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After setting a time to meet up with the governess, I left the class behind. I had absolutely no desire to stick around and learn with any of the children. That kind of crap was definitely beneath me. Instead, I returned to the governor’s mansion, which had served as my family’s home for the last three generations. As I approached, I walked off the main path, noticing a small, purple flower in the courtyard.

I picked it and then walked the rest of the way into the mansion. As soon as I entered, I was greeted by a young and pretty maid.

“Master, it’s good to see you at home. Your father has been wondering where you’ve been.”

“Haha… I was out adventuring again.” I said, reaching around and squeezing her butt casually.

“Oo… Master… not in the grand foyer. You promised.” She blushed, lowering her head.

“Hehe… I’ll be taking a bath tonight. Would you like to join me?” I gently bit her ear.

“M-master… so naughty.” She giggled playfully without resisting.

This maid was one of my favorites. She was almost in her twenties. In truth, I liked them a bit younger, but I took her virginity, and I gave her mine, so I had the most experience with her sexually. I still played with her regularly.

“Ahem…Father says you should stop harassing the staff!” A youthful voice broke in just before I tried to slide my hand up the maid’s dress.

I glanced over the maid’s shoulder to see a young girl, only about ten, walking down the stairway. She had her hands on her hips, and her cheeks puffed out angrily.     

“Sister,” I smiled coyly, letting the maid go as if I had never even been interested in her in the first place.

The maid desperately straightened her clothing and retreated, a blush on her face. I ignored her and approached my baby sister, who crossed her arms as I approached and put her nose up snobbishly. She had a small nose and soft, baby cheeks. Her hair was a light auburn that almost made her hair look red. Her eyes were a piercing blue, large and easy to be lost in. Her body was just only starting to bud, but it still had a few more years to grow before she became a young lady.

There were only two beautiful women on this island that were absolutely off-limits to me. The first was my adorable little sister, and the second was my mother. Both were immaculate beauties who even made my cousin seem a bit plain in comparison. At the moment, the governess was the only other woman who could compare to them as far as beauty went. Perhaps, that was one of the reasons I was so eager for tonight.

I brought out the small flower I had snatched from the garden and gave her my most charming smile. “A flower, for a flower.”

She looked down at the flower, but a moment later couldn’t help but lean over and sniff it. My sister loved flowers, and she couldn’t go past one without smelling it.

“Mmmmm. What is this one?”

“It’s called a Lily.”

“You lie!”

“I don’t, I swear!” I crossed my fingers in front of my chest. “This is the flower you’re named after.”

That was a lie. Lily’s were a mythical flower that didn’t exist in this world. The only reason I even knew about the flower was because it was the subject of an old nursery rhyme. This was actually called an Orchee, but it was the same color as a Lily, so I went with it. My sister didn’t have to know the truth.

She took the flower from me carefully, sniffed it again, and then blushed. “Thank you, brother.”

I reached out and stroked her soft cheek, “Anything, for my sister.”

She grew even more demure, and I fought the urge to hug her. Of course, I would never touch her inappropriately. It went against my moral compass. I love my little sister, and I would never do anything to hurt her. For the rest of the women on this island, this didn’t hold true, on both accounts.

“Miles! You’re home. Your father is waiting for you.”

On the balcony overlooking the foyer was my mother, who was watching the pair of us with a gentle smile on her face. Mother was the developed woman my cute little sister would one day become. She had the same light auburn hair. Her skin was pale, her chest was large, and she was definitely a beauty envied by all the men on the island.

I gave Mother a nod and let my sister go. She ran off while giggling, likely to go play on the porch outside. I headed the rest of the way up the stairs, joining my mother on the balcony. When I reached her, I kissed her cheek and gave her a gentle hug. She was always warm and soft, and I felt at peace in her arms. This isn’t to say that I was a mother’s boy! I was ready to leave the island and to carve my path. However, Mother had always been a comfort in my life. Like my sister, she meant more to me than anything.

I didn’t dawdle, though. I quickly broke from her arms and headed to my father’s office, where I knew he would be. I gave a polite knock, waiting for father to call ‘come in’ before I softly opened the door and entered. I showed every level of respect for my parents. One could say that I was the perfect son.

The Governer’s Office, which is just a large room in our manor where he receives guests and sends orders, was a large room with books lining the walls and a large desk at the end. Father sat behind the desk in a large, comfy-looking chair. He had a large powdered wig on his head and a thick black moustache which were at odds with each other. He was writing something, and I waited for him to finish.

