That night I couldn’t even shut my eyes to catch some sleep. Even though it was the first time since my arrival to that world that I had a decent bed to sleep in, an image of me having a bloody death kept coming to my mind. My self-confidence laid 6ft underground, and it seemed like it was going to stay there for a long time, or at least until I died. After two hours of tossing and turning between the sheets, I stood up and kept pacing back and forth for another hour, the cold marble floors freezing my bare feet and at the same time soothing my nerves.
After the whole thing in the throne room, as the Queen had said, some guards took me to the bedroom I was going to stay in, and I was very surprised to find out it was a very nice looking room, much more than I could have ever asked or even thought about. White marble covered the huge room, which not very surprisingly was bigger than my bedroom in my house. Two pillars stood in the middle of the room and in between them a King size bed covered with blue sheets that were softer than the clouds in heaven and a full-length mirror beside a huge wooden wardrobe stood on the far left of the bed. A room separator stood on the other side where a bathroom that was beyond what I imagined stood on the other side. A round bathtub made of wood was on the left, and what it seemed it was a toilet on the right. It didn’t take me long to figure out how it worked, the mechanism was simple yet functional with working pipelines that showed they were much more developed in engineering than anyone could have thought at first. Large windows open onto a balcony that had an overview of the royal garden and a crystal clear water pond was in the middle. The whole scene looked as if it was taken from a fairytale movie and somehow after everything I had seen, I was still amazed at the sights.
The second I saw myself in the mirror I wanted to cringe at how awful I looked. When was it even the last time I had seen myself in a mirror? My hair looked like a birds nest, my cheeks had dirt spread on them as if I had been playing on the ground like a five-year-old (I hope it was dirt), and my clothes were not even worthy of a dumpster. And don’t even let me begin with the smell... how Peyton and the Queen helped and trusted me when I looked like taken from the way I did would remain a mystery. Immediately, I took a long bath with various flower scents and for the first time in months, I felt completely clean, even my hair was silky and soft instead of greasy and sticky. My old clothes were left in the trash can as well as my worn out boots. The wardrobe was full of fancy dresses and looking for pajamas was a tough task that I managed to do after I basically turned it upside down. I didn’t know if I could wear the clothes in that wardrobe, but I wasn’t going to be in the presence of another human being wearing that again.
Back to my pacing, the stress was too much and I desperately needed fresh air. I found a silky robe in the old wardrobe, put it on quickly, and left the room. As I closed the door behind me, the winter chiseled air bit my skin and I took an involuntary sharp intake of breath. Goosebumps erupted on my skin, but my mind was too focused on leaving the room that I didn’t stop to re-evaluate my decision.
I walked through the halls, not knowing where I was really going.
I kept trying to remember every single training session with Cassius, and my chest tightened feeling absolutely worthless.
How did I get to that point? I was risking everything for him, and I had never been so scared in my whole life, but it was too late to turn back. I didn’t want to turn back. I owed him my life, and even if a didn’t, I would do it anyway.
All these conflictive feelings were driving me mad, and I wished he was next to me, supporting me and giving me wise advice. Hell, thoughts about my family and everyone I loved came to my mind at once, and I wanted to cry, scream at the world. My chest heaved knowing that there was the possibility I was never going to see my mom and sister again, complete my bucket list next to my best friend, to talk to my dad and finally forgive him. The tears sprung to my eyes, and I sniffed quietly.
Lonely. That’s how I really felt.
A strong wind blew through the corridor and my teeth chattered in cold. I look up to see the corridor opened to an outdoor corridor. I walked and stopped before a handrail. I looked down to see a stone courtyard with a fountain in the center. I propped my elbows on the handrail and rested my head on my hand. The silence of the night was comforting, the cold made sure I knew everything was real and there, and the darkness embraced me in her arms. I sighed, my limbs slightly shaking in cold.
All of a sudden, footsteps could be heard from my right. My head snapped in the direction of the noise, and the silhouette of a man walking towards me appeared in my vision. The familiar feeling of tingles running through my veins started to manifest, and the alarms in my brain started to boom. I swallowed nervously and kept looking downwards towards the courtyard, praying to God, if he was still there, that it wasn’t him.
The footsteps could be heard closer and closer until they stopped right beside me. By then, the air around us was so heavy I thought I was going to faint because of the lack of oxygen. My face was neutral; I didn’t even dare to show one emotion. Especially not fear. Leo stood next to me, watching the courtyard with the same neutral expression as mine. I was starting to get annoyed with his presence until he finally spoke.
