The carriage arrived at the Whelmorn estate and I felt a sense of relief in my body as I stepped down to see the face of my father and mother waiting at the entrance.
My legs moved faster than my mind, as the distance between them and myself shortened and I felt my arms wrap around them, hugging them tightly in my embrace.
“Oh my, was it that horrible?”
I heard my mother’s soft voice giggle, her hands wrapping around my waist as she returned the embrace. I hummed in response before I heard a deep chuckle.
“If I didn’t know any better, I would think you were the one who returned from the battlefield.” I let out a sigh before I looked up, meeting the face of my father.
My father, Duke Alexandre Whelmorn, was a young man who didn’t look older than thirty, his face dusted with small wrinkles due to his time in the war, his dark hair with piercing green eyes allowed him to be recognized as the most eligible bachelor despite being born in a Count position.
My mother, Duchess Myrandia Whelmorn was a young woman, no older than her mid-twenties. Her father is the Commander of the Royal Knights, because of this she holds herself in a position similar to one of a Knight rather than a lady. Her light brown hair paired with her soft hazel eyes caused my father to fall in love with her at first sight.
“What matters is that I’m finally home.” I let out a laugh, before grabbing their hands. “Let’s have dinner.” I smiled at them before I saw Anna opening the door of the estate.
“Ah,” I set down my fork and knife on the table, turning towards the head of the table to my father. “The Royal Princess would like an audience with you as soon as possible.”
The shock was apparent on his face, as he took a drink from his wine glass.
“Did she say why she would like to meet with me?”
Should I tell him about this horrible feeling?
“She is just interested in the person who was able to attract the King’s attention.”
It might be nothing.
“I see, I have some time tomorrow.”
No, my feelings have never been wrong. This may be a bad idea.
“I can tell her if you are too busy.”
Say no, father.
“Is my precious Tia worried about me?”
“I just want to make sure it won’t conflict with your duties.”
“Is there something you’re not telling me, Aristia?”
His voice turned serious, his utensils being placed on the table beside his plate, as he crossed his arms above the table.
My head went down, my throat becoming dry, and my fingers wandered to the ribbon on my waist.
“Aristia,” I heard my mother’s voice from across. I looked up, her face filled with worry.
“You can tell us if something is bothering you.”
I bit the inside of my cheek before I gulped water.
“I have a bad feeling.” I managed to breathe out, my fingers interlocking with one another under the table.
“Ever since I went to the castle, I’ve felt bothered and uneasy, like something was wrong. No, like I’m being led on by deceiving words. This disturbing feeling never went away for the duration of the party.”
I looked at my father, who was looking down at the table, while my mother was looking at me.
“It got stronger when the Princess asked to meet with you, father.”
I felt my eyes lingering on my mother.
I should tell her that too.
I saw her give me a comforting smile before I took a deep breath.
“Quincia Radline was there as well. She told me that Marquess Radline wanted to meet with you for lunch.” My mom’s eyes widened, as she looked at my father.
I heard a crack of a knuckle from my father as he stood up.
“I see, thank you for telling us this, Tia.” He showed me a smile before I felt my anxiousness disappear.
“Please send word to the Princess that I will meet with her tomorrow.”
No. This was what I didn’t want.
I felt a hand on my head before I felt a sense of relief wash over me. It danced along my body, leaving no area untouched. I looked up to see my father.
“I will take care of all your worries, so don’t be scared.” His hand lowered to my left cheek. The sudden calmness on my body became even stronger.
“It is my job to make sure my precious daughter lives her life happily and worry-free. I will do just that.” I closed my eyes, muzzling closer to the solace that was spreading across my body.
“Tia, would you like me to sing you a lullaby?”
The door opened, revealing my mother who was dressed in a white nightgown. Her hair framed her face as it flowed down, reaching towards her thighs. She looked so beautiful, something that can rival angels as my father always told me.
“You said that singing tires you out afterward and you can’t sleep well,” I replied while climbing onto my bed. She walked towards me, pulling the sheets away, slipping beside me.
Her arms wrapped around my shoulder as she combed my hair. “Let me give you comfort in your dreams.” I leaned my head on her chest, her heartbeat playing in my ear as I heard her soft hums.
