Chapter 18:

The Ones Who Know

The Wanderblood Princess and Sir Try Hard

Wanderblood Princess.

That name used to be spoken softly among the few who had seen the incredible might of Chiffon Baumkuchen, out of respect that their princess was how a person of royalty should be – regal, elegant, and picture perfect. An example of high-class that those of common birth strove to achieve and the effortless strength of one that carried the highest blessing of the Gods.

Yet, people found themselves uttering such a name more and more, letting it spread like wildfire in a forest.

The princess that they knew held the same sense of pride and spirit as before, but a dashing of blood highlighted her features as she strolled through town. Less like she had come from a tea party but a battlefield instead, an expression of exuberance dotted her brow.

A swordsman carrying the same remnants of blood walked beside her, serving dutifully as her guard. The princess looked back and offered him a cheeky smile, which he returned with an acknowledging grin.

The pair looked every bit the part of coming from a fierce battle, but this was royalty and her servant. The shock of such a wild spirit made certain people question the presumptions of their rulers. Discomfort of where this future led caused them to act.

“You there!”

The shout came about abruptly, so loud that it was unmistakable who it was directed towards. After all, there were no other people more famous than the princess and her knight in the square.

“May I help you?” Chiffon said, positively aglow. She had just taken revenge on some Earth Dragons that appeared above ground, letting her built-up fury run its course.

Those who asked were taken aback. Her jovial greeting conflicted with the appearance of a bloodthirsty barbarian, making the group of men that approached her hesitate for a moment. They directed their scowls instead to the man beside her.

“How dare you do this to our lovely princess?!”

“This scoundrel is tainting the glory of the crown!”

Accusations were slung like mud in Caramello’s face, but his eyes merely darted back and forth between the men. They were carrying weapons, looking for a fight instead of mere slander.

“Forceful, I see. Unable to prevail without resorting to violence. Now tell me how it is I who shames himself before Her Highness.”

Another man stepped through the crowd, his appearance somewhat familiar. His outfit, cut from finer materials, was enough to separate his worth from the others, even if his fashion sense was something left to be desired. He stuck his ample nose upward, pride as long as its bridge, as if sneering openly at the knight before him.

“We are not the ones dragging the Princess through the trenches where commoners reside. Her Highness deserves much finer combat, befitting that of her status. Not low-level creatures hunted for sport like the betting cages of a cockfight.”

Caramello chuckled at Lombardy Mascarpone, finally remembering the Duke’s son who he trounced in combat. His naivety and ignorance warranted such a gesture.

“Well, you don’t seem to know the Princess as well as I do. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have bothered to waste my time with such short-sighted observations.”

“What I know is that you are a con artist! And unfit for being Her Highness’s protector!”

Lombardy snapped at his men, giving the go ahead to attack Caramello.

Chiffon went for her mallet, but Caramello stepped in front of her and pushed her back with a look of disapproval.

“My lady, a person of title has no place in accepting the challenge of commoners. This is a task solely in my hands.”

“But, how is this fair? You are far outnumbered!”

Chiffon stared at the approaching crowd, a pride of eager predators looking to sate their anger on Caramello. She gave Lombardy an angry glare at his interpretation of the kingdom’s rules. As a Royal, it was not her place to deal with such skirmishes, as Lombardy had made it clear that she was not the target in question. Her position forced her to abide as a bystander.

Yet, a reassuring nod from Caramello was enough to make her step back and accept the circumstances. Her attention focused on the sword he detached from his belt, keeping the blade sheathed for the fight.

The first few men approached, charging forward like hastily trained militia wielding cheap iron. An advantage of numbers was what they had in mind, but the sudden flicker of Caramello’s body proved otherwise.

Three separate clangs echoed across the square, the men’s weapons stopped by a set of three knights. The look of shock on everyone’s faces tasted sweet to Chiffon, for she had been the only person to know of Caramello’s ability.

Her knight and his clones deflected the weapons aimed towards them, returning the favor with a whip of the sheath into the side of their opponents’ necks. The bravado that Lombardy’s goons held as a group only lasted until these first three men collapsed to the ground, unconscious.

And then, chaos broke through them. Confidence turned to desperation. Arms carried weapons in defiance, if only to reject the trembling of their legs. The group mentality that pushed the crowd forward became their likely defeat.

Several Caramello clones zipped back and forth, coming out of his main body and rejoining like the illusion of a one-man-army. Each strike carried skill that far exceeded the normal thug, making it seem like a series of calculated one-on-one matches, rather than a swarm trying to converge upon a single knight.

Lombardy stood with his jaw agape, his mouth so quivering that it swallowed even the huge nose that sat above it.

“Impossible! So the rumors were true!”

A wave of satisfaction hit Chiffon, who let out a low cackle at how the tables had turned.

Her knight, Sir Caramello, stood at the peak of commoners, just like how she stood at the apex of those with blessings. And now, that very fact was demonstrated to all. How could she not be thrilled by this?

But that sense of pride for her protector suddenly became tainted, as she saw someone unexpected intrude upon the battle. Instantly, she took up her mallet and dashed forward, cutting the annoyance off with a swing to the torso.

The sound of a nasty crack echoed as a hasty blade tried to block the full might of the Princess. Shards of metal flew into the air and stabbed into Lombary’s skin before the mallet grazed against something fleshier. The sensation was that of a melon caving in, and shortly afterward, a dull thud rung as a body slammed against the wall of a building.

