When stepping into the dim room, her eyes were assaulted by the view of so many weapons lining the four walls. Shoes tapped along the echoing ground. There were so many shapes, so many sizes of artillery. However they all withheld the red and black crest of the Lunation Kingdom. A red octagon with the shape of a black flame, embedded with a crimson crown inside of the fire. It was cold. The air was far more frigid then it had been in the hall. The cement walls were a gray color with a dirty black floor. The imprint of muddy shoes laid against it. The only light that emitted was the shine of a few candles within the low, middle table. She stepped forward, slanted eyes observing the area. She found herself placed before the oak stand. She then reached forward until the palms of her hands were pressed into the wood of that piece of furniture. She hunched over. Her eyes had caught sight of pieces of paper pinned to the wood. She could hear the door creaking to a shut behind.
“Choose your weapon. Sword? Dagger? Spear?” He smirked slightly as he walked beside her. His shoes tapping the smeared floor. His own hands moved against the edge of the table, crouching against the wood much like she. What was she looking at? He would finally see. Her eyes would outline the maps that laid across the wood before her. She took note of Crystalia.
“How much longer do you think they’ll wait, James?” She asked quite randomly. His eyebrows furrowed.
“My father. My mother. Before they make me wed Aidan...” There was an awkward silence. They were good at doing that to each other. Making themselves speechless. Her eyes remained dead to the kingdom she would someday join. Her voice was numb. A dull sound that would feel so empty to his ears. She sounded so blunt to him. However, James would not let his true emotions slip away. A trait he withheld ever since he was younger. He turned, moving a bit deeper into the room. Looking against the wall, he found a sword. A specific blade he seemed to have in mind. He moved to a small wooden ladder, fingers wrapping around it before he dragged it along the cement. He leaned it beside the wall before stepping up. The boy reached above him. He took his specified weapon down.
“I can not lie to you. Soon, I am sure.” To speak those disappointing words was a stab into his soul. A corruption to his heart. He swallowed deep into the back of his throat. He would change the subject, as quickly as he possibly could.
“This was a sword that was once used by your father I have heard. We’re forbidden to use it, though I’m sure for you, anyone would make an exception.” He unsheathed it. She would find her own mind slipping from her question to his last words. He jumped down from the ladder. Blinking curiously, the princess stepped forward. A strengthened poise was presented before him. He took a towel off the table beside the maps. He ran it along the metal of the weapon. Cleaning it. He then held it up, for he took note of his own reflection against it.
“Hold it.” The boy spoke sternly. Then with an instant movement, the sword was tossed into the air, flipping. It somersaulted vigorously before he caught it at the hilt, upside down. Just a little showing off. He gave a smug smile before he held the handle out. Her eyes looked into the metal. She could see the insecurity in them already. Could she truly learn to do this? She wrapped her fingers slowly around the hilt, until he would set the steel free from his grasp.
“… It’s light.” She spoke beneath her breath. He would cross his arms over his torso. His clothing consisted of a pair of black pants, covered at the bottom by boots. To the top of him, nothing more then a plain gray t-shirt. A bit more nicer then what was usually considered his attire. But this wasn’t the usual servant that she always remembered. He was training to serve her Kingdom, now.
“Yeah.” He reached to his side then, fingers grasping the bottom of his blade as his other hand held the scabbard. He whisked out his own weapon. The shine of his steel was touched by the light of the candles. Her eyes slowly moved up finding his in a new sparkle. “So let’s see what you got, Princess.”
He took a rather productive stance. His blade pointing out before him. There began to grow a thick tension. The girl looked against her duelist, eyes following. Mysterious, exotic blue eyes. She clenched the rim of her weapon. Could she take an inexperienced swing at him? Her body was faced sideways, head tilting so slightly as she stared at him. Her legs began to take her slowly into a circle. She was orbiting him, enough of a length away. She stepped around him as if stalking her prey. She was hesitating. Only for a moment. Until her weapon lifted, being swung towards him. Her arms were brought up and back before flying forward. Praying in the back of her mind, that he would not miss and be touched by the steel blade. Perhaps she needed to have more faith in his defense. Her teeth were gritted, a sincere look of concern on her face all the while. She was tense. Tense like the night before, when he spoke of her relaxing. She could not fight correctly if she was tense. And she would learn that soon enough.
