Chapter XXIV: Girflet

“Are you serious?!” Lucy whined as she held herself in a handstand quite similar to that of Sebastian’s headstand from the day earlier.  Only hers was quite a bit more shaky.

“I am entirely serious,” Vaan grinned through his scarf. “I carried your unconscious body down a string of corridors.  This after you deliberately broke the rules.”

“Well, I’d say I did it for the right reasons,” Lucy replied.

Smack.  A sting flashed against to back of her legs.

Lucy yelped in pain as her balance shifted off kilter.

“Best to stretch the legs a bit higher,” Vaan told her as he eased her ankle back into its proper place.

Lucy took a deep breath and centered herself once more, still shaky as ever.

“Good, now for the interesting part,” Vaan laid a gloved palm to the ground and a circle burned into the ground.  An all too familiar pattern of wired lines grew to life in the center of it.

“Please tell me that’s not-”

“His name is Girflet.  I believe you’ve met before,” Vaan replied as the wired began to bend and snap.  “Keep straight.  I’d hate to see you burned.”

I’ll watch you and your kingdom. . .burn.

Lucy instantly straightened as she buried the memory deep into the back of her mind.

From the ground came the beautiful and familiar sunset dragon.  Its yellow eyes locked onto Lucy as it pulled itself free from the rest its molten bindings.

“Ah,” it grinned, turning its neck to eye his summoner. “Is this the girl?”

“She can hear you, Girflet,” Vaan told him, lazily throwing a hand towards Lucy.

Even upside down, Lucy couldn’t hold back her awe and trembling.  A dragon. No less frightening as it had been on their first meeting.  Its wings shimmered against the just-peaking morning light cascading from the area windows.  Truthfully, the girl didn’t know if she should cry in amazement or fright.

Girflet cranked his neck back and around to stare at Lucy. “Good morn, my Lady,” he turned right-side up.  “Is there a reason she is as she is?”

“Punishment, in short, Vaan explained.

“Do-do I need to worry?” Lucy asked as more blood rushed from her toes.

Vaan told her as he strolled to the door.  “Girflet is going to be teaching you your morning lessons.  Fall over and you will suffer multiple 2nd degree burns.” He turned back just before leaving. “Next time, follow the rules we set for you. Oh, and remember: Don’t sway too much.”

And with that the doors closed.

“I can’t feel my legs,” Lucy told Girflet honestly, though she immediately regretted the stupidly obvious statement.

“Perhaps that is a good thing,” the dragon replied, drawing himself closer to her.  Lucy had forgotten just how big these creatures truly were.  “Don’t move, my Lady.”

Before she could do anything, the dragon wrapped itself around her and pressed its forehead into hers.  Lucy gasped as a heat passed between them.  It was as if she were sharing a fire in the dead of winter.  Two surviving souls in a world of silence.  And as soon as it had happened, it was gone.  Girflet pulled away and eyed the girl carefully.

“Quite a trial you’ve been through,” he remarked as the girl almost lost her balance once more.  A warm heat from the dragon’s scales kindly reminded her of the consequences of such.

“What was that?” she asked, still baffled over what she had felt seconds prior.

“So you did a bit of shopping, was it?” Girflet said. “Rather daring to break the rules for some scarves, a pocket-watch and a visit to an old friend.”

“How do you know that? Vaan doesn’t even know about the pocket watch.  It was still in my coat when he carried me up the stairs.”

“I am Girflet, my Lady.  The knight of witnessing.  Or the Witness Knight. Whichever you prefer.”

“Can I just call you Girflet?”

“I’d prefer that,” he chuckled as the girl struggled to keep herself from growing dizzy.

“Come now,” he roared in greater laughter. “How long did your brother hold himself in that headstand for? Surely, you can do better with your hands.”

“He’s had more time at this than I have,” she said.

“Excuses, my Lady. Excuses.”

“Can you. . .can you see all of my memories?”  Lucy turned pale.

“Every one of them,” Girflet replied. “But not to worry, all your secret are safe with me.”

Lucy sighed deeply, feeling her arms relax a bit. “Please, just don’t tell Vaan.”

“Like I said,” Girflet blew a few smoke ring at her toes. “Safe.  Come now.  Surely, you must know that I’ve seen hundreds, if not, thousands of Top Hat memories.  I’ve seen Vaan’s a million times over.”

“Vaan’s?”  Lucy asked curiously.

“Fair is fair,” he explained.

Lucy sighed. “Can I at least hop out of this handstand? I’m going to pass out soon.”

“Isn’t that the point?” he tilted his head. “It’s your punishment.  And it doesn’t hurt your training.”

“It’s torture!”

“That’s life, my Lady,” he pointed out, his tail snipping the back of her knees to straighten her back out.

“Listen.  I’ll take your burns.  I’ll take the hurt,” she said as her arms began to wobble.

“No,” Girflet grew more serious. “If you don’t keep trying, how do you think you’ll go anywhere? Punishment may be painful, it may be torture, but it teaches you to hold your own.  How do you think you’ll match up to a demon?”

“But I can’t,” Lucy cried as more pain came bearing down on her.

Girflet bend down to look her dead in the eyes. “And what will you do when the demons come for you?”

Lucy couldn’t answer.  She didn’t know what to say.

“When they hit you, when they stab you, when they reach inside your very body and try to rip out the thing most precious to you.   What then, dear Lucy?”

Lucy almost toppled over but a new found sense of determination kept her legs in the air.

“If you learn anything from this, learn to take the pain,” Girflet explained. “And learn that if you break the rules, consequences will follow.  Rules are there to protect you, my Lady.”

Lucy looked back, her head nodding in understanding. “I know you are right.  I. . .I am I think I might just even know what I need to do.” She closed her eyes slowly against the formulated idea and began to sink into her breathes more deeply.

“There you are,” the dragon said, pleased.  “That is how the true Lady should act.”

“Girflet?” Lucy asked cautiously after their long moments of silence.

“Hmm?” replied the dragon from beside her.

“Will he forgive me?”

The dragon only laughed deeply.

“I’m being serious!” Lucy said as a sort of chill filled the room.  The heated pulse was gone along with the warm breathes.

“Girflet?” she asked, opening her eyes.

Standing before her was none other than Vaan himself, his arms crossed and a smirk pressing against his dark scarf.  Lucy was utterly speechless.  All she could manage to do was open and close her mouth as more colour rushed to her cheeks.

“I’ll forgive you,” he chuckled as she wobbled and tumbled to the floor.

The world around Lucy wavered a bit as her arms yelled at her and her legs prickled with the return of feeling.

Vaan walked over and bent at the waist to look down at her.  “Are we to spend the rest of our day on the floor?”

Lucy continued to struggle with words until Vaan helped her back to her feet.

“Careful now,” he warned. “It’s going to feel a bit like walking on daggers for a while.”

“How long have you been there?” she finally managed to sputter before wincing at the discomfort in her limbs.

“Long enough.  Here, lean on me for a bit,” he assisted her, looping his arm around hers.

“Where are we going?”

“We are going to have lunch, and then we have an appointment with Kivan,” he told her as a matter of fact.

“Kivan? Why Kivan?” she asked curiously as they walked together from the hall.

“He just happens to be the Weapons’ Master,” Van said in amusement.

“You mean-!”

“We are going to see just which weapon is right for you, Miss. O’Rourke,” Vaan grinned from under his scarf of grey as they went off to lunch, limps and all.

©2017 E. M. Vick

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