Wow! Not a single comment to respond to! You know I secretly worry if no one says anything. I can only assume that everything in the last update was perfect and met everyone's expectations. I think I expected at least one person to voice either concern or appreciation over Miranda's sex drive. I figured that I would acknowledge monthly hormonal fluctuations in a mated succubus in some way.

Anyhoo, since I have nothing to respond to, I'll go ahead and leave you to read the flashback. I could have split it up into two updates, but I figured the second part wasn't long enough on its own.

Okay, okay, I'll stop now and let you read.

OH! Warning! Some Goriness ahead!

Flashback – Asterian throne room

Zephyr glanced down at the papers in his hand that the Sentinel of River City had had delivered to the townhome. He sniffed and tucked it within his coat. This was such a nuisance. Why hadn't Father come himself? He knew he had classes when court was in session during the day.

"Official court business," he'd been forced to write in his apology note to his professor regarding his absence. He was scheduled to present his preliminary analysis of Lledan suppression techniques on the Kungorian front to the class. Now he would have to wait another week! But…there was always the possibility that this wouldn't take too long. He didn't have to wait in line. He was House Dragonborn and he was approaching the throne as the official spokesman of the Sentinel. He could interrupt whomever he pleased.

Yes, that's exactly what he would do. He would deliver the message and leave with sufficient time to do his presentation. The corner of his lips pulled into the echo of a self-satisfied smile. He mentally reviewed his talking points as his bootsteps echoed in the empty hallways of the palace. He barely acknowledged the servants as he passed, even when there was a large cluster of them in front of the throne room entrance.


He turned his head. Why would anyone stop him in the palace? No one stopped him in the palace. Then again, this was the first time in ages that he was making an official appearance and was dressed for the part, golden blond hair and all. Recently, he had been entertaining himself by altering his hair to shades of blue when he was at university and shades of black when he was informally visiting Rion. It wasn't much of a change, but Xaldreans identified him by his golden hair from half the city away. Without it, he had virtual anonymity

The herald who had called out visibly shook as he said, "Court is already in session, milord. It would be highly irregular if you used the main entrance right now."

Within him irritation reared its head, but he squashed it. "Yes, that's the point," Zephyr said. Clearly this man did not know who he was. He could not behave like a petulant child and fall into a rage over lack of recognition. He faced the twin oak doors, but the footmen didn't move. Their eyes shifted to the herald. Annoyed, Zephyr moved to grab the handle himself.

"Lord Oakthorn," the herald said, a note of desperation in his voice.

"Not now, Bree!" a nearby guard said.

"No, I have to," the man hissed back. "Please, milord."

Zephyr twisted about. The man knew who he was and dared to stop him? He waited. Nothing else was forthcoming. His brow furrowed ever so slightly. "Please, what?"

The herald winced.

Be kind, Zephyr, he heard both his mother and father admonish him. Especially to those who serve us. Especially the mundanes.

He could not erase the murderous irritation in the words that he had already spoken. The kindness that he chose to extend was that he continued making eye contact with the man without filling his eyes with murder.

"Please, I beg you to reconsider your decision, milord," Bree the herald said, cowering before him. "My daughter is only a young child. She did nothing to deserve her fate except be born. Please have mercy on her!"

His anger dissipated, replaced by bafflement. "What decision?" The only recent decisions of import that he had made was what he wanted for his meals. Even his appearance today wasn't of his own volition. He'd come because of the Sentinel. The clothes he wore were chosen because they screamed bloodlust, not because he wanted to don them. He'd wanted to put on his normal clothes for going to class. The clothes he currently wore screamed murder, such that he was impressed that the herald had chosen to speak to him at all.

"My daughter's healing. She was born without arms? Surely, you remember! My wife and I petitioned House Dragonborn for a healing several weeks ago. We received a letter saying that you and Lord Tiernan had refused. Please reconsider, milord! We can't afford House Winterglade's fees!"