“NOT GOOD ENOUGH!” He cried out. His own sword came crashing into hers, sending her weapon within a second to fly against the wall. A crashing noise was heard as the sword clanked into the cement before rattling on the floor. She backed up, wide eyes; for she was stunned at how quickly the event took place. He on the other hand smirked heavily. The tip of his sword was pressed against the floor, leaning into it in victory. “… not good enough.” He repeated in a more successful voice.
“...What did I do wrong?” She asked, almost in a confused tone. She slowly moved to where the weapon laid, crouching down. She wrapped her fingers around it before looking over her shoulder at him. Perplexed in the event that took place.
“You had no confidence. Confidence in knowing you can win is always a first step. Know that you have the ability to. If you don’t, you don’t have a chance. It wouldn’t even be worth it to try.” He watched her as she looked at him over her shoulder, still pressed to the ground.
“It’s hard to have confidence in something so new.” She admitted. Her eyes ran along him.
“Then you need to confide that you will learn. And that your instinct, is your best choice. You were hesitant because you were trying to decide how to go for me. When in reality, you should have just gone. You should have just gone for it.” He picked up his sword once more. It was then, that one could have heard a pin drop. There was a second of silence. A soundless environment that would suddenly become a battle ground. A state of shock would emit from her. She wouldn’t even see it coming as he ran at her, weapon high to come slicing down. His eyes never letting down with that murderous look against them. Such an intimidating expression. “LIKE THIS!” Her eyes had gone wide for she saw nothing but the view of a sharp blade aiming at her in the speed of light. Nothing would be entering her mind. It was blank. And in an instant, she wouldn’t have even realize her body had reacted. Without thinking, her hands held up the flat side of her steel, hovering high over her by the hilt. Her fingers were gripped still, while her body was loose, ready for an impact if need be. His metal was then ceased by the sound of a crashing clank. She closed her eyes, tightly as she gritted her teeth. It was hard to keep his strength from demolishing her. But she had. She had stopped him… without even thinking. Her heart was throbbing hard in the inside of her chest. Her throat suddenly became dry as she opened those trembling eyes. She saw his. In a very impressed stamp.
“… Just like that.” He grumbled. He ripped his steel from hers, unbinding the two as he sheathed it. Her chest was heavily moving as she panted in shock. He would be normal. As if he had never pulled a threatening sword on his princess. After the moment of shock departed, his hand reached down to take hers. She slowly shook her head. This was James. Not some killer. She reached up, letting his hand grasp her wrist. She was brought to her feet.
“You could have warned me.” She growled.
“Think they’ll be letting you know when they are after you? I doubt it.” He slyly smirked at her. Even if she hadn’t reacted in such a way, he would have missed. He was good at his aim. He slowly took her sword from her grasp. “You should learn some simple techniques. First off… Defense.” He would stand in a certain way. His torso remained straight. However his legs told a different story. They were slightly sideways, one bent forward as the other remained straight though tilted back. She could tell by this stance, he could have moved any way he needed to. For if he needed to jump back, he had one foot there already. If he needed to jump forward, he needed little effort. She would make an attempt to mimic his move. But in doing so, the boy only chuckled.
“What’s so funny?”
“You remind me of a gorilla.” He grinned. She slowly shook her head before straightening herself to perfect the stance.
“Yeah, well… at least I don’t look like one twenty four seven.”
He found his smile to become a bit defeated. His finger moved up, slightly scratching the side of his head. “Okay, okay…” He chuckled again. “… This is what will help you move quicker. You can dodge out of the way. You can jump around. No matter what, it will keep you on your toes for what attack they will be coming at you with.” He lifted the sword in his hand. “Now… how you hold your sword is a different story. If you’re unsure of where your enemy will be going, you’re best bet would be to lay the sword in front of you. But never take your eyes off your enemy. They will find an opening somewhere, and you have to be ready.” He then released his stance. He slowly walked behind her. Her eyes remained forward, taking in every word he spoke. Reaching around, he laid the sword into her hands. She was concentrating. That was more then she could have said the night before.
“Say a man thrusts a sword towards you. You want to block it. If he is thrusting to your side, you want to place your sword between your body and his weapon.” With every letter he spoke, he was shifting her body into his words. Showing her the positions. Moving her accordingly. “Pull it back beside you as he thrusts forward. This will keep him from cutting you for the sword will be in-between. Do not let it too far out. For that will give you too much of an opening for him to shoot back around. Then it will be all over. If done right... once you block his sword, you have the ability to push it away, just for enough time for you to thrust forward before your enemy even knows what is about to happen. Understand?”
