Leon left the inn after greatly enjoying a light breakfast. He absolutely couldn’t get enough of the food in the south. Even the plain eggs, bacon, and bread in a place as cheap as that inn were far superior to most anything he’d ever eaten back north.
He left at the same time as Charles, who intended to run down to the park they’d been training at recently. He didn’t really know what he was going to do there, but at least going for a run down the forest paths would kill a few hours.
Charles took off to the south, while Leon started leisurely walking to the west. The inn they were staying at was in the eastern districts, at the foot of the hills that lead to the Eastern Territories. The Heaven’s Eye Tower within the capital was on the edge between the southern districts and the central districts.
On the way to the Tower, Leon found himself caught between wanting to explore the city and wanting to get his business taken care of, so he could go back to the inn. In the end, he decided to wander around a little, but to always walk in the general direction of the Tower while doing so.
Most of the buildings around were wood and timber, with little to distinguish them apart from the others. As he went farther west, though, they started getting nicer. Glass appeared in the windows, the streets turned into boulevards, with bright red roses and tall oak trees filling the median. The buildings shifted from wood to stone as he walked, and many of the storefronts were painted. Most were painted white, to emulate the expensive white stone the nobility favored, but some were painted in bright eye-catching colors.
Leon knew he had really left the poorer districts behind when he started seeing fountains and marble statues even in the small forums and squares just off the street. In contrast to many of the statues and art pieces in the north, these weren’t painted. After a few seconds of admiring one particularly intricate statue of an old Bull King standing atop a platform that was covered in masterfully carved reliefs of his deeds, Leon decided that he liked this cleaner unpainted aesthetic better.
After an hour of walking around, Leon felt that he had seen enough and that it was time to head for the Tower. But, there was one more place he wanted to see before that. One of the Five Great Monuments of the city was less than a thousand feet to the south of the Tower, a giant four-sided column five stories tall, carved with thousands of tiny runes on two sides and depictions of the Sacred Bull’s rise on the other two sides. Leon spent a few minutes admiring the workmanship of the obelisk, then made for the Tower.
The Heaven’s Eye Tower in the capital was nearly identical to the Tower in Teira, except there were many more people in the lounge. Including the beautiful attendants, there were several hundred people on the ground floor of the Tower. Every patron was extraordinarily wealthy or noble, and would probably dominate any other room they might’ve found themselves in.
No one gave them a second look here, though. There were many reasons why they wouldn’t stand out, but the biggest was because everyone was focused on the three blindingly beautiful women sitting in a booth in the corner, who were quite happily ignoring the attention they were receiving.
One was dressed in a red and yellow dress and had a cute and happy attitude. The second was dressed in a blue skirt and white jacket and looked cold as ice. The last was dressed in an elaborate black sleeveless dress that reached her ankles and had a slit up to her thigh, complimented with a pair of long black gloves that extended past her elbows. She had a seductive yet authoritative air about her.
These three were Asiya, Valeria, and Elise.
“… but every time I tried to get within range, you would skip around me! It was sooo frustrating! I could barely even touch you.” Elise had been curious about how her friends had fared during the enrollment test, and Asiya had been quite eager to sate her curiosity. The power and written tests were boring and could be ignored, but Asiya narrated the combat test with enthusiasm, energetically gesturing and almost acting out the first duels right there in the booth.
“Well perhaps you should train a little more, prepare yourself to face anyone with any weapon,” said Valeria, with a cold and expressionless face.
“Hey! I train plenty! And you didn’t just win because of the weapon, you have that weird stepping technique! I can’t train to accommodate for that!” Asiya pouted adorably.
For a moment, a tiny smile appeared on Valeria’s lips when her movement technique was brought up, but it was gone so fast that only her two friends saw it. “Well, then we should just train together.”
“Yeah! Let’s do that! What about you, Elise? You need to train too, right?”
“Oh, I don’t rely on violence so much here. Besides, ascension through the tiers of magic doesn’t necessarily need warrior’s training, right?”
“But you should come too! Come on, it would be so fun!” Asiya almost reached out and grabbed Elise’s arm, but restrained herself.
“Oh, I’ll consider it. By the way, didn’t you say that there were three interesting fights? You’ve only told me about the first two, what about the third?” Elise had seen Leon at the training field and was certain that his duel would’ve been attention-grabbing, but she wasn’t expecting Asiya to quiet down and look a little thoughtful for a moment.
“… The third duel was something else indeed. A Valeman was there, and Gaius Tullius challenged him! Everyone thought the Valeman would lose, but he beat Gaius so badly he passed out from embarrassment!”
“That isn’t all he did…” muttered Valeria with some disgust when she remembered the arrogant noble soiling himself.
“Well I’ve never met the Young Lord Tullius, but I’ve heard that he has some talent with the blade, how was he beaten so quickly?” asked Elise.
“The Valeman used killing intent! Gaius froze on the spot and was pummeled in an instant!”
“You sound impressed, I wouldn’t think a little killing intent would be such a big deal.”
“But it wasn’t just ‘a little’ killing intent, I’ve never felt anything like that before!”
