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The Artist


by shadowcristal

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"Running away is so shameful," the Royal Acara declared as they passed a beggar. "Just look at him, having run away from his home and now begging for money out on the streets." She pointed at the Mutant Buzz who was holding out a clay cup and asking for a few neopoints.

     The green Aisha stumbled and fell forward, not once thinking about grabbing onto her Lady's clothes in order to help herself up. She fell on the ground with a thud and immediately stood up, awaiting a scolding.

     "Not very cleverly done of you, maid," Lady Cecile said, with no regard painful expression on the Aisha's face. "Don't do this in the future, or I will not look very promising to those Lords at court."

     Clover had not expected anything less. She took out a few coins, dropped them in the beggar's cup and followed her lady obediently. The Aisha felt as if that comment had been directed at her, for it pained her more than the fall to the ground had done.

     Did the Lady read minds? Could she have known that her maid was thinking of running away? Of course, Clover was grateful for everything. She was thankful that she had been born and raised in an elegant castle owned by a noble family, and taken in as a maid and attendant for her Lady at a young age.

     But... The Aisha had seen the bright eyes of those farmers' children, playing out in the fields. Their noisy, happy peals of laughter and the way they ran, as if nothing could stop them. Their innocent, bright eyes, filled with joy... What a life to lead!

     She had watched them when she was free, observing their daily life. How contrasting their happy and bright life was to hers! The only joys Clover had, if they could be called joys, were being stuck in a castle and dedicating herself to the Lady.

     Of course, Clover was grateful for everything. The other servants were nice and she could even get off one day each month! But the Lady... Clover quickly caught up to her lady, and they continued the daily walk down the main street of Meridell.

     She had learned not to question and criticize at young age. The Aisha tried to banish these evil thoughts from her mind. No matter what she thought about it, she was bound to her lady for life and would remain so. Unless she ran away. Which she should not even be considering.

     Lady Cecile wasn't evil. Sometimes when she was in a good mood, the Lady would even give small gifts away. Of course, there were also times when she turned nasty...

     Clover shook her head as she followed her lady around and carried the shopping bags. Soon her slender Aisha arms were filled with heavy bags, and sweat began to run down her face. It was a hot and sunny day, and right now the Aisha would give anything for ice cream.

     "There!" the Lady exclaimed, and after a minute another heavy bag filled with jewlery was added onto the large load the poor attendant was carrying. The Royal pet did not seem to notice how much she had bought and was constantly burdening her servant.

     The Aisha wanted to hit herself on the head in order to get those bad thoughts out of her mind. She must not think about it... But being free seemed so great. To feel the wind in your face and fur, to run with no one stopping you or calling out your name, and to laugh so joyfully...

     No. Clover reminded herself of her place. It was not right to think about such things. She had to perform her duty, and she did so by following her lady and obeying every command the Royal pet gave.

     "Hmm..." the Lady said, pointing to a stand which neither of them had noticed before. "The Artist?"

     "Of course, I'm the Artist," a blue Lupe said, walking forward. Clover could not help but to stare at him, for he was the handsomest creature she had ever set her eyes upon. He had tastefully tucked a brush behind his left ear, and behind him were large, white, clean canvases.

     "What do you draw?" Lady Cecile asked with that superior voice she always used when meeting strangers.

     "For you, my lady, I can draw anything," he smiled with the most charming smile the servant had ever seen.

     "Coming from a scruffy, poor, self-sufficient artist?" she replied sarcastically. Clover was full of questions, but she knew her manners and did not ask any of them.

     "But usually I draw hearts and souls," he said plainly as he looked at the two of them. "You, young lady, have a very beautiful heart..." The Aisha was surprised to find herself the object of his attention.

     "Me?" the Lady asked eagerly. Clover, from experience, knew that this charismatic Lupe had gotten her lady's attention. "Well, if you must," the Royal pet said in her best, stuffiest way. "Draw a portrait of me. Make it beautiful."

     "For someone who looks as pretty as you, I will get to work immediately," the Artist told the lady as he walked over to a clean canvas and started sketching.

     From the paws and the charcoals of this Lupe, different shapes and objects were created. The two of them watched in amazement as he quickly drew a picture of something very abstract and mysterious. Clover only looked away once to check on her lady, and it would seem that Lady Cecile was very satisfied.

     It did not take him a long time to complete it, as the drawing was in black and white. The finished product that was now in front of the two of them was magnificent. Black lines and triangles were standing on a gray background that grew darker and darker the closer it got to the edges. The objects, which seemed like a mess but could still be distinguished, were carefully shaded. After scrutinizing the drawing carefully, Clover decided for herself in secret that it looked like a black butterfly with its wings just about spread out, hovering on top of a triangular flower. Despite the beauty of it all, the Aisha could not help but to feel that the painting was a mess, and rather ugly. A paradox, she decided, but very artfully rendered.

     "This is your soul," the Lupe said with an elegant bow.

     "I am most satisfied," Lady Cecile said. "It is quite beautiful. But why is it only in black?"

     "That, my lady, is not merely a messy drawing. It reflects your soul."

     "Is my soul black?!" the Lady exclaimed with horror as Clover took a good look at the drawing again.

     "I am merely a messenger," the Artist said. "I have been gifted with the ability to see everybody's souls, and put them down on paper. The conclusion is yours to draw."

