The Nightmare

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Chapter 35 - Pretense

Copyright © DenGlemtePrinsesse, 2020


"Unbelievable." The Moon Princess gasped, flabbergasted at Prince Gamette's words, echoing my thoughts.

We watched him as he decided to continue walking away, and I noticed the worry in the princess' eyes when she glanced at me.

Because, really, I want one? What's that suppose to mean? Is he planning to kidnap a human being? Will he going to enslave an unfortunate human soul here? 'Unfortunate' because, I'd seen how these people treat my kind in their land, and I'm assuming that's the best treatment my kind could get from them since I'm a friend of their princes, but what if I'm not? What if he'll pick someone with no royalty friend in this land? That would be bad, fatal even.

I hope God will never allow that to happen.

I'd been pushing another theory deep in my thoughts. I didn't want to entertain it, but the Moon Princess' impassive face's now dressed with fret as she stared at me, gives me no choice. We're probably thinking the same thing.

What if Prince Gamette decides to hide me from my friends and doomed me to live here forever? Come to think of it, I haven't seen a human in this castle. It will be convenient to make use of what's already in front of him. And that scared me.

Well then, I have to keep my distance from him before his curiousity grew bigger. Who knows the extent of what his people are willing to do just to satisfy his demand? And I don't want to know either. I could never let that happen.

"Come, mortal." The velvet voice called. My feet, bewitched, automatically followed her trail.

The Moon Princess heard what Prince Gamette said. If I were to be taken without a trace any moment now, at least I have a witness. She could tell everyone what happened. I'm not sure if I'm just overreacting, or if Prince Gamette didn't actually mean what he said. Regardless, I think it's best if my friends know.

Suddenly I remember, I'm suppose to keep an eye on my friends. I have to make sure they wouldn't cross path with Eric, otherwise our plan will be ruin. I can almost see his disapproving apparition at the back of my mind.

I was bitting my nails before I knew it. Eric will be upset if the plan is compromised. I have to do my part but how can I excuse myself to the princess?

"Your Highness." I called, running after her.

For a lady who walks in finesse, it's amusing how fast her pace is. The people around—bowing as she passed—are probably just as curious as me why she seems to be in a hurry.

Once out of the castle, the breeze kissed my cheeks. The night has fallen, the stars offering light to the dark sky. And the picture of the princess, glowing in the middle of the dark surrounding is everything.

She illuminates, her hair, her skin, her clothes. How can one not stare in awe at her.

The princess turned straight to the side path, still walking fast. And I think I know where we're going. My hands instictively reached my hoodie, checking if the pearls are still in there. Thankfully they are despite all the walking that Eric and I had earlier.

"Gather them all." She uttered, staring down the pond, but she didn't stop walking until she reached the tip of the cliff, something that shook my knees.

While her illuminating figure, standing perfectly under the night sky, and against the cold wind, is a picturesque view, the distance of her feet to the edge of the cliff is currently turning my stomach upside down.

But even then, I didn't fail to notice how bothered her tone was, clearly upset. She's probably disturb at Prince Gamette's words, and I appreciate her concern. Perhaps, my anxiety is valid. If it worries the princess, then it should also worry me.

"It will be okay, Your Highness. The princes will not let anything happen to me." But I'm convicing my alarmed heart more than hers. In my mind, I'm rewinding Errol's words when he assured me that I will be safe in Utovaj this time, and that I wouldn't be left alone. My friends had been sticking by their words so far. If it's not the Moon Princess, they're always with me.

I glanced down at the pond, and just like what she said earlier, there're new black pearls in it, shinning brighter than the ones I already have.

I kneeled, pulling my sleeves up. The faster I moved the sooner this will be over. So I can go back and fulfill the only favor Eric asked from me. I won't let him down.

With my sleeves rolled up, I saw my wounded hand from all the arrow drawing I did earlier. The blood had dried though. My hands are still pink because of the soaking in this same pond earlier. I was planning to wash the blood off with the water, but the moment my skin made contact with the pond, I back off instantly.

Electricity shot through my arm. I basically saw small purple lightning crawled out from the water to me. It felt like I had been stab by multiple knives at once from my fingertips then pushed straight to the rest of my arms.

I glanced up to the princess, asking if she saw that too, but she just stared at me nonchalantly.

"The water is electrified, Your Highness." She stared at me, confused. I don't know if electricity is even a word in Utovaj, but it's obvious she didn't know what's going on with the pond, otherwise she wouldn't ask me to do it.

"It's grounded, Your Highness. I don't think it's safe." I stood up. My hands, tingling again, way intense this time. I can feel more needles flowing, and they're not going away. My hands, feeling heavier and thicker by each second.

"Do it, mortal. After all the Queen adores great effort." She encouraged so I stared at the pond again. Okay.

I don't want to offend her and I want this to be over. So I tried soaking one finger to comply with her wish, but electricity shoots again.