Zephyr cocked his head. That sounded atypical of his father. Tiernan never refused healings for children. Formal petitions didn't sound like something his father would have in place either. "How did you submit this petition?"

"We did it according to the instructions! We followed them exactly!"

He did everything in his power to keep his right eye from twitching in irritation. "Tell me what the instructions told you to do."

"We copied the estimate that the clinic gave us. We wrote a letter requesting the healing and we included a personal statement about how it would affect my daughter. We submitted everything to the address on the appeal instructions. House Dragonborn, in care of the Winterglade Clinic. The clinic told us that was how we had to address it. The director said that Lord Tiernan told them to hand deliver the appeals once a week. They went over the cases with both of you and then you decided. They said that you and Lord Tiernan refused because we didn't have a personal statement written by the patient. Milord, she's only a baby! She can't write! We couldn't submit a personal statement written by her! Please, milord, if you could just have mercy on an infant!"

The murderous black shadows leaped within. Zephyr closed his eyes as he struggled to contain them. Five heartbeats passed before he reopened his eyes. "I will attend your daughter tonight after dinner, Master Bree. See that you are excused from your duties so you can receive me."

Those around, the footmen and the guards, breathed sighs of relief while the herald fell to his knees. "Thank you, milord! Thank you!"

But Zephyr barely heard him. He stepped toward the double doors and they exploded before him. His black shadows pushed away the cloud of wood and metal fragments to create a path for him.

The throne room filled with screams and cries of alarm. From the other side of the hall, Rion sat up in the throne. "Oakthorn?" he gasped. "What the Gehennes –"

The herald scurried through the cloud. "Your majesty! Lord Oakthorn of House Dragonborn!" A dispassionate side of Zephyr observed that onlookers would think that the herald's choked voice was due to fright and not gratitude.

"Your majesty," Zephyr said softly, his tone ever so slightly mocking. The room fell silent, save for the echo of his footsteps as he took measured, deliberate steps within.

Without breaking eye contact with the king, he stretched out his arm to the side and closed his fist around the soft, pudgy throat that found its way to his grasp. A soft gurgling noise filled his ears and the stench of fear filled his nostrils. The fear made a small half-smile appear as he paused in his approach, turned his head, and inspected his victim. The smile remained as he mangled her neck into a pulp as if she were merely an orange. With a flash of his eyes he burned her heart into ashes while it took its last beat within her chest. No healings for this one.

The room exploded into chaos. Half of the room attempted to flee through the doorway, but they ran into the shield that he created. The other half cried out for the king to do something. A few pulled out hidden weapons. The guards half-raised their weapons as well, but looked to the king for instruction. Rion fell back onto his throne and covered his mouth with both hands while his eyes fixated on the body.

The last time his cousin had seen blood had probably been when his family had been murdered in this very room. Zephyr resumed walking. He again outstretched his arm and another throat happened to find its way into his grasp. This one he tossed up into the air. The lord had the great misfortune to land, ass first, onto the spear that Zephyr summoned for this very purpose. The force of the landing was gentle enough that only some of the lord's innards were pierced, thus allowing him to scream.

Zephyr's shadows danced around the man, reveling in his agony and a beatific smile emerged as he slurped on his pain. His shadows ever so gradually pushed and tugged on the lord so that the spear traveled through him. Through it all, the man screamed and cursed. Only when the shadows forced his head back did he begin to weep. As the spearhead emerged from his mouth, the shadows withdrew. Zephyr released the spear. The spitted body fell to the ground with a satisfying thud. The court attendees looked upon the carnage in horrified silence. They knew what he had done: ensured that no cubus could heal him. The spear had mutilated too many internal organs.

He resumed his approach to the throne.

"Stop!" a man cried out.

Zephyr flicked his eyes toward him. A nobleman's personal guard. No palace guard would dare stop him. He ignored the cubus even when energy balls were cast in his direction. His black shadows, however, did not ignore the unprovoked attack. They devoured the energy balls and would have devoured the guard had he not taken a moment to restrain them. They drained him of his power instead.

