Chapter 1: A Letter
It has been nearly a year since the conclusion of Primrose’s journey’s end….
Primrose, like a few of the others, had taken a certain liking to her fellow adventurers, after all they had gotten to see some of her darkest moments and fears come to light, yet no one left her side, unlike a love from her past. No, these people stayed with her and helped her exact her vengeance and hopefully help her to closure. When all was said and done, knowing full well her journey was one based solely on revenge and justice for her late father, these people, complete strangers at first, stayed by her side. For some reason, she could never truly understand why.
“It just...seems so odd...All of them stuck around….even if they didn’t agree with my intentions. They put that aside….to help me.” Primrose was still troubled by it. Even now as she walked through the streets of Noblecourt, she pondered back on the events. She had lost contact with a few of them once she parted ways from the group, some still trying to find their way, or recover a certain book, or make their parents proud. “Speaking of..I think I’m overdue for a letter.” Though she said her goodbyes a few months back, a certain professor had been making it a point to send her letters when he could manage, just keeping her updated on where he was or how things were going and always wishing her comfort and wellness. Primrose couldn’t exactly say when they started arriving exactly, but she had grown accustomed to their random appearances. At first, she took a while in responding; the entire gravity of her journey was weighing down on her and though she got her revenge, she still felt so very...empty. It hurt to even think about her fellow comrades, all their sacrifice and for what? For her to feel unfulfilled. All that pain and suffering…It just got buried underneath, but never really resolved. Primrose sighed, feeling yet again torn inside as she wandered to the tavern.
“Just on time, Lady Primrose, seems your professor friend has sent another letter.” The barkeep held her mail out as she walked over to him. She put her inner thoughts on hold, smiling at the familiar handwriting on the envelope. “Indeed he has. Thank you once again for holding these for me.” She chose an empty bar stool as her reading spot. “It’s always a breath of fresh air when his letters arrive, I wonder where his travels have taken him now…”
Dear Lady Primrose,
I hope this may reach you in good faith, Lady Primrose. I have joyous news! It is at this time that I am actually venturing home with the recovered archive in tow! Perhaps once things settle in Atlasdam, I may pay you a visit. If thou would have me of course! I do not wish to impose, only to catch up on a friend. Upon your last letter, I truly hope some of my suggestions have helped you find some inner peace. I may excel in historical lessons, but I certainly try my best to offer up some tips where anxiety and insomnia are concerned. It may seem trivial, but...I do worry about your well being. I can’t possibly imagine the weight you must bear. I pray you still dance whenever you feel good enough; you always seemed so happy to dance when it was of your own volition and not because you were forced to... Ah alas, I must wrap this up, I do not wish to depress you or ramble. Please take care and know that I am merely a letter away.
Your dear friend,
P.S. Tressa and Ophilia both send you their greetings as well.
“...!” Primrose’s eyes widened slightly in shock. “He...He’ll be back in Atlasdam already? Wait…” She looked over the letter again for the date this was sent. “...He’s most likely already back! ...Incredible.”
“Oh? Did your friend have some good news for you this time, my lady?”
Primrose looked up and chuckled at having been overheard, slightly embarrassed. “Ah..yes actually, he did. It’s kind of funny how he’s been sending letters, I guess I’ve grown quite accustomed to receiving them. In any case, if you excuse me I must take my leave.” Primrose stated calmly, the bartender nodding. “If you need anything else, you know where to find me.” She nodded as she stood before leaving the bar and back to her home.
“And...there we go, all done.” Primrose stated in content, placing her quill back in its inkwell, quite pleased with her letter . Her day went about as normal once she had finished reading Cyrus’s letter in the tavern. She walked around the city, chatted with a few townspeople, and then ventured home to the empty estate. It was a big obstacle once her journey was over to even step foot in House Azelhart, let alone find the strength to stay there again. There were so many memories of her father...the workers….and of course…
To this day, his very name stung deep within her heart. To have loved someone so much...and for them to have returned that same affection only to end up betraying her in the end….And then in turn being the one to end their life as they ended her father’s…
Primrose shuddered, hugging herself tightly.
No please...I-I can’t do this again...not tonight.
The dancer tried very hard to focus on something else before her thoughts ran wild. Tears formed in her eyes quickly, but she seemed to regain control after a few moments. She let out another heavy sigh, feeling her body weigh down with every step she took towards her bed. There she lay in silence, staring out her window for a bit, still calming down. Her expression softened a bit and she sat up once more, resting her head on her knees.
“Atlasdam… We’ve traveled that distance in no more than a day’s time before, I wonder if it would seem impolite to deliver this in person…No no...Perhaps I should just mail this and wait for a response. He is a royal professor after all….. But.. I am nobility. Perhaps it would be fitting… Why am I so fixated on this?” Primrose pondered her thoughts for a moment. Why indeed was she so fixated on Cyrus and this letter today? Maybe because he provided many months of insight and advice for trying to keep her anxiety, or guilt, or whatever these feelings were, at bay. Maybe it was how he worded things in a way to prove he was not just feeding her pretty words, but was genuinely caring like a friend would….
You can’t be sure of that, what if he’s just saying all of this to build your trust? He’s probably just feeding you lies so you become vulnerable once more. Hahahaha you stupid girl, have you learned nothing?! The only way to not get hurt is to not let anyone in.
“Stop it...please!” Primrose cried out, gripping her head as these horrid thoughts that tormented her ever since she came home returned once more. “....Cyrus is just trying to help. It’s what friends do….Why else would he bother sending letters every other month?” It was an endless cycle it seemed. Primrose had to convince herself that there was no ulterior motive in any of Cyrus’s letters to her. It’s part of why she had taken so long to respond the first time, but after receiving a second letter, had pushed to reply in a timely fashion thereafter. These cycles usually resulted in her passing out from exhaustion in the wee hours of the morning, and starting her day very late in the afternoon. As of late, they seemed to be getting worse. Primrose layed back down, wishing she could have one peaceful night.
“Oh father...Just what am I to do…?”
Chapter 2: Encounters
Cyrus returns home to Atlasdam, ready to study Far Reaches of Hell in Depth. A familiar face is ready to greet him. Before he can get too comfortable, he is interrupted.
Atlasdam was as bustling as ever Cyrus noted as he walked through the city’s entrance. Fortune favored him with mild fall weather, a cool breeze ushering him through the city streets as he made his way to the library. “Ah, it has been so long! But first things first, I must get materials to truly help me study this in detail.” Most people would choose to go home and rest after a long journey such as Cyrus’, especially considering Cyrus not only helped several others on their own adventures, but completed his own as well. However, cyrus is not like most people and thus the professor made himself comfortable looking through all the tomes that adorned shelf after shelf, grabbing ones he thought would prove useful for his studies.
“Some things never change, do they, Professor Albright?” A familiar voice teased followed by a giggle.
“Hm?” Cyrus looked over his shoulder to see Therese giving him a friendly smile. “Oh Therese! It's nice to see you again. Have you been studying in my absence?” He seemed pleased to see his pupil in good health after the events that took place just a short while ago. The girl nodded.
“Ah, y-yeah! Just like you said!.” Therese’s smile faded and she looked down nervously. “Um...Professor. A-about what happened back there..a-at Stonegard, I...I didn’t mean to.. I-I mean I didn’t think it would co-” Cyrus interrupted her, now facing her full on, his expression serious.
“Therese, it’s ok. I have you to thank for saving my life.” Cyrus frowned slightly. “I just offer my deepest apologies for failing to protect you completely. It is my duty as your professor to keep you safe from harm while in my care. You should never have been subjected to such horrors as the ones you witnessed that day….It is my hope that you forgive my shortcomings in time.” He sounded genuinely disappointed in himself, recalling the grim memory while Therese quickly shook her head.
”N-no professor! You did nothing wrong! ..I-I shouldn’t have even been there...I shouldn’t have been eavesdropping but when Headmaster Yvon spoke of...of killing you, I..I just, I just had to-” Therese’s eyes welled with tears, her body shaking at the thought. “...This whole thing...was my fault…” Cyrus’ frown deepened and he lifted her chin with his hand free of books so she would be forced to look at him.
“Therese...Regardless of the rumor you spread, I was bound to seek out that tome eventually, thus yielding the same chain of events. The only crucial detail that may have been altered would be you timely arrival at Stonegard.” Cyrus dropped his hand from her chin and closed his eyes in thought. “Yes...had you not took to overhearing vital information on my whereabouts and consequently learning of crucial assassination plans, I most likely would still be stuck in a pit left for dead.” He concluded with a nod.
“Again Therese,” Cyrus hoisted his stack of books up with both hands again. “...do not fret that you spread that lie about myself and the princess. Perhaps if I hadn't neglected a pupil starving for knowledge, you would not have felt compelled to try and gain attention in that manner. Now if you excuse me, “The professor walked past Therese, starting his exit. “I will be taking my leave now. There is much to study.” Therese stood there, still trying to process his words.
“O-oh but Professor!” She finally called out. Cyrus just waved his hand in the air. “Do take care, Therese, I expect to see you in class beginning next week!” Therese just sighed happily to herself, watching the scholar leave with his stack of books.
“Oh Professor….you haven’t changed at all…”
Cyrus had made his way back to his old office in the palace. It appeared to have been left in the state it was upon his sudden leave. A quill left in an inkwell on his desk next to a stack of papers waiting to be graded. Two ceiling high shelves adorned opposite walls of his office, every ledge filled with books, scrolls, trinkets and other intriguing items. In front of his desk were a matching chaise and chair, a candle holder resting on the arm of said chair. Sunlight flooded the room as Cyrus smiled, his sanctuary still intact. He placed his stack of books on his desk, took off his robe and draped it over the back of his chair. He stood there a few longer moments, just seeming to take in all the nostalgia. Perhaps the weight of all the scenes he witnessed were finally weighing down on him. Before he could fall further into this trance, Cyrus remembered something and he walked back over to his door. There he opened the mailbox that was mounted on the door so people could easily slip documents or papers into a metal slot form the outside and he could retrieve such items later. However, he didn’t expect to feel an envelope in there and quickly pulled it out. Surprised, he looked over the handwriting and smiled.
“Hm...A speedy reply from Lady Azelhart? She usually doesn’t respond for at least a week or two upon receiving my letters.” He mused, taking a seat at his desk as he opened up the letter.
Primrose...I hope this is just a speedy reply and not urgent news of something unfortunate developing…
Cyrus dreaded the possible thought the second it came to mind before shaking his head and reading his friend’s reply:
Dear Professor Albright,
That is wonderful news indeed, Cyrus! You’ve been travelling for quite some time now. I’m glad things seemed to have worked out in the end for you. A visit? That sounds lovely, but I’d hate for you to have just gotten home and already back travelling again. I know Noblecourt is not too far from Atlasdam but still…. Perhaps it’d be best if I visited you instead? I have been home far longer...plus I am of nobility, if need be I could be useful in one of your lessons? Forgive me if I’m being too forward.
Cyrus paused, unable to hide the smile on his face. “She does boast a good point. Primrose always has good judgement so I expect nothing less from her.”
... Also thank you for the kind words and advice during these months; they were very appreciated . i must be honest with you though, Cyrus. As of late, my thoughts are keeping me up through the night...Scenes of the past...scenes from my journey...I’m all torn inside having to convince myself even of my trust in you at times. ...Forgive me for this confession. Even now as i write this response I feel the need to scrap it and rewrite it all over once again. I just feel so...lost and...you have provided me insight and new ways of thinking of solutions to my dilemma.
On the matters of being honest, by the time you read this letter, I’ll already be-
A knock interrupted the Professor’s reading and he quickly stuffed the letter away. “Come in!” He called once ready for his unannounced guest. It was a rather long moment before the doorknob turned and the door slowly opened, revealing a hooded figure. “I-its me Professor Albright, Therese!”
“Oh it’s just you Therese, what can I…. What are you doing?!” Cyrus’ calm demeanor vanished noticing the dagger in her hand, her arms shaking.
“Professor….you...Why would you say such hurtful things to me?” Her voice sounded genuinely sad. “How...after everything I did for you? After saving your life? After acing every single one of your tests? How could you do this to me?” With every question she took a step closer, her voice growing more bitter. Cyrus was standing now, his signature spell book in hand. “Therese what on earth are you talking about?”
“Professor Albright I know you aren’t as oblivious as you want me to believe. You know exactly how you insulted me.” She finally threw off her hood, her face in a twisted grin, tear-stained face. Her eyes looked void of all consciousness. “Mocking my affection for you….Completely ungrateful for all the things I did for you!” Her grip on the dagger tightened. It was quite evident Therese was not acting of her own volition but Cyrus did not have time to figure out what could possibly have possessed his student.
“Therese…” Cyrus warned, taking a defensive position. He knew very well most of his spells could cause permanent damage to her if he channeled too much energy into them.
“And then you finally return and give me false hopes all for what?” Therese hissed, raising her dagger to strike. “If I can’t have you...than no one can Professor!” Cyrus was stunned by her complete irrational display.
Before Therese could make her move, a second dagger flew through the air, knocking Therese’s from her hand. “Cyrus enough standing around and move!” A voice called out.
Both Cyrus and Therese looked to the doorway, a familiar dancer now in it. He was in shock at this entire situation- his star pupil attempting to assassinate him and his former comrade standing in his doorway out of nowhere. Therese glared at the woman in the doorway, pulling Cyrus’ face down to her level. “Look at your wench now, come to save the day huh? As if she could ever hope to come between us and our-” Without wasting anymore time, Primrose walked over and backhanded the girl off of Cyrus with enough force to send her straight to the ground.
“....Hey there Professor Albright,” is all she said, giving the man time to possibly fathom the series of events that just happened.
“P-primrose?! How did you-”
Primrose had kneeled down next to the unconscious student, digging through the pockets of her robe for something. “Well...I did say by the time you finished reading my letter I’d already be heading to Atlasdam. ...I didn’t mean to create anymore trouble for you, but Therese...She was acting very oddly. So I followed her here.” She explained calmly, fetching a dark blue crystal from the robes pocket. “I believe this had to have been the source of her extreme behavior. I watched her pull it out back at the library.”
Cyrus kneeled next to Therese as well, grabbing the crystal from Primrose’s hand. “....You know….I did not wish to be greeting you in such a way, but I am glad to see you. ...Did you sleep on your way here?” He questioned while still looking over the crystal. Primrose shook her head as he stood up, lending a hand out to her as well. “Cyrus...I know you already know the answer to that.” He took a closer look at her face once they were both standing and noticed her disheveled appearance, curls falling out of place, the rings underneath her eyes, tear stained cheeks. Even then her beauty shone through but that wasn’t what was important to him.
