The letter almost weighed heavily in her hand as Reyna reread it again, still as crisp as it was a year ago when Baryl gave it to her.

True to Baryl's way, she said on paper that she heard the news and she congratulated Reyna on her success for beating her son in the duel that left Jason eating dust. She had always known that Reyna would win while fighting him because of all the determination she had to get that far as a praetor in training, even if some people weren't as accepting as Baryl was, and though Hylla didn't show her pride for her younger sister outwardly, Baryl knew she was glad that Reyna won.

On the other hand, Baryl had mentioned that she'll be attending for the upcoming games between slaves somewhere later, where she would be looking forward to see both Reyna and Jason there, and if the Gods allow it, have a little chat between the four of them so that Baryl could see her son more.

Reyna almost burnt the letter the moment she finished reading it at that time, but decided it would be wiser to keep it in a safe place from prying eyes by locking it up in a drawer, the key hidden with her at all times.

She almost dreaded to see Baryl and Hylla, knowing how her sister would be decorated with accessories and paintings by other slaves that she would look like a prize. Of course, that would be the sole purpose why she would make an appearance like that in the first place, and Hylla would be pampered as luxuriously as her mistress herself that Reyna thought it was almost outraged, but she couldn't have a say in it any more than Hylla could the moment she was owned.

All the more reason she hated going to the games.

The only reason she was going was because she wanted to see Hylla again. It had been so long since she talked to her sister physically that Reyna was getting more antsy than usual, worried about Hylla despite knowing how her well being was nothing to mull over.

It was also because Reyna was getting tired of people breathing down her neck. She had enough trouble as it was by avoiding the numerous attempts of killing her, she didn't want anymore petty hatred to be added to her list of problems she was already facing at the moment.

It had nothing to do with the convincing Blandus did last night, where he was worried of her safety. Cruel as it seemed, she still didn't doubt his loyalty since she knew where he stood when she heard the conversation he and Jason had outside her door. It was obvious he was trying to protect her and trying to prevent her from getting killed. She was immensely grateful towards him for that and even took the trouble of telling Jason what he heard, but she figured it would be safer for him if he didn't smother her with concern like Jason was doing, she didn't want Blandus to suffer the consequences of getting hurt by other members of the High Consuls.

Sighing, she folded the letter before putting back at its place, and then, she stood up to get ready to attend the event.

Jason was going to have the shock of his life once it started.

Reyna was almost done with her hair when she heard a knock on the door that night.

"Come in."

Jason poked his head in as she turned around. "Are you done?"

"Not quite," she muttered as she started to fiddle with strands of hair, before dropping her hands in exasperation. "You don't suppose you would know how to tie braids, would you?"

He raised an eyebrow, a smile peaking through his stern demeanour. "The Great Reyna having trouble with hair? I'm shocked."

"It's not as easy as it looks," she grumbled, turning her back on him as she started to loosen the crown braid she did, running her fingers through her dark hair. "Are we late?"

"We will, if we wait here any longer," he stated, causing her to shoot him a dull look when he smirked at her. "I've been meaning to ask you this," he started while she only began to tie her hair into her signature look. "But what does the games do? And why were you so against it that it took Blandus a while to convince you to come?"

She quickly tied the end of the braid with a band. "You'll see for yourself," she walked passed him and out of the door. "Come on, we wouldn't want to be late, do we?"

When they arrived, Reyna had to remind herself not to scowl so much the moment they stepped into the large room, where seats were encircled around a sandy field in the middle of the clearing, reminding her of the Coliseum but much smaller in comparison to the high walls and massive space of the arena.

She was looking for a place for her to take a seat when she saw Praetor Michael on the first row, where he was already beckoning her towards his designated place only for praetors, and it looked like Praetor Felix was nowhere to be seen.

She didn't managed to take a step forward when someone swooped in onto them, and she felt Jason stiffen beside her when Baryl smiled sweetly at the both of them.

"Reyna, Jason," Baryl greeted cheerfully, clasping her hands in front of her. "How wonderful it is to see you."

"Baryl," Reyna replied smoothly, eyes flickering towards Hylla that the older girl met her gaze evenly without a flinch.

Hylla wore all the pieces that Reyna suspected, from the golden head piece that cascaded down with her dark hair to the golden cuffs and collar that clasped around her wrists and neck. Cream satin hung around her chest and waist like water streaming against pebbles, accenting the curves of her body. Paint was smeared in delicate swirls on her face and arms, her feet bare as more thin chains winded around her ankle.

Reyna only looked at Baryl as she began to speak.

"It has been a while since I attended the games, I wish I could say I missed them but they were never my taste," she studied Jason, where he only stared back at her blankly. "And how are you, Jason? Is being a personal guard for our future praetor exceeds your expectations of your future?"