Zephyr raised his arm a third time and again he found himself clasping a soft, squishy throat. He rotated his head to meet her gaze. She clawed at his grip on her throat, but she wasn't dangling in the air like the others so her fear tasted different. It wasn't as desperate. She had told herself that she didn't fear death.

In his other hand, he summoned a clear bowl filled with water.

Her fear morphed to terror. His blood lust screamed. He drew the water into an orb that hovered before her and vanished the bowl. He pushed her face into the water. She thrashed and screamed until she thrashed and screamed no more. He burned her brain into ash, discarded the body to the side like the trash that it was, and continued his approach.

"Why are you doing this, Oakthorn?" Rion asked in a low voice.

Zephyr neared the throne and ascended the steps of the dais. He stopped two steps short of the top, reached into his coat, and presented the documents.

Warily, his king broke the draconic seal of River City, unfolded the papers and read. Rion's eyes widened. "These are death warrants!"

"The Sentinel of River City has grown tired of formally requesting the extradition of convicted murderers and rapists from the Xaldrean Ministry of Justice. He asked that I personally deliver these to you. If you'll now excuse me, your majesty, I have my own pressing matters."

No one said a word as he descended and walked away just as unhurriedly as he had arrived. He was halfway across the throne room when he spotted the shaking herald and outstretched his hand a fourth time. A middle-aged incubus found his way within his grip.

"Do not presume to ever speak for House Dragonborn again, First," he said. "Neither you nor your clan." His shadows slipped within the cubus' jaw and forced it open. Zephyr incinerated his tongue.

The man screamed.

"Your mewling annoys me, Winterglade. Should I kill you instead?"

The man stuck his hand in his mouth and bit, tears streaming down his cheeks as he shook his head no. Zephyr released him and he collapsed to his knees. "Dragonborn will be seeking reparations and punitive damages by month's end," Zephyr stated to the silently weeping man and resumed walking.

He paused by the knee-knocking herald who now fully comprehended the danger that he could have brought upon himself. "Don't forget, Master Bree," he said without looking at him. "Tonight, after dinner." He barely heard the trembling acknowledgement as he exited the throne room.

With an absent thought, he flawlessly reassembled the wooden double-doors behind him and glanced at a nearby timepiece.

That didn't take anywhere near as long as he thought it would. He had time for his presentation! With an excited grin, he created a world gate before him and stepped through.

His Terran professor was staring at him. Zephyr had several books strewn across the library table and he was fully immersed in his research. He hadn't looked up from his books and notes in the past hour. Nevertheless, he knew when she had arrived in the general area twenty minutes ago. About five minutes ago she had seated herself somewhere nearby behind him. Now she stared. Why was she staring at him? What was so intriguing about his back?

He sensed her approach long before he was able to hear her light footsteps.

"That's an interesting shade of blue," she murmured in a library-appropriate voice as she leaned on the chair beside him.

He straightened. He bit back the reflexive "my lady" that wanted to cross his lips. That was what he got for stepping foot in court: old habits and pleasantries that would have him formally admonished at university reared their ugly heads within him. "Professor," he said instead.

"Have you ever heard of fuchsia?" she asked.

"What…?" Was that a person or a thing or an idea?

"It's a color that's a mixture of purple and red," she explained without prompting. "Some Terrans say that fuchsia doesn't exist in nature, but they either forget or they don't know about the plant that the color was named after."

He didn't have a mirror handy so he could mess with his own hair and he didn't want to summon one for something so minor in front of everyone. An act like that would take a Seventh Rank at least half a day to recover from. He shouldn't flaunt his power. Besides, why remind her that he was an incubus? "How did you learn about that?" he asked instead.

"I read it somewhere," she said. Uninvited, she pulled out the chair and sat. She wrapped an arm around her waist, rested her elbow against that arm, and tapped a finger along her face.