     "I am shocked and outraged!" declared the Royal Acara with an injured voice. "I'm leaving!" She turned around and beckoned for her attendant to follow, but the Lady stopped in her tracks when she saw that the Lupe was working on another drawing.

     The Lady was too curious to walk away, so she stayed and Clover did likewise. This time, the Lupe produced a drawing that was so utterly serene and beautiful, so the two of them gasped in delight upon seeing it being completed.

     The canvas retained most of its white colors, varying in shades in different places. At the edges there were some splotches tinted with grey, and inside them were tiny, indistinguishable objects. A creamy, white branch had been drawn in the middle, and on top of it sat a flower. Its petals were delicately folded and shyly closed, but the whole image resembled a flower that was about to bloom. The tips of the petals were dipped in grey, as if to cage the flower in, but overall it was very much white, thus emitting radiance and purity.

     "Brilliant," the Lady complimented, forgetting about the black drawing that had been created just moments ago.

     "This is the beautiful soul of a young lady," the Artist said mysteriously and grinned at Clover. After letting the two spectators take a last look at the drawings, he rolled them up and placed them in the Aisha's arms.

     "Say, the latter one is mine, right?" Lady Cecile asked.

     The blue Lupe did not reply, he just smiled.

     "May I inquire about your name, if not anything else?" asked the Lady, starting to feel a tad bit distressed.

     "I am the Artist," he said proudly. "As for the drawings, they're free. Nurture your beautiful, white soul, for such a soul comes along quite rarely. Free it from its cage."

     Having heard the word free, the Aisha was returned to reality. She had been in an awed state of mind ever since he started sketching, but those words... Could that second drawing be of her soul?

     "I am very honored," she whispered as her lady started walking away. Lady Cecile did not say much, and Clover could only guess what was going on in her lady's mind.

     They did not enter any other shops that afternoon, for the Lady abruptly claimed that they were to go back to the castle after having walked down the rest of the street.

     To the castle they went, and soon Clover found herself doing the everyday chores. She attended to the things that Lady Cecile had bought after doing the laundry. Every time she looked at the drawings, she could not help but to think of the concept of running away.

     Was it really that shameful, like the Lady had claimed? No, she mustn't think of it... But those bad thoughts returned to her mind more frequently than ever, and she grew so curious of the precious drawings that she almost opened them to look at them again.

     When the Lady returned to the room, she found all her things packed up and put away, except for the two drawings that were lying on the table. She turned around and found her attendant.

     "Maid," the Royal pet said. "Didn't I tell you to throw these away?" Judging from the arch of the eyebrows, the Aisha knew that a reprimand was coming. But still... That Artist and his folly had been quite inspiring, or perhaps her mind had melted in the sun because she hardly knew what words were coming from her mouth.

     "B-but..." Clover said, "You never said that." The Acara gasped. Her servant had never opposed her, no matter what things she was burdened with. That little thing would have to learn...

     "Dispose of them," Lady Cecile said coldly, having already spotted the Aisha's attachment to the drawings. "Immediately."

     "B-but..." the Aisha protested. She was cut off by the Lady exiting the room and looked sorrowfully at the drawings. The way the Artist had placed his charcoal on it and made those lines... all that hard work would now go to waste because of the Lady.

     Suddenly she found those bad thoughts rushing full-force through her mind. Clover tried to suppress them, but it was no use. She picked up the paintings and looked them again. The white one, of course, looked the best. She did not want to throw them away!

     She looked outside and spotted those happy girls in her age again. They were laughing and dancing in the breeze, which did not reach her. Feeling more daring than ever, the Aisha walked out of the door though her task hadn't been completed, through the hallways and down to the large, oak entrance of the castle. Since everyone knew her to be a diligent girl, they did not question her.

     Clover let the breeze tickle her face as she looked outside. Ever since she learned that she would forever be working for her lady, she had yearned for this. To be free...

     A gust of wind hit her and carried the two drawings away. Instantly the Aisha was out of the castle, chasing after them. She saw them land on a field, rather close to the cheerful girls as she rushed towards the precious papers.

     Finally she caught them, and when she turned around she realized that she had done something horrible. Against her lady's wishes, she had not disposed of the drawings and even left the castle without explicit permission.

     She had done something forbidden. Clover could only fathom the punishment that was awaiting her when she returned.

     If she returned. Suddenly the Aisha realized something. Here, out in the forgiving, lush, green fields, she was free! She had those precious drawings, and she had freed herself out of the cage like the Artist had told her to.

     Clover smiled nervously, noticing that the girls looking at her apprehensively. Well, she might be free, but what was she supposed to do now? The Aisha did not have any relatives, the castle was her only connection and everything she had was the Lady's property.

     She took a look at the white drawing, and smiled brightly when she noticed that some of the gray was gone. Hope began to fill her chest as she took a step forward, more determined than before.

     This was her chance. She was finally free, like she always wanted to be, thanks to a weird twist of fate. After the first rush of joy had settled, practical things like food and shelter started to settle in the Aisha's mind.

     Suddenly she realized what she could do. Of course! He had helped her out to take the first big step; surely he would help her again? Clover looked around, and started walking in the direction where her destination was located.

     A new journey had begun, one of freedom. And it was all thanks to the Artist.

The End

 
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