The carriage wheels rattled against the gritty forest path.
"Why is the road so bad?! Did we really have to take this path?"
"Weren't you the one who wanted to come with me? Don't complain."
"Shut up. We're here to investigate the reason for the sudden collapse of Baron Moss' manor and his death. You should know that it will be boring."
The two siblings couldn't have looked more different. Against the older one's dark red hair and feline-like eyes, his sister's hair was like yellow gossamer and she had large watery eyes. They both had strong personalities and were always fighting- well, maybe not always. Nobles had to act with decorum in front of crowds, after all. Despite being away from their homes in the Capital, the two siblings had surprisingly weak tongues. They were both too relaxed to fight, in one of their sparse moments away from the public's eyes. Stretched out against the cushions, they were both taking a breather.
Abruptly the carriage stopped.
Lia brushed her fringe away from her eyes and looked up, "Brother did we hit a muddy spot again?"
He didn't move. "Go ask the footman."
Sitting up and patting down her blond hair slightly, she turned the handle and stepped out of the carriage. Her lips lifted up slightly, at how she was wearing real pants. The forest is really great…
Jumping down onto the dusty path, she walked up to the horseman.
"Why did we stop? I do not see any mud."
He looked down at her from his ledge. His face was grave.
"I'm sorry Miss, please step back inside the carriage. The footman saw something up ahead and it could be an ambush-"
A male scream suddenly rung out from the bushes ahead.
"Miss! Please get back inside the carriage!"
But she was already running. Ashbel was getting out of the carriage.
"Lia! What's going-"
"The footman got attacked!" She called out behind her. Ashbel promptly jumped down from the step, dashing after his sister. Their butler called out behind them, but they did not stop.
Jumping over the hedge,Lia let out a growl and pulled out her knife. She immediately noticed their footman, who'd fallen over and was looking at the ground in shock. She turned her knife to it-
Her eyes widened.
"What is it?" Ashbel asked as he came up behind her. Lia wasn't moving.His feet slowed. What was wrong?
"It's… It's a child."
That was not what I'd been expecting at all.
It looked filthy, and it was covered in dirt and bruises.
"Probably just some street kid. Fell asleep playing in the woods. Lionel, you get scared too easily! Are you really a man?"
Lionel lowered his head in shame. Ashbel smirked.
Lia was still staring at the little girl. "It looks too dirty to have just been spending a night out here. Do you think it doesn't have a home?"
Ashbel threw his hands up. "Who cares? We are wasting our time. We need to reach Bastonville by noon tomorrow."
"We cant just leave a defenseless child out here!"
Ashbel turned his eyes to his sister. "You are too soft Lia. It's none of our business."
The girl's eyes narrowed defiantly. "Of course it is! As nobles we swore an oath that we'd protect this country to the best of our power. How can we possibly lay claim to respecting that oath, if we do not even care for a child in our way?"
"We cannot go around helping each poor person in our path. There is a defining line between the rich and the poor Lia, and it is there for a reason."
Ashbel narrowed his eyes. "We were the ones chosen to hold the power to make important decisions. Helping this child is too much of an effort and will take too much time, let alone the tarnish it will have on our reputation."
"It could be this kid's life at stake! Who cares about reputation?!"
"We do. Our reputation and money are the two things that give us power. We swore an oath didn't we? 'To protect the people with all the power we have.' There are far greater troubles we need to face, struggles that can only be fought with influence. You know that don't you?"
She was silent.
Ashbel's tone was harder. "You have to understand sister, in every move that you make, people are watching you. Everything is at stake, for every moment of your life. It is a bigger picture than just us. All those lives depend on our protection. You know how fragile our status is in this nation. We are surrounded by bastards on big thrones who reject any form of empathy as a weakness. You know what is at stake if we want to protect the people. Show some responsibility.
She was silent for a while. Ashbel was wondering if he had gone too far. The pressure of it all was monumental and to thrust it so suddenly on her like that…
Then she looked up.
Her eyes were brimming with frustrated tears, but they were burning too. Burning with a resolution. She glared at Ashbel. "My morals will not waver. You cannot leave a child to die in the name of protecting the nation. I refuse to sink to the standards of everybody else. If you need me to, I will take full responsibility."
They glared at each other.
Internally, Ashbel was a bit proud of his sister.
He was the first to crack.
"Fine, but we cannot leave it in a village without arising suspicion. It will have to travel with us. If you want to have it treated, you will have to wait until Bastonville. I expect you to take responsibility for this. Father will not be pleased."
Lia nodded and signalled the driver to come over. He did warily.
"Pick it up carefully and deposit it in the carriage. Use the cushions to make sure it does not fall and put the curtains around it. I expect full discrepancy."
Seeing the body, he nodded.
Ashbel turned to Lia, "I respect your reasoning, but should this go wrong, you will still be the one I blame." and he strode to the carriage.
New characters yay! These two are very important characters in the story. I spent so much time thinking how to properly introduce them which led to me writing this chapter. I hope the readers find them interesting.
Please let me know your thoughts in the comments. If you like this story please share and recommend it to your friends. It's really encouraging to see many users read this story.
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