“You would dare intrude upon a battle between commoners!?” Chiffon yelled, a bit angrier than she meant to. The heat of the battle had likely riled up her spirits. Regardless, she now stood over the battered body of Lombardy, who had broken the very rule that he initially proposed.

Immediately, all eyes turned to the two of them, as those fighting Caramello had sworn loyalty to the one before the Princess’s feet. Several abandoned their immediate fight, taking their chances instead with who they believed to be a dainty girl who didn’t know her own strength.

But a jolt of fear shot through them as she turned around and crashed her mallet into the closest one, so fast that they knew that their choice had spelled doom. As the Princess turned to face them, they dropped to their knees in fear, forgetting all about the man that had just been pulverized.

Their Lady Chiffon licked her lips of the spray of blood dashed across her face. The glow of red eyes beckoned them to come forward, like a beast eagerly waiting for its next meal.

“H-He’s playing you… for a fool! Can you… not see that?!”

Lombardy reeled from the blow as he tried to prop himself up to make his plea to Chiffon, but his ribs were shattered. Blood dribbled from his wounds and his face was pale, making it a wonder that he had the will to stand up. His actions had triggered her wrath. In her eyes, he was no longer a man, but a beast snapping at her futilely that needed to be put down.

She turned back to him with a snarl, which instantly invoked a look of panic on his face. The girl that he tried to woo before had turned mad, jaw agape and face twisted. Her beauty had taken a trip through Hell.

The mallet raised above her head triggered a deflated whimper from the noble, the vision of a demon with eyes aglow surrounded by encroaching darkness. Death was a mere breath away.

Anger, the heat of battle, and the temptation of dominance – they caused Chiffon’s gaze to wander. The edges of her vision dimmed, and her throat became parched. She was ready for that satisfying crunch that brought with it a splash of blood upon her face. Her tongue traced the edges of her lips in preparation.

Lombardy shut his eyes and cursed. Biting down hard on his lips, he fought back the darkness. If only one more line, he had to speak of it.

“P-Please! You must not let that foul man lead you astray! Not when he comes from the wicked Schichttorte Clan!”

The mallet in Chiffon’s hands stopped. She cocked her head vacantly, wondering where she had heard that name. It didn’t ring a bell. Yet, she could feel her body tremble from the very sound of it.

Hearing the clatter of a weapon, Lombardy cocked one eye open. The look of hesitation on Chiffon’s face urged him on.

“Yes! Yes! Do you not recall?! What that filth of a clan did to Your Highness? The very utterance of such a dirty word soils my tongue!”

Confusion swept over Chiffon. It bubbled over the rage that she felt, and with it, dark hands of fear gripped her limbs. She knew not why she was scared but only that she was.

“You are scaring my lady.”

A hiss accompanied the long, black hair of Caramello, which whipped by as he swung his sheathed sword at Lombardy’s face. It made a sharp crack that floored the man instantly. Feeling a bit safer with her knight before her, Chiffon looked back to see that the rest of his opponents were all on the ground.

She felt her hand tugged to one side as her feet struggled to keep up with being led away from the square. They were making a hasty retreat after causing a scene. Likely, it had been her fault again for getting too out of hand. She could vaguely recall what she was prepared to do, until Lombardy’s plea froze her on the spot.

But why? Why did my body suddenly pause? And the fear welling up within me, how could a mere name scare me so?

Chiffon stared at the back of Caramello leading her away. Lombardy had referred to him as someone from the Schichttorte Clan, but that meant nothing to her. Her mind went blank as she tried to think of that name, but a chill ran down her spine. She felt empty and hollow, swinging like a doll in a child’s grasp.

It wasn’t until several minutes later that she bumped right into Caramello, who had stopped to check on her. Seeing that her mind was out of sorts, they backed into some alleyway, where Caramello took out a knife and made a light cut upon his neck.

“Here, drink. You still seem to be out of sorts. I wouldn’t want you to raise up a fuss and cause a scene, not after that.”

Chiffon’s eyes moved vacantly toward the flowing red, and with a sniff, her instincts dove for his wound. Blood made her feel better. It drove the craziness away. But above all, it was Caramello’s. The warmth she felt as he held her made it even more intoxicating.

“Here, a bonbon. Red velvet, your favorite. That should chase the taste away.”

Looking up from Caramello’s neck, Chiffon gazed into the ruby eyes of his. They were comforting and serene, like they would do her no wrong. A jealous man who no doubt saw Caramello as competition mattered little to her. She would accept Caramello like he did her.

She felt the morsel plop into her mouth, and instinctively, she chewed. The sweetness of cake was like a signal, a bell that chimed a sense of normality to her senses. Before she knew it, a reliance upon it had developed. It made her believe that everything would be alright.

But then, her vision swam. Weariness came abruptly. She lost feeling in her extremities as even the warmth of Caramello’s body became a numbing sensation.

Chiffon could just barely tilt her head back to see Caramello’s face, which held a sorrowful expression that was rare of him. That was the last thing she saw – conflicted eyes and gritted teeth, a sense that he was questioning himself.

He was up to something once again, but as to what, she had not the focus to even consider.

When Chiffon opened her eyes next, it was so dark that her eyelids made no difference. The pitch black made her tremble. Her body squirmed under restraints. The clatter of metal was like insects invading flowers.

But nothing made her heart drop more than the low voice that cut through that darkness.

“Sorry, Princess. But you have learned too much.”

There was nothing worse than a familiar voice whispering betrayal.

Author's Note: Check the comments below for a new version of the cover.

Pope Evaristus
Kya Hon
Steward McOy
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