“I’ve seen one of these crystals before- it’s meant to heighten someone’s emotions to the extreme. The victim loses all control of any moral senses and act upon each and every intrusive thought that comes to mind. And I’m almost positive I know who could have planted this foul thing on her.” Cyrus explained calmly. “Please allow me to free Therese from this wicked device and I will make you some tea.” They both looked down at Therese, then back to each other, before Cyrus destroyed the stone entirely.
“She’ll awaken soon with no recollection of her actions, I will take her to the infirmary.”
Chapter 3: Role Reversal
After the events with Therese, Cyrus and Primrose converse about their journey's events but when things Cyrus says alarm Primrose of his careless nature with words, she makes it a point to try and teach him how to better read situations.
All while Primrose is still unsure of many things. At the end of the day, some times it does good to be reminded you do not have to be put together 24/7.
Its ok to not be ok.
Primrose and Cyrus decided it may be for the best if she helped the professor bring his student down to the infirmary, just in case any other unannounced guests arrived. Once he gave his alibi to the head cleric and successfully dodged any watchful eyes, the pair returned to his office.
“Well Cyrus, it never is a dull moment for you now, is it?” Primrose chuckled, taking a seat in front of his desk. “And as usual, it centers around a woman!” Cyrus sighed and ran a hand through his hair, now feeling exhausted, but momentarily joined Primrose in laughter. “It does appear that way now, doesn’t it? Gosh I truly am such a fool!” He exclaimed dramatically to which Primrose smiled, her eyes surveying the room.
“I know it’s rude to show up unannounced, but I’m glad I did. Where nobility is concerned and scandals arise, witnesses mean quite a lot...I should know.” She paused in thought. “Have you been able to rest at all since your return?” Cyrus shook his head, coming back from his thoughts of the sudden events. “Same as you, Lady Primrose, I actually had just arrived a few hours prior, though I did rest well on my travels.” He answered, walking over to his shelf and grabbing a pouch of leaves and tea kettle. “I’ll return momentarily with that tea I promised. In the meantime, feel free to make yourself comfortable and look through my collection of books.” Primrose nodded as the professor left, trusting her completely amongst his personal items. She walked over to where her dagger had fallen earlier and picked it up, re-sheathing it. “...Prim what are you even doing here? I’m not even sure what I hope to gain right now, but nothing else seems to make any shred of sense...Perhaps that is why I chose to keep my guard up and keep hoping I can keep this conversation off of me.” She thought aloud, touching various books on one of the professor’s shelves. Many were related to historical events and places, like Hornburg and the Ruins of Duskbarrow. Primrose wondered just how many of the professor’s questions were answered during his journey and figured it would not be long before Cyrus started writing articles on those subjects. “He must have learned a lot out there…” She mused, taking interest in a journal hidden amongst the books. As she reached to pick it up, Cyrus’ presence interrupted her.
“Indeed I did! There will be much to write and share later on.” Cyrus stated fondly, placing the kettle on his desk and pouring them both a cup. “For now however,” He handed her a cup before taking a seat in his armchair, leaving the chaise for Primrose.
“I feel there is much to talk about.”
The two spent the next few hours going over events and catching up. Primrose told Cyrus of her daily routine and spoke of how she tried her best to dance a little each day when nothing else quite made sense in her life anymore and Cyrus in turn just listened, feeling that may be more helpful than overwhelming her with advice. “So...Is there anything you may have done to have scorned that student from earlier Cyrus? She seemed pretty hell bent you toyed around with her.” Primrose said, sipping from her cup. The professor tilted his head in confusion. “Well...no not as far as I know. I did my bet to console her after certain events took place during my travels.” Primrose raised an eyebrow. “Go on.”
Cyrus explained in detail all that had transpired between Therese and himself leading up to the attack, and Primrose almost dropped her cup. “Wait just a minute, Cyrus. ….Did you really tell her that with those gestures?” She asked, earning a nod from him. “Yes, what else should I have told her, she was clearly distraught!”
“Cyrus you can’t just go around lifting broken-hearted women like that, especially teenagers, and not expect them to get the wrong idea!”
Cyrus was genuinely lost. “I’m sorry, but I do not follow your logic, Primrose.” Primrose sighed heavily. “I know Cyrus...I know. Let me try to explain it to you in terms you may understand. This kind of stuff is very serious and part of the reason why you were sent off in the first place!” Even as she spoke she knew this may be difficult to get across to the oblivious scholar, but it gave her something else to focus on other than herself.
“Like...a lesson?” Cyrus questioned, intrigued at just what Primrose had in store.
“Yes. An important lesson, Cyrus.” She entertained the professor’s view on what she was about to convey to him.
Exactly what I needed to keep this conversation off me! Primrose thought with a sly smirk.
“Alright, then it’s settled Professor Albright! This marks our first lesson in helping you understand and properly handle situations involving the opposite sex.With me having been a dancer for a decade I have experience in using my good looks, charm and charisma to allure men for my own bidding or to pry secrets from them or have them spend plenty of money at the tavern. It is my goal that you take away the ability to pick up on social cues, that you learn to read subtlety and that you learn how to tell when a student has been trying to push boundaries too far, or in turn, is trying to damage your reputation as a result of failed courting attempts.” It truly sounded as though she had this lecture rehearsed, like she planned all along to have this lesson with Cyrus. As she spoke Cyrus couldn’t help but question if this was truly the same person that had written all those letters to him, the one who had been so vulnerable and lost before...could she truly be the same person that is so fervently speaking to him? Something just didn’t add up, but the professor truly did not care in the slightest bit at the moment. It had been such a long time that Cyrus found himself in a student’s role and Primrose seemed so passionate on the subject he just relented and let it be. Maybe they both needed this. In any case, Cyrus’ unyielding love for knowledge was being preyed upon, feeling himself become absorbed completely in her words of wisdom.
Who knows how late it was, the sun was long gone while the pair stayed talking for gods’ know how long, asking questions and listening to answers. It gave them both something else to focus on and though Primrose still wasn’t exactly sure why she chose to visit or why she’s so keen on helping Cyrus learn all of this now or if she can trust him fully or no, she’s here. And for the first time in months, she actually felt at peace.
“Do you at least understand now how Therese could have easily caused a hell of a lot more trouble than initially thought? When you’re too loose with words and treat each woman with the same level of intimacy, it’s very easy for all of them to feel you owe them your time and attention, like you’ll satiate their desires.” Primrose concluded with a yawn. Cyrus chuckled. “Yes Primrose, I understand that much at the very least.” She sighed, stretching out on the chaise. “Thank heavens…”
“Hey Primrose….may I ask you one more question.” Cyrus had at some point let his hair out of its braid, tendrils draping over his shoulder messily. He also made himself quite comfortable in his armchair; clearly this is not the first time he has stayed nearly overnight in his office, given he usually stretches out on the chaise, but he didn’t dare kick Primrose out of her spot.
“You still have questions over what I said?” She raised an eyebrow to which he shook his head gently.
“No not that.”
“Then go ahead.”
It was the time of night where thoughts could easily run wild and people tend to reveal too much. He thought carefully, knowing the importance of his word choice when addressing Primrose on private matters.
“Forgive me in advance if this is too much, but I truly couldn’t help notice. Primrose...you’ve been acting completely opposite of the demeanor you took on in those letters….Might this have anything to do with your inner strife making you second guess everything you thought you could once believe in...including me?” Cyrus did not look at her when he spoke, choosing to stare at the ceiling and be patient for a response. Primrose’s eyes widened before she cast her gaze to the floor. “...Cyrus….Sometimes you are too smart for your own good…” She replied after a moment, looking at him. “...Nothing makes sense… I don’t even know why I showed up here or what I hoped to gain or learn.” Primrose tried to stand but Cyrus interrupted her.
“Please don’t run.” He spoke softly, challenging her gaze. “I can’t suddenly make you trust me in one night, but I can’t help but fear you’ll fall into trouble if you run off…”
There it was again. Words that sounded so genuine. Words that seemed to roll off the tongue so easily and be so sincere and yet…
It came as a surprise to both of them when tears started streaming down the dancer’s face and she sat back down. “...I’m sorry Cyrus...You’ve been nothing but a gentleman in the utmost manner. I just...I don’t know what to believe anymore..” A broken voice spoke softly.
“And that is ok. For now, please try and rest. I can even leave if you-”
“No.” Primrose interrupted swiftly. “Please stay. Please don’t leave me with these raging voices…”
Cyrus nodded and walked to his desk for his robe. “As you wish.” He replied, draping his robe over her before blowing out the lantern.
Cyrus did not sleep very well that night but that wasn’t something new. Considering the accommodations he has in his office, it’s a miracle he was able to sleep at all really. He doesn’t quite remember when he fell asleep, but he recalled it was far after his guest had surrendered herself to sleep. In truth, he was a bit fearful to let himself succumb to sleep in the event that Primrose was forced to see such horrific images as the ones she detailed in her letters to him. A part of him felt disappointed for letting his body getting the best of him, given he knew she would not fault him for resting. In fact, he thought she probably preferred him to not keep watch over her either. Quite simply because….just what could he do?
Cyrus felt like it was always a gambit trying to console or even talk to her. Like something akin to being trapped in a glass house and one false move meant they’d both fall to pieces. It was no secret that Primrose kept herself heavily guarded, this being especially true after it turned out her childhood love was the culprit behind her father’s death. The one she let all her walls down for, the one who got to see her at her most vulnerable, just physically and emotionally scar her. As if she was nothing more than Simeon’s greatest actress in his most magnificent play.
Even Cyrus could feel a stinging pain in his heart as he recalled the twisted show. There was also anger within as well. No respectable man would ever engage in such heinous of crimes for their own demented humor, he thought. The professor also thought back on the day Primrose first saw Simeon again after so long, before his true grim colors showed. How when they parted ways, she watched him in the distance, this serene grace exuding from her, and the air around Simeon matched, the kiss on her hand being so natural. Cyrus had taken note of how drastic of a change in demeanor she had in that moment, and had in turn made a comment to her in private about it. However Primrose had silenced Cyrus’ train of thought before he could suggest that if things were different her and Simeon would be together. How it truly looked as though the two were long lost lovers reunited, and she denied Cyrus’ allegations without ever having to say a word. And out of respect, Cyrus left it at that. Thinking about their travels to Everhold, he wholeheartedly sought to protect her and support her in enacting revenge after Simeon stabbed her back in Noblecourt, beckoning her to follow him. Cyrus did not question any aspect of her or try to figure out what made her tick at all from that point on, he simply followed and helped a friend avenge her father.
Cyrus sighed to himself and only now chose to glance over at Primrose’s sleeping form. The stern, troubled look that seemed so deep set upon her face had melted away, leaving one of the most serene expressions in its wake. It was best she stay sleeping, he thought, knowing full well she most likely has been sleep deprived for a long while as he glanced out the window to his office.
“Atlasdam is as busy as ever indeed…” Cyrus commented, noting the hustle and bustle of the castle town this morning. He stretched out his arms for a moment before rising and walking to his desk,his thoughts now recalling yesterday’s events with Therese and Primrose’s lessons. “To think I was so blind to all the signs in front of me. Odette would probably be laughing at me.” He chuckled to himself briefly. “I do wonder if that soul crystal was meant to take effect with Therese’s jealousy sooner or if this was simply a parting present from Lucia….” His eyebrows furrowed as he reached for a blank sheet of paper and his quill, taking his desk seat. “In any case, I must make it clear to Therese that I do not enjoy her advances or jealous tactics while respecting her “womanhood”, as Primrose had called it.” The professor nodded to himself setting out to diligently write a note for his pupil.
By the time Primrose awoke, Cyrus was no longer in his office. She figured as much would be the case. At some point during the night, Cyrus covered her with his robe; Primrose definitely would have remembered if the professor had draped it around her before they fell asleep, or.... so she would like to have thought; she had been running on next to no energy for over 24 hours... He was considerate, but also did his best to respect her boundaries. Primrose glanced to the scholar’s desk, slipping on the robe as she sat up to get a better look. “Holy hell this thing has sleeves? This entire time I thought it was just a cape.” She commented, momentarily distracted by her discovery on Cyrus’ signature garment of clothing. Bringing her attention back to the desk, Primrose noticed a note with her name on it in big letters standing against one of the books Her curiosity rose and she stood to go retrieve it. The robe engulfed her frame and a mixed scent of orchids, books, and the the scholar’s favorite blend of tea leaves filled the air. The scent took her by surprise, she expected the books of course, but the floral and herb scents came as a shock. Primrose refocused once more and picked up the note.
I’m sorry to have had to leave this morning, there some...pressing matters I had to take care of. If I do not return by noon, feel free to venture out and explore the city if you don’t feel like staying cooped up in my office and reading various materials. Should you decide to stay in Atlasdam for an extended amount of time, I can arrange for the inn to prepare a suite for your privacy as I feel you may be uncomfortable staying in my apartment. Though if you feel you it is still too much to be alone with your thoughts, just say the word. Whatever you choose is fine as always.
Primrose couldn’t help but chuckle at the note. “As always, careful to make sure his offers are transparent and leaving me in full control of my actions. Am I truly that fragile right now? That my own friend, so to speak, has to methodically write out a simple note to me with the utmost care as to not offend me?” Her smile faded, placing the note back on the desk. Primrose sighed, frustrated with herself once more at how her actions have affected those around her. Before she got too carried away however, a familiar memory came to mind, making her inner whirlwind stop. It was the day Cyrus had caught glimpse of the most vulnerable side of her. The day she had finally regained a brief moment of hope. The day she was finally reunited with Simeon in Noblecourt…
Primrose balled her hands into fists, still mad at herself. “His careful wording makes sense considering I must have frightened him with my scolding… Come to think of it… he never questioned me about anything of the sort regarding mine and Simeon’s previous relationship after that day. He only supported whatever I chose from then on, making sure I acted with conviction in my decisions...He simply observed and adapted accordingly, trying to avoid the same scenario.” Primrose concluded, proud at her own deduction skills. “Perhaps I should talk to him about it later...the last thing I need is to make the one thing that seems to give me clarity uncomfortable around me.” She stated thoughtfully, looking out the window to the city below.
“While I’m here, I might as well treat this as time for myself. Cyrus is a scholar, it’s only natural he has a plethora of information and advice at his every whim but it’d be foolish and unfair to him if i were to lean on him completely.”