“Asiya’s right, his killing intent was shockingly strong,” said Valeria.
“What was this Valeman’s name?” asked Elise. She felt it was obvious who this Valeman was, but she wanted to be sure.
“I think it wa-“ Asiya suddenly cut herself off. Her eyes widened in disbelief and she stared at the young man who just walked in through the Tower’s front door. “That’s him! The guy who just walked in!” She wasn’t so rude as to point, but she did indicate where she was looking with an emphatic nod.
Valeria looked over at Leon, but her icy expression didn’t even flicker. Elise, however, allowed a devilish smile to appear on her face.
“Leon…” she whispered, just loud enough for Asiya and Valeria to hear.
Asiya turned her eyes towards her friend with a look of shock. “Do you know him?” she asked.
Elise nodded at Asiya, barely having time to speak as she rose from the booth. The dress she wore was much fancier than the dress she had back in Teira, but it had many of the same enchantments. Elise released some of her magic into it, and the dress tightened around her chest, waist, and hips, emphasizing her bountiful assets.
She walked towards Leon with an ethereal grace, ignoring the stares of all the other men and women in the lounge. She didn’t ignore the beautiful attendant approaching Leon, though. The attendant glanced over in her direction after noticing the slight ruckus from star-struck patrons in Elise’s wake and made eye contact. Elise glared at her and her smile disappeared, then looked back at Leon. The attendant froze, then timidly retreated.
Leon didn’t notice any of this. The air was filled with the single most delicious scent he had ever experienced, and his eyes were glued to the restaurant adjacent to the lounge where it was wafting from. He was tempted to walk over and see what it was, but before he could, someone grabbed his arm and pressed their body into his.
Leon was momentarily startled and almost drew his sword until he turned and saw the familiar bright green eyes and impish smile of Elise just a few inches away from his face.
“What a coincidence, seeing you here Young Lord!”
Leon took a step back and pulled his arm away from her. Elise didn’t want to let him go quite yet, but still let him slip away while putting on a fake pouting face, before returning to her seductive smile. This smile immediately charmed the dozens of male nobles watching, and they glared at Leon with an undercurrent of killing intent, but both Leon and Elise ignored them.
“Wasn’t expecting to see you here,” said Leon.
[HA!] Xaphan was watching, as he had little else to do until Leon got those potion ingredients and couldn’t help but loudly laugh at Leon’s obvious lie.
Of course, Leon knew she’d be here. He wouldn’t have put so much effort into preparing himself this morning had he not been expecting her. The past month and a half had helped him get a little more used to being out among people, so combined with his mental preparations, he was able to get out a few words this time.
“I was only in Teira to get away from the capital. Ajax is my uncle, and his Tower seemed as good a place as any to get away for a while.” Elise flashed him a radiant smile, then moved a little closer. “So, what brings you here? Looking for something in particular?”
Leon’s heart raced. He had to admit that her beauty combined with her bold and charming personality was a potent weapon, but he kept himself as calm as he could. His cheeks reddened in her presence, but not so much as last time.
“Yes… I need to find some, uh, ingredients…” He stumbled on his words a little, which Elise thought was kind of cute, and only encouraged her to be a little more flirtatious.
“Oh… That’s disappointing, I thought you were here to see me…” They had locked eyes back at the enrollment test, so she was well aware he knew she was in the city, but she pretended to be upset Leon wasn’t here to see her. She even shrunk back a little and gave him a slightly forlorn look, which only enraged the nobles who had their eyes stuck on her.
One of them, some minor noble from the south, immediately took this opportunity to try and get into her good graces.
“Is this dunce bothering you, my lady?”
Elise barely spared him a single a look. He was classically handsome, with fine blond hair and the very fit body of a late second-tier mage that he was happily showing off with a very tight sleeveless shirt. He stepped up right next to Elise and tried to send a chilling look at Leon, calling upon his killing intent in the process.
This had zero effect on Leon. His meager amount of killing intent was barely a fraction of what Artorias had instilled into Leon. But this was lost on the noble, as he clearly hadn’t examined Leon’s aura before coming over, otherwise he wouldn’t have antagonized a third-tier mage.
Elise was even more unimpressed than Leon. She despised these ‘white knight’ types that tried to ingratiate themselves with her by jumping into something that wasn’t their business. All she could think was, ‘The only dunce here is you, barging into our conversation completely uninvited.’ But what she said out loud was decidedly more diplomatic.
“Oh, there’s no problem here, Good Sir, my friend and I are just having a private conversation.” She smiled so sweetly that the noble couldn’t even form the words to respond, and he hardly realized she was telling him he was intruding. “Now, if you’ll excuse us.” She reached over and took Leon’s arm, leading him towards one of the magic lifts, leaving the noble standing slack-jawed in the middle of the lounge.
On the way to the lifts, Elise gave a rather sinister smile to one of the fifth-tier guards standing inconspicuously in the corner. The guard had been watching ever since that noble interrupted her flirting, and he knew exactly what she meant with that smile: “Get rid of that one.” Elise had long ago lost her patience for guys like that.
