Thief of My Heart @pklucky
Under Lock and Key: Another Side

“Just gotta wear this all the time without getting caught?” Kiran pointed to the collar.

Matthew nodded, “Yup. Not only will it be good stealth training for you, it’s something I’m sure you’ll enjoy,” he winked with that last remark.

Kiran blushed and felt the collar around her neck, “I-I guess. It’s a little embarrassing just thinking about it.”

“If you’re really not comfortable with it, you don’t have to do it,” Matthew patted her head reassuringly.

“No, no, I’m totally cool with it!” Kiran waved her hands in front of her frantically. “Besides…” She leaned in closer to Matthew’s face, “I’ll get rewarded later if I’ve been good, right?”

Matthew stroked her hair and smirked, “Yes, you will.” He kissed her cheek, “Let’s get some sleep. You’ve got a busy day tomorrow.”

“Yup!”

The next morning, Matthew scouted out the hallway outside Kiran’s bedroom.

All clear.

He looked back at Kiran, her laying in bed sleeping soundly. Matthew smiled at the sight and silently stepped out of the room, gently closing the door behind him.

Matthew kept close to the walls and occasionally glanced at his surroundings, making sure no one followed him on his way back to his room. When he arrived there, he layed in bed and stared at the ceiling. His eyes closed as his thoughts traced back to the night before: Kiran’s flushed face, her muffled moans, her everything underneath him crying out for him to pleasure her.

Despite all that, Matthew couldn’t shake one thing--one person--off of his mind. Her gentle smile, her radiant voice, her lovely crimson hair… his dear Leila. Despite all that, he still couldn’t forget her. Despite all that, he doubts his feelings for Kiran.

Matthew sighed and rose from his bed.

I shouldn't be thinking about this now, he thought. He left his room and headed for the training grounds. He had no excuse to shirk his duties.

Every day after that was the same: training during the day, sex with Kiran in the evening, self-doubt about romantic feelings in the early morning; lather, rinse, repeat. It seemed like the cycle was never going to end until one day when Matthew’s curiosity got the better of him.

“Matthew, wait!” Matthew heard a familiar voice call out to him as he approached a door he had never seen before in the library. He quickly turned around to see it was Sharena.

“Sharena? What’s wrong?” Matthew cocked an eyebrow at the princess.

“You’re not allowed in there!” Sharena frowned, “It’s off limits to Heroes.”

Matthew looked back and scanned the door, “Huh…”

Sharena pouted and put a hand on his shoulder, “Matthew, I know that look.” She wagged a finger at him, “Don’t you dare try to get in there.”

“Huh?” Matthew pointed to himself and said sarcastically, “Me? Try to enter a forbidden room? Sharena, I would never!”

She rolled her eyes, let out a sigh of fake exasperation, and shook her head “In all seriousness, Matthew, behind that door lies every secret about summoning Heroes imaginable! There’s no telling what would happen if that information fell into the wrong hands.”

Matthew turned his head back to the door, but Sharena placed her hands on his cheeks and forced his face back to her direction, “No! Bad Matthew!"

Matthew removed Sharena’s hands from his face and laughed, “Sharena, I promise you I’m not going to try to enter that room.”

She narrowed her eyes.

“You don’t need to worry about it,” Matthew patted her back, “Okay?”

Sharena sighed, “Okay, okay, I trust you.” Sharena waved to Matthew and walked off, “See you!”

“Yup, see you!” Matthew waved back and watched her leave the area. Once she was gone, he examined the key he pickpocketed from his best friend, “Sorry, Sharena, but a spy like me has to know these secrets.”

Matthew spent the next few days doing careful reconnaissance of the library and the surrounding area, keeping track of everyone’s schedules, and noting any blind spots caused by any desks and bookshelves. Once he finished formulating his plan and told Kiran he would be busy that night, Matthew sprung into action.