He bit the inside of his cheek. What was going on? She looked like she was evaluating him. He glanced at his notes and twiddled with the pen he still held. If she was just going to stare at him, he should continue working.

"The library isn't very crowded right now. Do you have any idea what's keeping everyone away?"

"Hmm?" He surveyed his surroundings. There had been a lot more people when he had sat down. Now only a handful lingered in the few dozen tables, but no one used the tables around him. He caught a few nervous glances, but thought nothing of it. Exams were coming. But shouldn't the library be full then? "Where did everyone go?" he half-heartedly mused. He wasn't curious enough to find out though. He had given his presentation and received some feedback from his professor and his classmates. He had to finish his paper based on those observations.

"Do you always murder nobles with your bare hands?"

Zephyr whipped his head toward her and narrowed his eyes.

The professor relaxed against the back of the chair and crossed her legs and arms. She did not cower as he expected. She met his gaze with a fierceness he would not have thought a mundane possessed. But it wasn't just fierceness, he realized as they silently played out a battle of wills. It was authority. And for whatever reason, his professor oozed it while he wanted nothing more than to…his eyes dropped to her luscious full lips pursed in authoritative irritation and her generous breasts accentuated by her folded arms.

He'd never wanted to bite something so badly before in his life. A gentle bite, a nip really. Would she let him? What about that lovely golden throat that her open blouse allowed him to see? He wouldn't bite her hard enough to leave a mark. Or maybe he would mark her. She would be his…

"Well?" she said, drawing his eyes back to hers.

"Six months ago, the Sentinel of River City issued death warrants for the three for operating a person-trafficking ring that specialized in fulfilling its members' darkest desires. They had already been charged, prosecuted, convicted, and sentenced to death, but he mercifully granted bond so they could set their affairs in order. They fled to Xaldres. The Sentinel has been politely requesting their extradition from the Xaldres Ministry of Justice ever since. Last week he issued an ultimatum. No one responded so…" Suddenly uncomfortable as he stared into the professor's eyes, he looked away, shrugged, and frowned. "He sent me."

She sighed deeply. "I've always heard that your father was the gentlest soul. I never thought he would make you his executioner."

Zephyr slouched and fiddled with his pen. "He didn't ask me to kill them," he muttered.

"He knew what he was doing when he sent you," she said just as quietly.

Yes, Father knew that he would read the papers detailing their crimes. He knew he would become enraged by what he read. He knew he would drag the condemned back to River City no matter what opposition he faced. But Father could not have predicted that his temper and blood lust would be piqued by Winterglade when he entered Rion's court. "He's still a dragon," Zephyr said. "I am too." He bared his teeth in a fierce grin.

She reached out and patted his hand. "Yes, I know. That's why you all are so terrible at managing your reputation. If you're curious, the library is currently empty because word traveled about what you did in the palace earlier today. The only information being spread is that you murdered three nobles for no discernable reason. Students and professors are afraid that your killer instinct has been unleashed. Some speculate that you slaughtered them because you wanted to plunder their lands and rape their mates."

He tsked in annoyance. Why were his classmates afraid of him? He'd never raised his hand in violence against a single student other than Azrael. Even then he had only been defending himself.

"They're afraid of the unknown, Master Oakthorn. All of them. And who is more unknown that the unrankable grandson of the Silver Dragon and his mate, the dragon-taming princess?"

"Then why aren't you afraid too, professor?" he asked in a deceptively sweet voice.

She laughed low in her throat. "Because I've studied your family. At the end of the day, you Dragonborn are nothing but giant softies. You pretend to be short-tempered maniacs, but in reality, you only want to sunbathe, think your own thoughts, and cuddle with your mates. Perhaps even heal a baby or two," she added with a knowing smile.