Reyna saw the way something flashed in his eyes, but it disappeared before she had a look at it properly. "Well enough," he answered lowly while keeping his eyes trained on his mother. "I'm surprised you are able to walk here, Mother, usually the wine keeps you fascinated in it that doing anything else doesn't seem important to you."

The bitterness seep in his voice whether or not he tried to hide it, surprising Reyna when she glanced at him briefly. Baryl only waved it off. "I haven't started drinking just yet, I'll be watching the games of course. Though barbaric as it could be at most times, there is some fascination in seeing two people trying to push each other to the ground."

Unknown to her, the beginnings of a snarl began to grow on Hylla's lips, but she managed to thin her mouth into a straight line before looking away.

Jason seemed to notice this when he addressed Baryl again. "I see you finally got yourself a pet, Mother. You have been raving for one ever since I was a boy."

"Ah, yes. Hylla is quite the charmer, I absolutely adore her." Reyna eyed her warily when she gave Reyna a sly look. "Is this revenge, my dear Reyna? Using my own son as your personal guard while I have your sister as my pet? You were never one for petty revenge-"

"Jason is my guard and my guard only," Reyna cut her off, ignoring the way Jason had focused his attention solely onto her. "And you know more than I do that having a different gender as a pet is considered as taboo. The pets are for pleasure, not to populate a whole village of bastardy."

"Well, Praetor Michael does not seem to share the same thought with the rest of us," Baryl pointed out, nodding her head towards said man where he was talking quietly to a beautiful looking woman beside him, and it was obvious she was his pet from where her golden cuffs gleamed slightly under the torches. And then, there was a ring of a bell. "Oh, the games are about to start. I suppose we could talk more later when we have the time," she flashed the teenagers another smile. "I'll see you both soon."

When Baryl and Hylla left, Reyna quickly made her way towards where Praetor Michael sat, Jason trying to catch up with her since his bigger size had more difficulty weaving through the crowd like she did. "Why didn't you tell me your sister is my mother's pet?" He asked harshly.

"Keep quiet," she hissed, straightening herself before she sat beside Michael, who nodded when she arrived.

"Reyna, Jason, I'm glad you made it." He greeted them both warmly.

She only nodded, making herself comfortable while Jason stood on her left, since he didn't have the privilege of a pet for him to sit down. "I heard about your new pet, Praetor Michael, I wasn't sure I wanted to believe them when they said the slave you chose was a woman," Reyna stole a glance at her. "A girl, in fact."

"Piper is younger than you are," There wasn't any trace of pride that some people usually have when they introduce their pets, making Reyna to stare at him suspiciously. "By a year."

"I assume she's from the new batch of slaves that arrived this morning," she commented easily, straightening the creases on her toga.

Michael only shot her a pointed look. "I know what you're going to say, and yes, choosing someone of different gender as my pet is what I wanted."

"The taboo, Praetor Michael-"

"Absolute nonsense," he cut her off. "I do not believe such things."

Reyna only sighed, deciding to drop the subject as she payed attention to what was happening on the field.

There were two men circling around each other while wearing only a loin cloth around their waist. The two men were obviously pets, from the way the silver and bronze cuffs winked back at her. One was a red-haired with a slim figure with pasty white skin that he was immediately dubbed as a teenager, while the other man was strong build with curly black hair and tan skin, where the size of his bicep was the same as the red-haired's thigh.

The game was simple really, two people of the same gender would fight until one of them fells to the ground, and then the dominant one will do whatever they wanted to the fallen except killing them.

It usually ended where both competitors would undone themselves on the clearing, in front of many people.

Reyna had the very intention to leave the place the moment one of them admitted defeat.

"I saw Baryl talking to you just now."

Reyna was grateful for the distraction, tearing her gaze away from the men. "Yes."

Praetor Michael glanced at Jason, where he pointedly ignored them both as he watched what laid out in front of him, jaw locked tight. "I saw none of you were quite...happy."

Reyna gave him a wry smile. "Have you been spying on us, Praetor Michael?"

"Perhaps," He chuckled. "Your history has always been quite interesting."

She hummed. "What can I say, I'm an interesting person."

She tried to ignore the games in front of her, and it felt like years before it finally came to an end, and she was eager to get out of the room as all of them ushered towards the dining room down the hall, where food of different varieties had been laid out in front of them on a very long table, slaves of twenty or so standing in a line by the right side of the hall while each of them held a pitcher in hand, waiting for the noblemen to calm down so that they could be served.

Reyna saw the way Jason eyed the empty seat beside her with a hard look as she settled down beside Michael, and she raised an eyebrow at him. "Jason?"

"I am not giving them the satisfaction of admitting defeat," he told her flatly, his cool eyes meeting hers. "This is mockery, you know this as much as I do."

