Dawn had evoked a certain relief upon Ayexev. It wasn't really an extraordinary day but… it would be the day that they would start travelling back to Algenteria. Ayexev was excited to finally get home. Though, she could stay still a little longer observing her lover sleep.

"Mmmm…" Devasti mumbled.

Ayexev smiled at her lover before kissing her tenderly on her cheek. She gently removed herself from her lover's embrace to stand up and stretch a little. Release surged through her as she felt her joints pop. There was nothing like stretching in the morning for Ayexev, especially after all the sitting she did the past three days.

"Awake already?" Devasti asked, still practically half-asleep.

"Did you sleep well?" Ayexev replied.

"I did." Devasti yawned then proceeded to kiss her lover.

Ayexev simply melted into the kiss. The two only broke their passionate kiss for air. "We need… to get back…" Ayexev said while trying to breathe for air.

Devasti nodded in reply and they both were off to pack.

~xXoXx~

Alexis woke up to a bright day. Although, she wished to sleep in more since the children last night did not give her the chance to catch sleep early. She promised Sigurd that she would accompany her to the castle today to check up on Regent Helena… or was duty-bound to do so. The latter is what the archer keeps telling herself.

Ser Alexis, we will arrive there tonight. I will be using one of my teleportation runes to get there faster. – A familiar voice said in Alexis' head.

This is nice… I might be mad. – Alexis thought to herself.

No… this is your employer's employer. I can't use telepathy with Sigurd since she has no affinity for magic. – The same voice replied.

Right… And… I just have to believe you because? – Alexis asked, still sceptical.

Because I wouldn't be able to communicate with you unless I knew how you looked like. Also, I wouldn't be able to know Sigurd's name if I were a random stranger. – Ayexev replied logically.

Close enough. I'll tell her. – Alexis says, finally giving in.

You have my thanks, Ser Alexis.

"So… what's got you thinking?" Sigurd asks, looking at the archer.

Alexis looked at the small swordswoman before finally collecting her thoughts. "Your employer says she will be arriving, along with my employer, tonight. They will be using teleportation."

"Telepathy?" Sigurd asked.

"… Yeah. She said you had no magical affinity at all so she chose to contact me instead. It's a… disturbing way to do so." Alexis added.

"I see… usually it would've been the Elder Sorcerer who would tell me these things."

"I suppose she thought it would be quicker this way." Alexis replied.

"All right. We'll inform Regent Helena about her arrival later." Sigurd paused. "I suppose we should grab some breakfast first, hmm?"

Alexis realized that she was hungry. Duty first thing in the morning usually makes one forget about appetite. Usually. Alexis simply stood up and let Sigurd lead the way to the dining area of the orphanage.

~xXoXx~

As Ayexev finished packing her things she realized that the kingdom's annual masked festival was coming up. The festival comprised of five days and five nights of celebration which the empress would begin and end at midnight of the first and last days respectively. Ayexev was a little relieved that she wouldn't have to ask Helena for another favor. When Devasti noticed Ayexev breathe a little deeper than usual she had to ask.

"What's happening?"

"Autumn's masked festival." Ayexev replied.

"Oh… OH… I don't want to admit it but… I'm in no mood to celebrate especially knowing that we have threats from the north." Devasti sighed.

"I feel the same way but… I need to let my people know that I will not falter even if I am faced with this threat." Ayexev narrated.

"Dedicated as always, love. Whenever you need to vent off that duty, you know where to find me." Devasti winked.

"Of course." Ayexev giggled.

After they had finished packing Ayexev brought out her teleportation rune. It was enchanted to teleport into the Mage tower's corresponding teleportation room. It had simply been mapped to it.

"Ready?" Ayexev asked.

"Yeah."

Ayexev held Devasti's hand and visualized her destination. They arrived in the Mage tower safely and they were immediately greeted by the mages who were guarding the room. Ayexev nodded to the mages in acknowledgement and immediately begun heading for the castle.

~xXoXx~

It amused Alexis to no end to see Sigurd handle paperwork. She could see impatience, hardwork, and irritation all at the same time. Since she wasn't a palace official she was just sitting across the smaller woman having tea. She found herself very, very amused.

Sigurd found Regent Helena to be unusually cruel today. At first, she thought that she would only check up on her… then it became errands that aimed to prepare the festival that was beginning tonight. That is, until errands became inherent demands to finish going through documents. She had hoped she would be able to at least see the festival from somewhere other than behind the empress. Also, she would have liked to show Alexis around the festival too. It very much relieved her to find out that she was actually looking at the last piece of paper that needed to be looked at.

"Finally." She breathed.

Regent Helena simply chuckled. "Just in time too. Her grace will should be arriving any minute now."

The regent was surprised because, as if on cue, the door opened. Out came two obviously tired women, especially the taller one. It was Ayexev and Devasti. Regent Helena simply chuckled and said, "I suppose knocking isn't in the itinerary anymore."

"I'm just a little impatient at the moment. I have a speech to make, remember?" Ayexev sighed.

"Well… as you can see you have no more work to do here. So go on and worry about your speech." Helena smiled.

"You're a great help as always Helena. Thanks." Ayexev breathed in relief, seeing the disappearance of documents.