Baby. His eyes darted to the closest clock. If he had stopped to eat dinner, it would have concluded an hour ago. He abruptly stood, waving his hand over the table so that his power memorized his progression and returned the books to their proper place. He was moments away from sending out his power to find the herald's location and creating a world gate to there, but he paused. "How did you hear about that?" He turned to the seated Kungorian woman.

Most would tremble under the weight of a Dragonborn gaze as he measured their life's worth, but she met it with one that was as weighty as his own. "I ask more questions than most," she said with a firm, authoritative voice. A gentle, wistful smile crossed her face, and her eyes softened. "You're a good man, Oakthorn. Don't ever forget that."

Zephyr froze. A woman had never looked at him like this before. What was he seeing? Was it…fondness? Instinctually, his power sought to brush her mind, but it slid off of her as if his power were nothing but water and she were made of Lledan steel.

Why did she wear such a powerful trinket? What was she hiding from him? Why didn't she want him to know her thoughts? He would be the kindest of lovers to her. He would satisfy all of her needs. No, her desires. He would fulfill all of them.

Perhaps his lust for her seeped through. He wasn't entirely sure, but, when her brow furrowed and a trace of color appeared on her cheeks, he could not misread the sudden panic and embarrassment. She wiped all emotion from her face and cleared her throat as she stood. "Have a productive evening, Master Oakthorn," she said in a lecture hall worthy voice. "I'll make sure the student body knows you won't filet the next person to accidentally breathe near you since none of them have Rivan death warrants issued against them for operating a hu -person trafficking ring like those three nobles did."

He had not realized just how much anxiousness and tension filled the room until that instant when those emotions lifted and relief and calmness replaced them. He glanced around. The other students started laughing and speaking to one another rather than sit in silence. A few of them looked at the professor. Some even glanced at him and smiled.

As a Dragonborn, he was used to eliciting fear, but the past few years had changed that expectation. He would have walked onto university grounds tomorrow and become angry with everyone for avoiding him. He would have known that they had heard of the bloodshed, and yet it never would have occurred to him that they wouldn't have heard the entire story, including his justification.

He unleashed his power. In less than a breath, he knew where Bree lived and he created a world-gate. He paused before he stepped through. "Thanks, professor," he said softly.

The Kungorian woman smiled an appropriate student-teacher smile and nodded.

He'd hear that woman moan beneath him one day, he vowed as he left the library.

Careful to keep his face neutral, Zephyr snorted internally at his teenage self. Jove, he had been filled with so much lust toward that woman. Now, he couldn't remember anything distinctive about her face and her name always seemed to be just out of reach. It hadn't been a Kungorian name. He remembered that much. Perhaps it had been her husband's name. She'd lost her lover somehow. He did remember that.

Imagine if he had actually acted on his impulses. He wouldn't have been captured by the Witch, but he never would have mated with Anne. As the Hand of Justice, he would have eventually met her, but he never would have known the heady scent of her skin or the intoxicating taste of her lips.

Perhaps his ten years in captivity had been a necessity. Gehennes on Gaia had allowed him to have his heart's deepest desire. That Kungorian woman could never have captured the part of his heart that held the deep, abiding love for the Lady Terra to come. Could he have lasted ten years of loneliness with that woman at his disposal? Or perhaps that woman couldn't have controlled his blood lust. Clearly, the answer was no or else, Jove would not have chosen such a definitive way of keeping him mateless until Anne appeared.

Wiping all musings and memories away, Zephyr paused at the second step from the throne as was only proper.

Jade stood. "Your sword?"

Was she planning on stripping him of his commission by symbolically taking it away? He held his left hand out to the side and in a flash of light and shadows, his Lledan blade appeared. He offered it to her, hilt first.

She unsheathed it. Teles stepped up and took the sheathe from her as she held it up in the light and inspected it. "Lord Teles told me that he had given you an officer's blade after the Coutoure Exercise. This isn't a Lledan hilt. Did the original break?"