I don't think it's still okay. Something is wrong and dangerous about the pond. I don't know if it's cursed but it's not as welcoming as it used to be during the day. I was lucky I didn't soak my hand completely before my whole body got electricuted.

I don't know what happpened to the pond why all of a sudden it's hurting people. Maybe it only entertains guest during the day? Or perhaps, it recognized me because I took its pearls? It's probably mad at me. After all everything in this world can have their own life.

I stared at the pond, contemplating my next words.

While saying no to her might be hard, I have to do it especially when I'm really not comfortable with the situation. I have to start saying no when I feel it's the right thing to do, otherwise Eric's effort to help me be better and stand up for myself will be useless.

I'm just not sure how I can tell the princess without offending her. I'm not even sure if I'm allowed to turn a royalty down, but I do think I have a valid reason.

"Your Highness, I think we'd gather enough pearls for the Queen. She probably wouldn't mind the number but the thought right?" I stood up, blowing my hands, but it offered no relief.

At the back of my mind, I'm thinking of making a longevity bracelet as an additonal gift for the queen. I'm positive she will like it since they don't have that here in Utovaj.

"That'll never be enough to pay for thy deeds, mortal." My eyes widen.

"My deeds? Your Highness?" I watched her step closer to me.

I'm confused.

As far as I know I only made one mistake to the queen. That's when we're at the mirrored room, unless they consider my being a human is a crime. They shouldn't, for I have no control in that.

"Am I a dullard to thou, mortal? For speaking one thing and doing the opposite. Thou truly think I would notice not?" My knees shook when she suddenly grabbed my arms.

All the life in her irises, now gone.

"Your Highness, what are you talking about?" I tried to take her grip off my arms. Even though I struggle to free myself, I didn't fail to notice the softness of her fragile hands under mine. So I exerted less effort, afraid I would break them.

"After my princes, thou dared seduce Prince Gamette? Thou filthy, loathsome, low breathing wight!"

What?

"Thou had the boldness to do it before my very eyes!"

My hands dropped to my sides.

I can not believe her words.

"Insolent!" The princess pushed me towards the pond but my feet were quick to step back and maintain my balance. She didn't let go of me and continue pushing me into the pond.

Why her action and words are rash!

I continue freeing myself. It's just a matter of seconds until she succeeds throwing me into the water, but I won't let her. I couldn't!

So I ducked under her hold, but the following seconds stupefied me.


Oh no.


I only ducked to release myself from her grip. I didn't intend to hurt her.

I never meant to hurt the princess.

I would never.

But she lost her balance at my movement. I didn't mean to, but my action sent the princess straight to the grounded pond!

My eyes, wide as I watch electricity literally crawled onto her skin.

"I'm sorry!" My hands, wringing in front of me. What shall I do? I'm sorry! What shall I do?

The princess is shaking under the water, crying for help. She's trying to escape but she couldn't with all the pain coming at her at once. Small lightning rising from the pond.

Her blonde hair darkens each nanosecond she remained in the shallow water. Her fair skin turning pink to dark pink, like what happened with my hands.

"Help!" I screamed, glancing everywhere. Then I realize the foolishness of that action. I am help!

What was I doing, watching her struggle in the water and looking for someone to help, when I'm more than capable of pulling her out myself.

I rushed to the edge of the pond, reaching her hand. The electricity made me jump, but I wouldn't let it stop me now for the princess isn't moving anymore!

Guilt engulfs my whole existence at my late response to the present situation. How can I waste crucial moments of doing nothing and watching her suffer?

"Your Highness." My mind and my heart are chaotic as I pull her out of the water. My chest tightened, she is not responding.

I clung her arm on my shoulder and started dragging both of us towards the nearest person I can find.

The path to the castle, excruciating. Her weight, her words, my long dress, the stairs, my hands repelling to the railings, everything is like a canon ball attached to my feet, preventing me from moving freely. But none of these things matter at the moment. It's adrenaline that's allowing me to move fast towards the nearest help.

I deep breathly.

Save the princess. Get help.

I don't want to entertain the thought of what the people might think once they heard about what happened to her and who she was seen with last. It doesn't matter.

The princess is the priority at the moment.

Heaven must be rooting for me with that purpose, because the moment I reached the top of the stairs, help was delivered to me. My heart rejoice at the sight that greeted me.

"Eric!" My voice cracked. I was so happy I almost drop the Moon Princess and ran towards him in glee. Thank God he is the first person to see us in this state.

Eric's carrying armors on one hand, bow and arrow on the other. He's discreet, walking close to the walls of the castle, almost hidding.

"Eric!" I called again. This time he heard.

I watched how annoyance covered his face for a moment when he saw me, but that vanished on the following second when he saw the princess.

His face darkened instantly, and a lot of expression swirls on him at once, I couldn't comprehend any of it.

He dropped everything he's holding and crossed the distance between us at the sight of the unconscious princess. He reached us in a blink of an eye.

"What happened?" He effortlessly slid the princess in his arms, rushing inside the palace.

