*˖:✧ ⑅•.⋅༻♔༺•⑅ ✧:˖*
The weight of the mission placed a lot of pressure on Zelle. She had wanted to be back on messenger bird duty, but she hadn’t expected to be assigned such an important task.
A task with the lives of hundreds of soldiers, as well as two of her lives, on the line.
Zelle glanced over at Valhayle’s face. This commander-in-chief’s life was on the line too.
Valhayle insisted on rescuing the 8th Princess himself.
The knights, who were aware of the responsibility the commander-in-chief had to bear, strongly opposed it. However, Valhayle mentioned the battle of the Black Defense Wall and silenced them.
“I opened the back gate then. If I, as the commander-in-chief, am not willing to do such dangerous tasks, who would ever volunteer to do so?”
Even so, Sir Luke persisted.
“Sir, I’m not devaluing your swordsmanship but when fighting at night, even a master can be killed by a mere soldier. On top of that, it’s in the middle of enemy grounds!”
“You must deploy another troop. There’s Sir Toby and Sir Darren here. There’s even me. Can’t you trust us?!”
“Sir, this isn’t the time to boast of your skills. This is war! One poisoned arrow, one stab at your vital point, and it’s death!”
“No. This absolutely cannot happen. It just can’t!!”
He followed Valhayle around even during meal time and bedtime to stop him.
After being hounded day and night by Sir Luke, Valhayle resorted to drawing his sword and stabbing it into the ground.
“If you continue to pester me about this matter, I’ll swing this sword even if it’s you.”
Then, Sir Luke scowled and shut his mouth.
I guess he still wants his head attached to his neck…However, Zelle still deeply appreciated him.
To be honest, Zelle admired Sir Luke for persisting for this long.
Zelle studied Valhayle’s face carefully and clenched her jaw.
‘But, what if you really die?’
For a moment, Zelle thought of a Roheneim without Valhayle and fell into a great shock.
Zelle shook her head fretfully.
If the commander-in-chief were to die in this current situation with no royal heir, there would be no point of unionship in this country.
Even if the resistance against Granoir continued, unless they moved as one body, the separate militaries would be hopeless.
And the only individuals accepted to be the head of this body were a royal heir or the leader of Roheneim.
She thought about the stabilizing effect that a leader had on their military simply by existing.
However, Valhayle seemed indifferent about putting his life at risk.
She grew up among royal members who protected their lives even at the expense of many others so his behavior was strange to her.
He cares so much about other people’s lives but he doesn’t seem to care as much about his own.
‘Has he gotten used to this type of work or is he just overly confident…’
But as a member of a strong family like House Lumares, it would be natural for him to grow up learning that his life came first.
Although Zelle was proud of Valhayle for staying in the forefront at every battle, she didn’t enjoy that sight.
After I’m done with this mission, I should object too.
…If I’m done with this mission.
Zelle mulled over her words.
If this mission was successful she would meet her human body. Then…What would happen?
‘Will I be able to gain my human body back?’
Zelle repeated the same thing over and over again. She pulled a sheet from the pile of paper next to her and tore it again and again.
She did this to calm herself before the mission but Valhayle probably thought this was good for destroying confidential documents and gave her more paper instead of scolding her.
An hour from now, the militia was going to ambush Granoir and Zelle was going to be on mission.
It was an operation being carried out in such confidentiality that even most of the allies didn’t know. Thus, everything had to be done cautiously.
The advance troop that was going to leave with Valhayle later was already positioned on the north of the camp as security in order to avoid suspicion.
After he deployed Zelle, Valhayle would join them immediately.
Zelle spat the torn paper she was chewing.
Valhayle called for Zelle from his table. Zelle slipped out of the pile of shredded paper and flew towards him.
He then spread a familiar map in front of Zelle.
“Here. Study it for one last time.”
It was the ambush spots of each militia which she studied at least a hundred times during the discussion. Zelle sighed.
I can remember that Militia 1 is South, Militia 2 is East, Militia 3 is North and so on even in my sleep…
But Zelle knew how crucial this operation was for both her and Valhayle. So, she studied the map once more.
“You must fly high. Where you can see everything in one sight. High to the point where arrows won’t reach you.”
Zelle nodded as Valhayle removed pieces of shredded paper from her feathers.
She stared at him, grooming her body.
When his eyes met with hers, Valhayle uttered coldly.
“White can be easily spotted at night.”
Oh really? That shouldn’t happen then. Zelle shook her body and Valhayle withdrew his hands slowly.
Zelle picked through her feathers and looked up to see why Valhayle had suddenly fallen silent.
When their gaze met, Valhayle grabbed Zelle. She felt the slightly painful pressure of his hands and realized that he was not as calm as he looked.
