The Duke's POV
Lillian lay on the bed, her eyes closed but her face showed signs of exhaustion. Her blonde hair was carefully tied in a messy braid. We were in her old room at the Summer Wing of the Palace. The maids had put her in here after she fainted so suddenly at the royal hall. The royal physician said it was due to stress since she had a lot to prepare for the twin's birthday celebration.
I gave a sigh as I remembered what happened in the last few hours.
It was chaotic. I had Emma, who was accompanying Lillian, go back to the mansion so she could look after Ethan and Emilia. I myself went to the palace so I could take care of my wife. She wasn't like this before; she was healthy and full of life. The doctors said it was an effect of childbirth, and her body may have had some changes, but it had been almost a year.
Maybe, she has an illness?
I shook my head to rid myself of the negative thoughts. I feel like it's something else. Just like with Ethan earlier. I should also let the priestess take a look at Lillian. If only I had...
I realized I was gripping my hand too tight. I sighed once more to relax my body. I stared at Lillian for a long time waiting for her to wake up. "I pray to God so you can be strong again," I whispered softly like it was a precious wish.
I smiled at my sudden thought. "No, you were always strong."
As I looked at my wife, I remembered the first time I saw her. It was on the first day that the Principalities (the corps I was in) were sent out on an expedition. The Principalities was handled by the Glarios kingdom so King Henry Regnier, his family, and also the Grand Priest from the Holy Empire were present at the ceremonial blessing. Due to my divine powers, I was one of the few youngsters who were at the front.
And from my point of view, I could see the meek first princess, Lillian Fitzwalter, sitting prettily at the scaffold.
At that time, I was a bitter 15-year-old knight who was afraid and pressured to be placed at the front lines. Of course, when I saw the royal family sitting in front of me, who was supposedly blessing our deaths, I couldn't help but mock them as they placed themselves into the safety of the palace walls.
Yes, I also scorned my wife then, as I scorned the demons and everyone else.
For the year I was at the front, I only saw a massacre. I saw half of the regiment I was in, vanished the past few months, eaten and butchered by demons. I could only laugh as I survived the year and the faces I once saw beside me were now gone. It left a scar and I only ignored it and put it at the back of my mind.
We were given a break (for us to rest) but that too did not last. And for another year, I endured it all over again and it was driving me insane. I wished it made me so crazy so I could leave, yet I didn't. In the two years I fought against the demons I was promoted to knight lieutenant.
For a long break, we were told to take a leave, and we were given permission to go back home. But for me, I did not rest since my nights were filled with horror. My divine powers were of no use.
When we were called back, another ceremony was held for a blessing, and it was where I was officially promoted. As a reward for my contributions, I was given a sword, blessed by the Grand Priest himself. I climbed the platform to receive the honor. But to my surprise, as I walked, I found myself locking eyes with Princess Lillian, who had grown into a young woman. Her light blonde hair was elegantly tied, and her striking blue eyes showed no fear.
As the sunlight hit her, the white dress she was wearing seemed to sparkle. She appeared to be out of this world, like an angel.
That scene had made its mark on my mind. She was beautiful yet there was disdain in my heart as I felt the princess had no worries at all inside the warm safety of the palace. But still, she forcefully made her way into my dreams, making the nights more tolerable.
A year and a half had passed, and my emotions seemed to disappear. The pain and anxiety during the long weeks without rest didn't affect me anymore. And the companions I once sought didn't even cross my mind.
After the recent battle, my troops had been hit hard. There were several who were injured and were now recuperating at the shelter. As their leader, I made certain to record every injury and death that happened in my troop. I always did a headcount, before and after every battle and now, I was on my way to see the injured and ask if there were any complications.
As I stepped inside the shelter, it seemed so busy. Usually, it was quiet here. And after a few seconds of inspecting the sick house, I saw the reason why it was so occupied. Was I dreaming?