I felt her lips on top of my head before a soft voice escaped from her. The melody played in my ear, as the whole room was filled with her voice.
The room felt lighter as if I was escaping reality. It’s been a while since I felt like this.
“My baby, be free.”
I heard her whisper before I became a victim of tiredness.
“How many times have I told you, don’t overdo yourself?” Alexandre softly said, combing his wife’s hair as her face contorted in pain.
“You haven’t done it in a while, so why did you think it wouldn’t be serious?” He mumbled, his hand making its way to cup her cheek.
“This is all I can do for you.” He brought his lips closer to her face, as he kissed her forehead.
Her face immediately eased up, her features being washed in relief rather than in pain, as her soft groans began to simmer down.
He felt a pain in his chest before his hand reached over his heart.
“I told you when I married you that I will take away your pain,” His face contorted. “But, I don’t think I’ll be able to keep that promise if I have to worry about Tia as well. I’ve been going over my limit because of you two.” He whispered as he laid down on the bed.
“But, I won’t have it any other way. Because, if not me, who else will take care of you and Tia?” He wrapped his arms around his wife before closing his eyes.
“I love you until forever ends.”
“Her Royal Princess of the Star has arrived.” The Princess stepped down from the carriage, as she was escorted by the Royal Knights as well as her ladies-in-waiting. My father and I greeted the Princess before she tilted her head.
“Is Duchess Whelmorn ill?”
My father stepped forward, bowing to the Princess before lifting his head. “My apologies, my wife was not feeling well this morning, and she is unable to greet Your Highness.”
I looked at the Princess before glancing at the silver hair behind her.
Why is she here?
“Oh, I hope she gets well soon. It seems I brought Quincia in hopes for her to talk with the Duchess, I hope you won’t mind if she stays with me.” I saw my father stiffened before he let out a slight smile.
“Of course not, please allow me to escort you to my study.” He held out his gloved hand, in which the Princess took.
“Thank you for letting me seek an audience with you.” She simply replied as the two made their way inside the estate.
I turned around to be met face-to-face with Quincia. “Thank you for coming, Quincia.” I simply greeted her before she clicked her tongue.
“That is to be expected from the daughter of a count.” I heard her mumble before I felt my anger boiling.
I walked closer to the girl, leaning down slightly to meet her ear, before whispering.
“I would kindly appreciate that you learn that my father is a Duke and you are the daughter of a Marquess. I do not stand for any disrespect shown towards my family.” I felt her stiffen in front of me before I leaned back.
“Please follow me, I’ll escort you to my father’s study.” I gave out a forced smile, before walking towards the entrance. I heard a pair of heels behind me, as the carriage left.
“I was hoping just to talk to you.” I heard the Princess say, as she sat down. I noticed my father waving his finger, and I grabbed the tea from the butler. Quincia made her way next to the Princess, sitting down as well.
I walked in front of the trio, pouring tea for all three, before nodding to my father, who smiled.
I took a seat next to my father before I smiled back. The Princess continued to engage my father in conversation while I saw Quincia glancing from her lap to my father’s cup.
The creeping feeling returned and I shivered. It was so much stronger than yesterday.
“Duke Whelmorn, if possible, may I visit the Duchess?” I heard Quincia say after the Princess looked at her. My father looked taken aback before he stifled a cough.
“I’m not sure if she is well enough for visitors.” He spoke quietly before I got up.
“I can go with Aristia to spare a glance.” She intercepted, looking at me. I tilted my head, unable to hide my confusion as she got up, standing in front of me.
“My father told me that no matter what, I must greet the Duchess, please allow me to fulfill my father’s wish.”
Something’s wrong. Is it okay to leave the Princess alone with my father?
“Aristia, if she’s sleeping then please allow her to. She had trouble sleeping last night, and I would like her to rest as much as she can.” I heard my father call out before I nodded.
I heard a small sound of glass coming from Quincia and I heard her cough. “Let’s go.” She said, acting like this was her estate and I was her lady-in-waiting.
The walk to my mother was tiresome but silent. The air around us was almost suffocating. The hair on my neck never once went away, as I felt a suffocating uneasiness wash over my every move, but Quincia’s pace only fastened.
