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It was called Hueco Mundo, but nobody actually called it that. To the world at large it was simply The Aizen Estate.

Most estates were old, handed down through generations from one son to the next. A handful, the ones referred to as breaker's yards, popped up and disappeared with only a single master ever at their helm.

The Aizen Estate was different. It was new. The family had ties to old money, but a couple of generations back in the family it had been the other son to inherit. The branch of the family into which Sosuke Aizen had been born had served their time in the military instead of sitting tidily in a self funding estate. He'd followed in his father's, and grandfather's footsteps before him, and joined the military himself, working his way quickly through the ranks based on intelligence and skill.

He'd left commended, decorated, and respected, and with a healthy fund built up that he turned into the foundation of the estate he now ran. He'd commanded a number of Collars in the military, from kitchen staff to those colloquially, distressingly, termed cannon fodder, and he'd turned that experience to the training and sale of fighters and bodyguards.

They'd expanded to Companion training some years back. There were two different types of bodyguards; the ones that could be sent to watch anyone designated and be trusted to protect them all with equal dedication, and the ones that were only to concern themselves with a single master. The latter kind had always been trained, in the past, to be companions that could also fight. The Aizen Estate, and their training programme, had changed the script, and their bodyguards were considered some of the best in the world.

Their Companions too had gained a lot of traction. The training programmes had taken place originally on the estate, and some training still took place there, but they had franchises all over now. There were collar training schools dotted across the country that used the Aizen Training, and paid the estate a regular fee in order to be able to say this, at the cost of occasionally having to prove they could produce satisfactory results and weren't at risk of damaging the brand. Test scores for any Collar trained under their methods were included in profiles these days.

Three such profiles rested in Miss Iris's lap. The Collars detailed within the slim files were all female, as per her father's instruction, and Iris's consternation. She wanted a boy, but no father, least of all Clarus, was going to give his teenage daughter some attractive young male trained to bow to her every whim.

It was different for a boy. Iris hated hearing that, and considered it unfair that her brother had been given not just any boy but the exact boy he'd wanted when she wasn't allowed one at all. To her mind, it didn't make much difference that Gladio was also a boy when the whole point was that he was sleeping with his Collar anyway. From the sounds that had been heard in the corridor near Master Gladio's bedroom over Solstice, he was doing a lot more than merely sleeping with Ignis.

It was by the by, however. The issue wasn't that Iris may sleep with her Collar, or at least, that wasn't Cor's concern for all Clarus may not have wished to discuss it. The issue was that Iris was female. It was an unfortunate truth of their society. If a male master got a female Collar pregnant it was readily resolved. A Collar was easily sent away, the child was easily handed off to another family member, or could one day, if no other heirs presented themselves, one day be legitimised. If a female master was impregnated by a male Collar, however, it brought shame and disrepute on her, her family, and her household. It happened, of course, sometimes, and when it did it was hidden as swiftly and absolutely as rumour would allow. Rumour always dogged the women, of course. If a woman took her leave to some distant place, rumour would spring up in her wake. The children, collar blooded but not born to a Collar, and thus, freeborn, became wards either of their mother's estate, or of one friendly to hers. Being a ward of an estate carried with it a weight of rumour, and people would constantly be watching the child as they grew for their collar blood showing, and the mother's reputation would never really recover.

Iris was too young, and too impulsive to understand the consequences, to be trusted to be as careful as she would need to be. The world may have been moving away from the expectation that girls would be virgins until their marriage, but it was still, in some of the older circles, expected that she would be in all likelihood untouched. A male Collar, whether companion or bodyguard, made that likelihood vanishingly small. Especially with Iris; she was an Amicitia, and their passions ran hot, and sometimes their sense ran low. One only had to look at her brother for an example of that.

The gates to the estate were open, as were the front doors when Iris and Cor went through. The weight of Cor's leash dangled absently in Iris's hand as she looked around with open curiosity.