My eyes widen the moment she's taken from me. For the first time I saw her whole state, and it shook me to my very core.

Her golden hair now jet black. Her skin is already blue turning into purple as seconds pass. She doesn't look like the Moon Princess anymore.

"She... she fell into the pond." I called, catching up with his long strides, trying to focus. Even my tongue is shaking at the sight of her condition.

"The one with the pearls... on the clift. Just outside the castle. There's electricity in it." Other people saw us, and their faces were instantly dressed in horror as they call for more help. They're quick to escort us to the nearest room.

Eric placed the princess onto the bed.

An idea struck me.

I went out, running towards my assigned room. My feet are fast, faster than my thoughts. My heavy steps ringing through the hallway. My mind, blocking the disapproving stares I got from people. My heart aches for the princess. I have to help her. She has to be okay.

She has to be okay.

I stormed into the room, searching into my backpack for my medicine kit.

I have to help. I have to do something. Anything.

I didn't hurt the princess, but no one knows that. My conscience is clear but I'm feeling gulity. I was with her when she got hurt. If anything happens to her, I'll be the one to be blamed.

I was quick on my feet the moment I found my kit. I wasn't even concern at the sight of my hands turning purple too like the princess, nor if they're feeling thick and tingly. I couldn't careless about me now. First things first.

Along the way back to the room where we brought her, I notice how the people stared at me with verdict. And it scares me.

"Where are you going?" I almost crashed to them at the door. Eric's carrying the princess again, leaving the room.

"We have to take her to the healers." He answered, rushing down the hallway.

I help hold the door for everyone to pass. The once crowded room instantly became empty.

"I have a medkit." I waved it in front of him, expecting his face would lighten up with the help I brought, but to my disappointment, Eric only frowned.

"That won't work here." Oh.

"You are slowing Aluthio Kira, mortal." One of the princess' servants snatched me from Eric's way, and I couldn't argue with that. He has a point, but I think he didn't have to do it harshly. Words will be enough.

I couldn't take it against him though, I couldn't blame him. Their princess is unconscious. It's normal they're all in tense and anxious.

I gave way to them, deciding to just walk on the background so I wouldn't get in the way of anyone. But when the last person I'm suppose to follow noticed me, she put a hand in front of my face and stop me.

"You've done enough, mortal." She stared at me from head to toe, clearly doesn't want me to follow.

All I wanted is to help, but it seems like I wasn't needed. So I just nodded and change course.

I'm still hoping that they're not considering the idea of me hurting the Moon Princess, because on top of the suspicion I'm already getting from Jermond, the last thing I need is another reason for more eyes to turn on me.

I hope she will be okay, sooner. It doesn't matter if we can't be friends anymore, if she doesn't like me, I wouldn't insist, I will get out of her way. I will not show my face to her anymore. I just hope she recovers immediately. Please.

I was walking through the next hallway when I heard heavy footsteps approaching from where I came from. I glanced back and found Macforth, running with a princess' attendant towards the room where we'd first taken her. Worry is written all over his face, for the first time I saw that expression in him.

And I again, wonder if Macforth has realized that he has put his guard down when it comes to her.

I walked to his direction, to inform him. He needs to know.

"They'd taken her to the healers." I added a little volume so I could be heard despite the distance.

Macforth stop opening the door upon hearing me. He glanced at me, stabilizing his breathing before making his way to me. I could only imagine him dropping everything, leaving his training when he's informed about her state. Like what Eric did earlier when he saw her condition.

I scratched my head as he began walking to me, panic shot through my system.

Why is he coming to me when the princess was taken to the opposite direction? Did her attendant inform him that I was with her? Did they tell Macforth that I was responsible for that?

"Mortal, you were last seen with Eiluthea—"

"I didn't hurt her." I had to interrupt the attendant because I notice that she had clenched her fist, and her tone is going for something.

"I promise." I raised my promise palm up, and stared at Macforth.

I want the truth out there first while he's still listening. I had to do it now because if he decided I was the culprit, he would immediately shut me out. He will no longer listen to a word I'll say—like what happened back in the mirrored room. I don't want that to happen again.

"I really didn't hurt her." And with his more intimidating self when he's purposely quiet, there's no way I could explain my side once he decided to jump into conclusion. So it's only right to give emphasis to my truth now, while I still have the chance, while he's still listening.

It only made me anxious that his silence seems to be starting as early as now.

Macforth stared at my hand in the air. Then his domineering eyes landed on my face, I had to glance away. There's no way one could stared back at the sudden scrutiny.

There I saw his soaking, muddy boots. He'd probably rushed through the misty forest when he's informed about the princess. He ran so fast he didn't bother to follow the clear trail. No one could blame him though, it's his fiance that's been put in danger.

I shivered mentally at the word I used. But which one? Fiance? Or danger?

"I'm telling the truth." I wanted to emphasize that.

