*˖:✧ ⑅•.༻♔༺.•⑅ ✧:˖*
Valhayle sent the cloth used to wipe the princess’s wound to be burned instead of washed.
Every material was scarce right now but the princess was a royal heir. He couldn’t allow her noble blood to be washed away with other filth—even if her life-or-death was unknown.
He grew skeptical now of his groundless belief that at least one of the royal heirs would be alive.
With what reason did I think that?
The 1st and 2nd princesses who we can’t find? Lopecce, which is utterly desperate in searching for them? Granoir, which would hang the royal heir’s heads as soon as they found one?
No, it was none of them.
It was the 8th Princess Zelleine.
The princess in deep slumber, her crystal blue eyes hidden beneath the tightly shut eyes.
She looked so fragile that even a soft touch would shatter her and seemed more isolated than any other person.
Yet the tears she dropped inside the fountain contained incomprehensible strength and life.
That had given Valhayle assurance.
Valhayle halted from the shock of discovering the source of his blind faith.
It can’t be. How could I be…
At that moment, Sir Luke ran inside the tent.
“Sir! Sir!! Come outside! The messenger bird is…!!”
Valhayle stood up abruptly.
“The messenger bird…?”
Sir Luke panted heavily as he continued.
“The messenger bird must have left… It had fallen on the ground in front of our camp.”
“Yes, with this on it.”
Sir Luke brought out something. Valhayle immediately identified it.
“A poison needle.”
“Yes. But it seems like the concentration of poison was quite low since the bird is still alive. It’s barely breathing though.”
Valhayle turned to the doctor who had just finished treating the princess’s wound. The doctor looked at him with fear.
“Can you find out what this poison is?”
“There are not many types of poison so I think it’s possible.”
The doctor received the poison needle with trembling hands.
“Sir Luke. Where is the bird?”
“I had it laid in front of your tent. The soldier in charge of messenger birds said nothing could be done.”
“Alright. Then you take the doctor back to his tent.”
Valhayle spoke to the doctor.
“You won’t be going home for a while.”
“Pardon? I… Understood, sir….”
Although he was basically dragged here in the morning and was now forced to stay, the doctor obeyed the commander-in-chief.
After Sir Luke left with the doctor, Valhayle prepared to leave as well.
He looked back at the princess once more.
A wind must have blown into the tent since her eyelashes twitched slightly.
Valhayle stepped out of the tent.
Valhayle went to see his messenger bird that had attacked the princess, escaped from camp, and returned. He quickened his pace.
The knight commanders, who hadn’t heard about the princess the whole day, were gathered in front of the unconscious bird.
When Valhayle approached them, they all shouted.
Valhayle looked at the bird first. It was drooping like the time it had returned injured. One of the commanders asked.
“Sir, was it… Attacked while on a mission?”
Valhayle remained silent. He couldn’t even estimate where this bird went to be attacked like this.
If it was awake, he could at least ask.
He was astonished at how naturally he thought he could get an answer from an animal by asking.
“…I dispatched it for reconnaissance. Seems like it had flown too far.”
“It did a really good job yesterday. It makes me uneasy seeing it like this.”
Valhayle balled up a fist. He clenched it so hard that his finger joints began to hurt.
“It’s not dead yet. I will look for ways to save it.”
Another commander warily spoke up.
“Uh, sir… How is Her Highness doing?”
Valhayle walked closer and held the bird.
“I will tell you all tomorrow. For now, just make sure no rumors about this bird circulate in the army.”
The knight commanders glanced at the bird in Valhayle’s hands and followed the command.
Valhayle brought the bird inside the tent and laid it on the yellow flag.
He had planned to take that yellow flag away after it fully recovered, but he had completely forgotten about it. It was far too valuable to be used on a mere bird.
But now… It’s basically a shroud so I guess it’s fine.
Valhayle petted the bird lying serenely on the yellow fabric. He felt guilty.
“I should have stopped you from escaping.”
Then I could have interrogated you on why you attacked the princess and…
You wouldn’t be lying here looking like this.
Now, the reason behind the bird’s attack on the princess will remain unknown forever.
This small bird was shot with a poison needle that even killed people. It was a miracle that this bird was even alive.
For the first time, it felt like mine.
Valhayle mumbled internally.
Mine. My own.
Something I can be attached to.
Valhayle looked around the tent. Everything was exactly how it used to be—except for the empty bird cage.
He lifted the bird to see its wound more closely. And as he leaned in…
Valhayle touched the bird’s beak. It was unconscious yet its upper and lower mandibles were closed shut.
Valhayle parted its mandibles softly and something fell out.
A piece of yellow cloth.
Valhayle raised his brows. It looked very similar to the color of Roymonde’s flag.
Where did it get this from?