Thank you for your offer, however I am perfectly fine with a normal room at the inn. As such, I’ve already headed that way to check in. If you’re looking for company for dinner, I should be at the tavern by sunset. I’ve chosen to get some fresh air and see what Atlasdam has to offer for the day.
I do apologize for how delayed this chapter went up! Know that I am actively continuing this story and don't have plans to abandon it for quite some time as it's been very helpful for me coping with a lot that has happened in my life recently(namely my husband's passing back in January...)
I feel just as lost as Primrose does at times so I hope she comes across genuine to her character but also to her depressive states. I will continue to try and keep it in character but also to help this feel like a continuation of her story as I originally intended and not just focused around romance as an end goal. Thank you for the support!
Chapter 5: Treaten Thyself
Deciding to take advantage of the lack of immobilizing anxiety and depression, Primrose takes the day for herself enjoying the finest of Atlasdam.
It's important to take time for ourselves every now and then.
Primrose figured her note would suffice enough for the professor and even if it didn’t or if she had chosen to just leave, she knew he would not fault her for disappearing. She decided to distance herself from him today, giving them both time to truly process the events with Therese and allowing the professor to properly rest from his long journey’s end and to allow him to sort out his new scholarly duties. Cyrus had detailed a summary of what happened in his letters to her, so Primrose knew there was much to be done at the royal academy. Its part of the reason why she offered to be of use if need be. Above all of that, Primrose felt Cyrus would most enjoy time to sit down and decipher the recovered books he returned home with. Hopefully without interruption now…
As Primrose strolled through Atlasdam, she kept these thoughts in mind while also thinking of her decisions that brought her here in the first place, but tried to keep them on hold because she really just wanted to exist in peace for one day. Just one. She could go about her day interacting with townspeople and shopkeepers with ease. No one even thought something was amiss. No, anywhere Primrose went she met the same types of people with the same glances and compliments or hushed musings about the dancer’s attire or beauty of the way she carried herself. This was true even in a castle town such as Atlasdam, and that was fine all the same for her Primrose. Only a select few took special interest in the noticeable scar that served as the only flaw on her skin, to the point she would start to feel unnerved by their incessant staring.
It’d be less painful if they just came up and asked instead of just staring at me for so long.
Even then though, Primrose was able to deflect the inevitable questions and hide her internal aggravation. Eventually, she ended up at a dress shop. Seeing as how they were in Atlasdam, it came as no surprise that the shop was stocked full of formal evening attire and big fluffy ball gowns. Primrose had already figured a drastic attire change could help; it wouldn’t be long before the locals would start talking of the “exoctic dancer” waltzing through Atlasdam, probably having some affair with some noble or scholar or duke or whatever. She could almost picture the headline now and it made her giggle as she looked through dresses. She knew very well that dancers were seen as temptresses or objects for men, solely existing to break reputations of men in power or be used as scapegoats for the sleazebags who made poor decisions. It happened all the time in Sunshade and each time Primrose couldn't help but laugh at just how many nobles or royals would frequents to tavern walls, uneasy and jumpy at first yet at the end of the night they were drunken, broke fools in the arms of a strange woman who was only so nice and inviting because these men threw so much money at them. It was absolutely disgusting and she was glad that she got to free a handful of women along her journey from being enslaved in that kind of work. These memories are some of the reasons why she truly detested royal or noble affairs, seeing as how many men with too much money and too much power decided to just throw away all of their reputations and honor in one single night. Too many dancers suffered or had their lives ended as a result of these men then being too coward to own up to their actions. In fact, this is one of the reasons why she found Cyrus’ company enjoyable. He wasn’t wealthy, but he did seem well off. To top it all off, he was far smarter than a large chunk of the population and was not easily tempted. Primrose’s thoughts came to a halt. Though she was hoping for something more simple, she couldn’t help but be drawn to one formal dress in particular- a ruby red gown with a v-neck and modest side slit in the skirt. It sparkled and felt oh so soft in her hands. The shopkeeper chuckled, having sized Primrose up the entire time from the moment the dancer stepped foot in her store. “Oh I’m sorry miss, but I‘m quite certain you would not be able to afford that particular piece.” The words were said in a sweet tone, but Primrose wasn’t stupid, she knew they were meant to hurt her.
“Oh?” Primrose smirked, already knowing how this conversation was going to go. She took the piece off the wall and twirled around with it. “How much are you asking for it?” She asked innocently, meeting the shopkeeper’s gaze with a smile. The lady’s expression changed to one of annoyance. “6,000 leaf.” She said flatly, expecting to see a deflated or shocked Primrose. Instead however, Primrose laughed as she walked to the front desk. “Oh, is that all?” She started, pulling out her leaf pouch. In a few moments she had procured the asking price in full, smiling wide t the shopkeeper who was stunned in silence. “Well? Go on, count it. Its all there.” The woman shook her head in disbelief.
“I-I apologize! I just assumed-”
“Indeed you did. How dare you insult the prestigious House Azelhart of Noblecourt with your careless assumptions! Specifically Lady Primrose of House Azelhart!” Primrose interjected dramatically.
“L-lady Primrose?! I-I had no idea Lord Geoffrey’s daughter survived.”
“Yes well I did, and I grew up loving dance and have since inherited the respectable Azelhart legacy.” Primrose was laughing internally as she really dug into the snooty shopkeeper.
“Nevertheless, I’ll be going now. Perhaps you’ll think twice about judging others based on appearances alone now.”
Once safely outside and far away form earshot, Primrose busted into laughter. “Aristocrats are all the same! It so entertaining to pop their judgmental bubbles!” She exclaimed happily as she made her way to the inn. After getting all checked in and comfortable, she ventured out once more in search of a less fancy dress shop. There she bought a simple, knee-length, day dress in maroon with a bright red shawl to wrap around her shoulders which she wore out of the store. The rest of her day consisted of her enjoying the scenery, treating herself to some of Atlasdam’s finest foods and drinks and even finding a nice park to dance about in without a care in the world. It was ironic the entirety of her situation. For a long time she had felt so broken, damaged, lost and unsure of what to do, yet today? Here she was in all of her glory acting of her own will, not consumed by intrusive thoughts or succumbing to depression and anxiety. Yes there was much she had to do back home, but Noblecourt had all learned a brief summary of her story. Plus with Revello in charge of watch, Noblecourt would stay in good hands till she returned. In truth, they were just grateful she survived and came home. A year ago she wouldn’t have dreamed of revealing her identity to anyone let alone some random shopkeeper, but today? Today she did and she wore her name with pride. For whatever reason Primrose truly wanted today to be all about her and trying to remember how to love herself. She was free at least for the moment to indulge herself. In the back of her mind she knew the thoughts would return, she knew should fall again, so she embraced today as much as she could. All these feelings swirled within her as she twirled with grace and danced to her own song. And the more she danced, the more she felt her heart swell with joy, the sunlight warming her skin. It wasn’t long before Primrose had a crowd surrounding her, watching her elegant and graceful movements. Primrose paid no mind to them as she continued her dance, reveling in her rare moment of happiness and peace. Once she was done, the crowd clapped and cheered for her to which she gave a polite curtsy and smiled.
Primrose had a very nice day. What started out as something she forced herself to do and hoped she wouldn’t be dwelling on the past for the entirety of it, she ended up being able to fully enjoy on her own. That was proof enough for her that she hadn’t lost herself completely. On her walk back to the inn she felt light and warm. It was the first time in over a month she had tried to dance. Heck, it was the first time in several months where she spent an entire day just treating herself to things she enjoyed, period. She bought herself two new outfits just because she liked them and did what she pleased without caring what anyone thought.
Father must be smiling down on me.
She smiled as she changed into her formal dress, pleased with the fit, given she knew the dress was going to fit her frame from the moment she inspected it in the store. After she put on her gold hoop earrings and necklace, she looked at herself in the mirror and her eyes widened slightly. “...Perhaps this is a bit much.” She said to herself, running her fingers over her necklace and down the v-shaped neckline. The dress itself wasn’t extremely skin tight, part of the reason she liked it was for the flow of the skirt and it didn’t restrict her movement much at all. Given she had plenty more movement in her day dress, but they were- rather, she was in Atlasdam, she wasn’t blind to all the glitz and glamour that filled the town. She grabbed her shawl from earlier and draped it around her shoulders in the formal dress, looking in the mirror once more, mulling over her outfit choice once more.
“Hm...You know what? I didn’t buy this dress to wear for anyone but myself. I might as well enjoy it. It’s not like Cyrus will make a huge scene about it either if he decides to join me. Knowing him, he’s probably content enjoying the solitude to study.”
And with that thought Primrose decided to wear her new sparkly dress, hoping to keep her peaceful mindset from the day. After adding her bangles and heels (She managed to avoid the snooty shop and found a decent shop that had some lovely shoes for nice prices as well), Primrose headed downstairs and off to the tavern.
Chapter 6: Sweet Disillusions
Amongst the tasks he has at hand for the day, Cyrus confronts Therese directly about her crush and urges her to please not do anything rash again. Thanks to Primrose's guidance, he does his best to clearly state the boundary between teacher and student.
After leaving his note for Primrose, the scholar returned home to bathe and don a fresh change of clothes. It was only after his rejuvenating bath that he remembered he left his signature robe back at his office serving as Primrose’s blanket. He recalled her seeming a bit cold before they both decided to succumb to sleep and as such he draped his robe around her. Cyrus ran his fingers through his long black hair before styling it and tying it back in a low ponytail as usual. He sighed as he put Therese’s note in his front pocket. Once he took care of a few chores around his house, he set out for the academy.
“Ah, Therese! May I have a moment of your time please?” Cyrus called out. Call him lucky or unlucky but he had only taken a few steps into the building before spotting his pupil.
“O-oh?” She looked over to where the voice came from and smiled. “Yes, Professor Albright?” The girl waited in place as Cyrus made his way towards her. He was as charming as ever she thought taking in every detail of her professor’s appearance. “What can I do for you this morning professor?” She asked happily once he was standing next to her.
“I was hoping I could discuss some...personal matters with you if that is all right.” He had hesitated for a moment, trying to recall Primrose’s lesson and hoping he could get through the upcoming conversation.
Therese’s heart skipped a beat. “P-personal matters? O-of course!” She replied and followed him off to the side of the corridor by a window. “Shall we go to your office, professor?” She questioned, feeling a bit exposed. Thankfully the academy was mostly empty in the mornings, save for a few professors trying to get caught up on work or lesson plans.
“No no, we should be fine here. I have a few meetings I must attend this morning with the rest of the professors.” He started.Primrose had been the one to suggest they stay in an open, public area if he were to talk with Therese so there could be witnesses if need be.
“First off, how are you feeling Therese? I heard you were in the infirmary for quite some time overnight.” Cyrus spoke innocently. Therese was startled, she didn’t think news had traveled so quickly. “Oh...well, I still have a slight headache. The nurse had said I had an extreme migraine and a slight fever when I was brought in, but I don’t recall who took me to the infirmary. All she said was it was a pair of kind souls…” Therese replied, to which Cyrus nodded thoughtfully. “Other than that, I don’t really remember too much of what happened. I had stayed in the library after our chat yesterday to try and prepare for class...and then everything went fuzzy…” She answered, trying her best to recall what she could. There was more she could have added, like how she grew so fixated on what he told her yesterday. How she had read way too deep into his body language. How she hoped he was going to confess to her then and reciprocate her feelings. Surely he wasn’t that dense right? He was so kind to her and the way he said things yesterday just fed into her huge crush to the point where she really didn’t recall even studying in the least. Therese was so enthralled in these feelings and secrets that she almost didn’t catch what Cyrus began speaking to her next.
“I see… well I am glad that you are alright.” He replied calmly, hiding his inner guilt and quelling any of his questions and suspicions about crystal and the events that transpired. He thought about just handing her the note he had written, but something about that gesture just didn’t feel quite right. Primrose had suggested writing it out but said he could decide if he wanted to set his boundaries straight verbally instead. It seemed like the right thing to do; connotation and feelings could easily be misconstrued in text format and the last thing he needed right now was to further perpetuate the existing problem between teacher and student.
“Then, onto my next order of business.” He said with a sigh, formulating how best to phrase his next topic. His calm expression faltered just a bit and he hesitated once more but kept his demeanor for the most part. “Therese...it occurs to me that you may not have been trying to get my attention in such drastic ways over your love for learning…” Cyrus began, putting careful thought into each word. At this, Therese’s heart began to race. Could her dreams actually be coming to fruition? She knew he couldn’t have been so blind! Cyrus adjusted his collar, feeling a slight sense of dread in his stomach as he swallowed and continued.
“..That perhaps you may have developed certain feelings of attraction towards me and acted out of a jealous spite...correct?” Therese’s face went red and she averted her gaze. “...Y-yes Professor Albright.” She answered softly, feeling a wave of shame cross over her. Cyrus nodded to himself and chuckled softly.
“Well...forgive my obliviousness…” His smile faded again. The two stood in silence as Cyrus thought how best to proceed. Primrose had stressed the importance of being straightforward seeing as how the student’s infatuation had caused too many problems by abusing his kind gestures in the past. These few moments seemed to tick on forever in Therese’s head, her curiosity peaking as she was unsure how Cyrus would finish this conversation.
“In regards to this...I must say I do not feel the same…. And on that note, I ask that you please refrain from taking anymore drastic measure that could completely destroy any innocent person’s life, Therese…” He paused. “I’m terribly sorry that came out as blunt as it did, I have not had to handle matters such as these in quite some time. I will allow you to stay in my class, however if you are uncomfortable you may switch. I will not treat you any differently, and I’ll do better to try and give each student equal attention so as to avoid future complications. As your professor, this is the extent of what i can do for you.” Cyrus concluded, bracing for Therese’s reaction. Every word stung deep within Therese’s heart, but deep down she knew it would come to this. She had always known. She just felt it would never come to this, that he would stay blind or that he would accept this one sided relationship. It was delusional and selfish to think this way. Here was her professor drawing his final lines and here she was even hearing it and still trying to figure out a way that it could have worked. Even after him spelling it out clear as day to her, half of her was still trying to deny he even rejected her. She shook her head and let out a deep sigh, forcing herself back to reality.
“..I-i am deeply sorry Professor Albright… I am sorry for disgracing you and Princess Mary and for even letting myself down… It was foolish to think i could force you to pay attention to me in such a way.” She was holding back tears, Cyrus knew this much and frowned. “Therese, I-”
“Professor Albright! You’re going to be late!” Another professor had called out from the staircase. “There is much we all have to discuss. I’ll save you a seat!”