He snuck around the empty halls of the castle and entered the library through its least-used entrance. Nimbly weaving through the library's tall bookcases, Matthew made it to the forbidden door. He pulled out the stolen key, put into the keyhole, and unlocked the door.

The only thing that was on the other side of the door was a single, tattered, old book resting on a stone pedestal. Matthew lit a torch inside the room and closed the door. He carefully leafed through the pages, skimming through the information until one heading caught his eye.

“‘Mind Manipulation?’”

Matthew read through the passage, “Let’s see, ‘spell created to protect the Great Hero’... ‘Heroes cannot harm their Summoner’... ‘Heroes follow all orders of the Summoner’... Wait, what’s this?” Matthew traced a finger underneath the sentence as he read it aloud to himself, “‘If the Summoner chooses to do so, they may form a bond stronger than steel with a Hero of their choosing, regardless of where the Hero’s true feelings may lie.’” Matthew read the sentence over and over again in disbelief. No, Matthew thought. This can’t be true. This is crazy. But… He thought back to Leila.

Finally, his confusion over his feelings was justified. This was the reason for the self-doubt. There was no need to be so conflicted anymore. He found the answer.

Yet, why did his heart feel so heavy?The next night, Kiran knocked on Matthew’s door as she always did. Matthew couldn’t bring himself to give her a bright greeting. “I know your feelings are true,” he said, “but I can’t say the same for myself.”

The next night, Kiran knocked on Matthew’s door as she always did. Matthew couldn’t bring himself to give her a bright greeting. “I know your feelings are true,” he said, “but I can’t say the same for myself.”

Kiran ran off crying. Her last words filled Matthew’s mind.

Did she know all this time? There was no way she’d say something like that if she didn't know about the spell. Was she outright manipulating him? He shouldn’t have trusted her. He should’ve never tried saying anything to her when she first arrived in Askr. Letting her get even an inch close to him was a mistake. He should have never, for even a second, ever let go of Leila.

Unable to clear his head, Matthew sat just outside the castle’s front gate, hoping that the fresh air would put him at ease.

A few moments later, a warm voice called out, “Matthew!”

“Sharena.”

Sharena plopped down next to Matthew smiled with that bright smile of hers, “How have you been doing? You and Kiran doing well?”

Matthew cocked his head at Sharena, “Kiran? Why do you ask?"

“You two have been spending so much time together lately!” Sharena giggled, “You two must be really close now, huh?”

Matthew shrugged, not looking in Sharena’s direction, “I suppose we used to be.”

Sharena gave Matthew a concerned look, “‘Used to’? What happened?”

The image of Kiran’s tear-filled face crossed Matthew’s mind. It was dumb of me to think you actually loved me, huh? Those last words left chills down his spine. It’s the spell’s fault, he thought. These are not my true feelings. I don’t truly feel this way about her… Right? He turned to Sharena and cracked a wry grin, “You were right, Sharena. I should have never went through that door. I’m sor--” Before he could finish his sentence, Sharena wrapped her arms around him.

“Don’t blame yourself for this. It’s not your fault.” She held him tighter, “It’s not anyone’s fault.” After a few seconds, Sharena let Matthew go and looked him in the eye, “Please take the time to think about your feelings. I know it’s confusing right now, but I’m sure you’ll find the answer you’re looking for." She rested a hand on his shoulder, "Okay?”

He sighed and nodded, “Okay.”Sharena gave Matthew one last reassuring pat and returned to the inside of the castle. Eventually, Matthew did the same and returned to his room with a slow heaviness to his gait.

Sharena gave Matthew one last reassuring pat and returned to the inside of the castle. Eventually, Matthew did the same and returned to his room with a slow heaviness to his gait.

He opened the bedroom door, shut it behind him, and trudged to his bed. He flopped onto the mattress and looked up to the ceiling, staring at nothing.

A weight pushed down his chest. A lump formed in his throat. A whimper escaped from his lips.

For the first time in a long time, Matthew cried.

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