*˖:✧ ⑅•.༻♔༺.•⑅ ✧:˖*
After speeding towards the Western side of Granoir’s camp without rest, Valhayle searched for the 8th Princess and finally found her.
There was no time to explain so he wrapped her up in a blanket and carried her.
He held her tightly to minimize the impact and got situated on his horse.
Valhayle hastily galloped away. The more time wasted there, the higher the chances were of the plan failing.
The advance troop rescued the other captives that were with the princess and they galloped away as fast as they did coming here.
Arrows showered down behind them.
Valhayle, covered entirely in armor, blocked the arrows away with his sword to protect the princess and his horse.
At that moment, he was relieved that he had removed the golden ribbon from his helmet and given it to the bird.
In war, the most noticeable thing got attacked first. The golden ribbon would have definitely stood out.Then the attacks would have been concentrated on him, putting the princess in danger as well.
While escaping the enemy camp, Valhayle blew a horn.
It was the retreat signal for the militia, as well as the signal that notified the success of the mission.
As he ran across the field, Valhayle placed his hand under the princess’s head and brought her closer to him since she could get hurt from the horse’s running quiver.
He looked down at the princess briefly.
To the princess, she was being kidnapped by a stranger yet she didn’t resist at all. She must have fainted or with a very thin chance, remained asleep the whole time.
…Is this really happening?
The princess was in his arms but he still couldn’t believe it. He even checked her face before wrapping her in the blanket yet he felt so uneasy that she wouldn’t be there if he checked again.
Perhaps it was because of the memories of her always fleeing away from him.
And perhaps, that being the reason, the soft weight on his arm felt nice.
The time and effort spent on finding a royal heir this whole time seemed like it was all for this single moment.
‘I finally caught her.’
Valhayle uttered internally and was surprised by it.
What a disloyal statement. I rescued her, not caught her.
Valhayle shook his head and faced forward. The mission was not over yet.
It only ended when he safely arrived in the Roheneim camp, to the place where his bird with the golden ribbon was waiting.
Valhayle continued to ride.
The wooden gate of the camp slowly rose.
Valhayle rode across the camp and stopped at his tent located in the center.
The knight commanders waiting inside all stood in a line before him. Valhayle carefully carried the princess down from the horse.
There was only silence among the commanders in front of him and the soldiers of the advance troop behind him.
The shape of a person covered in the blanket.
They couldn’t believe it just like Valhayle couldn’t.
That Roymonde’s royal heir was actually here.
Valhayle removed his helmet and broke the silence.
“1st and 2nd Knight Commanders, take roll call of the advance troop and send the wounded to the medical unit.”
The 1st and 2nd commanders, who were standing with astounded faces, replied.
“4th Commander, you let the captives rest and check if my messenger bird has arrived safely.”
The 4th commander walked away.
“5th Commander, you prevent agitation in the army and hide the news of the retrieval of Her Majesty until my command.”
Lastly, Valhayle turned to Sir Luke.
“And the 3rd commander comes with me.”
Valhayle glanced at Sir Luke, who sported a dumbfounded expression, to lead the way. He had commanded Sir Luke to prepare a tent for the Princess to stay in before leaving.
After a short moment, Sir Luke answered slowly.
He started staggering ahead of Valhayle. Guessing by his weakness, he must have been worried sick about Valhayle.
Sir Luke guided Valhayle to a small tent in the corner of the camp.
“It’s here for now. Nondescript and safe…”
Valhayle nodded. This place was good enough for now. Plus, they could discuss about accomodations later with the princess when she woke up.
Valhayle flung the tent door open and laid the princess down on the bed. As he lowered her in the bed, the blanket moved slightly, revealing her face.
Sir Luke gasped.
He knew that face.
It was the 8th Princess Zelleine whom he and Valhayle, who had to attend royal events often, saw once in a while.
Her face under the moonlight looked serene.
< II-1 The Princess and the Servant : Enemy and Ally >
After a long while, Sir Luke finally spoke.
“I-Is Her Majesty asleep?”
Valhayle looked down at the princess.
“Either that or she has fainted.”
“They had said she was too unwell to write a letter. It doesn’t seem like it.”
Sir Luke grumbled in a relieved way.
“Seems like Granoir lied to us. It’s not like writing a letter is that difficult.”
“If she wakes up, I’m going to ask her about the things that have happened to her.”
Valhayle tucked her in bed.
Sir Luke spoke again.
“On a side note, Sir. I didn’t expect you to return this uninjured.”
