*˖:✧ ⑅•.༻♔༺.•⑅ ✧:˖*
“Sir, I’ve brought them.”
Sir Luke came in with a group of women.
Valhayle saw their terrified faces and suppressed his anger.
Most of the women that were captured with the 8th Princess were maids that worked for the nobles of the Central region. So some of them could have a husband, brother, or son serving in the Roheneim army.
“I have a question.”
Valhayle uttered, trying his best to calm down.
The women shared looks with each other.
“It’s about Her Highness’s current state. Does anyone know what happened to her?”
No one dared to speak, so Sir Luke added.
“We are in the Roheneim camp. Whatever you say, no harm will be done to you.”
One of the women cautiously spoke up.
“Her Highness has been unconscious ever since we first saw her when we were captured.”
Sir Luke asked.
“Have you heard about what happened then?”
“No. They only talked in their language…”
Sir Luke turned to Valhayle with a concerned look.
“Then what do we do now, Sir? News about Her Highness will spread within days, and if the public finds out that she is in that state….”
Valhayle didn’t reply to him. Instead, he questioned the women again.
“Why did they capture you all? I’ve heard it was to serve someone.”
The women shared looks again.
Another woman spoke up.
“We weren’t even aware that we were captured there to serve Her Royal Highness until you said so just now.”
“So, are you saying you didn’t serve her?”
“No. I just mean that we had nothing to serve. The only thing we did for Her Highness was brush her hair and balm her lips so they didn’t dry out.”
Valhayle asked coldly.
“Then why did they need 6 servants to do just that?”
One woman blurted out in a frustrated manner.
“We mostly translated or explained Roymondean. The man who knew a little Roymondean always ordered us around.”
Valhayle recalled Granoir’s messenger soldier who spoke very poor Roymondean.
“Detain the doctor in your tent. Take the ladies here and find out what Granoir ordered them to explain.”
The women all gathered at the door.
Valhayle pointed at one of the women.
“The first one who spoke stays.”
Everyone except that woman left the tent.
Valhayle asked her.
“Earlier, you said you don’t know why Her Highness is in that state.”
“Did Granoir ever come and check whether Her Highness had woken up?”
They were sure she wouldn’t regain consciousness.
Valhayle’s hands balled up into fists.
Granoir. What the hell did you do to Her Highness?
The woman gulped once and spoke shakily.
“It seemed like they had a discussion on whether to keep Her Highness alive or not. They were arguing and someone had to interrupt…”
But they decided to keep her alive. Probably to trade with us.
The woman interrupted Valhayle’s thoughts and continued.
“There was something strange. They seemed like they were writing down dates… But it was different from our calendar so I couldn’t exactly tell how many days they were counting. This is all I know.”
“They counted dates, huh….”
‘What are they plotting this time?’
40 days. That was the only thing that rang in Valhayle’s head. The 40 days Granoir gave them to retreat. He had simply thought they knew how long it would take for the reinforcement troops to arrive, but perhaps there was another reason.
Then, Sir Luke ran in.
Valhayle eyed the woman and ordered.
“You may leave. Go to the tent that was assigned to you yesterday.”
When the woman left, Valhayle looked up at Sir Luke.
“What is it?”
Sir Luke breathed heavily and managed to speak between his gasps.
“G-Granoir! There’s a messenger soldier from Granoir!”
“A messenger soldier?”
“Yes. We are waiting for your orders to bring him in or not.”
“Bring him in. Directly to my tent. And don’t bring the others.”
As soon as Sir Luke left, Valhayle grabbed his sword.
Only the thought of finding out what happened even by piercing the messenger soldier’s neck filled his head.
‘I’m not even completely sure if… Her Highness is still alive or not.’
The doctor’s words lingered in his mind.
The princess’s unconsciousness. 40 days. Granoir’s messenger soldier coming at such a suspicious time.
All 3 of these things were pointing towards something. He just didn’t know what.
Valhayle glared at Granoir’s messenger soldier who just walked in.
Sir Luke tied the messenger soldier’s hands and legs and forcefully made him kneel in front of Valhayle. There was a hint of startlement on the messenger soldier’s arrogant face.
From his attitude, Valhayle concluded that he was aware of the 8th Princess’s state.
‘Then you must also know why I am so infuriated.’
Valhayle gripped his sword.
“Say what you’re here for.”
The messenger soldier saw Valhayle’s sword and yielded.
“I here. Deliver letter.”
He pointed to his pocket with his chin. Sir Luke wrenched the letter out of his pocket and handed it to Valhayle.
Valhayle opened the letter.
[The 8th Princess drank our poison. It’s a poison that puts a person into deep slumber and eventually kills them in 3 months.
