AOH – Chapter 71

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CHAPTER 71: MEMORIES AFTER MEMORIES

HELIA ALTHEA

SEAWORTH

I look around the courtyard and the huge trees in its centre. The green leaves greeted me and it blows following the course of the wind. Seeing it always makes me feel calm.

The blowing wind caressed my cheeks and I think of him again. It has been so long since I see him and my heart longs for him.

I have received a letter from Lisa telling me Arial has begun his journey home back to Acro. Kyle also sends a letter which detailed the event of Arial accident.

In it he explained that he didn’t tell me of what happens for fearing that I might come to the battlefield so the incident is buried.

Just you wait ,Kyle.

Kyle is a good friend of Arial and me.

He always cares for me and he has saved me almost as much as Arial saved me. Though I also save him as much on occasion.

But…our relationship took a strained path that night….so many years ago. Thinking back of that night….I always wondered…what would happen if I did not misunderstand…if I was braver and he was more honest?

I keep regretting it…..that night.

Arial on the other hand need no saving from any killers or criminals we encountered over the years but I suspect he need someone to save him from himself. That burden on his shoulders.

He needs help from someone. The word is Arial has won, and the other noble lords that are not killed has surrendered, some flee to other country.

My betrothed has win the war and he is returning with all its glory.  And also being called Prince now, a title bestowed upon him by the King.

I smile a little. So if I married him later I would be called a Princess. Me?  A princess?

If it was left to me I would have ride my horse and ride to Acro to meet him and congratulate him but there is matter here to be solved in Seaworth.

My father is having the Chills so I have to help for a while.

These past few months I have posted sentry guard all along the board of Vangua fearing any intervention from Vangua force.

Thankfully there is none and so I maintain the peace and order in this region.

This is quite easy to do.

I just need to settle some dispute between noble lords and the common folks.

My father is also recuperating well. HE has been resting for the past months on his chamber while I help him with the state affairs.

I might have learned fighting in the academy but I’m still a lord’s daughter

‘My lady’ the voice startled me.

‘Nurse Carlia’ I said. The woman is thirty and four, her red hair was curled up in a bun. Nurse Carlia has watched over me when I was a child with my mother.

‘My lady, do not stand around the courtyard in this weather. You might catch a cold.’ She put a blanket on my shoulder. Her touch is warm.

I smile a little.

‘Do not worry. I can handle the cold. How is my Father?’

‘My lord, has got off bed. He looks better’

‘Is he? Where is he now?’

‘At the beach my lady. It might please the lord if you accompanied him’

‘Thank you for your concern Carlia but maybe my father need some time alone.”

I realize she is shivering

‘Please go inside. I would stay here for a moment.’ She nodded.

“Thank you my lady. But if you’re cold my lady, please warm yourself in the castle”

“I think I’ll be fine”

I look back at the huge tree and I remembered a moment I have with Arial. It was on one of our quest.

We were running from this serial killer that only kill married woman and Kyle messed up so we have to run.

Arial on his effort in saving Kyle get thrown off a shallow cliff. I giggled a little. I still remembered his face when he sees me in the bottom, trying to hide in this large hole on a large tree.

He almost laughed. And he rarely laughs.

And then like the situation wasn’t weird enough, instead of fighting the serial killer, which I think he can handle, he jump to that hole with me as he enjoyed making me uncomfortable.

He apologizes afterwards of course for making me uncomfortable, the gentleman he is. He said he couldn’t resist.

Kyle always said that Arial doesn’t like pranking but I think he likes pranking; he just doesn’t do it often.

But there is one wrong thing he presumes at that time. He believes me to be uncomfortable. He was wrong. He was utterly wrong. It felt good.

Maybe that is when I first realize him as a man.

The way his muscle feels, and the feeling when I heard his voice, how assured I feel, even the way he brood.

The way my heart pounded almost like it was about to explode, or the way I’m with him should have hinted me on what I feel for him. I smile again.

Remembering another memory.

And there is a lot. After all we did many things together as friends and as classmates. We share our frustration and grief, regrets and longing, laughs and tears.

But this memory I’m thinking about is my memory with Arial. One that stands out in my memory.

It was the first kiss between us. Though at that time I don’t think both of us know what we are feeling for one another.

It was at this one lake.

On a lake somewhere after we finished a quest, Kyle and Lisa playing water in the lake, shooting water bomb to each other, and Arial exhausted rested his head on my lap and I give him a kiss.

At that time it was…unconsciously done. I don’t even know why I did it. And he stared at me in amazement and I stare at his blue eyes and felt something tingle.

I should have known back then. He should have known back then.

‘My lady?’ The voice brings me back.

‘Yes?’ The messenger kneeled before me.

‘Your father requested your presence at the beach cottage.’

‘Alright. I will come a little bit later.’

The messenger left.

I guess father must have been recuperating really well, now that he can even walk to the Beach cottage.

I quickly went to my room to change to more appropriate dress.

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THE BEACH

The sound of the waves soothed me. Like it always does. Mother always brings me here during the summer.