"She lost her balance, slipped and fell to the pond." When I glanced at him again, I notice he's staring at the medicine kit in my hand.

"I thought this would help." I hope he can hear the sincerity of my actions and lessen his suspicion. Even though the attendant behind him obviously didn't. If—

"Send a healer to my quarter." He said in an almost calm voice, it stunned me.

The attendant, suprised though, immediately followed and I watched him ran to the same direction they'd taken the princess.

"Come with me." Me?

I lost it, watching his back paced away.

Did Macforth say that? Was it intended for me?

His deep voice sounded so serene I couldn't tell for sure, but we're the only ones in here, so it has to be him who spoke and me whom he's speaking. Right?

I immediately ran, catching up to the distance he's already made. My walking-with-Macforth pace is automatically on. It's the mode I'd been using specifically for him, where I kept my pace behind him, not walking too close to irritate him and not too far to get lost track of him.

I was patiently waiting for him to turn around and ask me why am I following him, but since none of that came, I assumed it's really me whom he had spoken to come with him.

If Macforth decided to not be grumpy with me at this moment, I'm going to keep it that way, even though I'm dying to know why. Really, why is he not angry? Not that I prefer him to be, but it's kind of given that he'll put the blame on me with what happen to the princess, since that's what everyone else has been doing. Sure no one yet has verbally stated that, but the stares coming from the people earlier are more than enough to know. So why is Macforth calmly talking to me now?

Really why?


Macforth and I entered one of the rooms in a totally different hallway. Then my jaw dropped.

One step into the room and I'm greeted by the purple sky night, the bright moon, the cold breeze and the twinkling star lights bouncing off the dark ocean on the foot of the smaller mountains below us.

His quarter is paramount. It wasn't a room, nor a chamber. It's literally a circular cliff that's furnished with a marbled floor and six pillars on the edges— the only thing that's keeping the high ceiling in place.

His quarter is so open, not even a railing on the edge. And I wonder if landslide is even a thing in this world because the location and interior of his chamber are dangerous, but magnificent at the same time. No penthouse in the human world can offer this visual.

Awestruck, I sat on his huge bed in the middle of the room—or balcony. Seconds later, I realized that my action was uninvited, but I couldn't help it. I'm lost at the wonder before my eyes. It's like literally sleeping on top of a wide fancy mountain. He even has his own steaming pond next to the bed.

Pie will surely love this place. Of all the five star hotels she's been into, this one is incomparable. It's like the dream vacation no human is capable of imagining.

Don't you catch a cold sleeping here? I wanted to asked him but my words rushed back to my tongue when I found him undressing by the edge of the pond. Literally five meters from me. Does he think I couldn't see him through my peripheral vision?

I focused my eyes on a familiar figured hanging on the pillar in front of me and tried to ignore my tensed heart.

Right now, I'm contemplating to ran out or just pretend I'm not witnessing him, taking the last fabric off his torso. While I'm aware that his build's enhanced, who would've thought that underneath all his layered clothing, his physique has been carved as that. No wonder I seem small next to him—or to any of my friends for that matter.

"Iiisn't that Peach's home?" I couldn't hold myself together. My fingers, shaking as I pointed to the small pumpkin hanging on the pillar. I didn't even hesitate to use the Ada's unofficial name when no one actually agreed when I suggested it, my mind was too busy distracting itself to be bothered by that.

Why does Macforth keep on taking off the rest of his cover? Did he forget I'm here?

What are we doing here anyway? Shouldn't we be at the Moon Princess's side now? Or him atleast since I'm not welcome?

"My Lord." A soft voice called, making me turn to the door. Thank God.

A lady in a white thick veil bowed to Macforth. She literally glows, her dress too. Her eyes are huge and all white, it scares me at first, but then I remember Ali's. I remember not to judge base on a person's appearance, especially if I'm clueless what battles they're trying to survive on their own.

"Check on her." His deep voice rang in my ears.

I was taken a back by his words.

Why me? And I immediately regretted that I glanced at him to ask that question I wasn't able to deliver.

My blood rushed to my face the moment I caught a glimpse of him right before he stepped into the pond. The steam didn't help covering him at all. If anything, it just made him a living masterpiece, and myself a sinner.

Suddenly the ventilation of the open balcony wasn't enough that I'm starting to feel warm on my cheeks. My eyes desperately stared at the lady as she sat on the bed with me and pulled my sleeves up, already knowing what she's looking for.

"Thy heart is alarmed, mortal." Either she has the capability to know that or my heart's extremely erratic at the moment that even a nomal human will be able to hear it.

"Are thou scared the truth will be unfold?" I stared at her at disbelief. Can she read people's mind?

"The truth?"

"About what happened with the Eiluthea." She said, staring at my purple hands.

I couldn't tell if she's accusing me of something but with her calm voice I'd like to believe the otherwise.

She gathered my hands and made my fingers intertwined. I winced when she caressed the wound I got from the arrows. I actually forgot about that. I also forgot about the sensation I feel in my purple hands until I saw them again.

