The Council Hall was silent, save for the incessant footstops of a single Elder. Apart from Drinul, the other nine Elders had each retired to their personal rooms to rest while waiting for the arrival of the human. Only Drinul was too jittery to rest, which resulted in his aimless pacing. I endured the sound for a while, but eventually it became too much to listen to.

“Drinul, would you please sit down.”

Flustered, Drinul abruptly stopped his pacing and bowed to me in apology.

“I’m sorry if I disturbed you, it’s just that I can’t seem to settle down.”

“Yes, your pacing has made that single point, if nothing else, abundantly clear.”

“I humbly apologise, Lady Aethry.”

With that, he began to fidget on the spot, seemingly afraid of incurring my anger again, yet still unable to calm himself. I sighed and endeavoured to change the subject.

“I believe I told you not to address me with that tone of deference. Not just you, but all the other Elders as well, actually. This is a Council of Equals – you are not my subordinates, and yet all of you keep treating me like some sort of ruler.”

“Lady Aethry, you are the weapon and partner of our esteemed founder – is it not right that you should be treated with such respect? Did our predecessors not implore Lord Kyrin to be our monarch?”

“Yes. They did. And he refused. I’ve told you this easily a hundred times.”

Kyrin was indeed offered the position of leader when he founded this city of Kirtvel, but he had steadfastly refused the position. He had envisioned a city led by the wisdom of the Elders, each responsible for their own sector of the city, working in tandem to move the city forward. None of them sat above the others. None of them subjects. A city without a king.

But despite his ideals, the Council still continued to treat him, and by extension, me, as some sort of great leader. He took a seat on the Council out of obligation, but those Elders rarely ever did anything without first seeking his approval. When he held his tongue and refused to speak, they simply postponed their debates until he gave a decision. When he passed on, they turned to me instead. I spent most of my waking hours advising the Council, which is why I tried to spend as much time as I could in a dormant state.

The thought of the failure of Kyrin’s ideals threatened to give me a headache, so I decided to turn my musings to the topic at hand instead.

“Incidentally, who’s leading the patrol who found the human?”

“That would be Lord Dyros.”

“Oh, Dyros, huh…”

Dyros Faircleave. A catkin and the great-grandson of Kyrin’s sister, Ennea. He was popular among the people, and by all accounts, he should have held a seat on the Council of Elders because of both his lineage and his popularity. However, the man himself had refused the job, claiming he could do more good as a military commander. I played with him a lot when he was younger, whenever I made one of my routine leisurely visits to the school. He reminded me a lot of Kyrin, and it warmed my heart to watch him grow up over the years.

But the thought of him also brought about a twinge of sadness. He had a sister – Serena Faircleave. She was a spirited one, full of energy and life. She never did what she was told, always doing whatever she felt like. But even so, she was a sweet girl who always stood up for what she thought was right.

Unfortunately, one day when she was nine, she suddenly ventured out into the forest. It was in the middle of the night; I only realised she had left when she passed through the barrier. We sent out groups to bring her back, but the cunning child evaded all our attempts at capture. I don’t know how or where she hid after that, but we never saw her again.

Dyros was devastated. He began to work harder, convinced that he had to match up to his sister’s talents, now that she was gone. He followed her footsteps and studied what she had loved to study – combat, survival skills, and magic. He did so while continuing to further his studies into policy and governance. He emerged from the ordeal a much stronger, much more reliable man, but to me, it felt like he had been forced to grow up, forced to mature prematurely. That thought, more than anything, caused me to feel pity for him. Children should be allowed to remain as children. They had their whole lives to grow up, but only a short fifteen years to be children. Denying them the full extent of those years felt like an act of cruelty.

I shook the nostalgia from my mind and brought myself back to the present.

“Well, if Dyros is leading the squad, there shouldn’t be any problems with the arrest. I presume that he took the 2nd Vanguard with him?”

“That is correct, Lady Aethry.”

The 2nd Vanguard was an elite unit under the command of Dyros. They were a well-balanced squad of men and women with a good balance of magical and physical prowess. Dyros himself was a prodigy in both and was the second strongest fighter in the entire City. With that squad, even an individual of Kyrin’s caliber would have some trouble if they chose to resist.

Incidentally, in terms of martial ability, Dyros was 2nd, while I was 1st. He had challenged me on numerous occasions, but he had never been able to beat me. Well, that was to be expected. He was, from my standpoint, a child with only thirty-odd years of combat experience. Meanwhile, I was a living weapon with over five hundred years of fighting under my belt. If I could be so easily surpassed by a child, it would be an insult to all my fellow Intelligent Weapons. As I thought about such things, I acccidentally allowed my thoughts to leak out through my lips, giving Drinul a rare chance to hear my inner monologue.

“Well, he’s still pretty green, but skill-wise, he should be more than a match for any opponent right now. Given a few more years, he’s going to surpass Kyrin. Well, even though I say that, he’s going to need a couple more centuries of experience before trying to beat me. I’m not going to lose to anyone in a fight, except maybe…!”

“Lady Aethry! Are you alright?!”

I gritted my teeth and doubled over as I withstood the headache that suddenly assailed me. Drinul rushed to my side, concern etched across his elven features. I shook my head and held out a hand to stop him.

“I’ll be fine. This… will pass…!”

As I said that, the pain slowly ebbed away into nothingness. I stood up and breathed a sigh of relief. Drinul watched me worriedly.

“It has been happening far more often recently, has it not?”

“…Do not concern yourself about me. I have borne these pains for centuries. I have grown used to it.”

Although I gave him some words of reassurance, I didn’t deny his assertion. The headaches had indeed been happening more often in the last eight years. I’ve always lived with these headaches, ever since I had evolved enough to gain sentience. There was no discernible cause or remedy, which was extremely infuriating. I couldn’t even pinpoint the source of the pain, given that technically, my head was a pointed piece of metal. A headache should have been impossible – I lacked the hardware to enable it. And yet I suffered from them regularly. Back when we were still all connected, I had asked the other Intelligent Weapons about it, but it seems that I was the only one experiencing this anomaly. And whatever it was, it wasn’t a glitch in my system, because none of my self-diagnostics had turned up anything. In fact, none of the diagnostic tests I asked other Weapons to conduct on me turned up any findings, either.

In short, the result of my efforts was that I had no idea what caused the headaches, I had no clue on how to fix them, and they sucked, but I had learned to live with them.

Just as the last vestiges of the pain disappeared, Dyros burst into the Council Hall. On seeing us, he immediately stood at attention and saluted. His face looked pale and anxious – an expression I had rarely seen him wear in recent years.

“Lord Drinul, Lady Aethry.”

Drinul seemed about to return the salute and greeting, but I interrupted before he could say anything.

“Dyros. What happened? Report.”

Dyros nodded and began to speak at a fast clip.

“We have peacefully apprehended the intruder. However, she has made a request to be brought before the Council of Elders.”

“Is there a reason you didn’t deny the request immediately?”

“She- She says she has information for us.”

“What kind of information?”

Dyros looked me in the eye, clearly disconcerted.

“Information about- about Serena, Lady Aethry. About my sister.”