Deimos had a secret. A secret that put a spring in her step. She knew that her Master was hiding something from her. Chuckling internally, she tightened her hold on his arm as they walked down the streets of the provincial capital together.
Turning to her, he smiled, thinking that her excitement was from going out on a date with him after so long. She smiled back. Master was so oblivious sometimes, ya.
Did he seriously think that his sneaky behaviour would hide the truth from his wives? If it wasn't for her being the first to find out and then taking measures to cover for him, Phobos would have found out too.
As for Ceres, the girl was like an onion, layer upon layer. For some reason, the girl gave her strange vibes. After the first favourable impression, the more time she spent with the girl, the more the uneasiness grew. It was nothing concrete but, the sharp intuition she possessed for judging people kept telling her that she wasn't as helpless or sheltered as her act would imply. She wouldn't be surprised if Ceres already knew.
For a brief moment, her musings on her Master's new wife put a damper on her mood but she immediately dismissed the thoughts with a shake of her head.
Whatever her true persona, as long as the contract on Master's foot was dark, she didn't care. If it ever lightened enough for concern. Well, Master would have to make do with two wives again. He-he.
"Masteer. Where are we going, ya?" she whined petulantly.
Master always liked it when she behaved childishly. Maybe it was her height? Phi-Phi and Ceres-chan were so tall. If she wanted to stand out, she had to work her own individual charm.
He chuckled, "Be patient. We're taking the scenic route there. As they say, the journey is as important as the destination."
"Well, I say that lunch is more important than the journey or the destination. Let's go after eating, ya? Please?"
As if she didn't know that he had been leading her in a circuitous route around the block, waiting for her to tire out and say those exact words so he could take her to the restaurant here. It was famed for having the best seafood in the capital and he had already booked a room.
She chuckled inwardly as he guided them towards the restaurant. At first, she had felt sad that the surprise he was planning for her would be ruined, but knowing and pretending not to was really fun too.
As soon as they entered the restaurant, two members of the staff standing by the sides of the door showered them with confetti made of colourful pieces of cloth. "Congratulations on your First Moon." They said in unison.
All the diners on the first floor were surprised at the loud sound but when they found out its cause, they spontaneously began clapping and some even cheered for them.
In the focus of public attention, she shrank behind her Master and clutched his hand even tighter. There were too many people. It made her uncomfortable. Although she knew that he had planned to take her to this restaurant, she didn't know the specifics so she was still surprised by the sudden greeting.
He patted her hand reassuringly and smiled to the crowd, thanking them before moving on to the second floor towards their private room. It was so embarrassing, but it wasn't so bad once in a while.
Once in the privacy of the room, she rounded on him and hugged him tightly, not having to feign her happiness. "Master! You remembered. And here I was getting all mopey 'cause I thought that you'd forgotten all about it."
He hugged her back. "What kind of Husband would I be if I forgot about the First Moon of my very first wife?"
The First Moon referred to the day one lunar month post marriage. The moon took forty days to circle once around Ea, making one year nine lunar months long. The year after marriage was known as the Nine Moons and was supposed to be blessed by Luna, the Goddess of the Moon and love. Since a significant portion of the marriages were political in nature, the year was one of adjustment and adaptation to one's partner.
It was a time when both parties tried their hardest to make their marks darker. Each month marked a milestone in the marriage and the end of each month was a day for the couple to celebrate their bond and reminisce over their conduct, searching for ways to reach the perfect middle ground.
Time had flown and it had already been forty days since she had used his arm as a chew toy and today was the day of their First Moon.
Separating, he planted a chaste kiss on her lips, devoid of the lustful heat that usually accompanied such actions and filled with a loving warmth.
Taking their seat at the table, she pored over the menu, salivating over the selection, her inner glutton doing somersaults… or, that might have just been her empty stomach.
After placing the order, the two of them sank into a companionable silence as they sat arm in arm on the wide settee.
He had her hand in his lap, running his finger over the marking, tracing it with his finger while she studied his face from the side.
He was really attractive when he was dedicated.
When she had heard that Master had returned from his meeting with the Duchess a married man, of course she had been displeased, but unlike Phi-Phi, who had been vocal about her dissatisfaction, she had taken refuge behind her ditzy mask and eked out the information about his new wife.
Learning her circumstances, she had been slightly relieved at the prospect of having a naïve addition to the family instead of someone haughty or manipulative. Thus, she had done her best to act sympathetic and excited to meet her, defusing the situation and mollifying Phi-Phi's anger.
Then Ceres-chan had come along, acting so innocent and helpless that Deimos had immediately melted. The sob-story about her grandparents was the final straw, reminding Deimos of her departed parents. She had almost decided to put her trust in the girl immediately but, the more time she spent in her company, the more uneasy she felt.
