The Wanderblood Princess and Sir Try Hard
A quick excuse by Caramello to the carriage footman sent him on his way. Few eyes needed to draw attention to Chiffon’s current state, and a few extra coins dropped any questions that he might have had. The two of them discreetly returned to the capital like vagabonds, where Caramello grabbed a room with a private bath at an inn.
The Princess was ushered up the stairs, Caramello’s jacket covering her head. The innkeeper scrunched his brows upon seeing the dirt caked upon the girl’s dress and shoes, but he merely sighed as it wasn’t all too uncommon for adventurers to drop in after getting roughed up. However, the dress seemed too fancy for such ruffians, so he concluded that some poor town girl must have tripped and fallen. The reassuring wink and smile flashed by Caramello gave the proper misdirection needed. He fit the image of a flirtatious man that would get lucky tonight, but that was far from the innkeeper’s business.
Chiffon burst through the door of their room and flung the jacket off her. The scent of its owner clung to her nose. Hiding her identity like the filth caked upon her, a princess always had to look presentable, even after engaging in a massacre.
The blood on her dress had dried by now. She wrinkled her nose as she bunched up the stained fabric in one hand, biting her lip as it had been a favorite. There was no salvaging such a garment, so she requested for Caramello to run out to a shop and purchase something suitable to wear. And to complete the guild request in her stead.
He looked toward Chiffon, mouth open, like he was going to say something, but then he smirked. “Guess I will surprise you,” he said before leaving.
Chiffon didn’t like the sound of that. But then again, she didn’t like the sound of any of his words.
Maybe, just maybe, she would give him a chance for once. At least, judging him would hold off until he drew her ire next. That was the least that she could offer for his kindness.
Not once had he mentioned her miserable state on the way here. The absence of his prodding felt strange to Chiffon, as her nerves remained on pins and needles until the door had shut behind him. But then again, five pairs of eyes were watching them this entire time.
“La-Li-Lu-Le-Lo! Come out please, wherever you are!”
After a moment of silence, a whoosh of air brought forth five figures that looked like they would blend with the night. It was still a marvel as to how their blessings could make them invisible in plain sight. With Caramello gone, she found no reason to keep silent. In particular, there was one thing on her mind.
“Why did you not come to my aid?”
“Princess was in no danger,” the middle one said flatly.
“Of course, I was. Enough so that Sir Caramello had to help.”
“No, the Princess is strong. Help was unneeded. A child is expected to get dirty playing around. The knight must be evaluated.”
The emptiness of their eyes gave no hint of deception, like puppets trained to merely follow orders. Chiffon scrutinized their words. Truly, they were not meant to interfere unless some harm would come to her. A bit of blood and mud didn’t qualify as such. And as they said before, they waited to verify if Caramello would fail as her protector.
Chiffon sighed. Rubbing her temples with her fingers, she looked back towards them.
“Then, can you follow Sir Caramello? So that he doesn’t pick something outrageous for me to wear.”
“Huh, why? Can you not follow my orders?”
“Conflict with order to stay near the Princess.”
They said it in such a matter-of-fact way that there was no room for argument. It was her father’s doing. Chiffon bit her lip as she grew impatient.
“Then, what are you good for?! What can I get you to do?”
“Watch. Interfere if needed. Give life for the Princess.”
The five of them said this in sync, like the practiced chorus of a kingdom’s hymn. The words held such blind devotion that Chiffon had no idea how to react. They were not like the adoring crowd that worshiped her elegant strength, but merely, a set of dolls constructed to fulfill certain orders.
She hated that. Dolls had no strength of their own. They merely walked where their strings pulled them. And in this case, someone else pulled theirs on her behalf.
“Fine. Watch this room for Sir Caramello’s return. I wish to take a bath. Do not let him peek, or else, you will give me your lives as promised!”
With a wordless nod and bow, the five women disappeared into thin air once again. Not even the dust in the air was perturbed. Silence befell the room like ghosts fading in the sunlight.
Water dripped from the tips of Chiffon’s eyelashes, splashing onto the surface of the water. The wave of rings spread outward until they collided with her chest. Such gentle ripples tickled her skin. Her eyes were shut, ears covered with hands, and mouth unspeaking.
She wanted to block it all out.
The pain, the fear, the shame – everything.
Chiffon thought that by becoming strong, she wouldn’t have to worry about such things anymore. Her past was something that she could overcome by her own hands, a destiny claimed just like any of her forebearers. Her father had overcome his weakness, and so had his father, and so on.
The blessings given by the Gods were meant to be fickle at times. That was to teach the humans of this world not to take them for granted. And she had believed that she was well on her way to being the same.
Chiffon opened her eyes, and gasped. Her breath sucked in sharply and came out in jittery bursts as her shoulders shivered, not from the cold but what she saw looking down.
Blood stained her face in the reflection.
In a panic, Chiffon brought her hands forward and dipped them into the water. The bloody face rippled out of view as she splashed her face with warm water for the tenth time.
Yet, the blood did not wash off. She was not just the Wanderblood Princess that others called her. She was a Bloodthirsty Princess. There was no denying that she had licked her lips from the blood of her enemies. Today had not been the only time.
Even as a child, the same had occurred. The memories of her body covered in blood as she lunged forward to murder a boy – it never escaped her mind fully. They were merely buried.
