Chapter 2: Determination, Vows and Expectations
Staring directly at the sun is never a good idea. She had to learn it the hard way. Now, black circles were waltzing in her vision. She looked like she was crying but her eyes are simply tearing up from admiring the medium sized star too much. Had it been a different time, perhaps she really would have been weeping. However, that is out of the question right now. She vowed that she would never show any weakness again. And that vow she shall keep, no matter how much it would hurt her.
Amelia Middleford blinked the tears away and crossed her ankles. Lovely. Simply lovely. A voyage to the unknown is just delightful, especially for an adventurous and imaginative young lady such as herself. But most women she knew only dared to sail the seas for a purpose similar to hers only in their fantasies. Perhaps they haven’t even dreamt of such a thing. She herself never anticipated any of this. Surely, the same goes for her brother.
She clenched her fists and did her best to maintain her composure. Losing it over the mere thought of her dearest sibling would be a sign of defeat already. She glanced down at one of her most treasured possessions. Her épée. The letter A is engraved on the bowl shaped guard in a handwriting which she hated yet at the same time, loved. She traced the blade with her gloved finger and let out a sigh.
“Is it really worth it?” She murmured to herself.
Her eyes shot open and she immediately clutched the épée and stood up. Before she had the chance to turn her head, she felt something which felt like the side of a finger press against the nape of her neck and a hand hold her wrist. The grasp wasn’t all too tight but it was firm. The beating of her heart was so rapid, she could practically feel it throbbing against her chest and hear its beats. Her lips began to tremble as she tried to speak without stuttering. But alas, her voice is quite a traitor.
“Who… who’s this?”
The hand released her wrist and she didn’t feel anything against the nape of her neck anymore. She turned around and a feeling of relief calmed her tense body. It’s just him.
She let out a soft laugh which did not sound all too genuine as she wiped the beads of sweat on her forehead with a silk handkerchief. She forced a smile and placed the épée and handkerchief on the bed.
“Please do not frighten me ever again,” She said gently. “I have the heart of a woman of age.”
The young man’s expression did not change at all. His face was calm and bored, with his eyelids slightly dropped. He crossed his arms and sat on her bed.
“My voice should have been identifiable,” He said in a voice void of any emotion. He glared at Amelia without turning his head and she felt nervous once more. She backed away a bit and her shoulders trembled. His eyes never left her face as he pulled out a gun from his pockets and aimed in her direction. His hand was still somewhat near him. And Amelia began to panic even more.
“P-Please!” She stuttered, waving her hands. “Don’t!”
“You wish for your life to be spared?” She nodded. “Then kneel down and beg.”
Amelia’s heart nearly skipped a beat. Her fists clenched and trembled and her face began to flush. Anger started to replace her nervousness and fear. She took a few steps towards him and took her épée from her bed and pressed its tip against his arm. His gaze was still penetrating her face and he still had on that calm and bored expression. She wondered how a bruise would look like on his flawless skin? Perhaps she will be granted the pleasure of knowing later.
“Do not have such a low regard for my dignity,” She whispered in a cold voice. “I will fight you if I must but I shall never kneel down and beg!
For a split second, something crossed the man’s expression. Amusement, maybe. Or approval. Amelia could not tell for it passed as quickly as it went.
“Well, at least dignity is in your possession, milady,” He said. Amelia raised her eyebrows. He nodded and began to further explain.
“I accepted when your butler requested my help. I did not question you or asked for any information. I promised you my protection and alliance but I do not ally with those who are weak and have no dignity. And frankly, you seem quite weak, milady.”
Amelia bit her lip and lowered her gaze. All her life she felt as if she was a rather strong girl. She won a fair number of fencing tournaments and was admired in her household due to her fierceness. But that was it. Her fierceness abandoned her once the young man was close to her and she had not trained enough to be a fencer who can provide a man with a gun any challenge. She felt her chest hurt and she had trouble breathing. She was about to excuse herself when she felt him hold her hand, unclench it and place the gun in it. She looked up at him and raised her eyebrows again.
“Strength can be attained with proper training. Dignity cannot.” He let go off the gun nodded when she gripped it tightly.
“What is your name?”
“Call me Vincent. I am not quite fond of titles.”
She nodded. Her lips parted but no words came out. She felt hesitant to ask him. But what other choices that she have which will help her improve her ability in combat? She swallowed the lump in her throat and looked at him with fierce eyes.
“Vincent. . . please train me!” She yelled. “I am willing to pay you whatever amount just please… help me become stronger… so when I face my brother, I’ll be sure to defeat him!”
The man who she now knows as Vincent gently pushed Amelia, pinning her against the wall. Vincent lowered his head and pressed his forehead against hers. Amelia felt her cheeks heat up.
‘Is he…? Oh dear heavens… I cannot! But… perhaps this is necessary… perhaps this is a test of my willingness to cooperate. And he is quite dashing looking…’
Amelia closed her eyes and pouted her lips. Her cheeks became redder as she waited for him to claim her first kiss. Seconds passed and she still felt nothing. She opened her eyes and saw Vincent raising an eyebrow. He wore a confused expression. After a few minutes of silence, he shook his head.
“What are you doing, milady?” He asked.
Amelia felt her left eye twitch. Humiliating. Mortifying. Embarrassing. With great force she never knew she possessed, she pushed Vincent away from him and stomped on his foot. He still wore that confused look on his face and he did not look even a bit affected by the stomp. She pointed her index finger at him accusingly.
“I should have been the one to ask that!” She yelled. “What were you doing?!”
Vincent shrugged and sighed.
“I have decided to begin your training now, so I checked to see how long it would take you to break free from me. However,” He crossed his arms and the corner of his lip twitched, almost as if he was going to smile. “You seem to have been waiting for something. Kindly tell me what.”
Amelia’s cheeks felt hotter.
“It. Was. Nothing! I was not waiting for anything!”
Amelia shrieked, causing Vincent to plug his left ear with his pinkie.
“Nothing! Shall I spell it out for you? N! O! T! H! I! N! G!”
“Alright. Let us try a different type of training. This one… should be the easiest for the body but the third most difficult for the heart.”
He began to make his way to the closet of her cabin and opened it. Amelia fought back a number of complaints. She despises it when her belongings get touched without her permission. After a number of seconds, he faced her with a book in his hand. Amelia gasped. Her book of photographs.
“What are you doing with that?” She asked. Vincent shook his head and offered it to her. Amelia dropped the gun and snatched it away from him, wrapping her arms protectively around it.
“Milady, I want you to set the photographs, one by one on fire.”
“Those are just photographs. If you are unable to burn those inanimate objects, I do not expect you to be able to burn the real one. Besides, I thought that you shan’t allow him to get in your way? Also…” He began to caress Amelia’s cheek. “Have you forgotten already?”
Amelia’s eyes narrowed as she bowed her head and looked at the book. He’s right. About everything. She knows she must get rid of this weakness right away.
Vincent lighted the fireplace and nodded at Amelia, gesturing towards it. Amelia slowly walked to it and sighed. She took out a photograph which did not stick in the book. It was one with him smirking. She squeezed her eyes shut and opened them. She dropped the photograph and watched the flames consume it.
‘Prepare yourself, brother, for the next time we meet, your body shall accompany that photograph of yours.