Chapter 10:

Chapter 9 – General Claw

The Guardian: An Unfortunate Wish

It had been a couple of days since I came to the castle. I did not ask the prince any more questions about Daiyn or my father. The last time he told me about it at the dining table he looked sad and distant. I did not want to remind him of painful memories with my questions. Most of my time I stayed in my room, self-loathing and depressed. During the nights, I would dream of the same nightmare over and over again. The only times I would get out of my room would be for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. And that was only because Gene would drag me out of my room. I still had not yet seen the king or the queen. According to Gene, her parents would rarely eat and interact with them. Bookmark here

I was standing next to the open window in my room. The breeze coming from the outside felt refreshing. It reminded me of the time when I woke up in Daiyn’s house after being bitten by one of those Caedes. I wondered what had happened to all of them and if they were doing alright. I knew I would regret my decision, but I did not know I would regret it this soon. Someone opened my door and peeked inside. It was Gene. She came running towards me to give me a hug. I noticed that Gene would always carry her bunny with her. Even though her parents were alive, they did not pay much attention to her. It saddened me. Bookmark here

“Come in!” she shouted, and several maids holding boxes came into my room. One of them opened the wardrobe and started to take out all the dresses and put them into one of the boxes. Another maid was putting the heels into another box. After a couple of seconds, I realized that they were switching out the clothes. They were replacing the dresses with more casual clothes. It was not like I did not like the dresses, but I felt relieved after seeing the maids leaving with them. For me, dresses were uncomfortable and inconvenient. I never liked to wear them. I remembered that Cher would always force me to wear them but the moment she would take her eyes off me I would start changing into my regular clothes. I missed her. Bookmark here

“What is all this Gene?” I asked her surprised, trying to push those thoughts away. There was no way I would see Cher in the near future.Bookmark here

“Gifts. My older brother told me that you didn’t like wearing dresses and asked me to get you some new clothes. So, I asked the maids to help me. It was really fun choosing these clothes. I really hope you will like them,” she explained excitedly. I walked over to the wardrobe with her and opened it. Bookmark here

“I feel a bit weird that your brother noticed that I don’t like dresses, but I am thankful because I really don’t like them. Thank you, Gene, for choosing such nice clothes for me,” I said to her smiling. Bookmark here

“Try some on,” she told me. Bookmark here

“Right now?” I asked laughing. Bookmark here

“Yes. Please try them on,” she insisted. I could not say no to her, so I grabbed a random top and bottom, some shoes, and went into the bathroom. I took off my dress and heels and changed into some casual clothes but realized quickly that they were not as casual as I thought. The top was a peach-colored chiffon blouse with balloon sleeves and a lace collar. And for the bottom, I was wearing white dress pants. On my feet, I was wearing white lace-up shoes. I picked up the dress and heels and opened the bathroom door to see Gene holding some clothes in her hand. A maid was standing behind her. I stepped out of the bathroom and the maid took away the dress and heels I was holding in my hands. Bookmark here

“Now it is my turn,” Gene said and quickly ran into the bathroom and closed the door behind her. The maid was still standing next to the bathroom door. I walked over to the bed and sat down. Mr. Fluffy was sitting next to me. I started petting him. After a while, Gene came out of the bathroom. She walked over to me and stopped right in front of me. She did not look into my eyes. I could see that she was being shy because she was wearing the exact same outfit as I was. The maid went into the bathroom and picked up Gene’s clothes and left the room. Bookmark here

“You look very pretty,” I told her as I started petting her head. She looked up and her cheeks were all red. Bookmark here

“You’re not mad at me?” she asked in a low voice.Bookmark here

“Why would I?” I asked her back.Bookmark here

“Because… I copied you,” she said while averting her eyes from mine. Bookmark here

“I love it. We look like sisters,” I said to her smiling. Her worried expression turned into a happy one. Bookmark here

“Oh, and I nearly forgot. My brother told me to do one other thing,” she said. I waited for her to tell me what it was but instead, she handed me Mr. Fluffy and grabbed my hand. Bookmark here

“Follow me,” she told me. I stood up and started walking next to her. Bookmark here