Under the glamor, the cute frills, and poses of elegance, Chiffon tossed herself in layers that hid the deranged eyes that relished slaughter that day. But no one blamed her. She was but a child of ten years at the time and the princess of a kingdom.
However, the lack of blame threw a heavy burden upon her shoulders. She was sickened by it all, by the apparent beast that lived inside of her that was hardly different from a monster. That was what reflected in the eyes of that child. Pure terror.
Chiffon sank her body even more into the warm waters, letting it embrace every crevice up to her neck. This was the only warmth she was allowed. Her nose crinkled. Not the gentle embrace of an insufferable man…
But as moved around in the soothing waters with her eyes closed, she couldn’t help but think how different his touch was. The water receded and came back no matter what she did. It filled the space of her actions, obedient and undeniable. It complemented her in every way, in perfect synchrony. But somehow, that warmth felt hollow, expected and not earned. A pianist that merely played the notes while drowned of all feelings. There was no love within it.
In contrast, Caramello’s embrace was rough, restricting, and even a bit painful. It toyed with her body and teased her emotions, until she had no idea what to make of it. The whispers of his breath caught her ear on fire. Her cheeks stung from the fabric and salt that smothered them. He could have slit her throat for all her sins, and she would have not noticed until death came.
That was how far the existence of Sir Try Hard had poisoned her in a single action. His efforts had shattered her expectations, took the pieces, and shoved them into a little jar for him to appreciate.
Because you interest me. And I can’t help but poke and prod. Even if my life depended on it, curiosity is my downfall. As I am enamored by Your Highness.
Those words caused a shiver despite the warmth, but as she opened her eyes again, a rich crimson was spread out before her. Her face rippled upon a surface of red opaqueness, a bathtub filled with blood.
Chiffon jolted awake, splashing the contents of the bathtub upon the floor as she leaned over one side. Her eyes felt bloodshot as they darted all around, but no matter where she looked, only puddles of water settled upon the floor. She glanced back to the tub water, seeing nothing but her own body submerged in crystal clearness. Only a reflection of panic greeted her. No blood, no blemishes. She had woken from a dream.
“Princess? Are you okay in there? This is your final warning. Your safety is paramount over any sense of shame opening this door might bring me.”
The lack of agency in the voice behind the door spoke as if the owner wouldn’t mind at all if he barged in on her state of undress. Quickly, Chiffon raised her voice in a panic.
“I-I’m fine! You need not come in!”
“Oh… I see… another time then.”
How disappointed that voice sounded made Chiffon arch a brow. She hurriedly stepped out of the bathtub, dried off and wrapped a towel around herself. She flung the door open to find Caramello leaning next to the doorway staring. Like a tasty cake had just been snatched from his plate.
“I was just about to open the door for your guards to enter,” he said with a smile of trickery. He had fooled her into thinking that he would act improperly! She had completely forgotten about the others hidden in the room.
Pushing away the moment of frustration, Chiffon eyed him once again. A vibrant red fabric was draped across his arm, like the tucked cloth of a waiter. It instantly caught her attention.
“I suppose this is?” A lump formed in Chiffon’s throat.
“Yes, the dress that I have picked out for you. I hope it is to your liking.”
Caramello unfurled the dress with a flick of his wrists, the fabric fanning out before her eyes. Soft like silk and the color of ripe roses, Chiffon had to agree that it fit the mold of high class, if only as a substitute for her stained clothing. However…
Chiffon nervously tilted her head in wonder. She normally wore outfits with softer shades. She found them cuter, like the gradual emergence of color upon the petals of a flower.
Caramello smiled as he draped the dress across her front, giving a nod of approval. His own, not hers.
“Well, I have recently discovered that you look absolutely stunning when dashed with a shade of crimson.”
“When have you see me wearing-”
That lump in her throat choked her. He had most definitely seen her in red. The red of…
“Y-You have to be joking! I-”
She turned to retreat into the bathroom, but the dress flowed with her movements, continuing to rest upon her front. With skilled movements, Caramello now had his hands wrapped around her, the back of her head pressing against his chest.
“Princess, you seem to always want to shine, isn’t that right?”
Chiffon nodded slowly, wondering what he was up to this time. His voice stroked her ear gently.
“Like a star, gleaming in the night, the Royals of the lands are what people seek as they stare toward the heavens. But stars don’t simply shine, they burn. And in my eyes, you burn with a passion as you strive to pave your own path. How could I not look upon such efforts with adoration? As someone who you refer to as ‘Try Hard’, do you not do the same?”
Chiffon felt her knees weaken. If she had not been held up, she might have toppled over. Caramello’s words rang in her mind over and over. They were ones of acceptance. Of her ugly side. Pure, candid, and everything she had wanted to hear. She wanted to fight back, to find some flaw in his statement, but after several moments of silence, all she could do was reach up and grip the red dress over her.
“Fine. I am yours. My knight, Caramello. Sir Try Hard.”
With a measure of resolve, Chiffon moved out of his embrace and turned around, facing him. Putting one hand out before him, Caramello proceeded to take a knee and kiss it. The last time didn’t count. He had stolen it for himself. But now, she was the one to offer.
He had proven himself worthy of opening her ugly heart.
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