A woman greeted them. She would have been unmistakeable as a Collar even if you weren't aware that the decorative confection of lace and jade around her throat was a house collar. Green hair and pale brown eyes weren't, in themselves, a giveaway, nor was the ample bosom that was carefully accentuated by the shirt. It was the way she held herself. With her shoulders back, and her heels together, feet planted just so in her pretty heeled shoes, and the softly patient expression she wore. She was a textbook Companion.

Her name was Nel, Cor knew, and she'd helped write the textbooks for Companions.

“Welcome, miss Amicitia,” Nel said, her voice gentle and polite and soft. “We've been expecting you.”

Cor kept his position just to Iris's left and a step behind. He also kept his hands behind his back. He had to wait to be introduced himself before he was allowed to speak.

“Pleased to meet you,” Iris said, remembering her manners despite her open curiosity.

“I'm Neliel,” Nel said, giving the small, polite nod that was known as the collar's nod. It served as a bow, and a curtsey, an indication of servitude to one's own master, and politeness to others. It could be used as greeting, acknowledgement, or apology. “I understand you'll be staying with us overnight. Shall I take you to your quarters?”

Cor suspected the answer Iris wanted to give was no. Iris really just wanted to see the Collars. It was all she'd spoken about ever since Solstice, reading and re-reading the profiles she'd been given last week with more enthusiasm than she ever gave to something productive like homework, and keeping the black leather collar that had been the indication of what she was to receive for Solstice, in its pretty walnut box, next to her bed. It had been the first thing she'd packed for this journey, Cor knew. Her priority had been the collar before all else.

“Yes please,” Iris said, politely. Cor made a noise that it would have been exaggerating to call a clearing of his throat. “Oh!” Iris started, as if remembering something she'd forgotten, “and this is Cor.”

Nel smiled, with a warmth in her eyes that suggested she genuinely found this amusing as she nodded to Cor in greeting. “You are welcome to unclip your bodyguard within the estate, miss,” Nel said.

Cor caught a sharply knowing look from Nel and didn't react. She'd weighed him up the instant she'd seen him, just as he had her, and they both knew it. This was the trouble with Companions; they could share whole conversations worth of information in a well timed nod, a flicker of a smile, a glance. Nel was very, very good at it, and she'd probably learned a bit more about him in the last ten seconds than he'd learned about her.

Iris turned and unclipped the leash from his collar. It didn't practically make much difference to Cor. He'd keep the same position beside and just behind Iris as he had, but it was a symbolic gesture within an estate's walls' a show of amicability towards visiting freemen and their Collars.

Nel led them to the guest housing. An estate such as this might house a visiting freeman and his entourage for a night, or a week, or longer depending upon their business, and the estate was set up with chambers appropriate to housing them, and offering every hospitality expected for the duration.

The would not, for Miss Iris, be offering bedslaves. Clarus had been in contact with them, whittling down the prospective list of purchases to a manageable three, and then informing them that his teenage daughter would be on her way to make her selection. It had been the easier way to allow Iris to choose her own. The estate would have been able to send the profiled Collars out to be viewed, but then Cor would have to find and provide housing for them and their escort, and should anything untoward happen on the way, it would be down to the Amicitia estate to compensate the Aizen estate for the damages.

It had been easier to send Iris to the Aizen estate. That she would be attending with Cor had never been in question; Cor was there to vet the Collars in person one final time and, if possible, guide the young miss towards the correct choice. He was also, however, acting as her bodyguard. Tensions ran high at present, especially with Gladio's recent injury, and the rumour of planned protests at the Aizen estate persisted. Cor was not about to let another Amicitia be injured.

The room they were taken to was large enough to be considered a suite. There was a large sofa, a balcony that overlooked the grounds, a large bed, a breakfast table big enough for four to be comfortably seated around it, and behind another door, bathing facilities.

“If you wish to eat, or there is anything you require,” Nel said, standing in that primly proper way near the door and pointing an open hand towards a pull rope, “you may call someone to attend at any time. You are of course welcome to explore the grounds.”

“When can I see the Collars?” Iris asked, giving the room little more than a brief glance before she turned around and allowed her enthusiasm to get the best of her. Cor shot her a disapproving look, careful to keep his back to Nel so she didn't see it.

