If there was one person in this world that Adeline would trust, it would be Lydia Claymore. Bright-eyed and with more energy than her tiny body could muster, Lydia had been in Adeline’s lives for as long as they could remember.
“When I heard from your horrid aunt that a proposal letter was sent to you, I just knew I had to come right away, Addie!” Lydia gushed out. She grasped the hands of her dear friend and pulled her close.
“If you’ve been kidnapped blink twice,” she hurried out, in a low and serious voice.
Adeline took a slight pause, before laughing a bit. Lydia always knew how to brighten her mood. She pulled her hands back from Lydia, only for the latter to grab her forearms.
“Even if I can’t shoot a gun to save my life, I will put my livelihood on the line for you, Addie,” Lydia added on, in a breathless voice from talking so much. She held onto Adeline for dear life, for the young girl meant that much to her.
Lydia Claymore’s parents would wreak havoc when they discovered she had snuck out of their enormous condo just to spend time with Adeline. Being the daughter of the old-money Claymore family, she was taught to be demure and docile. Her father, Duke Claymore had always emphasized that, but Lydia never learned.
“Liddy,” Adeline softly laughed. “I’m fine.”
Lydia refused to believe that. She pulled her beloved friend into the room and closed the doors behind them. With a slight pout, she tugged on Adeline’s arm.
“Besides,” Adeline gently teased. “I still remember the time you held a gun and it suddenly stopped working.”
Lydia gasped at the unpleasant memory. She had curiously tested out one of her father’s guns, and somehow, the damn device stopped working!
“That’s not true—”
“You jammed the trigger by simply puling it,” Adeline teased.
“It was one time!”
“Two times,” Adeline corrected.
“Two times!” Lydia exasperated, holding up two fingers.
“And they were your Father’s priceless collections.”
Lydia sulked. She remembered the lengthy lecture he had given her about sneaking into his gun storage.
“Father owns one of the largest armament manufacturing companies in the world! Just two guns should be fine…” Lydia mumbled.
“Two guns out of the ten you broke—”
“It’s not my fault!” Lydia cried out. “It’s the gun’s fault for always having a problem whenever I try to use it.”
Adeline quietly laughed, her eyes crinkling with mirth, but she hid it behind a hand— much to Lydia’s dismay.
“Alright, alright,” she chided like an older sister towards her younger siblings’ long rants.
Adeline pulled her sleeves to her fingers and began to gingerly wipe the dirt away from Lydia’s face. “You and your dramatics,” she loudly sighed.
Lydia stayed still, like an adoring pet, whilst Adeline cleaned the dirt from her face. She thought it was a great drawing that would bring a smile to her Addie. It certainly did. There was a wisp of a smile on Adeline’s soft, peony lips.
“Addie,” Lydia cheerfully called out. “You’d tell me everything. Right?”
Adeline tilted her head. She had finally gotten the dirt off of Lydia’s face when the unexpected question was tossed at her.
“Of course, Liddy,” Adeline answered in a heartbeat.
Adeline had grown up with Lydia. Their Fathers were great friends, some even said they were partners-in-crime in the schools they attended in their youth. Naturally, Adeline’s childhood memories were filled with Lydia.
Her smile slipped a bit. She remembered Duke Claymore cried the most at her Father’s funeral. He said it was just the rain, but she had heard his choked sobs, and witnessed the tremble of his large body.
“Then why did you keep your affair with His Majesty a secret, Addy?” Lydia huffed out. She was distraught upon hearing the news from Aunt Eleanor.
“What happened to never getting married and just settling down in a nice cottage overseas to live our lives out as spinsters?” Lydia complained. As a child, they had made a foolish pact.
If they didn’t get married after the age of thirty, they would just run off together, and live off the land.
Of course, those were the days when Adeline was still a Princess living in an enormous house, with a castle adorning her head. Now, her precious Adeline was trapped under the venomous watch of the Marden family.
The Mardens were hawks—like their animal crest implied. To Lydia, they were worse than flesh-eating vultures. What kind of in-law family was shameless enough to scheme the money of a young heiress?!
“I had no choice, Liddy,” Adeline explained.
There was a lovely vase with freshly harvested flowers and large, spacious windows that overlooked a serene garden. The walls were painted with delicate blue designs, shifting from a tranquil flowing river to a luscious meadow of soft, yellow flowers.
Adeline fell absolutely in love with the drawing-room, despite not knowing who it was reserved for.
“This feels like you’re trading a birds’ cage for a lion’s den,” Lydia mumbled.
Lydia turned towards Adeline and ignored the spilled metal plate of pastries on the ground. She was clumsy and had bumped into it with her knees, after hearing the sound of approaching footsteps.
“H-His Majesty is quite kind,” Adeline stammered out.
“And I can make pigs fly!”
Adeline laughed under her breath. “You know, I was reading a bibliography of this inspiring woman who joked with her husband that pigs can fly if you toss it in the air.”
Lydia snorted at this. “I was just going to say that was my stolen technique.”
Lydia was also going to mention one of her father’s devices that could set wings upon something and defy gravity, by lifting the pig.
After the Species War, technology advanced beyond human nature. Now, there were small devices that were able to manipulate physics and resemble magic. Unfortunately, the devices required a “core” which was crafted from a specific type of material that was rare and pricey.
Leading the research were Vampires, who had supposedly created the technology before the Species War. After the Vampire’s entrance into the human world, marking them as the top of the food chain, they brought forth advancement unlike any other. It was truly a spectacle.
“Technique or not,” Adeline slowly said. “His Majesty treats me well… except his frequent teasing.”
Adeline left out what kind of teasing it was.
“He hasn’t hurt me,” she added on.
“Your standards are too low, Addy,” Lydia snapped. “My beloved friend, It’s basic decency that a man does not hurt a woman, and likewise!”
Adeline smiled towards the ground. When there were not many kind people in her life, she had to find means of portraying them in a good light. Even if it meant making excuses for them.
“One day, I swear you’re going to get scammed, and I will have to rescue you in the middle of nowhere,” Lydia snorted. “But don’t worry, I’ll come with armed men and everything!”
Adeline’s smile widened. She could always count on Lydia to brighten the day.
“That goes from that freakishly handsome King of Wraith as well!” Lydia added on. “My Father might manufacture weapons for the Empire, but I will kill the King if he tries anything on you!”
Adeline slowly nodded her head. She had no doubt Lydia would. Sometimes, she was envious of her lovely friend. Lydia had the guts that Adeline used to have. Lydia could behave as rowdy as she pleased, talk as loud as she wants, and do whatever she desired.
Lydia did not have chains to hold her back. Though, Adeline knew, once upon a time, Lydia was not as confident as she was now. She remembered the days that Lydia’s face was blank, and her eyes were lifeless.
“Oh great, another person targeting my life.”
Adeline’s head snapped up. She was so distracted by the animated Lydia, that she hadn’t realized the doors had opened.
Elias was standing by the doorframe, with his usual, sardonic smirk. When their eyes met, he winked.