"How does everyone in this castle seems to already know about that when it just happened, like five seconds ago?" Her other hand went to touch my cheek. I winced when her thumb landed on the cut I got from the dagger earlier, which I'd also forgotten.

"The elves are one with the castle." Her eyes glowed blindingly and the sudden gust of wind sent my hair and her veil out of place. Uncovered, I learned that she has pointy ears too, like Prince Gamette and Lady Isha. And I couldn't tell if she's staring at me or not.

Both her hands suddenly illuminates blue light and freezing feeling, it stunned me. Her magic, I hear it. It's emitting high pitch sound of frequency as it sends chilling sensation to my skin. I'm sure her bright lights, on top of this cliff, in the middle of a dark night can be seen from a distance, across the other mountains, even from the desserted ocean at the far end.

This must be how it appears earlier when Eric healed my back. Only this time, it's way colder and more intense. With Eric's powers it feels like an AC was placed directly on my back, but this time, it's like winter has come to my skin, spreading from my hands through the rest of my body.

I have goose bumps. My teeth, chattering. My face and my hands, I couldn't feel them anymore.

It's amazing, seeing real magic happening before my eyes. My kind is only dreaming about this. Something that can only be seen in movies. I can't believe how lucky I am to actually experience it. I wanted to seize the moment more, but I'm being drifted away. It's making my eyelids heavy.

While it's hypnotizing to watch and feel her magic on my skin, I'm afraid I might be having hypothermia any second now— if it's even possible just with her touch.

My eyelids, heavier with each second.

"Will you be okay to use your magic with me?" I have to ask because some people in this world made it quite obvious that they don't want anything to do with me. If she answers no, I would've to ask Macforth not to let her do something against her will.

"An odd inquiry from an equally odd thing."

"I ask because I know that using healing magic makes you weak." I said in between breathing.

I'm not even sure why I'm opening this subject. Her magic is hypnotizing. I'm sleepy and at the same time, I'm so open to any kind of conversation right now. Like, she can ask me anything, and I would give the first though that comes to mind. Like, she gave me a heavy dose of a hard drug, that I would be losing my conscious self any moment. I think the weight of my face is now resting on her hand.

"It matters not. Myself is bound to fulfill the duty that lies with my creation." Hmm. Okay.

I can only imagine this is what the unconscious Moon Princess is feeling tonight. Cold, sleepy, light-headed, just worse because her case is more severe.

I'm sorry I didn't react quickly. I'm sorry I couldn't pull her right away from the water. But, am I sorry that I protected myself from her? If I didn't do what I did, I might be in her place right now.

But still...

"I should've acted sooner." And if everyone does know about what happened with her, Jermond's probably too, and is angrier to me now than before.

I think, giving in to sleep will do.

For now.

"What happened to her hands?" Macforth asked, sending my eyes wide open.

He's already standing by my side.

I was so focus on the freezing sensation on my skin and drowned in my thoughts that I didn't hear him get out of the water. He stood next to us with only a sheet around his waist. His wet hair on his face, dripping like the rest of the water on his sculpted torso.

"Bane, My Lord."

To my surprise, Macforth leaned down, closer to me. His eyebrows furrowed. His one hand rested on the bed, next to my back as he examines my hands in the middle of the blue lights.

He's almost half hugging me, an action I would never imagine him doing consciously—not in a million years, and for certain, not with me.

The fresh forest scent from his body effortlessly went straight to my nostrils. His smell and his close naked torso are very distracting I didn't even bother to ask what bane is.

"From what?"

"Black pearls, My Lord." That wakens me more.

I felt the pearls got heavier in my hoodie upon hearing it. My heart panic. Did they know I took the pearls?

"It appears the mortal dared touch it, My Lord. Held it for a long time. The poison had spread deeper than it should." I gasped at her words.

Poison? So I'd been carrying poison around? Worse I intend to give it to the queen! That will be a grave act towards a monarch. I will be executed for that, but on the second thought, the Queen likes them, doesn't she?

"Excuse me, does everybody in this world knows that the pearls are poisoned?" Please say no.

Because if she says yes, what does that make the Moon Princess? What does that make the friendship she offered me? A fake one? Pretense? Why? Hasn't she really forgiven me?

"Not everyone is this world." Oh thank God!

Thank God. That's an absolute relief.

My chaotic thoughts were put to a stop instantly. That's all I need to know.

"But everyone in this kingdom does." My jaw dropped.

What does that mean?

The princess belongs to this kingdom, doesn't she? Therefore she knows? Does that mean she let me touch the pearls on purpose even though they're poisoned? So all of those kindness she showed me, are none of those real?

"What is it?" Macforth turned his head to me and I lost it.

Did he forget he's still leaning down? He's not minding his actions. I'm so awkward at the close proximity of his nose hanging from mine. Suddenly I'm conscious if he could smell my breath just as I could feel his cold, fresh carbon dioxide on my face.