The castle was so big that I even got lost a couple of times. I was amazed how Gene, a six-year-old could remember where everything was. But then it was her home after all. We both stopped in front of a door. Gene opened it and went in. I followed her. It was a bedroom. Bigger than mine. The prince and the general were sitting on sofas in the middle of the room. The general stood up and left after seeing me and Gene entering the room. The prince told me to sit down. I walked over to one of the sofas and sat down. To no one’s surprise, Gene sat down next to me. Bookmark here

“Gene. How can you sit next to Ms. Ari and not your brother? Do you like her more than me?” the prince asked Gene. She started giggling but did not answer him. Bookmark here

“Prince Jean-Luc, thank you for,“ I started talking.Bookmark here

“Call me Jean-Luc. Or Jean. Or Luc. I don’t mind but please don’t call me Prince,” he interrupted me.Bookmark here

“If you insist. Thank you for the clothes. I appreciate it,” I told him while keeping my head lowered.Bookmark here

“No need to thank me. I knew you would look better in this kind of clothes,” he said. I looked up to see if he was joking or being serious. Our eyes met. He slightly tilted his head and gave me a silly smile. He was definitely teasing me. I did not know what to make out of this situation and looked away. Bookmark here

“Tell me what you want to tell me so I can leave,” I asked of him.Bookmark here

“As you wish milady,” he said. I was slowly getting annoyed by him but kept calm. “It’s about the time when you were in the same cell as Daiyn for a whole night,” he continued but then paused for a second. What was he trying to say? I gave him an angry look. “I don’t know how your feelings towards him are right now, but I thought it is worth mentioning. Daiyn contacted me the same day you guys were arrested by the soldiers. He told me that he needed my help. I was startled at first. It had been years that we had not talked to each other and the first thing he said to me is that he needs my help. As you can imagine I was surprised and intrigued by what kind of mess he got himself into. When I arrived at the tower, to my surprise he didn’t want me to help him. It was you who he wanted me to help,” he explained.Bookmark here

“So, you were the one Daiyn was talking to before I went to court?” I asked him.Bookmark here

“Indeed. It was me. He asked me to get you out of there and gave me a quick briefing of who you were. Of course, at first, I declined. I thought to myself why I should help a girl who I have never seen in my life. I’m not that kind of prince like in fairy tales where the prince comes and rescues the girl who is in danger. On top of that, it was a pain in the ass to get to Deviion. My father was not pleased. But in the end, I gave in. I hadn’t seen Daiyn for such a long time and I still consider him as a friend even if that friendship is not mutual. And you looked cute. The rest is history,” he revealed. Bookmark here

“Why are you telling me this? Do you think I will feel relieved? It doesn’t change anything,” I clarified. Bookmark here

“I can understand how you are feeling but have you ever thought why Daiyn and the others kept it a secret from you? About your family? Have you ever tried putting yourself in their shoes? Daiyn can seem cold-hearted. I know that myself. I have known him since birth but like his father, he has a good heart and wants to protect everyone who is around him. There is always a valid reason behind his actions. Trust me on that. And the fact that he contacted me, shows how much he cares about you,” he said to me in a serious tone. Bookmark here

“But still, I could ask them the same question. Have they ever thought about my feelings? Everything they said to me was a lie,” I said to him angrily. Bookmark here

“I can’t change the way you think but let me tell you another story. When Daiyn’s mother disappeared, who do you think he blamed? He blamed himself for being too weak and not being able to protect his mother. To this day, he feels guilty. So, when you meet him again keep that in mind because I know he will explain himself. Don’t judge him that easily,” he told me. It sounded like a warning. Bookmark here

“If you have nothing else to say, I will go now,” I said and stood up. He stood up as well.Bookmark here

“I am sorry. I kind of said it in a harsh way but I hope you understand what I’m trying to say,” he apologized.Bookmark here

“No need to say sorry. I should actually thank you for opening my eyes. I was being stupid,” I told him. Which I was. I was being stupid, and I felt bad. I handed Mr. Fluffy over to Gene who was still sitting on the sofa, having no clue what I and Jean-Luc were talking about. Bookmark here

