Author’s note: so here’s another chapter~ I’m currently at the train station posting this lol. Been pretty busy the past few days.
Alenaire had one month left in the Kingdom of Alastriona before she was to be sent away to the Kingdom of Rhiannon, so she made use of her remaining time. Instead of staying inside the castle, she and her Knight Luce roamed around the capital and the villages in the outskirts, breathing and seeing the sights for perhaps the last time.
She had been told by her father that her fiancée was a nice and generous man, who was quite spiff at the age of eighteen. However, every time she looked at Luce, as the sun shone on his Raven hair, she would wonder if that fiancée could be possibly handsomer than he. It was unthinkable. But then again, anything was beautiful through the eyes of love.
Because the current King of Rhiannon became fed up with monarchical duties after his wife died a few years ago, he told King Altair that the future wedding and coronation ceremony would happen simultaneously, also so that funds would be used just once. It was a way to save money in times of crisis. King Altair agreed, as he sent out three huge chests from the treasury to be included as the dowry.
Alasdair and Alaric tried to console their youngest sister, saying that having a predetermined fiancée wasn’t so bad, as they both were now madly in love with their own wives, but Alenaire thought it was impossible to love someone as much as she loved Luce. Perhaps she would come to love her husband as time passed, but it wouldn’t be the same.
Alenaire tried to hide her low-spirits with a smile, but sometimes it came out stiff, or that it did not reach her eyes. Luce himself noticed, but did not comment, as he himself was feeling an ache in his chest, yet he tried his best to cover it up as well. Whenever Alenaire was not looking, he would stare at her with a longing he could not suppress. They were talking and laughing through masks of joviality, yet beneath that facade were eyes filled with pain.
The night before Alenaire was about to leave for Rhiannon, Luce asked her to sneak out of the castle with him. It wasn’t to run away, but to have one last night of fun together. She donned her cloak and disposed of her night gown, choosing a leather garment which most of the adventurers wore for comfort.
“I’ll be back,” she told Bastian, and it looked like he was shaking his head at her as he rolled his eyes. Alenaire smiled amusedly.
She leaned over the balcony a quarter before midnight, and saw a figure waiting for her beneath.
“Well, aren’t you early,” Luce said, his white teeth visible in the night. If the moon had not casted a dim glow over his body, he would have looked almost invisible.
“So are you,” Alenaire replied accusingly, and Luce chuckled.
“Jump. I’ll catch you,” Luce said as he opened his arms wide.
She touched the marble rails of her balcony, her eyes assessing the distance between her and the ground. It was quite a long distance.
Alenaire looked at the huge grin on Luce’s face. “Why is it that I can’t trust you when you look like that?”
“Am I too handsome to be trusted?” Luce flashed his white teeth again.
“Maybe I’ll just use the trellis,” Alenaire said as she about-faced, walking to the wall.
“Come on, princess. Just jump, I’ll catch you. It’s faster that way. We only get five hours together,” Luce reminded her.
Alenaire hesitated a bit, then thought that if she were to die now if he failed to catch her, at least it would be all Luce’s fault. Dying in his arms didn’t sound so bad, as well.
She raised her leg over the rails, and when both of her legs were on the other side, her butt firmly planted on the marble, she jumped, her cloak flapping behind her. A second after she jumped, she hung in the air, slowly descending as her body gradually flew towards Luce’s outstretched arms.
“It wasn’t so bad, was it?” Luce asked as he smiled down at the princess in his arms.
Alenaire wiggled her feet in protest. “You can let me down now.”
“What if I want to carry you like this to the city?” He grinned roguishly in the moonlight.
Alenaire felt her face heat up. “I’m heavy.”
“Is that even considered a problem?” Luce wanted to know. At the last minute, he decided to make fun of her. “Ugh…you’re right…s-so heavy…” He pretended to drop her with a theatrical struggle, and Alenaire immediately clutched his neck in fear.
“Stop that!” Alenaire said in a panicked voice, her body pressed even firmly against his. Luce groaned inwardly, a small part of him thinking that this was a bad idea (and a huge part of him thinking otherwise). He had to suppress the burning urges he felt, as his body reacted in response just as he tightened his hold on her.
Luce jumped over the towering castle walls with wind powering his steps. The wind blew across their faces as they neared the sleeping city that still held a few glittering lights, and Alenaire shivered from the cold. Luce, feeling her shivers in his arms, made a wind barrier, regulating the temperature inside the sphere to a nice and cozy warmth.
“The moon looks beautiful,” Alenaire commented, her eyes holding the silvery full moon in its depths.
“We can stay in the air, if you’d like,” Luce said.
“Is that possible?” Alenaire queried, looking at him unsurely. Was he not going to run out of mana quickly?
“Are you questioning my abilities?” Luce cocked an eyebrow at her.
“Only your motives,” Alenaire said with a smirk.
Luce shook his head and chuckled. “I concede defeat in this verbal war.” He looked at the princess in his arms. “By the way, you can let go of my neck now. I made it so we can both float in the air.”
Slowly, Alenaire peeled one of her arms away from him, and stepped one foot down. “A-Are you sure?” She looked at the city below her feet, and she trembled with a bit of fear. She did not know why she always had an innate fear of falling. “It’s not a joke if I fall off at this height, you know.”
“Then let me make an air bed so we can both sit down on it,” Luce said as he lowered his palm beside his feet, compressing the air to form an invisible yet solid ground beneath them.
Alenaire felt the stable surface while she clutched Luce’s arm, and timidly placed both of her feet down with a huge sigh.
“Better?” Luce asked.
Alenaire smiled at him. “Better.”