When he was done, he glanced up at me and an easy smile formed on his face. Father, could be strict and business-focused, but he was also a loving father as well. He used to be a playboy himself when he was younger, and so he never had a problem with my philandering ways. I never took things too far. Well, there was the time I slept with the butcher’s wife. I also once pissed into the water reservoir. Then there was the time I slipped a slime into Madame Demure’s dress. It was a small one. It barely ate a single tit, although her chest was lopsided ever since they healed it.

I cleared my throat. It probably wasn’t best to think of all my mistakes and mischief. Given my father’s current mood, I wasn’t here because I had done something wrong.

“My son, how goes your education.”

Father was under the impression I was already learning under the Governess. I found out on my first day that she wouldn’t spend any time preparing me for the Citadel. She actually said that if I wanted to learn anything, I should sit in on the class with those… those… children! Of course, I wouldn’t do that, so I managed to convince dad that she was giving me personal lessons on the side. It gave him a better impression of her, and me, so I didn’t feel bad for lying.

“Well.” I smiled. “The Governess plans to give me a personal lesson tonight, even.”

The only lesson she’d be teaching me tonight would take place on her back.

“Splendid!” he smiled happily. “The citadel is a tough place, my son. Every other person sent to the citadel is unable to cut it through their rigorous education. If you fail and are sent back, I’d have to send someone else, and they would become mayor. Why you may not know this, but my brother…”

“Your brother was meant to be mayor, but he failed out at the citadel, and you rose up in his place. He ended up leaving to the western island to hide his shame.”

He smiled sadly as if he was replaying it in his head. “You are my only son. Bato is eagerly waiting for your failure so he might send his boy to the citadel.”

“That oaf?” I snorted, “If I couldn’t make it, there is no way in hell that idiot could make it!”

“Yes… well… it isn’t just aptitude and hard work that is required to receive the citadel’s approval. There are many hard truths you must learn. There are things about this world that only those who have the citadel’s backing are allowed to know.

“I am forbidden from telling you now, but in time, we will be able to discuss these things. Unfortunately, in my case, my father had passed away before I returned from the citadel. I have never had another person to unload this burden with. The governess… she is unwilling to discuss these things with me. I look forward to a day when we can truly talk about this world. It makes… a man feels small.”

“Small? This world is just the four islands and the citadel. What else is there beyond the impassible oceans? They’re impassible!”

He chuckled softly and smiled, “You’ll find out one day. That is all I can say on the matter.”

Father was always coy about things like that. Suddenly, I remembered something the governess said.

“The Heaven’s Sky Archipelago…” I brought the words out from my memory.

Father’s eyes lifted. “She really has been teaching you much. This puts me at ease. At least you know the name of this place you call the world.”

The world… the four islands and the citadel; it was called the Heaven’s Sky Archipelago. I always listened and put things together. I always saw myself as pretty bright, actually. That’s why I knew the governess’s lessons would have been long, tedious, and uninformative. The brightest woman on this island had already tutored me in all the relevant knowledge for the last twelve years, and I had been helping dad do his duties as governor for the last year.

It sounded like most of what this citadel was going to show me had nothing to do with governing at all. Rather, they were holding some knowledge away from the rest of us, and only after we’d been personally vetted by them did they offer to give us their knowledge. They still held the best for themselves. That’s why the citadel was a stronger force than all four islands together. No one could afford to offend the citadel, and that included appointing a governor that they hadn’t approved of.

Yet, that didn’t leave me in fear of the citadel. I respected it, as did everyone who lived on the island. It was the origin of our very existences and the source of all knowledge. I looked forward to the day where I could have these kinds of conversations with my father, even though I didn’t understand what those conversations would entail.

“You will be setting sail in two days,” Father explained. “Right after your birthday celebration.”

“So soon?” This was actually the first time I heard when I’d be leaving.

He nodded. “Depending on your progress, your education should take about 4 years. By the time I see you again, you’ll be a grown man.”

“Mother will certainly be surprised.”

He chuckled and rolled his eyes. “Don’t mention your mother. She has cried in bed every night for the last month over losing her little baby.”

“Haha… perhaps you should give me a little brother or sister to keep her mind busy.”

