The Wanderblood Princess and Sir Try Hard
After Chiffon put on the red dress and stepped out of the bathroom, her aura of a princess returned. And with it, she bowed gracefully before Caramello.
“It seems that I have been rather rude, and for that I apologize. I became so caught up in this ordeal that I’ve never introduced myself, like a lady of the court should have done. Because of that, I wish to clear the air and restart with proper introductions.”
The image of royalty was important, and Chiffon had let her annoyance get the better of her. And likely due to that, she was sent spiraling out of control. Her pride wouldn’t allow for that.
“Princess Chiffon of the Baumkuchen Kingdom. Pleased to make your acquaintance. Would you be so kind as to introduce yourself to me, my knight?”
The man before her took a bow, hand over heart. A thin smile graced his lips, giving his boyish looks a charm that now warmed even Chiffon’s heart. If only he could stay silent like this, he would be all the more inviting.
“My Princess, Caramello is my name. Nothing more. I am but a poor orphan picked up on the streets after catching the eye of a noble. My natural prowess with a sword and unique blessing paved the way to being graced as your protector.”
“Picked up by a noble? Whose fancy did you provoke?”
Chiffon drew a gasp at that name. “The Earl? The Golden Glove of the Rhyne?”
“The very same, Princess. I became a servant under the Earl’s command, a sword to protect his ventures.”
Chiffon stepped back and pondered. It would make sense for House Macchiato to take in a commoner boasting considerable combat skills. Earl Macchiato was one of the most widespread merchants of the kingdom. That earned him the nickname, The Golden Glove, due to how often extravagances prized like gold were exchanged. Any merchant that wished to flow goods along the Rhyne River needed his permission, giving the Earl a strategic advantage in trade routes.
With a renowned nobleman guaranteeing the history of Caramello, there was no room to doubt his credentials as her knight. It was no wonder that her father offered the role to him without question. Had she not simply ducked out of the business affairs, perhaps, she would have gained a proper understanding of the man before her.
“I presume that your technique was refined under his guidance? Such skill with the sword rarely exists among commoners.”
“It is indeed as you say. My swordplay was under their tutelage. However, they saw me fit to learn them to complement my unique ability.”
“The ability to boost yourself, that is what I recall Father mentioning. Such a blessing is hardly-”
“That is incorrect, Princess.” Caramello wagged a finger as he stood up. His face returned to that of being a trickster, ready to unveil the cards under his sleeve. “While the blessing to temporarily exceed one’s natural capability can grant victory, it is commonplace and limited. That would hardly curry such favor to a lowly person such as myself.”
“Then, what blessing do you possess?” Chiffon’s eyes squinted at Caramello, analyzing his next movements. If he hadn’t merely boosted his abilities, then how was he able to repel her attacks during the duel?
Instead of answering, Caramello’s body suddenly lunged forward, making her shift into a guarding pose. But as she stared at his approaching form, her vision doubled. The outline of Caramello became hazy. Like eyes fooled by an afterimage, Chiffon suddenly saw two of him, splitting left and right from where he was.
Not knowing which one to follow, panic struck her, leaving her completely helpless for the next moment. A whirl of black and white slid across her vision, her feet were swept up from under her, and a sharp touch slid across the supple skin of her neck.
For a moment that seemed to last minutes, two pairs of red eyes glared at her as if they thirsted for her reaction. So surprised she was that she hardly noticed that they were attached to two different bodies ensnaring her freedom.
One lifted her into a carry, smiling like a groom ready to cross the threshold. The other merely placed a hand against her neck, letting a fingernail draw an arc across the front, before placing that finger right upon the tip of her nose.
Several sets of knives appeared out of nowhere, held in place next to the two Caramellos’ necks. The hidden guardians had moved from obscurity to aid their princess. But not a trace of fear came from the twin gazes of blood ruby. A chuckle from them both showed no real intent to attack Chiffon.
“Princess, had I been an assassin, my mission to slit your throat would have succeeded, even if I should fall from these guards right after. Isn’t it reassuring that I know all of your openings, as your protector?”
“W-What did you do? W-Why are there-”
“Two of me? This is my blessing, that of parallel happenings. I am an indecisive person at times, always wanting to know the what-ifs of situations. And it so happened that the Gods blessed me with such a gift. To be able to do multiple things at once, and not have to sacrifice one for the other.”
