Chapter 16:

A Bloody Confession - (END)

The Wanderblood Princess and Sir Try Hard

Chiffon did not go outside the next day. When Catherine came by to check on her in the morning, a deranged mess of hair poked out of the bundled sheets. It hid the brooding face of the kingdom’s princess.

“Leave me be. I do not care to start the day.”

Chiffon’s eyes were sullen, sleep derived to the point that her face seemed sickly. The normally chipper attitude and radiant energy that she possessed had been sucked out of her existence.

“Very well. I shall inform the others that you are feeling unwell. Please rest and recover for today.”

The maid left the cart with morning tea at the foot of her bed, before giving her a bow upon exiting.

After leaving the caverns yesterday with Caramello in her arms, she raced back toward the capital. A babbling brook interrupted her speedy return, where she took a moment to wash off the filth and blood. Having learned from her last incident, her guardians in hiding held onto a spare set of clothing for her to change into.

With her distress washed off into the flowing water, she turned back to the unconscious Caramello. She had difficulty noticing in the dim setting of the caverns, but his complexion had returned to normal. For a moment, she found herself stroking his handsome face, the warmth feeling good against her cold fingers.

His wounds had stopped oozing, after the healing salves had worked their magic, but lost blood and vitality couldn’t be recovered unless he rested. Not to mention, she had seen not one but two duplicates of him fighting alongside. He found it necessary to call upon another, stretching his abilities. His try-hard attitude compensated for the lack of raw strength, that which Chiffon should have offered instead.

She felt it was just to return such efforts. But as she carried her knight back into town, her short-sighted blunder became all too apparent.

“Mother, look! It’s the Princess! But isn’t the knight supposed to carry the lady? The stories you read tell me so…”

“Now, now. Our princess is just a bit special. She’s a strong gal that doesn’t fit the mold.”

“I certainly wouldn’t want a girl to carry me. I wouldn’t find it the slightest bit cute to be handled with such brutish strength.”

“Of course not, my dear. There is scarcely a man who could handle the crushing grip of a Royal. Those pretty clothes are meant to hide that fact. Now, best behave in front of her.”

The two of them gave Chiffon a hearty wave, but they might as well have clawed out her heart and spat on it.

Just a bit special, not cute, and brutish strength filled her mind.

She was a conundrum of ideals – the high-brow elegance expected of royalty clashing with the monstrous strength needed to control her bloodlust.

For so long, she chased after both but took turns embracing one or the other. Those very words spoken by an innocent child cut deeply into the reason for it. She merely had the courage to bring out whichever was convenient.

Chiffon could feel her face grow warm and her heart beating vigorously. The eyes of the townspeople as she swiftly passed them by, still carrying Caramello like some dainty figure, made her self-conscious.

How could I do such a thing! I mean, I had no choice. We had to escape and that was the fastest way to return!

But the leering pairs of eyes didn’t know at all about her situation. They merely saw a man cradled by a woman much smaller than him. Such an irregular sight couldn’t help but draw the gazes of many, and that, in turn, spiraled into a type of attention that Chiffon didn’t wish for.

Moreover, she was a princess carrying her servant. What she did out of a simple, kind gesture was perceived much differently by others. It spoke of a closeness, an intimacy even. Chiffon noticed a few hands covering coy grins, the same kind of expression that was flashed upon foolish… lovers.

By the time that she arrived at the castle, she felt like her blunder had earned her honeyed gossip of imaginary nighttime thrills. Their relationship would be the talk of the town, fueled by idle workers and chatty housewives.

Surely, her face was red as a tomato; it burned like it. She dumped Caramello into the care of the nearest castle servants before rushing up to her room to hide from the world.

Chiffon fell asleep under those covers. She didn’t care that her dress became wrinkled. Her stomach weakly grumbled with hunger, but she simply curled up to quell its protest. Remaining in her cocoon felt easier than facing the fallout of what people thought of her, a practiced image slowly tarnished.

But more than anything, she shivered at the thought of people thinking that the two of them were lovers. That single association repeated in her mind over and over. It was the one thing that she couldn’t escape from, even separated by several layers of sheets and walls.

She slept to get away from that. But even that was a futile attempt. Caramello even visited her within dreams. His handsome face invited her to roam around the kingdom. His hand extended treats to appease her.

His sharp gestures and annoying jests infuriated her to no end, but lately, she found him reversing course with a passionate gaze. He could surprise her at a turn of a corner, tempt her to stray from her path, and convince her to waltz with him.

Before she knew it, Caramello had wormed his way into the garden of her heart that she so carefully tended to. And upon biting a napple, only to find that worm sticking out, she had not only forgiven him but found his presence to be interesting.

“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.”

Chiffon woke up again, the words that Caramello once said to her ringing loudly in her ears. Just like Caramello, she gained a strong interest for the quirky man that swung between two extremes.

Hate and like, annoying but endearing – it blended into a unique palate across her tongue. Such a dichotomy felt odd, but she had done the same with herself. Embracing a tiresome pursuit of beauty, while hiding a strength that overpowered her instincts – everything that she did was a contradiction. What was one more to the fray?

But that begged the question – was that interest all she had for the mysterious knight?

She gagged at the thought, but then, she realized that nothing had caused that disgust to linger. It was an action shallow like the mask that she put on, a shield put forward to keep things at arm’s length.

A shiver brought about a realization that she didn’t particularly mind his company. If nothing else, his flagrant gestures and flowery words made the humdrum of daily life all the more enticing. Even menial tasks held a vibrant color with the strokes of stimulating commentary.

Her motivation to leave the room remained low without the man by her side.

“I wonder how Caramello’s doing… I hope his injuries aren’t too severe…”

“Why, I’m doing quite fine, thank you.”

