CASeries #1: KNIGHT
Chapter Forty-One: A New Acquaintance
Valeriana said she wanted to go to the restroom, but decided against it in the end. She didn’t feel like looking at herself in the mirror at all due to the previous turn of events. Her bladder was empty too. There was basically no reason to push through with it.
Although she shouldn’t be so paranoid about the mishap, there was a thread of defeat that curled within her chest.
“Corvan is such a jinx,” she muttered.
He said she would embarrass herself. And it is due to him that she did.
The corridors snaked ahead until the lines converged in her eyes. The floor was the color of jade, inlaid with marble. She stopped short in her steps and shot a glance at the arching windows wherein the moonlight streamed through.
She eyed the field of bright flowers. Mechanically, she moved towards the window and placed her hand on the glass which was cool to the touch. It was strangely comforting.
There was a sheer reflection of herself on the glass. Azure blue eyes stared back, holding traces of chagrin and admonishment. She held the gaze strongly, challenging her reflection until her brows creased and pushed on her eyes. Only when she saw something move from her peripheral vision did she diverted her attention.
She saw a figure, draped in an elegant cloak of white silk trimmed with gold standing amongst the flowers. A wind blew and the cloth fluttered around him, framing the slender silhouette of his legs from waist down. He held his hood in place, afraid that the wind would blow it off.
Curious, Valeriana looked around for a way outside. She walked, glancing about in search for a door but failed. She turned her attention to the windows again and got an idea. Eagerly walking towards the closest to her, she unbolted and opened it wide before slipping through the narrow passage it managed to provide.
Once her feet landed on solid ground, she hiked up the skirts of her dress and started to approach. As she neared, the sound of her feet crushing the blades of grass gave her away. The person turned in alarm at her presence and his feet shifted very lightly in attempt to flee, but when he saw it was Valeriana, he stilled.
The girl squinted in order to make out the face of the man before her under the darkness offered by his cloak.
“Excuse me,” she said.
“You—who . . .”
Valeriana lifted her azure blue eyes to meet the with shaded ones under the cloak. Although the shadows rendered her unable to completely make out his face, she could tell he was beyond startled.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you.”
“I-it’s al—are you real?” he asked and Valeriana opened her mouth to reply when he cut her off. “Sorry, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t be asking this sort of question. Are you the guest King Laedin said was coming?” he rambled.
“Yes. I’m not just the only guest, though,” she told him.
“How did you get out here?” he inquired, looking at large windows behind him to see one of them open. He no longer needed an answer.
“I needed a breath of fresh air. I figured going to the restroom was not an answer to that.” Valeriana sighed softly. “Sorry for using the windows. I didn’t see the door.”
“It’s right over there.” He gestured to the large glass doors just beside the window she used to exit.
Valeriana’s brows shot to her hairline. “Ah, goddamn.” She scratched the top of her nape, her lips pulled to the side by her own stupidity.
He chuckled. “It can be a little deceiving,” he told her. “What are you called?”
“Nice to meet you. I am . . . I am called Kyrell. I work in the palace as His Highness’ royal valet.”
“What highness?” Her brows furrowed. “Do you mean the prince?”
He nodded. “That’s correct. That being said, I’m preparing to go back just now. Do you need help in finding your way back to the dining room? You are having dinner with His Majesty, aren’t you?”
“I’m alright at the moment. I don’t want to go back in just yet.”
“What happened? Did something happen with His Majesty?”
“No, kinda, yes,” she replied. “He’s been very kind. Compared to stereotypes, he’s incredibly sympathetic and accommodating. He’s also got mad negotiating skills and he’s super observant. At least he looks like he does.” Valeriana shrugged, her fingers intertwining. “No, he definitely is.”
Kyrell’s fingers waved at her gown. “Then why are you drenched in water?”
Valeriana glanced down at herself. “I choked on my cup,” she said, but felt that it meant something else entirely. “No, I didn’t mean I choked on my cup because goodness me, I’ll be dead if I did. Holy—I know my mouth is big but it’s not that big. I just—”
“No. I understand you completely.” He chuckled. “Didn’t the attendants dry it for you?”
“Dry it? No. I didn’t want them to.” She shook her head. “Or maybe because I didn’t know what they planned on doing. I’m still not used to this stuff.”
“Then let me take care of that. If you would allow me to.”
“What exactly are you going to do?” she asked.
“This.” He extended his right hand, waving gracefully with his fingers.