She gave him a look before taking his plate, filling it with food. "If it bothers you so much, go eat outside, let the air straighten your wits before you start anything brash."

He frowned when he took the plate she shoved in his hands. "But I can't leave you alone," he protested in a low voice, careful not to attract attention. "Someone might kill you."

"I'm in front of many people, they wouldn't dare kill me so publicly, that would cause a havoc that none of us would want to handle," she pointed out, and starting to fill her own plate with some meat and bread. "Now go, but if you rather stand there looking like a fool, then by all means."

Jason shook his head and left, where she saw him disappearing behind the large doors that it let out a hollow sound that echoed around the room, but it was left unnoticed as the crowd around her merely laughed and talked during the feast.

"Why did you sent your pet away?"

Frowning, Reyna turned towards Piper, where the girl was staring at the place Jason had gone with a concerned look that Reyna didn't particularly understand. "He isn't my pet."

Piper blinked at her in surprise. "I'm sorry, I assumed-"

"Piper," Michael cut her off, giving her a pointed look.

She bowed her head. "Forgive me, I didn't mean to be rude."

Reyna only nodded at her, before she started cutting the meat with her knife and fork. "How are his duties towards you?" Michael asked quietly.

"As it should be," she replied easily. "He prevented a spear getting buried in my chest at least, I know how much my life means to a handful of you." She was about to tell him about the head accessory that was given to Jason, but decided against it as it wasn't her place to tell. "He was adequate."

"Excellent," he nodded. "You made the right choice when you did."

"Thank you."

They ate in silence for a while, until he broke it.

"We might travel to Greece one day."

Reyna glanced at him in surprised. "Oh?"

He nodded, taking a bite of his food. "Yes, for your knowledge to get to know the place more. It would be good for your advantage if there ever would be a time when you need it the most."

It took a moment for his words to sink in, and when they did, she looked at him sharply. "To know its weak spots, you mean."

"Hardly. But if you think it would be necessary, then by all means," he met her eyes gravely. "Do what you must."

She stared at him when the words he used were the same she uttered towards Jason, and forced herself to glance at Piper, who pointedly ignored them both as she ate. "They'll hate me."

"Well, of course," he stated as if that was obvious. "You are Roman and they are Greek. We have been sworn enemies for as long as I could remember, but sometimes, we can be allies too."

She looked at him in confusion. "What?"

He only gave her a half smile. "We would just have to wait and see."

She stared at him warily, and then turning back towards her food.

When she was finished, she excused herself, making her way towards the doors to see Jason when suddenly she bumped into Hylla, where Reyna could hear the way the thin golden chains tinkle when Hylla looked at her.

"Sister," Hylla greeted her almost pleasantly, letting her eyes rake over Reyna's toga. "I see you succeeded in your plan."

"Of course, have I ever lose in getting what I want?" Reyna let her eyes flicker towards one the gold bands Hylla worn. "Where's your mistress?"

Hylla scowled. "Baryl is with her son, I'm waiting for her word so that we could leave, I know she is not usually fond of talking to the nobles no more than I am to be in their presence." She stared at Reyna curiously. "I'm surprised you made him as your personal guard than a pet."

"What good will that be if he was my pet?" Reyna retaliated darkly. "I see potential in him, I might as well make use of it than let him lounge on chaises and waste his life away. Besides," she met Hylla's eyes. "He is a man."

"Do you honestly believe that?" Hylla asked, brushing a stray curl of hair behind her ear.

"Of course I do," Reyna snapped. "I'm not going to create a life with him if he was my pet. I have no intention of changing my mind and making him into of you as well," she saw the way Hylla clenched her jaw. "How do you stand it, being a pet?"

"I don't," Hylla replied coldly. "I was constantly angry the first few years, but of course, I don't have a say in it as I tolerate the pampering by the slaves she has to make me look like a jewel. Only now I've come to hide my hatred for it."

Reyna pursed her lips. "Does Baryl...? "

"No," Hylla told her firmly. "It surprised me at first, but I found out the only reason she wanted a pet was because she needed someone to talk to. She said she had been quite lonely and doesn't have any friends," she pushed away the strayed hair again. "It's odd, I was confused when she told me the truth after months of not touching me, but I was grateful and came to accept it with open arms," her eyes flickered to a nobleman that was being fed by his pet that she almost sneered. "I considered myself lucky."

Reyna raised an eyebrow and gestured towards Hylla's attire. "I suppose this is for presentation purposes only?"

"Of course," Hylla traced the body paint on her arm before looking up. "Speak none of it, people would kill me if they find out."

Reyna stared at her before sighing. "Have I ever betray you?"

Hylla smiled wryly. "Not yet, I suppose," Then, it fell. "Write to me."

"Answer them when I do," Reyna replied without missing a beat and they started walking towards the door, where they saw both mother and son facing each other.