"No, the sword became unbalanced for my use when I grew older, and I did not have access to a Lledan swordsmith."

"We place jewels in the hilt to denote rank. Did you know that?"

"I have been so told," he responded. He had noticed the gemstones in the officers' swords in Coutoure, but he had not learned of its significance until his university classes on Lledan warfare.

"As an ensign, this sword should have been set with amethyst before it was presented to you, but I understand the circumstances of your commission were rather unique." She exchanged the sword with Teles for a small, black velvet bag. She pulled apart the strings and upturned it. Two amethysts the size of his thumb and six smaller ones that were half that size spilled into her palm. She rolled them, allowing them to sparkle before she put them back in the bag and pulled the strings. "These are many, many years overdue, Ensign," she said as she handed it to him.

Odd that she would summon him to hand him a bag of jewels. Nevertheless, he had the sense to say, "Thank you, your majesty." He reflexively looked to Teles, but the military liaison didn't move. Zephyr wasn't about to leave without his sword. Perhaps Teles would return it after court?

Jade held out her hand to the side again, and again Teles placed a second velvet bag in her palm. "Had you been stationed in Lled rather than Asteria, I imagine you would have earned these rather quickly." She upended the bag revealing a handful of emeralds denoting a lieutenant. She poured the emeralds into his hand.

Zephyr blinked. The emeralds sparkled back at him. He wasn't sure of how long he stared or how still the room had grown until someone near the queen sniffed, not out of indignation, but because something had tickled her nose. Jade continued standing before him, hands clasping one another demurely. Ah, she expected him to say something! That was appropriate, given the circumstances. "I appreciate the confidence you have in my abilities, your majesty."

A smile tugged on Teles' lips. Then he retrieved another black bag from his person and placed it in Jade's hand.

"Lord Teles theorizes that you would have earned these several years ago on the N'aadian border," she said as she gazed at the Captain's rubies that she held.

Zephyr was dumbfounded as she poured them into his palm. "Lord Teles has always been kind in his evaluation of my skills," he said.

He rolled them in his palm and studied them. They were jewelry-quality gems, surprising if one was expected to fight with the weapons. He could imbue them so they wouldn't chip.

"Perhaps Lord Teles, yes, but my military academy leaders and my generals appear to share his opinion. In fact, they theorize that there is no logical reason why you should be standing before me with these absent from your sword."

Zephyr only half-listened. He continued studying the gemstones that he held. Perhaps it was the drakan part of him that wanted to horde shiny things and present them to his mate. Then he heard the tinkle of additional stones. Zephyr lifted his gaze and saw Jade hold up a large sapphire stone up in the air, under the pretenses of studying its sparkle. The court erupted into murmuring.

She cut her eyes to him. "May I use your given name, Ensign?" she asked in a low voice.

"Only for this moment," he said, still unsure what she planned.

She exchanged the sapphires for the sword and nodded to one of her attendees. A guard at the bottom of the dais pounded the floor with his halberd. "Silence before your Queen!" he thundered. The room fell silent once more.

She held out the sword horizontally to him. "Ensign Zephyr Thanos of House Dragonborn, registered as Ensign Oakthorn in our records, we hereby confer upon you the rank of Major in our armies. We command you to ever ensure the safety of the Hand of Grace, no matter where her travels take her. Should you ever fail in this duty, we will have you stripped of your rank and court-martialed before us. Will you accept this commission and this permanent charge from us?"

His power stirred at the invocation of his name. His name had remained unspoken, and his power suppressed for ten years. It would take time before anyone could casually speak it. He would have to remind all of these Lledans. But that was all an absent thought. Jade's words still echoed within the hall and he needed to answer.

He was no master of laws so he was unable to analyze the words as his consort would have, but he did have the ability to detect deception and evil intent behind anyone's actions. Jade lacked both of these things. Instead, she harbored a level of hopeful desperation that he was not expecting to encounter. "Yes, Queen Jade," Zephyr said as he reclaimed his naked blade. "I accept your commission in your army and the charge to protect the Hand of Grace."

