Chapter 16

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LILY won every one of her duels against Vena that day.

"I got lucky," she shrugged, wiping the sweat off her forehead.

"No," Vena said, shaking her head slowly, "You're improving. It's almost scary."

Lily let out a small, quiet laugh, "Maybe."

They spun when they heard shouts coming from behind them.

"Yes!" Venix said, running towards them, Brennon at his heels.

"What happened?" Iressa asked, stopping her duel with Ada.

"We're going to Zenda's," Venix said, grinning slyly.

The girls gasped in unison. "Really?" Vena squealed. Venix nodded, his eyes shining with achievement.

"He said they'll move us on to daggers and more challenging swordplay tomorrow," Brennon said. He knew about the Zenda's plan as well, having been filled in on it later.

"Let's go tonight!" Vena said, cheeks flushed.

"No," Venix shook his head, making the rest of them gape at him.

"Why?" Vena asked.

"If we go tonight, there's a high probability we'll be tired tomorrow. That'll make Ulima think we're irresponsible, and who knows what'll happen then."

"He's right," Lily said, nodding at the rest of them. Vena shrugged, looking slightly less excited but still hopeful.

"Okay, when should we go?" Iressa said.

"I think they'll give us a holiday, two days from now. I heard the Colonel talking about it, Brennon said, shrugging.

"For the Freedom Fest." Ada breathed, eyes widening.

"What's that?" Lily asked, looking at the others.

"Well, it's the birthday of King Pileus, and the day after is a holiday as well, because he died then." Ada started.

"Wait, Arrian doesn't have a king." Lily said, shaking her head.

"Arrian doesn't have a king now," Ada said, pressing her lips together. "We used to, long ago. King Pileus was the first king who thought to start the system we have now- the Council of Four."

"The Council of Four." Lily repeated slowly.

"Each city elects a Councilor, and they go to reside in Canopan, our capital. They're in charge of Arrian." Iressa explained. Lily nodded, pursing her lips. The system seemed to work well for them.

"So, each year we celebrate King Pileus' birthday as the day we got our freedom." Ada finished.

"Freedom?" Lily asked, furrowing her eyebrows. "Surely having a king can't be that bad."

"Before King Pileus, they say the king was a tyrant. It was one of the reasons we switched. Now, Arrian's people get to choose who they want." Ada said, letting out a breath.

Lily nodded, biting her lower lip.

"Ada loves learning about the history of the kingdoms," Venix said with a laugh, and Lily grinned as Ada smacked him on the arm. "It was a compliment!" He said, putting his hands up and stepping back.

"So, we'll go to Zenda's then," Brennon said, effectively ending the conversation, and they all began talking over one another, making plans and laughing.

***

Lily ate dinner alone again, playing with the greens in the bowl in front of her. Arianna and Arlo's relationship was progressing well, and while she was happy for her adopted sister, it also meant she saw less and less of Arianna every day.

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