5. Rolling Pebbles
I had my arms crossed over my chest while my brother Noah smiled back at me.
A few hours ago
“Come on, Zion. It’s just my monthly visit to the plaza. There’s nothing else,” Noah explained while I glared his way.
Was he expecting me to go to the plaza and feel comfortable with all the glares?
“Listen, we go quickly, and you just stay with the guards. You won’t even show your face,” Noah continued explaining. “I know that people won’t say a thing because I will be there.”
“Noah, you know that’s not what’s worrying me,” I retorted. “Your people will be the ones uncomfortable with my presence.”
Noah blinked a couple of times before sighing.
“I know, but brother, they are your people as well,” Noah mumbled.
I shifted my eyes outside the window where I stood.
“They stopped being my people long ago,” I muttered. Noah stared at me worriedly. All this was not helping.
I felt a slight pain in my hand as Noah started explaining what was going to happen. Then, noticing my discomfort, he stopped talking and instead approached me.
“Brother?” Noah called, but I hushed him.
“Let’s be done with this,” I muttered and walked away from him. The throbbing pain made me grimace.
I had forgotten that today was the day my pain came back. Once a week, I would have throbbing pain on my left hand, the one made of stone. It was a reminder that it was eating my body slowly. I could handle the pain as long I was blessed by a priest or someone with healing powers. It would make the burning sensation subside, but it wouldn’t be able to remove it altogether. That would make my nights sleepless.
I clenched my jaw and fisted my hand. I could feel Noah’s penetrating gaze.
“Your Majesty,” One of the guards said as we both nodded his way.
“Is everything ready?” Noah asked as I walked out of the castle and towards my horse.
“Yes, shall we depart?” The guard asked to which Noah nodded.
We didn’t waste time and headed to the plaza.
We galloped in a group of fifteen guards. All were making sure Noah was safe. As expected, the entire plaza bustles with people. They decorated the whole place with flags and stalls.
I made a beeline over all the people. So many girls cheered as they noticed my brother.
My brother was a single man, so he would have every girl in the kingdom bowing at his feet. Unexpectedly that annoyed me. Was it because no one saw me that way? Or was it jealousy?
“Hey, Zion!” Noah said, hitting me on the chest. “Are you excited?”
I know he was trying to cheer me up, but I was feeling annoyed. My head even throbbed in pain. All I desired was to be locked up in my room, away from the noise and judging eyes.
I looked once again around as the trumpets announced our arrival to the plaza. People gathered in the middle of the plaza where an enormous podium stood. We all stopped and got off our horses. I hid my face and stayed behind the guards. My brother, on the other hand, smiled and waved at the cheerful people.
Everything else turned numb as the pain I was feeling was making me cringe from everything around me. I wanted this to end, but at the same time, I didn’t want to disappoint my brother, so I had no choice but to endure it.
I let out a shaky breath and stared at the people. Everyone was ignoring me like I didn’t exist. Then, noticing a familiar cape, my eyes shifted towards the enormous fountain that stood in the middle of the plaza. I frowned as I saw the black hair.
I didn’t notice when my body started moving, but somehow I unconsciously walked over the flustered girl. What was she doing?
I was curious to know about her.
From behind, I heard Noah call for me, but I didn’t care. Excusing myself, I walked around the people. My steps quickened in anticipation. Why was I acting like this?
I had many questions but what I wanted right now was to see her face again. So I kept my eyes on her when I noticed her looking my way. Did she look surprised?
My lips twitch into a smile. I was getting eager to be close to her. As I excused myself once again, I noticed the mistake she had made. I moved my arms and reached for her when she yelped. I smiled as I saw her with her eyes closed and in my arms. There was a fluttering feeling on my chest.
“Open your eyes,” I ordered her.
She did as I asked, blowing me away. The girl was so close to me; I could smell a pleasant vanilla scent coming from her. I gulped hard and shook my thoughts out.
“What?” she snapped, ruining the mood. “Excuse me! Let go!” she repeated. Her hands moved around my chest as she pushed her body away from me.
“Stop touching!” I growl.
I was getting excited about her touching, which was embarrassing. Obeying, she stopped, and I smiled at her.
We exchanged a small conversation before I heard someone say the saintess. I frowned at those words. Saintess? Was she a saintess?
I know that there was a saint in the kingdom. My brother told me the rumors of the people who had everyone in the castle wondering who she was. Never did I expect it would be her.
“You’re the saintess?” I questioned. She scoffed but answered my question.
I got annoyed and let go of her. She fell and groaned while rubbing her back.