“Perhaps. I already knew. That she… Survived.”
Zelle was stunned.
‘She’. ‘Survive’. He was referring to 8th Princess Zelleine.
But… Zelle turned inside his grasp.
How…? For what reason did you think that? We have never met before.
But even so, out of that many royal heirs… Why did you think it was me who survived?
Zelle was seized with bewilderment.
She got chills just by thinking that the head of House Lumares could have noticed her.
‘You don’t know me.’
Unaware of her thoughts, Valhayle held her up to eye-level. His silver moonlight eyes flowed with warmth.
“I trust you.”
Valhayle hung the tail of the golden ribbon around Zelle’s foot on his finger and brought it closer to him. Then, he bent a little and, on the tip of the ribbon, left a soft kiss as if he was pleading with all his heart.
“I wish you luck.”
As soon as he said that, the drums signaling the start of the mission sounded. Valhayle brought Zelle out of the tent.
Half an hour from the militia’s attack.
He spoke in a low voice.
“See you later.”
And Zelle was thrown up to the sky.
She still couldn’t comprehend what Valhayle meant, since there was a very slim chance that he knew her back when she was a human.
But she recalled his eyes gazing into hers.
The first warmth to ever be given to Zelle. And complete trust.
Zelle decided to focus on the task at hand first.
Yes. He could have thought the 8th Princess was alive because I am the least important.
She felt like something was off but she shook her head and shoved that thought away.
Zelle widened her eyes in the dark and soared up high to the clouds.
She uttered internally.
‘I trust you too.’
And, just like how Valhayle did to her golden ribbon, she kissed the silver moon that shone brighter than usual.
And prayed with all her heart.
‘I pray that we are all alive when this mission is over.’
‘It was real.’
Zelle mumbled in disbelief despite having seen it for herself.
The flares that danced in the darkness. The stars between the torches. Roymonde’s fire.
Salt fire was ignited. Before even being able to think about what that meant, she hastily flew.
She put all her might into her wings to fly at the fastest speed.
Her heart pounded.
‘I’m actually alive. I’m alive somewhere down there.’
Her body trembled. Guessing by how shocked she is, even Zelle herself must not have believed in her survival.
‘No. Zelleine. Get your head straight.’
Zelle focused forward. Regardless of her life-or-death, she was a soldier right now. She was a messenger bird carrying out a mission.
‘I have to do as ordered.’
Zelle clenched her beak.
After flying for some time, she spotted a group of torches.
Just like how the horses the soldiers rode while chasing her the night she fled from the palace had done, the mounted advance troop galloped at full speed.
If she clashed with them with her current speed and their speed, it would probably tear her apart into shreds.
She was scared, but she cried out like promised.
Zelle scanned the alignment. Second man, with the golden ribbon on the tail of his helmet.
Zelle dove towards that man.
The man looked up.
Zelle cried again.
Then the man running second looked at Zelle. It seemed extremely dangerous to be looking up while riding at such a speed.
Then, the man slowly moved upwards. He stood up with his foot on the footrest.
Zelle, who saw that directly from the front, was appalled.
‘Are you out of your mind?’
The distance between Zelle and the man decreased as seconds passed. The man standing unstably on the horse extended his arm up in the air while holding the reins in one hand.
Wait! What are you doing!!
Zelle slowed down unconsciously. Then, her bird’s instinct whispered to her.
And immediately following that, the man snatched Zelle from the air and buried her in his chest. She could feel the man breathing harshly as he laid low on his horse.
The man spoke.
Only then did Zelle release the breath she had been holding.
She wanted to scream at him or pull his hair for doing that but she still carried out her task.
Poke. Poke. Poke. Poke.
Zelle poked Valhayle’s hands 4 times. It meant the area where Militia 4 attacked.
At that exact moment, about 50 people that made up the troop turned west.
Zelle got chills from seeing their perfect synchronization.
Valhayle held Zelle close to him so she wouldn’t be swept away by the wind and spoke.
“Your mission ends here.”
Then, he pulled the golden ribbon tied onto his helmet and handed it to Zelle. Zelle clutched it in her beak.
“Take it and return to camp.”
After saying that, Valhayle threw her up to the sky. Strong wind rushed through her wings.
Zelle was dragged away in that wind for a while and stopped at one point. Valhayle’s words before he had thrown her still lingered in her ears.
‘I’ll be back soon.’
Perhaps she had misheard it because of the wind. But Zelle decided to trust him.
And she soared through the sky.
On this late night, the moon was leaning towards the west.
*˖:✧ ⑅•.⋅༻♔༺•⑅ ✧:˖*
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TL/N: This is my favorite chapter by far T^T