“So what ingredients are you looking for?” she asked Leon on the way to the second floor. This was where all the merchants affiliated with Heaven’s Eye gathered and was the best place in the entire city to find rare and valuable materials.
“A core from a fifth-tier fire beast, a feather from a fourth-tier bird possessing wind magic, and a century-old Kagu flower.”
Elise looking thoughtful for a moment.
“I’m not sure about the Kagu flower, those are rare and only grow in places with a high density of fire magic, but the other two shouldn’t be too hard to find.”
When the lift doors opened, Elise happily lead Leon to the most reliable merchants, but they couldn’t find any of the ingredients Xaphan needed. They asked around for almost an hour, but all to no avail. In the end, Leon placed an order with a merchant Elise recommended.
“Heaven’s Eye will send a messenger to you when we find what you’re looking for. All you need to do now is wait.” Elise closed the distance between herself and Leon and lowered her voice to a sultry whisper. “For now, how about we go downstairs and talk a little? I’d like to get to know you better… Or if you like, we could continue to look around some more, surely you need another weapon or some armor, too?”
‘Armor? How did I forget that?!’ Leon thought with a little panic. He glanced around at the merchants around him and saw a few pieces of armor, though none that could be said to be particularly well-made. They were also fairly expensive, going for thousands or tens of thousands of silver coins.
Leon shivered a little when he thought of the potential cost of getting armor custom-made if these were the prices for generic armor. For now, he decided to simply wait and see what kind of armor he should be given during his training. Buying armor now would probably only be a waste of money.
“I… should probably get going… I wanted to train a little today…”
This legitimately disappointed Elise more than she expected, but she didn’t pressure him to stay.
“Of course. You’ve joined the Knight Academy, you need to be prepared. Well, don’t be a stranger, ok?” she said quietly, her smile fading a little as she took a step back. Leon gave her a small smile and gently nodded.
They returned to the lounge on the ground floor and began walking towards the door. The noble who had interrupted them was long gone, but another noble that Leon recognized walked in just as they had taken a few steps away from the lift. His eyes widened in surprise and glee when he saw Elise.
“Lady Elise! What a pleasure it is to see you back in the capital!” His deep voice traveled throughout the entire room, and those who had been checking out Elise quickly averted their gaze. He hurried forward to greet her, but his eyes narrowed in anger when he saw how intimately she was holding Leon’s arm.
“Oh… Tiberias, how wonderful to see you,” Elise said in a flat tone; she certainly didn’t look thrilled at his arrival, but he paid it no mind.
Leon gave this ‘Tiberias’ a quick look. He was tall, with black hair and equally black eyes. He was lean, but he gave off the same kind of air as a caged wolf; restrained, but wild and unpredictable.
This was one of the two nobles Gaius had gone out of his way to greet before the enrollment started, the other being Marcus. Thus, Leon figured Tiberias should be related to a fairly high noble, but he couldn’t be sure. He certainly didn’t leave that great an impression on him during the combat test, though Leon did note that his opponent had been remarkably lackluster.
“You should have informed me you were back in the city, I would’ve organized a great feast in celebration!” Tiberius tried to ignore Leon, but Elise unconsciously tightened her hold on his arm. She still wore the same smile she had normally, but her eyes slightly narrowed in anger and annoyance.
“I returned not too long ago and wanted to spend some time alone with my mother. Now if you’ll excuse us…” She pulled Leon away, but Tiberias made to follow them. “Don’t you have business here? Please don’t let us keep you from it.” Elise tried to gently get rid of him, and he frowned in response.
“My lady, I simply wish to speak with you, surely you won’t deny me this?” He reached out and grabbed Elise’s arm, and he began to emit a little killing intent while his face took on a sinister look. Leon’s dominant hand went to the hilt of his sword and prepared himself for the fight that Tiberias seemed keen on starting, while Elise shook him off her and returned his furious look.
Fortunately, one of the Tower’s guards felt the killing intent as well and walked over.
“What’s going on here?” he asked, glaring at Tiberias.
“I’m just talking with my friends, nothing wrong with that, is there?”
The guard glanced at Elise, silently asking her what to do. Under normal circumstances, he would’ve already removed Tiberias for his unrestrained behavior, but with the only daughter of the Tower Lord present, he would defer to her.
“Tiberias, if you have business with Heaven’s Eye, then go about it. If not, then leave.” Elise took Leon’s arm again and steered him towards the door.
Tiberias sent a deathly look Leon’s way, but when his eyes met Leon’s, he froze for a moment. Leon hit him with a blast of killing intent that dwarfed what he had used to try and intimidate the other man. He felt he now understood why Gaius had been so helpless before Leon. That killing intent was immensely strong!
When Elise left, the guard did as well, though he kept a close eye on Tiberias, who turned around and made for the lifts. No attendant came to help him, but he didn’t care. The only thing that filled his mind was the sight of Elise on Leon’s arm.
‘I’m going to skin that little animal alive…’ he thought, looking over his shoulder and staring at Leon’s back in barely concealed hatred.
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