I felt the whole weight of the world been lifted off my shoulders. I wanted to cry and laugh at the same time, hug someone and tell them I had done it, that I could finally go and rescue Cassius.
I won. It was so unbelievable, that I stared dumbfounded at Althalos for a few seconds.
“What did you say?” I said in barely a whisper. I moved the sword away from his neck and stepped back from his wrist.
“You win.” he said solemnly, standing up, bowing his head slightly in defeat. I finally felt a reaction in my body as a Cheshire cat-like grin appeared on my face and sighed in relief. I put a hand over my chest, feeling my heart thumping a thousand miles per hour. Everything felt so unreal that it started to feel like a dream.
“How did I even do it? I mean you’re amazing and so skilled, plus you’re like really tall and intimidating, I really thought I was going to die. Man, I feel like in the best and worst dream of my life. Wait, nothing makes sense. Or does it? Am I rambling now? Why do I feel so dizzy?” I said all that in like two seconds and I was left gasping for air. The oxygen in my lungs had apparently run out with my Flash-like rambling. The lesson of the day: try to keep the oxygen in your lungs, especially after fighting for your life.
Althalos looked at me as if I had just lost my mind, and I was in a weird state that probably could be called “sober drunk.” Yep, that defines it.
The Knights, the King, and Queen walked over to us, looking more shocked than my mother when she saw my pierced ear in seventh grade. I was starting to get dizzier and dizzier every second that passed.
“I won!” I exclaimed too loudly, and still, everyone was looking at me like I had just won the lottery. And in a way I did.
The Queen was the first one to recover and looked at me somehow proud.“Welcome to the Black Knights, Liberty. You are expected to do your job with excellence and represent the Kingdom of Adendawyn with the utmost...”
Suddenly, everything felt out of focus, and the sounds started to drift off away from me when the dizziness got even worse. My whole arm felt very warm and my upper arm was on fire. I touched it and warm sticky liquid started dripping from my hand. I looked at it and saw red everywhere. My eyes widened like plates, knowing it was a lot of blood. I wasn’t used to seeing that much blood, not even when I was on my period. I put my hand quickly over the wound and applied pressure, but my whole body felt weak and I couldn’t do much.
“Liberty, are you feeling well?” Someone asked me while approaching me carefully. He felt so far away, I didn’t even know who was it or where he was. Everyone was looking at me with curiosity, smugness or worry. He looked at my arm, but he didn’t look worried at all.
“Uhm, you know, I think an artery was slashed, so I’m going to lose a lot of blood, and then I’ll die. So, no, I’m not well.” My trembling voice was letting know the panic I was really feeling. The blood didn’t stop cascading down my arm and my dizziness was getting worst.
“I-I think I’m going to faint.” I said in a slightly higher tone of voice.
And just like that, the familiar feeling of the darkness taking over everything engulfed me, and the last thing I can remember is a pair of arms grabbing me before I felt to the dirt.
I started to stir, my mind coming back slowly from the dark pit of unconsciousness while my muscles reacted on their own. I breathed in deeply, trying to give enough energy to my eyelids to open to see what the hell was going on. The fact that I was bleeding out from my arm didn’t come to my mind at all, the curiosity of knowing where I was winning over everything.
Finally, after what seemed like hours, my eyes finally opened and light flooded my whole vision, making me squint my eyes hard. I stretched my limbs lazily and looked around to see I was laying on a bed that was next to a row of beds identical to the one I was laying on. My gaze wandered in front of me, where there was a small corridor and another row of beds, a couple of young men lied on them looking at me with surprise etched on their face. Just when I was about to open my mouth to ask them where was I, the doors on the far right-wing of the room opened loudly, and a nonchalant Tybalt strode in.
He turned to look at me and laughed. “Well, don’t you look lovely.” I glared at him as he approached my bed, not really on the mood for comments about my shitty appearance.
“What the hell is going on?” I asked instead, deciding to sly his comment to the side.
“You fainted, apparently, because you were dying.” He rolled his eyes, and muttered something along the lines of ‘dramatic’.
Pictures of the fight and the wound appeared on my mind, and with panic, I looked at my arm to see there was nothing. I stare at it for a couple of seconds blankly before looking at Tybalt again.
“And where is the reason I was dying?”
“We gave you ad remedium, and you are all healed up now.” He said simply, a teasing smile still on his lips.
I scrunched my eyebrows, having a sudden need to explain myself. “On my defense, I was really getting dizzy, and it wasn’t a normal amount of blood. It was literally cascading down my arm.”
“We had a healer right there, you weren’t going to die.” He said simply and I couldn’t avoid looking at him with exasperation.
“And how was I supposed to know that if no one told me anything?”
Guiltiness seemed to take over him, but he had his composure back in no time, ignoring my comment. I rolled my eyes, and instead remember what he had said earlier.