“I will arrange the viewing tomorrow morning, miss,” Nel answered, with a warm and gentle smile. “Someone will bring your belongings up shortly. Please avail yourselves of our hospitality.”

“Thank you,” Cor said, turning towards Nel and responding to her small nod with one of his own.
Iris waited until the door closed before she turned around to give the room another look over. “She's nice,” she said, walking towards the bed and taking a seat on its edge.

Cor remained stood with his hands behind his back, watching Iris as she gave the edge of the bed an experimental bounce. “That is Nel Tu, personal Companion to the head of this estate.”

“She's very pretty,” Iris said, shuffling herself up to sit in the centre of the bed.

“Shoes off the bed,” Cor said, giving Iris another disapproving look.

Iris swung her legs back off the bed and tilted her head at Cor. “Don't you think she's pretty?”

Cor looked at Iris, and sighed internally. Clarus was easy. Clarus would walk into a room like this and tell him to make himself comfortable, and probably discuss what they were here to do, if it was an appropriate venue for that. Miss Iris, however, was young, and still a child, and Cor felt he'd been given extended babysitting duty rather than a bodyguarding task. “She's an intelligent and loyal Collar. She runs the training school here, and manages the estate's Collars.”

Iris looked at him, her head bowing so she could look out at him from under her eyebrows. “And pretty, right?”

Cor's sigh was less internal this time. “There is more to a Collar than our appearance, young miss.” Iris rolled her eyes at him. “Have you reviewed the profiles you were given?” he asked. It was unnecessary question; he knew the answer, but it was a sufficient change in topic.

“Yes,” Iris replied, leaning back on her hands and letting her legs dangle off the floor. “I still want to see them, though.”

Cor gave an approving nod at that answer. “You will,” he replied, “tomorrow.” They'd be primped in preparation, he knew. Then he'd be able to view them running some practice drills so he could assess their ability. Partially assess it, at least. He wouldn't be able to spar with any of them until the contract had been signed, and that was the best way for him to review their actual ability as a bodyguard. Still, further training was always an option, and Aizen trained bodyguards were highly sought for a reason.

He made his way to the breakfast table then, and the menus that were settled upon it. The kitchens in a place such as this were manned all night long, and there would be Collars on hand throughout the night to attend to whatever whims a master, or their Collar, may have. 'Avail yourself of our hospitality' wasn't just an invitation to Iris.

“Was this how dad got you?” Iris asked, a thoughtful look on her face.

Cor looked up at her, and then back down at the menu he'd picked up. The options on the menu were the sort of thing Sorrel might have chosen. The young miss had persisted, for a few days, in trying to claim he just wasn't as good as Ignis, but in the face of Ignis's disagreement she was running out of ammunition for her claims. She certainly hadn't been able to cling to her stubborn refusal to admit that their new chef was quite good too after he and Ignis had exchanged recipes before Ignis returned to Insomnia, and Sorrel had, almost pointedly, put one of Iris's favourite dishes of Ignis's on the table the previous night. It had been every bit as good as when Ignis had made it, and Iris had tried, briefly, to find fault, but had only been able to find differences, and grudgingly admit those hadn't been bad differences.

“No,” he answered, after a moment. “Your father didn't select me.”

Iris pouted at him, but her curiosity was plainly piqued. “Were you a gift?”

Cor considered the question, and decided to answer, “Of sorts. I had served the Lucis Caelum estate before I was given to your father.” He'd been a handful, too, he knew. Young, impetuous, well trained certainly, but arrogant about it. He'd been full of the vigour of youth, and the head housecollar had despaired of him. Clarus had offered to take him, and Regis had made a wedding gift of him to Clarus because, in Regis's words, Clarus would rest easier with someone watching his growing family's backs. Cor hadn't thought much of it at the time, but since he'd grown into his role as the head housecollar of the Amicitia estate, he'd found himself wondering if perhaps he hadn't been on someone's hitlist back then. He'd dealt with brash young collars like his youthful self, and he understood now how tempting it was to suggest selling them to give oneself an easier life.

