Chapter 34 - Plan
Copyright © DenGlemtePrinsesse, 2020
I quivered, watching them crossed the meadow.
Them, because Macforth isn't alone. He's with Jermond, and two other soldiers.
I didn't have to hear what they're talking about to know how furious Macforth is at the moment. Exasperation is basically written all over his face and his pace as they continue making their way to me. He's shaking in anger.
I gulped, crossing my fingers behind me.
The way I stood, anticipating them, reminded me of my unfortunate event with Macforth at the mirrored room. The only difference is that, this time he's already angry, when I didn't hurt anyone.
If we're in a different circumstance, I might've consider this very moment comical. What are the odds that two same things could happen in the same day? While my friends said that it has been days that passed since I was last been here in Utovaj—and it does really feels like it— but technically, it's just hours on Earth.
The colorful butterflies, frozen in their places, as if they're waiting too for what will happen next. Ironic because the meadow around us is a scenery, but the mood between all of us is not.
I couldn't take my eyes away from Macforth. Why is he glaring at me? But more importantly, what are they trying to achieve with the dagger that has been thrown?
Was he the one who threw it? Or has one of them purposely threw that at me? Why? Were they thinking that I will reveal my true self once I was faced with danger, so I could save myself? Is that it?
But is it really worth finding the answer in this manner?
"I'm sorry, but did you threw that dagger at me?" I asked, pointing at the target board behind me, the moment they reached my hearing radius.
While I wanted to know the truth, I'm actually not sure if I'm prepared to hear it. If they'll yes, that would be really unfair and I shouldn't let that pass because throwing a dagger at someone just to prove a point is wrong, and utterly dangerous.
But then again, if they'll say yes, what will I do?
Jermond and the two soldiers stop when they're just a meter away from me, but Macforth didn't. I gulped, watching him crossed the small space between the two of us that I had to take a step back.
My hands are alert in front of me, ready to protect myself if I have to.
Macforth's hand reached for my jaw and turned my face to the side so he could examine the cut. I want to vanished when his face darkened the exact moment his irises met my cheek.
"Damn it!" I jumped.
He turned his back to me, and brushed his face with with hands.
"When would you stop being at places you're not even wanted?" Macforth snapped.
This isn't the first time that he'd made me aware what he really thinks of me, but everytime he does it still stunned me. The idea of Macforth making me feel outcast and treating me coldly isn't new, but somehow it still stupefied me when he actually put it into words.
Being at places I'm not wanted? I'm trying to shrugged it off but the words had already dug deep into my system, knowing exactly what Macforth meant.
"Do you have any idea what just happened here?" And while his words escaped from his gritted teeth, I'm almost rejoiced at the innocence of his question.
Now that he's standing in front of me, the expression on his face is clearer. He's angry, but not in the way I initially thought. I can actually see remorse on his face. It appears like he's feeling bad that the dagger hurt me. And that idea alone sent relief to my system because that only meant that none of them intentionally threw the dagger at me. And that's more than enough.
"I do. It was an accident." I answered, assuring him that I'm not taking this against anyone.
I have to remind myself that this world has more pressing issues to be address than mending my feelings.
Earth stuff should be fix on Earth, discussing Macforth's problem with me can wait.
It was an accident, now I'm certain. How foolish I was to immediately jump to the conclusion that one of them threw the dagger at me. I brushed the thought away, ashamed of myself for accusing my friends when I knew from the start they would never hurt me.
Macforth only stared at me in disbelief.
"What are you doing here?" Jermond asked. I noticed a bruised on his cheekbone. I'm positive that wasn't there earlier at the monitor room.
Then I remember Eric, advising me to knock people out. Eric, you did not.
"You have the right to remain silent!" All our gazes switched to a speeding Eric at the other side of the meadow. His hair, disheveled. His narrowed eyes, a little swollen from the nap.
"I see what's happening here." Jermond snickered, walking to stand next to me.
"Being the crybaby as you are again." He crossed his arms over his chest as he watches Eric come to us.