"Also, a fourth of our army is currently getting ready to depart tomorrow. We'll make sure the festivities stop as they leave." The regent explained.

"Good. I suppose I really have nothing left to do here. I formally dismiss all three of you. Go on and make your own preparations for the festival." The empress announced.

Devasti grinned at Alexis and whispered for her to go on and have fun with Sigurd. Helena bowed lightly at Ayexev and headed for the door. When all three have left Devasti turned to Ayexev. "Well then my empress. Will you go out with me tonight after your glorious speech?"

"Of course. Ser Rassfeld, I happily accept." Ayexev chuckled.

Devasti clapped her hands together, "Well then… shall I escort you to your room?"

"Yes, let's do that." Ayexev grinned.

~xXoXx~

Alexis figured that she was still under employment when Devasti told her to go and have fun with Sigurd. She didn't mind it though since most of her payment was extra. Besides, the swordswoman amused her. So it's really a win-win situation for her. Also, it was her first time to experience a full-blown festival because all her trips to Algenteria before were mostly about work.

Although… tonight everyone was incognito. Everyone tonight had worn masks for the occasion. It was, of course, a masked festival. Everyone was dressed at their best and everyone celebrated at their best.

"Why the masks?" Alexis asked, curious.

"I don't know. People say it's to forget about the problems and celebrate others say it's too keep Raquim from knowing who you are." Sigurd chuckled.

"Raquim?"

"Oh he's just infamous for captivating young women and taking them to bed."

"A con-artist." Alexis murmured.

"Many call him that. And many are still wooed by him." Sigurd laughed.

"And many are still idiots." Alexis chortled.

They stopped by for the food stalls and the game stalls. Alexis found the activities to be rather enjoyable, from eating while they walked or trying their luck at the game stalls. They both allowed themselves to enjoy festivities. That was until they ended up spending forever in a mask stall.

"Absolutely no way." Alexis protested.

"Aww… come on! You'll only be wearing it for five days." Sigurd whined.

Alexis found it absolutely ridiculous to have to wear a mask and did not intend on wearing one. Sigurd keeps on insisting that she must do so since it is a "masked festival". The archer still didn't see the point of it all. So she insists not to wear one. Except the two of them have been disagreeing about it for over an hour.

"Argh! Fine… Only if you'll let me pick." Alexis sighed; she wanted to be over as soon as possible.

"All right!" Sigurd cheered.

It didn't take long for Alexis to eye a silver mask that would cover most of her face except her mouth. Sigurd chose a black mask that covered only the portion near the eyes. Alexis still felt a little awkward with the mask but she chose to get accustomed to it.

"This might be the first time…" Sigurd muttered.

"First time for what?" Alexis asked.

"I think this is the first time that I will watch the empress make her speech during this time of the year." Sigurd explained.

"First time as an audience?" Alexis wondered.

"Yes, that exactly." Sigurd replied.

"All right, where do we go next? You are touring me around." Alexis chuckled.

Sigurd beamed. "There's an archery game stall here every year. The winner gets to have free beer at my favorite pub… for four."

"And you intend to drink for three." Alexis sighed.

"I was thinking we could split them." Sigurd smiled guiltily.

"Right." Alexis replied sarcastically.

"Anyway, I think you'll like a bit of competition." Sigurd grinned.

Alexis smiled. "Oh well… I do like shooting targets."

"Then it's an agreement." Sigurd chuckled.

The stall was right beside the pub Sigurd mentioned. The challenge was to fire three arrows all at the same time to hit all the bottom three targets simultaneously then to hit the beer mug that rests on top of three stacked barrels. For Alexis this was easy given the distances.

"Do you raise the prize if I did this fifteen paces back?" Alexis asked.

"No one has ever tried it like that but… I'll raise the prize for you IF you do as you say." The muscular man managing the stall said.

"Well then, let's do that." Alexis smiled.

As Alexis walked fifteen paces back the muscular man couldn't believe himself. Then when Alexis took another five paces he could feel himself chuckle… after all he hadn't seen one person work his stall from even five paces back. When Alexis took aim with three arrows, she released them almost immediately, while she took her final arrow and aimed it at the beer mug and released it after a few seconds of taking aim. The crowd that was watching cheered as she hit the beer mug.

"I'll be damned woman. You have free drinks along with my free customer to last you for the rest of the night." The muscular man said, still in awe.

"Thanks." Alexis smiled.

"Awesome! Free beer all night!" Sigurd cheered.

"Ahem. AFTER the empress makes her speech, can't have you going to the plaza all tipsy." The muscular man said.

"Speaking of which… it should be around now, right?" Alexis says, looking at her friend.

"Oh yeah… All right first things first then. We'll be back later Gerard." Sigurd says.

"Don't forget to come back for your drinks ladies! You put on a quite a show tonight let me repay it at least!" Gerard laughed.


Author's Note:

I was rather pressed for time when I wrote this since I was out friday night drinking the night away haha. Once again, this is all unbeta-ed... I'm thinking of just giving my beta my revisions on the chapters then I'll post it since our schedules never seem to work at the moment haha. Anyway, I hope you enjoy reading this. =D Can you tell something exciting is about to happen? Reviews are appreciated and criticism is welcome.

-Doc