“Wait, the ad remedium, tell me it wasn’t a green spicy weird substance.” A disgusted grimace covered my features as my mind wandered to the memory of the shitty spice potion that healed all my wounds back when I first met Cassius.
“Uhm, no?” He said unsure of the answer.
“No as ‘You didn’t drink the potion’ or no as ‘yes, you drank the damn thing’?” I asked mischievously knowing I was confusing the heck out of him.
He blinked, his face contorted in confusion until he just shook his head. “Does it really matter?”
I shrugged. “No, I just wanted to confuse you.” The corner of my lips folded upwards involuntarily when Tybalt glared at me in annoyance.
“So, what now?” I asked with no trace of a joke in my voice or in my expression, anticipation, and fear crawling in my veins at the unknown.
He shuffled on his feet and looked at me. “Well, we have to ask you questions. You have to tell us everything that you know to deliberate if you are telling the truth-”
“Which I am.” I interrupted him tensely through gritted teeth, annoyed that they still had doubts.
“-and try to locate where Prince Cassius is.” He ended, and I sighed, knowing it was going to be a process that was only going to waste precious time.
“Fine, let’s do it right away. There’s no time to waste.” I said with determination lacing my voice, which made Tybalt’s brows shoot up in slight surprise.
I looked at myself and realized I was still with the clothes I wore for the fight, and the obvious questioned I should have asked in the first place came to my mind. “How long did I passed out?”
I grimaced, knowing that’s more wasted time to add to the list.
“Well, thanks for bringing me here.” I thanked him sincerely, receiving a confused mixed with amusement look from him.
“I didn’t bring you here. Prince Leo did.” He corrected me with amusement. My jaw literally hit the floor, disbelief evident on my face.
“Are you frickin serious?! You let that humongous piece of trash carry me around knowing he could have thrown me down the stairs, or drown me, or whatever the heck that would have efficiently killed me?!” I moved my arms wildly around me freaking the hell out and Tybalt was on the verge of laughing his ass off.
“Do not worry, he did not do anything to you. He was just quite annoyed.” He snickered and laughed at my distraught face.
“Why didn’t you do it?” I asked groaning, burying my face between my hands, irritated and angry that the guy I hated the most in that place carried me all the way to what seemed the infirmary
“He wouldn’t let anyone do it.”
I moved my face to look at him, raising an eyebrow in questioning at the weird statement, but then I decided to forget the whole thing, muttering under my breath.
“I’ll go and change quickly, and after that, we can start the interrogation. It’s that okay?”
He nodded, and I started to get out of bed with the intention of getting out of that room where everyone was still looking at me. Awkward.
But, with my luck, of course, the sheets were draped over one of my legs in the most twisted way, and just when I was getting out of bed, I stumbled forward, the bed trapping my leg tightly, and my fall was thankfully stopped by Tybalt. He traps me with his arms, my face colliding with his chest and my hands grabbed tightly his shirt.
And if the situation could have gotten even worst, the person I least wanted to see in that minute stoops into the room.
“Am I interrupting something?” His angry mannerisms made both me and Tybalt’s head turn to look at him.
His jaw was clenched tightly and his eyes were furiously looking at us. And what did I do?
My laugh started to echo through the awfully quiet room, everyone scared of the deadly Prince, well, everyone except me. I pushed Tybalt’s chest slightly with my hands, trying to make some space between us while I was still laughing wholeheartedly at my clumsiness. I ignored completely Leo’s glares and instead look at Tybalt.
“And because of things like this, I’m a dangerous drinker.” I said between my laugh, grasping lightly my stomach.
Tybalt smiled slightly but then was replaced for total seriousness in a snap of my fingers, probably not in the mood to face Leo’s anger.
I stepped to his side and saw Leo still glaring at me. I coughed in what I thought was a subtle way to hide my laugh and started to walk towards the door looking at Leo directly into his eyes, biting my lip to contain my laugh.
Was he really so mad because he thought I was flirting with one of his soldiers? *sigh* Men and their stupid logic.
As I got closer to him, the tension in the air got worst and my skin started to prickle with damn tickling. His blue eyes were also looking directly into mine, and the atmosphere in the room doubled in awkwardness. Something stirred inside me, and the alarms in my brain blared loudly.
“What the hell is wrong with me... or what is wrong with him?”
I stopped a few feet away in front of him, still looking at him. I bit my lip harder as the corners of my mouth curled in almost a smile, trying not to laugh at his seriousness and at the same tie to keep at bay the weird feeling inside me that was brought by his closeness. I took a deep breath and finally talked.
"Prince, relax. It really was nothing, I was just getting out of bed when I fell and Tybalt caught me. That’s all.” I explained slowly, my tone not really serious.
