Seeing the Glacial Girl
Annelotte got half a kilogram of steak, two slices of bread, ten pieces of bacon, a chicken thigh and two black pepper sausages. She had cleared up her plate before wiping her mouth.
If she were frank, the palace's food was magnificent. Her bad mood only further boosted her appetite. She ate enough for a burly man.
Any woman that found out how slender she was despite her diet would go crazy. And lately she'd been eating double her already large volumes. Despite that, she'd become only the slightest bit softer. What's more, all the softening happened in the right places. Annelotte worlds away from Vera, but she was getting her curves.
"Clean them up," she ordered.
Her palace life was far more comfortable than her former mercenary one. The food was of the highest quality. Her mercenary rations were worse than the food the palace dogs got, by comparison. Her bed was made of silk and cleaned daily.
She had to admit this was worlds better than her old life, but she still missed the latter. She missed her comrades. They were poor and lacked manners, but they were still her old friends, certainly they were better company than the animated mannequins that tried to call themselves her friends.
The even had moments of regret for coming here. But her regret vanished when a certain bastard crept in with her other memories. In its place she felt only fury and a relief at no longer having to deal with him. If she never saw his detestable face again, it would be too soon. No amount of nostalgia for her old life and old friends could overcome the hatred she felt for the wiry bastard.
But now he'd come back like the blundering idiot he was. He'd even marched right into her tournament. Did he lack even the ounce of shame to leave her alone? The one gram of guilt to let her be?
Is it for my sake? As much as she wanted to think only that he lacked shame and guilt and be furious at his narcissism, that one thought kept breaking her reasoning. The idea that he might actually, by some slim chance, be thinking of her as he blundered back into her life made her blush. It only lasted a second, though, the blush turned into red fury the moment his face materialized in her mind's eye. So what? My mind's made up; I'll never deal with him again.
"Annie," greeted a handsome, young, tall, blonde-haired man as he entered. He was Emperor Larwin's youngest offspring and the man who'd arranged her stay in the palace, Geoffrey Hocke.
Annelotte stood up and curtsied.
While she was proud and aloof, she wasn't arrogant.
Perhaps arrogant people would be against such customs and hold their heads up high even in the presence of a prince. But Annelotte wasn't like that.
She wasn't against such customs, nor was she for them. She had always maintained indifference. Since doing so would please the other party and save her trouble and ridicule, she would do it. The way she saw it, it was just an action and had no inherent meaning. Her curtsy didn't signify respect; it was just custom.
"There's no need to greet me so formally," Geoffrey said with a magnanimous wave of his hand, "Your match is this afternoon, yes?"
"Yes," Annelotte nodded. She had first wished to avoid the tournament, but Geoffrey insisted. She hadn't made any contributions as a consultant yet, so this was a good opportunity to get a few things under her belt and behind her name. She couldn't care less about such things, gossip was not a good thing.
"Do your best. I look forward to your performance.I trust you won't let me down," Geoffrey smarked with a tone of seniority. It wasn't surprising. He was a 15 strata magus at just 26. It was nothing compared to his brother, Alissanda, but that man was not normal so he didn't really count. Geoffrey still stood head, shoulders, hips, and even knees above normal people.
Others considered him a genius, and the ego boost made him act superior, even in front of Annelotte. He conveniently forgot, or ignored, that Annelotte had just a stratum less than him despite being nearly ten years his junior.
"I will," Annelotte answered indifferently.
She didn't like this prince, but custom and her personality meant she couldn't shoo him outright. Only three people in this world got to see anything, good or bad, besides her cold indifference.
"Alright. I will watch your match. DO your best!"
Geoffrey threw another of his dreamy smiles. His maidservants swooned behind him at just the corners of it they caught. To his dismay, however, it made no ripples in the ice-blue eyes for which it was meant.
"I didn't think Annie would fight Nigruela first! Just watch, Boss. She'll knock him out cold!" Leguna shouted like a child talking about some worshipped hero.
The kid had spent quite a lot of money to get front-row seats to the match. The group sat just two meters from the edge of the arena. He wanted to have the best view of his girl and the best chance that she'd see him.
Kurdak shook his head in disappointment.
"Too bad Vera couldn't come.'
Vera was still bed-bound, so she could not come watch. Kurdak had wanted to stay by her side, but she insisted he accompany Leguna. Vera knew Annelotte was still furious at their brat. If Kurdak didn't act as the kid's shield, he would not get a chance to even smile at her. Kurdak just had to go along. And, since Vera was Kurdak's master in all but name, he had no choice in the matter.
"Doesn't matter," Kurdak continued, "Only two get to advance this round. If he isn't strong enough to begin with, then he'll fall out here. If he does make it through somehow, I'll just deal with him later."
Leguna held his troubled expression. He had thought the view of Annelotte beating the bastard up would satisfy Kurdak somewhat, but it seemed he could only be satisfied with a personal beating. Just as Leguna was pondering how he could convince the man, the colosseum burst into noise.
Leguna lifted his gaze and saw the contestants in the arena. One was the young assassin who had wounded Vera, clad in dark-red leather with two longswords slung over his shoulder. Two daggers also hung from his belt.
His opponent sported long, ice-blue hair tied up in a ponytail. She was supreme charm and clarity. Her body was covered in a long, white robe with a slight blue glow. It exuded expense almost like a physical quality. A single sapphire-blue jewel broke the white of the robe in the middle of her chest.
Leguna recognized the jewel from Wayerliss's notes -- Heart of the Ocean. It was a rare water-aspect-magic-storing crystal found in the depths of the ocean. Whilst limited by aspect, it had five times the capacity of general-purpose stones of comparable size and quality. A peanut-sized crystal could store enough energy for a single level three spell. One the same size as Annelotte's, about the size of a newborn's fist, could handle three or four level seven spells.
Even just one such spell could end a fight instantly. Three or four… That number could end a small battle.
In her hands, the girl held a crimson staff. Though Leguna didn't know its uses, he didn't doubt that it had to be extraordinary if Annelotte would use it.
"A... Annie..." he whispered in a half-daze.
Eirinn started when she saw Annelotte. She had heard Leguna talk about her beauty, but no description the boy could conjure did her justice. If there had to be one woman in the world that was an angel, she was it, as far as looks were concerned, at least. Neither she nor Innilis was her match.
Her heart stung when she gazed at the girl. Her finger ran over the ridges and folds of her misshapen face unconsciously.
Everyone instantly gasped. Many whistled, and many more cheered. No one spoke, however. She was a court magus, so crossing her in a way that identified oneself was not a good idea. The women didn't cheer, however, they only stared at her coldly. Regardless of their attitude, Annelotte was the center of everyone's attention.
She, however, seemed oblivious to the thousands of pairs of eyes glaring the clothes off her body or her head off her shoulders. Her gaze passed over her opponent uninterestedly. She'd heard of his performance during the preliminaries and was not very impressed. He'd struck at an opponent from the shadows in the last moment, taking all their badges when he knew they didn't have the time to retaliate. She was even less impressed when she learned his target was an old friend of hers.
"I didn't think my first performance would be with such a beautiful lady," Nigruela said, bowing elegantly, "No worries. I'm always gentle with ladies. You won't be hurt too badly. Consider it a gentleman's oath."
Annelotte gazed at him silently.
Should I just cripple him now and get it over with?
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