“Let’s get something straight, lady. You are not going to enter the Black Knights, I’ll make sure of that. So you should be giving up now. I haven’t worked my entire life for you to come and crumble everything down. Not to mention you’re weak. ” He spoke with such tranquility, my anger started to rise higher than the fricking Empire State. I clenched my hands and I tried to contain myself remembering he was the prince, and if I touched one hair, they were going to probably cut my head off.
I kept my mouth shut and he kept talking.
“My father doesn’t know what he’s doing, so don’t rely on him. The faster you get out of here, the better for you. If by chance, you do dare to stay, I’m going to make sure your corpse is found floating in the river. You don’t belong with us, mutt. You should stick with the things you can really do, like cleaning.” A smug smirk made its way to his lips, and I was fuming.
“Son of a bitch. Who the hell does he think he is?”
“Listen carefully you piece of shit, right now I want to be anywhere else than here. I’m not doing this because my dream job is to be a knight, I’m doing this because I owe my life to your brother, and until I get him alive from wherever he is, I’m staying. And I really don’t care about your opinion, your father is the one that makes decisions, not you. And Karnor supports the idea too.” Unlike him, my voice was laced with anger and all I wanted to do was to strangle him to death.
His shocked expression made a feeling of confidence burst in me. Feeling too confident I took a step towards him, leaving some inches between our faces. “And about my corpse floating in the river, I’m going to cut your chauvinist balls and feed them to you before you can even touch me.”
I was staring right into his sky blue eyes and him into my green ones, and I knew at that moment it was an awful decision to be within such proximity from him. The tingles started to transform into electricity, prickling my skin with such intensity I had the urge to scratch my skin until it bled.
His expression changed to something unreadable, his gaze scanning my face, lingering then in my chest and slowly taking in my legs. A blushed formed instantly on my cheeks, and I wanted to slap the hell out of him.
“Is he seriously checking me out?” I huffed in annoyance and that seemed to bring him back from his trance. His gaze avoided mine as he “discreetly” cleared his throat.
I turned around and started to walk away from him, not standing him one more second.
“Wait. What are you talking about?” He demanded and I rolled my eyes before turning around.
“Could you be a little more specific?” I asked in a bored tone, muttering douchebag at the end. It seemed he heard that too as his glare turned harder.
“My brother. You mean Peyton?” He crossed his arms over his chest and his biceps bulging from his shirt were not distracting at all.
I slapped myself mentally to focus before shaking my head. “No, I meant Cassius.”
His body seemed to tense at the name of his older brother, and a nasty glare was directed towards me.
“He is dead, so you better start clarifying yourself before I kick you out of here for good.” His voice was seething, and I actually felt sorry for him.
“His father hasn’t told him yet his brother is alive.” I sighed and shook my head, leaving my anger aside for a while. Even though Leo was the ultimate asshole, I couldn’t deliver the news as if it was nothing.
“Your brother is alive, and I brought actual proof that he is. He was kidnapped by mages a couple of days ago. I... couldn’t stop it. I’m sorry.” I delivered the news softly, still feeling too sensitive about it.
I turned around to walk back to the bedroom, not staying to watch his reaction.
“When we find him, I’ll be gone.” My low voice resonated through the corridor, making me know he heard me.
I went back to my room, leaving the prince on his own.
Streams of light flooded the room letting me know it was already sunrise. I was laying on my back staring at the roof absentmindedly, my mind too tired to even think. I got up and went to the bathroom and splashed my face with cold water from the bucket delivered last night to start functioning again as a normal human being. I had returned the night before too angry to keep roaming the corridors and went straight to bed to catch some sleep. Sadly, I couldn’t even close my eyes.
I returned to the bedroom and looked in the mirror, not recognizing myself at all. Yes, I was clean, but my figure had changed so much I was surprised I didn’t realize it the first time I looked myself in it.
My legs were toned and firm, not saggy like before. My stomach was lean and hard, something I thought was unreachable once, and my arms had more defined muscles; if I flexed my arm little biceps could be seen.
So why did I question myself so much? I knew deep down that I could do it, I knew I was smarter than them.
The conversation from the night before started to bug me, and an angry frown was formed on my face.
“Who the fuck does he think he is to tell me weak?”