“Ah, of course, I’ll be just a moment longer!” The scholar replied before bringing his attention back to a distraught Therese.
“I know nothing else I say on this matter will comfort you but-” He pulled out a handkerchief from his pocket and handed it to her. “In all honesty, you’d be much better off with a kind gentleman closer to your age rather than someone pushing thirty one and still oblivious to most romantic gestures.” He concluded with a slight smile. Therese had paused wiping her eyes. “Th-thirty ? But professor...you don’t look remotely close to being older than tw-”
“Twenty? So I’ve been told.” He chuckled. “In any case, I must be going. Do take care Therese.” Before he could get trapped in any further conversation, Cyrus walked away, feeling he did his best in setting his boundaries clearly. Therese simply watched him join the other few professors entering the big meeting room in silence.
Chapter 7: Perfect, right?
Cyrus has been goin 100000km/h and its finally starting to wear him down.
This chapter explores Cyrus, Mr. Perfection himself, and how he deals with his own inner struggles when they threaten to consume his conscious.
You also meet 2 new characters whom I made specifically to give diversity to Academy centered chapters so I don't have to say "the other professor" or "his colleague" 5billion times.
“Dear Gods Cyrus you truly have been through Hell and back!” One of his fellow colleagues exclaimed upon hearing the detailings of Cyrus’ absence. “Here we thought Headmaster Yvon and Professor Lucia were just so upset at your articles referencing the royal archives that they got rid of you.”
Cyrus laughed, seeming unphased by the unpleasant conversation he had just finished with Therese now that he was surrounded by fellow coworkers once again. “Well yes it’s true they didn’t like that either, but I feel uncovering what was going on behind closed doors probably did not help my case either.”
“So...were you able to retrieve the stolen book after all?” Another coworker asked to which Cyrus shook his head. “Unfortunately no...truly a shame thought to have lost such rich knowledge. It could have helped to fully understand just what they had hoped to gain….” He cleverly lied, knowing just how horrific From the Far Reaches of Hell could become in the wrong hands.
“Perhaps it is better you didn’t...based on your observations and evidence, it seems like no good could come from that book.”
“Yes it does seem that way, but we must remember that knowledge is not inherently good or evil. It is how we decide to use that knowledge that determines good and evil.”
At Cyrus’ statement the room of scholars nodded to one another before another interrupted.
“What are we going to do about a new Headmaster though? We are also down two professors and our incoming apprentice numbers have nearly doubled since last session!
“We also have the Annual Inauguration Ball to prepare for as well.””
As more members began to discuss more tasks that needed to be tackled, Cyrus pondered over solutions.
“Well...why not put it to a vote for a new headmaster? We can take nominations this week and call a follow up meeting the following week. As for professors...I’m sure some of us have contact with former professors who left the academy, perhaps we should check in on them and see if any would like to return until we can find more permanent solutions.” Cyrus suggested after a while. “We have roughly two months before next session comes in correct?”
“Yes thats correct professor.” A colleague answered and Cyrus nodded. “Good. So how about this? I propose we finish this quarter as planned. Whoever is filling in for me can continue to do so or return to normal schedule and i can take over my classes once more. In the meantime, those of us who still have contact with former professors can check in and see how they are doing as well as find some good candidates for the positions. We should go forward with nominations and voting, as we cannot prep the Academy’s speech till a new headmaster is sworn in. Thankfully we do have plenty of time seeing how new session isn’t for another two months….” Cyrus was half-talking, half-thinking out loud to the group. His coworkers seemed to agree with his propositions.
“Um, pardon my interruption but...Professor Albright, didn’t you just return from your journey yesterday?”
“Perhaps it’d be best if you took the week to rest and prepare your lessons? I don’t mind continuing to cover. If nothing else, just to give yourself some time to re-adjust to the Academy’s routine again.” The room filled with murmurs of agreement and Cyrus couldn't help but laugh. “Ah, you do make an excellent point! I suppose I was getting rather ahead of myself. I’m no use to any of you if i don’t rest and take time to properly prepare for my scholarly duties again.” He chimed.
“Haha, well other than that, I believe we are all in agreement over how to proceed, yes?” The attention was brought back to the scholar who had called the meeting to order. She had big round glasses and short, curly dark brown hair that adorned her slender face. Two birthmarks were perfectly placed on her face- one on the right side of the bridge of her nose, the other placed on her right cheek. Alexis Merluvia, one of the youngest scholars who sat on their council, but one of the brightest minds to ever venture to Atlasdam. She hails from Marsalim and her light brown complexion was a high indicator of such around these parts. Cyrus was not surprised that she’d been the one to arrange all of this once he had come back. At least Cyrus assumed she was the one in charge, but it was more likely a group effort. She smiled and then looked to Cyrus. “Thank you very much for your suggestions, Cyrus. I hope you can be at peace and of course, welcome back. Should you need extra time to heal or rest, you can let any of us know and we’ll make arrangements for you.” Her voice was sincere and Cyrus smiled. “Thank you Professor Merluvia.”
The rest of the meeting went smoothly and Cyrus was dismissed, free to attend to whatever else he needed. From there, he got caught up to speed on how his students were during in his absence and accepted several packages and letters coworkers and students alike had written for him. The stack made him smile and he thanked Professor Merluvia once again for keeping them safe. Once he finished conversing and checking on everything he needed to at the moment, Cyrus went back to his office. It came as no surprise that his guest had already disappeared, a single note on his desk along with his robe hanging from the back of his chair serving as the only signs anyone had been there. He set down his gifts and letters along with his reports before opening Primrose’s note. Cyrus wasn’t surprised at her response, he was actually quite happy to hear his friend was taking the day for herself.
“Good, she truly deserves it. She seems like she’s holding quite a large deal of this burden inside still, and its already been a year.” He said to himself as he kept reading. It was the same typical response Primrose always had in regards to any of Cyrus’ offers of hospitality and Cyrus just hoped she understood he had zero ulterior motives in mind but just genuinely wanted to assist his friend when he could. By now, he thought they had an unspoken agreement- Cyrus would politely offer assistance and Primrose would decline eve though he wouldn’t mind helping her. However if Primrose specifically asked for help or anything at all, Cyrus would oblige if it meant it would help her come closer to closure. He wasn’t sure what to expect when this formula would inevitably get disrupted, but for now they had a system that seemed to be working on the surface. Cyrus felt her recovery would plateau at some point during this though, any time she tried to talk about it she caught herself and would cease talking or change subjects. He wasn’t blind; it was very obvious thats how she managed to dodge long silences or being honest with herself. She did it quite often in the small amount of time she had already been here, and she did it often while the eight of them were travelling together.
You're doing it again Albright...always psychoanalyzing allies
Cyrus brought his attention back to the note and was genuinely surprised at her casual invitation for dinner. He admired how easily she wrote these, as if it were no pressure at all to whether he joined her or not. Given she probably wouldn’t be affected if he joined her or not, Primrose was just that kind of person. If she was extending an offer or invitation however, it meant she almost knew someone wouldn’t refuse. Sometimes Cyrus envied her. She seemed so aware of social customs and mannerisms of even the slightest detail. She could read someone very easily, and though he could too in certain aspects, Primrose’s judgement had only ever been wrong once.
But because of that , she doesn’t trust herself at all anymore.
“Well...I suppose dinner would be nice after having a day to relax and have some fresh air.” He thought about it some more, leaning back in his chair and sighing. Finally being alone in silence, Cyrus actually had time to relax and not be so put together.
Therese, Primrose, work, travel, preparations, breathing, thinking, learning, existing…..
He shut his eyes, trying to stop the whirlwind of thoughts and events and tasks and work he had in front of him. He took a few deep breaths until his mind did not feel so muddled. Once Cyrus felt the sensation had passed, he let out a heavy sigh and held his head in his hands. “Hah….It appears everything is starting to weigh down on me.” He said with a soft chuckle, finding the irony in it all. Here he was, going a thousand kilometers per second, working constantly on something or other. Constantly being well kept and projecting this image of perfection. Constantly being the one to be relied on. And yet, he probably was the last person who should be leaned on right now. Who was he supposed to lean on? If its not a student being immobilized by infatuation or things at work going stressful, its something else. And when there was nothing, Cyrus occupied his time by studying fervently, always trying to reach the next step towards enlightenment. He was a creature that thirsted for knowledge, and sometimes just interacting with the closest of people was all too much. The only reason Primrose was tolerable was because he enjoyed seeing her perspective on life. It brought a breath of fresh air to read how she spoke, to see what she saw. He was grateful especially for her lessons in learning social cues, an area he desperately needed help with. Once she had spelled it all out for him, a tinge of anger swept over him over his own foolishness with Therese and he felt ashamed for allowing her to overstep all of his boundaries.
By this point Cyrus was clenching his eyes shut, gripping his chest tightly. He could feel his breathing turn slightly shallow, a pain kindling in his chest. It felt as if he wa being crushed by some large object slowly and he did his best to breathe through it, trying to regain control of his thoughts. Images of his journey plagued him in flashes, each of his former colleagues visiting him with a murderous look on their faces.
Come on Cyrus, you had no other options
His breathing quickened, all the emotions he subconsciously suppressed threatening to burst out all together.
They were going to hurt innocent bystanders
Always snooping around playing detective…
“I...I had to! ...To protect this world from Hell’s fires!”
Heroic Professor Albright...Always snooping through others business. Mr. Perfect….No one would suspect the pretty face for being a murderer...
Cyrus felt like screaming, he had been doing so well in confronting these issues. He had made sure to talk with the others as they journeyed on. He had tried his best to discuss his feelings and tried to come to terms with what he did. Why it all decided to burst forth now he cared not, but it was happening and he was half scared and half ashamed of himself for letting his mind get the best of him.
Its just anxiety Cyrus...No one faults you for what you did….
His heart rate increased slightly, each ‘thump’ pounding against his chest. A sheen of sweat coated his face and he loosened his shirt to allow more air to flow.
Do not give in Cyrus…
His chest ached as the onslaught of images and cruel words plagued him. Cyrus felt like the tiniest ant in existence, gravity seemingly increasing tenfold on his body, and his alone.
You don’t have to be ok….You don’t have to be perfect…
The attack lasted thirty more excruciating minutes. It took all of the professor’s willpower to stay conscious during it and not succumb to the darkness within. Cyrus didn’t want to feel the horrifying numbness but he also dreaded his crippling anxiety and post traumatic stress. Luckily they became much farther and fewer seeing as how Cyrus did not return home immediately after finishing his quest. Unlike Primrose, he stuck by everyone else until they each finished their journey’s, one by one. Alfyn had been the most help in helping him find good ways to cope. None of the group had liked that Primrose insisted she needed to stay home once she finished off Simeon; no one thought it was wise for her to be staying alone, but the dancer had insisted and reassured she had people to watch over and check on her at home. Cyrus quickly learned she shut said people out and thus had started his entire pen pal relationship with her in the first place. He wanted to pass on the helpful tips to her as well as things he found helpful of his own accord. Cyrus was fanning himself with a handful of papers, recovering from his anxiety attack. He looked out the window, watching the city below his office window. Focusing on every living creature. Remembering he, too, was just as alive. A few birds flew past his window, chirping in harmonious song. Cyrus took note of every single detail he could see from his view; a pair of professors talking as they walked down the path from the academy, the 4 children playing among the trees that decorated the walkway. He continued observing each and every minute detail of the scenery, feeling his heart rate return to normal and breathing regulate. It was a trick Alfyn had taught him and it worked almost every time. All Cyrus had to do was concentrate on something or take in a whole bunch of details to purposely force his brain to slow back down instead of going haywire.
Cyrus took some deep breaths and stared at his office ceiling, feeling even more wore out. By now he would’ve been back home deciphering this book in peace or even better down at the library with other source material to further help him study. He sighed once more and forced himself to stand up. He winced in pain slightly, a headache forming as an after effect.
“Nothing a nice cup of tea and a good book won’t fix.” He said aloud picture himself wrapped comfortably in a blanket. Cyrus truly didn’t feel like going anywhere or doing anything at all which was odd considering he had been so excited to sit down and read more from this book to learn its secrets, but he forced himself to try at least. He decided since he was feeling a bit under the weather it’d be best to take what books he could with him along with From the Far Reaches of Hell and study in the comforts of his home where he’d be free to rest uninterrupted. The professor felt he had fully exerted almost all of his social energy for the time being. Among the things he gathered to take home for the day were his welcome gifts and letters; he figured he could read them during the day as well. Once he put his robe back on and had everything together, he set out for his home only to see a familiar face right outside of his office. The tall man jumped, startled by the door suddenly opening as he was just about to knock.
“A-ah I’m sorry Professor!” He said quickly, moving out of Cyrus’ way. The man looked about Cyrus’ age and had bright blond hair and green eyes. His face was adorned with freckles and he covered his slender frame in his scholar robe that had similar markings to Cyrus’ as well.
“It is alright, Professor Stonewall, did you have a question for me?” Cyrus recalled the fairly new hire as he walked out of his office, stack of belongings in tow.
“Well...not really a question more of a suggestion.” The man said trying not to sound so flustered. Cyrus just made him a bit nervous and he hoped he wasn’t bothering him. “P-professor Merluvia asked me to check if you were still here. You see, we all meant it when we said you should rest up…” His voice trailed off as Cyrus continued walking.
“I’m listening Collin, please continue.” Cyrus replied, motioning for the man to follow him.
“O-oh of course!” The man quickly caught up to Cyrus and continued. “SO... anyways...she- we just wanted to make sure you weren’t staying cooped up here...Alexis herself remembered you have a tendency to get caught up in your own affairs and forget to take care of yourself.”
“She sure is as sharp as ever. Worry not Collin, I was actually taking these things home with me so I can go read and relax in a more comfortable environment.” Cyrus masked any sort of discomfort he had as he spoke, but he definitely was not keen on rambling as much as he usually did.
The man, Collin as Cyrus called him, was surprised and smiled. “Well th-thats good! Hehe…Oh um, would you like help carrying your belongings?” Collin hated how awkward he sounded, but as far as he knew Cyrus was unphased by it. Cyrus looked over to him and gave a smile.
Now with a colleague in tow, Cyrus made his way back to his house, making small talk with the botany professor just to ease the awkward silence. Collin usually had enjoyable conversation but even Cyrus could pick up on his timid and awkward social mannerisms. This only further led Cyrus to believe either he was overwhelming or Collin was, in truth, an introvert and did not socialize very well with others. But Collin was polite and a bright man, so Cyrus respected him enough to overlook any social awkwardness Collin may bring to situations.
