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"You shall stay in one of the guest rooms, are you fine with the size of it being a bit smaller than the standard? All of the other rooms are being cleaned or are filled," Aleric asks as he leads the woman beside him through his castle. She looks out at the vast marble structures, curled in details of ornate flowers and leaves and encased in gold. 

"Are you kidding me? Anything will be better than a tent," Liliana laughs as she looks up at a massive Conrein flag dangling from the dome roof. It was a deep purple color, blues and whites stitched into an O formation surrounding the symbol of a gold songbird on a branch.

Aleric smiles softly at this as he leads her down another corridor. "The war council is meeting again tomorrow morning, so you will have a little bit of time to rest-"

"Aleric!"

The two turn to see a woman striding towards Aleric quickly, her thinly-painted lips in a downward frown. Her slick black bob barely shifted as she approached Aleric quickly and slapped him across the face. Liliana's jaw opened in shock as the woman continued to glare at Aleric.

Who is she?

"You left saying you'd be gone for a month but it's been quadruple that! And you ignored my questions by pigeon about it!" she scolds as Aleric winces.

"Sorry, Alissandra."

She lowly exhales through her nostrils and turns to Liliana. "I'm sorry, my brother is just an idiot. I'm Commander of the Royal Guard, Alissandra Strentheld, pleased to make your acquaintance."

"Liliana Marzinal." Liliana shakes Alissandra's hand. Alissandra arches a brow. "You're the girl who stabbed my brother in the arm?"

"Proudly," Liliana smiles as Alissandra chuckles. "Good." 

"Damn, that's cold," Aleric pouts. Alissandra rolls her black eyes at this, "You're no better than I," she accuses.

Aleric turns to the guest. "In case you haven't figured out, Alissandra is my older sister."

"Yet he still is the Crown Prince, even though he's an idiot," Alissandra scoffs, slight contempt in her eyes, but it's quickly masked by delight. "I run the Royal Guard, though, and not to brag but I believe I do a pretty good job."

Aleric rolls his eyes as he gestures to the door. "This is your room here, Liliana. A maid will collect you for tomorrow morning."

With that, he pushed open the door. Liliana peered into a plain looking room, yet it was better than anything Liliana had resided in for the past couple weeks. Out of the corner of her eye, Liliana saw him walk away as he hummed a faint melody.

"You and your brother seem close," Liliana comments as Alissandra leans against the door frame, her smile falling off her face.

"You know what they say. Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer," Alissandra responds in a monotone voice.

Liliana's eyes widened. What does that mean!? And how did she shift personalities so fast?!

"Why?" Liliana asks as Alissandra sighs, puffing a piece of black hair from her eyes. 

"Something... died within him a few years back when Mom died of bronchitis and he nearly went with her. It's like he's been to Hell and back and no longer cares..." Alissandra chuckles. "In fact, Dad had me put in charge of the guard because Aleric would have the soldiers march for days on end without rest."

Alissandra's cold black eyes land on Liliana. "Be careful what you do with him. No matter what facade he puts up, he's dangerous."

A smile flickers onto Alissandra's face again. "If you stay on his good side and don't stand in the way of what he wants, you'll be safe. You seem like a good kid, kid, so promise me you'll never become his enemy, alright?"

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