“Come here. I’ll give you a hug. You seem down,” Jean-Luc said to me while spreading his arms. Bookmark here

“Don’t come here me! And who said I wanted to have a hug from you!” I shouted at him and rushed out of the room. What the hell was wrong with him? Such an idiot. I stopped in my tracks and rested my back against the wall. I put a hand over my mouth to hide the fact that I was blushing. I could not help myself. Bookmark here

“Did I say something wrong?” Jean-Luc asked Gene. I could still hear them. Gene giggled and came out of the room. Bookmark here

I carried Gene into her room to lay her down on her bed after changing her into some pajamas. It was past ten and you could see that Gene was falling asleep. I sat down on her bed until she fell asleep. She looked like a little angel, cuddling with her bunny. I turned off the lights and closed the door behind me as I left her bedroom. I saw General Claw while I was walking through the corridors to get to my room. He was standing next to an open window, his hands in his pockets and looking into the distance. The general was taller and fitter than Jean-Luc. He had short grey hair and was still wearing the same uniform from when I first saw him. I wondered why he always avoided me whenever he saw me. It would be best not to interrupt him and his thoughts. Before I could walk away, he turned his head and saw me. My first reflex was to run but I stopped myself from doing it. Bookmark here

“Good evening,” I greeted him, trying to keep a straight face. Bookmark here

“You should be sleeping by now,” he said back to me. Why was this guy’s face always so expressionless? It made him look scarier than he already did.Bookmark here

“I was actually going to my room right now,” I stuttered. Bookmark here

“Why are you stuttering? Are you scared of me?” he asked while taking a step closer to me. Bookmark here

“No. Not at all, sir!” I unintentionally shouted at his face. Bookmark here

“Sir,” he repeated and started laughing. Seeing him laughing made me more uncomfortable. Bookmark here

“May I go now?” I asked him politely. He was very intimidating not only because of his height but also because he had a huge scar on the left side of his face. His eyes were pitch black, making you feel distressed when he stared at you. I guess now I knew why he was the general. He nodded and I left after telling him to have a good night.Bookmark here

I finally reached my room. I laid down on my bed after changing into my nightgown. My lights were off, and the bed was nice and cozy but I could not fall asleep. The words of Jean-Luc were bothering me. I realized that I was in the wrong. Without even listening to Daiyn and the others, to their side of the story I started judging them. Believing those who I have never met before and distrusting those who I knew. I did not think properly. The sadness I felt on that day was like a black void that blocked my rational thinking. I was like a fish that swam with the current. Too afraid to swim against it. My feelings overruled my mind. Bookmark here

My cheeks were hot and my eyes were full of tears as I thought about everyone I let down. Daiyn told Jean-Luc to save me but what about themselves? I should have stayed with them. Why was it that my family caused problems for others? I wanted to apologize to them. I wanted to see Jasmine smile at me and Gagan asking me if I wanted to eat something. I wanted to hear how Reiker would assure me that everything would be alright. I wanted to laugh at Benjamin and Edwin’s silly fights. I even wanted to hear Ray’s sarcastic comments, but I wanted to see Daiyn and grandfather the most. I prayed that they were alright. Bookmark here

The next morning, I got a message from a maid that General Claw wanted to see me after lunch. After Jean-Luc, Gene, and I had lunch I went outside to see that a carriage was ready to take me where General Claw was. As I stepped into the carriage someone pulled on my pants. I looked back and saw Gene with tears in her eyes. I stepped out of the carriage again and knelt down. She threw herself into my arms.Bookmark here

“Don’t leave me!” she cried. Bookmark here

“Gene, sweetheart I’m not leaving you. I am going to meet General Claw and then I will immediately come back,” I slowly explained to her and wiped away her tears. Bookmark here

“Gene. Listen. I am going to borrow Ms. Ari for the day. I’ll bring her back after we meet General Claw,” he told her and started petting her head. Bookmark here

“I didn’t know you were coming with me,” I said taken aback. And what did he mean he was borrowing me? I was not a toy that you could borrow. Bookmark here