I stood watching her. This girl had a temper.
“You asshole!” She suddenly barked.
I looked at her, shocked. What did she just call me?
“Who are you calling an asshole?” I asked. This girl had a mouth. How could she be a saintess?
We started bickering when suddenly she gasped and bowed her head. I rolled my eyes, having the feeling of who it might be.
“Now I was wondering why you ran away like that,” Noah said, chuckling from behind.
I moved to the side, giving him a view of the so-called saintess. I kept my eyes on him to study his face. My brother could be a pain when he wanted.
“Good, she is coming with us,” Noah suddenly blurted.
My eyes widened as I threw him a glare. The heck was he doing?
I clenched my jaw and looked at the girl.
“Excuse me?” The girl yelled.
My brother smirked her way.
“Please, if you could come with us, I would be thankful,” Noah said.
My gaze moved between them. Noah was a mischievous one. I knew this was a plan of his, and I would need to stop him soon.
The girl kept arguing with my brother, to which I frowned. Why was Noah so persistent. I had to admit. I was curious about her but not to the point of dragging her with me.
I decided to leave them be and walked away. After some bickering, she finally followed. Of course, she looked uncomfortable as I was.
Now everyone was staring at me. If Noah had not come over, no one would know it was me. Strangely I found everyone’s gaze uncomfortable, except for hers. The girl stared at me with curiosity.
We all got on our horses. I watched her from above.
“Come with me,” Noah offered. She looked skeptical, but after a few seconds, she took my brother’s hand.
I turned away and headed back to the castle. But, again, I felt bothered by what I was seeing.
The rest of the time passed by quickly. We spent some time drinking tea as my brother asked her questions. I sat silently, listening to them. Occasionally I stole glances her way, which she returned.
My hand gripped the porcelain cup the more I felt her looking at me. Did she wish to say something?
I needed to keep a distance from her. So, standing, I excused myself and left both of them alone. I didn’t know but was it my brother or her that made me feel strange?
I had this giddy feeling unknown to me. Finally, with a sigh, I walked to my room and shut myself up.
My sword clashed with the wooden pole. I spent the rest of the day doing some training. None of the men desired to spar with me, and I understood why. So I had no choice; it was me and the wooden poles.
“There you are!” I heard Noah say from the side. I glanced sideways and stopped.
Sweat broke on my forehead.
“Need something?” I asked.
“No, but I wished to speak with you about something,” Noah said, grabbing a sword.
Noah got into position and started attacking me. We both spar in silence for a while.
“So, what is it?” I questioned as I blocked one of his attacks.
“That girl, I think she could be helpful,” Noah said, making me frown.
“Why?” I asked curiously.
“She is a saint,” Noah simply answered. “I could feel her powers when I rode back with her to the castle. She has this soothing feeling coming from her.”
“I see,” I answered.
Noah smirked and dodged my attack.
“Listen, I think it would be great if she spends some time here. I think it will help you, brother,” Noah explained.
I groaned angrily and made him lose his footing.
Noah groaned as he fell backward. My sword was hitting the dirt floor next to his arm.
“I don’t care about her,” I snapped, “and I don’t care what you’re planning. So keep me out of it.”
“Zion, I can see you’re curious about her and….” Noah trailed, “I could see she felt curious as well. Don’t tell me you didn’t notice.”
Noah was right. I did notice I just ignored it.
“Isn’t she the first person who isn’t afraid of you? And I think she’s a beauty,” Noah smiled sadly. “You both would make a good couple.”
I snapped my head at him and pulled my sword angrily.
“The fuck did you just say?” I growled. “I don’t fucking need you to tell me what is good. Or have you forgotten what I am?”
Noah’s eyes widened. He immediately lowered his head and shook it.
“I haven’t; that’s why all I want is for your happiness. For you to feel once again yourself,” Noah said. There was a plea in his voice that bothered me. I hated people taking pity on me.
“I don’t need you to worry about me. And I don’t need your pity,” I said, throwing the sword next to him and turning around. “Fucking worry for yourself and leave me alone.”
Noah flinched at my words. I hated when he tried to act for me. Didn’t he understand my feelings?
Angrily, I slammed a stand that held swords. The rattling sound caught everyone’s attention.
“Something the matter?” Rosa asked as I walked into my room. Finally, the bed is ready for a night’s sleep.
I didn’t respond, so Rosa hummed.
“Noah?” Rosa asked as I just nodded.
I started to undress when Rosa approached me and helped me with my sweaty shirt.
“You know Noah cares for you,” Rosa smiled.
