The kiss she shared with Malich played over and over again in her mind whenever she was alone. Thankfully she wasn’t alone for very long. Her days were rigorous. When she wasn’t training, she was hanging out with Lumi and Rayu trying to find anecdotes to Preceptor Azure’s chosen toxin for the day. Whoever brought her the correct anecdote would earn high marks, necessary for graduation to the next level in her course.
When they weren’t working on Preceptor Azure’s tasks they were gathering items from Preceptor Treva’s list. Preceptor Treva’s specialty was stealth. They’d have to capture these items undetected, without getting caught using what he’d taught them. Preceptor Cadmi had yet to give them a task to complete. Her specialty was using ones own body and beauty as a weapon. Needless to say, Lumi was her top student.
Lumi had it easy. She was exceptionally beautiful. Her sun-kissed skin, honey colored eyes, and her confidence only added to her allure. She practically oozed sex appeal, unlike Arya. Where Lumi had discovered her sexuality could be a weapon a long time ago, a skill she acquired at the pleasure house she’d been rescued from, Arya was just now becoming comfortable with her sexuality. Where Lumi honed her beauty like a razor sharp blade, Arya had just begun to find features she actually liked.
Arya was taller than Lumi, but Lumi had more curves. Where Lumi’s skin was a golden brown, Arya’s was more of an olive tone. Her hair wasn’t dark like Lumi’s either; it was a lighter brown with natural auburn highlights, slightly coarse and curly. It fell to her waist, but she often wore it tied back in a fish braid. The only thing Lumi and Arya had in common was the color of their eyes.
Preceptor Cirrus had yet to give them a task and neither had preceptor Nyx. Cirrus’ skill was that of knowledge. She expected you to take in the knowledge around you and lotsof it. She’d challenge you to find answers to her riddles. Nyx’s skill was the knowledge of every weapon ever invented. He’d give you the name of a weapon, expect you to find it, know what weapon would best be used against it and what defense one might be able to have against such weapon if disarmed.
The day would end with another lesson with preceptor Mekhi and then a trip to the bathhouse to soak aching bones.
“I hear they keep them in a dark tomb beneath the towers,” Arya heard Rayu whisper to Lumi and a group of others.
“Who?” Arya asks, joining them in the bath.
“The alumni,” he filled her in. “We’ve been here for at least three turns and we’ve yet to see any of them.”
“And I keep telling him, an assassins anonymity is what makes them most effective,” Lumi rolled her eyes.
“You don’t set eyes on the alumni until you become one,” a handsome stranger with his eyes locked on Lumi informs us. He invites himself to sit beside her and extends his hand to her. “My name is Jax.”
Lumi hesitates before shaking his hand. Arya gets the feeling this isn’t the first time he’s made a pass at Lumi. She sees both apprehension and intrigue in Lumi’s eyes.
“Wait, I thought us being sent here means we are already alumni,” Rayu’s brow knit together in confusion.
“Yes and no. It’s true, you’re the newest member of the alumni, but you must be exceptional to be one of its assassins. They have four openings and only the top four disciples will make it to become assassins next term.” Jax explained.
“Next term?” Arya’s head whipped in his direction.
“Ah yes, the new recruit…Arya correct?” Arya nods. Jax still hasn’t taken his eyes away from Lumi. “You’re a few turns tardy to the party. The new term started a few turns ago. You have about a turn left to surpass the other students and rank at the top of all your lessons.”
A turn?Lumi, Rayu, Feria, Anwar and the others had three turns on her. Combat, the dark arts, stealth and knowledge were more than likely all in the bag, but using her God given assets as a weapon was her Achilles heel.
Malich had to know this when he brought her here. Why hadn’t he told her? Then it hit her…he held her back on purpose, knowing it wouldn’t last but hoping it lasted long enough for her to be at a disadvantage when Mekhi finally came for her.
“I need to study,” Arya quickly stood. She grabbed a towel from one of the servants as she exited the bath and wrapped it around her. She could feel eyes on her, both male and female, carefully watching her frame. Some were sizing her up and others were admiring the view.
“Arya wait,” Lumi stopped her. “What’s wrong?”
“If what Jax says is correct, I’m seriously behind and everyone has at least a three turn head start over me.”
“Yeah, so what. Arya, you’ve been doing circles around everyone since you picked up a sword…you’ve got this.”
“It’s not that…it’s Malich. He did this…he held me back on purpose. He’s hoping I fail because at best I’ll be a servant or a guard. What kind of existence is that?”
“It’s actually not all that surprising,” Lumi shrugged, “our revered Majii has had an itch in his cock for you since your chest swelled. You’re just the last to figure that out. Why do you think he killed Ihsan? Ihsan was the greatest soldier the Red Dragons had ever come across. You’d have to be a fool to get rid of a soldier like that. Any man would think twice…unless he stood to lose something he felt were more valuable.”
Realization set in as Arya whispered, “Me…he killed Ihsan because of me.” Lumi nodded and offered Arya a comforting smile.
“He’s hoping you fail so you’ll come back to him. Don’t let him win.”
“I need your help then. Preceptor Cadmi gave me an impossible task. In order to obtain a high mark in her class I must be able to obtain preceptor Mekhi’s stiletto from his person, but he never takes the damn thing off. He’ll see me coming from a mile away, but you…”
“Say no more,” Lumi smiles wickedly. “While we are on the subject of preceptor Cadmi’s impossible tasks, I’m to relieve you of the medallion around your neck.”