“So you're not a Companion?” Companions were chosen. It was frowned upon to give Collars as gifts, although it was acceptable to allow someone to choose their own as a gift, but it still happened. You always let people pick their own Companions, though.

“All true bodyguards are companions,” Cor answered, turning towards Iris. The other kind were better described as estate guards, loyal to a family and not just a single individual. Cor would, of course, watch out for Gladio and Iris with the same dedication that he did Clarus, if not a little more on account of the fact that Clarus would prefer him to protect his daughter over himself, but it wasn't quite the same.

“But you're not trained for,” Iris began, quietly, fishing for information and seeming to regret her own curiosity halfway through the question, “that, right?” Cor gave Iris a long, considering look that spoke volumes. Iris responded, after a moment of silence, with a noise of distress. “Really?”

“Such training was standard for all servant collars,” Cor said. It was not quite the truth, of course. Back then it had been standard training for any collar that served a household, assuming they were given training for their roles. It had been expected back then that a master might avail themselves, or his guests, of the hospitality of any collar in his possession. Dedicated bedslaves were a rarity then; any housecollar may become a bedslave at a master's behest, trained or no. It fell by the wayside, however, when laws were passed the prevented masters providing underage collars for the purposes of sex. Bedslave became a collar role on its own right; it indicated they were of an age to be provided for that kind of service, and the training went in hand with it. Ordinary housecollars were left largely unmolested as a result, and training them for those purposes went out of vogue as the training became more expensive to obtain.

It remained standard for any personal Collars, however. Companions provided sexual services as a matter of course, and bodyguards that served a single person served as Companion to them. Training could begin from as young as fifteen, though the specifics of the training they could receive was limited. The understanding was that teenage masters might well want to experiment with their teenage childhood companions. At seventeen the scope expanded a little, though the onus was still on the Collar providing pleasure to their master. At twenty a Collar could be entered for full training, expected to take and fake pleasure, as well as service a master in all the myriad ways a master may wish to be pleasured.

Iris looked uncomfortable. “And, the Collars I'm seeing?” she asked. “Are they all...?”

Cor gave a small nod. “They are trained in all aspects of Companionship. Whether you make use of that training will be up to you. Your father never has.”

Iris looked over at him, and looked visibly relieved. “Oh,” she said, “good.”

They ordered dinner and ate in the room. It was only when it came to time to sleep that Iris noticed what Cor had spotted immediately. Large as the bed was, there was only one in the room. Cor allowed her to agonise for a few moments over how, and whether, to ask him to sleep elsewhere, or whether she could and should endure a night sharing a bed with her father's fully Companion trained bodyguard, before he bade her sleep and made his way to the sofa.

It was at least a long sofa, and comfortable enough. Cor slept slightly curled; formative teen years spent sleeping in a bed three inches shorter than himself giving him a habit he'd never shaken in his adulthood.

He woke before Iris, dressed and shaved, and then woke her. Breakfast arrived for them both before Iris finished showering and dressing. Then Nel came for them both.

“Would you like to view the Collars?” she asked. Her collar was a different one this time, pink lace and emeralds complementing her skirt, and matched to the band around her wrist.

Iris had been eager, and Cor had followed behind. Nel led them to a viewing room where three female Collars stood to attention. Cor stayed by the door as Iris was introduced to each, and each one kept their hands clasped behind their backs, looking fixedly at the opposite wall until Iris was introduced to them.

If they'd been strictly Companions, or if they were being selected for their ability as Companions, they'd have been arranged artfully across some furniture. As bodyguards, they were stood to attention. They'd been primped, that much was obvious. Not one of them had a hair out of place, their clothes were tailored, their faces made up, but they weren't being sold based on their sexual appeal.

Iris lingered on the last one, with silvery hair, before she turned back towards Cor. “I would like to see them run a combat drill,” Cor said, before Iris could say anything that would commit her to a single one.

“Do we have to?” Iris asked, pouting at Cor from across the room.

“Whomever you choose is to be your bodyguard,” Cor answered, without looking directly at Iris. “I wish to be satisfied of their ability.”