“I don’t need him to care for me. I’m old enough to do that myself,” I snapped.
Rosa sighed and followed me to the bathroom.
“Yes, whatever you say, but Zion, learn to listen. If there’s one thing that hasn’t changed is your stubbornness,” Rosa retorted. I rolled my eyes and got into the bathtub. “You need to change that attitude.”
“I won’t,” I mumbled.
Rosa slapped my head.
“Hey, what was that?” I retorted her way.
“You’re a rude child,” Rosa complained, “don’t think cause you’ve grown I won’t lay a hand on you.”
I chuckled at that and leaned my head on the ledge of the tub.
“Now, quickly take a bath and go visit that girl,” Rosa said as I snapped my eyes open.
“Huh?” I mumbled confusedly.
“You heard me. Get your body cleaned and get her. Don’t think I didn’t see her today. Both of you have been the talk of the castle.”
“What do you mean?” I asked with a frown.
Rosa stopped folding my clothes and smiled.
“Don’t tell me you didn’t realize the way you were looking at her. Mila was looking at you the same way,” Rosa chuckled.
I frowned at her.
“Mila?” I whispered.
“Yes,” Rosa hummed. “The saintess, Mila. She’s a beauty and a rare one.”
I looked down at the water. My hands moved under the bubbly water.
I had forgotten about her name.
“You should befriend her. You never know what might happen,” Rosa said and stood up. “Remember to be a gentleman, all right?”
I scoffed at her. Seriously Rosa?
Rosa gave me a warm smile and bid me goodnights. I sighed and closed my eyes. Was it a good idea?
I looked out the window. The sun had set already; was she home?
I was curious to see how she would react if she saw me. Standing, I reached for a towel and quickly dried my body. Then, I walked out and grabbed some clothes. It would be a quick visit.
This would be strange but, I had to get some curious doubts out of my mind. Once finished, I grabbed my hood and left my room.
It didn’t take me long to find her house. I asked one of the guards if they knew, and they were quick to reply. It seemed she was well known in the kingdom. Galloping, I arrived at her two-story house.
I stood outside her house. Several lights were on, and I could distinguish some bodies moving around. My hands started to sweat as I finally saw her. What was wrong with me?
I shifted my eyes around the area. No one was around. Like an idiot, I pick rocks and start throwing them. Mila quickly moved toward the window, but unexpectedly I threw a rock just on time as she peeked. A groan left her lips as I nervously moved up a tree and jumped into her window.
Mila looked pissed and surprised to see me. But, on the other hand, I found her gaze alluring.
“Why are you here and like a thief,” Mila questioned.
I smirked but answered her simply. Mila kept her eyes on me as I moved towards a shelf. Her room was simple. It reminded me of my room.
We talked briefly. Occasionally I felt her wanting to ask more. Of course, if I found it uncomfortable, I would be lying. But, instead, she picked my interest.
Mila started saying something when my eyes lowered to her body. She was different from other girls. Did I like that?
Mila seemed stubborn, and that made me chuckle.
“I will come tomorrow,” I said, deciding to take my leave.
Mila blinked before answering no. Was she so against going to the castle because of me? I thought she was curious, but now I had my doubts.
I left her hanging and jumped out of her room. I saw her staring my way as I disappeared through the woods. But once sure I was out of her sight, I stopped and looked down at the floor. Dried leaves and branches lay around the dark woods.
Something dark crept into my mind as I shook an uncomfortable feeling away. I groaned and pinched my nose. This was not happening again.
I walked while kicking on some pebbles. My mind was having dark thoughts like that time. I needed to move away from her house before something happened. Reaching for an opening near the outskirts of the town, I noticed the castle. It was almost midnight, and I had yet to return.
My hand suddenly ached, and I crouched, holding it with my other hand. I took several breaths. My mind needed to be clear of any thoughts.
I didn’t know how long I was on the ground, but I felt a presence behind me after a while.
“Come out!” I ordered in pain. I heard a familiar sigh.
“Why don’t you rely on me?” Noah mumbled, reaching for my arm. He helped me up.
My face was covered in sweat as my body sways to the side.
“Easy now, let’s go back home,” Noah ordered. I had no strength to argue back. Holding my arm, we both walked back in silence.
I felt angry. It was the usual pain, but this time it worried me because those thoughts were coming back mainly because they went to Mila. The simple idea of her made me desire to do bad things. The darkness was surrounding me. I bit my lip and closed my eyes.
“Relax, Zion,” Noah mumbled, “the priest is waiting.”
I just nodded and let him help me back. This would be a long night.