Chiffon was flabbergasted. Suddenly, the Caramello holding her disappeared with a pop, sending her flying back and onto the floor. The jolt of the ground knocked her out of the stupor. Seeing that she was no longer in danger, the five guards stepped back from Caramello and melted into the background.
“But, that is not what you used against me! There were flashes of light! Strength to repel and speed to dodge a Royal!”
Chiffon clearly recalled the boosts that allowed for him to resist her approach. And while the false hits were likely a clone that she had smashed, it should have held the power of a normal man, unenhanced by a bestowed title. Chiffon could easily fight back a group of commoners if needed… She had merely been surprised just now.
Caramello grinned at her smugly, a sense of pride that a well-guarded secret hadn’t been discovered, even with the clues that he had left so far. She could tell that he was toying with her.
“Imagine… what if two existences did not choose different paths, but the same. Reinforced by each other’s conviction, combining as one.”
Caramello lunged forward once again. This time, the outlines of his body merely buzzed in place. Not perfectly aligned, Chiffon’s eyes widened as two Caramellos seemingly overlapped crudely with each other. The flash of light that came from him served to distract from this nuance.
A single chop of the hand, playful but with force, sliced toward the top of her head. Chiffon reflexively brought her left arm up to guard, where she felt the weight of two people bearing down upon it. Her teeth chattered and her face lightly winced from the love tap. The blow left her wrist sore.
Caramello looked down at her and gently rubbed the spot he struck.
“Do you require any further explanations? I would be glad to have another duel with you, to show you even more of my capabilities. Though I will have to confess, such a lesson might become a little personal.”
Chiffon blushed as she looked up at his ravenous eyes, ready to take her on. She couldn’t tell if he meant a fight in earnest… or something more inappropriate.
“How many of these… clones can you make?” she hesitantly inquired.
“How many partners would it take to satisfy you?” A flirtatious grin accompanied those words. It dared her to test those boundaries.
If he can restrain me this well, even under such circumstances, then what unspeakable things would he do, would he be compelled to do in return?
Chiffon’s imagination ran wild for a moment, thoughts of being sandwiched in his touch. But the heat upon her cheeks reminded her to cast such deplorable thoughts aside. Such slovenly thoughts were reserved for cheating wives, not subject to the relationship of a princess to a knight.
She quickly brushed away the hand that was stroking her arm and cleared her throat.
“I suppose that it is only fair that I tell you about myself in exchange. But only if you promise to ask me properly, rather than skirt around, trying to discover my secrets indirectly!”
Caramello bowed lightly. “I will keep that in mind. You will have to forgive my moments of curiosity. Being trained by a house of merchants, one tends to pick up quirks, particularly when reading a person requires piecing together limited information.”
Chiffon was starting to grasp the man before him. He was an acquired taste. Like biting into a tiramisu, it was easy to be turned off by the bitterness that hit upon one’s tongue first. She had spat him out, thinking that the rest would be the same.
But now, she could see a certain sweetness and smoothness to his actions. They were buried under layers. And it wasn’t until she had sampled his entire essence that she could accept that he wasn’t that bad of a person. Just unique. Unbalanced perhaps. His flavor stood out on its own and clung to her mind.
She had decided not to hide the true self that lay within her.
The Blessing of Bloodrile – which she continuously tempered by slaughtering monsters and hid with a thick layer of makeup called elegance.
As Caramello likely suspected from her strange behavior, the Hill Giant child had invoked a past trauma, which triggered her descent into delirium.
Six years ago, when Chiffon had barely turned ten, a group of people kidnapped her. Children that possessed nobility titles were easy targets, as their potential had yet to be tapped into. Often, they were barely stronger than a normal adult commoner.
Such was the case for the young Chiffon, bright-eyed and innocent. She was sheltered to the point of barely having gone outside of the castle gates. But she didn’t mind it. The castle and its glamor were her entire world.
But curiosity was a child’s bane. The strum of a melody, a different tune, caused her to sneak out of the gardens, where some men in hiding awaited.
To her surprise, she woke up the next morning, groggy. Her eyes didn’t recognize the dull, murky colors around her, the bright pastels of her room absent. Fear gripped her like the cold that seeped through her thin clothing. A coating of dust and dirt fell from her arms as she shifted.
This was not her home.
