Author’s note: here’s another chapter! Woohoo~
Alenaire’s eyes popped open after hearing an unfamiliar voice in her ear. She immediately lit the whole room with her light orbs, illuminating the man beside her bed.
“Who are you?” she said menacingly, readying her fist for a punch. “What the hell are you doing in my chambers at this hour?”
The man furrowed his brows as if in deep thought, then relaxed them after he came to his own mental conclusion. He tied his silky white hair behind his back before kneeling by her bed and taking one hand in his.
“Master, you may call me Seiran. I have been entrusted by…your father–I mean, King Xanthas, to keep you safe. From now on, I will be your servant, and you my master, as is destined.” He waited patiently for her answer, his eyes assessing every change on her face.
“Why have I not been informed of this?” Alenaire asked, sniffing out dubitable behavior. She looked around the room. “And where is my handmaid?”
“Your handmaid is currently in her own room, as she has been given a special servant’s quarters. She will assist you with your personal daily needs, while I continue to guard your door.”
“…very well.” Alenaire thought there was something familiar about his cerulean eyes, and so accepted it after a moment. She shook his hand. “Rise, Seiran. Return to your post. Don’t ever try to sneak into my chambers without informing me again.” She gritted her teeth at his impropriety.
“Yes, master.” He smiled gratefully, and went out the door, thinking, “How unfair is it that Luce can go in and out whenever he wants…”
The Rhiannon castle staff were preparing for the wedding and coronation. The Royal treasurer had taken the ceremonial expenditures from the Princess Alenaire’s own dowry, and he was in glee, as there was still much left for him to fill his own pockets. Of course, he did not completely take everything at once, but he did so little by little so as not to seem so conspicuous. If ever the princess were to ask him about where and how her dowry was spent, he was more than willing to show her a ledger full of extremely abstruse calculations that will no doubt leave her with a headache.
The princess kept herself busy by sending letters back to the castle in Alastriona using carrier pigeons. These pigeons were strapped with a small leather pouch at the breast, and they were very fast and efficient, returning responses within just one day. And so, Alenaire was kept up to date with Alastriona castle matters, such as how her beautiful cat Bastian disappeared the day after she left.
“Bastian seemed to be an intelligent cat, who was perhaps even a magic beast in hiding, with a human’s cognition, as he himself left a note in your room saying, ‘I will return to the forest. Don’t come and find me.’ It was written with a paw print stamped on the corner. Yet what highly puzzled us was how he wrote that note in the first place…
There is no one in the kingdom who would dare steal the princess’ beloved cat, so we had no choice but to think he left home himself.
We decided to let him go, as he was possibly missing you and wanted to go home to where you found him. Perhaps he truly belonged in the forest, together with the rest of the magic beasts.
I hope you are not too aggrieved by this.
Love, mother and father.”
Alenaire sighed as she folded the paper and placed it in her drawer. If Bastian wanted to go home to his real family, then she didn’t have the right to stop him. She just hoped he was okay, wherever he was.
During the three months in the castle, Zephyr also visited Alenaire everyday.
“Who is he?” Zephyr asked as he looked at the handsome white-haired man beside his fiancée. He suddenly felt a sudden stab of inferiority, as this person had a better looking physique than he, and this person also looked even better suited for his fiancée than himself, appearance-wise. He struggled to crawl out of the pit of jealousy in his heart.
“Don’t you know him? He’s Seiran. He said your father picked him out for me,” Alenaire said, and Seiran nodded his head in support.
“Mmm, I hardly know what’s going on in my father’s head.” Zephyr shrugged. “Come, let us eat.”
The three months, Alenaire gradually acclimatized to the life in Rhiannon with Zephyr’s help. Her heart was still homesick, but she was glad she was able to send letters back and forth. Luce sometimes sent letters to ask her how she was doing, but he never asked about Alenaire’s fiancée or other matters that weren’t personally about her. They both knew it was a topic they did not want to talk about.
Alenaire also decided that she needed to see how this Kingdom was like from the inside, and so she dragged Zephyr and Seiran out into the city. While walking or riding in the carriage, she began to take down notes of everything that was wrong, practically everything that contradicted everything she know about how a good country should be. She felt her heart sink every time she saw a beggar on the street, or the garbage just lying on the ground. Two years were not yet enough for the citizens to instigate a national rebellion, as they still clung to the hope of change. She wrote down everything, vowing that when she would come to power, she would change this.
Seiran was by her side all the time, and sometimes he had a few habits which she found quite familiar. No, it wasn’t just the habits. It was perhaps his entire aura. In but a few days, she started to open up to him, and they became fast friends.
The wedding and coronation happened on a particularly gloomy day, as if it mirrored what a certain princess was feeling.
Alenaire was in her room, her handmaid the only maid who attended to her, as the castle seemed understaffed for some dubious reason.
“You look beautiful, princess,” Leica, the handmaid, said as she touched the princess’ golden curls. For the final touches, Leica had placed a thin, embroidered veil over Alenaire’s head, then added a turquoise tiara atop it. “Your parents will be so proud.”
Alenaire smiled grimly, but didn’t want to respond. If she did, she would probably spurt poisonous words, which would be unfair to the maid who only genuinely cared about her.
A knock sounded through the door. “Is the princess ready?”
“All done, Seiran!” Leica called out.
Alenaire was feeling a faint sense of deja vu. She suddenly remembered that time when she was thirteen years old, and Luce escorted her to the party. His smile was like the tranquil sea, as bright and warm as the sun.
She felt her chest tighten, and a sharp pain prickled her nose.
“Princess, don’t cry! Princess!” Leica panicked, fanning her hands over Alenaire’s made-up eyes. “You’ll ruin the make up!” Alenaire’s eyes glistened even more. “Princess, please, stop! You’re making me cry as well!” Leica started sniffing. “I know this is the hardest decision you’ll ever make in your life, to go with a marriage to someone you don’t love, but trust me, princess. Things will get better. Be brave, princess. There are a lot of people in Rhiannon who are depending on you, their new Queen.”
Alenaire’s tears dried in her eyes as soon as she saw Leica sob with her face contorted. She found her maid’s face quite funny, and a chuckle escaped her lips.
“Leica, stop crying. I’ve already stopped, so you should as well.” Alenaire mustered a smile for her handmaid as she rubbed away the tears on her cheeks.
“Princess, you know, I’ve told many people in the castle that you’ll bring change. They were so happy.” Leica rubbed her eyes. “I know how you help His Majesty in kingdom matters, and I know you’ve been around the city and saw its dreadful state. It wasn’t like this two years ago, they said. When King Altair agreed to the proposal, Rhiannon was a small but thriving country.” She held Alenaire’s hands, and looked at her with a strong light in her eyes. “There are people who are waiting for you to do great things princess, so you have to be strong. I’ll always be here to support you no matter what.”
“Thank you,” Alenaire whispered as she embraced her friend.
When Alenaire opened the door, what met her were not the emerald green eyes she wished she saw, but cerulean eyes that looked at her worriedly, searching her face beneath the veil.
“Master, are you alright? If you want to, we can just run away–” Seiran suggested, but got cut off by Alenaire’s determined shake of the head.
“I am not a coward who runs away from pain, even of this caliber,” Alenaire said.
“I’m grateful for your worries, but there are just things one is destined for,” Alenaire replied bitterly. “If this is a trial for me, then I will gladly face it head on. I am sure Luce is feeling the same way as well,” she added softly. She lifted her head high, and with Seiran a few steps behind her, she walked with resolve towards the front doors of the cathedral, where her future husband awaited her.