If she takes the antidote, she’ll live but only we have that.
Only 30 days remain for the princess now. So, give up 4 castles and retreat for 30 days.
If you do as said without attacking us, we will send you the antidote.]
Valhayle threw the letter onto the ground.
He was deeply enraged.
“This is it.”
The scheme behind the conditions stated in their negotiation talks. Granoir confidently demanded 40 days because they had a backup plan.
They were going to threaten Roheneim with the princess’s antidote if Roheneim didn’t retreat for 40 days.
And if Roheneim requested for the return of the princess after retreating, they would have just returned the princess in her lifeless state to demoralize the army.
Ultimately, the retrieval of the princess didn’t change a thing then.
Valhayle commanded Sir Luke.
“Lock him up.”
Sir Luke looked at Valhayle, who was clearly infuriated, anxiously.
When he was all alone, Valhayle admitted to himself.
He couldn’t let the princess die.
So he would have to retreat just as Granoir demanded.
But it was at least fortunate that Granoir underestimated the 8th Princess’s value.
Just 4 castles. They disvalue her too much.
To Roymonde, she was the first royal heir to be found alive and thus possibly their new ruler. But to Granoir, it seemed like she was just ‘the king’s unimportant 8th daughter’.
She was not as known to the public but… They thought Roheneim would ignore the deal if they asked for more than 4 castles in return for her life.
Those insane morons.
Valhayle tried to calm down but instead, he was even angrier.
‘So, we have to retreat after all.’
We have to give up entirely… On our spark of victory.
In 30 days, Granoir’s reinforcement troops would arrive and wipe off the Eastern and Central region again.
Even if all 3 of Roymonde’s militaries were pushed to the West and stood guard…
‘We won’t even last a year.’
It was even more aggravating that he had to tell this to the army.
He had to deliver this tragic news to those who just celebrated the success yesterday.
If this spread among the soldiers, they would be greatly agitated. Those who had homes in the Central region would be affected even more.
Valhayle pressed his temples. The bird flopped on the ground beside him.
Anguish enveloped him.
It was night.
Valhayle rose from the chair. Zelle, who was observing him with close attention, hopped onto Valhayle’s shoulder.
Valhayle glanced at her and spoke coldly.
“I’m going to see Her Highness.”
Zelle hesitated for a moment.
She couldn’t bear the sight of her lying down unconscious but, at the same time, she was eager to see it for herself.
‘I can’t believe it unless I see it.’
Zelle clung onto Valhayle’s shoulders. Valhayle was about to pull her off but he stopped.
“…Whatever. It shouldn’t matter.”
Then, he started walking towards the tent where the princess laid in with Zelle on his shoulder.
Despite deciding to accompany Valhayle, Zelle was afraid. She raised her talons and grasped Valhayle’s shoulder tightly. It was the only thing she could hold on to at the moment.
Valhayle showed his face to the soldiers guarding the tent and entered. Zelle looked at the face of the woman who laid serenely in bed.
Zelle couldn’t breathe at the sight of her own deathly pale face.
She had wanted her human body to be alive, but not like this.
‘I couldn’t even imagine this.’
It was not the time to be relieved that she had no mother Granoir could threaten for land. Zelle genuinely didn’t think she could be used as a hostage like this.
The princess no one wanted and the nuisance with no mother, father, or sibling who cherished them.
But now, she was a burdensome hostage who would bring this country to an end.
The most important person in this time in which no other royal heir had been found alive yet, and the most powerless tyrant.
Now, she was just a purposeless vessel that would destroy the lives of thousands—if not tens of thousands—of lives.
‘Is that what I had survived all this time for?’
Zelleine mumbled forlornly. This was the first time she regretted trying so hard to live.
Zelle forcefully opened her eyes which were swamped in agony—
—and darted towards her human body. It happened so suddenly that even Valhayle couldn’t react to it.
A few minutes prior.
As he walked towards the princess’s tent, he sensed the bird’s fear.
Ever since he kept this bird close to him, he realized that birds had facial expressions too. And currently this bird was stiffened in fear, barely managing to cling onto him.
Valhayle was perplexed by it.
Is the bird sharing a human’s fear? He irrationally thought that the bird was mirroring his own fears.
Valhayle pondered the reason why he was going to the princess’s tent right now.
Was it to check if the only surviving royal heir is really unconscious or not?
Or, was it to see her breathing and be confident in his decision on retreating for the antidote?
If not that, then was it to grieve for the royal heir that had fallen victim to this war despite not even being next-in-line to the crown?
The moment he opened the door, still mulling over his thoughts, he saw the bird that had been trembling the whole way here dart forward.
*˖:✧ ⑅•.༻♔༺.•⑅ ✧:˖*
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