Chapter Forty-Three: Lunch Break

CASeries #1: KNIGHT

Chapter Forty-Three: Lunch Break

Seraphina weaved into the room, her hands tight around the leatherbound journal. She nodded at Edeltraud gratefully, walking through the doors he had opened for her. Despite the light smile on her lips, her brows were taut. The door clicked close behind her. She combed back her fair hair as she moved into the chair before the desk where His Majesty sat.

The king was busy reviewing documents and had murmured a small greeting after seeing the lady knight arrive.

“I hope you forgive me, Your Majesty,” Seraphina said as she shifted uncomfortably on her seat. “The investigation seemed to be moving rather slowly. I have made . . . inquiries on the matter as silently as I could, but there still is nothing.”

“Do not apologize, Seraphina. I know you’re doing all you can,” he said, smiling. His eyes, even so, could not mask the worry and anxiousness. The bright golden pools had fluttered close, a small sigh of disappointment flying past his lips.

“You may be pleased to hear, though,” the woman told him, hoping he would feel better. “I’m not sure if this will be of much help, but it may assist us in answering a few questions on the way.”

He looked up. “What have you got?”

“A journal,” she answered, placing the book down on the surface of his table, on top of the documents. “Of Degenhard Veralidaine.”

“Degenhard?” The king’s brows furrowed.

“That’s right,” she said. “Degenhard made an account for a demon’s transformation. It says here that a child can be turned into a demon while still in the womb of its mother.”

He hesitated at her words. “What? What do you mean?”

“In this book, it was mentioned that there’s a way upon which an unborn child can be turned into a demon,” she repeated. “But the consequences were horrible. Those infants died before they even had the chance to see the world. Perhaps this is related to how they manage to . . . do this to the prince.”

“Being king truly does not mean knowing everything.” He sighed, gaze dropping on the journal before him. Firm hands reached forward, brushing on the worn edges aged from the many years. “Do you mind leaving this book behind so I can study it?”

“Of course, Your Majesty.” She nodded, her own hands clasping around each other. “I’ll continue searching for more answers regarding Prince Bertram’s condition.”

“Please do. Was it not said about how a transformation progresses?”

“Whatever is in this book is not for my eyes,” Seraphina replied. “I—I do not intend to know more than I already do. I will deliver all the possible answers to you, my king, however, I do not feel worthy of these secrets.”

“What nonsense are you spouting?” said Laedin, his forehead creasing. “I have assigned you this task because I trust you with everything, Seraphina. I do not understand why you lack the conviction to carry everything through.”

Seraphina’s gaze fell on her lap. “I apologize.” She placed a hand on her forehead. “This really is a bad habit of mine.”

“I am guessing that this is the reason why this has happened,” he told her, sighing softly. He removed his reading glasses and leaned into his palms. “I know how hard it can be having to navigate through another place that is different from everything you’ve ever known, but tell me, just how did Valeriana get so involved?”

“It’s my fault.” Her fists clenched. “My own incompetence and weakness. Just like you said, I lack the conviction. I have dragged her into this business because I could not rely on myself.” The lady’s head hang low, her shoulders bunching as she buried her face into her hands. “I should’ve left her alone. I should’ve not asked her to come when I saw her that day. Uncle, I took her life away. I have destroyed the future she looked forward to.”

King Laedin gazed at the woman in front of him, letting a few moments of silence pass before he spoke once more. “The important thing is that you’re trying to make up for it. Despite your lack of conviction and your indecisiveness, Seraphina, you more than make up for it through your sense of responsibility and compassion. We all make mistakes. We may not be able to bring back things like they used to be, but the least we can do is make the most out of the situation. There’s no use dwelling on the things that have been done.”

Seraphina straightened her spine. She brushed back her hair to reveal her reddened nose and cheeks.

“You’re doing a good job,” said Laedin. “My dear, please be at ease, even for a little while. Valeriana is a strong girl. I believe your meeting was no accident.”

“Still . . .”

“The blame is not entirely yours to take. It was not very fair of me to tell you you were the reason,” he continued. “I realized. You would’ve not met if she could not see the demon—if she chose to walk away instead of helping the person who wronged her.” He chuckled as he reclined on his chair, thinking back on the events of the night before. “She is the exact opposite of you. Yet you two are so similar.”

Seraphina gazed thoughtfully at the king.

“That girl carries a lot of complain in her mouth. She tries to justify her situation to her benefit, which is understandable, but she cannot resist helping when she is able to. She hesitates at first glance to weigh the situation, but then discards it the next moment in favor of her altruism.”

“As usual, your assessment of people is spot on. But you forgot her sarcasm,” Seraphina added with a small smile—the first one she had since she first came in. “She does have the tendency to complain a lot, but she gets the work done. She’s a diligent student. Although she’s a little slow, she knows how to learn from her mistakes.”

“She’s a bright child with a good sense of humor.” His eyes glowed with mirth, the wrinkles dimpling around the corners of his eyes.

There was a pause.

“She does resemble Ayslia very much,” he whispered. “I have felt taken aback by the similarities, I mistook her for her at first. Eventually, I realized she was another person. Although the resemblance is strong, they differ in a lot of angles. What did you think of it when you first saw her?”

“I didn’t realize it at first,” she said. “I didn’t think much of it. However, after a while, I saw the semblance.”

The king nodded. “I see.” He sighed. “Setting that matter aside, I wanted to know if you would be willing to become my Candidate, should the need ever arise.”

Seraphina shook her head. “I do not feel the need to compete with Lord Corvan and the other heirs of the Continental Lords and Ladies.”

“Someone still has to represent the Rosellevienne family, and I do not trust your father to do that.”

Seraphina turned to look at the king in the eye. “Is it really necessary for me to take the throne? It does not feel right.”

“Remember this, do not think of yourself as unworthy. Should Bertram ever be unable to take my place, I am counting on you to do so. Although the other candidates are not bad, I prefer, selfishly if I might add, a family to bear the crown.”

“No, I will not let that happen,” she said firmly. “I will find a way for His Highness. I have seen the hard work he has gone through the years, preparing for the day he would become the king—regent or not. He is more than appropriate to be king. You know that deep in your heart.”

“He is destined for more than I ever will be. I am not saying this because I’m an overly sentimental father but this is the truth.”

After a brief pause, Seraphina gave the king a look of concern before deciding to ask, “How about your health, Your Majesty? Has there been any improvement?”

Laedin gave a weak and unconvincing shake of refusal. “Nothing has changed.”

Seraphina pursed her lips as she contemplated. She opened her mouth.

“I know what you’re going to say,” he cut her off. “It’s fine. Focus on my son. He is the priority. There’s no use for the past if there is no future.”

Words died on the woman’s throat as she gazed at the king’s face. She bit down on her lower lip, fists clenching with helplessness. She bid him her goodbyes as she stood and he replied the same.

“I shall not fail you,” she told him.  

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