Of course seeing that our castles are near the sea I see it every day from the windows but going together with mother it felt different. It felt good.

She died when I was little but I still remember bits and pieces.

I removed my footwear and felt the sand on my feet, and hear the lapping of the waves against the shorelines, the blue water so clear and pristine and feel the vastness of the sea.

The evening sun will set not long from now.

And this beach strangely reminds me of my first true kiss with Arial on the setting sun in Seren.

I still remember that kiss. That one kiss that makes me sure that I make the right choice. That one kiss that makes me sure he is the one.

The kiss was so soft that it was like a memory of a kiss, so careful on my lips, so prudent, almost like he fears he will hurt me. He held me like he is holding something so fragile, that he may broke me.

There is fear in his eyes.

Fear for what I feel for him and fearful of what he felt for me.

My mouth parted and stilled, it was quiet, a whisper. Then his coarse hand, tempered by all his training over the years, touched my neck, thumb pressed into the skin next to my jaw.

It was a touch that said “I want this” and I leaned into him. He slowly open his eyes and I could see his eyes. And it says everything.

He might not say it enough, but he meant it when he said he loves me. And that is all that matters.

And that night we went to the beach together, as the moonlight paved our way as we talk and talk until we kiss and a kiss on a beach when there is a full moon is the closest thing to Heaven. And with him, everything felt better.

There is no one else.

And I know it has been a while.

Even now I wonder where he is and how is he? I wonder if he thinks of me. Because he is always on my mind.

The more I looked around he is the one I’m looking for. And sometimes I worry about him.

‘Helia?’ The voice greeted me from behind.

I didn’t even need to turn to know who called me.

‘Father. You want to see me?’

‘Yes.’ He said

‘Are you alright to get off bed father?’

‘It is fine. I’m getting better. Come here Helia’

‘Yes father’ I come and approached him

‘So?’ I thought he was going to tell me something.

‘Walk with me’

‘Walk?’

‘Yes, walk.’ It was weird of my father to walk with me. But I listen to him and walk together. He didn’t say anything as he walked and looked at the receding water.

‘Father?’

‘Yes.’

‘Is there something you want to talk to me about?’

‘A little bit later.’

‘Is it important?’

He laughed.

‘Helia, I just want to spend some time with you. That is why I called.’

And that stumped me.

My cold father just wants to spend some time with me? He was always occupied after mother death, almost like he is punishing himself with work.

‘I have been thinking, Helia.’ He said as he looked at the distant

‘Yes?’

‘I have waste too much time. I waste time with you and the people that love me and care for me. Do you know why I brought you here?’

‘No.’ He smiles mysteriously

‘Your mother always likes the setting sun when she walks with me on the beach. Every time we take you and your brother to the beach she will always wait for the setting sun and watch it as it disappeared. She was the most extraordinary woman I have ever met. I went against my father laws to marry her. She was of common birth but I felt she was more graceful than any nobles. She embraces life. The good and the bad. And that what attracts me to her. The vibrant life she has in her. The way she looks at you Helia, if you could only see. Oh, if you could only see. I look you with a feeling of guilt Helia but she looked at you with love. If you could only see. Losing her…..makes me feel live is not worth living. Grief is forever. I know this now. It will not be lessened just because you occupied yourself with other matter. It is forever, for love is forever. It has becomes a part of me, step for step, breath by breath. But I know I can also love her at the same time as I grieve for her….I know that now.’

Then he turned to me and his eyes are full with tears as he mustered his words and said to me.

‘I will try Helia. To do what she do so effortlessly. To live with daring spirit and joy. To be a better father to you.’ And he looked at me and stared hard at me.

‘I promise this.’

I nodded as I cast my glance downward and my tears started to fall. And I felt as he hugged me and we watched the setting sun.

‘Tomorrow, go to Acro. Meet your betrothed. I know you want to meet him.’

‘I’m not that crazy about him, you know?’

He smiles.

‘Do not lie. You ARE that crazy about him. In that you take after me’ my father grins to me. I couldn’t help but laughed.

And with that I smile as my father kissed me on the forehead and I felt so happy in such a long time.

*****************************************************************************

THE NEXT MORNING

‘So everything packed my lady?’ the nurse asked me I nodded.

‘Yes, I’m ready. ‘

‘Why the man clothing?’ Suddenly my father asked.

I hold my father hand and said.

‘I want to surprise Arial. I will disguise myself as a man and surprise him’

‘Pranking my lady? That is hardly appropriate beha-‘

‘It’s fine. Lisa always does this. Kyle too’

‘Kyle ? That young Knight?’

‘Yes, that one.’ The nurse just shakes her head.

‘It’s alright then.’ After that my father kissed me farewell and I journey to Acro.

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THE CITY

I take a breath.

The city life. The city is the same as always with it’s marble road and beautiful building. The roads are all designed in a way that enables the people to move their cart easier.

I see many new building is being constructed all have the emblem of the dragon as a sign of respect.

I should rest myself before going to the castle. I look at myself. I dress perfectly like a man, I even hide my breast. Arial will never know!  I couldn’t help but giggle a little.

