Chapter Four - A Threat to The Throne
The birds sweetened her time with their pleasant tweets. The sun shone and warmed her skin, lighting this wonderful kingdom. Arkadia was stunning, the vast fields of flowers made it colorful and the fruit trees added a cordial scent.
Lyla approached the fruit trees in the palace yard and admired them.
There was a variety of fruit trees, some apple trees, some oranges, and many other different fruits.
She looked up at a short tree with clusters of purple and green grapes dangled from it. She encompassed the tree and her gaze lingered on the bushes which were at the bottom - three large bushes of berries, her favorite fruits.
Raspberry, strawberry and blueberry bushes intertwined in harmony and adorned the bushes as jewelry.
"Enjoying nature, Lady Lyla?" Prince Mako stood beside her.
His smile shone in the sunlight.
His golden hair was carefully arranged as appropriate for the crown prince. His crimson robe swayed behind him in the light wind.
"Good morning, your majesty," she said.
Lyla kneeled down and plucked the colorful berries. She put a raspberry in her mouth, shut her eyes and relished its sour-sweet taste. She got up on her feet and offered Mako a blueberry.
"The fruits are the treasures of nature and the berries are the most precious ones," she declared, savoring the glorious taste of a strawberry.
"You are a strange girl," Mako chuckled in response. "I guess you can not grow fruits in Astrada due to the cold weather?"
She shook her head.
"And we do not have such beautiful mornings either."
He followed her gaze to the view.
"If you were here under different circumstances I would offer to show you around."
Her face fell. She could not help but feel guilty for leaving her people behind when the Scandians were ruling them. She left her family behind too.
"I apologize, I did not mean to upset you".
She looked up at him.
"No, it is just ... forget it." She hurried to change the subject. "When are we supposed to leave?"
The Prince turned his gaze to his men who were preparing for the journey to Amato.
"Actually, less than an hour. I ordered some of the maids to get you clothes for the next few days, and I can order one of the guards to arrange a carriage for you if you ...".
She shook her head. "I do not need a carriage."
He ran a hand through his hair.
"So you ... would rather that someone will ride with you?"
"Prince Mako," she stepped closer to him and stared directly at his beautiful brown eyes.
"I know how to ride a horse." She whispered.
A surprised look appeared on his face, but he hurried to hide it.
She sighed. "Look, I know you saw what happened to some of the soldiers who attacked me in the woods. I saw the look on your face yesterday. You wanted to ask me if I am responsible for it".
He looked at her without saying a word and there was an awkward silence for a moment.
"Yes, I am," she said eventually, and then added with a defensive voice, "They deserved it. I do not hurt people for no reason".
"I am not accusing you of anything, lady Lyla. I am just a little surprised that...".
"That a girl is capable of something like that?" She completed him.
He laughed for a moment.
"No, actually I am not surprised by that".
Lyla crossed her arms and waited for his answer.
"I am just surprised there is another girl like Amaya."
"Really? is there anyone else like me?" Amaya popped out of nowhere.
She was definitely ready for the ride. She wore a gray ride suit. Her black hair was fastened to a ponytail and she carried a crossbow on her shoulder.
"Seriously, Amaya," said the prince when he noticed the bow. "We are going to the Air Kingdom. You do not need a crossbow."
Amaya looked at him as if he just insulted her.
"First of all, I always need a bow. In case someone pisses me off," she winked to Lyla. "And second of all, you can not tell when you will need a weapon. Maybe these Scandians are still in the woods."
"Amaya is right. We have to be prepared and to be careful," said Lyla.
Amaya looked at her with appreciation and smiled.
"You see? She gets me. I like her," she turned and before she left she called out over her shoulder. "I will make sure you get a sword too."
"This garden is astonishing," Lyla said as she looked around her.
The prince looked at her for a moment and at the garden of his palace.
"My mother would have been happy to hear that," he said and sadness appeared in his eyes. "She really loved this garden".
"Your mother?" She asked while sitting on a wooden bench in the garden.
It took a few moments before he replied and when he did, his voice was hoarse.
"She was murdered when I was just a kid".
He glanced at the horizon and seemed distant.
"I have always wanted to make her proud. Even after she died".
Lyla reached for his hand and squeezed it.
"I believe you already have."
He glanced at her hand and then at her.
"I do not know you for a long time but I can tell you are a good person," she smiled and reassured him. "I mean, you helped me, a girl you do not even know. It implies kindness and a good heart".
"Thank you, Lady Lyla," he said and met her eyes. "For your kind words".
She cleared her throat and let his hand go.
"I lost my father," she finally told him. "It was many years ago. He was the head commander of our army. My mother always pleaded to him to retire and that it was dangerous, but he claimed that he wanted to make the world a safe place where his two daughters would be protected.
