Chapter 42- A Pained Freedom
“Nora,” I jumped when I heard the sudden voice and turned my head up to see Vince giving me a concerned look as he sat in front of me and leaned forward to place his hand on my forehead.
“You seem fine. Is everything okay?” He asked.
“Huh? Y-Yeah, it’s all fine. Just a bit weird is all,” I mumbled out the last bit, looking away from him and to the sleeping cub which had made its way onto my lap now.
“The fact that I’m 20 years of age but nothing has changed... The next time I’m woken up from the sword, my answer will be the same- that I’ve existed for over 400 years but only lived for 19 of them,”
“How can you say that to me? I’m your wielder and I don’t plan on letting you go back to that sword only to be awoken another hundred years later by someone else and besides... your living now, aren’t you?”
“It doesn’t count,” I mumbled. “It feels like I’m living, I feel like any other normal person,”
“Then what’s the problem?”
“I’m not actually living. Despite moving around like this and being able to smile at you like this right now and being alive in this time period, there’s a difference because my life is frozen. Up until the moment that I’m set free, It will be like I’m stuck in time,”
His eyes finally widened in realisation.
“Then what do I need to do to set you free? Do I just state my wish and then you’re free?”
“You’ll have to stab me,”
“Stab you!” He shrieked and I glared at him, putting a finger over my mouth then nudged my head to the sleeping cub and he settled down but was still rigid.
Running a hand through his black hair, he leaned forward and placed his elbow on his crossed legs, his hand on his palm as he stared at me.
“What?” I asked, practically sensing the questions oozing out of him. “You’ll have to stab me with Achillies, only Achilles and it has to be you that does it,”
“What if someone else does it?”
“Nothing will happen. The wound will simply heal and I’ll still be immortal and connected to the sword and you,”
“And if I do it? If I’m the one that’ll stab Achilles through you. What will happen?”
“I’ll be set free,”
“In what way?”
“I don’t know... but it’s a risk I’m willing to take,”
“Nora!” He shouted and I jumped this time, meeting his furious gaze.
“Do you mean to tell me that if I stab Achilles through you, you’ll either die and go to the afterlife or you’ll heal from the wound and no longer be connected to the sword,”
“That’s right,” I nodded.
“I don’t know what’ll happen but either way, I’ll be free from the sword which is my ultimate wish,” I declared confidently.
The look on his face was indecipherable.
He looked beyond vexed but his eyes screamed fear and while his whole body shook, his eyes looked as though they were begging me to tell him that what I had just said was a joke but I didn’t say anything.
I want to be free. That’s what I want. Free of Achilles, free from all the burdens, I simply want to be free... but who knew that wanting freedom would come with so much more.
“You didn’t think to tell me this beforehand!?” He screamed, this time succeeding in waking up Leo and the lion cub growled at the King but didn’t jump to fight him which I was grateful for.
“Would it have changed anything?”
“It would have changed everything! Nora! What if you die!? What if I stabbed Achilles through you and waited for you to wake up as a normal being only to find out that you won’t actually wake up! What would have happened then!?”
It was then that I realised everything that had happened.
Vincenzo cared. For me.
“I’m sorry,” I tilted my head down, disappointed with myself for not realising sooner. He scoffed, standing up and brushing the grass off of his clothes.
“You’re sorry? Thanks,” The sarcasm dripping in his voice stabbed through my chest and made me want to curl up in a ball and be alone but I didn’t do that. I gulped back everything I was feeling and turned to look him in the eyes.
“You shouldn’t care,” I heard myself say and he momentarily paused, his body freezing up and slowly turning to gaze down at me.
“What?” The glare on his face scared me, more than I would like to admit, especially since it was aimed at me this time instead of someone else.
“I’m just a mage, Vince and you’re a King. You have someone you planned to marry and she’s a nice person... I don’t want to be the other person, I don’t want to be someone you only mess around with for a bit,” I honestly spoke, not being able to look at him.
