CHAPTER 50:HER SIDE
OUTSIDE, FAR FROM DENTED SHIELD
He still looks brave and commanding. That is my thought of him, looking at him during the battle, slashing and defending his army from the assault of the enemies.
Even now, when he was just finished repelling the enemy troop’s assault send by Alderam he is still energetic, already planning the next move while still waiting on the King letters.
He can just went and attack Dented Shield if he wanted but that would show disrespect. Now I returned to my tent and start replenishing my parched throat
I also washed myself from the blood of the Shield forces
In these past few weeks the attitude by the nobles and Knights has changed for the better. They seem a bit more accepting towards me.
It is weird that a woman needs to prove her mettle more than a man to be accepted. Such is the way of the world, Helia once told me.
Arial on the other hand always say to me, It doesn’t have to be like that. A new world can emerge, a better world, a kinder world. He is always like that.
Someone greets me in my camp
I turned around and look
He smiles at me, a smile like he knows something.
His blond hair blown by the winter wind. And I must admit this, he may not look like Arial but to deny his good looks would be a lie.
And he proves to be a very capable Knight, calm and collected and above all honourable. Not that I didn’t know this, considering I did go to the Academy with him.
But his face is full of smiles now compared when he is at the battlefield where most of his interaction is more of yelling, grunt, screaming and at times expressionless.
Well, war does thing to men.
This brief respite from the battle is intended to rest our body and replenishes our mind. But, I imagine the pressure it will have on Arial.
How do he do this, never stopping, the responsibilities he bears, that he seems reluctant to give up, not to his closest friends or his own fiancé.
He is determined to bear it himself.
‘Hey’ West calls out to me again
‘Wandering?’ He asked
‘A little bit’
‘Why do you come here, West?
‘Just checking up on you’ and he smiles
A smile like he knows some secret
And then he chuckled. He came here for another reason
‘Alright, tell me now the real reason why you come here. I know it’s not because we’re best friends because even in the academy we’re not that close. We’re more like enemies. The 4 Greats and the 4 Lions’
‘What makes you think like that? During even our time in the academy, I never treat you like an enemy. My lady, I am hurt to be accused in such manner.’ He said mocking me with his hurt expression while grinning at me
I chuckled slightly
‘I’m no lady and I don’t think you are hurt’
‘Yes you are a lady and true I am not hurt. More like pricked, really. Still to have such an opinion of me just shows your prejudice towards me during our time in the Academy is not amiable.’
‘Fine. Will you tell me why you’re doing here, Ser West?’
Then without invitation or asking anything he sits down in one of the chair in my tent
‘Can I ask you one thing?’
‘You like Arial, aren’t you?’ he said and his smile turns to a grin.
‘You like him, aren’t you? A one sided love from the looks of it. Just your heart. A one sided love with your friends bethrothed’
I am shocked of course. So shocked that I drop my glass. He chuckled. This is a side of West I never knew. Is he blackmailing me? I don’t think anyone knew this West
My face becomes livid while West just grins at me.
‘That is enough. Your livid expression just answers my question.’ He said smiling a satisfied look, like he got what he came for.
Then he leaves the tent whistling a tune.
‘What? Hey! Wait!’
What do I do! What do I do!
‘What is it today?’ I asked, entering his tent.
Like the day before and the day before. From what he said, a month is our agreement. I’m at his beck and call.
‘Help me find a map. Look around the boxes and if it’s not there around the supply package. I seem to misplaced it’
With a grumble, I spread around his tent searching for the map, all the while complaining.
Yesterday the intelligence division has given us the map for this terrain. And unfortunately I was assigned together with this man, again, per his request.
For some reason he likes to do work with me. Some people have even whispered that West is trying to court me.
But I know better.
Per our agreement he would not tell Arial, of my feelings, but in exchange I must follow his order.
He promise never to do anything that would compromise my honor.
Seems good right?
But still it is still torturous. He treats me like a maid. Fetch his water; fetch his map bringing me everywhere, whenever he wanted. I still don’t know what his endgame is.
I never understand what is on his mind. But feelings for me? I laughed to myself. He and me?
We’ll make the worst pair.
And from what I know and heard, he came from one of the oldest family of nobility in the Kingdom while I am a daughter of an upstart lord.