Arya placed her right hand to the medallion at her neck, twirling it between her fingers. It was the one thing Malich found her with. It was carefully placed beneath her Malich had told her. There were symbols on it she didn’t understand and a crest she didn’t recognize. She’d worn the medallion for as long as she could remember. She found the thought of parting with it harder than expected. Still, she needed Lumi’s help. Removing the medallion from her neck she placed it in the palm of Lumi’s hand.
Arya quickly dressed and headed back to her chambers, only the door was slightly ajar. Arya knew she’d closed and locked the door. With weapons in hand she slowly pushed the door open. From first glance nothing looked out of place, but she could feel someone in the room. They had to be hidden in the shadows of her room because they weren’t in plain sight. Standing still, she waited, her eyes searching the room. Whoever it was had to take a breath at some point and when they did, she would send her stiletto flying.
And there it was...A breath so quiet it almost didn’t register…two. With a flick of her wrists she sent her stilettos soaring through the air. Two thuds and then a round of applause as preceptors Mekhi, Nyx, Treva and Cirrus appeared from the shadows. Arya had counted two breaths, not four. All four were wearing chest plates but only two bore her stilettos, Mekhi and Nyx. The stilettos were imbedded in their chest plates just above their hearts.
“Very good disciple,” Mekhi inclined his head to her. “Not only did you pass the test of knowledge in this lesson, but you managed to only hit the targets that posed a threat.”
Confused, Arya searched them with her eyes. Treva and Cirrus were unarmed. Her choice of where to strike had been purely instinctual and coincidental. She hadn’t heard Treva and Cirrus at all, but it worked in her favor so she kept that bit of information to herself.
Treva, Cirrus, and Nyx all left her chambers but Mekhi stayed behind. “You’ve excelled faster than any other candidate we’ve ever had except one,” Mekhi praised, “which makes me wonder why Malich hasn’t sent you to us sooner.”
His eyes searched hers for answers. Answers she got the feeling he already had. Sighing, she sat down at the foot of her bed. “If you’re implying what I think you’re implying, perhaps you should speak to Malich. All I’ve ever wanted was to be alumni, it wasn’t my choice not to come.”
Mekhi nods, “I’ve seen the way he looks at you.”
“Preceptor, Malich owns the Redlands…everything and everyone in it, including the Red legion…including me.”
“And I know him well enough to know Malich gets what Malich wants,” Mekhi studies her with a careful glance. “You have nothing to do with that I suppose?”
It was less of a question and more of an accusation. “For the most part Malich has been nothing more than a father figure to me, but something’s changed. He’s made it clear that he’s not my father and that his interest in me are…intimate. And then there was Ihsan…”
Mekhi perked up at that name. “What of him…Ihsan?”
“He was my first love…my first kiss. Malich had him killed because of it.”
Understanding sparked behind his eyes. “Thank you for your candor disciple.” Arya nods and Mekhi hesitates to leave.
“Is there something else?” She asks.
“Be careful with him,” Mekhi warned before leaving the room.
Arya knew how dangerous Malich could be. It’s what made her apprehensive to return his affection. He tried to impede her progress because he found her attractive. If she were to enter into something more intimate with him there’s no telling what lengths he would go to in order to keep her. She had more pressing matters at hand, however. She needed to pass preceptor Cadmi’s class.
Arya left her room, double-checking the lock before leaving and heading down to Cadmi’s training room. The door was open and preceptor Cadmi was rummaging through a rack full of night garments. She smiled when she saw Arya approaching. “To what do I owe the pleasure?” Cadmi asked.
“I’m at least two turns behind everyone and I was wondering if you could counsel me after hours?” Arya asked.
“I’m not allowed,” Cadmi offered an apologetic smile. “If I could, I’d tell you that you already possess that which you seek. You’re very beautiful Arya, you’re just inexperienced. Perhaps a little experience might do you some good.”
Great. Preceptor Cadmi’s great advice was to copulate with a male. Why didn’t she think of that? Oh wait…she did…but sharing a bed with anyone but Malich would mean certain death for whoever was unlucky enough to take that offer. The only other alternative was to sleep with the Majii himself, and although she loved him, she also feared him. Malich had far reaching hands. He’s one of the most feared and most powerful men within the planes.
“Is there a problem?” Cadmi asked.
“I am not…allowedto take a male to bed. It would be a death sentence for whatever poor soul agreed to it,” Arya explained, choosing her words carefully and trying to be discreet.
Cadmi raised a brow, surprised. “I see…preceptor Mekhi?” She guessed wrong. Arya shook her head. “One of the other disciples then?” Again Arya shook her head. “What male has claimed you as his own?”
“I can’t say.”
“Well whomever it is, the Majii can set him straight. All I need is a name.”
Arya’s lips wouldn’t move. She regrets coming here for help. No one could help her. No one would dare challenge Malich on her behalf and she wasn’t sure she wanted them too. He’s the Majiifor Anan’s sake. And although he killed her first love, ordered her beaten more times than she could count on two hands, and holds her on a tight leash, she’s drawnto him.
Cadmi took Arya in with a careful eye and understanding flashed across her face. She could see Arya was nervous…afraid almost, and confused. Whoever Arya was afraid of, he had to be more powerful than the Majii himself…but the Majii was the most powerful person in this plane.
As if she’d been struck by lightening Cadmi’s eyes grew wide and she whispered, “Malich?”
Panicked, Arya turned to leave, “Forget I came, I shouldn’t have come,” she practically bolted from the room. ns 126.96.36.199da2