His wet hair, finding their perfect spot on his face, covering just enough of his eyes so they can be scrutinizing without giving too much at the same time.

I couldn't get my thoughts straight. And there goes his furrowed eyebrows and abyss irises again, intimidating my whole existence in a way only him could do.

"So?" He asked again, always the impatient one.

"I did take some pearls, but only because I was told it will be a good gift to someone." I couldn't say it straight.

First, because it's his fiance I'm talking about. Second it's his mother to whom I'm suppose to give it. Third, the lady is still with us. She couldn't know what I almost did to their queen. I'm sure they wouldn't let me get away with it.

Macforth stood straight and crossed his arms. I'm not sure if he understood the words I left unsaid, but his face darkened as he stared at me. I couldn't tell if he believes me, after all it will be my words against the Moon Princess', and I'm sure that she has shown them nothing but kindness.

He step back by the pond, where his fresh clothes were laid neatly. He's quiet again. I'm afraid this is the end of our small truce. So soon, yet still longer than any of the occasion he's been calm with me.

"I'm telling the truth." I whispered.

"All mended, My Lord." The lady stood up. All her bright lights went off with her movement.

I stared at her as she put her veil back on. She shouldn't be standing so soon, she'd used so much energy on me it can make her faint if she push herself.

"Thanks. You may go." The lady left quickly, leaving my hands feeling like a stone. I couldn't move them, but more than that, I'm worried that Macforth wasn't the only one who got the information I left unspoken. I'm hoping she wouldn't tell it to anyone.

"Didn't you need healing too?" I asked quickly, looking at the far ocean, or anywhere but him.

"For what?" He walked next to me again, unfolding his clothes. He frown at the sight of the tunic and threw it on the bed. It seems like he didn't like the clothes here, but why? They look good on him, on them all.

"Your wounds."

Macforth pulled a gray shirt and a dark flannel pants from his backpack, but he's still unsatisfied.

"I don't have any." He doesn't have any? I thought...

So when he requested a healer earlier, was it only for my benefit? Really? Does that mean that Macforth noticed my pain in that split of a second I was with him in the hallway? He noticed it when no one else did, not even I.

Well that's... thoughtful.

Really.

His sudden kind gesture made my lungs tight. I don't want any awkwardness between us now but I have to say it.

"Thank you." I glanced away. I didn't realized I'd been staring at him for too long until he started taking off the only sheet that covers him.

"Not just for today." But also for helping Eric and I back in the highway, for saving me at school when a crane malfunctioned, for going after me when we thought that Jermond was a bad guy, and for complying to Aunt's wishes for my sake even though you didn't like it.

I wanted to say these words, but I couldn't. I'm only afraid my voice will break in the process. That will only put us in an awkward situation. I don't want that to happen. Especially now that I'm having an actual conversation with him.

I want to prolong this moment.

"Does anyone else know about the pearls?" He asked, walking around the room, finally with a dark pants on.

I shook my head. I can only imagine the burden it casts on him, his fiance doing a bad deed—if he's even considering that.

"Let it remain that wa—."

"Okay." I didn't want our chat to end but I ended up, cutting him mid sentence. I didn't mean to, I only want to show him I agree. My effort to make things not awkward for us is just making things uncomfortable, I'm so lame.

"I apologize abou—"

"Thank you." Thank you?

I wanted to hurt myself for answering too quickly! I don't even know what exactly why he's apologizing. And 'thank you' is that even an appropriate response?

"I meant, I know you didn't mean it. You we're just protecting the Queen and the Princess." I tried to salvage the conversation.

"I was talking about what happened in the forest today." He suddenly held my chin and turned my face so he could glance at my cheek that was cutted earlier.

My face must've turned instantly red that he immediately let go of it.

Seriously, what is happening today? What's with the proximity? And the touching? I'm confused, and awkward.

"But you're right. Sorry about that too."

Regarding that, I'm actually surprised I assumed he's initially apologizing for what happened in the mirrored room. It felt like my subconscious has long been waiting for that apology. And that my 'thank you' response was a sign of a fulfilled expectation.

Was I really unconsciously waiting to hear an apology from him?

"It's okay now." Really. Something heavy in my chest was lifted when I didn't even realize I was holding onto that. I felt instant relief, I couldn't explain it. Like, all these time, I was really waiting for this moment.

"It shouldn't be. I could've killed you on both occasions. Do you know that?"

"But you didn't mean to." That I am absolutely certain.

Macforth glanced at me in the middle of his small activity. He's busy sorting his human clothes on his bed—a picture I would've never imagine. He must've realized I'm staring too intently that he stops what he's doing.

"What is it?" It's a shame that he stops, because he looks something else when he's concentrating on trivial things, almost... I'm not sure, but something else. I figured that out just now.

"Sometimes it seems like you hate me." My eyes widens at my own words.

Too late, I couldn't take them back. I didn't know where that courage came from. I'm probably just caught up in the moment that we're actually talking. But of all questions, why that one?