“You can set those things down on the table in the dining area, Professor.” Cyrus said as they stepped into his home.
“Ah, ok Professor Albright!” Collin replied, following instruction. He seemed happy enough to have been of some use. Cyrus smiled as he placed down his part of the load on his coffee table. The two stood in silence once more, Collin was taking in different details of Cyrus’ house. As far as the Academy gossip went, it was quite rare for anyone to have heard of Cyrus taking visitors home seeing as how the bookworm always ended up staying late at his office or the royal library. Given it’s not like Collin was the type to go and blab about someone’s personal affairs to anyone else.
Cyrus cleared his throat. “Ahem. I-” Collin’s face turned red with embarrassment.
Oh I’m sorry Professor! I will be going now, I have to check on the shop anyways. Its mostly why Alexis sent me instead of meeting you herself!”
Cyrus couldn’t help but chuckle at his reaction. “Its ok Collin, Give my regards to Professor Merluvia. Its actually quite nice of the both of you to be looking out for me.” Cyrus’ words sent Collin beaming and he laughed. “Well of course professor, you looked out for both of us when we got hired, least we could do is make sure you transition smoothly back to work.” He started for the door. “Please, if there’s anything we can do, just let us know!” With that, Collin gave his goodbyes and exited.
Cyrus waited a few moments before sighing and shaking his head. “A peculiar one he is.” He said to himself, searching through his belongings. Now finally home and free form any and all interruptions- he wasn’t about to answer the door to anyone right now- Cyrus was free to relax with a book. He tossed his robe over the back of his sofa, removed his vest, and retreated to his bed, book and letter in hand. Once nestled in his blankets, comfortable in just his white shirt and black pants, he peeked out his bedroom window.
“Still relatively early afternoon. Looks I have some time to kill.”
Chapter 8: Grounded
Cyrus was hungry and remembered Primrose's invitation. The two meet up for dinner and a heart to heart.
forgive any spelling and format errors in here, I'll look over it properly tomorrow! Chapter 9 also should not be delayed as much as this one was now that i've established a direction to go in!
The silence was deafening. Once more, the silence was deafening . With every page turn, every sentence read, it grew louder and louder until he could not bear to ignore it any longer. With a defeated sigh, Cyrus placed his bookmark in the text, shut his book, and set it down. He rubbed his tired eyes.
It is probably for the best.
Cyrus knew if he forced himself to study for too long in this state, he’d strain himself even further and be of no use to anyone. He glanced outside his window once more. Couldn’t have been more than an hour since he last checked.
“Well...I did come home in case i felt the need to sleep...It’d only do good seeing as how my sleep schedule has been thrown out of order. It has been several days since I slept properly.” Cyrus mused, laying back against his pillows. His chest still felt heavy from earlier, but at least in the comforts of his own bed the swirling thoughts seemed to calm. The silence didn’t feel like it was eating at him as it was when he was trying to read. As he stared at the ceiling, images of his friends filled his head, his brain finally releasing him from the dark horrors of his own journey to focus on something else. He wondered how they were all doing. Did they find what they were looking for? Was life treating them well?
The more Cyrus honed in on these questions, the sleepier he got, drifting off slowly until he finally fell asleep…
When Cyrus awoke next it wasn’t due to panic or interruption or being well rested. It was hunger. Of all the things to wake from a nap for...Why? The professor did well enough to make sure he-
...I haven’t eaten at all today….
He recalled the day’s events and sure enough the professor truly did not eat a single meal. Perhaps it was due to more pressing matters or simply because his schedule had been so chaotic lately that it repressed the feeling till he finally had a chance to rest. It didn’t really matter at this point, Cyrus just needed to try and take better care of himself from this point on. Ophelia would probably scold him for neglecting his own needs and he laughed at the thought, glancing back out his window. Ah, i guess i must have slept longer than I thought I would have.” He said with slight surprise, noting sun seemed to be hanging lower overhead. “The sunsets in the flatlands tend to be quite a sight. I wonder if i’ll have time to see it today. I should...If I hurry.”
Cyrus stretched with a yawn, arms reaching overhead. His hair had become even more disheveled after his nap and he just took it all down from its braid, running his fingers through it. He got off his bed, put his boots back on, and walked over to his vanity mirror, picking up a very ornate hairbrush. Naturally Cyrus would have something so decorative as a hair brush- probably picked it up among his travels or was passed down from his parents somewhere along the line. The male brushed out his lustrous locks and tied them neatly into a low ponytail, tying a white ribbon to fasten it in place. He then styled his bangs as usual. Once satisfied, he nodded in approval and then walked over to his living area where lit a lantern and placed it on a coffee table. He was going to put on his vest and robe then head out the door but something stopped him.
Should I….Should I perhaps wear something different?
It was weird, the thought just crossed his mind that maybe he shouldn’t show up to a casual dinner with a friend in work attire? His friend might think he doesn’t own any other type of clothing.
Well...lets see what else I could wear.
Primrose had a couple drinks while she sat in the tavern, nothing too strong just enough to help her brush off people’s looks at her. She stood out heavily in a place like this in her attire, but she didn’t care. True to her words in her note, she arrived before sunset, in her glamorous dress, still riding high on the waves of happiness she was graced with feeling today. She still was unsure why she felt so good today, nothing out of the ordinary had really changed except her running off in the night to Atlasdam on a simple whim. “If anyone else had been closer, I suppose I might have run to them as well. Next closest would be Tressa or maybe Olberic? But there’s no guarantee either of them would even be in their respective towns.” The dancer spoke to herself, take a drink from her glass.
The bell hanging from door chimed softly and she shot a curious glance towards the entrance. Her lips formed a smile upon recognizing those bangs anywhere. Primrose watched in amusement as the professor tripped slightly on the doorstep, but regained his composure quickly. He was wearing his signature robe of course, but with a royal blue vest underneath and a black shirt. It was just a simple outfit change from his usual but Primrose was actually surprised to see him in something different. More than that, his choice made him look more handsome than usual. A part of her was proud of him. And maybe it was just the sheer bits of alcohol she had in her system, but a tiny piece of her that she thought had long died “thumped” with life, seeing him smile wide at her and walk over to sit with her. Primrose immediately pushed it back to the depths it came from and greeted Cyrus happily.
“So you decided to join me after all? Professor I’m flattered~” Primrose teased. Cyrus chuckled. “Ah Primrose, after the day I had, it was simply an offer I couldn’t refuse.” He replied. “Might I add that you look ever so lovely tonight, you went shopping today?”
Primrose nodded. “Indeed I did. ..Is it too much?” She questioned genuinely and the professor immediately shook his head. “Nonsense Primrose, you look great. The staff at this bar are used to all types showing up here, although am I correct to assume you don’t intend on eating dinner here but rather at one of the fancier restaurants in Atlasdam? There are several, but I do have one in mind if you have no preference.”
Primrose laughed. “Oh Cyrus, you read me like an open book sometimes! Guilty as charged, I am craving a taste of the finer things Atlasdam has to offer. Would you be so kind as to be my escort for the night?” She replied sweetly. Her phrasing made Cyrus blush ever so slightly. “Perhaps don’t phrase it quite like that...I have only pure intentions.” He stated softly, a hand covering his mouth and nose as he looked away. Primrose grinned, pleased with his reaction.
“My apologies, would calling you my date be better, Professor Albright?”
Thanks to her prior lesson, Cyrus was able to actually understand for once her teasing and this only served to redden his blush. “Cyrus, if you will…And... I do suppose it is what most would call a ‘date’ so I don’t see why not.” He replied after his blush dissipated looking at Primrose once more with a small smile. He held out his hand and knelt down on one knee. “Would you please do me the honors of following my lead, Lady Primrose?” He said in a loud, grandiose tone of voice and this time she was the one blushing but she laughed and grabbed his hand as well. “Cyrus please, you’re making a scene!” she whispered, as the pair walked out of the tavern.
“I’m sorry, it was just playful banter after the fun you took in teasing me.” He replied once outside. “You seem like you had a really nice day. I’m glad.” Cyrus stated genuinely as they walked along the streets. They absentmindedly began to walk arm in arm after leaving the tavern, something they would do often on the road when entering a dangerous area. Over time it became just a natural habit and they would do it without even thinking about it. “Ah here we are, one of my favorite restaurants.”
Primrose looked up at the ornate sign and tilted her head. “I don’t understand what it says.”
Cyrus smiled. “It roughly translates to ‘The Golden Place,’ and you’ll be seeing why in a few minutes.” There was an air of excitement in his words as he escorted them inside. Primrose smiled, looking at the extravagant decor inside- though not extremely spacious, the restaurant was lined with beautiful stained glass windows that overlooked the Eastern Atlasdam Flats. A chandelier loomed above the hostess podium and the tables were dressed in white cloths with fresh flowers in a twinkling vase as centerpieces. “Well Cyrus, this certainly looks lovely~”
As their hostess led them to a table, Primrose continued looking around inside. It wasn’t until they were led to a table on the restaurant’s patio that her curiosity peaked. “An interesting choice, Professor. She said, taking the seat the hostess had pulled out for her. “Though it is just as lovely out here.”
Cyrus chuckled and took his seat as well. “I figured you might enjoy the decorations, but there’s a special reason why I opted for a patio spot.” His expression softened, looking out to the flatlands for a moment. “Order whatever you like, since this is a ‘date’ as you put it.” Primrose raised an eyebrow but shrugged it off. “As generous as always Cyrus… So...how was your day?” She decided to ask as she looked over the menu, remembering he hinted at having a less than stellar one.
Cyrus brought his attention back to her, debating what he should talk about first. “Well, my morning was riddled with meetings, and I set Therese straight as per your advice.” He began and Primrose nodded. “Oh yeah? How did she take it?”
“As best as she could I suppose. I tried not to get too invested and had to rush off to a meeting shortly after, but there were witnesses so she can’t fabricate something else later.” He answered with a shrug. “It was probably for the best i didn’t get delayed with her for too long, or would you have done something differently?”
Primrose shook her head. “No actually, sounds like I taught you well enough to get by.” She smiled. “I’m glad though, I know it must’ve been very uncomfortable for you, Cyrus.” Primrose concluded, watching him relax at her approval. Their waiter came by and took their orders and the two continued chatting. Cyrus decided to tell Primrose briefly of his anxiety attack that happened earlier in the day, but expressed he was able to grab a slight handle on it before it got too bad. Primrose frowned. “I’m sorry to hear that, but I’m glad you were able to fight it off. Were you able to rest any when you got home?”
He nodded. “Yes actually, I was surprised to have been able to fall asleep. The Professors at the academy had also wrote me letters and prepared gifts for when I returned. I haven’t read any of them yet, but the thought was nice.” Cyrus replied. “It was just one of those days I suppose.” Primrose nodded in understanding. “...I know exactly what you mean. But..I’m glad you joined me for dinner. And I genuinely mean that in a non teasing ‘haha you’re taking me on a date’ kinda way.” She didn’t like seeing him so flustered about things and Primrose realized that Cyrus probably hadn’t even had time to process the gravity of the events that took place for him. “...I’m sorry for intruding.”
Now Cyrus was confused. “But...You haven’t. I mean, even if Therese hadn’t done what she did that night, I still would not have minded you showing up randomly.”
“...I still don’t know why I decided to just run to here that night. ..Can I be honest with you for a minute Cyrus?”
“I would hope you always be honest with me, but yes, Primrose, what would you like to say?”
Primrose rested her arms on the table as she spoke. “...Today was the first day in a very long time where I felt at peace...and I’m not even home. And...thinking back, even when I was at home this past year….I never really felt like I was ‘at home’ you know? ...And I thought about it some more today and I think….I think it has something to do with you that I can feel some semblance of peace.” She didn’t mean to stutter and speak so quickly, but she couldn’t help it. “And I have no idea why you are the sole thing that can clear my head right now but you can and I don’t wanna feel like...Like I’m overstaying my welcome or abusing your kindness but damn it Cyrus I’m so so tired of being so incredibly sad and vulnerable and tired and just-”
“Primrose, you are fine.” Cyrus interrupted her before she could become too overwhelmed. She looked at him, her expression tense with sadness. He offered her a smile. “Can I be honest with you now?” She nodded.
“I know I haven’t been back long but...on the road with everyone else. I looked forward to your letters. I looked forward to hearing how you described things and how you viewed things, because honestly at the time…everything was so bleak. Every person we killed, who was hellbent on murdering us. Every person I murdered was a colleague of mine, and an esteemed colleague held in high regard mind you. I couldn’t take it anymore. And then to hear you suffering, for some reason it just gave me the energy to focus solely on helping you because if I could help at least one person I was going to. The difference is that I had others around me while it truly felt like i was falling into a void. I knew for as much as you insisted despite our greatest usherings, I knew you shut yourself up. Locked yourself away. And I just...I hoped my letters would somehow help the both of us deal with everything that was happening...had happened.” It was miraculous how well Cyrus kept his composure while confessing to her. Her eyes widened slightly.
The pair sat in silence for a bit. It was Primrose who broke the silence first. “I’ve been an awful friend I know….There were many times I wanted to reach out to you, to all of you but I just...I couldn’t do it. So I thank you Cyrus. I really do mean that. So now,” She grabbed his hand and smiled. “It’s your turn to lean on me. No more running. I promise.”
Cyrus was startled by her sudden touch, but he smiled and nodded.
“I trust your promise.”
The pair turned their conversation back on something positive and less heavy when their food arrived. Primrose commented on the quality, filled with delight and Cyrus laughed, finally feeling a weight lifted from his chest as they ate in peace. She told him of that shopkeeper and he talked of his coworkers and their kind words.
“So, what was the real reason you brought me here? To the patio I mean?”
“Look out there. It’s happening!” He said excitedly, pointing out to the horizon over the flatlands. The sun was setting and the sky turned a gorgeous mix of red, orange and yellow across the sky, pink streaks throughout.And then, just as it hit the horizon, the flatlands shimmered in a gold. Primrose’s eyes widened. “Cyrus...it's beautiful! Why does the land shine like that? Isn’t it just grasses?”
“There’s a particular mineral rich in the earth in the flatlands that when hit just right with sunlight, creates a brilliant glimmering.” He stated happily as he stood to lean over the patio railing. “I love watching the sunset from here.”
