I could see a faint glow that shone through the torn fabrics of my handbag. It was glowing in the same colour the night it rejected Castor’s touch.
Instinctively, I knew that the diary was answering me. I carefully spoke as I bit my lips to fight the severe headache that was hitting me.
At every moment, darkness was flooding my vision. I could see the sight in front of me once again as if the light in the alley were turned on. But then, it would flicker out again as if the power had gone out.
“Sniff, sniff. I want to live.”
Through the light that was bursting out like an explosion in the light, I spotted a little child crying.
“Why? Why does it hurt?”
The girl, with her hair of faded gold like freshly harvested wheat hanging down her back, looked up at me whilst crying as if her world had crumbled away.
Her tears soaked her cheeks and neck as she wrapped her chubby arms around herself. I opened my mouth for a moment at the sight of the girl full of scratches and bruises before shutting my mouth.
The girl persistently stared my way. No, I was confused as to whether she was looking right at me or was staring off into the air.
Feeling as if there was something next to me, it seemed like there was no choice but to turn to my side.
And the fantasy ended there.
When I opened my eyes again, I faced the still alley waiting for me. The Templar of Chaos had disappeared.
Amidst the wreckage of chunks of chopped up pudding, there were other men surrounding me. They must be the men behind the faint shouts from the back of the woman a while ago.
“Captain, I think she’s the woman who was with the Templar of Chaos…”
“Right, she has the ‘qualities’, right?”
“She looks like a child. Should we take off her robe? We can hand her over to those men from the palace.”
“Watch what you say, you idiot.”
“Who cares. There’s no one around, right?”
The large man stared at me with a calm and firm gaze. I hugged my handbag with hands that were trembling less now. For some reason, I was feeling exhausted and drowsy.
‘Was it something to do with the light that the diary emitted?’
This situation was not good at all.
“Now, here’s the question. Where are they dragging the kidnapped girls to and what happened to them?”
Hernan was being chased by someone. That was the truth the Templar of Chaos, who hated the emperor, told me.
Secret forces. The emperor’s shadows who were ordered to kidnap people with the qualities of a templar. Then, what group did this group belong to since they chased the Templar of Chaos away?
“The emperor’s shadows…”
They seemed to be the real kidnappers.
The light that rescued me disappeared without a trace. The diary was quiet now and my eyes that had felt like they were being set on fire returned to their original state. As if the diary’s help was disposable.
“Why are you so reckless?”
It’s not my fault I’m like this, Lord.
“What are you doing? Hurry and bring her here!”
… I recalled the first time in my life I was soaked in someone else’s blood. Dozens of eyes paired with swords were facing me. I wondered if I wanted this to resemble what happened that day.
“Captain, that wench is smiling?”
I did not know why another life would slowly continue after my one life ends. Was all my misfortune snowballing? If that was the case, I wanted to ask. What was left after using up all my fortune?
“Is she going crazy? It doesn’t matter. Grab her for now.”
Soricks, can you hear me? What about Meta? Why was no one coming? I would give anyone who appeared right now the right to be my patronus. But till the end, Soricks did not appear and the man reached out to me.
Despite struggling, my field of vision gradually narrowed weakly. As his strong hand poured out the items in my handbag, the bracelet stood out.
I whispered before reaching out. Unfortunately, the bracelet rolled to a stop at someone else’s foot. The last thing I saw was the pale moon against the early evening sky. Ah, everyone must be worried.
Just when my eyes started to close.
“You shouldn’t sleep in a place like this. You’ll catch a cold.”
The voice I had missed so much woke me up. The moment I raised my head, his mantle that seemed to be a mix of black and navy fluttered behind his cape. Unable to cry, I just burst into laughter.
In the darkness, his navy hair shook in the wind. And between the spaces, there Lord Ray was.
“… Lord, are you interested in being a prince?”
His usually stoic face made a ridiculous expression. How did this knight manage to appear only in my times of crisis?
“Lord, hold me.”
He sighed before lifting me up.
“There! Grab them!”
“Damn. Everybody, run away.”
As I was being held in his arms, I noticed the patrol troops overpowering the men.
In the midst of the scuffle, it was Meta who rushed over to me.
“Where were you?! I couldn’t get a signal from you! It was as if you evaporated to thin air.”
For some reason, he was embarrassed which was an emotion I rarely saw from him as he continued to apologise for being unable to find my tracks since earlier the day and for being at a loss as to what to do.
‘Was it because of the drug?’
I fiddled with my handbag before asking myself. Amor did say a templar’s powers can be overpowered by that of a stronger templar’s. If that was the case, Amor’s drug might have hid me from Meta’s powers or Hernan’s ability to hide our bodies might have caused a malfunction in Meta’s powers. That was why he could not find it.
“… I’m sorry, pipio.”