There was Princess Lillian in the center, although disguised as a healing priestess, using her powers to heal an injured knight. Everyone praised the sudden appearance of the priestess that even more injured knights came by to be healed. It was that rare to have divine powers.
Why was she here? It was dangerous to be here.
So it became my habit to walk a distance from the camp towards the shelter. It was a long-distance but since there were no expeditions yet, I had the time of the day. It was my excuse to talk to the injured and encourage them, so I could only see the princess. I didn't know the reason why I was doing it but the more I saw her, the more I seemed to be amazed. Everyone around her did not know she was the princess. She was treated normally, and she had dirtied her hands and clothes, but she appeared to be unbothered by it.
Although I was seeing her every day, I didn't have the courage to talk to her.
Why would I talk to her? I convinced myself that we were different; Her a princess, and me, a knight sacrificed to the front lines. I didn't even know if I would make it out alive.
It was like that for a month until the expedition had come and for the next two and a half years, I did not see her again.
It was only at my promotion to become a knight major where I did see her. It was not in the palace but Crowned Prince Alfred Blois Regnier came by at the site of the expedition to officially give me the title and honor. And with him, the first Princess Lillian Fitzwalter stood at his side.
There happened our first introduction. I had finally gained the courage and talk to her as I became the tour guide of the royal siblings. It was not really my task, but it was an opportunity, so I grabbed it. The princess had requested to see the sick house and I obliged, knowing what she wanted to do. During that time, I had seen another side of the princess.
I thought before that she was only naive and dependent on the palace walls, but she was not. She was strong-willed and considerate. An inspiration to all, and to me.
I could see in her eyes that she was determined to help all of the injured. For that was all she could do, she said to me. I remembered her smile and lovely face when we were talking to each other. It was at that time, I realized I was truly bewildered at the existence of Princess Lillian Fitzwalter - for all these years, I did.
Imagine, I was on a battlefield fighting demons, but with that person waiting for me, it didn't affect me at all.
The Duchess' POV
Where am I? It was so dark in here and I could feel the cold breeze biting my skin. I tried to focus my eyes and I saw something glowing. The reddish glow seemed so sinister that I felt goosebumps all over my body. All of a sudden, a voice thundered from out of nowhere.
"Helb schelch oep gah bioffi schelch osomenian at jochmatek bagll hepar schelch." The words were in another language so I didn't understand but the person's tone implied a forceful exclamation. It gave off a weird feeling. "Az zarkati youto ladma," it continued.
Where does it come from? Now the darkness diminished, and I saw large fires surrounding me. It was too hot to endure and I felt my whole body burning. "Al yedi hechtaime harbim schelch tzamzamati youto lafar al hakarka!"
As the voice shouted, I found myself falling while my body was wrapped in flames - like a bird who had injured its wings and was plunged from the sky to the ground. I saw my tears hovering above my face and I heard another voice near me. It was different from the first voice.
As I sensed I was nearing the ground, I closed my eyes, hoping to wake up from this nightmare. And then came the pain.
"Lillian, wake up." I heard a familiar voice calling me.
I slowly opened my eyes, felt my quick breaths fading as I stared right into his amber eyes.
"Did you have a nightmare?"
"Edward?" I tried to get up but as soon as I was conscious of my body, I became aware of the weariness and headache. I felt dizzy but thankfully, Edward quickly supported me. He gave me some drink and I felt refreshed. What was that dream all about?
"Do you feel fine, now? You've suddenly collapsed..." the duke asked me and gently touched my forehead. "At least you don't have a fever."
I suddenly became embarrassed at my situation. He was always worrying over me since I gave birth, but I often ignored that. And it turned out that my body was always tired and I couldn't do the things I did before. He even suggested letting Emma take care of the preparation but I was adamant to handle it since it was the twin's first birthday.
"I'm sorry for worrying you, Your Grace. And to make you come all the way here when you're busy." I touched his hand and smiled at him, hoping to make him feel at ease. His black brows appeared to relax for a second but his reply said otherwise.