It had been ten days already and she still couldn't put her finger on the source of the unease.
The only thing odd she had found was the rate at which Ceres' bond darkened, soon catching up to hers and Phi-Phi's mark in intensity despite the disparity in time spent together.
It could mean that she was either extremely pure, falling head over heels for the first male she had seen outside her father, or, there was more to the girl than met the eye. If so, Ceres-chan was really mean, playing with everyone's emotions like that.
She tightened her grip on Master's hand, causing him to look at her questioningly. Smiling, she grabbed his lapel and pulled him down for a kiss. A deeper one this time.
Orphaned by war, disowned by her grandfather, this family was the only one she had. She would protect it with her life. From threats without… and within.
When they exited the restaurant, waved off by the staff, Deimos' stomach was as tight as a drum and she had a blissful expression on her face that caused her Master's lips to twitch.
Moving from the bustling city centre to the quieter outskirts, they reached the walls and upon the production of a document by Mars, they were allowed to pass out into the Valley of the Fallen.
Making their way through the wild mana, avoiding the particularly violent vortices, they reached a small hillock with an extremely high concentration of wind mana.
They could hardly hear the sound of their voices over the howling of the winds. If not for their own wind mana counteracting the gusts, their hair would be whipping around wildly.
Reaching the top, Mars brought his mouth close to her ear, saying, "I managed to get the supplies for your Specialization delivered from the clan from a nearby outpost. Let's have you advance down the martial path today, shall we?"
Deimos nodded enthusiastically with an expression of pleasant surprise on her face while inwardly she mused that it was his frequent trips to liaison with the clan members that had alerted her to his preparations for the upcoming First Moons of her and Phi-Phi.
Restraining all her errant thoughts, she sat cross legged upon the ground amidst the howling winds as she turned her mind inwards.
Mars carefully took out two Aeolian crystals, one of them Deimos' prize while the other was taken on lease from the Duchess, costing most of his savings left after spending on Deimos and Phobos' First Moon gifts.
Placing them at the nodes of mana condensation, the wind mana density in the area shot up even further.
Finally, he withdrew a tiny ampoule with a golden liquid. Created from the extracts of several extremely rare herbs that had been influenced by wind mana, with the property of inducing a trance in its user that would cause their mindscape to align with the more precise usage of wind, it was the most difficult potion he had ever concocted.
The materials were originally rare and due to the demand for them being from both male and female mages, the raw materials alone were worth nearly two elemental crystals.
Unstopping it, he used his wind mana to guide the volatile contents towards Deimos who inhaled deeply, letting the potion permeate her lungs and through them, her bloodstream.
In the silence of her mind, Deimos pondered over the meaning of the Void. According to Father's treatise, rather than an absence of thought, it was the absence of fetters on thought.
Once one's thoughts were as unfettered as the wind they were meant to resemble, the wind would respond to the mage's every call, for their feelings would be the thoughts of the wind and the musings of the wind theirs.
With the aid of the potion and guided by the meditation method left by him, Deimos closed her eyes and fell asleep.
In her sleep, she dreamt of her day with Master, touring the shops, walking arm in arm, a sumptuous meal and finally a pleasant surprise in the form of a chance for martial advancement.
In her dream she closed her eyes and fell asleep.
In her sleep, she dreamt of her day with Master, touring the shops, walking arm in arm, a sumptuous meal and finally a pleasant surprise in the form of a chance for martial advancement. Yet, this time, the places and the faces were blurred.
Yet again, she closed her eyes and fell asleep, repeating her day again and again, slowly shrugging off the fetters of memory and emotion, the day growing fuzzier every loop until all that was left was her sitting atop the hillock cross legged, sensing the eddies of wind mana around her.
She was at the deepest layer of sleep, all that was left was her sense of self.
Letting even that go, she reached the Void.
Mars watched wide-eyed as the wild winds around Deimos began to flow in orderly streams building speed and intensity until for a brief instant, they raised her nearly an inch from the ground.
As soon as the miniature storm came, it retroceded, leaving the silence of the doldrums behind.
Carefully retrieving the crystals, he walked up to Deimos.
Her breath was even as even in her seated posture, she slept deeply. Right now, her mindscape was undergoing a transformation. It would be a day until she awoke. Attaching the pouch with the crystals to his belt, he bent down to carry her on his back.
As he walked back to their dwellings, he marvelled once again at her talent. Reaching the Void in Tier 2, albeit assisted by the potion and two crystals, was no mean feat.
Her future was limitless. It was his luck to be her Tamer.
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