"Go ahead, tell my brother how unfairly you we're treated here." He whispered to my ear.
A crybaby? Have I been one?
I glanced up at Jermond, I wanted to object at what he said but I suddenly remembered my ugly self sobbing earlier in front of Eric that had him running towards his brother. Probably the time when Jermond got the bruise on his cheekbone.
I also remember blabbering at Macforth over the phone when Eric and I were on the highway with those bad people. I should've help, but instead I let my fear took over that made me useless. My hysteric didn't help at all.
I also remember clinging to Dave at the kitchen earlier when Jermond was confronting me. I stood in my position, relying on them to defend me.
Maybe I'd really been one. Maybe I'd been too dependent on them than I'd realized. Maybe I'd been more of a liability than help to them, despite my efforts to be useful.
I glanced away, composing my face.
I have to stop being a liability.
I immediately wipe the blood off my cheek before Eric reached us.
"I'm just showing her around." Eric said, panting. His hands, on his knees.
"And now I'm taking her back. Thank you for keeping her company. Resume your training. Enjoy yourselves." Eric talked fast. He started dragging me out the meadow before any of us could respond. My dress is causing a delay for us but he didn't bother glancing at me. He's basically towing me out of the meadow. I could only assume he's trying to hide something.
"What did you tell them?" Eric demanded the moment we step out of the meadow. I also noticed that he failed to mention to them about our own training. And him, asking me this question only made my assumption probable.
"Nothing. But what exactly is our plan for tomorrow?" I asked, keeping up with his pace.
"You said we're going with them. But I notice that you didn't tell them we're also training for that. I wanted to come with you, but you know we can't walk out there with just the two of us. Something could go really wrong, Eric." And I'm really positive that they wouldn't let us come, especially Dave.
"Look." He finally stop walking and paid attention. He stared at me, annoyed.
"We are going with them, without them knowing. I'm sure they'll be using ada tomorrow to hide them from whatever it is that's waiting outside the borders. And so are we. So don't go around telling people we're coming with them. That's the plan. Don't blow it up."
Well, that doesn't sound bad at all. For the first time, I'm actually relieved upon heard the word ada. While I got my fair share of unfortunate experience with them, I'm well aware what they're capable of.
That very thought actually made me instantly less worried.
Eric and I went back to our training ground. He picked up the swords before heading towards the direction back to the castle.
"Are we done training? You haven't teach me how to use the sword yet." I followed him.
"This is the best chance to sneak into the barracks since Jermond and Forth are here. I only need to worry about running into Dave and Errol. Besides, you don't have to learn swords. Close combat will going to be the end of you."
"But what if I was put in a situation where I have no choice but to use sword?"
"That's not helpful at all." Especially since running is not an option for the majority of the people. Not all can run fast.
"Look, I don't want you engaging in a close combat. But if you really have to, just don't go for the obvious attack. Use diversionary tactics. You know, pretend you're striking for the head when you're really going for the heart." And now that we're talking about it, I'm not really sure I wanted to use a sword against anyone.
Reality is, when someone wielded sword, another one gets hurt. And while I never wanted to be in front of its blade, I don't think I can afford being on the other side of it either.
I hope we wouldn't face in a situation where we're left no choice.
"Or you could just close your eyes and wield the sword aimlessly. You could have beginner's luck if the odd's really siding with you."
"That sounds easier. I hope that'll work for me." We crossed a river that we didn't passed through earlier. It's freezing. And I'm sinking with all the layers of my clothes.
"I highly doubt that. But what's the harm in trying? You'll be dead anyway so you might as well die as a fighter, right?" Eric chuckled even though it's our safety we're talking about.
"I'm serious, Eric."
"So am I." He laughed again.
"You've seen a galiama yourself, what chances do you think you have against them? They're just one of the many monsters who escaped the Underworld. Others are bigger and way more sadistic. You really think you have a chance against them? Be thankful if they go easy on you." I'm not sure if this is still Eric's way of encouraging me.
"Is there a way where I'm not dying tomorrow?"
