Arcana X: 3rd Assignment – Cruelty and the Beast Ch.1 Pt.3

For the preceding chapters, click here for Arcana X: 3rd Assignment Chapter 1 Pt.1, Pt.2!!

“How does she put up with him?” Tatianna says with a sigh.

“Miss Novell?” the White Sage responds, overhearing her.

“Miss Willow. How does she deal someone so…unrefined?” Tatianna has met Ecks on several occasions. Like most new to Arcana Kingdom, she was impressed by his skills as a knight, however, it is when she got to see his free-spirited self that made her change her view of him. Tatianna saw a First Lieutenant who acts so carefree even when on duty and fraternizes so easily with his peers. What turned her away from Ecks was the nickname he calls her. “He’s not like the other knights I have met.”

“That’s what makes Ecks unique,” said the White Sage. “It’s that aspect of him that makes him an ideal partner for Willow.”

“Forgive me, Your Grace, but I don’t follow.”

“Are you aware of Miss Willow’s eccentric demeanor?”

“You mean her fondness for drinking ale and becoming inebriated? I am. I have heard about it from the other Lieutenants and sentry class knights. That’s why I feel she should’ve been partnered with someone who can help quell that behavior as opposed to Ecks who likely antagonizes it.”

The White Sage laughs lightly. “That part is true. However, I was referring to her status as the sister of our current strongest female High Captain.”

“Yes, I understand that she is High Captain Beatrice’s sister. All the more reason for Willow to have been paired with someone else. To help her be more like her elder sister.”

“That’s exactly why she was paired with Ecks.” Tatianna stared perplexed at the White Sage. He goes on the explain the arrangement. “You likely didn’t know this, Tatianna. But Lady Beatrice has made quite the reputation for herself by becoming only the second female knight to reach the status of High Captain. An achievement such as that comes with some unintentional merit. Because of her stern demeanor and strong dedication to duty, not only has Beatrice gained the reputation as the ‘Golden Storm Empress’ but she is also referred to as the ‘Iron-blood Valkyrie.’ Many of the Lieutenant class knights, particularly the female knights, are wary around her. Unfortunately, this affected Willow greatly. Once her relationship to Beatrice became known, she was treated with the same reverence as her elder sister. So, you can imagine how hard it was for Willow when it came time to find her a partner.”

“They didn’t want to partner with Willow because of her sister?” Tatianna said.

“Because they were afraid. Lady Beatrice is very protective of Willow so they feared that if something happened to Willow while on assignment, they would surely be dealt harsh punishment from Lady Beatrice. Most of the Lieutenants distanced themselves from Willow except for one.”

“Lieutenant Ecks,” Tatianna stated.

“Unlike the other knights, Ecks treated Willow no different than he would anyone else. It was like Willow being High Captain Ashcroft’s sister didn’t matter to him. Also, Ecks was almost treated like an outcast himself, so perhaps in some way, he found a bit of kinship with Willow. Because of this, I requested that they would be partnered together, even though Willow does not have an official title. Since then, they have completed their assignments admirably. Plus, Ecks gave Willow the one thing she wanted.”

“Which is?”

“To be treated as Wilhelmina Ashcroft, not as “The Sister of Lady Beatrice’, or “The High Captain’s sister’ or any other variation of the sort. Ecks may be rough around the edges but then again, so is Willow. And as an added bonus, she has cut down on her drinking considerably,” says the White Sage.

“I fail to see how that is possible. There have been times that Willow has return from assignments inebriated,” Tatianna commented.

The White Sage laughs lightly. “This is true. However, before Willow’s would be in a stupor for days on end. Whenever she couldn’t get the comfort from her elder sister, she found it in ale.”

“Willow drank because she was lonely?” said Tatianna

“Unfortunately, that is correct.” His Grace pauses for a sigh before continuing. “Beatrice’s position as High Captain is very demanding and, sadly, Willow is pushed to the back. Free time between them comes at a fleeting moment. So, Willow finds comfort in others, usually at local pubs in Syrus. The worst of it came from her peers who treated her differently because of Beatrice being a high-ranking Knight. I guess the reason she traveled to Syrus would be to be among people who don’t know who she or her sister are. Where she can be treated as a regular person, not someone who is privileged.”

“And because Ecks regards everyone in a common manner, despite their status, he helped Willow overcome her loneliness. And since she didn’t feel alone anymore, she drank less.” Tatianna milled over this in her mind. The White Sage’s explanation of the arrangement he made with Ecks and Willow helped her better understand why they are partnered. In a sense, Ecks helped Willow through a rough period by simply being himself and showing no sign of timidity around Willow. Thinking back, Tatianna does recall how other knights and chamber maids would stiffen up or shy away whenever Willow walked pass them. Even among other peers, Willow must’ve felt lonely. Tatianna cracks a smile. “Ecks was the cure for Willow’s loneliness and regards her as a person rather than see her in her sister’s shadow,” says Tatianna.

“Yes, and therefore, Willow has become less reckless,” the White Sage added.

“Did you know this would happen?’

“Well, not really,” smiled the White Sage. “To be honest, Ecks was the one who proposed they be partnered together.”

“Ecks proposed the partnership?”

The White Sage replies with a nod. He then says, “There’s a little story behind that. If you don’t mind hearing it.” Tatianna is curious. After hearing about Willow’s situation, she can’t help but wonder how they met and why Ecks is the only knight willing to partner with her. Seeing the curiosity in her eyes, the White Sage tells Tatianna the tale. He recalls that day vividly.