"Thank you for your years of help Kiko,” Lio tapped her on her shoulder, beckoning her to wander with him. “But, as you know, our funds are close to none. I have already dismissed all of the servants, you are the final one left.” He pivoted towards her stopping their walk through the park. “I’m releasing you from duty.”
Kiko chuckled, shaking her head humorously, “Your father employed me, not you.” She grabbed Lio’s hand tenderly. “I will not leave the King of Mieving without proper aid.” Lio laughed dryly at this, resuming his walk.
“I think that title has been lost to time now Kiko.” He let the steady breeze blow his words away before resuming. “We both know that the Juleums rule the city now. I was left without a choice that night.”
“The people will rally under you, Master Lio. Your father saved them once, and they all would die for the opportunity to return the favor.” Kiko moved in front of him, halting their walk once more. “We all would like out from under the rule of the Julems. They raise our taxes till we have no choice but to turn to them. They have kilt many of our kin.”
“Tell me Kiko, what good is an army when they are easy to be bought out and used against us? I will have no more casualties litter the street because of me.” He made eye contact with her, his gaze as focused as it had been the night he had gained power. “No one has suffered as much as I have because of the Julems. I do not plan to turn my back on the people of Mieving, but I will not permit them to sorrow more.” He turned his gaze, picking up a bright blue flower that had fallen next to the bushes. “In one second, something so beautiful,” he crushed the flower in his hand, revealing the crumbled purple mess it made, “can become vile and repulsive.”
“Please reconsider what you are planning, Lio. One should not plot so late at night.” Kiko brushed the flower from his hand, leaving it dyed purple. “Many more will suffer if you die.”
“Go home now, Kiko,” Lio grabbed her hands tightly. “If I fail, you will be left everything that I still own. It’s not much, but maybe you can start something I could not.” Kiko opened her mouth to argue but was promptly cut off. “Now, Kiko.” She looked hurt but it passed quickly with a bow and she was gone, leaving him to stand in the middle of flowers in a city devoid of life.
Lio moved in a reverie, making his way through the little park three times over, uncertain of where to start. He was oblivious to the gray eyes that watched his every move, tracking him from the large oak that supplied shade for the weary passerby. On his fourth round through the park, Lio stilled sitting beneath the great oak, his head in his hands. The slate eyes moved down the tree, morphing into a man that jumped in front of Lio, shaking him out of his daze.
“You’ve paced this park four times now.” The man from the tree, Hire Julems, spoke quickly, squatting down to look Lio in the eye. “What’s on your mind boy?”
Lio hurried to his feet, brushing bits of dirt off of his pants. “Have you been watching me?” He questioned warily, glancing behind the man.
“Of course. Bit hard not to with you worrying yourself.” Hire sat on the ground, beckoning for Lio to follow.
“I’d prefer to stand.” Lio declared as he massaged his wrist willing his pulse to slow. Being scared was not on his list of favorites. ”It’s a dangerous city these days, you know.” Hire nodded easily. He reached up for Lio’s hands, but they remained firmly behind his back.
Hire pushed himself up, dusting off the rejection effortlessly. “I’ll join you in a walk then? Try to help you clear your mind.” Lio considered a second before nodding and beginning to walk back in his path.
“Do you speak boy?” Hire asked after the time had all seemed to melt.
“I would really prefer you not call me that. I do not appear to be much younger than you.” Lio replied calmly, glancing over at Hire.
“Well then, what would you prefer I call you?”
“You first.” Lio nodded to no one in particular.
“Elmehs Juir at your service,” Hire bowed dramatically and nearly missed when Lio tensed at the movement. Just as quickly as it had been there, Lio relaxed as Hire stood up. “Your turn.”
“You can call me Eoi Ruli, if you so wish.” Lio nodded to himself again.
“That’s not your real name is it?” Hire asked, walking backward in front of Lio.
“Oh? How can you figure that?”
“You nodded to yourself.” Hire shrugged. “You did it after speaking to that woman. I assume it means you had to think about something.”
“So you’re an observer,” Lio said, impressed. “But yes. That isn’t my true name. But as I already stated, it’s a perilous world now.”
“You keep using those words as if the world hasn't always been perilous. What do you mean by that?” Hire fell back into step with Lio, walking easily beside him.
“The Julems rule this city now. One can never be too safe with them about.” Lio watched Hire now, as he smiled carelessly at the comment. “Do you not agree, Elmehs?”
Hire opened his mouth to respond, but the sound of boots stomping towards them made Lio jump, pulling Hire with him into a small cavity of trees. Hire opened his mouth again but was quickly shushed by Lio shaking his head.
They stayed there, bodies pressed together in the darkness until the footsteps vanished into the distance. Lio was the first to move out, smoothing his shirt again.
“What was that?” Hire whispered to Lio once he too moved out of the small space.
“The Carpe Jugulum. Julems guards.” Lio said, skimming their surroundings.
“Why did you hide then?” Hire asked, cocking his head to the side. Lio scrutinized him like he was absurd.
“It’s two hours past curfew.” Hire still looked confused. “They won’t hesitate to kill the rule-breakers.” Lio explained seriously.
“What?” Hire practically shouted before Lio shot his hand over his mouth, glancing around again. Lio yanked his hand back, shocked.
“Did you just- lick me?” Lio stared at Hire who shrugged nonchalantly.
“You’re the one who put your hand on my mouth.” Lio still looked upset before Hire brushed the incident off. “The Carpe Jugulum wouldn’t do that. They just guide you home.”
“You don’t get out much do you?” Lio asked, still wiping his hand on his pants. “One more death on these streets is just a lesson to us.”
Hire began to argue before Lio shook his head once more. “It’s late. I have somebody waiting at home for me. Will you need help getting back to your place?”
“No,” Hire nodded honestly. “I have an escort waiting for me.”
Lio appeared uncertain about something, but the sound of boots discouraged him. He pushed on his wrist one more time before nodding. “Be safe. Be careful.”
Without another comment, Lio was gone, vanished into the nighttime darkness.
Feet thumped loudly on pebble as ten men poured into the park, pikes lifted. Hire straightened up as they quickly laid down their weapons bowing slightly.
“My prince, I apologize for the intrusion.” A considerable man strode forward, the three jewels on his necklace shining brightly specifying him as the leader. “I thought I heard voices from over here.” He conducted the company into two silently as they combed the park.
“Nonsense, Brigader.” Hire shook his head as if he had just said something amusing, “It’s past curfew. No one is out at this time.”
“Of course my prince.” Brigader nodded in response. “What are you doing out at this time?”
“I was just enjoying a walk, though I think I’m ready to head home.” Hire stated, walking backwards towards the gate. “Would you and your men come with me?”
“We have orders to patrol the park,” Brigadier said.
“I don’t think my father would like it much if I walked these streets alone.” Hire turned walking out of the park. “They say these streets are dangerous.”
The continuous sound of boots let Hire know his plan had worked. The men followed closely behind him. One raced in front of him, dropping his jacket on the floor. It was quick, almost as if he had imagined it, but he could have sworn there was a hand peeking out from it.
“Please be safe Eoi.” Lio mumbled quietly to himself, progressing to the mansion with guards at his call.