"Relax. You're not going to die. Just stay with me and don't attract danger. You'll be fine." I exhaled, walking out of the river with him.
It's already dim outside the misty forest. I can tell that any minute from now, the moon will soon appear above us. Part of me is thrilled at that thought. I wanted to see the moon again.
Soaking, Eric and I entered to the weaponry and return the stuff we borrowed. He's moving fast, like time is racing with us, and it's just making me nervous.
It's a fine early evening. And there wasn't anything shocking upon seeing Dave and Errol walking casually accross the hall, the moment we step out of the weaponry. But somehow Eric is so jumpy that the first sight of our friends caught him off guard.
The thing is, I found my body reacting in sync with Eric's startleness, when I don't even have a reason to be surprise seeing them.
"Okay, here's the plan. Distract them. Make sure they won't leave your sight until I'm done."
"Done with what?"
"Hey!" Eric called.
"Distract? How?" I panic because I finally get that his fugitive behavior has something to do with our mission for tomorrow. I wanted to support Eric for whatever it is that he has in store, but at the same time, I don't want to lie in the process.
I couldn't tell if the shaking of my body has something to do with my impromtu task, or from the soaking in the cold river.
Dave and Errol changed course, and is now walking towards us. I glanced at Eric. My eyes, asking him how am I suppose to distract them. What do I know about distraction?
"She's hungry." Eric said, pushing me towards them.
"They're preparing dinner. Where have you been?" Dave raised an eyebrow, eyeing at my drenched dress.
Eric's irises stared through me, instructing me to be cautious with my words.
"He showed me around?" I answered the first thing that popped up in my mind.
I can feel Eric wanting to face-palm himself at my response, if only we're not trying to be discreet.
"Can Eric and I just come with you tomorrow?" I watched Eric's eyes widen at my question.
I can't help it. Tiptoeing over the truth is just as good as lying. And I don't like it. Maybe if we just ask them, they will change their mind. That way no one has to lie.
"Why would you want to go outside the kingdom?" Errol asked, but he's staring at Eric as he wait for my answer.
Eric immediately shook his head and raised his hands, denying whatever it is he's being accuse of.
"Privs, why are you suddenly asking?" Dave added.
"Why indeed? I wonder." I'm aware that Eric has been digging holes in my face, that's why I'm not meeting his eyes. And I also know that he wanted to make me vanish right now for making our friends suspicious. But I just want to try my way, maybe it will work.
"I just think that if we're looking for Ali, maybe it's best I'm with you. When you find him, you can't attack each other. And I think Ali will listen to me. I want to help." That was a lame excuse. I'm very much aware that my friends could do it without me. I'm just trying to do something for Eric.
"We're are not going to hurt anyone. And it's dangerous outside." Dave promised.
"What if I'll learn to defend myself so I can add to the manpower?" Eric retreated behind them, so they can't see his reaction. His palm is on his face. I was internally cringing at his hidden reaction, but I have to give it a shot.
"Still not safe."
"Maybe you'll change your mind if you'll see me shoo—" I swallowed my words, for Eric had drawn a straight line in front of his throat with his thumb.
"Okay. But why can't Eric come with you?" I have no problem being left alone tomorrow. The last thing I want is for them to look after me, when they're suppose to be focusing on their duty. What if we're to be attack tomorrow outside the kingdom? I will only be a liablity to them.
"Indeed. Why can't I? Why are you leaving me here? Why do I have to be stuck here with her?" Dave and Errol chuckled but Eric's annoyance remained.
This is a big deal for him, I can see that.
"I'm serious. Why?"
"You know we can't leave her alone here, Eric." Dave's jaw tightened, shutting his lips.
"Plus you're careless. We can't afford to let you on loose outside the kingdom. You might just cause more damage that would put the Alf'ru into shame." Errol was quick to add, but it wasn't quick enough to cover whatever it was that Dave left unsaid.
We all know that I already noticed that Dave pursed his lips in time before he added another sentence. But none of us said a word on that.