I wanted to hurt myself. I thought I made it clear that Earthly stuff should only be discussed on Earth. What am I doing opening that up now?

"I don't hate you." He held one hand to brush his hair away from his face.

"Really? But it feels—"

"Although I don't particularly like you."


Oh.


Okay.


Should I push my luck further and ask why? I wanted to know the reason but I don't want to ruin this moment, although it seems like it's already been ruined.

My chest is suddenly heavy. I need to save this conversation, anything.

I don't want to upset him with all my questions, but I'm afraid I would have to wait for another millenium before this kind of opportunity will present itself again.


Macforth, why is it so hard to talk to you?


"Is that Peach?" Coward.

What can I do, his words already crushed my glee. I don't think I can still afford to hear another negative word. I'm sorry for the weakness, but I'm trying to protect myself.

"Yes." He paused for a moment to follow my gaze before picking up a grey shirt and finally covered himself up.

I appreciate that he didn't object her unofficial name. I should stop pushing my luck.

There's silence after that.

I'm just waiting for him to say that I can leave now, not that I wanted to. I watched him walk around the area. To my surprise he took Peach's house off the wall, like he's casually picking an apple from a tree.

"Why did you do that?" Macforth was startled at the sudden raise of my volume and the obvious disapproval in my words, but I am even more starled at my own actions than him. I wasn't even aware that I'd already crossed the distance between us.

It's all because of Peach. I'm worried if she's okay inside after he pick her home off the wall nonchalantly. She probably thinks there's an earthquake outside her home. It's unfortunate enough to be a human in this world, but now I found out that the smaller lives suffer more in this magical world.

"She's alright." I didn't realize I'd been holding Macforth's hands, practically taking Peach from him until he chuckled.


He did what?


I gawked at him.

Seriously, something is going on with him today.

"If you like her so much, she's yours." My eyes widen. My glee's revived instantly.

In merriment I followed him as he sat on bed to put on his shoes.

"Do you mean that?" Happiness is basically radiating off my tone. I didn't even bother to turn down his offer. Why would I? It's like having a part of Utovaj with me all the time once I get back to Earth. Who doesn't want that?

"Yes. You need it more than I thought."

"Thank you, Mac." I almost hug him when I said that. The only thing that prevented me from doing that is when I realized what I just called him. That was thoughless, really. His name is already a foreign word to my tongue, but Mac? Where did that even come from?

And I think I wasn't the only one who notice that because he paused putting his shoes on for a moment.

I'm so lame.


Oh, it's so awkward!


Please make it stop.

"I'm going for dinner. Do you wanna come?" He's asking me for dinner?

I couldn't help the smile formed on my lips, but it instantly vanished when I remember I had prior plans with Dave and Errol.

How can I tell him without offending him? I think by now our dinner's already set in my room. It might be too much if I ask to take them back to the dining room so we can eat with him. Or maybe I could just invite him to eat with us?

My dilemma at the moment is new to me, whether or not having dinner with Macforth, really?

I'm starting to doubt if I'm even awake.

"I think they'd already set our dinner at my assigned room. You can have dinner with us?" I didn't mean to say it as a question, but somehow it ended to be one. Part of me is very aware that it's still Macforth I'm talking to, and I'm not used to giving him suggestions.

"Us?" He inquired, standing up.

"Dave and Errol will be there too." I didn't miss the snigger he let out at the sound of Errol's name.

"What's wrong?" I thought they're all getting along now.

"Go ahead, they're waiting. I'll prefer to eat in silence anyway." While I already half expected him to turn down my offer—this is still Macforth after all— it still saddens me that he didn't accept my invite.

For a moment I thought, he's a step away from actually being comfortable with me.

Can't you just have dinner with us? Is what I really wanted to say, but somehow I couldn't find the courage to utter the words, that I ended up asking...

"Will you really be okay by yourself?" I sighed.

"Of course." He then opened the door for me.

I don't know why that made me sad. It's not like I asked my family if they could just take me to US with them and Father said no. This is just dinner we're talking about and yet somehow my emotions are confused. Or maybe I'm already hungry.

Honestly, I don't want to walk out of his quarter. I'm afraid that our unofficial truce will end as soon as I step out of that door.

The thought alone makes me sad. Who knows when he will talk to me like this again? Surprised as I am, I actually enjoyed his company in that short moment. Even though I'm making thing awkward for us, I wanted it to last.

But on the other hand, I couldn't stood up my dinner plans with Dave and Errol because I'm trying to hold on to this moment, that would be rude.

I sighed, defeated, heading for the door with my heavy heart.

"Good night." I uttered, glancing at him once more. He only nodded before closing the door behind me.

Well, that's it, but instead of feeling sorry for it was cut short, I should be grateful that it actually happened, that I was given a chance to converse with him.

I stared at Peach's home in my hand.

I will take care of her. She's basically a representation of this night. She's a reminder of the small truce Macforth and I had in that short moment. I would never forget this. I'm grateful tonight happened.