The difference in status is high. So I know he is just found this to be fun.
I searched around his box and found it slit around the crevice of the box, hidden from plain sight
‘Here it is’
‘Bring it here.’
I handed the map to him. Then he laid the map at the table and studied it. I was about to leave when he said slowly but can clearly be heard
‘Where do you think you are going?’
I looked at him and sighed
‘Again? I have to wait again?’
He handed me a book. A Lady Etiquette And Nobles Behavior
“Read this while waiting”
This time it’s this.
Every time I waited on him, he would give me a book about something, mostly about the nobility and manners and then I have to wait on him until he is done.
I open the book and sit on the chair. An hour later he is still looking at the map, though this time he is marking something
I felt something weird. I looked at him. Wait, did he just glance at me? I shake my head. Impossible
Then he rises from his chair.
‘It’s alright now. I have to meet someone’ and he rushed out the tent
‘Wait, wait Why so sudd-‘
And he already got out. Once again without a clear cut answer he ran. How many weeks before this war is over?
I was left in the tent with the books on my left hand, flustered and embarrassed. I threw the book on the ground
He is more like a weasel, cunning.
I heard Arial, Helia and even my brother praise his honour, all saying good things but if they knew the real West I don’t think they will utter a word of praise.
To be fair, he never did let me do anything dangerous but still, I felt like he is out to embarrass me, holding into my secret.
And I have no choice but to follow. I picked back the book up. He surely is going to test me. He did that with last week book.
And because I fail, he hinted to my brother that I am in love with Arial. Thankfully, my brother brain is a dull rock and he doesn’t get it, but I was afraid all the same and that mischievous smile of his.
‘AAAHHHHH’ I yelled in the tent
‘I’VE NEVER MEET SOMEONE LIKE YOU WEST! IF NOT BECAUSE YOU KNOW MY SECRET I WOULD STRIKE YOU WITH MY SWORD’
‘Humph’ I shrugged
I will endure this.
Then I go to his table and write him a note.
Most of it is curse words, while I alleviate my stress with him. Then seeing that he still did not return I use my knapsack and push everything into my knapsack
If he found all this curse words written to him, would he get angry? Crazy?
Hehehehe, I chuckled
I am resting in Helia tent while Helia tell me about Arial stubbornness of not sharing. Not surprising. Since Arial was a child, he rarely shares anything about his feeling.
My brother and I know better than to ask him, so we only follow his lead most of the times.
Helia feels that Arial is hiding something from her, but she is not sure if it’s that just her worries talking or soemthng else.
But she talks about it with me.
I know sometimes Arial can be frustrating. Maybe because of his forceful personality makes him a great lord and a military commander but sometimes a normal person might not understand his ways.
If he were born and his father did not become a High Lord, if he join an army for example, his vision and his way might not be accepted by the nobles, and at best he can be their infantry but not higher.
But because he is the son of a High Lord, he can use his influence coupled with his tactical brilliance and his own mobility to move as he wanted in the battlefield, unhindered with his strength.
Helia is also talking about her wedding plans. She is anticipating the wedding in two year.
‘May I come in, my lady?’
A voice greeted us from outside
I looked at Helia.
‘Did you make arrangement with Arial?’
Helia shakes her head
‘Who is it?’ Helia yelled
‘It’s West Palais, my lady’
‘Oh?’ Helia looked at me
‘West?’ And Helia smiles a naughty smile
‘He comes here to see you, right?’
‘I heard the rumours. Is it true then?’ Helia said, her eyes brightened.
‘Enter, Ser West’ Helia said inviting him to come inside
‘No! Why did you do that!’ I said almost yelling at her
West enters and his face looked…..angry
Helia leave the tent while flashing me her most polite smile which I know is just her way of saying “you got caught”
She must be rushing to Arial tent, telling him this news. The one thing I don’t want her to do.
‘Did you see my notes?’ I said. Maybe I left my notes and he saw it and become angry. It is a harmless joke.
‘Did you take my book?’
‘Book? What book?’
‘A book is something that you either write something in it or something you read. A book’
‘I know what a book is’
‘Then why ask?’
‘Are you saying that you came here, angry as hell, because of books?’