“Completely.” He then shifted her to raise her sword at her side.
“Say the sword is coming at you from above, in a chopping motion. You can lean enough down and forward, bringing your sword to the wrist of your enemy. The pressure of him pushing down while you’re pulling up, will definitely do some damage. Then he wouldn't have much to fight with would he?”
For hours upon hours, the boy was teaching her. Movements. Techniques. Her mind was taking in so much. Her body was bending in ways she had never moved. Her breathing expanded beyond belief. She was taught basic sword movements. Basic defense movements. Even basic hand to hand combat movements. It was quite a work out, and by the time evening came around, she felt exhausted. She leaned against that table, her head tilted back as her neck ached. Her shoulders throbbed. He was replacing the sword back to the wall, as if it had never been touched. Luckily, James had been smart enough to lock the door to the artillery room. No one had entered. For seeing a woman, let alone the princess, holding a sword, would need to have explaining done. He would quietly move to stand beside her.
“How do you feel?” He snickered. The palms of his hands were reached back against the table. He nearly sat on the edge.
“So very tired, James. Completely exhausted.” She finally lifted her gaze, glancing to him. However, while looking to her friend, her eyes caught a map past him on the wall. She had spotted it while training, however, she did not notice the giant line that crossed out a nearby Kingdom. She blinked curiously, moving forward, walking past him. Her fingers reached up, grazing the paper where the mark had been made. “What does that mean?”
“They’re a small land with a big army off past Alphaden. Your father has received letters regarding a war for more land.” He leaned himself off the table, moving to stand behind her. His eyes glazed her curls in admiration,
“Does… this mean you’ll be going to war soon?” Her head turned, glimpsing over her shoulder at him. He gave a soft smile.
“That’s what Army men do.” He shoved his hands into his pockets. “I doubt it will be any time soon. Or maybe it won’t even happen. But for now, it’s a possibility.” His eyes looked against the top of her. Taking his hands from his pockets, he reached up. His fingers grasped the tiara atop her head. He straightened the crown, for it was slightly tilted from her earlier movements. Once he let the crown go, she looked forward once more.
“What’s that land called?”
“Refugio. Very small land. But they specialize in artillery. So yes, even a small land like that can be a threat to Lunation. Especially in these hard times of an unproductive army. I tell you, they’re really letting anyone in right now.”
“Like you?” She turned, smirking a bit. He returned the smile. She was teasing him, as usual.
“Yes, except the difference between me and these men, is I actually can fight. Most of them are only learning. And they’re learning from an old general who can barely move as fast as he used to.” She slowly turned around, facing him. He laid his view on her.
“So, why don’t you go up to the plate and take over?”
“Me? A ‘servant’ boy?” He raised his eyebrows. “You should know this better then anyone, Roxanna. Your kind, they don’t accept me for anything. The only reason I even got into the army was because of my father. That, and they need people. No matter what. They’re desperate. All they care about in the long run is their reputation. No one wants to be known as a weak army. And I am looked upon as weak. They have been getting away with bluffing for so long now. Trust me, I’m the last person they think will be able to do much of anything. Your kind, they are not smart enough to know the difference.” He placed his hands on his hips, his eyes looking a few of the weapons on the wall behind her.
“I’m not so sure if YOU’RE smart enough to know the difference, James.” He blinked for a moment before those eyebrows arched down. In a bewildered tone. He turned his view to her. Her arms were crossed over her torso tightly. He could already feel a debate rising. He was speechless and became even more so when she continued. “You’re blaming your insecurities on ‘my kind’, whatever you mean by that. I would think that a man of your intelligence would be smart enough to know… there is nothing besides yourself that is stopping you from showing who you can truly be. I know what you can be James.”
“You don’t know what it’s like.” He then stilled. He wanted to kick himself in the mouth. What had he said to her? He was touching dangerous territory now. He wanted to return his thoughtless statement. But it was too late. He knew what was coming. For the boy had already sensed the mistake along those words. She took a slight step back. His context would be what crossed the line between a simple argument, to anger.
“Me?” She pointed her finger in a furious anger towards herself. “I, the woman who was sheltered from learning about her Kingdom, I do not know what it feels like to be rejected upon who and what I am? I, the princess who is forced to demolish my dreams and wishes so I can follow another man’s, does not know what it’s like to be ridiculed?” She took a step forward, for her finger now pointed at him, poking him roughly in the core of his chest. “You, a ‘SERVANT BOY’ who I have never considered to be so, is telling me, a ‘PRINCESS’, that I do not know what it feels like to be judged on my title?”