"I told you to take it easy. Let Emma and Gordon manage the celebration plans. You've done enough, they can do the rest." At his firm words, I couldn't say anything and just nodded.
"Let me go speak to His Majesty first and then we'll go," I said to him.
My husband shook his head. "I already talked to him a while ago. He said we can already leave as soon as you wake up. You need to take a break."
No, my father just doesn't want to see me.
Ever since that night, he had become a distant person. It was as if in exchange for the royal name, he became a stranger and colder when I explained to him everything the next day. Another reason why I was going to the palace for the celebration was to have an audience with him. But every time I went to his place, he rejected me.
Was I wrong to tell him everything? I gave a sigh at my circumstances with the king. Surely, it won't get worse in the future?
But even though he was my father, the king, I would do anything to protect my own family. And my husband Edward... I hope you don't hate me for the years to come.
"I see. Then let us go home," I said as I gave a small smile.
I noticed his brows furrowing once more. Every time he did that, I knew he wanted to say something but he didn't know where to start. His eyes narrowed and he looked away as he murmured something about the carriage. I couldn't help but ask him what was wrong.
He thinned his lips before answering me. "Something happened at the mansion this early morning...," he trailed off. I probed about it further, worries slithering inside of me.
"It's about Ethan," he said and then continued to disclose what occurred.
As I listened to his story, I sensed a feeling of dread washed over me and the exhaustion was overweighing everything. Why? Was the royal name not enough? Oh, Ethan...
"Lillian?" I heard the duke calling my name but I couldn't focus my eyes on him.
Instead, I looked around my old room. The walls were plastered with pale turquoise color and patterns of irises were imprinted on it. The furniture was of the rosy-pale theme made of the finest wood in Glarios Kingdom. My soft bed was the same as before and the canopy had still enclosed it.
The memories of when I was a child came back to me. My life was pleasant and free from troubles but as I grew up, it was as if I was paying the price. I did everything I could. Why was this happening now? I even...
"What's wrong? You look paler."
I gazed at my husband, his face full of uneasiness. How I wished I could tell you, my dear. But I fear I'll lose you too.
I shook my head lightly. "I want to go home." I want to see my children. I want to hold them.
And the duke gladly obliged. He supported me all the way out to the palace, in the carriage, and to the mansion, he held my hand. I smiled warmly as I recalled the first time I saw the duke.
As I was out to buy a book with the royal tutor and I had hidden my identity, an 11-year-old boy with such unique eyes was engrossed in what he was reading that he didn't see me gazing at him. As I asked for information about him, it turned out that he was the only son of the bookstore's owner - the son of a Viscount.
Somehow, whenever I read a book, I always seemed to remember how his eyes focused and how it glimmered.
And by the time he was a 17-year-old knight who had gotten promoted, his amber eyes glowed dazzlingly as he stared at me. He was tall and his black hair made him even mysterious and handsome. His aura was astounding as he received the sword.
A year and a half had passed and the next time that I saw him, it was the time where I was determined to do something and found myself going from camp to camp, hoping to alleviate the injured with my small amount of power. When I came upon his camp, I saw how he visited the shelter almost every day to come and talk to his injured men. He was very considerate.
How I wished to talk to him but he always appeared to be so busy and hard to approach.
Two years passed by and I still continued my mission to heal the injured soldiers. From time to time, I would always compare the knights I meet with the black-haired boy and amber eyes. I was so flustered with my consistent thought and attitude towards him. I also secretly hoped to meet him again.
Fortunately, it came true. However, the opportunity came when the battle against the demon was at its peak. I saw him again on the battlefield and he had become an excellent knight and a great leader to his men. I saw how he progressed over the years and the more I came to know him, the more I found myself not being able to pull away from him.
And now, we are married. I see him tending to the twins now and then. Time sure flies by. I also hoped that my problems would also go away.