Primrose joined him and smiled. “I can see why. It's a peaceful quiet spot right outside the city.” She rested her head against his shoulder, causing him to look down at her. Cyrus thought about questioning her action but decided against it. In response, he wrapped an arm around her waist, the dancer not budging one bit. Sometimes, actions were better than words.
Chapter 9: A Proposition
Cyrus has something of importance to ask Primrose and hopes she agrees.
I'm back! :3
I know this is quite a short chapter but I plan on being more dedicated to this work once more as it's been far too long.
Happy 1st Anniversary Octopath Traveler!
Cyrus had walked Primrose back to the inn, a relaxing air surrounding them both. Despite both of their own reserves, it was good they got out. Primrose may have been onto something with her “treat myself” philosophy after all.
The pair came to a stop right outside the hotel. “Thank you Cyrus.” Primrose began, unlinking her arm from his. The professor smiled. “Glad to have had the invite.” Primrose chuckled softly, tucking a piece of her hair behind her ear.
“...I am serious though, I’m tired of running away. I want...I want to try to live again..For me. And... I don’t want to feel like I’m overstaying my welcome or -”
“Intruding? I can most certainly assure that you aren’t, Primrose.” Cyrus could feel her falling into the same cycle of endless apologies again and did his best to help her combat it with reassurance.
“Quite honestly I enjoy your company. And, if I’m being completely honest,” He chuckled to himself softly, shaking his head and looking down for a moment before he lifted his gaze to hers again. “ I often find myself questioning if perhaps I’m overstepping boundaries. That perhaps I am clinging to you as an outlet just as much you are me. Should my suspicions be correct, I will step back immediately, however if they aren’t-”
“Cyrus, you are not in the slightest crossing lines. You have been nothing but polite and understanding.” She smiled then laughed. “Trust me, you would definitely know if you did something I was not comfortable with.” Primrose added, to which he also laughed.
“That is..very on par for you. I don’t see why I worried in the first place now.”
She looked up at him and sighed, her shoulder releasing the tension they were building up again.
“I’m sorry, I’m just not used to being open with someone.
“No need to apologize.” Cyrus paused for a moment, the pair lingering in idle hesitation.
“I should...I should go upstairs-” Primrose started, fiddling with her necklace.
“Forgive my interjection, but may I ask you something else?”
Cyrus hesitated, no doubt trying to find the best way to convey his message. “This may come off as rude, but I promise it is only a prerequisite to my main point,” He began. “How long do you intend on staying in Atlasdam?”
And there is the professor voice breaking out once more
Primrose stayed silent for a moment, inching closer to the stair banister. “...I hadn’t really given it much thought, why?” She eyed him carefully, watching him inch closer to her new position.
“It’s just...at the Academy we’re four professors short now and-”
“Cyrus I have nothing to-” She tried to cut him off but he held up his hand and she stopped.
“As I was saying, I thought you’d be a perfect fit for elementary dark magic and dances. It would provide at least one new area of course study for students to take on should their curiosity be piqued by either of those topics. It would also grant you an extended stay here at a discounted rate as well as an office space, a considerable salary, and a tailored royal academy cloak, like mine.” It was his turn to watch her carefully, seeing how she would react to such an offer, the only signs she was processing all of this being how her hand relaxed on the banister.
“I know you’re immediate reaction has always been to keep to yourself but perhaps this would be an opportunity to explore a new chapter in your life as well as giving you a safe environment to express and deal with repressed memories and feelings at your own pace.”
Primrose’s head was starting to swirl with new what if’s and trains of thought, but she managed to stay focused.
“And again… I do not wish to offend or insult you. Speaking as a friend to a friend, I’m afraid if you go back to Noblecourt...you might shut yourself in and lock the door forever. To be quite honest, I’m-”
“Worried. I know Cyrus. I…” She trailed off softly, looking down in thought for a moment. The professor had done it once more, catching the dancer off guard with yet another proposition and analysis to back up his views as usual. Honestly she shouldn’t be surprised, Cyrus probably knew exactly what he was doing, knowing he’d be putting her in a position she truly couldn’t escape. And maybe it was that thought that kept her on her toes around him still. The simple thought being that if the professor had ulterior motives, she’d be trapped in an instant. But that way of thinking was just a result of her past judgement almost proving fatal not just to herself, but to her comrades as well. Yet she wasn’t wrong, if Cyrus had a completely different personality, things could very well be different.
But he’s not like that...He is genuinely just trying to help recover some humanity...Right? I guess the only other option I have would be to return to an empty estate and wander aimlessly trying to figure out what purpose I have now…
After what seemed like ages, Primrose nodded to herself, placing her foot on the first step of the staircase.
“I...am willing to give it a shot.” She said quietly, as if she were to say it any louder the realization would sink in and her spook her to change her mind. Cyrus was genuinely shocked, eyes wide with surprise but soon his expression changed to one of pure joy.
“An excellent decision!” He exclaimed to which Primrose shushed him, a small smile on her lips. “Sorry. I am just astounded that you actually accepted my offer.” She could practically see him bounce on his tiptoes with glee- to be expected from someone whose entire livelihood centers around knowledge and educating others and sharing that with all sorts of individuals.
“Very well, there will be much to discuss, if it will convenience you, perhaps we can meet me at my office sometime tomorrow to go over some important things.” He was trying very hard to keep himself contained and it put Primrose at ease.
Like watching a kid in a candy shop...oh Cyrus
She nodded. “Now then, I really think I should be going upstairs.” The dancer stated, taking another step and Cyrus agreed. “Oh of course! Forgive me for delaying you, Primrose. Have a good night.” He said happily, giving her a bow, to which she chuckled, and taking his leave.
Once in the safety of her room, Primrose kicked off her shoes and laid across her bed, bursting into laughter after a few moments.
“A new chapter eh? I’m gonna hold you to that Cyrus Albright. ...What in the twelve Gods’ names am I getting myself into?”
Chapter 10: A Prelude to Trials Forthcoming
Upon agreeing to Cyrus' offer, Primrose finds herself meeting new colleagues and thrown into preparation for Alephan's Trials of Mastery
It was midday when Primrose made her way over to the academy, her decision from the previous night weighing over her with uncertainty of what was to come. Nonetheless, she pushed through whatever apprehensions she may have had on the matter and walked with conviction through the royal halls.The academy was much different during the day time, light flowing in from their large stained glass windows, revealing gorgeous patterns along the tile flooring. The sound of boots and heels clicking against the stone as professors and students made their way to and fro, some paying no mind to Primrose at all, others unable to keep their eyes off of her. The dancer did not stop, nor give any attention to any around her. Luckily for her, Cyrus’ office was not too deep into the building and thus Primrose found him once more with ease. There she stood, politely knocking at his door. The voices she had heard stopped at once before a familiar, “Come in” rang out.
When Primrose entered the room, she was met by Cyrus and two unfamiliar faces, a short curly haired woman and a tall freckle-faced man, both with inquisitive glances.
“Ah,” Cyrus began as he ushered Primrose into the office. “My fellow colleagues allow me to introduce you to my good friend!” Cyrus stated as Primrose followed him to his desk.
“Professor Stonewall, Professor Merluvia, this is the proposed candidate I had mentioned earlier. None other than Lady Primrose of House Azelhart, hailing from Noblecourt!” Of course his introduction would be almost too grandiose, however his colleagues seemed to be impressed, their expressions from before leading way to smiles. The woman was the first to speak and reached her hand out to shake Primrose’s. Primrose smiled and shook the woman’s hand.
“It is a pleasure, Lady Primrose, I am Alexis Merluvia. I come from Marsalim to teach Intro to the Arcane Arts here as well as Cultural Appreciation. It’s a pleasure to have made your acquaintance.” The woman spoke just as formal as Cyrus despite her young demeanor.
“Ah, nice to meet you Professor.” Primrose said with a nod before turning to the male.
“O-oh right! It’s very nice to meet you, Lady Azelhart! I am Professor Collin Stonewall and am a botanist here at the academy. That is to say I solely teach Botany here. I recently inherited my family’s well-renowned flower shop here in the heart of Atlasdam. Should you ever need flowers or information on any flora variety for any such occasion, feel free to reach out!” Collin gave a formal bow but he did not sound nearly as formal as Alexis or Cyrus for that matter. Still, Primrose smiled and responded with a curtsey. “A pleasure to meet you Professor.” Assuming her original stance, Primrose tucked a piece of hair behind her ear.
“I suppose it is time I say a little of myself then?” She glanced at Cyrus who nodded happily.
“If you wish it so!” He replied and the others nodded.
“Very well, as Cyrus has mentioned, I am the sole surviving heir to the Azelhart household now. Unfortunately due to recent events… I have put my household duties on pause until I can work through some pressing matters. Nonetheless, I am no stranger to ballroom etiquette.” She paused here, trying to figure out how best to sum up just how she is well versed in other...non-noble type dances…
Perhaps I should keep that to myself for now…
“I also just had a love for dancing as general and am now well versed in multiple dance styles both solo and partners. As a precautionary measure growing up, my father made sure I knew how to protect myself and I was taught certain dark elemental spells as well as proficient use of daggers and knives.”
Believable enough i suppose…
She wasn’t wrong, both Collin and Alexis were thrilled. “It’s been many a year since we’ve had the halls graced with a dance teacher, the students would love it.” Collin said happily.
“And staff as well! Considering the Inauguration Ball is coming up and staff are highly encouraged to partake in the festivities as well as students, it’s as if Sealticge herself has graced us with your presence!” Alexis chimed, slightly embarrassing Primrose. She didn’t dare mention being able to call upon Sealticge’s Grace amidst the heat of battle to help turn the tide, but Cyrus just gave her this all knowing smile and they both chuckled.
“Yes perhaps I may actually attend this year since we’ll have quite the teacher!” Cyrus added.
“Oh Cyrus please! You flatter me too much!” Primrose teased jokingly. The scholar gave an innocent shrug. “Is it so wrong to dote on your talents? In any case, we are getting besides the point. Primrose,” He began, his tone going from playful to serious, his eyes staring into Primrose’s. The other professors just watched their superior carefully.
“Before the council will allow you to become a professor here, you must first pass a trial period of rigorous studies and tests. It is the Royal Academy’s own mastery course. Should you prevail, consider your spot among us secured for as long as you’d like. However…” Cyrus change to his thinking pose, lolling his head back and forth.
“Hmm… There are a few skills tests we may have to rework given the professor’s in charge of those are now..deceased. However believe me when I say that the difficulty scale is no joke on these.” Cyrus concluded, resuming his serious stance. “They include mental, physical, emotional, stamina, and willpower, deigned to push you to your limits. Should you accept to be subjected to these trials, you will be given a week to prepare before the first set of trials are presented to you. There are nine tests total, three each day upon beginning the mastery course.” The way his tone had shifted to show no signs of familiarity made Primrose uneasy, her expression changing to match the serious air their conversation took. Alexis and Collin were nodding their heads, no doubt remembering their own time during the trials.
“Um, Professor Albright, if I may add on?” Alexis spoke up.
“Yes Professor Merluvia? Did I leave anything out?” Cyrus asked.
She shook her head at first, then thought about it and nodded. “Well, it might make Lady Azelhart feel better to know that the three of us can help her study.” Alexis offered a sincere smile to Primrose before taking off her glasses to clean them with a small handkerchief. “In fact, if I remember correctly, you were the one with highest marks across the trials. Wouldn’t it be fitting of you to prepare her, someone of minimal background on these subjects? No offense.” Primrose nodded in understanding. “None taken.”
“And if we’re speaking on a friend level here, and not strictly professional, I cannot in good conscious see you bring her here and throw her to the dogs essentially, especially after everything you went through with her. I simply won’t allow it, you must be her core tutor for this, Cyrus!” Alexis was adamant and quite forceful with her suggestion that even Cyrus could fully grasp what she was hinting at. He laughed, rubbing the back of his head.
“I assure you Alexis it isn’t my intention to simply strike the fear of the god’s into her and then step away! I will make sure Primrose is thoroughly prepared for each section.” He said with a much friendlier tone. “My apologies Primrose, it’s the mastery trials are vital for your continuance here and we still have several positions to fill. Normally we wouldn’t offer it to a single person, however since you are here and we are still waiting on word from other potential candidates, why waste anymore time than need be? Regardless, do not worry Primrose, you are in very good hands. Collin and Alexis may be newer additions to the council and are quite young but both are incredibly sharp and also make commendable marks on their trials. We shall see to it that you stand the best chance against them- the trials Alephan himself set in place centuries ago.” Primrose couldn’t help but smile. “Well then, I guess my future is in all of your capable hands apparently.” She said in response, causing the two to laugh.
“I um, I’m sorry for interrupting, but there are some reports I must take care of for this quarter. It really was nice meeting you, Lady Azelhart. Should you need something of me, my office is down the hall and to the right.” Collin spoke up for the first time in awhile, seemingly remembering something of importance. “Professors, till we meet again.” The tall man gathered his belongings and made his exit. Alexis sighed and shook her head. “Oh Collin… Pay it no mind, the man has probably just reached his social quota for the next few hours. He means well I promise. But he does make a good point, I myself should be leaving as well since I have not only mine but your classes’ reports to compile as well, Albright. Lady Primrose, it was a pleasure again!”
“Ah I am truly so-” He tried to interrupt, but Professor Merluvia was already gathering her books as well.
“No no Cyrus, do not apologize! I offered to cover and I shall continue to do so through the end of this quarter. What you need to be doing is resting!” She scolded him playfully, knowing full well his eagerness to return was clouding his judgement on taking care of himself. As Alexis stood up again, books in tow she addressed the two of them.
“Listen. You have told me a great deal about how the events of your sabbatical played out and you have been up here the majority of the time since returning. Professor Albright please, please, leave the work for this quarter to us. You will do us no good should you dive right back in to your crash schedule of work, studying till all hours of the night, and then neglecting your self care!” She scolded him once more. “You make all of us genuinely worry about you. How do you think it looks when students find you passed out in the library late at night?! I can handle myself and your classes right now. If you truly insist on needing to be of use, why not begin making a plan of action on her best to prepare your candidate? But don’t stay cooped up here, go elsewhere! Breathe some fresh air, go to the comforts of your home and actually enjoy it for a while! Just don’t be here! We adore you and your plethora of knowledge, Professor Albright, hence why we collectively feel you need this time to process thoroughly!” The entire time Alexis had been scolding him on her rant Cyrus had tried to interrupt and with each unsuccessful attempt, Alexis got closer and closer till she stood on her tiptoes to be close to eye level with him and held her index finger up. Cyrus gulped, looking down at her. He was pushed back to the edge of his desk and held his hands up in surrender. The scene itself was quite comical to Primrose who had been smart enough to stand back from the two once the conversation began to rise, but she refrained from laughing. Something told her Alexis could be quite a force to deal with once riled up.
