Before we could even think we had already sat down on the couch and the duchess hesitated.
“Duchess, perhaps you are uncomfortable discussing this with me here, I can leave if that makes it easier for you?” I asked.
“No… You should wait until Lucas comes here, we’ll see whether this is something we can discuss with a child present.” The duchess replied smiling slightly to reassure me or maybe it was more for herself.
“Do tell us why we need Lucas here, I’m still not understanding what he has to do with our situation.” My mother broke the silence that had settled after the conversation prior.
“He had an awakening early in the morning hours and when he awoke he told me something very strange, I didn’t believe him until you yourself told me about your situation…” She hesitated again and just as Mother was ready to pester her to spill the knowledge that she knew the door opened along with the duke’s entrance being announced.
- - -
“Young Master please wake up, the Duchess has instructed me to wake you up.” I heard Colleen’s voice break through my sleep, making me sit up almost instantly.
“What’s… Hahhhh… Going on?” I yawned out while rubbing my eyes.
“The duchess told me to relay this to you, the messenger you had been waiting for has arrived. Please get ready to go down.” Those words infiltrated my ears like the sound of a beating drum, washing away my sleep instantaneously.
“I see, can you bring me a shawl to wear on top of my nightgown?” Colleen went into my closet and grabbed one of the many shawls I had stolen from my mother and draped it over me.
The walk down the stairs had my stomach churning, the empress in my memories was a nice woman, one who was always looking out of her window in solace and whose face would contort in all sorts of ways at the mere sight of the princess… I never understood her when she was alive but if only someone else was also on her side, then we could’ve stopped the downfall of the empress and the princess.
“Young master, should I announce your arrival?” asked the servant standing by the door. Just as I was about to nod my head in approval, I heard the voice of a very familiar woman.
“Clara… Hugh… Spit it out! Whatever it is you two are hesitating about, what is it that you're hiding from me?” before I could even comprehend their conversation I instinctively whipped the door open, which had everyone’s heads turning in my direction.
I quickly regained my composure and knelt down on my right knee and placed my right hand over my heart and announced myself like a knight, forgetting once again that I was but a 10-year-old boy at this moment.
“Greetings to the moon and star of Faulner, it is an honour to be in your presence. I am Lucas Hugh Blane Theodore, the only heir to the duchy of Theodore.” Everyone’s eyes widened at the sudden formality from a 10-year-old boy and the empress herself stood up to pick me up right from my kneeling position, making me stare at her wide-eyed.
“Clara Hugh, what have you been teaching the little boy? There is no need for you to greet us in such a way, you are my friend's child which basically makes you as close as my own children.” She spoke, her voice gentler than when she was speaking to my parents.
“We didn’t teach him that yet… His etiquette teacher has been absent for about 4 months so we were waiting for her to return.”
“I believe there is a more dire situation to discuss at hand, am I correct that you are here to ask us for support in finding the princess? The real princess that is.”
“Yes, do you know where she is?” She asked, standing up straight and looking straight into my eyes with a glint in her own.
“I do not know where she is right now… we met when I was 26 in the alley of the slums, she told me that her name was Raven on our third meeting it took so much pestering to even get that out of her.” I reminisced, missing her, her touch, her scent and the occasional smile she would show only me,
“What? I’m not sure I understand what you are talking about… 26?” The empress asked, looking between me and my parents.
“I have already lived the future, for whatever reason I’ve come back in time before everything went array. I may know your daughter, the real princess. I knew you would ask for help searching for her because this is what you did in the past… and I did not believe your words the first time round, thus being unable to save Raven…”
“Who’s Raven? Even if what you are telling us is the truth, how exactly do you expect us to believe you?” the youngest prince who was simply sitting on the couch this whole time without saying a word, spoke out between the adults.
“I have as much proof as you do that the princess who's currently in the palace is a fake. Well… no I have proof, although I can not show it to you, did you give her a red brooch before she left the palace?” At the mention of the red brooch, both the empress and prince’s eyes opened wide.
“Yes, a red diamond brooch that is passed down to every princess then to the next empress, how did you know that?” The empress answered with much enthusiasm.
“And did she wear a yellow dress? Yellow silk dress with lace detailing?” I continued asking.
“Yes! Yes, how can this happen? Are you really telling the truth?”
“I would not lie while facing the Imperial family, if it will make you feel better I can even give you a knight's oath, I have not lied and do not plan on lying to you ever,” as I saw the hesitation in their eyes I tried to kneel back down to make a knight's oath.
A knight's oath can not be broken as it is sealed with magic, the moment you break it whatever you put on the line whether that be something you value or your life, will cease to exist.
“Please you do not need to do that, I believe you the red brooch was something even the Princes wouldn’t know about, how would a 10-year-old who has been ill know of such information if he truly hadn’t met my Eva… So tell me, how is she in 16 years' time? Why didn’t she come back to her mother?” She asked with sorrowful eyes, impatiently waiting for my answer.
“She… lives a hard life, she tries her best to not hold anyone close to her… Some terrible things happened to her which made her unable to feel most emotions and when she did it turned her numb and drove her into deeper madness. She searched for her family until the very last moments of her life, if there was one place her heart was, it was with her family whom she never found even until the very end.”
“The end?” The prince asked with brows furrowed.
“Yes, the end… the end that comes from the downfall of both the Imperial family and the empire…”
“Clara, Hugh I would like to stay here for a while would that be alright?”
“Aya you can stay here for as long as you need, we’ll also send knights out quietly to look for the real princess.” My father led the empress and the prince to another room while my mother and I stayed behind.
“Lu… Lu come here, it must’ve been hard for you. I want you to know that you will forever be my baby, no matter how old you are or where you are and will always be my precious child.” She held me in her arms and her warmth spread around me and developed my heart.
- - -
“Mother, are you going to just trust his words? Maybe he’s simply suffering from a delusion…” I asked looking up towards my mother who was looking out of the window.
“I believe him, Al, do you know why I believe him?” She answered with a question.
“No Mother, I do not know why you believe the words of a mere child.”
“Well, you're still young so your history teacher probably has yet to cover this subject, the first Emperor of Faulner was known for having lived the future just like Lucas, the emperor was brought back to the past to save humanity from God’s wrath. This is information only the Imperial family knows so I have every reason to believe that Lucas really did experience the future and he also knew about the red diamond, even you wouldn’t have known about that until today right?” she turned around and spoke while smiling towards me.
“I see… but the life Eva lived was so sad, how come she didn’t just come to find us? If she simply came to the palace gates and told the guards she’s the princess and then showed them her eyes, they would’ve let her in right? Why did she look for us until the end…. I don’t understand mother.” I looked back towards her with a confused look and my mother stared back at me with a sad smile, she stayed silent and simply continued to stare out of the window.