He was as silent as he could have been. When her finger pushed on his chest, he moved a few steps back. His eyes never leaving the look of desperation on her face. He swallowed deeply. He had never made her angry before. Then again, he was usually more considerate with his words. He slowly shook his head. Now, it would be time to explain himself. “It’s hard to see you that way sometimes. Sometimes I see you, and I don’t see the girl I knew so long ago. I don’t see the girl who was carefree and independent. I see a girl who is busy. Who is lost in what she needs to do rather then what she wants to do. Sometimes, I do truly see a princess.” Her hand went limp to her side. Her lips parted a mere inch in a speechless awe. She slowly shook her head.
“You’re blind.” She spat her words in a livid rage. She moved to walk past him. Her head shaking back and forth. He turned, his body following hers until he stood across from her, before the table. She stood in front of the door. “You do not know the difference between what is needed to be done and what is wanted to be done. You do not know the difference between me, and ‘The Princess’. And you’re blind. Because all you want to see is Roxanna, James. You can’t handle knowing that I have priorities. That something is more important then seeing you as much as I used to. You can’t handle knowing that Roxanna, really is also a Princess. And you can’t handle knowing that the Princess, really is still Roxanna. And you know what James? You’re strong in the army. Very strong. But when you put that sword away, you’re nothing but an ignorant fool who can not even stand up for himself against men in the same rank as him.” She unlocked the door. Her hand reached up to her head, her fingers gripping the crown. She turned around, throwing it into the air. It landed at his feet. The clanking noise it created vibrated the cement. “You can keep your ‘Princess’ title on me. Because as you can see, even without a crown, I am still a ‘Princess’ and I am still ‘Roxanna’. It’s who I am. So when you’re ready to accept that without thinking that I ‘don’t know what it’s like’ to be labeled like you just have, you can let me know.” And with that, she had opened the door, stepping out into the hallway. Her fists were tightened. Her head continuing to shake in a held back rage. She had left him, standing in front of that desk. Wide eyes. Ones which would slowly turn to look down against that silver tiara. The sapphire diamond was one that reflected the repent that illuminated out of him. He regretted it all.
The next morn, Roxanna left her room in a tired essence. Her body hurt from the day before. Muscles were throbbing in places she did not even know they could. Her black hair was missing that attire that titled her. She wore a ball gown, for today, her fiancé was to visit as he did every year for one week. Her frustration of the night before had yet to cease. She was bringing it with her in the back of her mind. Not a good burden to carry. She walked down the hallway, heading for the dining room in the midst of breakfast time. Her dress was an ivory tone. Tight at the three quarter sleeves, outlining her torso smoothly. Flaring from her hips to her toes against the polished floor. Ivory shoes clasped lightly as they tapped the ground, announcing her presence before she had stepped into the dining room.
“You’re late.” A frustrated voice was heard throughout the air. Her head turned, finding Adrian at the table. He sat with her father.
“You know I can never wait to see you.” She spoke sarcastically. It irritated him. She could tell by the way he sat up, shaking his head back and forth.
“A proper princess is never late. Nor does she talk back to her lord.” He looked upon her father. Though he spoke nothing in lecture or defense. He remained quiet as he waved his hand out to the chair across from Adrian. His daughter would heed his gesture before placing herself there. “And where is your crown, Roxanna?” Adrian continued his annoyance.
“I misplaced it.”
“A princess, misplacing her crown?” He shook his head again. “Not only improper but irresponsible too. What a catch.”
“Not only irritating but demeaning as well. What a charmer.” No matter what the prince said, she seemed to return his remarks. But then her eyes adverted around the table in a confused expression.
“Where is mother?” Her father slowly lifted his head looking upon her in a slight discomfort.
“She is not feeling very well. The doctor has ordered a bed rest. She will be there for a few days.” Her father cleared his throat then. There was a tightness to his words. As if he had been practicing them for hours to make a point.
“What is the matter?” She continued her question. Adrian would clear his own throat to speak.
“That is no matter, Roxanna. Let’s eat.” Roxanna shot her eyes to Adrian.
“I was not talking you to. It’s ‘inappropriate’ to speak when not spoken to, is it not?”