“...You know Alexis you could have easily just-”
“You wouldn’t let me talk!! I had to start shouting in order for you to respect me enough to let me finish my statement, Cyrus!!” She exclaimed with a huff before dropping her hand and lowering from her tiptoes. “By the Gods you are so blinded by your pursuit of knowledge and sharing with others and being helpful, that for your friends to even get their concerns across we have to resort in treating you like a child!” After a long moment of silence, she sighed, placing a hand on her hip. “I apologize, but things haven’t been the same without you here, and we’re all still a bit on edge. I can’t bear the thought that after everything you went through and accomplished, you’d simply let yourself be susceptible to sickness due to extreme amounts of stress and what else you’ve had to endure. To think my colleague and mentor would be so daft to not take proper measures to ensure his own health.” Her voice had a tinge of sadness in it, but she sighed once more and walked to the door.
At this, Cyrus’ expression softened and he gave her a sympathetic smile. “My...I had no idea you cared this much.”
“Cyrus please don’t start. I don’t need your pity.”
He shook his head. “I’m not pitying you at all. I’m saying, or at least what I’m trying to say is... I’m grateful to have had such wonderful colleagues to help get me back on track. And I’m sorry for being so blind.” Alexis hesitated in the doorway before taking her leave. Cyrus frowned and then shrugged, turning back to Primrose. “Sorry about that.”
“Is uh...Is she gonna be alright?” Primrose asked in response.
“Hmm? ...Oh! Yes yes she will. This is not the first time I’ve been scolded by Professor Merluvia and judging my own record, it most likely will not be the last. Though..” He trailed off into thought, causing Primrose to raise an eyebrow.
“What is it?”
“Well...Maybe it was just my imaginings, but she seemed more upset than normal. Was it something I said?” He genuinely asked, tapping his index finger to his chin. “I did not feel like i said something out of the ordinary, nor too personal or something easily misconstrued. What do you think, Primrose?” The dancer shrugged. “Your guess is as good as mine here Cyrus, I don’t know either of them too well. But...if I were to go based on what I saw alone, it kind of sounded like she’s upset the scholar she looked up to so much is refusing to listen to reason. This isn’t the first time you’ve been scolded by her is what you said right?”
Cyrus nodded. “Correct, she has scolded me on several such occasions before this.”
“Were all of them in response to you insisting you’d be fine staying up late or staying at your office for hours on end or because some students reported you sleeping in the library late at night instead of being at home?” Primrose felt like she knew the answer already but awaited a response.
Again Cyrus nodded. “Well, yes actually. It seems like I get scolded any time I admit or find myself not taking the best care of my well being.” Once the sentence had left his lips the lightbulb went off in his head. “Ah but of course! Professor Merluvia is upset anytime I am purposely neglecting my health!” Primrose grinned. “Can you blame her truly? I have never met someone so utterly dedicated to his career and pursuit of knowledge that they would begin to neglect their health. She’s right you know.” Cyrus laughed too. “I do suppose I get a bit carried away. I’ll be sure to do better.” He grabbed his cloak off the back of his desk chair. “But before that, if you would be so kind as to grab that book off my desk and follow me to the library.” Primrose tilted her head at his request and he gave her a smirk. “There are several materials we will need for your lessons.”
“Cyrus, uh, can I get some help here!” Primrose said exhaustively but it was no use. The scholar was in the middle of one heck of a lecture all the while wandering the library shelves. It was as if he was on auto-pilot for he simply kept talking, knew exactly where each book he needed was and grab it without skipping a beat before placing it on top of the growing stack in Primrose’s arms. It wasn’t until the duo had wandered the whole library that the dancer dropped her heavy stack on one of the tables with a resonating ‘thud’. This was the only thing that interrupted Cyrus and he whipped around to see Primrose breathing heavily, laying over her stack of books. Startled, he hurriedly walked over to her.
“Cyrus can you please for the love of Sealticge help me with these accursed texts?” She asked in between breaths. “I’m a dancer not a warrior.” Cyrus laughed and nodded. “I apologize, I simply got carried away with my lesson. Here let me take half.” Once he made the two stacks he picked his up. “It would make the most logical sense to take these back to your room at the inn now, unless you wish for me to hold on to them, in which case we can go to my house and we can begin your targeted lessons as well as have lunch. Whichever you prefer!”
Primrose picked up her new, much more tolerable stack and nodded. “My my, are you implying you’re going to cook for me Professor Albright? How sweet.” She teased as they walked towards the main entrance. “Although since you are my ‘core tutor’ and you would be the one held responsible if anything were to happen to these, perhaps it’s better if we do stop by your place. Then you can also come up with key topics from the texts as well as supplement with your lectures. Unless you already had a plan in mind.” Primrose was surprisingly looking forward to this.
Cyrus smiled as they stepped out in the city streets. “I see polite indecisiveness is both of our battles today, my home it is then! It isn’t too far from here actually, you probably passed by it wandering around yesterday.” The two carried on with their idle conversations as they walked through Atlasdam, some passersby awestruck by Cyrus’ natural beauty, some by Primrose’s, some by both, but the two were too enthralled in their bigger plans to care. The professor had been right- his home was only a brisk walk away, and thankfully for Primrose, the weather had been pleasant.
“Here we are! Excuse my mess, you can place the books down on my coffee table.” Cyrus said as he unlocked and entered the house in front of them. Primrose hadn’t paid much attention to the exterior other than it was a good size home with some flowering bushes planted by the cobblestone path leading up to his doorstep. She shut the door behind her, Cyrus disappearing to the back of house, once again tossing his robe over the back of his couch on his way. After she set the books down, Primrose took in all the details of where the scholar lived, the black loveseat, the matching chair. Walking a bit further into the home she noted the long hallway leading towards the back of the home, branching off in two different rooms. She figured he must have entered one of them. Turning around she noticed a small dining table with two chairs, dark brown finish. A tea set was set out for display and a single rose in a vase decorated the center. His kitchen cabinets matched the table’s finish and she took note of the deep blue tea kettle on his stove top. Looking back in his living area, she noticed an ornate rug covering his wooden floor boards. Looking back along the walls, she noticed several framed hanging pictures and went to get a closer look.
“ Family photos...So that's what his parents looked like. ...Oh this must be elementary Cyrus, that's too precious. They look so happy together.”
She found herself smiling and giggling at the different photos, seeing a part of Cyrus she hadn’t seen yet. She was so enthralled in the collages that she didn’t even hear Cyrus come down the hall and nearly jumped when he spoke, standing next to her. “Ah yes these are some of my favorite memories, enjoying yourself?”
“Ah! ..Oh you’re back. Y-yes! Forgive me, I was just-” Cyrus smiled and shook his head. “It’s quite alright Primrose, I invited you into my home, it's only natural for you to look around. Feel free to continue while I make us both something to eat.”
“Oh, I can help you if you’d like Cyrus.” Primrose offered to which he politely declined.
“Nonsense, you are my guest, therefore it is my treat. Please, make yourself at home.” He insisted as he walked off, unbuttoning his vest and placing it on top of his robe. Once in his work area, he tied on a waist apron he had hanging on a rack and pulled his hair back into a higher ponytail. Once satisfied with his preparations, he sought out to make them both something delightful. Primrose on the other hand decided to explore further into the house. She stopped in front of a door hesitant to peek in, but after she did and found it did not appear to be Cyrus’ private dwelling, she wandered inside. There was nothing too out of the ordinary, it seemed like just an empty office space with the exception of a black grand piano and a cello. Curious, she took a closer look. There was a music stand with sheet music in place. Neither instrument looked like it had been gathering dust either, meaning the professor either took very good care of them or played either on occasion. It had been a very long time since she herself had been exposed to sheet music but she was tempted to try and pluck out a few notes to pass the time.
“Lets see here…” Primrose took the music and arranged it on the piano. “Doesn’t look too bad, just gotta remember my placements.”
Cyrus was in the middle of making them both toasted sandwiches and boiling tea when a delicate melody filled the air. He put down his knife and smiled. It was not perfect but it delighted him to hear the notes plucked out in a manner much different than his. The piece itself was not yet complete as it was missing several instruments to go along with the piano, however it was always fun to hear his waltz being played. After all, it was no secret Cyrus could not sing a tune for the life of him, however he was adept at sight reading sheet music and coming up with different melodies for his own amusement. And this piece in particular had been worked on thoroughly over the course of several months. The scholar proceeded to cut each sandwich in half and plate them. And as if on cue, the tea kettle began to whistle, causing the melody echoing through the house to cease.
“Lunch is served.”
Chapter 11: Study Buddies
Cyrus and Primrose have a long informative study session, but not without some interruption from the professor's own interruptions and not before Primrose can continue snooping around and learning a it more of her scholar friend~
Hearing the tea kettle’s high-pitched whistle caught Primrose by surprise and she abruptly stopped playing his piano. “I suppose I should stop. What a fun waltz... It seems like there’s more parts to be added still but he’s done nice on it thus far.” She spoke to herself, knowing full well it was Cyrus’s handwriting. A part of her felt a little bad for playing something that may have been private, but she mostly felt this rush. It's not like she knew a whole lot about the scholar so to be in his home and get hints of what his lifestyle is truly like only fueled her drive to find out more. She carefully closed the lid of the piano and placed the music sheets back where she found them before surveying the room once more. Nothing truly of interest caught her attention aside from the instruments; a small desk and storage closet being the only other pieces of furniture in the room.
On to the next room.
Her other option was the closed door across the hall from the room she had just left. Primrose did a quick check to make sure Cyrus wasn’t around before swiftly entering the room, shutting the door quietly behind her. Now this definitely had to be Cyrus bedroom. A familiar scent of books and coffee filled the air as she examined his living space. Of course there was a shelf, though not as packed with reading materials like the ones from his office. There seemed to be more sentimental objects on this one and Primrose smiled recognizing a few key items, namely a gemstone he had purchased from a young trader that joined their party during their travels.
I wonder how she’s doing, she always had such a knack for the trade.
Upon closer inspection, she noticed the same journal he had at the office was now here, laying next to an oil lamp. Tempted, Primrose seized the opportunity to read it now.
Just what are you hiding, Albright…?
She made herself nice and cozy on his large bed, freshly made with black sheets and a dark blue comforter. The book had gold filigree detailing that reminded her of the cloak he wore and she figured it must have been given to him from the academy. At first, Primrose was just skimming through pages, most of it seemed like notes or lists of things to do, however she stopped on a page, a word jumping out at her. To be more precise, a name.
Curiosity at an all time high, she began reading intently what the professor had jotted down. At first it was just basic information about her. It soon turned into an entire recap of when Primrose teamed up with him and helped him defeat Russell before moving on to the next portion of her quest. Except Cyrus had not overlooked a single detail. Entire conversations, making note of things she liked, things she disliked, things he’d like to ask one day, things he’d like to learn more of. It was as if she was peering into his mind and seeing the world how he saw it. Primrose couldn’t help but smile at some of his notes, “Refrain from prying too much.”, “Today I learned more of The Sunlands, what a rewarding conversation!”, “Find a proper way to ask for dance lessons one day.”
Primrose paused after that last note on the current page and thought back to their conversation back in Stillsnow. It was right after having been unsuccessful in one of her seduction attempts via dancing. They had to board a carriage but the attendant was as stoic as stone and completely unfazed by any of her charms. She remembered being dismayed, but found it sweet that Cyrus had commended her on her dancing, not because of her body, but for the simple fact that she moved with such grace and elegance. She remembered how the words seemed to fall from his mouth with excitement and without restraint, the way he most likely couldn’t contain himself. He always had that sheer childlike wonder when it came to something that captured his interests.
“That's right...I had only given him some pointers then..So later when I invited both him and H’aanit to dance and they were just so... ...oh those poor things. Hmm…” Primrose was thinking out loud before investigating if there were any personal goals written in this journal of his. Flipping back through a flurry of previous pages she found what she was looking for.
“Aha! I knew it. He must really love dancing...poor thing just wants to enjoy it instead of watching. Perhaps that's why he always enjoyed watching mine, not necessarily because I was the one dancing, but because he wanted to be like me when it came to dancing.” Primrose was pretty certain she had hit right on the mark. Before long she caught herself diving further and further into the journal, recalling past memories and seeing just what made the professor tick. Hidden in these pages were even self reflections Cyrus pointed out and areas he wanted to work on of all sorts. She smiled and sighed. “I was right if I could just fuze him and Therion together, I’d have quite the gentlemen on my hands. One that would probably even be suitable to Ophilia’s ‘perfect man’ standards.” Primrose said softly. She tsk’d here and there at some of the scholar’s ‘flaws’, making it clear the man truly did underestimate his own looks and charisma, despite numerous efforts to explain otherwise made by herself, their cleric acquaintance, Ophilia, and his esteemed colleague and friend, Odette.
“It’s as if he needs an exact playbook for every single situation. Oh Cyrus…”
The turning of a doorknob startled her and she quickly hid the journal under a pillow before pretending she was occupying herself with things on his end table, just as the door swung open to reveal Cyrus who just stood in the doorway looking at her. He seemed surprised to see her sitting in his room. He hardly ever had guests, and though he shouldn’t be shocked to see her investigating his house thoroughly after he gave her express permission to do so it was still a bit… odd perhaps, to see a woman make herself comfortable in his bed. Gears were starting to turn in his head as he tried to make sense of this scenario. It was completely brand new, given Primrose had already been in his office for extended amounts of time and made herself quite comfortable there, but that was under completely different circumstances, correct? Why is it in this instance he is completely lost for words yet in the other he was so easily adaptive to the situation. Same woman in each scenario, same outfit, same body, same everything. Plenty of women frequented his office for completely normal things, yet Primrose had been the only exception other than Therese’s crazy deranged outburst. So why was he so stuck on this situation? Here she was, a guest, with express permission he had given her to roam and investigate. Perhaps he just hadn’t factored in that meant she could be anywhere at any given moment in his house.
“ Um, Cyrus? ...You’re staring, are you ok?” Primrose had finally asked, her worry of being caught fading the longer he stood there, without saying anything. Upon being interrupted,the professor shook his head and brushed back his bangs. “Ah forgive me, I just got caught in my thoughts.” Cyrus responded before clearing his throat. “I um, I guess I just didn’t expect to actually see you in here.” Primrose smiled feeling relieved.