I had a new motivation; prove everyone wrong about me, show them who I really was.
At that moment I was ready to kick someone’s ass.
A maid brought me clothes, women's clothes, and I had to ask her to change them to man clothes. The look of disapproval she gave me was actually funny, but she changed them anyway. She also brought me breakfast and I thanked her with a small smile on my lips that took her by surprise. Maybe she wasn’t that used to get a simple “thank you”. Anyway, I didn’t even touch the food.
I immediately put on the clothes, and for the first time, a shirt and some pants actually fitted me. Brown pants hugged my hips and a white shirt reached a little lower than my hips, but at least it didn’t look like a dress. Black boots strapped my feet and even though they were hard, they fitted me like a glove.
I walked out of my room, my stomach squeezing in nervousness making me feel sick. Thank God I didn’t eat breakfast, if not I would have emptied it right there. I kept walking down the corridors taking deep breaths, my body shivering with the soft breeze that blew. A guard suddenly appeared by my side and I stopped in my tracks to look at him.
He cleared his throat awkwardly and avoided my gaze. “Your Highness commands you to go to the training grounds.” He was turning around to leave and I rolled my eyes.
“And how am I going to go there if I don’t know where it is?” I asked in a duh tone, making him stop and curse under his breath. I wanted to laugh at his reaction. I mean, was I that that terrible that everyone wanted to avoid me like the plague?
The guard started walking again, this time guiding me towards the training grounds. I thought of making small talk, but the guard probably would have run away and ditched me. I kept my mouth shut and we kept walking in an awkward silence.
We got out of the castle and walked over stone pathways that led us away from the palace and the royal gardens. As we walked further into the gardens, the beautiful roses, bushes, and trees began to disappear and the scenery started to transform into extensive grasslands. The sound of clashing swords and groans started to fill the calmness of the morning and in the distance, the sight of dozens of men fighting each other filled my vision. They fought expertly, leaving no doubt in my mind that they started to fight as soon as they could walk. Older men that looked like commanders yelled instructions left and right, imposing power and fear in the soldiers. Their training looked way more barbaric than what Cassius did to me, and that’s something.
My arms were filled instantly with goosebumps and a shaky breath left my lips. The nervousness started to infiltrate my mind, and I knew I had to get my focus into something else if I wanted to live. Literally. So instead I looked around the place and not at the soldiers.
The whole place was huge; soft grass covered the whole training grounds and small stone buildings stood around disperse. Soldiers came in and out of them carrying all type of weapons, taking me to the conclusion they were probably weapons cellars. On the other side, across everything, a huge structure stood tall and proud; a fighting arena.
While I had stopped in my tracks to awe at everything, the guard that was guiding me kept walking. When my gaze couldn’t find him next to me, I started to look for him frenetically to find him on the other side of the training grounds. My mind slightly panicked and I went after him in a sprint. There was a tiny problem though; dozens of soldiers fighting each other blocked my way. I kept running, and when I got to them I began jumping over them, bending and avoiding fatal blows of swords, all of this in just seconds. The soldiers yelled and cursed after me, while others looked at me as if I was an alien from outer space, many of them getting hard blows for being distracted.
When I got to the guard I started walking next to him normally, as if nothing had happened. He glanced at me and he actually seemed surprised I had caught up to him. I gave him a smile, making it seem like everything was perfect. I looked in front of me once again, and the realization we were walking straight to the fighting arena reached my brain like a slap. Huge walls rose to the sky, making it an impossible task to know what was inside the arena.
This was it. The moment that was going to define my role in all of this.
I took deep breaths, trying to find peace and tranquility somewhere inside me, but it was an impossible task. Not even Buddha itself could have calmed me.
We reached a door that looked tiny in comparison to the main entrance that was a few meters away. He knocked twice on the door, and it opened to reveal a soldier. He looked at me then at the guard, nodded, and then just left. I looked confused and when I turn to look at my trip partner, he was already walking away.
“Wait! Now what?” I yelled after him. He stopped in his tracks and turn around to look at me.
“You fight, and remember, try not to die.” He yelled back.
“That was the nicest thing someone has told me since I got here.”
“Thanks!” I waved back at him and turn around to face the opened door.
My plan? First of all, get out alive. Second, show these chauvinist bastards who they are messing with.
That second point got my confidence to rise, and with my head held high, I crossed that door.