When they got nearer, Reyna saw the way Jason's face was tense as Baryl talked softly at him, her expression passive as their murmurs began to turn louder. "Jason," Reyna called out, causing the small family to face her. "We have to go."

"Of course," he murmured. He gave his mother a last nod, his face soften when he addressed her. "Another day, Mother."

"Farewell, my son," Baryl flickered her gaze towards Reyna. "I have faith in you, Praetor," she said gravely. "As the rest of us women have."

Reyna nodded, before she and Jason made their way down the hallway.

"When have you known that your sister is my mother's pet?"

She didn't glance at him as they continued their way. "A while, years before I met you and knew that you existed."

"What didn't you tell me?" he questioned with an edge, and she narrowed her eyes at him.

"What good will it be?"

"What good will it be?" he echoed in disbelief. "Reyna, my mother and your sister-"

"They aren't doing anything," she snapped, startling Jason that she lowered down her voice within the halls. "They do not share the same bed, Jason, Baryl only needed someone to talk to, and that was why she took Hylla as her pet."

He stared at her flabbergasted. "You can't honestly believe that."

"I believe my sister, and if that was what she told me, then that was what happened," she stared down at him, where he made a point of not meeting her eyes. "Do you doubt your own mother?"

He let out a sharp breath of air. "She told me the same thing," he admitted begrudgingly. "She only wanted someone to talk to her. But I have a hard time believing that."

"What Hylla said to me is the only confirmation you needed, and so believing it isn't exactly an option." She snapped when they reached her door. "Why are you so against your own mother?"

He looked away. "It's none of your concern."

She opened her mouth to argue but only clamped it shut again, realising that whatever personal matter he didn't want to tell her, then it wasn't her place to pry. "Fine," she relented. "But-"

She didn't manage to say anything else when suddenly a spear came flying out of nowhere and impaled itself on her door, between the both of them that he was staring at her in shock.

Jason immediately took out his sword while she tore the spear out, noticing how the tip of the blade and the small puncture was coated with yellow fluid that made her pursed her lips in concentration as she studied it. She let out a sharp breath when she realised what it was.

"Careful, Jason. The weapons are poisoned." She warned him, and at that moment three men in robs jumped out of the shadows and charged their way through without a sound coming out of their mouths, their faces hidden in their cowl as they raised their swords above them.

Jason only grunted as an affirmative, leaning away from the weapon when it came close too his face. "They've become bolder."

Jumping away, Reyna parred the attack one of the assassins crashed into her with the spear. "Unfortunately for us."

It took a while, but the three men were no match for the two young duo, and soon Reyna was already glaring down at one of them as she whacked his skull with the spear, probably shattering his skull in the process from where she heard the loud crunch of bone.

When they heard more footsteps coming towards their way, they stiffen into a stance, only to find there were four guards that Reyna relaxed her posture slightly, but her mind still on high alert as one of the guards started talking.

"What happened here?" One of them gruffed out.

As Jason began explaining, something caught her eye in one of the assassin's hand. When she dug it out, she found out it was a scrunched up part of a scroll. Before anyone else could see, she hid it behind her back for her to read later.

Once the guards dragged the bodies away, Jason turned towards Reyna. "You're not safe alone, let me guard you."

She raised an eyebrow. "I'm not fond of the idea of you watching me sleep. Besides, you need rest as much as I do."

"After what happened?" He snorted. "Not a chance. I have to keep an eye on you to keep you safe."

She gave a wry smile. "You care for me now, son of Jupiter?"

He narrowed his eyes. "I am only doing what I think is right."

"There's no need," she replied evenly. "Go back to your room, Jason."

"Don't be ridiculous," he huffed exasperatedly. "Reyna, I'll have to keep an eye on you."

She sighed, clutching the spear she had been holding all these while tightly. "Well, you can't sleep in my room, can you? I had enough of petty gossip as it is," she waved him away and started pushing the door open. "Leave me."

But he stood his ground, giving her a hard look. "I'll stay out here if I must."

She only shook her head. "Whatever it is that makes you happy then. Don't whine to me if your back hurts tomorrow."

And then, she slammed the door in his face.

Sighing again, she leaned against the door with the spear beside her, hearing the way he grumbled loudly behind the thick door before he settled himself on the ground, whether to lay down or only to sit, she didn't know.

She stared at the crumpled paper in her hand with a frown, and slowly straightened it open as her curiosity got the better of her.

Her blood turned cold at the clean writing that glared back at her.

Because there, written in dark ink was something she realised that her life as well as Jason's were truly at risk.

Down with the witch and her whore.

A/N: What's this? Piper making an appearance?

What could possibly be the reason Praetor Michael wanting her as a pet?

And what could possibly go wrong with that? ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)