Thank the heavens he’s in shock.
“You don’t get too many visitors do you?”
“Well no, not at home.” He laughed after a moment and leaned against the doorway. “It’s silly, I was rather surprised to actually see you here, sitting on my bed looking at my room. After I had just given you full permission to wander for yourself.”
Primrose giggled before standing up. “To be fair professor, it’s considered just a bit rude for a guest to enter personal chambers regardless of permission or not. I was afraid you might be thinking of ways to scold me for my intrusion.” She said, playing up her innocence while she walked towards him.. Cyrus raised an eyebrow. Something seemed… off. Perhaps he was just overthinking again. It’s not as if he had anything truly to hide, other than some personal notes and letters. But...He couldn’t help but feel Primrose was acting strange.
A tinge of panic fluttered back into Primrose’s stomach as Cyrus once again left her in silence. He was always so hard to read for her, whereas he could always tell when something was wrong with her. She thought of speaking up again but he had folded his arms across his chest, glancing down as he usually does when in thought.
“Forgive me, I originally came by to announce that lunch is served.” Cyrus said after a moment, bringing his gaze back to hers. He was met with a smile and a nod.
“Ah of course! Thank you again.” She responded, much more relaxed. He smiled in return and stepped to the side to allow her to pass. Cyrus lingered a moment longer, giving his room a glance over. Nothing seemed to be out of place, or show any sign that she had been digging through his belongings. “Most peculiar…” Cyrus couldn’t decide if he was bothered she had been there, or if it was something else. He wasn’t upset with her...he didn’t think at least. For whatever reason, the image of Primrose just being in his room would not leave his mind.
Hmm...I’ll have to look in to the matter later...
“So, what area of study will I be facing today?” Primrose asked nonchalantly, stirring her tea. Her initial worries of being pressed under further investigation by Cyrus had all but dissipated. The scholar smiled. “We’ll be laying the groundwork for your new chapter into the scholarly life.”
“Cyrus I’m not sure I’ll come out of this fully accepting scholarly life.” She replied quite honestly.
“I can understand that, however you will be working with us at least for the next quarter. Should you choose to leave after these upcoming twelve weeks, I won’t stop you.” His response surprised her.
“I would have thought for sure you would have urged me to reconsider.”
“Primrose I’m not keeping you tethered on a leash here. After all, it was you who showed up in Atlasdam out of the blue.” Cyrus answered once more, drinking some of his tea. She couldn’t help but notice he had a different underlying tone in his voice. It was almost as if he was focused on something else.
He’s been like this for the past thirty minutes…
Primrose tried thinking of a way to snap him out of... whatever it was that seemed to be preoccupying him. If she was being completely honest with herself it bothered her that for the rare moment in her life a man was completely oblivious to her presence. Cyrus would answer her, but ever they sat down for lunch he was completely unfazed by anything she did. On the other hand, she found herself mentally applauding him for being able to hold a conversation without getting distracted by her beauty. Given he had never been one to become fully distracted by her sheer looks.
“Cyrus, just what is it you’re preoccupied with now?” Primrose found herself asking bluntly.
“I can’t seem to get the image of you in my bed out of my head and I don’t know why.” He replied, completely unaware of how that sounded leaving his lips. ”It’s borderline fascination at this point but I just..can’t seem to find the root of why.”
Primrose wasn’t sure what she expected him to say but it certainly wasn’t that and she felt herself blushing at the statement. Even a woman who had seen and partaken in further explicit acts couldn’t fathom how bold a man must be to actually say something like that aloud.
“P-pardon?” It’s all she managed to stutter, causing Cyrus to look at her intently now.
“Hm? I thought I was pretty clear in my response. Do you feel alright, Primrose? Your face is very red.”
Oh gods Cyrus why are you like this….
Primrose quickly shook her head, trying to regain her composure. “I-I’m fine! I just..your answer… I… didn’t take you to be the type of man that would be so bold.” Even before the thought left her mouth she knew it was only going to cause further confusion amongst them and she cursed herself internally for it. As expected, he gave her a blank look. “I don’t understand what you mean. I simply answered your question. It indeed is what's on my mind and I just don’t understand why the image of your body-”
“There’s no need to repeat please!” Her face was heating up still and she held up her hands, signaling him to stop. Thoroughly puzzled, Cyrus tilted his head. “Are you sure you’re ok Primrose. You seem very flustered.”
Primrose shook her head and let out a frustrated sigh, her hands now cupping her cheeks while she avoided his gaze. “Cyrus I am quite alright. It's simply… You can’t say such things to a woman so bluntly, it catches people off guard and they’ll start to think...things.” She tried her best to explain calmly.
“What kind of things? I don’t think I quite follow your logic here.” Cyrus asked further, his voice full of genuine innocence.
“Oh gods… Um...Well to sum it up saying things like ‘I can’t seem to get the image of you in my bed out of my head and its borderline fascination at this point’ can lead a woman to believe you blatantly told her you have been fantasizing about engaging in...explicit acts with her in the confines of your room…” Her voice trailed off towards the end, feeling awkward with their conversation at this point.
“Oh...OH! Oh my gods Primrose! By Alephan, I-I swear I did not mean it in that way! I truly had no idea that's how that sounded to you, please forgive me! I’ve never thought of you like that in my life!” It was now Cyrus who turned the same deep red as Primrose’s top as he began to apologize profusely once the realization of her explanation set in. “W-wait, I mean, it's certainly not because you aren’t simply breathtaking or anything! I mean I- I’m not implying that i did think of you in that way because you are beautiful either! I-I just..I guess...It threw me off since I’ve never had any woman of any sort in my home before! Perhaps..? I’m really not sure...but the thought itself was of pure intent and not one of such...impure nature. This much I know for certain.” At this point Primrose was trying her best to follow along with what was now obviously Cyrus’ way of thinking out loud and on the spot, taking note of his body language.
Pure, unrehearsed thinking.
Cyrus felt like the smallest man alive and seriously hoped she knew he meant no offense of any kind to her at all. He had long averted his eyes from hers and covered his mouth with one hand.
“So...If it wasn’t in that sense then…What sense was it?’ Primrose finally asked after several minutes, propping her head up with one hand. Cyrus shrugged, still feeling too embarrassed to look at her again.
“...I know it wasn’t of a perverted fantasy, but...I can’t seem to get to the root of the ‘why’. My only reasonable solutions I’ve come across have led me to believe I may have just enjoyed the fact that someone else would have been sharing my space and that now I’d like to spend time with them- in this case you- in my room studying or just in idle conversation. But that...still sounds a little too odd, because that still leaves the why part unresolved and to answer that part has led me in a vicious cycle of self doubt and questioning my actual feelings and motives.” Cyrus explained with a sense of hopelessness. At this, Primrose was fully certain he meant no hidden intent with his thoughts and was now happy to help him decipher these feelings. It honestly felt good to help out someone who always seemed to know the solution to everything under the sun. She figured it’d be best to try and level with him on his elevated way of thinking.
“Well Cyrus...You don’t have to feel bad about it. It just sounds like you actually might enjoy having company over. Albeit not every guest is welcome in one’s own sleeping chambers, but we’ve already established you’re letting me be an exception to the rule based on our friendship...would you agree?” She waited for his response and only continued when he nodded his head.
“I do, I suppose I would allow any of my close friends to be here with me should the situation arise.”
“Ok well, knowing this fact and knowing you enjoy the company, maybe your subconscious is trying to tell you that you’d like for us to study in your room versus out in the living area?”
Cyrus pondered over Primrose’s possibility for a bit but still shook his head, his eyebrows furrowing together.
“I still don’t quite think that is it. In any case, there is studying we must be doing for you now. I’ll simply investigate my own personal matters later.” She shrugged. “Perhaps it is for the best. I’ll grab my books then.”
The two ended up in the scholar’s room as the day progressed, an array of books spread out over the covers. He had given her a quill and parchment paper to write out notes for his lectures and lessons and she was using the end table as her desk to write on. Cyrus started from the top like he had with Collin and Alexis several years ago- giving pointers for introductory level scholar skills and topics for the trials. Primrose was very attentive as a student, she had paused him on several occasions throughout to clarify or to help her come to a solution where it involved elements and staff proficiency.
“Alephan’s trials are unique in the sense that each challenger experiences something different. Something of the scholarking’s own proficiency in magic allowed for the adaptation to each person, however one thing remains the same. Your very resolve will be tested and one singular truth reigns from all participant's experiences- at some point you will come face to face with your own greatest fears from within in the manifestation of a doppelganger. Alephan has been known to drive someone to their breaking point, however I feel you should not be subdued by this final task.” Cyrus continued on his whole overview of the process and broke each part in detail for her and expanded on areas that confused her.
“Contrary to belief, it is not a process in which one can simply rely on magic or physical strength to overcome. Same goes for knowledge. You will be tested of course on everything you learn and certain skills will be vital for your victory, however they will not be a safenet that can assure you will pass your judgement.”
“Then how can I prepare for these and where will they take place?” Primrose questioned with a pout, feeling slightly discouraged. It was a mastery course for those already geared towards a career as a scholar, she was already behind most participants. Cyrus chuckled. “Primrose you will be well prepared. All the questions and your thirst for learning what you can about these tests speak louder than your timidness and nerves on undertaking this task. As for your latter question, each trial is given in a different location. Most take place in or around Atlasdam and its surrounding fields. The final task takes place in the Shrine of The Sage and one task you will take on during your first day will be located between Noblecourt and Wispermill, the Western Wispermill Flats to be more precise.” He concluded with a smile. “If need be you will be able to postpone tasks to accommodate for travel and rest times, depending on your progression.”
Primrose’s hand stopped writing and she gave him a questioning look. “Why go near Wispermill? I thought the place was still…eerily off.” From what she had heard, Wispermill was a place for dissenters of the Sacred Flame. People against the order of the twelve, who believed their gods had forsaken them and had turned to believing in a false prophet.
“Oh no no, the town is doing much better since Ophilia solved the riddle and freed the townspeople from their curse. Thank goodness she arrived when she did.” Cyrus summed up what he had experienced while on his travels and Primrose nodded when he was done.
“Well then, glad to hear everyone is safe for the most part. We should probably refocus on the rest of my lesson though.”
Cyrus only smiled once more. “It is quite alright, Primrose. You asked valid questions. Unfortunately I cannot disclose as to why you will be heading to that area, only that you will be travelling with Alexis who will also be proctoring her task for you. And before you try to think ahead, Alexis cannot disclose why either. After this trial however, you will be free to ask all that you may wish to know on the subject.”
“You say that as if you know I will be highly curious Professor. It's almost like you want to tell me whatever it is you are sworn to secrecy on.” She said playfully, writing down some more notes from the book in front of her.
“Indeed I do, however I simply cannot and will not budge on this front. It is best you experience this for yourself in all of its entirety. Now back to our subject matter…”
Primrose didn’t remember when she fell asleep. Last she remembered was writing down various things Cyrus had talked about it for her own review later and making note that she was to meet with Collin and Alexis tomorrow. The main thing she did remember was Cyrus talking for hours and hours whether she was actively responding or not. Boy could the man speak for hours on a tangent, let alone main subject matters. She rubbed her eyes and slowly sat up in bed. Everything was dark, far darker than she’d like. She sat there for a few moments and then it hit her just where she was. Still in Cyrus’ bed.
Oh gods no.
It was late. It was far too late. She wasn’t supposed to be here. She had planned on going back to her room at a reasonable time. She didn’t think they’d be talking for so long. She didn’t think she’d end up falling asleep here at all. It was never planned to be that way. She’s not that type of person. As these thoughts swirled Primrose’s head she quickly jumped out of the scholar’s bed and carefully felt her way around in the darkness.
Uh hang on what was that spell he taught me. Gosh i can’t see a damned thing like this. Um think Primrose think…
Primrose closed her eyes and took a deep breath while she pictured her notes from the day. “Lucidus!” She whispered, raising her hand to the ceiling. In an instant, an orb of dim light appeared in her palm and she sighed in relief being able to see and at executing the spell. “Much better...Now then, just what happened here…” She whispered to herself, investigating the room. She didn’t have to look too far, for she was relieved upon looking back down at the bed. No one else was with her. In fact, only one side look disheveled and it was the one she had just arisen from. “Oh Cyrus...You should have just sent me back to the inn instead of forfeiting your bed for someone like me.” Primrose had gathered her notes together but stopped and took out a blank page. She looked around for her quill from earlier and began to jot down a note. Once satisfied with the contents, she exited his room and shut the door. Primrose made sure to step lightly across the floor boards as she made her way down the hall, figuring the only other place Cyrus could be would be on his sofa. Sure enough, there he lay, snoring lightly in his sleep. He had used his robe as a blanket and had curled into it. Primrose smiled sadly.
He looks so peaceful...Damn it why did I have to be so insensitive..
A part of her wanted to wake him up and tell him to go to his room, but she resisted. She did however place the note gently in the hand that was hanging off the edge of the sofa before leaving without a trace.
When Cyrus awoke the next morning, all he had to do was look at the placed note and he knew. He only hoped her midnight stroll ended safely.
“Oh Primrose, whither must you wander?” He said softly, reading over her note.
Don’t let me steal your bed from you again. That's not something friends do to each other. My apologies. But also...thanks for being a complete and utter gentleman. Meet you at the Academy with professors Stonewall and Merluvia later ok?
Chapter 12: Chapter 10 scene sketches and other art!
Scenes from Chapter 10! Professor Merluvia Scolding Cyrus and Cyrus lecturing Primrose!
have my latest octopath piece, dancerpath boys~ Happy 1st anniversary Octopath Traveler
Chapter 13: I have not forgotten (placeholder #2)
Due to the nature of my fic and it being heavily centered around growth and development for both Primrose and Cyrus and not wanting to just throw all of that out in favor of "oh look a lovey dovey story and everyone lived happily ever after", I have put this piece on hold.
Originally this was written as a sort of, healthy way for me to cope with my husband's all too soon death in January this year. IT's been very hard and so a lot of the emotions and troubles that Primrose and Cyrus go through or are in the middle of dealing with reflect a lot of the emotions, mood swings, images, and such that I myself have been dealing with.
I will return to this because it is not done in the slightest. I love this piece with all my heart and I refuse to force any development in favor of delivering a subpar chapter just to get something out for you all to read.
Thank you all so much for the love and support on this piece, and I hope to be able to remove my placeholder chapters soon!