“I am. I need to talk to General Claw,” he clarified. I kissed Gene on the forehead and carried her to a maid. But before I handed her to the maid, Jean-Luc grabbed my arm to stop me and gave Gene another kiss on her forehead. He was standing too close for comfort but I let him for Gene’s sake or else I would have punched him in his face. The maid took Gene from me, and I waved to her as we left with the carriage. Bookmark here

“You are going to be a good mother,” Jean-Luc said to me.Bookmark here

“Can you please stop with your creepy comments and actions?” I asked him.Bookmark here

“Why? It was a compliment,” he stated. His lower lip protruded in a sulky pout. I sighed and ignored it. The carriage was carrying us through the streets of the kingdom. I had no idea where we were going. I did not ask Jean-Luc and I was not about to after watching him pout. Bookmark here

People were walking on the sidewalk; cars were driving past us. It was peaceful but I could not seem to relax. I had this imminent feeling that something bad could happen at any moment. The incidents with those Caedes made me more cautious and observant of my surroundings. Jean-Luc noticed it but kept quiet. He gave me a silly smile instead. We arrived at our destination which was a training camp for soldiers. Military jeeps were parked in front of the big building. We both got off the carriage and walked towards the entrance. Soldiers were greeting us on our way in. As we entered the building, I realized it was just an empty hall where soldiers were doing combat training. The building was open at the back. A training field with various stations to test the physical fitness and weapon proficiency of soldiers could be seen. Smaller buildings were surrounding the training field and at the very back was an obstacle course. Jean-Luc told me that weapons and such were stored in some of them and first aid kits, training clothes, and food in others. He also told me that this site was for new recruits. It was amazing that such a place existed in the middle of the kingdom. Usually, boot camps were located away from the general population. Or that was what I thought. Jean-Luc asked one of the soldiers where General Claw was. He informed us that the general was in the building to the left of us, most likely looking at some new weapons. Bookmark here

What did the general want from me? The fact that he avoided me at every possible chance made me a bit hysterical that he wanted to see me. Especially on a training field with so many soldiers around. The soldiers were minding their own business and were carrying out their training. I followed Jean-Luc to the weapon storage facility. As the soldier said, General Claw was checking weapons and ordering some new ones. Three other soldiers were helping him. Boxes full of weapons were stacked on either side of the hall. I should have felt safe but instead felt the opposite. I tensed up. I carefully tiptoed after Jean-Luc, making sure I would not touch anything because I was afraid a bomb could set off. Cher always told me that I was clumsy but this time, my clumsiness could be fatal. Bookmark here

“Claw!” Jean-Luc called out to him. The general instructed the soldiers to clean and pack everything up. He told us that we should go somewhere else to talk, so he led us outside. Bookmark here

“What brings you here?” General Claw asked Jean-Luc. Again, ignoring me and my entire existence. I felt stupid and hid behind Jean-Luc. He was the one who wanted to talk to me. Why was I feeling stupid? Jean-Luc and the general talked for a bit. It seemed like Jean-Luc ordered a new sword for himself but according to the general, it had not arrived yet. Bookmark here

“Can I talk to Ari for a minute?” he asked Jean-Luc. Should he not be asking me? I was the one he wanted to talk to.Bookmark here

“Sure,” Jean-Luc said and walked away before I could ask him not to go. Bookmark here

“I will go straight to the point. Ari, I want you to start training. Here at this camp,” he told me. Bookmark here

“What?” I screamed. Bookmark here

“Listen. I don’t know what your future plan is, but I think you have noticed after coming to our world that being weak is a disadvantage for you and for your goals,” he explained to me. For some odd reason, I felt like I had seen him when I was younger. He was reminding me of someone. But who was it?Bookmark here

“You need to get stronger. It doesn’t matter if you’re male or female. You need to stand on your own two feet to be able to achieve something. Meaning you can’t rely on others to help you. I know I sound mean but it’s the truth and you need to realize that,” he continued with a serious face. I did not know what to say and General Claw did not wait for me to respond and walked away. I needed a minute to take everything in he said to me. I understood his point of view and I realized that I needed to get stronger. But training with soldiers at this camp? Daiyn would probably like it. I remembered when we were in the forest, and he told me that I would be a burden if we needed to fight. He was right. Bookmark here