“Is that what you think?”
“It’s what I have to think. You never said anything, you only kiss me all the time and confuse me. I don’t know if it’s a norm in this time period to display your feelings through actions instead of words but I’m still confused. I’m sorry for not talking about my feelings to you either but I didn’t want to feel like a burden. You’re already so busy with Alpheus and your other duties as King, I felt like I had no right to add to your stress...”
What else should I say?
I didn’t dare tilt my head up to meet his gaze and bit my tongue while running my fingers through Leo’s hair, waiting for him to say or even do something but he didn’t, not for a while at least and so, we simply stayed like that.
“I’m sorry too,”
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t surprised by his words.
“You... You are?” I finally gained enough courage to move my head up and look at him and almost breathed out a loud sigh of relief upon noticing that he was no longer boiling with rage but stood with a calm demeanour.
“Yes... for losing my patience before trying to understand how you might feel... but honestly, I can’t begin to imagine how you’re feeling,” He squatted down in front of me so I no longer had to tilt my head back to look up at him.
“Everyone you loved and cared for died and you were left alone in a sword, being taken out of it only to grant the wishes of selfish people. You’ve accomplished greatness but in doing so, you’ve lost yourself,”
My eyes pricked with tears and how could it not?
He said that with so much agony in his voice as if he’s the one that went through it and that only reminded me of how accurate everything he’s saying is.
Honestly, I had forgotten... and I didn’t want to remember but I have to remember because there’s no one else to remember them. It was a heavy burden but it was one worth keeping.
“You blame yourself for Atticus’s death but it wasn’t your fault. He made the promise to set you free and he didn’t set you free. He chose his dream over your freedom and he died because of that dream, taking his dream with him and your freedom,”
He placed his hand on my cheek and smiled softly. Possibly the most meaningful and softest smile that he’s ever given me.
“You’re strong beyond which words can explain, Nora... You deserve your freedom, after everything you’ve been through. Not even I should be allowed to hold you back,”
I gulped back my sobs and blinked the tears away, smiling at him brightly and nodded. “Thank you,” I whispered out, my voice still evident with broken tears.
“But... I’d like it... If you could stay with me. I pray that the sword doesn’t kill you. I want you by my side and not anyone else... I want the sword to be able to give us both a chance,” His thumb stroked my cheek as my eyes widened in shock at his words.
“My King! Your highness!” He was cut off
“What? What is it you rotten fool!?” I jumped along with Don when Vince pulled away from me, jumped up, grabbed his friend by the collar and glowered at him with a thunderstorm raging in the silver depths of his starry eyes.
Unlike all the other times, this time, I too was quite annoyed with Don’s interruption but I’d be wrong if I said he didn’t have the most impeccable timing. It was frustrating.
“Umm... I would appreciate it if you would let go of my clothes, I quite like this shirt,” Don unsurely started, giving his King a concerned look.
My concern for his life began to grow and I patted Leo as a sign of telling him to get out of here and go somewhere safe where a raging King wasn’t present. The cub caught on quickly and ran a safe distance away from us.
“Really? That’s only making me want to rip it even more, along with all your limbs,”
“Is everything okay? You’re sounding a bit more violent than usual,”
“I wonder why?” Vince gave one of the fakest sounding chuckles and I gulped. Honestly, that sounded beyond terrifying.
“So... Pardon me but will you let go of-”
“That depends on what your reason for interrupting me is,”
“With all due respect my King...”
Oh dear god and all of my dearly departed mages, please help this clueless knight survive the tragedy that is about to befall him in the hands of this terrifying King.
“...I won’t very well be able to tell you anything for as long as you... keep... choking... m-” I jumped forward and pulled Donatello out of Vince’s grasp before the man could wrap his fingers around the knight’s throat.
Good going, Nora. You just saved a life while putting your own one on the line.
Oh dearie me. I’m going to need a lot more energy to be able to survive the horror that I’m about to be forced to go through, someone give me strength.