First of all, since he was not saying anything after seeing Lord Ray, he must have really not known who I was yet. I guess he really was sorry. I shook my head to tell him that it was okay. Meta turned back around.
“How did you know, Lord?”
“No matter how long I waited for you, you didn’t come so I decided to go out to look for you. Then, I met the patrols and followed them.”
“Lord. Let’s get out of here first.”
The sky was looking dark. It sounded like the patrols were not the only ones who were in a frenzy.
I did not know how many people knew that the princess had disappeared. I hoped things would not get any bigger. It seemed like it would have been better if I had just disappeared.
‘It’d only raise suspicions if I return to the Imperial Palace like a boneless chicken.’
After thinking it was alright now, Lord Ray stealthily brought us away. We were then walking on what seemed to be a quiet alley. To be exact, I was still in his arms.
“The night market is famous here.”
“… How can you even speak right now?”
We chose to walk on a road that was not crowded so we did not have to visit the night market.
“Lord, I’m asking you this just in case.”
“Right now. What do I look like?’
He raised an eyebrow as if I was being strange.
“You look a little more anxious than you look like in the day but you look the same as usual.”
“Ah. So it did unravel.”
I wondered when it got unraveled. I guessed it happened when the diary started emitting a strange light to attack the gelatin. Anyway, it was a great medicine.
‘It’s a medicine that allows me to transform into another person for almost the entire day.’
I leaned backwards comfortably before closing my eyes.
“You’ll only get more tired from now on.”
I widened my eyes. Lord Ray smiled calmly at me before whispering bluntly. As if he was finding something very amusing for some reason.
“The princes know.”
Dane welcomed me with a gentle expression. I did not think I was hallucinating when I felt the chillingly cold wind that stung my eyes.
“Come here, you unbearable idiot.”
I was doomed. I felt a sudden desire to observe the complexity of the white marble pillars.
I shifted towards Dane to avoid Fleon’s fierce gaze. The faces Fleon and the Lord made towards me looked incredulous as they saw what I was doing.
“You’re late, Ashley.”
Dane’s sweet voice was unwavering but it sounded as if he wanted me to confess my sins. Why did Dane have such a calm expression when I went outside?
Was he angry?
I had never seen Dane angry before.
“I had been waiting for you here today? Do you want to ask me how long I have been waiting for you?”
“… How long?”
I turned my head away to pretend to be staring at Lord Ray.
“Since 4 in the afternoon.”
Dane replied to me by muttering softly.
So he waited for me for at least 5 hours. I showed an awkward smile.
“At first, I just drank tea. Only two hours had passed but by that time two cups had turned into three and the pot had been emptied. I continued to worry for you here.”
Dane briefly pierced through my mind as if there was an echo in his words.
“Why didn’t you come? I thought you were just late but the sky then got dark and the stars rose. Then, instead of getting worried, I got scared.”
“I was scared you got hurt.”
“Ashley, the scariest thing was that I still didn’t know where you were. It was when I thought about you getting yourself hurt in somewhere I didn’t know, I realised that I didn’t know where you were.”
My friendly brother did not press me for answers nor did he scold me.
I swallowed my breath because he felt distant for a moment.
For some reason, being friendly and calmly talking to me about it was hitting harder than him scolding me harshly. It was Dane’s sunshine rather than Fleon’s cold scoldings that managed to take off the traveller’s coat
“… I’m sorry.”
It was not my fault. Nevertheless, I was sorry. Dane must have been sincerely worried.
“Did you know? The moment I heard that you left for the capital and disappeared, did you know how fast my heart was beating? I wanted to turn the capital upside down, using any means possible right away.”
Dane grabbed my hand before lifting it.
“Rules are definitely good. But if you’re frustrated, you can go out as much as you want to. No one is forcing you to do anything. But, Ashley…”
“I want you to speak comfortably. Let’s share anything you’ve been having trouble with together, for a very long time. But was I not someone you can do that with?”
Dane was panting.
At that moment, neither the emperor, Hernan or the Templars of Chaos were coming to mind.
“Even though that guy is speaking disgustingly calmly, I agree with him.”
Fleon interrupted smoothly.
“Are you living alone? Or do you not care about us?”
His words pricked my heart. I calmed down and answered his questions.
“That can’t be true. You and Dane are precious to me, everything.”
More than I thought it would be, I was surprised by the urgency of my own voice.
“You all, to me…”
There was no way they would be insignificant to me.
I had gone through a terrible nightmare.
I knew a world which no one could remember anymore. A world where my tears and happiness had disappeared. Even after 40 deaths, both he and Dane were in my future. My precious people who did not have much time left. I believe I could be happy just by staring at them.
But still, this was not it.
“I’m not trying to blame you.”
My sweet brother.
“Please… listen to me. Dane.”