This time, Sera had chosen to come back.
The last time, most of her choices were dictated by the old King. The King and his magicians that made her sign an life-contract in a language she couldn't even read weren't here. That contract no longer bound her, since the specifications were already fulfilled.
She'd done as they asked her to. Told them all she knew about her world. Gone to meet their prince. Become a Queen revered by the people. Had a child with the prince.
They probably never expected the prince to fall in love with her. As a prince before the war broke out, Lucien was known in the capital for being a useless heartbreaker. His handsome looks, paired with bright red hair and piercing blue eyes drew women like a moth to a flame. Many women claimed to know him, intimately.
When he left for war, ribbons, which the young maidens of the capital gave to departing soldiers to show their affection, showered down in a red rain upon his regiment.
In short, why would the prince love a girl who planned on leaving anyways when he had so many other women begging to take the Queen's place?
The King knew that sending Sera in his name wouldn't help her to win Lucien's affections either. Although he dutifully carried out the role required of him as a royal, Lucien abhorred the restricted life it forced him to live. Naturally, he would dislike the one woman who had become his duty to marry.
Sera hadn't expected anything from Lucien either.
But with a twist of fate, they recognized each other as their other half.
After every battle and skirmish, Lucien galloped home, still smelling of smoke and blood, to her tent. She remembered her bones almost creaking as he held her tightly against his armor, nose buried in her hair, breathing in her scent. He said it calmed him, centered him from the clamor that fighting instilled in his mind. All he needed was her, and she, him.
Now, it was her choice. She had chosen to come back to him. Given up her parents, and said her goodbyes to her world. All for him.
What wasn't her choice was where she landed after the light enveloped her. Spread around her was a blue, cloudless sky. Below, a dark leafy carpet. The light had deposited her into the sky!
"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGgh!!!" releasing an unladylike scream, Sera plummeted down into what she could see was not a carpet, but the green fronds of treetops in a forest.
Taking the knapsack that luckily came with her, she used it as a shield against the whipping branches that snapped and broke her fall. In a series of successive hits as her body took damage from the forced descent, she could hear a rib crack.
With the crack, dirt rose in clumps around her as she met the sweet ground. Birds flapped and took to the air, disturbed by the great racket.
"I'm......finally........back!" She had no idea where she was, even from the air, the forest looked spread out, sprawling as far as she could see. All she knew was that somewhere in this world, Lucien and her son was...She hoped.
There was no guarantee that the book's magic had worked to bring her back to the same world. A little part of her told her it was too soon to get her hopes up. Even so, another, still voice in her mind told her not to give up. Back when she had left Lucien, left to go from Queen of a people to just another college student, the longing to get home, back to her parents, to her world, had left her unable to truly appreciate what she had.
Most of the knights, the merchants, the townspeople were extremely respectful of their Queen. Because she said she was still just a university student, they misunderstood her to be like their scholars, a Learned One, and revered her as the mother of the nation, whose new ways of thinking could hearken to a new era. Because of the skills she had learned in school, especially in first-aid, they treated her with the same respect they gave to their wise old scholars who'd spent most of their lives in the pursuit of knowledge. Not one of them ever saw her desperately wracking her brain at night, trying to figure out what best way to cure each and every ailment that came her way in the crashing waves of the hurt and injured that were carried into the tents each day.
It hurt her to see the ones she couldn't save, eyes slowly dimming and limbs losing strength. If only she'd paid more attention in class, if only she was a little bit quicker to stemming the blood-loss, if only, if only..
The dark thoughts would swirl, and Lucien held her at night, rocking her like a baby, forcing her to sleep. As a prince and King, she was his first person to ever comfort. His upbringing as a prince, with all the pressures it came with, and later as a leader on the battlefront, the responsibility of it all lent a similar weight to his shoulders as the one she carried. He was the only one who knew.
Groaning, she curled her body into a fetal position, taking short, gasping breaths as she struggled to breathe through the pain.
She wasn't sure if it was more painful than going through childbirth.
Soon, it was all too much for a Sera's body. She blacked out.
The clouds rolled by, lazily meandering in the great blue sky, as the 2 suns in the sky circled around each other, beginning to set.
Shadows lengthened in the forest, and birds began to quiet.
A bush behind where the girl lay rustled, and a small cat strolled out. The tabby circled around her twice, before snuggling itself to lay next to Sera's stomach, purring.
"There you are, cat" a gravely voice calls out. From where the cat had emerged, a stick pokes out from the underbrush, and then a cloth robe, revealing an old woman. The tabby cat meows and yawns, long canines poking into the air.
"Now what do we have here..." She looks down on Sera, seeing a young girl laid there, surrounded by the silent trees. Her clothes were torn, face bruised and bloody.