The Wanderblood Princess and Sir Try Hard
Caramello’s eyes shone with anticipation of her response. They dug deep into her body, as if asking for her hidden self to come out and play.
Is, is he mad? Why would he, what could he possibly gain by provoking me into a rage?!
Chiffon took two steps back, unable to say a word. The pressure that was upon her made the edges of her vision go black. She could feel the urge coming. But this was no place for it to come out. She wouldn’t let it!
Just as she was about to turn around and bolt towards the door, Caramello pulled back and innocently asked again.
“Well, out with it. What request are you going to take up? I want to see what I have to keep you safe from.”
Chiffon blinked twice, the feeling of anxiety blown out like a candle. Had she imagined it? That gaze of hunger, the lips that lusted for carnage. Caramello’s expression carried none of the ill intent that he had before, now nonchalantly perusing the requests tacked upon the board. Noticing her stare, he looked back and gave a thin smile, calm but full of mischief.
Chiffon shook her head to clear the fog, pushing forward to forget that moment. She walked right up to the board, her eyes darting among the pages for something to change the mood. Her fingers itched to pound some unsightly beast, an alternative to the destructive urges that were building towards the man in front of her.
“Oh, how about this one? Seems challenging, but it should be no issue for the might of Your Highness.”
Caramello plucked a paper from the board, extending it over to Chiffon with a wink. She scrutinized the request like every action the man had given her reason to. But when her eyes came upon the words Hill Giants, her fists clenched suddenly.
“T-That’s… can we do another job instead? I’m just not feeling up for this one. After all, we shouldn’t be straying too far since you’ll be following me for the first time.”
“Why would it matter if I was here or not? Your success is all but assured, even without a partner to tango.”
“But you see, I don’t trust you to watch my back.”
“You have the La-Li-Lu-Le-Lo squad, as you have so dubbed, for that. And if it will make you feel better, I shall skip the duet in favor of being the decoy to draw their attention.”
Chiffon was running out of excuses. She didn’t want to convey the real reason for her hesitation. The fact that the Hill Giants were a humanoid type of monster. Hands and feet like people, faces brimming with emotion in response to her ruthlessness, and some that could even utter sounds of anguish that could be mistaken as words. In the heat of battle, Chiffon tended to lose herself a bit. And when the reality before her became fuzzy, even certain monsters started to look like people.
Blood dripping down a smashed face, shattered limbs that only meant to reach out playfully, the end of innocent lives – Chiffon knew that she couldn’t cross a certain line. The Blessing of Bloodrile ran through her veins, teasing of a madness that couldn’t be controlled – a curse essentially. But that was what her sheltered upbringing was meant for. It reminded her every moment that she was not some wild, bloodthirsty lunatic, but a princess of the most prestigious lineage.
But Caramello can’t know that…
Such a morsel would be delicious upon his lips. What teasing would he offer? Or worse, what if his intentions of driving her mad were his goal in the first place? His suspicious behavior certainly warranted such a possibility.
“Oh? My nose must be off today…,” Caramello sniffed loudly and rubbed it like the onset of a cold. “I couldn’t possibly be smelling fear from someone as powerful and grand as you, Your Highness.”
“Fine, I’ll do it!”
Like a puppet on strings, Chiffon realized that she had danced to the tune of Sir Try Hard. How easy it was for him to mess with her. But she couldn’t take back her outburst. A Royal had pride to consider.
§ § § § §
To the west of the Capital, the gentle rolling of green waves was accented with a trim of lush foliage standing proudly on top of each one, like they owned the spot that they sprouted from. Riding up to the foot of these hills, one would soon realize the sheer size of its trunks, erasing all doubts as to what else could play king of the mountain with them.
Vibrant red fruit littered the branches of these trees, gems waiting to be picked. Harvest season came early for those that enjoyed this bounty, a blossom that sprouted in the cold and withered in heat. A flurry of fruit pickers would normally be swarming upon the trees, traversing the sturdy branches that barely trembled from a grown man’s weight. Some would even sneak a few bites at these juicy napples, large as their own head. With so many around, they could afford to nibble upon one to refresh their spirits.
However, the buzz of activity could not be seen from the carriage where Chiffon and Caramello stepped off. No people were presently harvesting. They had been scared off by a predator that also loved the sweet candies from these trees.
An ugly green head appeared from behind one, a fist full of napples. It crudely wolfed down the entire batch, slobbering loudly as its massive teeth crunched the fruit, pit and all. Normal people could do little but flee at the sight of monsters more than twice as tall as themselves. And if they tried to hide within the tall branches, they would soon be plucked like the fruit themselves, only to be smashed upon the ground and left to rot. These giants had no taste for the salt that human beings carried within them.
Chiffon wrinkled her nose. The very sight of these monsters, looking somewhat like humans but far more barbaric, was an eyesore to someone striving to be elegant. At least with boars, or bears, or any manner of animal, she could relate them to the mangy critters that poked around town. She didn’t mind giving one a brief pet out of sympathy… that was before the mallet came crashing down, erasing the annoyance it brought upon those living there. She had been conditioned to squash unsightly things. A Royal made cruel decisions at times, no matter how unfair it might seem.
Yet, Chiffon couldn’t find it in herself to hold any sympathy for the giants that had rivers of napple juice and saliva flowing down their jaws. Neither did her nose wish to approach the raw stench of wilderness like a filthy beggar loitering in refuse.