Smiling to myself, I started walking towards the next hallway, that's when I heard the heavy footsteps and the clanging of armors. There're three soldiers, looking anxious as they head towards me.

I step aside, giving them room. Suddenly I remember why I ended up in Macforth's quarter in the first place. The Moon Princess is not okay, and I hope these soldiers aren't rushing because of her. I hope she's alright now like my hands, or at least getting better.

"Take her." My eyes widen as they grabbed my arms. I glance back and forth to each of them, trying to free myself and exert less effort at the same time because I didn't want to shake Peach inside her home. That would be lethal for her small figure.

"Excuse me, Sir? What are you doing?" I struggled as they started dragging me down the hallway.

"My ada is getting hurt. Please stop!" To my surprise they did stop upon hearing that.

The soldier that gave the order glanced at my hands and took Peach from my hands, that made me protesting.

"No! Give her back!" They started dragging me again, and I notice that the few people in the hallway didn't seem bothered at the sight of me being taken. It seems like, it wouldn't matter how loud I scream at the moment for no one is willing to help me.

Are they finally putting the blame on me with what happen to the princess? Is that why everyone seems to be okay with this?

"Stop! Please stop!" I'm pulling myself from them but they won't listen, if anything, they just tightened the grip on my arms.

"What is that goddamn commotion?" The soldiers turned around the same time I did. They stop and bowed, waiting for him to reach us. And I couldn't be any happier to see his intimidating existence at the moment.

The people nearby stop, bowing to him too.

"Your Highness, we're to take the mortal."

"But I didn't hurt the princess."

"On whose orders?" I can't help but notice the heavy aura around him. All the calmness I'd seen in him a few minutes ago are now gone. Why?

"Lord Gamette, Your Highness." While that information stupefied me, it made Macforth laughing scornfully on the otherhand.

My heart is alarmed knowing Prince Gamette ordered this. Now I'm not sure if my being taken has something to do with the Moon Princess or with Prince Gamette's words earlier. What if he's planning on using that incident to verdict me to serve in his castle since this is where my suppose crime is committed? I don't know how the law wor—

"Leave her be."

"But, Your Highne—."

"But? Who do you think you're talking to, soldier?" His deep voice echoed through the hall, no humor now. His face darkened, and I'm not sure if I'm just imagining it, or the aura around him literally dimmed.

Clearly Macforth didn't like being talked back, and I don't think the soldier intentionally did it, but it's too late now, he'd already made Macforth irritated.

"Pardon, Your Highness. I'm just following orders."

"Which infantry do you belong?"

"A thousand apologies, Your Highness. It won't happen again." For someone who's been trained to be brave and resilient at all cost, it's no surprise that the soldiers will never be seen fidgeting, but he just did. I can see the nervousness of the soldier. He doesn't want to answer Macforth's question.

"Which infantry do you belong?" Macforth's voice is firm as he stared dead at the soldier.

I wanted to stop Macforth from scaring everyone, but I'm trembling too. Besides, who am I to do that? How can I be sure that he'll listen to me, when I couldn't even succeed at inviting him to dinner with us. I'm afraid that his temper will only be diverted to me if I talk.

"8th battalion, Your Highness."

"Tell your commander I want you out of the infantry by tomorrow." What? Why?

The soldier tried say something but immediately stop when he met Macforth's lethal irises. The soldiers couldn't do anything but bowed to him. And at some point I think I did too. The sudden change in Macforth's tone had me shrinking in my post.

He relieved the soldier just that? How could be dismissed him from work? The soldier looks like he has a family to feed, how could Macforth act so rashly? I can not believe he did that.

Is this how things work in this magical land?

I can not stare straight at him.

Macforth is no longer just intimidating. In the few seconds he stood in front of us, he reached that point where he's already frightening. This side of him is far different than the one that gave me Peach a few minutes ago.

"No one is allowed to lay a finger on her, nor to speak to her ever again. Not a word."

He glanced around, making eye contact with everyone in the perimeter. He's giving emphasis on his point, making sure that the message's being received not just by the soldiers in front of us.

"Am I understood?" The words came out from his gritted teeth.

"Yes, Your Highness." None of them dared to glance at him again. The soldiers are probably trembling inside their armors right now, I know because I do too, even though his words weren't even directed to me, even though his words are for my sake.

Everyone bowed to him as he stared at them, probably acknowledging his words.

My hands ran to my chest, calming myself, telling my heart that it's over, and that it can finally calm down, but to my utter surprise, I found Macforth's dark irises, staring at me.


Why is he staring at me?


I'm worried, because it seems like he still has something to say, and yet he's staring at me. Can't he say whatever it is without looking at me? I can't help but be paranoid especially after witnessing this other side of him. Or will his next words be directed at me? But why? I didn't ever utter a single word against him —not verbally at least. So why is he stari—

"I'm placing this mortal under my protection."





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