Chapter Fourteen: A Piece of the Crown
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"Aldrich I'm going out, don't bother me until I come back" Blake states before heading towards his chambers.
As he walked through the long castle corridors all the maids and lower servants avoided his gaze. They all knew about the rumors and no one wanted to know if they were real by experience.
"So tired..." Blake mumbles after entering his room. He had been working non-stop ever since he came back from the war two months ago. Besides having to fix the kingdom's treasury, the crown prince had to deal with the council of ministers every day.
'This is all his fault...' Blake blamed his father for being a negligent king. A year ago Julius II became someone else, wasting money from the kingdom for his own lust and greed while ignoring all the problems and then, he fell ill. Maybe someone poisoned him or maybe it is just due to his old age but, regardless, the crown prince has to fix a year of problems without anyone's help.
He opens a small hidden drawer in his desk and removes a small golden earring. Afterward, he places it on his ear and his ruby hair gradually turns blonde. Blake quickly changes his clothes to something simpler and less intimidating before heading towards the front gate.

"Only Lady Ophelia can enter the palace" a guard states and, as the crown prince sights Ophelia he hides behind a large tree.
'What is she doing here?' he was confused as to why she was in the castle but after pondering on it he remembered that Terrel, her fiancée, was currently working with his younger brother.
'Catherine was right...' Blake could tell just how dangerous Ophelia was from afar. Her beautiful looks, especially her rare black hair, made his heart flutter for a glimpse of a second however her eyes were different than anything he had seen. Her eyes didn't have ambition but, at the same time, they were completely sure of their objectives. They were ruthless, cold, calculative, and unattached.
"Right this way milady" the guard leads the way to the castle as Ophelia followed him quietly.
'Where is he taking her? That's not where guests should be' Blake thought as he, unconsciously followed them quietly. In the castle certain rooms were prepared for guests however, weirdly enough, this guard wasn't taking a high noble lady there.
As Ophelia and the guard make a turn to an old waiting room that hasn't been used in months, if not years, Blake gives up and heads towards the back garden.
'That girl... She is indeed somehting. I was following her unconsciously. Like a bug towards the light.' he lets out a painful chuckle right before punching one of the trees out of frustration.
Blake had come to understand that Ophelia was more dangerous than he originally thought. Her body was as tempting as a demon, with those beautiful ocean eyes and her crow hair.
'The Black Rose... It suits her' as his mind was wandering off he is awake by the sound of a window being opened and he quickly hides behind a tree, further away from sight. Somehow his instincts were telling him to be away from this woman, however, at the same time, his most basic thoughts were telling him to go up there and grab her. He never felt this tremendous lust for something other than blood and that terrified him.

"Come on..." Blake sees Ophelia trying to grab a branch from the tree next to his.
'What is she doing?' he thought as he tried to understand the situation that unfolded before him. Then, suddenly, she starts bouncing back and forth and jumps. Blake moves in order to catch her but ends up hiding half a second later since Ophelia managed to grab the big branch.
'She's going to fall' he thought but somehow, that noble lady who knew nothing of the world managed to steadily climb up the branch. Ophelia was now hidden behind the big green leaves and Blake couldn't understand what was happening.
"Where is she!?" a male's voice is heard from the room and the crown prince notices a change in Ophelia's expression. Her eyes were focused on someone, most likely that man. They were compelled by anger and hatred as her hands clenched on the tough wooden branch, creating small cuts on her skin.
'Who...?' Blake couldn't help but be curious about this man that created such an expression on Ophelia's face.
Soon the noise stops and he sees her climb down the tree steadily, almost as if she had done this before. Looking bothered and nervous, Ophelia removes the pins in her hair, making it fall and fly with the wind right before trying her best to fix her dress. Blake thought that she looked even prettier from up close.
"He hasn't hurt you yet... It hasn't happened... Calm down..." he hears her mumbling things that made absolutely no sense. He noticed her breathing was unsteady and her arms were trembling.
'Is she scared?' Blake thought that this woman, whose eyes were unwavering, was impossible to feel but now, as she stood before him, Ophelia looked nothing more than a weak black cat, in need of help. That disgusted him.

"What hasn't happened yet?" Blake walks out from his hiding and glares at her, just to see Ophelia act as if what he had seen was only an illusion.
'Again... That look' he thought as she glared at him.
"Nothing" Ophelia replies and starts to fix her hair that was now filled with some leaves.
"You dare to reply to me like that? Do you know who I am?" Blake looks down at her and, by now, everyone he knows would already be asking for forgiveness but, to his surprise, Ophelia just glared at him back and chuckled, almost as if she was mocking him.
"Do I look like a fortune teller to you?" her words made Blake understand his mistake.
'There's no way she would know I'm the crown prince' he remembers that he was wearing a magic earring that holds a blessing so, besides changing his hair to blonde, it also makes it so that regular people can't recognize him.
"Well then, I'm-a-very-important-lord, it was a pleasure to meet you, I'll now take my leave, have a good day" after several minutes of awkward silence Ophelia decides to leave.
'Is she a devil?' Blake felt uneasy as he had realized that even her voice was as sweet as honey, a pure heartless temptation for humans.
Giving up on that thought he heads back to his room and changes into his royal attire before removing the magic earring. Blake felt like he had had enough of the outdoors and, truthfully, he just wanted to hurry up with all the kingdom's affairs.
As he was heading towards his study room he notices Ophelia, now surrounded by her maids and a male servant.
'Is that...? How did she...?' Blake was astonished. The only people with bright platinum hair existed in a very isolated tribe by the border, no one even knows how to get there, however, the men and women there are said to be the most ruthless and heartless assassins.

