, Kalliste sat down on a dry boulder and put her back against it, leaning her head against the mossy pillow. She closed her eyes, and let the stream of consciousness take hold, ready to drift into infinity.

At that moment, she felt like someone took her spark of wonder and poured on a lot of sweets. The smile that she showed on the outside could not adequately reflect the ecstasy she felt inside. It was her first time seeing a body of water this clean. All of those that she saw was already tainted with so much blood, toxins and wastes. The air was also fresh, and cool. She repeatedly inhaled, as though it would disappear at any moment.

Meanwhile, Rowan watched her attentively with a small smile on his face. She looked like a little goddess while playing over the edge. It seemed that her trauma of water was only limited to the ocean. He looked at his hands. He could still feel the softness of her body. Her sweet fragrance still lingered in his nose, like a perfume that could not wear off. It was like of a tranquilizer for him.

Rowan shook his head. That scene engraved itself in his mind, like a permanent scar that could never be removed. He sighed and was about to call her back when he felt a murderous aura nearby.

His face immediately became colder than the icy glacier as he quickly alerted himself for any possible attack. Being raised in a place where danger was an everyday occurrence, he naturally coped up with such things while growing up.

”Some people are coming, and they were not here for a friendly chat. ”

Rowan was startled when he suddenly found Kalliste by his side. He spared a glance at her. She no longer had the playfulness and carefree attitude. Though she was clearly younger than him, her eyes told a different story. In them, he had an illusion that she was a savage beast. A merciless and cold-blooded predator who would kill without batting an eye. Her expression was also hardened. Like a seasoned veteran that had seen the ugliest and most vicious wars. Another thing that got his attention was her aura. It was dense and potent than anything that he had seen and felt before. It was suffocating. He would have been knocked unconscious just by standing next to her, fortunately, the killer intent was not focused on him. Another thing, her face was now painted with small freckles which almost occupied her face.

When did she got those?

”Get behind me, lady. ” Rowan whispered as he slowly walked in front of her. With a sharpened senses, he narrowed his eyes in the forest.

Not a second later, two bright and sharp objects suddenly flung towards them with a speed unseen to the eyes.

The impact made dust and leaves to fly. It was followed by a raspy voice.

”Hey! Why did you do that? What would happen if you accidentally killed him? ”

”Do not worry, I made sure that the daggers would not pierce important veins.

”Don make me laugh, Lucas. Your actions spoke better than your words. Whats with that disgusting expression of yours? ”

From the branch of a tall tree, Lucas jumped down. He landed in front of Porteur. Though the latter had a smile on his face, it was a grin that made him looked like a crazy man. His hands twitched uncontrollably due to excitement. The urge to kill grew even more as the seconds passed by.

”Come on, lets get the body and alert the others for a failed mission. ” Porteur quickly walked past Lucas in a hurry. This was the reason why he hated being partners with the guy.

Though he was also a seasoned mercenary, at least he still had his conscience. However, Lucas brain was like a rotten fish, and his thoughts were equally foul. He had a weird hobby that made his skin crawl. A collection that he would never get used to.

”What the hell! ” Porteurs eyes widened as soon as he walked out of the bushes. It was an impossible scene. In front of him were two children, unharmed. However, it was not what got his attention.

”How was something like this possible? ”

Their target now held the two daggers in between his fingers. He heard some gossips about the Prince, however, he always thought that the stories were exaggerated. He might be gifted, but not like this. Plus, according to the reports, he was barely nine years old.

Porteur narrowed his eyes as he became serious. Though he was hesitant to harm a child, it was his mission to capture him through any means. He gripped the hilt of his sword tightly. Ready to attack at any moment.

However, before he could do anything, an overwhelming aura instantly overtook him. He rolled his eyes in search of the source. At the back of their target was a small girl who was barely six years old. As soon as their eyes met, he felt a chill ran down his spine. His body was frozen as his heart began pounding in his chest uncontrollably. Her gaze seemed like she was looking straight to his soul. Beads of sweat started pouring down his face. He was someone who reached the pinnacle of swordsmanship. However, it was the first time that he felt like he could not win a battle. He felt like he had came face to face with a monstrous beast. An unbeatable force of nature. Porteur felt himself rooted to the ground. He could not even move as an invisible power forced him to submission. He just stared blankly in front of him.

”Hey! What was wrong with you? Why are you just standing there like a moron? ” Lucas finally came out of his hiding. As soon as he saw the scene, a wide smile immediately etched on his face.

”Well, well. To think that even a small child caught my precious weapons. I must be getting rusty? ” He eyed their targets and his smile became even more sinister than before.

”To think that I would find such a perfect specimen on this place, I might be lucky. Won the two of you be obedient enough to come with me? I promised that the two of you would become the most important part of my collections. ” Lucas stretched his arms, expecting for the children to ran into his embrace. However, moments passed by and nothing happened.

The smile on his face slowly disappeared. It was replaced with an ugly grin. ”It seemed that my words was not enough to convince you. Then, let my actions speak from today onwards. ” As soon as the words escaped his lips, he suddenly vanished from where he stood.

”Get down! ” The silence was broken with Rowans shout.