Valeriana raised a brow curiously as she saw a big blob of water float away from her dress. Kyrell’s hands moved steadily and firmly before his wrists flicked and the water dispersed. Droplets rained on the flowers, some landing on their velvety petals and trickling smoothly down their pointed corners.
“Wow,” she whispered, watching him work. “So that’s what they meant. I thought they wanted to pat me down,” she said. “Not pat me down that way. God, what is happening to me tonight?” She hit her forehead.
Kyrell made no move to reply, however, she could make out a faint smile on his lips.
“Anyway, thank you.” She smoothed down the wrinkles that appeared from the wet spot before and cursed when her efforts were in vain. “This is better than walking around wet.”
“Forgive me if this will sound impersonal,” Kyrell began. “What business do you have with the king?”
“Nothing very big,” she responded. “I needed to talk to him about my situation.”
“Here.” Valeriana pointed to the ground. “In Valemnia.”
His fingers twitched and he shifted on his foot. The gesture echoed his hesitation and was more than enough for Valeriana to see the wheels turning in his head. It would’ve given her a better opportunity if she could see his face, however, he’d kept himself tight under the cloak.
“You—are you the human?” he inquired.
She nodded with a light smile.
“An honor,” Kyrell said as he held out a hand for her to shake. She shook it with a slight raise of her brows and withdrew shortly. “I’ve heard of stories—the . . . I . . . pardon.” He cleared his throat. “I’ve heard of it from Lady Seraphina.”
“It’s no secret, is it?”
“It is quite controversial,” he replied.
“I’m probably the first one to become famous just because I’m human.” She shook her head at the irony and bent down to study the flowers.
There was speechless silence from Kyrell. Valeriana, on the other hand, did not know what they were supposed to speak of. Hence, she continued to admire the flower, her fingertips tracing the wet petals. It was purple around the center, gradually fading white as it reached the round tips of its petals. Its leaves and stem weren’t green. In fact, looking closely, it was gold.
“You just reminded me of something, Valeriana,” Kyrell said as he bent down beside her as well. “That flower you’re looking at . . .”
“It’s beautiful,” she muttered. “I wonder what it’s called.”
“Valeriana,” Kyrell said.
Hearing her name called, she looked at the boy beside her. “What?”
“Valeriana,” he repeated. “The flower you’re looking at is called Valeriana.”
Her eyes widened. “Really? Then it has the same name as me! Or maybe it’s the other way around. But, whatever, it’s the same anyway.”
“This flower is my favorite of all,” Kyrell told her. “Aside from being beautiful, they’re strong. They can stand through the heat of summer and the cold of winter. They bloom best during spring.”
“It’s lovely and smells as good as it looks,” she said, sniffing.
Kyrell reached towards the flower and plucked it off, handing it to Valeriana. “Here.”
She reluctantly picked it off his hands. “Thank you.” She twirled it between her thumb and forefinger. “Won’t King Laedin be angry? I mean, picking flowers like this in his back garden without his permission is kinda . . . I don’t know. Illegal.”
“Don’t worry. I can assure you that you won’t get in trouble.” Kyrell smiled at her. “Taking one of these hundreds of thousands of flowers will hardly make a difference. Besides, you have met him. Does he seem that type of person to you?”
“No. I get your point. But . . . I gotta put this somewhere,” she said. “I don’t want it to lose its petals or anything.”
“Try it here.” He took the flower and placed it on her ear.
“I’ll probably look stupid,” Valeriana muttered.
“On the contrary, you’re beautiful.”
She flushed. “Aw, thanks.”
“I tell only the truth,” he said.
Valeriana examined him for a moment, noticing the uneasiness in the way he moved. His posture seemed tense. Whatever he was worried for, she couldn’t bring herself to ask.
Nevertheless, Valeriana was the same. While it was, perhaps, for an entirely different reason, they were more or less in the same boat. She turned to the direction he was facing and saw a waning moon across the skies.
For moments, there was silence.
“I should probably get going,” Valeriana said. “Thank you so much for helping me.”
“It’s no problem. Please enjoy the rest of the night.”
They exchanged nods—maybe even smiles. Valeriana was not too sure as she could not confirm it. Still, there was no time to wonder. The current fifth-ranker turned to the direction of the glass doors, clasping the mermaid tail knobs and reentering the palace halls. She casted one last glance at Kyrell, who watched her from under the comfort of his hood’s shadows, before heading back to resume her dinner with the king.