Tears sprang from her eyes, every shadow cast upon the walls from the dim lighting like a boogieman from her stories. She wondered if ghosts and goblins were peeking from hidden crevices, waiting to devour her soul and flesh.
The bang of a door sounded, causing her to jump. A dust cloud formed, but she barely regarded it. The dark figure in filthy clothing all but ensured that. He spoke no words to her, reaching out and grabbing her by the arm. She fought back.
Though he dwarfed her in size, the fact that she was a Royal gave her enough strength to stand her ground. She clawed at the man as he tried to reach for the other arm, and after several failed attempts, the dirty man turned back and yelled.
“Someone, get over here and help me with her!”
Soon after, two more men barreled through the door, and her fight lasted barely ten seconds longer. She was dragged out of the dim room. Moments of sunlight beamed through small windows of some large building, giving her no clue as to where she was being taken. All she knew was that she didn’t belong here. That she was forced to be here.
Being thrown into a pitch-black cell was all she needed to confirm it. That they were bad people.
That was why she didn’t hesitate when given the opportunity.
Unknown to her captors, there was a reason why she had been sheltered all during her childhood. That was to constantly keep her emotions in check.
The fear and danger that seeped into her soul, it cracked open the lid that her parents tried desperately to seal. They had hoped that Pandora’s Box wouldn’t be opened. But that hope was sealed inside as well, the lock trembling with every scary hand before Chiffon’s eyes.
Until she finally woke up one day to the scent of blood everywhere. Her body was caked in it, the walls dotted with its shade, and thick pools coagulated on the ground. The bodies of her captors laid before her – torn limb from limb, heads smashed, nearly unrecognizable.
She thought it was a nightmare, but she bit her lip and tasted the same iron that clung to the back of her throat. No one needed to tell her. She simply knew. She had murdered them all.
“Another day passed before the castle guards found me. By then, the blood was dyed so deeply that I could no longer wash it away,” Chiffon said, her eyes blankly staring out the window of the inn.
Caramello needed to know. That he was guarding someone that didn’t just fall into chaos at times, but she was liable to become the very source of it. A Royal being granted such a dubious blessing was a great danger to society, as she couldn’t hold back the extra power within her while in a maddened state.
Only her father, having a similar blessing himself, could hope to physically stop her at her worst. However, he had been bestowed the strength of a Royal from marriage. At his worst, his tantrums were that of a wild child, easily slapped down by one with physical prowess.
Chiffon had to learn how to bottle such tendencies instead, using the thrill of monster slaying as her release. And covering all traces of her past with gaudy decorations. A gaudy child purposefully seeking attention so that one would not eye the mess she had made.
Caramello sat on the bed and listened to her whole story, not saying a word. At least, he knew how to be considerate at times. When it finally seemed like she was done talking, he popped up from the bed. Chiffon anxiously waited for his first words.
“And so?” he simply stated.
“What do you mean? I have hidden such evils under an image of beauty and elegance. Am I not despicable?”
“From the way I see it, a madman does not recognize one’s wrongs of the past. But you reflect. You have chosen to show me all of you. The you before me has changed, leaving a mere ghost that haunts you.”
Chiffon’s jaw dropped.
“Yes, I’ve changed! But it’s because of that!”
“And so, you’ve learned from it. Rejected the horrors of it. And become the indomitable princess that has become the talk of the kingdom. Am I right?”
“That is-… I-”
“You said it so yourself. They were your captors, bad men in your eyes. And you killed them for the evils that they imposed upon you. Don’t forget that. Even if your methods were… somewhat unconventional to society,” Caramello said, clenching his fists.
Clearly, he was a bit disturbed by her gruesome story, but that wasn’t the point. He marched right up to Chiffon and took her hands into his.
“But there is just one thing… you are a Royal, a person likely to rule the kingdom in the future. You will face harsh decisions, ones that no amount of beauty can cover up. But you mustn’t hesitate. Just like the enemy today, you must give them no mercy.”
Caramello bent down to kiss her hand again, before heading for the door. Swinging it open, he paused after one step and turned back.
“Otherwise, those bad men may come back one day, ready to finish the job that you couldn’t… Let’s head back to the castle, Princess. It’s getting late.”
Chiffon watched as he disappeared past the door, the creaking of wooden stairs echoing in the distance. Taking a deep breath, she followed him out the door.
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