Meanwhile, Kalliste found herself being pressed down. It was followed by a defeaning sound of clashing swords. It almost shattered her eardrums. She looked up and saw how Rowan blocked the mans attack with the daggers that he held moments ago. Their weapons collided in a fight for dominance, trying to push back the other. However, neither gained any advantage.

When they finally separated, Lucas grinned even wider.

”You seemed to have a trick or two up your sleeves. It seemed that I underestimated you, brat. Let us see how far you could get using those measly daggers. ”

Having finally acknowledged his opponents skills, Lucas reached across his body with his right hand, and gripped the handle of his sword just below the guard. He then pointed it on the boy.

”I, Lucas Palihor, the third member of The Order of Serpents, challenged the third prince, Rowan Lacarus Clevario, to a duel. Do you accept? ”

It took awhile, but Rowan does the same.

”Darling? ” Startled by the sudden twist of events, Kalliste gripped Rowans clothes.

Did that man really challenged a child to a duel? Whats wrong with him? Is he crazy?

Kalliste wanted to say something, or even do something. However, when the two of them shuffled their feet into a proper stance, she knew that it was already too late.

”Lady Kally, please hide behind that tree for now. I do not want you to get hurt. ”

Seeing the serious face of the boy, Kalliste could only do what he said. She quickly moved away.

”Stay safe, darling, ” she whispered in the air as she focused her attention on the scene.

With a blink of an eye, Lucas directly charged at Rowan, while hollering at the top of his lungs. His movement consisted of rapid shuffling motion of the feet, so that he stays balanced at all times. As soon as he was an arms length, Lucas drew his sword up over his head and snapped it down towards his opponent.

Rowan, on the other hand, brought his own sword upwards, rotating it around sideways so that the handle was up above, and to the left of his face. The blade sloped down and to the right, providing a barrier above him. Lucas blow bounced off this barrier like rain. Just then, Rowan sidestepped to let him go by and snapped the sword down towards the older mans unprotected shoulder. However, Lucas moved too fast, while Rowans timing was a bit off. The blade only left a wound on Lucas shoulders.

Both of them wheeled to face each other, back up, get back into the stance.

”How dare you! To my precious body! ” Seeing the blood that oozed out of his wounded shoulder, Lucas finally went mad.

”Ah! ” With an ear-splitting screech, Lucas makes another attack. He snapped towards the direction of the boys ribcage.

However, Rowan parried the attack as he quickly turned around, and cut both of the older mans legs just above the knees.

With this, Lucas finally collapsed to the ground.

Rowan then pointed his sword towards the older man. ”Do you concede defeat? ” Rowan asked.

He now had a stoic expression on his face as he glanced at Lucas like he was simply an insect beneath him.

”Never! ” With another ear-shattering screech, Lucas parried the boys sword. He then held his weapon with two hands. It was followed by a white, brightening light that suddenly enveloped his sword.

”Sword Aura! ” Rowan was startled upon seeing this. It was a requirement that all the aspiring swordsman must have for them to enter the rank of an Imperial Knight.

Its dangerous! I still don have enough power to block an attack from someone who achieved sword aural! But I can dodge it either. Kalliste would not survive!

As soon as the aura hit, Rowan tried to block it, but it was too powerful for him.

”Kally! Watch out! ” Left with no other choice, he turned around and launched himself at the girl. He sacrificed his body in order to shield her. The attack hit him with full force. His clothes were ripped apart, leaving a deep, and clean cut on his back. The two fell to the ground, with Rowan on top.

”Ugh! ”

Meanwhile, Kalliste was left speechless as she watched the crimson blood from his back wet his clothes. The more blood that drained from his body, the colder it felt on her face. Her eyes widened as she realised what happened.

”Are you alright, my lady? ” Rowan asked despite his situation. He sighed a breath of relief when he saw that she was unharmed. His body then slumped to the ground, his breath was rugged and heavy.

”R-Rowan? Darling? ”

He forced a smile when he heard her charming voice. ”Run. ”

With his vision growing darker, he saw the panicked face of Kalliste. He wanted to tell something, but his consciousness slowly faded.

Meanwhile, Kalliste stared at Rowan, still with wide eyes. She had no idea what was going on, but somehow, the attackers wanted her darling dead.

As soon as she saw him fainted due to the blood loss and wound, her eyes dilated.

”You dared! A mere scambag like you just hurt my darling? Right in front of my eyes? ”

”Huh? You are saying? ”

Lucas, whose wounds suddenly disappeared, walked towards Kalliste and instantly grabbed her hair. His never-ending kind smile was no more. It was replaced with a devilish grin with his eyes widened. He immediately licked the blood on her face.

Kalliste felt her blood slowly boiled in rage. Her head went cold.

”I promised myself to live a peaceful and lazy life without killing even a tiny insect. However… ”

”What was wrong with this bitch? Ahh! ”

The pregnant silence was shattered by the pained scream of Lucas. The arm that grabbed her hair was no more. It went flying a few meters away from them. Lucas quickly backed away when he felt an unparalleled aura. His eyes widened in fear as he stared at the small girl.

”You. Are. Dead! ”

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