I saw the familiar gold-encrusted doors, and I knocked on the door twice.
“Mother? Quincia Radline is here to see you.”
The room was silent.
Three seconds passed before I turned to Quincia.
“Please come in.”
I heard a weak voice from the door, and I couldn’t help but notice the corners of Quincia’s face curl upwards. However, it was soon returned to her usual blankness.
“Thank you, Duchess Whelmorn.” I heard her say before she pushed the door open.
I took in the dark room, the curtain was drawn, while my mother sat in the bed, her face paler than porcelain.
“Please excuse my appearance.” Her voice came out groggy, and soft.
Quincia bowed her head down before she walked closer to the bed.
“I overheard from Duke Whelmorn that you were ill,” She started, sitting down at the chair located next to the bed. My mother forced out a smile before she looked down.
“It appears you caught me at a bad time, considering you made the journey here for me.”
I saw Quincia’s fingers trace over the pocket along the side of her dress. “As you know, my father is well adept with medicinal herbs.”
She took out a small bottle, the liquid inside shined a clear red. My mother couldn’t help but look at the bottle in her hand, while I felt a wave of restlessness erupt across my whole body.
“I thought Marquess Radline decided to pursue swordsmanship instead.” I heard my mother’s voice wavered, as she held her forehead.
“I got sick very easily growing up, so father studied books about herbs and medicine in attempts to cure me when I became bedridden.”
Quincia’s words sounded practiced like she was reading off a script.
The feeling in my neck shifted towards my heart, and at that moment I could not breathe, the anxious feeling overwhelming my senses.
“I keep a bottle with me, just in case something were to happen. You could say, it can be called an elixir of sorts.”
A forced chuckle.
“I’m sure that my father would want you to take this in hopes to ease your fever.”
My mother looked hesitant, her brows furrowed, as her hands clutched the sheets.
Quincia unplugged the cork on the top of the bottle and looked at me.
“Aristia, would you mind brewing Duchess Whelmorn some tea? The elixir works best when mixed into something to drink.”
I felt my hands shake, as my body ran cold.
Something’s off. There is no way that after what she has done to me, she is willing to help me or my family.
She has tormented me every time I went to a ball, she has attempted to ridicule me every time we were in public. And she is sitting in front of me right now, asking to help my mother by providing an elixir.
“Aristia, would you brew me your Earl Gray?”
I heard my mother’s voice, and I snapped out of my trance. I saw her gentle smile, before a slight nod in my direction.
Her mouth created the words of an ‘It’s okay’ before she conversed with Quincia.
I felt a hand on my shoulder before I recognized the soft touch.
“My Lady, the water.”
I heard Anna’s voice behind me as I turned around, her face laced with worry as her hands held onto the tray.
The smell of the tea filled the room, as I poured the tea out for my mother.
“Here you go,” I replied, placing the teacup in her hand, as I saw Quincia stand up.
I lowered my gaze to the mixture in the bottle before I felt my mom’s fingers interlacing with mine.
“Please give my warmest regards to your father about this.” Her voice laced with sugar, as Quincia poured half of the liquid into the cup.
“Of course, he will be delighted to hear that you accepted his help.” She swirled the tea with a small spoon, before gesturing to my mother.
“Please, enjoy. I await the good news of your recovery. I will be excusing myself. It is time for me to return to Eirae.” Quincia lowered her head, before walking out of the room.
I took one more look at the liquid in my mother’s cup before my hands reached out. The cup quickly rushed to my mother’s lips as she slowly drank the cup, her eyes closed.
Something’s off. But what is it? What am I missing?
As she finished the drink, the complexion of my mother looked better, the color returning to her face as her cheeks were brushed with pink.
“I would like to rest, so would you mind staying beside your father?”
Her voice seemed to have more life to it. Maybe it really was an elixir and this bad feeling of mine was just a misjudgment.
I kissed her cheek, before taking the cup away from her. “Very well, I shall come to see you later in the evening.”
She smiled at me, before her body slumped down, her figure being hidden by the sheets as her eyes closed.
“I love you.” I heard her say before I closed the lights.
“I love you too.”
And with that, I closed the doors to the room and made my way to my father’s study.