“Only if you’re an out of control woman who does not know her place in the world.”
“Oh, so you want to see an out of control woman?” It was enough. She was far too uneasy to deal with his complaints. She stood to her feet, fingers reaching for the goblet of juice beside her on the table. It happened within an instant. She flushed it forward, only to have it spill across the boy’s attire. Her father stood in an act of shock. Adrian’s eyes widened as he rushed to his feet, backing slightly from the mess laid onto the table. He nearly tripped over the chair behind as a napkin was grabbed from beside his plate. The goblet was then tossed to the middle of the puddle before she turned, heading for the door.
“Did you see what she did?!” He exclaimed while turning to the King. However, his whines were inaudible once she left the dining room, walking down the hall in a frantic move. She knew she would be scolded by her father for such a thing within time. But that didn’t matter. She wasn’t going to let some unfit prince talk to her in disrespect. She turned a corner into another long hall.
“Princess.” The girl paused to a familiar voice. Her head turned, eyes adverting towards an empty room. She knew that voice. The girl looked behind her down the hall. Then turned her head forward. No one was in view. Her feet slid silently across the smooth floor towards that dark chamber. She flattened her hand against the wood, opening it a few inches more. Stepping inside, she closed the door behind her. She faced him, her fingers reaching behind to lock themselves inside. Her arms moved up, crossing along her chest. Her lips pressed together in a slight awkwardness.
“You know it’s dangerous to be talking to me while Adrian is around. He dislikes you strongly.” She took a deep breath, letting it sigh out in an act of stress.
“I just wanted to give this back to you.” James was sitting on the edge of an old, broken down table. He wore a black shirt with a red vest. In his hand was a brown bag. His eyes held a stressed look. He could tell, she was still upset with him. Even so, he would slowly give a small smile. Unsure of himself all over again. They couldn’t let this one disagreement come between them. He reached into it, only to pull out that diamond crown. She laid her eyes around it. Slowly she moved towards him, hand reaching out as she shifted to take it. However, when her fingers reached for him, he pulled it back slightly. “Let me put it on you.”
“Because it’s an honor to do so.” He jumped to his feet. His hands reached up, a palm on each side as he laid it against her head. He lightly pressed it down to keep it in place. “It’s an honor in every way possible. It’s an honor to know the Princess of Lunation. And it’s an honor to know Roxanna. But to see them together? That is an honor that I could never resist. Even in any doubt I have ever had.” He took his fingers away, leaning the palms of his hands back against the edge of the table. There was a touch of empathy when he spoke. She was unsure as to why. Even so, she smiled sweetly.
“That is good to know, James.” He slowly smiled back. A connection laid between each other’s sight. A chain of companionship that had been growing for years was still going strong, even after an intense conflict. Slowly though, his smile had become a flat line of sympathy.
“I’ve heard about your mother.” He spoke in a softer tone. His expression had completely changed. There was a tint of secrecy in his voice. Something he couldn’t seem to hide.
“Yeah. She’s just a little sick. She’ll be better in no time.” Her eyes had adverted away for a brief moment. There was a mysterious aura in the air that no one could have denied. A precarious sensation that was slowly shading the atmosphere. Slowly her view returned to him. Her head tilted a bit. She saw something. She saw something in those green eyes of his. Her eyebrows arched downwards. He wasn’t looking at her now. Why? Her mind began to rush with curiosity.
“…Yeah.” Would be all he would answer with. A suspicious, blunt answer. He would be looking past her. Something far more in depth hidden inside. He was not one to keep secret’s from his Roxanna. But he knew he must. That was why, after speaking of a small condolence, he began to shuffle himself together.
“James…?” She would question him. He wouldn’t let himself give in. He moved to walk past her, bag tight in his balled fist. He was ignoring her call out to him.
“I have to get back downstairs. We were in the middle of train-“ She had reached out, grasping his arm in a tint of desperate strength. His body was yanked to a straight poise. He knew where this was going. He was heavy with angst.
“What are you hiding from me, James?” He continued to stare away. She was holding his arm captive, his back turned to her. He slowly shook his head, denying her. Denying himself.
“I can not say, Princess.” He was swallowing deep in the back of his throat. He could feel the heat of his own distress.
