My fair lady (2)
Ellerie’s foolish attempt to remove me accelerated the decision-making process: Ellerie would be brought back home by Arula the next day, and I would replace Calder as the manager of his territory. The last of these decisions wouldn’t take place immediately—word would first be sent to Calder’s kindly adviser, who was left alive by Arula on purpose. Naturally, Remington knew nothing of Arula’s involvement; Arula himself pushed this resolution by claiming that, due to his lack of contribution in the battle and Ellerie’s malignant deed, it would be unreasonable for him to claim any part of the territory. On Remington’s part, he was acutely aware of his reputation throughout the land, and other lords would be immediately alerted if he were to take over Calder’s territory so quickly. According to rumors spread by Remington’s intelligence, it was Calder who launched the attack.
Hence, by putting me in the position, it meant merely that the symbol of my residence in Remington’s castle had changed to another—it was still only one human against multiple bluebloods; it wouldn’t make anyone feel threatened, while still serving the purpose of making it look like humans were on an equal standing with the bluebloods.
“How will Calder’s people take it?” I asked.
“They will let their guards down,” Remington answered, “But all you will really need to do to secure your place is to negotiate with the adviser.
I nodded. “Understood.”
Remington closed the books, signalling that the meeting was officially over. He turned to me then, and gave me a subtle smile.
“Once you step out of this castle, remember to not call me my lord again,” he reminded me.
“Yes, my lord,” I replied, greeting his smile with a slightly playful one of my own, followed by a sigh.
“Then, I shall take my leave,” Arula said, nodding once at the both of us, a diplomatic smile on his lips.
After Arula left, Remington too stood to leave, but in that instant, everything froze for a split second. I threw him a concerned glance.
“Are you alright?” I asked—it being no secret now whose doing it was.
He frowned, but said, “I’m fine. Don’t worry. I will just rest for a day.”
That night, sitting up in bed, I hugged my knees to my chest. The door and windows were closed—I wouldn’t take any chances. That week was the first time I sacrificed something for my revenge, and the first time I made a bet on my life. The results were terrific, but I would have also lost everything if my calculations were wrong.
I couldn’t afford to be wrong, of course. Not in the past, not now, not ever.
From now until the final act, things would be much smoother.
Just as I was thinking about that, Arula’s voice rang in my head, startling me. Larissa, can I come over?
Come over? I repeated. Sure, it would be easy; nobody would detect him simply teleporting to my location. And when he returned, he needed only cast an illusion of himself and transport back to his room through that. Why?
We are connected, body, mind, and soul, he recalled, and since our victory, I have not seen a single day of happiness.
Is it that you wish to check on me, or is it for your own mental health? I asked. I’d almost forgotten—we were quite literally connected, and experienced one another’s mental and physical conditions. In order to not distract me, Arula had been keeping himself in prime condition the best he could; and I didn’t notice, not only because I was preoccupied, but also because it was the kind of thing that would only be noticed if it went wrong.
Why not both? Arula replied.
I dare not distract myself, I said, and I can handle myself, as I am sure you can. You need not comfort me for the losses I knowingly inflict upon myself.
But he can?
Suddenly, I smiled to myself.
If you’re jealous, why don’t you just say so? I teased, already in a better mood. Arula’s jealousy was something I never got the chance to taste in my previous life, not just because his life ended early, but also because there was nothing to prompt it.
Would you smile like so if I did? He replied.
Not likely. Come over, my Lord Arula.
It took only a second for Arula to arrive, and I had scooted over just in time for him to land perfectly on my bed next to me. Dressed for sleep, he had ditched his suit for more casual attire, his collar loose and his blond hair completely down. This, too, was a sight I hadn’t seen more than once before. As he arrived in the perfect position, Arula wrapped his arms around me for the first time, from my side. We sat, leaning against my propped-up pillow against the headboard, and I leaned into him. Just to be safe, we did not speak.
As he held me there, Arula asked, What can I do for you?
And I knew that he was not referring to right this moment. Right this moment, he was doing exactly what I wanted him to do.
What are you willing to do? I asked instead.
If you so wished, even my territory will be yours.
That means little—you don’t care very much for territories.
I glanced up at him, and he smiled, stifling a chuckle.
Alright, he thought to me at last, I will take care of things on my end. You need only focus your energy on the one accessible to you.
Who was it that said Arula was compassionate again?
You will be leaving tomorrow, won’t you? I asked, changing the subject now that serious matters were settled.
Yes, as agreed, he said, but it makes no difference; it isn’t as if we can talk much even when I am around, and we need not be right next to each other to communicate.
At least I can look at you when you are though, I said, if it were entirely up to you, what would you do now?
Arula shook his head, smiling, in place of a sigh that he did not let out. Without another word, he leaned in and kissed me on the lips. It was our first kiss in this life, but his lips landed perfectly on mine, as if it was already the thousandth time.