Valhayle rubbed the torn piece with his finger. It was like the fabric of the flags used in the military.
Valhayle called for a squire thinking the bird must have not gone that far away from camp.
“Tell the commanders to dispatch the black elite soldiers to search the area.”
When the squire left with the order, Valhayle paced back and forth in the tent with the flag piece in his hand.
Not even an hour later, there was a report that there was no sign of Granoir soldiers near the area.
If it didn’t get it from around here, where did it…
Valhayle stared at the bird that could no longer answer him.
Where did you get this from? There are no flags like this where Granoir soldiers are.
Then, he recalled the training this bird had received.
Flag to flag. Yellow flag to another yellow flag.
Could it have gone looking for another flag?
But it had come back too soon for it to have gone to Lopecce and it wouldn’t make sense for it to be anywhere else.
There is no way Granoir soldiers would be around a yellow flag.
The yellow flag found inside the bird’s beak and the bird’s unconsciousness from Granoir’s poison needle gave him proof.
‘This bird is not a spy.’
Valhayle reiterated as he looked at the smeared blood stain on the bird’s beak.
This bird can’t be a spy.
It would be unreasonable for them to attack such a valuable spy that earned the trust of Roheneim.
‘I will find out why you attacked Her Highness.’
Valhayle clenched the yellow piece of cloth in his hands.
For that to happen, the bird had to regain consciousness.
Zelleine was on a soft cloth when she woke up.
She turned as she opened her eyes.
She couldn’t see clearly.
Zelle attempted to cry out but a moan came out instead.
She flexed her back muscles to move her wings.
My wings aren’t moving.
Then, Zelle recalled the events before she had fainted.
She was poisoned and gradually being paralyzed.
Am I paralyzed now?
Zelle shook her head to clear her head.
But my head is moving though…?
She lifted herself up.
‘But why is it all so unclear?’
Zelle bent forward to touch her beak with her wings.
—something drew over her shoulders.
Zelle turned to it unconsciously.
She could see hair that fell from her neck to her chest.
She pursed her lips in shock.
She could feel her soft lips.
Lips? There are no lips in a beak though?
That was when Zelle realized something was different. She slowly blinked to regain focus, and tried to move her ‘arms’ which she hadn’t used in a while.
Then, according to her will, her arms rose. Zelle stared down at her hands.
‘What is going on?’
She touched her hair.
Zelle hastily pulled the blanket up.
Her legs were revealed.
Zelle covered her scream with both hands.
‘It’s a human body!’
She looked for something to see her reflection in.
Her eyesight as a human was way worse than her bird eyesight.
Never before in her life had she thought she had bad eyesight; however, compared to a bird, a human’s vision was so inferior.
Zelle stood on the ground.
Her legs trembled from her weakened muscles.
She tried to stand for a longer time but she soon got dizzy and fell back onto the bed.
She barely moved but she panted and her heart paced.
Zelle felt a strain on her neck so she touched it and could feel the bandage along with a sharp pain.
Zelle pulled her hands away. It seemed like this body had a wound there.
A hoarse voice came out. Startled from the tone of the voice, she froze.
‘This voice is familiar.’
Zelle hurriedly lifted her clothes and reached for the right side of her waist.
A small dent.
Chills ran down her spine.
She slowly looked down to check her waist.
There was a scar Zelle got when she was 6 from a burn.
Zelle started shaking as she was struck by a realization.
Then she remembered the wound on her neck. The very wound she had left on her human body when she was a bird.
Valhayle must have treated the wound after I left then.
‘But why did I wake up in this body?’
I was definitely a bird, but why am I human again so suddenly…
Her head spun.
I remember getting shot with a poison needle and collapsing in front of the gate…
She couldn’t think logically from the bewilderment.
What happened to me after that?
Then, the tent door opened.
With messy hair and a flustered face, Zelle looked at the door.
There was a man standing, frozen in front of the door. Zelle recognized his stunned face immediately.
Zelle panted heavily and shouted.
His chest rose up and down strongly. He seemed astounded.
Zelle held her dizzy head up and managed to speak.
“T-the bird, what happ…”
He yelled towards the outdoors.
“A doctor! Bring a doctor here right now!! This instant!!!!”
Then he strode towards her.
Zelle faltered from fatigue.
Valhayle caught her in time.
Why are you so surprised? Are you not the one…who made me wake up in my human body?
If so, how did this happen…? Why am I here…
She could feel that her body was out of power now.
Her heart raced weakly.
Valhayle softly placed his hand over her forehead.
Zelle shut her eyes from the dizziness.
Valhayle’s familiar voice.
With that lingering in her ears, Zelle laid her head on Valhayle’s chest.
That was the last thing on her mind before she fell unconscious again.
*˖:✧ ⑅•.༻♔༺.•⑅ ✧:˖*
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