“My father was hiding something from me. And I know you are containing that same secret. Talk to me.” She slightly pulled him back, only to walk around him to the front. His eyes were rejecting her contact. She reached up, fingers grasping his chin to create that chain of sight. “Talk to me.” She repeated herself. A concerned look laid within. He was holding back. Hesitating. He closed his eyes then, trying to keep himself from being pulled into hers. It wasn’t working. She only kept talking hopelessly. “I need to know. What is so dreadful that everyone is trying to keep away? What is going on, James?”
“She is dying, Roxanna.”
With a stab to the heart, she became paralyzed. Time had stopped. Her entire being could not comprehend the news that her dear friend had given her. Her grip on his arm relinquished. The look in her eyes was of complete heartbreak. Her eyebrows arched down with those wide, watering eyes. Her throat became tight. Fighting back the tears that were rising. A choking sensation building. Her head slowly shook back and forth. She was speechless. She was shocked.
“Your father forbid anyone to speak of it. He said… he didn’t want your time with…” He hesitated. A bubble in the back of his throat from speaking the name. “… Adrian… to become more of a struggle then it already was.”
“I don’t care.” Her voice became apparent with emotion. Her words were breathless. Her insides trembling in anxiety. “How could anyone keep such a thing from me?!” Her tears were slowly releasing. Her hands came to the side of her head. Holding it as his words echoed through her mind. “That is my MOTHER! MY MOTHER!” Her arms flew down, slamming into her sides. “HOW CAN EVERYONE KEEP SOMETHING LIKE THIS FROM ME?!” Her hands were frantically thrown into the air and down again. She was lost. Her structure falling apart all before his eyes.
“YOU DO NOT HIDE SOMETHING LIKE THIS FROM A MOTHER’S DAUGHTER!” She screamed. She was destroyed. Her mother. Her mother was dying. All the while her father was hiding it. James could see it. The despair she withheld. Such despair, in which she was only ever able to find comfort in one place. The same place she always had. She ran into his arms. Her balled fists punched the core of his chest in anger. In frustration. In sorrow. “Why… why… why…” She spoke through heavy cries. His arms moved, wrapping around her shoulders. He took a deep breath, the dark room being filled with the hurt cries of her voice.
“Roxanna…” He whispered tenderly. The man knew what it was like. He knew what it has been like to loose his mother and his father. But that was so long ago and to see her pain so fresh in his mind, ached. It was as if he was remembering it all over again. “She’s… still alive Roxanna. You never know… maybe she will be alright again…” He was trying to change his words for the better. Trying to alter what he had so bluntly said. He was consoling her, fingers running through her hair affectionately.
“Do…” She was choked within her voice. Helplessly trying to speak. “they know what it is…?”
“… No. They don’t.” He whispered.
“There can be… no cure… for something they know nothing about.” She heard silence from his lips. Her insides began to shake before her cries were echoed. Her fingers gripped onto his vest, holding on tight. He was neglected with his comforting words. For she continued to sob, driving her face into that crimson vest he wore. He took a deep breath and kept still, holding the hysterical princess in his hands.
“Don’t leave me. Stay… stay with me. Please.” She was begging him through her restless weeps. She needed him. He was all that understood her. All she had. His arms moved around her tighter. He firmly pressed his lips together, his head shaking in a slow motion.
“I didn’t plan to.”
Within time he had found himself leaning back, finding a wall against him. He stood against it for a while, his fingers running through velvet curls. Slowly his spine pressed into it. His head leaned back as he slid down. His knees giving out in agony from seeing her so distraught. She was kept in his clutch, bringing her with him until he sat on the cold floor. His knees bent up as each surrounded her. Her arms remained tied around him. She laid herself against him. Her fingers were pressed to the back of his shirt. He could feel her cold cheek against his clothing. For hours they had remained that way. Her eyes burned. Her cheeks were red. Occasionally, when her sobs had ceased… they would only start softly again.
All the while, he kept her in his arms. His eyes slowly shifting to the window where the sun was setting. Had they truly been that way all day? That was two days in a row that he had spent hours on end with her. He had not done that in a very long time. He turned, looking down. His chin rested against the top of her before he tilted down. His lips whispered into the top of her head, moving her hair in his words. “… It’s getting late.” He spoke gently. She, for the first time, had lifted her head. Bloodshot eyes were mixed with the exhausted look they gave. They were swollen and thick in debilitation. Her gaze turned to that very window, finding the sun on it’s way to night time. She was sure Adrian had spent a majority of the day looking for her. But that didn’t matter. She put her hands on each side of the floor pushing herself up and to her feet. Her numb legs were shaking as she was slowly regaining her balance. He leaned the palms of his hand on each side of him, throwing himself up as well. He took another moment of silence before he spoke again. “Tell you what. I know you want to learn how to engage in a battle...” She lifted her gaze to him. “… so we’ll work on it. We’ll make it three times a week. A few hours every day. It will be good for you.”