However, the very thought of people losing out on delicious concoctions crafted from these napples gave her something to consider. The scent of fresh bread, laced with fruity undertones, drifting into one’s nostrils at breakfast. Tart napple pies, sugar melted within its gooey chunks, served at teatime. Or even, the sweet crunch of a thinly sliced chip, baked and dried until crispy.
I can’t deny such pleasures for my citizens, oh heavens no! This is for their sake! Chiffon be brave!
“Note to self. Our fair princess has a streak of gluttony. A stomach exploitable with favors.”
Caramello’s musings snapped her right out of that tasty daydream. His sharp eyes had instantly spotted the speck of drool on her mouth.
Chiffon brought out her mallet and gripped it tightly to compose herself. She would make short work of them. Her body was already warmed up. A few stray beasts that crossed the carriage’s path on the way here had become pancakes left for scavengers to forage upon.
Her eyes darted towards Caramello beside her, who gave her a simple gesture that said, “After you.” In the brief skirmishes before, he had simply sat back and watched the Princess’s handiwork. He hardly even had the time to get up, much less draw his sword, before the fight was over.
Did she even need a knight in this case? Chiffon would prove that she didn’t.
She charged toward the first line of trees, mallet raised in the air. The wind whipped against her garments, but few had the ability to see more than a blur. Despite that, she remembered to practice her poses, just in case someone could appreciate refinement in between the bursts of speed.
Her body darted and soared, and with a single whoosh, a thunderous blow clapped against the belly of an ill-prepared giant, the impact sending a tremor through the trees. A painful growl followed, but the giant could do little but tremble before its might. The snap of bones where the mallet hit rang in its ears. Blood and bile gushed up against the napples still shoved in its mouth.
Chiffon turned away from the giant, not needing to see the disgusting result of vomit that was forced up. She knew that one swing had incapacitated it. The next giant peeked its head around a tree, having heard its companion’s anguished cries, but a mallet was already waiting for it.
Chiffon leapt into the air, like a swan kissing the sun. Adding a twirl at the apex, her mallet traced a large arc before slamming right into the giant’s face. A spray of red and the glimmer of teeth were shed from it, the sickening crack of a neck bidding Death good afternoon.
She took extra care to aim away from where she landed. It wasn’t worth the trouble of dirtying her own dress. She had ample room to look good while fighting, striving to be as effortless and pristine in her endeavors as possible.
A normal fighter would probably consider her actions to be snobbish and highbrow, but she had to live with herself on the trek back. There were no servants out here to pass off soiled garments to scrub. How could she celebrate afternoon tea at a café with a line of blood marring her front? A packed lunch from the royal kitchen also needed not salty perspiration or the scent of death throwing off its perfect balance. Things were meant to be enjoyed at its peak condition. Experiencing life was the same.
As Caramello had promised, he made no move to interfere with her hunt. He danced off to the side, followed by a few stray giants in a row. A row of napples was skewered on his sword, waved around like a child playing Pied Piper. Then, he plucked one off and threw it to divert one’s attention.
His strange actions made her suspicious, but her gaze suddenly lost sight of him, finding him a moment later by the distracted Hill Giant. With a quick swipe of his blade to its neck, the flailing body soon rested silently upon the grass.
Chiffon clutched her stomach and bit down any hunger that threatened to emerge. She couldn’t help but wonder if his previous quip meant something just as devious.
For the moment, the offering of blood from slayed monsters satisfied her urges. She relished the incremental strength bestowed to her by such a ritual. Why the Gods bestowed power in such a way was anyone’s guess. But then again, her cursed blessing was another mystery to begin with. It was just the way the world worked.
It didn’t take much longer to rid the area of these invasive nuisances, the power of a single hit by a Royal able to overwhelm sheer size. Surely, even if a giant were to collide against her in a frontal assault, it would be the one reeling back, not her, despite the vast gap in stature.
The job was as easy as Caramello suggested, and the royal coffers wouldn’t have to dish out a reward. Management of a kingdom couldn’t be done by passing of gold and orders alone. Royals and nobles had a duty to become strong themselves, and to display that strength for the pride of their kingdom.
Chiffon grinned at her handiwork. A good fifteen Hill Giants were now bonding with the grass. Her people would take back these hills and restart the harvesting soon enough. And maybe if she stopped by the nearby town in a week, there would be all sorts of scrumptious goodies waiting for her. She merely had to show her face for the offerings to pile up.
There was a spring in her step as she started to waltz back to the parked carriage. Their hired footman was only paid for so long to stick around. But then, she felt a gentle tap on the shoulder. Her knight had finished his portion of the hunt as well. The red eyes of Caramello prodded her, but she wouldn’t let his teasing bother her bubbly mood.
“You missed one, Your Highness.”
“I did? Well, let’s not leave it half-done.”
Chiffon puffed up her chest, her face aglow with success. One more was a skip and a hop. Just enough of a detour for a final, meandering stroll through the orchard. But as she approached the final one, she noticed a shape not nearly as big as the others.
A large napple flew in her direction, which she sidestepped out of its path. She was more worried about any stains upon her dress over how little it would hurt. She looked toward the tree again, seeing a smaller giant clinging sheepishly behind it, sniffling. It was a Hill Giant, but merely a child.
Chiffon gripped her mallet tightly.
Even so, it must be taken care of.
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