As they both sat down, the glowing moon in front of them their only source of light, Luce took out two bottles from his satchel.
“What are those?” Alenaire eyed them suspiciously.
“Beer,” Luce said, giving her one bottle. “Don’t give me that look. We’re sixteen. It’s legal.”
Alenaire sniffed the contents after unscrewing the cap. “Smells awful.”
“But tastes great,” Luce said after a huge swig.
Alenaire sipped the beer gingerly, then turned her contorted face towards him. “Disgusting!”
“You mean, delicious!” Luce corrected, his mouth twitching into a laugh.
Alenaire took small sips while trying to dispel the ugly scowl on her face.
“Your face looks hilarious,” Luce commented between laughter, “I could stare at you all day.”
Alenaire narrowed her eyes at him and said sarcastically, “Thanks.” But when his eyes suddenly took on a gentle look, she looked away from him, feeling a bit self-conscious. How could she continue to look into two eyes that conveyed feelings that needed no words?
“I can’t be your knight anymore, princess,” Luce said after a few moments of silence. He caressed his half empty bottle absentmindedly.
Alenaire pressed her lips into a thin line. “I know. I won’t even be a princess anymore.”
“Instead, you will be someone else’s Queen…” Luce trailed off, as he pretended to read the bottle’s brand name with perplexing concentration.
Alenaire placed her bottle beside her and inched closer to his side. “Luce…are you angry with me?”
“Angry?” Luce tilted his head to look at her, his tone incredulous. “What are you saying, Awi. How can I even be angry with you?”
“Because I’m marrying someone else?” Alenaire said as she bit her lip and looked down.
“Awi…listen to me.” Luce cupped her chin in his hand as he stared into her eyes. “I am not angry. I do not even have the right to be jealous. My feelings for you transcend such petty emotion. I am more than that.” He caressed the side of her face, tucking strands of hair behind her ear.
“…my love for you is more than that,” his voice trembled as he said words that took him a substantial amount of effort to get passed his lips.
He closed his eyes to the pain as he kissed her on the forehead, his hands holding the sides of her arms. “Truly, however cruel fate may be, I have realized…” he touched his forehead to hers, softly whispering, “…how lucky I am to have known you. I cannot ask for anything more precious than the memories we have shared. How lucky I am, how very lucky I am…” His voice quivered, and he gulped down his tears.
“If there ever would be another life, I promise that I will find you once again.” He looked at her, his eyes full of earnest.
“That is all you will do?” Alenaire acted as if it wasn’t such a big deal, even if her heart felt like it was burning in her chest.
Luce lifted a corner of his lips as he looked at her again, this time with eyes full of resolve. “…and I will marry you.”
Alenaire bit her lip to stop herself from squealing from the happiness that suddenly bloomed in her heart. “Then let us meet in the next life. I will be waiting for your promise.” Although she was skeptical about reincarnations, she was willing to believe it if it meant being with him in the end.
Alenaire closed her eyes, the tears spilling over her cheeks, striking her cloak repeatedly.
This was only a temporary parting, but why did it still hurt so much?
“Goodbye…Luce…” Alenaire choked out, feeling suffocated.
Alenaire departed the next day, leaving a yowling Bastian in Luce’s arms. She didn’t want to bring her beloved pet along with her, as she was afraid Bastian wouldn’t like the new surroundings and the new people. After debating with herself for the past few days, she decided to leave him in the Royal castle where she tasked Luce to take care of him each day.
Alasdair hugged Alenaire fiercely before she entered her carriage. “My dear sister, just tell me if your husband doesn’t treat you well! I’ll be there to personally castrate him!”
“How morbid of you,” Alenaire remarked, her lips twisting into a half smile.
“We’ll be there to attend your coronation and marriage ceremony, love,” the Queen hugged her next.
“Luce will be there too,” the King whispered into Alenaire’s ear before hugging her.
“Father!” Alenaire admonished. “You’re so nosy.”
“Well, father’s nose is always found in everyone’s business. He’s the king, after all,” Alaric quipped as he hugged her and patted her back as if to say, “It’s alright, we’re here for you.”
Her eyes swept the castle one last time, smiling at the castle staff who had been with her all her life. Her nannies, her tutors, the cooks, the pageboys, the guards, the Knights. She curtsied to the wives of her brothers, hugged and kissed her little nephews, then shook the Great General’s hand.
Cassius’ smile was subdued, as he also knew that his son loved the princess dearly, but that they could never be together. He kissed the princess’ hand and said, “May you have a safe journey, princess.” She nodded at him with a slight smile.
Finally, she turned to Luce.
Luce knelt before her, taking her hand in his. “Princess. I, as your knight, shall vow to protect the kingdom you love dearly in your stead. This is a promise I shall not break.”
Alenaire inhaled sharply, feeling her eyes prickle with unshed tears. “Protect them well.”
Luce stood up, then lifted a pinky in the air. With a lopsided smile, he said, “Remember? Let’s be strong.”
“Together,” Alenaire added as she hooked her pinky around his.
They looked at each other, and smiled.
That night, Luce stared absently at his ceiling as he lay in bed.
He had to prepare his heart for the days without the light that was her smile. Tomorrow, and in the next days, there would be no princess to greet him good morning anymore.
He struggled through the pain, struggled to think of happier thoughts, something to keep his mind off of her. However, this too backfired, as those happy thoughts inevitably brought him back to her.
Luce felt like there was a big weight on his chest, and a lock in his throat. It hurt to even breathe. This emotional pain was even more agonizing than any physical pain he had ever received in his life. This type of pain didn’t even have a cure.
He blew out the candles on the table by his bedside, and just as his room was immediately embraced in darkness, he crumbled.