[ TWENTY-TWO ]

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chapter twenty-two | the school apparently has a dungeon and jean-luc can definitely scream like a girl

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Lise laughed as she took in their reactions, though she didn't look any less angry at their actions. She tipped her head to the side. "You didn't believe I was unaware of your scheming, did you?"

Andrè, who was still in a heap on the ground, raised a hand. "I thought you were!"

"Yes, well." Lise crouched down next to Andrè and hauled him to his feet. "I was aware. I was also asked to stand at attention by the stage tonight and given two seats for my wards, who I told them had to accompany them. What a surprise, to find the two of you sneaking off to attend something I had wanted to be a surprise."

Sebastian looked downright ashamed and Andrè patted Lise's cheek, as she was still crouched in front of him. "I'm sorry, Auntie Lise."

Lise softened as she took in his brown, puppy-dog eyes, apologetic smile, and the little hand on her cheek. "You're forgiven." She pinned Sebastian with a look. "If you ever run away without letting me know where you are, I will lock the two of you up in the school's dungeon."

"Why am I the one in trouble!"

"Does the school have a dungeon?!"

Andrè and Sebastian spoke over each other as Lise straightened up. She offered her hands to the two boys.

"Sebastian, it was your idea and you're the older one. Andrè, we do have a dungeon that is unused at the moment." When they didn't take her offered hands, she sighed. "And I don't care what you feel towards hand-holding, we need to stay together and I will banish you to a room in the inn if you do not hold onto my hand for the duration of our tour."

This time, they did not hesitate, and they didn't complain at all.

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The hills surround Hüwels would gradually recede into the flat earth covered with green grass that waved in the wind and shone as the suns baked down on it. Weideland the meadow-like paradise was called.

It was a different sort of plain than that surrounding Fontein, the veld of south-eastern Dutkans.

These were lush and full, the stalks and leaves a deep green and the petals of flowers a varying range of colour.

The road became more of a downtrodden path of crushed grass and trampled flowers.

When they left the last hill, Anton and Michele came to a stop. Their faces were turned South-West, towards the capital of their country which couldn't be seen from this distance.

"That way," Michele whispered to Julienne. "That way is the great city of Boeken."

Anton's lips quirked into a small, sad smile. "They used to say it was unbreachable, a fortress beyond compare."

"So they did," Michele softly agreed.

They finally spurred the horses back into motion, veering to the north as they travelled the worn path. The suns gradually started to recede, shadows lengthening in their various directions, and the sound of a river became discernible.

Summer made the fields a cheerful place. Birds chirped to one another, the sound of various beetles and bugs filled the air, and the rustle of grass as they played in the breeze became a symphony of sound.

Julienne loved it. So far, this was her favourite place.

If her foot didn't hurt, she would've asked her mama if she could run for a little while. On the path, but barefoot and fast, sprinting with the wind behind her back and nature surrounding her.

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