Valhayle replied coldly.
“It’s only because our plan worked.”
Sir Luke made a complicated expression.
“Did that bird… Really lead the advance troop towards the location where the salt fire was fired?”
“But how is that possible?”
“If it weren’t, Her Majesty wouldn’t be alive here with us.”
“That’s true, but…”
Valhayle raised his hand to stop Sir Luke.
“We have many more things to do. When the day breaks, we have to identify the casualties of the militia. We didn’t lose any of our elites, but it would be a different story for the militia.”
Valhayle looked around the small tent and continued.
“We will need people to serve Her Majesty. Search for them from her mother’s family or from the castles located in the South. Only hire people who have experience serving a royal.”
“Understood. Is there anything else?”
“…We might need a doctor. Since we have to confirm if Her Majesty is well or not.”
“I’ll commend the advance troop and interrogate the captives myself.”
With Sir Luke gone, only Valhayle and the princess remained in the tent.
Valhayle watched the princess’s face.
Even after observing her again, she didn’t feel like a royal heir. In fact… She felt like a fairy that lived near forests or lakes.
A fairy that could never be seen in this blood- and dirt-stained war field, one that could never be captured.
He felt a stab of guilt from the feeling that he desired and even captured a fairy like that.
Valhayle shook his head.
It didn’t make sense at all. So, Valhayle wished Zelleine would open her eyes quickly.
He wanted her to look at him, call his name, and prove to him that his belief in the royal heir’s survival was not mistaken.
He wanted to proclaim to everyone that a royal heir was alive here and now.
And he wanted to say that the blood of the first Meredith royalty that legends said protected Roymonde with their golden blood flowed in her body too.
As he thought that, Valhayle scorned himself internally.
I didn’t even believe in legends before.
However, he still knelt beside the sleeping princess.
“Domus Biden Prossi.”
In translation, ‘My noble personage’.
It was an ancient language now forgotten. It was only used for female royalties and in modern days, it equated to ‘Majesty.’
Valhayle pronounced those words and felt chills. He finally felt it on his skin that he had rescued a royal heir. He cherished that feeling and left the tent to commend his soldiers.
After Zelle returned to camp, she waited in Valhayle’s tent nervously.
“1st and 2nd Knight Commander, take roll call of the advance troop and…”
And when she heard his voice coming outside…
Zelle was so deeply overjoyed by his safe return that she momentarily forgot the purpose of the mission.
‘I didn’t lose my country’s commander-in-chief!!’
She shivered from joy and decided to compliment him in any way possible.
When the door flung open, she jumped up from excitement that it would be Valhayle. However, the person who entered was one of the knight commanders instead.
Zelle’s shoulders immediately dropped. The 4th Commander approached and checked on her.
It was disappointing that it wasn’t Valhayle, but Zelle behaved herself and studied the 4th Commander’s face. She was trying to assume Valhayle’s state with his expression.
The 4th Commander glanced at her.
Zelle got a feeling that his gaze felt a little different than usual.
Before, he just looked at her as if she was a cute bird but… Now, it was like he admitted that she was something more important than that.
It wasn’t logical, but it felt like he now viewed her as one of his comrades in war. But Zelle focused on something else.
The 4th commander’s smile.
From that, Zelle identified that it was joy like the one she was feeling.
The success of the mission. The return of the commander-in-chief and the advance troop. And…
Right. The rescue of the 8th Princess.
That was the purpose of the mission. Zelle grew certain from the knight commander’s face.
Then, that meant that her human body was not so far away from her.
Perhaps that body was already awake and conversing with Valhayle or anybody else. She was thrilled that her body was retrieved but also creeped out.
She had wondered several times if this bird’s soul was in her human body.
But if that really happened, she would have been treated like a lunatic by the Granoir army.
Considering Granoir’s evil practice of disposing of babies who were physically or mental handicapped, they would have never understood her bird-like behavior.
‘They would have killed me.’
If so, then how did you survive, Zelleine? Your 3rd eldest sister’s head was hung on the castle walls, yet how is yours still intact?
‘Scared of you.’
I’m scared that you might not be me. I’m terrified that I might have been banished from my body forever.
I’m terrified that someone wearing my body of a princess will use it to affect this country. And that as a mere bird, I won’t be able to stop it.
But Zelleine, even though I’m terrified…
‘I missed you.’
Zelle let out a shaky breath. The knight commander placed her in the bird cage and locked it.
*˖:✧ ⑅•.༻♔༺.•⑅ ✧:˖*
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