But in one of his battles, when we were expecting to his return, his friend came and informed us that he would not return".
She paused and took a deep breath. Her voice suddenly became heavy.
"My father sacrificed his life to save his troop, to defend his homeland and to protect his family."
A tear ran down her cheeks and she hurried to wipe her face.
"You must be proud of him," Mako said.
"More than anyone else," she admitted. "But I also miss him and I am mad at him for leaving us alone".
"It is perfectly normal for you to feel that way," he got to his feet and held out his hand to her.
"And if it is worth anything, Lady Lyla," he wiped her last tears with his thumb. "Your father would be proud of you if he were here."
She smiled at him sadly. If he only knew the whole truth...
Her father would not have been proud of her, but ashamed of her. It was her fault, the war in her country was caused because of her. It all happened because she put her faith in Ranos Saiko.
"We should probably go back," Mako said.
He turned to leave but Lyla grabbed his elbow and stopped him. "Wait, Prince Mako."
He turned and looked at her questioningly.
"I believe I owe you an apology. We got off on the wrong foot. Yesterday I was ... unpleasant," she said and lowered her face.
"I am just having a hard time trusting people lately."
She was referring to Ranus of course. She hated the fact that his betrayal still hurt her, after all he had done, it still hurt her so much.
Instead of asking anything else about it, the prince just nodded with an understanding.
"It is okay," he replied.
"Let's start over, shall we? I am prince Mako Reigns," he extended his hand to her and she smiled.
"I am Lady Lyla Satto, it is a pleasure to meet you".
She laid her hand in his and he kissed the back of it.
"The pleasure is all mine, my lady. You know, you are more beautiful than they say," he smiled. "And if I may say - this person who let you down, is stupid."
She glanced up at him in surprise.
"I never said...".
"You do not have to say anything. I can tell someone hurt you," he said, and she hesitated for a moment, looking for something to say. He put his hand on her shoulder to reassure her and their eyes met.
"It is okay, Lady Lyla. You do not have to talk about it if you do not want to".
A guard approached Ranus as he was ushering Lady Amber out of the Throne hall.
"General," the guard said. "I can take the prisoner back to her cell".
Lady Amber did not make eye contact with any of them. Her face was down and she seemed so distant.
"There is no need to, guard," Ranus said.
The guard was about to say more but something behind him got Ranus' attention.
The king talked to some mysterious black-dressed man with tattoos on his arms.
They seemed deep in conversation and the expression on the king's face was serious. He raised his voice and Ranus could hear what he said.
"....and when you find her," he narrowed his eyes. "I want you to kill her!".
The man smiled. "As you wish".
He walked away and got out of the castle.
Ranus ordered the guard to watch Amber and he approached the king.
"What is the meaning of this? Why would you send another person to track down Lady Lyla? I told you I can find her," his voice was pissed.
The king did not look at him and he only toyed with the ring on his finger.
"Oh, I know you can catch her. But honestly, general, I do not think you can do what needs to be done".
"Which is what, exactly?" He tried to keep his voice calm.
"She is related to the royal family, therefore she is a threat to my rule in Astrada. I want her out of the picture," he said with determination.
Ranus could not let that happen, he could not let Lyla die.
"She does not have to die. she is more useful to us when she is alive".
King John turned to look at him. "Is that so?".
"Yes! The Astradians would listen to their nobles, we can use her to restrain them instead of using expensive resources in trying to silence them".
The king laughed.
"We do not need her for that," he said and turned to look at Lady Amber who stood a mile from them. "Not when we have her".
"You are delusional if you think I will ever help you with anything," she said with rage.
"But you will," the king said. "If you do not want to lose your cousin too. After all, soon he will be the only family you will have left".
She tried to free herself and hurt him but he just laughed at her and mocked her. At least now she knew her cousin is alive.
"My king, I still think it is a horrible mistake to kill Lady Lyla. She could be very useful to us," Ranus said and got king John's attention back.
"Very well, I will tell you what, general. if you capture her first, you decide what to do with her, you can even take her to yourself, I do not care. But if the assassin finds her..." he smiled viciously. "You can say goodbye to your little lover".
The king walked away and left Ranus there with rage in him.
He walked toward Lady Amber and he still thought about what the king just said.
"Will you just let my sister die?" Amber said with anger. "After everything you put her through you will just allow some strange man to murder her?".
He did not respond, he was trying to think of a way to get to Lyla before the Assassin did.
"I can not believe she ever loved you, you do not deserve her," she glared at him with an accusing gaze.
"General?" The guard who was standing there this whole time looked at him questioningly.
"Take her back to her cell," he replied to him while exchanging looks with Amber. "Do not worry, Lady Amber. I will not let your sister die".