"Besides, you're basically a package deal now, remember?" Eric rolled his eyes at Dave's remark, that made us chuckle.
It's funny how people can use one's words on them to either encourage them or silence them.
Eric dismissed us with his hand before walking away.
When Dave and Errol we'ren't looking, Eric gestured with his fingers that I have to keep an eye on them.
"Do you wanna eat with us? Or you want your food deliver in your chamber?" Dave asked.
"We can do that?" The idea is comforting. After they'd seen my memories and with all the suspicion, I'm not sure I can already face them all at once.
"Of course. In the meantime, you might want to change your clothes. Go ahead, I'll tell them to bring the food in your room."
"Can you eat with me too?" I immediately added before they can step away.
I'm surprise that keeping them distracted is not as hard as I thought it will be. Now that my way didn't work, I have to stick with the original plan—Eric's plan.
"Sure. Go ahead. I'll follow." Oh no, he's stepping away.
"Or we can come with you." I suggested.
I'm receiving confused stares from both of them. I know I'm acting strange. I feel strange, but I have to do this.
How can I keep them in one place without giving too much information?
"No need, Privs. It won't take long. Go change your clothes. I'll follow." Dave smiled, amused at my persistence. He nodded at Errol to get me out of here, before heading to the kitchen, I assumed.
I'm praying that it wasn't near wherever Eric is, or he will really make me vanish if he runs into Dave.
"I have to make sure that Dave will be heading straight to us afterwards." But Errol held my arm before I can step away.
"Tell me what's going on?" He beamed, evidently entertained at my fidgeting.
"This is Eric's doing, isn't it?" Am I that obvious?
"He's bugging you about being left out tomorrow, isn't he?" Has I been acting that suspicious?
"What did Dave mean when he said, 'You know we can't leave her alone here, Eric'?" I was quick to change the subject.
It was the quickest escape I'd ever managed, and I think I hit a right one, because Errol's clearly caught off guard. His hand ran to the neap of his neck, contemplating whether to tell me or not.
"A mortal and a protector that's unworthy of his title. What a wonderful covenant?" It was Prince Gamette, walking on the other side of the hallway with the Moon Princess and Lady Isha.
I'm suppose to feel dreamy again, especially that the three ethereal people are walking towards me now. One is basically the daughter of the moon, the other one is an elf, and the other is a royal elf that possesses superpowers, and can entice human by his beauty alone.
Still, despite the beauty he offers to my eyes, his words managed to lessen my admiration to him. It's like, every time he says something unfriendly to my friends, his spotlight dimmed little by little to me.
While Errol isn't the original keeper of the stone, he is now, and I think that's all that matters. They're suppose to be partners, working side by side to defeat the real enemy, so it's just right to offer Errol the same respect that he's receiving from him.
If Prince Gamette is incapable of that, then maybe not talking to Errol at all is better than calling him names and making him feel inferior. It wasn't Errol's fault that the princess he's suppose to be protecting was found by the Alf'ru before him. For all I know, given a chance, Errol will be more than willing to throw himself in front of that princess just to save her. No questions asked.
So I can't help but feel bad to see Errol tensed up beside me, as we paused, anticipating their presence in front of us.
"Aluthio Valin, may I have a word with the mortal?" The princess' voice filled my ears with music again.
It's my turn now to be tense. Why does she want to talk to me? While I'm happy that we're already friends, still I'm new to having a celestial princess as a friend. I have to work on that.
Errol and I exchanged glances. We got dinner plans, but we also know that it would be impolite to decline the princess. So we both nodded.
"My Princess, when would I ever get used to your modesty? Asking permission from a mere soldier, how humble can you still be?" And then again, regardless of the paramount beauty Prince Gamette offers, the way he treats my friends managed to diminish that somehow.
The princess blushed, not knowing what to say. The prince was putting her in an awkward situation, where he praises her while throwing shades at my friend.
So, I turned to Errol and assured him that I'll be fine on my own, so he could leave before Prince Gamette can utter another unpleasant word towards him.