“I would like that, James.” She whispered beneath her breath. A nearly hidden smile was tried, though failed miserably. She looked away. He reached forward, touching the side of her face.
“You should rest. Don’t let anyone bother you.” He ran his thumb down her skin devotionally. He was paused. Then the young man leaned forward, lips pressing against her forehead in a tender touch. Her eyes closed. It was warm. It was soothing to her grief. It would be then that a smile finally shaped her lips in a sign of relief. He pulled back, only matching her expression. “I will see you tomorrow. I promise.”
The princess had opened the door, eyes peering out as the hallway was silent. She slipped out, closing the entrance behind her. She tip toed down the narrow area, trying to be sure as to not catch attention of anyone around. Once a decent length from the room, she found herself entering the ballroom. She lifted her dress as she began to make her way up the stairs. Her head was lowered as it felt heavy from her breakdown earlier. She had reached the last step.
“Where have you been?” Her head was thrown up as she stopped in her tracks. A few feet before her stood Adrian. His arms were crossed as a bewildered look appeared from viewing her expression. He had taken note of her swollen, bloodshot eyes. His posture was straight, demanding. She would slowly look away, only to retrieve that final step before shifting around him. She continued down the hall, her exhaustion far too evident to deal with him. “Roxanna.” He stated her name again, looking over his shoulder at her. Why she stopped, she was unsure. But she turned, looking to him once more. “You know, don’t you?” She remained silent. The look in her eyes was enough to prove her knowledge. She looked forward again. “People pass on every day. It’s something you need to learn. You accept it, and you move on. How can a King like me, have a Queen who will only be naïve to the concept of death while so many die for their Kingdom?”
“You, of all people, should not be explaining the functions of life and death to me.” She spoke in a soft, dim voice. It was dry and flat. Her head shook back and forth. She then continued to step forward. She ignored when he called out to her once more. The sound of his voice had diminished.
When she reached her room, the princess noticed that her door was open a few inches. She pressed the palm of her hand to it, exposing her room to her eyes. There on the edge of her bed, sat her father. He looked up, a small sigh of relief when he saw his daughter. However that sound of comfort suddenly became a look of concern. She shook her head back and forth. Stepping into her room, she closed the door behind her.
“Roxanna, I could not find you anywhere.” He stated. He stood to his feet, watching her. “Me and Prince Adrian. We have been worried sick-“
“How can you hide such a thing from me?” She spoke sternly. He knew then, He knew that she had found out. It would explain her appearance. Why her face was blotched by tears. He swallowed a bit deeply.
“It was not going to be for long. It was hard to tell you.”
“But I am sure you would have told me once he left for home, right? You wouldn’t want to interfere in our romantic time, right?” Sarcasm touched her tongue as she spoke. He shook his head.
“Roxanna, you need to stop this. You need to stop this behavior. You treating Prince Adrian like you do. Running off for hours and hiding somewhere that no one can find you. Sitting in your room, studying old wars. Why would you need to withhold such information? It is not your duty.”
“IT IS MY DUTY!” She yelled out to him. Her eyes wide in frustration. “You say I disrespect him. How about how he treats me? You see it. You see it with your own eyes and still you never budge! What is he holding over your head that will allow an irresponsible man who only cares for his reputation to rule your land?!”
“WAR.” He blurted out. She took a step back, a moment of silence filling the air.
“… What?” She whispered. He fumbled over his words. Regretting his burst of wrath.
“No. No, this is NONE of your business. You listen here. I am your FATHER. I am your KING. There are women who would DIE to be in your place. To hold no worries. To be taken care of. You make this SO MUCH harder on yourself!” He shook his head. Her eyes continued to remain wide.
“One year Roxanna. In one year, next winter, you will be wedded.” He continued to shake his head. He moved past her, opening her door. Her eyes followed him every inch of the way. Her ears were attacked with the echo of it slamming then, Her jaw dropped. What had just happened? She swallowed deep in her throat. War. What did he mean by that? She sat upon the chair to her vanity. She stared against her reflection. What was she going to do? What could she do? She held one year left. One year to develop what she needed to be.
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