Nobles and their weird priority
‘Is it that important?’
‘TO ME IT’S IMPORTANT’
Then he scanned around the tent and his eyes narrowed to my knapsack. I followed his eyes
‘Are you-You are suspecting me of thievery?’
My heart is in anger. To be called a thief. And by this man!
I took the knapsack
‘Here look at it!’ as I dumped all the contents of the knapsack at onto the ground.
Then, there is some necklace, some roasted beef, and then the notes and then with a thump a book fell, a small book that can fit a pocket.
I looked at the book, transfixed while West looked at me his expression was one of boredness.
‘Hmm’ he said
‘That….how…why…is that here?’ I said stuttering
‘I did’nt….do that on purpose’ I said, my anger doused with cold water
West on the other hand, looked amused by this situation
‘Wait, I’ll explain it to you. Just wait outside while I settle this mess,’ I said while sloppily, thrashing back the stuff into the knapsack and West went outside.
Then I went outside, expecting to see West but he has already disappeared.
Beside the tent is a note stick on the tent curtain,
‘I’ll meet you tomorrow, cute little thief’
******************************************************************************IN THE NEARBY CITY
‘When will this be over?’
I said while drinking the wine. With Arial decides to occupy the cities many of the Knight was given a place to stay around the city
Tonight West ask me to follow him to eat a restaurant.
‘You do know that you have to pay for this meal right?’ he said gesturing to his meal, one of the expensive sirloin steaks in this restaurant
I rolled my eyes
‘Why do you look at me like that?’
‘Can I ask you something?’
‘Why do you do this? Is it because our rivalry when we are at school or is it something else? Do you hate me because I’m a woman in the troops? Is that it?
He looked at me while I spoke of this
And then he laughed
‘Is that your opinion of me my lady? Forgive me if my act looked disrespectful, it is not my intent—alright I admit it. It is my intention but not for any of the accusation you have laid on me, that is for sure. What governed my behavior is not that of wanting to settle old score or because of your gender. It is something else entirely. This is the only way I could think to meet you. You are, surprisingly hard to reach, prone to your temper, and hardly accept invitation.’
‘What do you mean?’ I said suddenly my anger turns to curiosity
‘You see, my lady, I fell for you at first sight’
Suddenly my curiosity turns to anger again. I know he tries to court Helia during our time in the Academy.
Love at first sight. That is a lie. But what is weirder, is that I’m angry at him for that.
‘You jest, West, like you always do.’ Spending many weeks with him, I could not help but think he is jesting with me.
West is still smiling
‘Then, what if I tell you my lady, that every time I see you, I couldn’t help but fall for you’
He said it, but I could only believe he is jesting, with that grin of his.
‘Hey!’ I said almost yelling
‘Why do you like Lord Arial?’ he suddenly said and I got tongue tied.
There is a silence between us while he waits for me to answer his question
I looked at him and answer him
‘I do not know why you want to know, or why I even have to explain it to you but here it is. Actually, Ser West, I’ve never actually know why I fell in love with him. Maybe it’s because I am familiar with him. Maybe it was because he has these qualities about him or maybe I like the way I am when I’m with him. The feeling I’m a part of something important. Since he was little, and I saw this Ser West, he has vision himself as someone important, marked himself, I daresay and since that day, I could not help but want to follow him, and maybe that is why. Or maybe…none of that. And since then, when I met him, my love increases and increase and so does the pain but maybe I’m addicted to the pain by now. Now even if I don’t see him in the morning, I will dream of him in the night.’
‘Then it seems you have a difficult decision. Either bury your feeling, find someone else or cheat with your friend fiancé’
‘Ser West, my love is my affairs to settle. It matches my attitude and I’m used to it.’
‘Even though it’s painful?’
‘A pain that I have learned to live with’
Then West just looked at me, his eyes…was it pity, sympathy or was it an understanding
‘And this is a request, for my brothers and even my friend believed you to be an honorable person. Please keep this secret for me.’
He looked at me again, his expression unreadable
‘Thanks for the wine and the steak’ he said and he rise from his chair.
And he went out of the restaurant and I could hear the galloping of the horse. He must have ride to the main camp outside the city.
I was left confused. Is this the end? Do I not have to do his bidding anymore?