*˖:✧ ⑅•.༻♔༺.•⑅ ✧:˖*
It was dusk.
The knight commanders were gathered in Valhayle’s tent. Despite it being late, everyone’s eyes were bright.
The squire poured drinks in everyone’s glasses.
Having a drink together was a form of celebration often carried out after a successful battle. If the whole army took part in this mission, then the whole army would have a drink.
But this operation was an extremely confidential mission; very few people had been privy to it. Those people were Valhaye, Valhayle’s advance troop, and the five commanders.
Alcohol was prohibited during the war so a traditional drink called Hazaan that was made of cinnamon and fruits was distributed.
The scent of brewed cinnamon, sour fruits (including tangerine), ginger, and sugar cane water filled the room.
Valhayle raised his glass.
“Today’s success was made possible by everyone.”
The five knight commanders lifted their glasses in sync and agreed.
“But something was especially crucial in this mission.”
Valhayle brought the bird out of the bird cage and held it in front of the commanders.
“Roymonde’s messenger bird.”
“If it weren’t for this bird, we wouldn’t have been able to rescue the 8th Princess from Granoir. Moreover, thousands of lives would have been lost.”
The knight commanders’ eyes all turned to Zelle.
Despite being preoccupied with other thoughts, Zelle detected their eyes and froze, anxious.
Valhayle set his glass in front of Zelle.
“When the royal court is recovered, I will request for the honorization of Roymonde’s messenger bird policy.”
“If my request is accepted, the royal court will bestow a medal of merit to this bird.”
A medal of merit?!
Zelle almost lost her senses.
Oi, Valhayle. Are you mad? A medal to a bird?
Zelle expected the same reaction from the others. She looked at the commanders, but they were all unsmiling.
They are probably angry. The royal court’s medal holds great significance to them.
In spite of her wishes, her legs began to shake.
Valhayle declared in a low voice.
“We are the only country that uses messenger birds. Thus, this success can be said to be the victory of Roymonde’s ‘messenger bird’ culture.”
With a sincere gaze, he implored.
“So I want all of you here to sign the petition with me.”
Then, Valhayle pulled out a fresh official document paper and placed it in the center of the table.
The knight commanders, each representing an order of 8,000 men, all looked at Zelle again.
Zelle unconsciously tried to find disgust or fury–the emotions which she had received her whole life from the people, and even from herself–in their eyes.
Amidst their heavy silence, Zelle finally noticed something.
Before she could even define what she had felt, the 1st Commander pulled the paper towards himself.
The petition was passed on from the 1st Commander to the 2nd Commander.
It was continuously passed on among the commanders, from the 2nd Commander to the 5th Commander.
And at the moment when Valhayle signed the last signature, Zelle found the word to describe what she had felt from the eyes of the five commanders and Valhayle.
In this warfield, today’s comrade could become tomorrow’s lost soldier.
Even though it wasn’t a weapon that could slay an enemy or food that could satiate hunger, people needed this.
Something to put their hopes on.
A symbol that God was with them in this war.
They didn’t hold reverence for the bird itself. They were kissing the hope of victory this bird symbolized.
Zelle froze up in fear, because she realized that she had become a far too important being in this war now.
Because she found the reason to live on as this bird.
Valhayle spoke with a hint of excitement.
“All of our names will be recorded in history.”
He faced Zelle and raised his glass. The other five commanders raised their glasses and downed their drinks. A strong scent of cinnamon filled the tent.
As she indulged in that thick sweet scent, for the first time ever, Zelle looked back at the purpose of her life.
‘I survived to live.’
Even after she had become a bird, she always asked herself.
Will I be able to recover my human body?
Can I retrieve my life as a human?
But there was a question that she needed to answer the most, a question she had avoided asking herself.
‘Do I want my life as a human back?’
She couldn’t answer that. She couldn’t easily say yes or no.
But, for the first time, Zelle thought that instead of blindly persisting to ‘live’, she could persist to live for something she wanted to achieve.
Today was the first day she ever thought that in her life.
It was 3 hours later when Valhayle heard about the princess again.
Sir Luke and the doctor entered Valhayle’s tent with grim expressions.
“Sir. There’s something I must tell you.”
Valhayle saw Sir Luke’s gloomy expression and leaped to his feet.
“What is it? Is the princess—”
Sir Luke shook his head without even hearing the rest of the sentence.
“No. She’s not in a critical condition.”
“Then what is it?”
SIr Luke let the doctor speak instead.
The doctor sweated profusely and parted his lips.
“Her Highness can’t seem to wake up.”
“What do you mean she can’t wake up? I thought she wasn’t in a critical condition.”
The doctor wiped away his sweat nervously.
“Well, it’s really peculiar. She is in a completely normal state but, no matter what I do, she is not regaining consciousness.”
“Are you saying she’s still unconscious?”
“No, it’s like…”
The doctor added nervously.
“She has… Fallen into a deep slumber.”
Valhayle continued to interrogate the doctor.
“Are you sure you tried everything to wake her up? If there is a method you haven’t tried yet, tell me this instant.”
The doctor hastily bowed his head.
“I tried everything I could. I lit the awakening incense, sprayed cold water on her, and… Poked the tip of her finger with a sharp object….”
Valhayle slammed his hands on the table.
“I thought you said she’s asleep! How could that be then?”
The doctor’s face went pale.
“She’s breathing and is capable of moving, but… She shows no reaction to stimuli. It seems like all her bodily functions are in the lowest state, just like when an animal has gone into hibernation.”
He spoke, almost bursting into tears.
“I’m not even completely sure if… Her Highness is still alive or not.”
Valhayle mulled over the doctor’s words for a while and spoke furiously.
“Bring all the hostages who have served Her Highness to me. Right now.”
Sir Luke dashed out.
Valhayle gripped his chair in anger.
The wood broke into pieces.
Zelle, who had been listening to their conversation, almost fell off the porch.
Only she could understand what no one else could. Her soul was not in that body.
The one and only soul of the 8th Princess was in this bird.
*˖:✧ ⑅•.༻♔༺.•⑅ ✧:˖*
Report mistakes or chat with us in discord!