The sound of my saliva sliding down my throat never felt this loud. It was like a drum beating the side of my ears. It was at the point where I was hoping that the sound it produced would never reach the other side of the closet.
Each time my trembling body rubbed against the clothes in my surroundings, my heart seemed to stop. The sound it emitted, though originally trivial, felt like the sound of a lashing whip. There was no helping it. Surely, my brother, Maxwell Brent, would understand what I was feeling. But I was alone. Far away from home and in a land where I was supposed to meet my betrothed.
What is happening…?
There were none who could answer my question but the eerie silence. A few answers came to mind, but I never thought of a situation as such would arise. Were they trying to prevent Brent and Laurel from having a solid bond? That I did not know. However, it was the most probable reason that came to mind—which I hoped not to be the truth.
Libet. Or maybe it was Niveria’s last princess? It’s highly likely to be Libet. However, how come? How come they managed to infiltrate the capital, Aves?
Strategically, Aves was at the center of Laurel. However, at the same time, it was wide open as it faces the Sea of Formos. Perhaps it was there, at the port, where those who wanted to take me had infiltrated.
Was it even possible?
I was sure the Royals of Laurel knew that opening from long ago, hence the heavy security at the port. I myself witnessed that fact, so my conjecture felt off.
Not unless it was a conspiracy…
My mind was running in a full throttle despite my haphazard breathing. I kept constructing a plan on how to escape, but to my dismay, there were none that felt right. All I could think of was get out of the closet and break into a run. Really, being unfamiliar with the land was a huge disadvantage. At best, I could only regret.
Suddenly, my hair stood at its end. One by one, doorknobs clocked and doors swung. It was a bit far, but the sound came closer and closer.
I shut my eyes and held my knees. Please, let me go.
“Are you there?! Answer me!”
The voice was not familiar, but the hint of urgency gave me the slightest bit of hope.
I urged my stiff arms and pried the closet open, just enough for me to peek through a gap. I waited patiently for the door to swung open. I betted my all in that single hope, in that voice. At each gulp, at each door opened, my beating heart ran faster. Then, as soon as the door opened, my tension overflowed.
“You’re there, right?” The unfamiliar girl said.
She flashed a smile and looked in my direction. It was a wonder how she immediately noticed me from the closet, but it was a relief. I was so relieved that a vague heat rose into my eyes and started a dribble of tears.
“Yes, I’m here.” With uneasy and trembling steps, I came out of the closet.
Even before she took my hands, I kept muttering my gratitude. Although she was small, her confident eyes washed my unease away. Even the uncharacteristic sword hanging at her hip felt pleasant.
“Lia wants to apologize in advance,” the girl muttered as we ran through the hallway.
“Lia...? Ah...” It did not take me long to recognize the name. After all, Brother kept on calling her in that nickname. There was no way for me, who sometimes becomes a sounding board for him, to not remember.
“Is she around?” My tension rose once more. “She could be in danger if she is.”
I felt it. I have seen it. The girl’s lips curved into a frown.
“Yeah, Lia could be in danger.”
We ran down the stairs and reached the door towards the garden.
“I didn’t want to leave her, but she told me that I was the only one she could trust to retrieve you. The guards surrounding her could not quell her worry, so I decided to accept the job of rescuing you.”
This time, it was my turn to be quiet.
“However, in return, I gave her a condition.” The girl pulled harder as I started to regain strength from my stiff legs. “I would move alone and all the guards would remain on her side.”
It made sense.
I urged my feet forward. A few seconds saved meant the world to me. My situation was not the least pleasing, but it would do well if it did not befall her instead.
“I believe it would be best if you leave that girl here, little girl.” The husky voice came from behind a nearby tree. As soon as he revealed himself, the little girl took a stance with her sword.
“At least call me by name, Kanna.” She took a step ahead of me and lowered her back. “And I believe you’re mistaken for calling your elder a little girl. After all, I’m probably at least twice to thrice older than you.”
“An Elf huh.” The man pulled a broadsword from his back, reflecting a shade of the moon onto his masked face. “Quite rare but unfortunate.”
“Close, but not quite.” Kanna chuckled. “Clarissa, you don’t have to mind this guy. Focus on the surroundings instead. Try not to get caught in an ambush.”
“Ah, yes.” I nodded and roamed my eyes. It was dark, but the silence was enough for me to keep my focus. I must not become a burden.
Anxious, I gripped my necklace laced with three Sacrificial Crystals. I took a few glances from behind to ascertain Kanna’s condition. However, it was for naught.
From the point when Kanna took a dash, I have only heard a single clash of blades. Never did I thought that it would end swiftly.
Kanna gripped the hilt of her sword and kicked the man from behind, freeing her embedded sword from his body.
“Clarissa, come, quick. I don’t want to waste a few more minutes with these guys.”
I wanted to utter a rebuttal that it only took her a few seconds rather than a minute, but it seemed unnecessary. Thus, again, we resumed our flight.