I looked around to see where Jean-Luc was. He and the other soldiers were enjoying themselves by challenging each other to sword fights. I watched them from a distance. No matter how many challenges, Jean-Luc was always the winner. He was pretty good. I let my head down and started drawing with my foot in the sand. I did not know what to do. Just the thought of training in this camp was ridiculous but General Claw seemed serious about it.Bookmark here

“I’m pretty good with swords. Daiyn is not the only one who can fight with one. To be honest, when we were children, I would always win against him,” a male voice said to me, interrupting my thoughts. Jean-Luc was standing in front of me. Did this guy only think about himself? I looked up and slowly nodded, agreeing with what he said so he would leave me alone. Bookmark here

“Is something wrong?” he asked me worried. I sighed.Bookmark here

“The general wants me to train at this camp. He said I need to get stronger,” I told him.Bookmark here

“What’s the problem? Do it,” he said to me smiling. Bookmark here

“I don’t know. Should I?” I asked myself out loud. Bookmark here

“You should,” he answered for me. I still was not sure. Bookmark here

A soldier came by and told Jean-Luc that the general was asking for him. He left with the soldier after giving me a pat on the back. I stayed outside and watched the soldiers train. There was no way in hell I could do what they were doing. Jean-Luc was taking his time. I could see someone approaching me from the corner of my eye. When I turned my head, I saw General Claw. His eyes were fixated on me. Where was Jean-Luc? I could not see him anywhere. Bookmark here

“If you’re looking for Jean-Luc, he won’t be coming. His sword arrived and he is having fun with it right now,” he clarified. Did he read my mind or was it that obvious I was looking for him? He was standing between me and the sun. His big shadow was casting down on me. Bookmark here

“Is that so?” I questioned while scratching the back of my head.Bookmark here

“I heard from him that you want to give it a try. But why does it look like to me that you don’t want to give it a try?” he expressed.Bookmark here

“I never said I want to give it a try. That idiot made it up,” I said annoyed.Bookmark here

“I wonder what will change your mind. Fine. Let’s try this. If you train under me, I will tell you everything about your family,” he offered me. I started laughing, not because I found it funny but ridiculous.Bookmark here

“For some reason, everyone except me knows a lot about my family. I can ask other people about my family. My father is kind of known throughout these kingdoms according to Judge Hochmutt,” I said annoyed and let out a laugh.Bookmark here

“They will tell you exactly what Judge Hochmutt told you. I can tell you a lot more,” he declared.Bookmark here

“How can I be certain that you know more about my family than others?” I asked. I was getting more and more curious.Bookmark here

“When you were six years old, your mother traveled with you to the other world and left you in front of an orphanage. You are probably thinking that the man who was with both of you was your father, but it wasn’t. It was Nolan Dawson. Daiyn Dawson’s grandfather. But you probably don’t remember because you were too young,” he revealed. I was shocked. Not because he knew about it but because I really did not know that it was Daiyn’s grandfather who was with us. Was it not my father? It does not make any sense. Why would grandfather travel with my mother to the other world and leave me behind?Bookmark here

“If you do decide to accept my deal, come back,” he said to me and turned around. I grabbed the back of his shirt to stop him from walking away from me. Bookmark here

“How do you know that? Who are you?” I asked him puzzled. He turned his head and looked into my eyes.Bookmark here

“That’s a story for another time,” he said smiling. Bookmark here

After the conversation with him, I agreed to the training. He introduced me to another soldier who would start and supervise my training. His name was Stefano Reed. He was taller than me but shorter than General Claw. His hair was red colored, his eyes dark brown. I could see a tattoo behind his left ear that read hope. He was wearing training clothes and handed me the same pair of clothing. A white tee, camouflaged pants, and black boots. My training would begin the next morning. I was determined to do a good job. After all, I needed to impress General Claw so he would tell me everything he knew about my family. 
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