“You…” His grin turned mischievous. “Your mother’s health has declined recently, and I worry she wouldn’t be able to pass a third child. Besides, not all of us can play around all day like you. I’m only glad you aren’t leaving any bastard grandchildren behind, although my Kristina may be delighted to have grandchildren to play with.”

“Please, father, I’m careful. I pull out, and can count their moon cycle.”

“Hehe… just like your old man taught you, eh? I miss the days I used to sow my wild oats. Why, I used to play with the Droma sisters…”

“Dad!”

“I’m loyal to your mother!” He held up his hands and laughed. “However, please, remember, you too should be looking for a woman to marry soon. You only have a while longer to sow your wild oats, and then you must become responsible.”

“Of course!” I nodded, although these are all things father had told me before.

He was repeating himself now, likely because he didn’t want the conversation to end. Partially, it was because he wanted to take a break from the countless papers in front of him. However, mostly it was because he was going to miss me as well, yet he wasn’t the kind of man to shed tears or just say as such. I still felt the sentiment in his heart, and it gave me a happy, warm feeling. I, too, wouldn’t shed tears when I left. That was a thing for women. I would make my father proud of me.

“I’m not supposed to tell you this, especially since it isn’t set in stone,” He leaned forward, causing my interest to pique. “However, I think it might be a good motivation for you to work a little harder. Upon your graduation, I’ve been working on acquiring a present for you.”

Given his previous question, I started to make a worried expression. Did he have a bride planned for me already? It wasn’t like it was abnormal for me to be set up with a woman, but I felt it was a bit soon. It would definitely damper my pursuit of women in the Citadel if I knew there was a girl out there waiting on me and keeping her virginity for me to take.

Noticing my expression, he seemed to guess what I was thinking and shook his head. We had similar minds, my father and I. Although, I had my mother’s looks, or so people said. My parents joked that it was a dangerous combination because, with brains and attractiveness, no girl could resist my charm. The prophesy I had always felt turned out true, and because I received such wonderful gifts from my parents, it was perhaps why I respected and loved them so much.

“No, it’s nothing you wouldn’t like. Rather… there have been whispers that a skill orb will be available soon!”

I gasped, my body shaking with excitement. The only skills that I had were {Flee} and {Glibed Tongue}. I had always hated that I had such weak and useless abilities. Although, it could already be said to be impressive that I was born with more than one, what was the point if they were both cowardly weapons. I had wanted a chance at a third skill my entire life, but like everyone else on this island, I had never believed it to be a real possibility.  

“But… aren’t those a myth?”

He shook his head. “No… not a myth. The citadel has a few. I’ve seen them. Every year, the top of the class is given a skill orb that meets their aptitude. Otherwise, they pass them out sparsely, only allowing one to leak out to the islands once a generation. I heard tell through my sources they will be releasing another skill orb soon.”

My excitement rose, but when I began to think realistically, it diminished again. After all, what are the chances that we’d be able to get that skill orb? We were the smallest of the four islands and had the lowest population. It would likely go to another island that had more to offer.

“There is little chance I’ll receive it.” I sighed.

Father gave a gentle smile. “Let me worry about that. I still have some contacts in the citadel, and our island has managed to have a good stretch of years. We’ve saved up for nearly a generation, so if I show a strong bid for it, it may become a reality.”

I reached out and grabbed my father’s shoulder. “Thank you, father. Even that you try, it means a great deal to me.”

He smiled again and grabbed my shoulder, as well. It was the closest he and I would ever get to a hug. Finally, we dropped our arms. However, I was much happier than I was before. I had heard something from my father I hadn’t known, and it had succeeded in setting fire to my spirit.

A skill orb was awarded to the top of the class at the citadel. That meant, if I studied hard and worked to succeed, I could earn that orb. If dad acquired the other orb, then I’d be the only man to have four skills on any island. I would be an unstable asset that even the citadel couldn’t ignore! The north island would finally be able to grow and challenge the other islands. Every four years, there was a competition between the islands. We were always in the last place. I could change all of that.

Father offered me a few more words of advice, mostly repeating things he had already said. Meanwhile, I fantasized about what skills my orb could be. Of course, orbs were far too rare to be picky about the skills you got. I could end up with a dud, but after the two duds I was born with, I had earned something great. This was my right.

I’d even go so far as to say that this was my destiny. I was still young, but I knew what I needed to do. One day, I would rule the four islands. No, the citadel too! The Heaven’s Sky Archipelago would one day be mine.

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