Nel smiled at him, and there was that flash of genuine amusement again. “Of course,” she said. “If you would allow us to prepare the training room, we will arrange a demonstration.”

“Cor.” The way Iris said his name made it sound like a complaint. “Do we have to? You've seen their profiles.”

“Scores in tests do not always translate to real ability,” he replied, unmoved.

“You're such a stick-in-the-mud,” Iris complained, walking towards him, and the door. Cor caught a flash of a smirk on the face of one of the Collars, the one with silvery hair, and he watched her for a moment before he turned and left the room, following Iris.

There was a half hour wait in total before Nel retrieved them from a reception room and led them through a door, down a corridor, and through another door. They were seated again, there, in an area that looked to be a monitoring station for training, overlooking an open area.

The first young bodyguard was brought in. Pink hair plaited against her scalp ended in a short tail at the back of her head, and she carried a sword. Cor opened the profiles and found hers. Her name was given as Ivy, although a master was of course free to change it at their will.

“Begin,” Nel called, and Cor watched as Ivy began to work. She cut a swathe through imaginary enemies, defending against imaginary blows, dodged others and retaliated. Too much dodging for Cor's liking, for a bodyguard.

The next was a tall woman, another sword wielder, whose profile gave her name as Lorelai. She set into her routine at command, blocking and holding back attacks as often as she made her own. Her style was more defensive than aggressive, and she was broader across than either of the other two, though slower than Ivy had been.

The third was the silver haired woman, Aranea. Her weapon was a lance, that she unclipped from her back and flourished. Cor felt her eyes meet his, despite the distance between them. When she began she all but danced, wielding the weight of the lance with ease, and with impressive speed.
Aranea gave them a bow when she'd done, and left to join the others. Nel turned to Cor. “Would you like to see any more?”

“I've seen sufficient,” he said. “May we have some time to discuss our decision?”

“Of course.”

Iris waited until Nel had closed the door behind her before she asked, “Our decision?”

“Lorelai looks to be the most competent defender,” Cor said. “I advise you choose her.”

Iris's upper lip curled. “She's nearly as big as Gladdy.”

“She is six feet tall,” Cor answered, without having to double check the profile to be sure. “All the better for a bodyguard.”

“I want Aranea,” Iris said.

Cor fought to keep the scowl off his face, and failed. “That one will be trouble.”

“She's the prettiest,” Iris said, as if that settled the issue.

“You should not select a bodyguard based upon their appearances. Her choice of weapon is unwieldy for a bodyguard.” She also, although Cor didn't want to say it, had an attitude. It was an attitude that he recognised; one borne of self confidence, one he'd had himself when he was younger than Aranea, but it was still an attitude. While Iris's bodyguard would invariably be her responsibility, they would also be part of the household Cor ran. He foresaw headaches where Aranea was concerned.

“I don't care, I like her. You said I get to pick,” Iris replied, stubbornly.

Cor made himself breathe deeply before he replied. “Young miss, I strongly advise you take time to consider their individual merits. This choice will be one that stays with you for the rest of your life.”

Iris gave a defiant nod, “And I choose the pretty one.”

Cor sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose between his fingers. “Miss Iris,” he said, “this is not a game.”

“No,” Iris agreed. “I want a collar I'm going to be happy with, and I like her the most. I don't care if she's not the best fighter, but I like her, and that's going to be more important, isn't it?”

Cor let his hand drop. “In the end, the decision is yours,” he conceded.

“Aranea it is, then.”

Date: 2017-05-06 11:45 pm (UTC)
alien_laughter: Jenka is amused (amused)
From: [personal profile] alien_laughter
Ahahaha POOR COR! Did she-- did she REALLY ask him that, omfg

Aww, all that hospitality and no bed for poor Cor?

Why are you complaining about watching combat drills, Iris, it'll be fun!

... "She's the prettiest" REALLY, Iris? Are you planning to molest her immediately, or do you just care that much about her being decorative, or what? XD

Cor's expecting trouble with her. Bahahaha

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