‘So, where have you been all day?’

Acacia looked up from her bowl of soup, and was greeted by the amused face of her mother. Spica Lichtenstern-Blackwood had just entered her forties, but was still as stubborn and youthful as she had ever been. This included, speculating about her children’s whereabouts.

‘Arena, have to train for the exams,’ Acacia responded, her mind returning to the hours before she went home; the fights with Avondir, how well they both could hold up with each other, and how happy and relieved she had felt when they parted ways.

She heard her mother chuckle and whisper something to Audace, who was sitting next to her.

‘What?!’ the General almost yelled, and Acacia jolted up. ‘No way! Not happening, Spica!’

From across the table, Altair snorted, and his twin-sister, Methone, who was sitting next to him, rolled her eyes. From next to Acacia, eleven-year-old Cassi giggled at the twins’ actions.

‘Ace, have you been training with someone?’ Emphasising the word “someone”, Spica winked mischievous at her daughter. Acacia rolled her eyes, and loudly exclaimed: ‘I’ve been training with Avondir, apparently he’s in the same exam-group as me. Which is weird, I haven’t seen him before.’

Audace frowned at his daughter, before taking a deep breath. ‘That seems about right, Ace,’ he answered, ‘he specifically requested to not be placed in any classes, and to do all his lessons on his own. I thought it was weird as well, but he looked so desperate when he asked it.’

Frowning as well, Acacia leaned forward over the table. ‘Where did he come from?’

The General shrugged. ‘No-one knows. He showed up at the docks about two years ago, malnourished and not too clean. Your uncle brought him to the castle, and the boy asked us, with a voice as thin as wire, if he could train at the Academy. I can’t imagine what the boy must’ve gone through to get here.’

Acacia sighed, and leaned back in her chair. She noticed Altair’s eyes had widened, and how Cassi had straightened her back.

Wow,’ whispered the eleven-year-old, before pushing her glasses further onto her nose. ‘I need to write this down as soon as possible, this would make for an amazing story-‘

‘Not again,’ Methone grumbled, pushing her chair backwards as her younger sister grabbed a small notebook and coal-stick out of her pockets. Spica sent her daughter a threatening glance. ‘Methone, we’re not done.’

‘Well, I’m done with Cassi’s continues blabbering about her stories! Hasn’t she noticed no-one cares?!’ Methone suddenly spat, as she glared viciously at Cassi. The little black-haired girl teared up, and took a better hold of her notebook.

Acacia exchanged a look with Altair, who grinned, as if he enjoyed the argument. She quickly turned back to her sisters and mother, the latter having stand up with her hands on her hips.

‘Methone,’ the woman scolded, ‘this is no way to talk to your sister! You have your hobbies, she has hers. We can’t all like the same things, how many times must I tell you?’

The blonde girl rolled her eyes. ‘Until we all drop dead, Mom.’

With that, Methone threw her chair to the ground, and ran upstairs, with loud footsteps. Spica squatted down next to her youngest daughter, desperately trying to calm down the sobbing.

‘I-I’ll go check on her,’ Audace stammered, only to be stopped when his wife shook her head. ‘Leave her alone for a little while, she’ll cool down eventually.’

‘It’s Meth; I doubt she’ll calm down,’ Altair whispered to his older sister, who couldn’t help but chuckle lightly. The boy stood up, and grabbed his sword from a box, which they had dubbed “the sword box”.

‘I promised Tybalt and Yvain I would go ‘round the castle with them, I’ll be back before nightfall!’ he yelled, before running to the door and closing it shut. Spica groaned, and Audace stared at the door with a bewildered look in his eyes.

‘This is not how I planned my evening to go,’ the blonde woman mumbled, as she was still trying to hush Cassi. ‘C’mon, honey, Methone didn’t mean it, your writing-hobby is great, it suits you-’

‘Methone is just very sour, Cass,’ Acacia commented, ‘don’t take her to seriously, or else she’ll think she actually has something to say-’

Her father frowned at her, as he sat down at the table again. ‘Ace…’

‘It’s true.’

The seventeen-year-old saw how Spica rolled her eyes, and turned back to Cassi. ‘How about I review your new books, hm, honey? What do you say about that?’

The little girl nodded tearily, and slid of the chair. Spica grabbed her daughter’s hand, and looked at her husband. ‘You had something you wanted to discuss with Ace, right?’

Audace nodded, trying to smile at the blonde. ‘Yes, don’t worry about it, dear.’

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