“Kanna, you’re really good.”
“It just happens that I’m small and quick with my feet. It’s a battle of who hits who first after all.”
“Yeah, you’re unusually fast.”
“I guess an elf’s stature and an ounce of a dwarf’s strength is responsible for that.”
Kanna pulled harder than before, but I could not blame her. It was a race for time. Still, a mix of an elf and a dwarf. It was an unfitting combination based on their history, but the result was nothing to scoff at.
Not long before we took the road outside the manor and raced towards the palace.
“This is far enough. I believe I can find a guard roaming around here. You should get back to her.”
I was afraid. I was not even sure if I could find a guard before I get caught by one of those unknown assailants, but I stomached my fear.
Kanna shook her head. “Then we have to find a guard.”
Luckily, it did not take long before we found one. And as soon as we did, Kanna requested the sword hanging by his hip. In order to help, I took out my emblem, the proof as a royal of Brent.
“This girl saved my life. I request that you let her borrow your sword in order to aid Her Highness Amelia, who has engaged the unknown threat.”
I did not have time to explain the situation. So I requested the guard to take me to the palace. Nor did I know the reason why Kanna wanted a second sword.
“Kanna, thank you for everything.” I bowed. “I swear by this emblem, I will inform the King and the Queen of the situation and request help.”
“Thanks.” With the sword in hand, Kanna dashed towards the Manor I’ve been staying.
“Now, to straighten things out...” As soon as Kanna’s figure faded into the night, my knees buckled. “That… was horrifying...”
They fell one after the other—the guards my Father posted around me. It was not even a contest. It was a matter of whom met whom. And unfortunately, they met someone they should have not and lost. However, what I found odd was the eerie silence. The evidence of battle. And lastly, the remains of the defeated. However, the scent of blood lingered.
“Your Highness, save yoursel—”
An arrow drove into the guard’s skull, ending his life after a few convulsions. A few seconds after, like the other guards that fell around me, he vanished. Armor, weapon, the arrow stuck in his head, and the body itself. It all vanished without a trace. Perhaps it was the reason that there was no evidence of battle in the surroundings. It was also the reason that I was not able to grab a weapon for my own.
“You are rather composed for a girl.” The voice seemed like that of a girl. But her mask and her gaudy robes hid her features.
“I believe it’s useless to ask who you are?” I stood my ground, observing her every movement as she took a lap at a set distance around me.
The girl returned my question with a shot of an arrow. Although the aim was lousy, it passed over my shoulder.
“So I was not mistaken that you knew none of it would hit.” The girl chuckled. “Maybe the rumors held true after all, Silver Princess.”
As soon as we met, the girl rained a barrage of arrows towards my direction. Or to be precise, towards my guards.
However, it was completely odd. Otherworldly, perhaps. There was no sound of stretched bowstrings. There was no twang. Not even a bow was present in the vicinity. Even the likelihood of archers hiding nearby seemed unlikely when considering the number of arrows unleashed at such a short time. Even for magic, something like a standard arrow seemed impossible to conjure.
“Before anything, I would like to start with a line.” The girl took a bow similar to that of a butler, her hands empty. “Shall we dance?”
It seemed that she had a few loose screws in the head, but her ability says otherwise.
It started off with another arrow suddenly appearing in mid-air. This time, I turned to the side and ducked to dodge the two arrows that came. Then with a twist and a jump, I evaded her incoming fist.
Before raising her swung fist, a sword materialized in her hand and drew an arc towards my arm. Manipulating the thin membrane of mana around my body, I took another jump. As soon as my feet touched the ground, numerous arrows flew.
Just in time, I was able to raise my hand quipped with a bracelet and was able to conjure a barrier.
Clatter. Clatter. Clatter. Clatter…
It did not take long before the barrier cracked and break. But the time it gave was enough for me to move out of the arrows’ pathway.
So this is a Hero huh…
I had to admit, her abilities far surpassed what I have imagined. However, it seemed like she had shown me too many of her cards. Although the principle seemed vague, it was enough to build an expectation on how she would move. Needless to say, being complacent was not an option.
After a series of a cat and mouse chase, the rain of arrows seemed to decrease. In return, her robe vanished and revealed a set of leather armor.
“You’re better than I expected. But unfortunately, buying time won’t work.”
“...” I kept my silence as another set of footsteps arrive from behind. Surprisingly, the owner was Veight. What followed was another set of footsteps from a man I was unfamiliar with. “To have betrayed Mother, what has Hero Evelyn offered you, Veight?”
After a moment of silence, I chuckled. I chuckled not because of my question not being answered or being surrounded with enemies on three sides. However, I chuckled at myself. I laughed at the crazy idea that came to mind. Perhaps I was really insane for coming up with such an idea.
Gradually, bidding Kanna an apology, I raised my arms into the air. “I surrender. It’s my loss.”