Even from this far I could see the high castle from here. Meeting Kyle, Lisa even West would be good.

I did not fight with them on the final battle. I want to blame Arial but unlike Arial I do not have such killing intent.

I hate Alderam but I could not hate the people that fight for him. And Arial saw that. He doesn’t want me to hesitate.

I know he said that I would be doing a favour if I could see the South border but I couldn’t help but feel that I was being protected.

And I feel a little side-lined.

Lisa on the other hand, is a little bit different.

She would follow Arial even if he was going to hell. She is fiercely loyal to Arial. I always wondered what inspires her to follow him so…..fiercely.

I never understand. Then my stomach growls. I need to eat.

I remembered a grand restaurant that me and Kyle went once called Thousands Tastes. I should eat there.

Their beef is one of the best beef I have ever tasted and they use many spices in their soup. I tied my horse outside the inn.

‘Your order’ a young man come to my table to ask me of my orders. I look at the meneu and saw that they have Zicheng beef and sweet peach.

‘I would like some- ‘when suddenly some old man accidentally rammed himself against my table.

I quickly rushed to his help

‘Are you alright Mr?’ Then I felt it. A hand around my hips.

When I turned I saw a scarred man holding my pouch and he flew out from the windows. He stole my gold.

‘SIR’ the young man yelled as I flew outside chasing him.

‘STOP THIEF!’

Whoever this man is, his size doesn’t means he is slow. He jumped to the roof and I followed. He jumped to another I follow.

Until finally after playing a game of cat and mouse he stopped at this one rooftop. He seems to be tired.

The street below is full with people seeing us. I do not want this kind of attention. So I yelled to him

‘Give me back my pouch and I will let you go!’

‘Dream on kid.’

‘Then don’t blame me.’ I see that he is bigger than me but I have taken down people bigger than him.

Following Arial on his journey always make me encounter insanely crazy, strong, serial killers, rapist, and so many more.

We began battling in the rooftop.

The areas alone are small but if he did not give me back my money than he will pay. A narrow space. Accidents can happen.

He uses a spear.

I know spear movement. Arial teach me. He also teaches me blade and sword technique which is fundamentally different.

I also once fought a man using a spear barehanded. I gather internal energy in my hand and begun to charge.

Then the Scarred Man and the tassel on his spear hook spins creating something that looks like a spiral attack movement. This technique! I have seen it before.

‘Excellent, Snake Slithering from the Ground.’  This is Songwu technique. This is a martial artist wandering the martial art world.

I use my body to move along with the spear and dodged to the right. My right palm spun around and came up to meet the spearhead in an attempt to grab it.

This is the chance to use Arial most favourite technique. After learning I rarely use it so I’m going to try it on this man

‘Lion Bite!’ I yelled as I quickly grab the spearhead and employ internal energy in my grabbing, but the Scarred Man realize he made a mistake and quickly feign his attack and at the last minute manage to keep his spear. Then we jumped away from each other taking some distance.

‘Songwu Sect? Long way from home.’ I snickered.

‘It seems I did not yet master this technique.’ I looked at my hand. Is there something wrong in my technique?

Or the amount of the internal energy. Maybe it is pure energy. When I think about it Arial technique it seems to be pure energy. Control isn’t his style.

Then the scarred man suddenly charged, his moves are swift and agile, changing and faking as they were an illusion. Snake Hissing in Dark Night stroke.

Like I thought Songwu Sect. This is The Spiralling Snake technique. But since I see it before it is hardly a threat.

My body followed the spear around, easily dodging forward and back making me almost impossible to hit. The patterns have already been memorized inside my head.

Then suddenly from nowhere another man a little bit older than the Scarred Man jumped into the fray.

‘What are you doing Zhiwu! You should have defeated him fast.’ That is the old man that rammed into my table! And at that moment I realized what is happening.

‘So a two man operation’ the older man has a halberd in his hand. So a spear and a halberd. This could get …….harder. But not impossible. I fight many more than this before.

‘This isn’t fair!’ some shouted from the bottom. ‘Let’s go’ the old man said as they try to flew from the scene.

Then suddenly I see someone from the bottom of the building flew up with such incredible speed, and landed on the ledge of the roof and trip the old man.

‘Stealing money and going away, that is unhonorable especially for a martial artist.’ He said looking disgusted at the man.

‘Who are you!’ the scarred man yelled mostly because of the shock seeing the man suddenly on the roof.

‘Just a passer-by that wish to help.’

Then he cupped his hand to me

‘I hope you do not mind. My name is Zhang Liao Bao.’ he said introducing himself.

Is this the martial artist that came from the martial arts world? I heard that even in the martial art world there are the righteous sect and the dark sect. Considering the way he carry himself he doesn’t look like a bad person.

‘People of the martial art world?’ I asked. He nodded. I cupped my hand towards him following the same gesture he did.

‘I appreciate your help, Mr Zhang. I’m Helia” I said

Then as both of those men get up we have surrounded their means of escape. They then looked at each other and decided to charge towards us.

I smile at the young man and he smiles at me. And then we both charge from opposite direction.

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