He kept looking at me, not saying anything and I was starting to get antsy when he finally nodded slightly, still looking me fiercely with those blue eyes that captivated me more than I would have liked.
My feet started to move on its own to get out of there but stopped before the door, my back facing everyone in there.
“Uhm, thanks for bringing me here,” I mumbled quietly, hoping he didn’t hear me for the sake of my pride.
Before anyone could say anything, I got out of that room (more like escaped really) and made my way blindly around the castle until I found a familiar corridor that led me to the room where I was staying.
I cleaned myself quickly and changed into some clothes that were left on top of the bed, which suspiciously fitted me really well. Finally no more huge shirts or saggy pants, and in celebration made a mini dance.
After that slight pause, I went out to the corridor and once again started to look blindly to where the heck I had to go.
I found the main corridor, where the throne room was, and luckily ahead of me, I saw a black cape entering a room further down the corridor. I walked with a fast pace towards the room, to find all the Black Knights reunited around a huge table, talking quietly amongst them. They all suddenly shut their mouths when they were aware of my presence. Everyone was looking directly at me, making me slightly intimidated, not that I would ever say that out loud.
Of course, Leo’s stare was the one I felt the most, and even though I wanted nothing else but to shrug it off, I couldn’t.
Trying to find my confidence somewhere, I still managed to heal my head high and walk towards the empty spot next to Tybalt but stopped short when I saw him shaking his head subtly, his eyes telling me more.
I couldn’t sit next to him. Huh.
I went and just grabbed the first empty seat I saw, realizing I sat in front the black hair guy that probably hated me because of his intense glare and next to the guy I stole his identity. I looked around the table fast, smiling slightly when I saw Althalos, but he kept his blank face. That was probably his signature.
“Where’s the King and Queen?” I asked looking at everyone, confused as to why they would not be in the explanation of everything.
“They left me in charge, so you better start explaining yourself fast. I don’t have time for this bullshit.” Leo said with a steel-cold voice that would freeze everyone up to their very core. Well, everyone except me.
“There’s no need to be such dick. If you think finding your brother is bullshit, then just leave.” I said not really thinking before saying it. “Better to be alone than in bad company.” And before anyone could say anything I spoke again, this time my voice laced with anger.
“You know why I’m doing this? Because Cassius asked me to and I promised him I was going to do it. And I’m a woman of my word. Believe me when I say this is the last place and people I want to be with.”
“Are you done?” Leo said with the same anger in return, not liking at all my insults and insubordination.
I clenched my jaw hardly, knowing if I kept going, hell was going to break loose. I swallowed hard and breathed in deeply, keeping all the anger unleashed at bay.
“Cassius knew that mages still existed from a long time ago, but discovered recently their plans. Ascanius is the guy leading, and all he wants-” I was interrupted by a slam of a hand in the table that made me jump. I looked in front of me to see the black hair guy seething in anger.
“Liar! How the fuck is that possible?” His cold voice dripped with hatred, and I recovered from the initial shock to glare at him. He looked at Leo enraged.
“Are you seriously believing this?”
“Look, this is from what I’ve heard and saw. If you don’t believe it, then my work here is done.” I said tensely, my anger, frustration, and impotence about to break through the surface.
“Gerardus, quiet.” Leo’s commanding voice broke in. The guy whose name was completely unknown to me crossed his arms and shut his mouth.
“What have you heard and seen?” Leo asked calmly, with a certain irritation laced to his voice.
I sighed, shutting my eyes at the horrible experiences I endured in the forest.
“The bastard sent a Vextalon to kill me, which I barely survived it, and I’m quite certain he talked to me while I was asleep. He... he basically said he wants your family and humans in general dead and to rule the nine kingdoms.” I pinched the bridge of my nose, trying to remember his exact words, even though it frightened me to the core. I had realized it was him too late, but at least not too late to realize that he said useful information.
The nervous shuffling of the guys made me look up to see the concern on their faces.
“How did my brother disappeared?” Leo asked cutting through the tense silence.
“Well, your brother went into the woods, and wasn’t coming back, so I went after him. Long story short, I encountered a mage, knocked him off and found Cassius. We uhm... interrogated the guy and he told us the mages were after us. I was the only one able to escape.” I explained shortly, knowing that if I explained further, I was going to start crying and the Knights were going to suspect Cassius's relationship with me.
“What else did the mage said that could help us find him?” Leo said, massaging his temples with his eyes shut.
A moment of silence passed as I tried to remember the most of that conversation. “I-uhm, he said something about the mages not agreeing to Ascanius plans at first, uhm..” I bit my lip thinking. “He also said something about the Eternal Crowns, but not much about where they hide...”
The deadly silence made me realize something was wrong. I look up to see everyone looking at each other in alarm.
Leo swallowed, a flash of fear passing through his eyes. “This is not fucking good.”