Chiffon jumped from within her cocoon of blankets, now looking like a child playing ghost with her feet sticking out from the bottom. Quickly, she tore them off and eyed with shock at the knight sitting casually upon the foot of her bed.

“You! What are you doing here?!” she pointed a finger at him in annoyance.

Caramello merely rubbed his chin and brought out a box.

“I heard that you were unwell. A bit of cake to cheer you up? It would go perfect with the tea here. Still piping hot. Such fabulous magic porcelain.”

“No, I mean, why did you sneak into my room? I told everyone that I wanted to be alone!”

Caramello chuckled as he opened the box and took out bite-sized, miniature cakes and set them upon dishes.

“When one wishes to be alone, the claim often means alone with someone instead. When all others have been tossed aside, who do you think she wishes to see most? Perhaps, the rumored man who tickled your fancy enough to carry in your arms across the kingdom. Such buzz throughout the castle is as scrumptious as this morsel.”

He took a cake and bit into it with a grin.

On the other hand, Chiffon looked horrified. He was playing right into those rumors without a care. She backed away until her body hit the headboard, feeling like her defenses had been shattered.

“Are you not embarrassed? To be carried in such an uncute way with brutish strength? Do you not care if people think that I am playing favorites by tending to an unworthy knight?”

Caramello walked over to her, plate of cake in hand. His lips curled into a mischievous smile.

“Let them. Idle thoughts bear no sway on my judgment, as I hold the truth within me. I care not for impressions formed at a glance. I choose to be here because my princess feels conflicted. Your Highness is in need of validation.”

Chiffon’s stomach grumbled at that moment.

“And in need of sustenance,” Caramello ended with a snicker, holding up a cake to her lips.

She took a bite of it, recognizing the taste of red velvet instantly. She had loved it so much, and Caramello had taken note of it. After swallowing that bite, she reached forward for another, only for the cake to be pulled back.

“How spoiled and unprincess-like. Being fed by a servant in bed. Any normal person would think that I was trying to curry your favor….”

Caramello’s teasing snicker caused Chiffon to turn away in embarrassment, diving onto the bed face down to cover the redness of her cheeks. He was messing with her once again, her heart skipping a beat as a simple statement could turn joy into a scowl that requested distance.

But then, Chiffon felt the bed shift, the added weight circling around her. A light breath tickled the back of her neck.

“That is to say, maybe some rumors hold a bit of truth to them.”

Chiffon turned around and froze. Caramello had climbed onto the bed, towering over her. His eyes licked across her face, and a gloved hand reached up to pet her cheek. She wanted to speak, to tell him to get off, but the words only stopped upon silent lips.

She stared into his ruby eyes, twinkling at her. His fair complexion and devoted gaze struck her silly. Never before had she found herself so lost that she let his face approach so close to hers.

“Did you not think that I was trying to seduce you this entire time? A beauty that captivates my interest so far that I would hold nothing back to protect her. Did you think that I would risk such harm for simple duty rather than a show of bravado? If you did, then you are easily fooled, Princess.”

Caramello bent down and kissed her on the neck. Playful but sharp, like a predator aiming for her jugular. The sudden advance filled her with fear. She both wanted it and hated it. Wondering which emotion would win out, her body became heated.

The tickling of his lips against her neck made her moan. But at the same time, fear bubbled from within, a buried darkness threatening to lash out and release her inhibitions.

Her head fell into a daze… a familiar one where she slowly felt like she was losing control.

Her hand reached up and gripped him on the shoulder. Her fingers dug into his skin and squeezed. And then she realized. If Caramello went any further, he would be in danger even if she had her bracelet on to control her strength. She had done so before, the Bloodrile overturning such protections.

By now, her nails were just shy of piercing flesh. They were ready to rip the entire limb off his body. And it would, if her body grew ever more disconnected by the turbulent feelings disrupting her sanity.

Emotions in disarray, driven by the confusion and allure of Caramello’s sudden confession. She felt mad, and her body reacted in response. His body stiffened, no doubt feeling the pain inflicted to his arm.

But she couldn’t feel it, the pressure of squeezing the life out of someone. Her senses dimmed so much that she could hardly even see Caramello wince. She would murder him to drive the darkness away.

The taste of iron hit her tongue, along with a rich sweetness. Slowly, the color returned to her vision along with a sense of clarity, enough to see that Caramello had placed something into her mouth. Also, a smear of blood oozed from his neck. It dripped down slowly like he had been cut.

“I nearly forgot. You haven’t dealt with your bloodlust in a while, haven’t you?” Caramello spoke with concerned eyes. “Red velvet does a good job at masking blood, don’t you think?”

Instantly, Chiffon realized what was in her mouth – the half-bitten cake, dabbed upon his cut.

Caramello had been around her long enough to realize that her maddened state would calm down, once the taste of blood fell upon her lips. He had cut himself with a serving knife in haste. Finding it difficult to bleed upon her lips while being held, he swabbed the remaining bite of cake against the wound before shoving it into her mouth.

“I am relieved that such a measure worked.” Caramello got up from the bed. “It appears that I will need adequate preparations to handle such tough love.”

He brushed himself off and rotated his sore arm to check for injury. Feeling satisfied, he plucked another cake from the stack to eat before heading for the door.

“I will not give in. Trying hard is my specialty after all.”

With that, he left Chiffon alone, the savory rich taste of his blood mixed with cake dancing upon her lips. Her hand moved to wipe it off but stopped. Reaching for the stacks of cakes instead, she greedily munched upon them, letting the iron meld with sweetness.

She would not give in either. Not anymore. Both sides were her own. She would no longer leave one for the other. Not as long as one person acknowledged all of her.

Wanderblood (END)