I knew I should have been shocked at what I just saw. I knew I should have felt scared at all the violence in front of me, but I wasn’t. I should have felt terrified at the way Zasrus killed that man, but instead, I felt relieved that the man that hurt me was dead, and he couldn’t hurt me again.
I watched Zasrus and Raylon standing on the throne steps, looking out at the crowd as one by one, each of them took a knee in front of them. I felt goosebumps run over my skin at the absolute power these two men held.
Zasrus left the steps and as he moved through the crowd towards me, everyone stood and moved out of his way, still keeping their eyes to the ground.
I shifted in my spot as I watched him walk toward me, his eyes not once moving off mine.
He stopped in front of me and I felt a little nervous then.
“Ash, I am so sorry that you had to see that. For everything you went through because of me.”
I shook my head, “None of this is your fault. It's his,” I said and pointed to the dead man lying in a pool of his own blood, “He did this to me. And now he is gone. He can’t hurt me again.”
“I was so scared. Terrified that I would lose you and my daughter.”
“Hey,” I said and reached out for his hands, “I’m fine. Laylar is fine. In fact, she is more than fine, she is a little badass.”
He gave me a weak smile and as the pounding in my head returned, I let out a moan and lowered my head and shut my eyes.
I felt Zasrus’s hand lift to my face, “Are you alright?”
I nodded, “Yeah. I got hit pretty hard on the back of my head and the pain comes in waves. I'll be fine.”
He turned me to look at my wound, “Let me take you to the healers. They will have this fixed in a few hours.”
He led me out of the hall and towards the same medical wing we used when he broke his ribs. When we entered the suite, the doctor showed me to one of the beds. Zasrus helped me lay down and after the doctor moved a strange white humming machine over me and stopped it above my head, he left us alone in the room.
I could see he still felt guilty for what happened. His shoulders sagged, his eyes down and the way he held my hand. As though he never wanted to let it go again.
“I’m ok,” I said to him and gave his hand a soft squeeze.
He looked up at me with a worried gaze, “Ash, I fear that my actions and words today may have started something that could put your life in danger again. If you want to go back to your world and forget all of this, I will understand.”
“Are you kidding me? I’m not going anywhere, I told you. You’re stuck with me. And in case you didn’t notice, I rangled the troops and came to save your butt today. When I get knocked down, I get up again. I always have. And if my life will be in danger here, then it’s best you teach me how to look after myself properly.”
He chuckled, “I will gladly train with you. I am in need of it as well. I’m sorry that I could not have been the one to save you. To free you from the grave you were in.”
“I freed myself. I fought and clawed my way out of the ground, so I could get back to you.”
“Did Rein not save you?”
“No. He found me later, while I was wandering the graveyard.” I could see his eyes narrow with anger.
“Hey,” I said and reached out for his face, “He did the right thing. He went to find Laylar first. And he did. If he had come after me first, and she died, I would never be able to forgive myself for it. Don’t be mad at him, he made the right call.”
“I cannot be angry at him. He saved my child’s life.”
I smiled, “He really loves her, you know.”
“I know. But our people live by a tradition that has been in place for hundreds of years. A princess must marry a royal. Not a common boy.”
“Well screw that.”
“Yeah, screw your tradition, Zasrus. If that is how it has been for so long, then break the tradition. No one is more worthy to be with your daughter than that kid. He has proved himself over and over again, and she would be so lucky to have a man like that in her life. She loves him deeply, and he worships the ground she walks on. That tells me everything I need to know about him. He’s a good kid, he’s smart, he’s protective and I doubt there is anything he wouldn’t do for her. Or for you, for that matter.”
“How do I know that he will treat her well? How do I know that he will make her happy? How-”
“Stop,” I said and grabbed his hand, “All you have to do is see them together to know. And as for whether things will work out between them, only time will tell. But you can’t stop her from trying. If she gets her heart broken, then that is just part of growing up. And if he is the one for her, the one that will love her for the rest of his life, do you really want to deny her that?”
He stared at me as his mind worked.
“A common boy and a princess cannot be together. I cannot allow it. To break traditions so old is to invite trouble. Other laws and traditions will be challenged and that will lead to anarchy. The punishment for his actions is death. he leaves me only one choice.”