Moments later, Gale came back with Lily standing on the ground next to him. She walked forward while holding onto Gale's hand and stopped before Iris. "Hi, I'm Lily," she said in a soft voice, looking up at her with dark eyes. "Brother said you're going to be my friend, too!"
"Hi, and yes," Iris agreed, bending down slightly to not tower so much over the girl. "My name is Iris."
"Iris…" The girl raised her free right hand to her lips as if pondering over a something. After a moment, her expression lit up, and she grinned at Iris. "You're also a flower! Lily and Iris, we match!"
This little thing seemed to give great joy to Lily, and she rushed over to hug Iris. The little girl only reached up to Iris' waist, so she crouched down for a better hug.
Once her hands wrapped around the little girl, Iris realized just how thin the body in front of her was. She could count the ribs if she wanted, which had been hidden by her slightly oversized, bag-like dress.
For a second, Iris feared she might break the girl if she squeezed any tighter. She felt as if she was holding a precious porcelain doll that would shatter at the slightest force. Even touching it seemed like a risk.
"We do," she said in a soft voice. Who could mistreat a child like this? It was unimaginable to her.
Lily soon freed herself from the hug and took out her phone. She opened an app and pointed at a girl dressed in a simple blue dress. "Wanna see my whole collection?" she asked with excitement.
The blue dress didn't bring Iris good memories, but she smiled nonetheless. "Sure." They then moved to the room that Gale had told Lily would be hers. It was simply decorated, with a large bed, bedstand, and a wardrobe.
It looked like a room that had the essentials while the decorations were left for the the person who would live here to make. However, the colors were cold, dark, and Iris found it unfitting for a child. Yet she was certain that all the other rooms here, if there were any, would look exactly the same.
'Lazy bachelors, unable to even prepare welcoming guest rooms,' she scolded Gale and Kyro in the same breath.
Lily jumped on the bed, and Iris followed after her. They sat down by the headrest and started checking out her dress-up game collection. There were hundreds of clothes in it, so Iris prepared herself for a long evening.
"Mommy said I shouldn't play these games, but brother bought me the phone and even got me all the stuff I wanted in the game!" Lily confessed after a moment. At that moment, her fingers on the phone turned into claws, and she lowered it for a moment. "I couldn't use it while alone, but now I can use it, right?"
It was a simple question, and every other child would have just went ahead with doing what they wanted instead of asking for permission. These days, who didn't use their phone as they wished?
Yet the moment Iris lifted her hand toward it, Lilly pulled back, a shadow running over her face. "Sorry!" Iris instantly said, retrieving her hand. "Of course you can play!" Her words didn't seem to reach the girl who had started shaking now, so she took out the only card she had to play. "Isn't Gale around? You brother is just in the other room, so of course you can play!"
This seemed to calm the girl a little, but she still looked worried. Her fingers over the phone were white from gripping it too tight. "Only bad children don't do as their parents say, and bad children don't need to eat." Her voice was so soft that Iris barely heard it.
'What the hell do I do now?' Iris felt out of her depth. Who said that she could deal with this situation when the time came? That person was delusional!
"Hey, look at me," she said while coming to her knees on the bed. The girl's eyes came to her, and Iris extended her hand. "Let's go to the living room, what do you say?"
"Living room?" the girl's voice was shaky, and Iris' heart ached at the fear she saw.
"Yes, to see Gale, I mean your brother. You want to see your brother, don't you?"
There was a nod, and a small hand was placed into that of Iris' larger one. She squeezed it lightly, and they walked out of the room.
Gale was sitting on the sofa, speaking on the phone, but the moment he saw them, he ended the call. His brow furrowed, and he stood up to come to them. "What happened?" he asked, crouching down before his sister, who just shook her head.
He then turned to Iris, and she said, "Lily wasn't certain whether she's allowed to use her phone here. We came for your confirmation."
"Of course she can, what are you—"
Iris violently shook her head, pointing with her free hand at Lily who was looking wide-eyed at her brother, her face even paler than before.
"I-I… Of course you can," Gale repeated, but this time in a much calmer voice. He forcefully checked his temper and lifted his sister's hand that was clutching onto her phone. "With me around, you can do whatever you want, didn't I tell you that?"
"But mommy said…" The girl's lip trembled, and she released Iris' hand to come cling to Gale's neck. "Mommy will be angry if I don't study, but you didn't pick my books! I don't want mommy to be angry!"
"Shh, it's alright." Gale hugged his sister back with one hand while using the other to gently pat her back. He looked awkward as could be, but Iris admired him for the effort. Before seeing this, she would have never thought that he had the capacity to be this kind.
"They will never touch you again, I swear," Gale whispered, his hands around his sister tightening. "You can trust me. Never again. From now on, you'll do whatever you want, all the time. I'll make sure of it." He released her then and pulled slightly away. "Tell me, what did I say to you?"
Lily shivered, not raising her head, and Gale lifted her chin up. She looked at him with red eyes. "What did I tell you when we came here?"
In a trembling voice, she answered, "I-I should d-do what I want, not wh-what th-they tell m—" Her voice broke at the last word, and she started sobbing. "But mommy will be angry. She'll be really angry! And daddy too! I don't want to be a bad girl!"
Her voice grew shrill, and she started screaming and kicking. Gale tried to calm her down, but there was no talking to her. No words reached her as she shouted for her parents. Once that didn't work, she started begging Gale, but that didn't work either, so she just cried in heart-wrenching sobs until she exhausted herself into sleep.
Iris watched it all, with tears in her own eyes. Even if she knew that Gale had done the right thing by taking his sister away, it sounded like an excuse in the face of Lily's terror. They were making the girl suffer by keeping her here.
When Iris glanced at Gale, there was no expression on his face. He just held onto his sister, keeping her from hurting herself as she sought to get away from him and back to their parents.
"Let's get her into bed," Iris said, breaking the silence. It brought Gale back to himself, and his eyes flashed with a dangerous light.
He stood up and carried his sister back into the room he'd chosen for her. "I will make them pay," he promised while putting her down. "Just rest, and I'll do what's necessary."
His words were dagger-like, and a chill ran down Iris' spine. She had a sense that something really bad was about to happen, but it was out her hands. There was nothing she could do.
'No.' She closed her eyes and chased her fright away. When Gale passed by her, she caught him by the shoulder. The eyes he turned on her were murderous, but she didn't cower, no matter how tempting it sounded.
"Don't do anything that won't let her call you brother again. She might not understand it yet, but you should. In this world, she has only you to rely on. Don't leave her without parents as well as a brother."
Gale wrung his hand free and left the room without a glance back. Iris didn't know if her words would have any effect, but for Lily's sake, she hoped that Gale wouldn't do anything which might result in jail time.
Dear readers, never fear. Fluff is always going to be part of this story. We just simply reached a point where we got to know the characters enough to have a more serious plot alongside all the sweet moments ^^
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