"Then it is done," she said.

Zephyr glanced at Teles who still held the sheath. The former lieutenant commander shook it ever so slightly. Zephyr did what any cubus would do; he stole back his sheath with his power and he slipped his sword within. Then he released the sword and let the shadows deal with belting the sword to his side.

Jade visibly swallowed at this demonstration of inhuman power, but she nevertheless held out the bag of sapphires. "As Lord Teles has informed me that no one can alter your blade without you being present, you are to accompany an officer of your choosing, visit a blacksmith, and have these jewels mounted as expediently as possible."

"As you say, your majesty," he said as he accepted the sapphires.

"Major Thanos," she paused. She stepped back and seated herself in her throne. A servant presented her with a goblet. She sipped its contents and waved the servant away. "Major Thanos," Jade repeated. "In consideration of your permanent charge, we can only make requestsfor your assistance in matters that do not directly affect the Hand of Grace. We would request that you accompany my military liaison to the Kungorian front and assist him in," she swallowed, "maximizing our use of cubic forces, both ours and what your cousin has pledged to us."

Around her, her advisory council took on faces of firm agreement while the court again erupted in displeased murmuring.

"Good," he said. "Jove never meant for humans to counter magic users and demon worshippers on their own. We exist for that purpose."

Jade stared into his eyes and furrowed her brow.

Of course, given her people's prejudices, this was new news to her.

"I will go with Lord Teles as soon as my consort gives me leave."

"Excellent." Jade stood. "If the Baroness is free, I should like to take tea with you both tomorrow."

Zephyr inclined his head in acknowledgement and the Queen of Lled stood and swept away from the throne room.

Whew! Long update, right? And so much to discuss and think about!

There's Zephyr doing Zephyr things. You can see how reluctant he is to engage with his socio-economic peers and how he much rather be in school with his classmates doing nerdy things like studying battle techniques. And yet, you then see him revel in violence while also having pity on the downtrodden and outrage at their exploitation.

Once I decided to include the throne room carnage in this story, I knew I had to include a university reaction scene. Zephyr has had no violent incidents since attending university, at least no public incidents. Three public killings for no publicized reason? If everyone weren't afraid of him, I can imagine there would have been student-led protests calling for the king to do something. But everyone is immobilized out of fear. What would they do? Hide from him and complain to each other and the administration, of course! Which leads to…

Another scene with the mysterious, Terran professor. I like her, in case you can't tell. I also really like writing how infatuated Zephyr is with her. Up until now, she's done nothing but exude professionalism, but today's appearance hints that either she is starting to return his feelings or she is unwillingly/unknowingly starting to mirror his feelings because of his cubic powers. I like how she provides him with tidbits of information to make him more aware of the people around him.

I also like Zephyr's musings about his crush. To him, not remembering her face or her name isn't weird or suspicious. It's a reflection of how little she meant to him in the grand scheme of things.

Finally, though, we have the results of Zephyr's officer exam and the real reason behind Rauno's revelation to Cein and his private talk with Lord Teles earlier in the day. In case you're wondering, his exam result isn't a political machination. He actively studied war in school and he had, in fact, been involved in active warfare for the past ten years. It would only make sense for his exam result to reflect his experience. Jade's willingness to give him the commission is the direct result of her current relationship with Cein. She's actually starting to see that cubi are people too!

Wow, I don't think I was expecting to write this much as just a commentary on what you've already read! Anyhoo, I'd like to hear your reaction. Anyone think Zephyr's internal thoughts about his professor are just a bit too creepy? Or can you not get over how good she is at being fearless before someone who had killed three people a few hours prior? Or perhaps you are wondering about the implications of Zephyr needing his new jewels embedded in his sword. Let me know! I'm definitely not a mind-reader and comments definitely encourage me to keep writing rather than indulging in long hiatuses.