"I'll be waiting at your door." He bowed to them and left quietly.
It pains me to see Errol walking away, upset and disrespected. Errol is basically one of the nicest person on Earth. He doesn't deserve this kind of treatment. None of my friends do.
"May I ask a question, Prince Gamette?" My heart races, hearing myself. The words had already escaped from my lips, it's too late now to take them back.
I can't believe I said that. I don't even know if I'm allowed to speak to him. How can I carelessly addressed him?
I panic, because other than myself, the royals in front of me are in the state of absolute surprise too. I should've not spoken to him but I did. I had crossed the line this time, I'm doomed.
"You dared to speak to me, mortal?" Oh no!
His voice is enchanted but it shook me to my core.
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry, Your Highness." I hid my shaking hands behind me and bowed to him. What else is left there to do? My action was rash, I have no excuse.
The Moon Princess is startled too, and Lady Isha remained quiet. I can basically hear my own heart pounding in fear.
I glanced at Errol's fleeing figure in the distant. I don't know if I'm wishing for him to come back. Part of me doesn't want to drag him to whatever consequence of my insolence, especially that he's already a subject of Prince Gamette's critical words, but then there's a part of me that's hoping he'll look back, despite him being almost at the other end of the hallway. I doubt he can still hear us.
"Alright, asked." He demanded, impatient.
My head snapped up to him. I'm confused. I thought he doesn't want me to talk to him.
My prepared words are bold. Too bold that it might cause me my life. I wasn't thinking when I asked for a permission to utter my question. And now that I'm thinking, it would be an absolute idiocy if I will let my thoughts be heard.
"Are you going to make me wait here forever?" I jumped.
Should I continue? If I don't he will be mad. If I do, he will definitely be furious.
But since he asked for it...
I crossed my fingers behind me.
"Forgive me for asking, Your Highness, but why do you utter unfriendly words towards the princes? I believe they don't deserve to be treated like that. If they'd done something that, Your Highness disapproved, I'm certain they're probably oblivious to it, or maybe they know and they did it for a reason. The princes are good people. They'll never purposely going to do something to offend someone. Maybe it's best if Your Highness tell them what they did, so they can make ammend, and you'll be friends. At the end of the day, you are all fighting the same enemy. Aren't you?" I bit my tongue, forcing myself to stop. I can continue talking but I decided otherwise.
The words I said are already enough to condemn me in a lifetime. I didn't need to be punish until my reincarnation. And while I do know that no one should be disrespectful to any monarch, I also wanted to know the answer.
Besides, he asked. There's no turning back now.
It was a solid second of intense silence. The longest I'd ever had.
My heart beats erratically, knowing he can get me arrested any minute now.
My breathing, heavy and unsteady.
I curled my shaking fingers into a fist.
The result of my action? I'm waiting for like an eternity already to find out.
I glanced at the other end of the hall, but Errol is no longer in sight.
God bless me.
Prince Gamette's laughter boomed, echoing through the infinite hallway. I dared to glance up at him, and found his irises covered with both amusement and curiosity. He wiped a tear from the corner of his eye.
While my question isn't a comical subject, I actually prefer this response than the horrid things I had in mind. Something that involves torment and condemnation. My pessimism can't be help, I'd chosen insolent words against a monarch.
Prince Gamette patted my head before walking away, still laughing, almost hysterical. Lady Isha followed him, leaving me and the still startled princess behind.
I gawked at them as they step further.
I only started breathing when he's actually several feet away from us, when I think it's safe to, and when it felt like I'm really off the hook.
I'm so relieved, I almost nudge the princess in the process.
There is no denying how close that was with my question. Probably too close I would've gotten myself crucified. I am extremely thankful he let my bold words go unpunished.
"You know what?" To my utter surprise, Prince Gamette stop walking. He faced Lady Isha.
My breathing halted. I step back, thinking he changed his mind about going easy on me. My feet are ready to run to Errol if that happens.
The prince glanced back at me, smirking. His irises dug a hole into mine before turning to Lady Isha.
"I want one."