"Ophelia! My dear! I'm so glad to finally meet you!" Terrel Wharton appears and Blake notices Ophelia's complexion turn paler as she hides her hands behind her back, in a poor attempt to hide their trembling.
'It's him' the crown prince concluded as he noticed the abnormal amount of fear in her eyes. He felt annoyed.
"Don't..." Ophelia mumbles and, right before the male servant is able to block Terrel's path, she stumbles back but Blake intervenes and grabs her waist.
"Are you alright?" the crown prince asks and, for a glimpse of a second, Ophelia's expression turns into relief. He places his hand on her forehead and looks at Terrel.
"Your fiancée has a fever, I think she should go back" Blake understands enough of the situation but, even then he was extremely curious as to why Ophelia had this overwhelming fear of a man who she'd just met.
"Of course! It wouldn't be wise for my fiancée to be outside with a cold... I will take my leave then" as Terrel left, Blake noticed his lustful glare and, just with that, he realized how deep his interest in Ophelia was.
"Ophelia Criswell greets the crown prince" right after Terrel's shadow disappears into the castle, Ophelia steps back and immediately bows down, greeting Blake properly.
"You may rise" the crown prince orders but he grows uneasy as he sees her eyes clouded by fear.
'So she's like this too?' he thought as he felt his expectations crumble.
"Have a fast recovery" Blake states before taking his leave.

As he arrived at his study room he walked towards the window and saw Ophelia get inside her carriage with the platinum-haired servant.
'Lady Catherine was indeed right... I do have to watch this girl' Blake had fully realized how much a problem Ophelia could become. Even if she had been neglected for fifteen years, she was quick-witted and cunning even though her fear for her fiancée is something that he couldn't even begin to imagine. Part of him felt curious about their conversation but the other part knew that it wouldn't be wise to get too close to someone like her.
Blake had his life filled with problems already so, in his head, there would be no space for lustful play. He wouldn't become like his father.

 

✽ ✼ ✽ ✼ ✽ ✼ ✽

 

I gasp the moment my eyes open.
"Milady!" Olivia was standing by my side, holding my hand while Jade was at the end of the room staring at me.
"Master!" he dashes towards me as his eyes showered me with concern.
"What's wrong?" I couldn't understand why they were so worried.
"We were so worried! You were asleep for a day and a half!" Jade explains as I push my body up and sit in the bed.
"What?" his words sounded insane, how could I sleep for so long? It is just impossible.
"We've got to bring the good news to the Duke, come milady!" Olivia tries to bring me out of the bed.
"Leave" I mumbled.
"Milady?"
"Leave!" I yelled as Olivia shuddered, feeling frightened.
Both of them leave the room and I quickly get up. My hands were healed and all the cuts on my arms were nowhere to be seen. As my eyes wandered around the room I noticed that everything was tidy and clean, the mirror that I broke was completely fixed and the blood on my clothes and the floor was gone.
"What is going on?" after approaching the mirror I notice that it wasn't a replacement.
'There's no way...' startled I walk back but, accidentally trip on my nightgown and fall on the floor. My mind was filled with questions and doubts. How could something like this happen? It is impossible unless...
"Did I imagine everything?" I quickly get up and open the windows letting the cold breeze of the dawn cool my body and nerves.
'No, I didn't. I couldn't have imagined it, right?' I was starting to doubt my sanity. Besides being cursed, was I becoming crazy as well?
Meow. Nero appears from under the bed and rubs his head onto my leg, waking me up from this nightmare.
"You are always right on time" I feel a soft, painful, smile appear on my lips as I regain my sense of self.
'I don't know what happened but I am not going to worry about it. All my wounds are healed and no one knows about what happened last night. I have other matters to deal with' I head towards the door and call the maids.

"Olivia, go call the rest of the maids. Jade, come inside for a moment" they both obey quietly.
"Someone was in my room, a man, I think. I want you to search the whole estate and find him." Jade bites his lips.
"What about Gilbert master?" of course he had reasons to be afraid of the man's next move however I already knew how he operates.
"He is still stuck in bed and, even if he has the mission to kill me, he is not stupid enough to do that without knowing the terrain. He still needs to memorize the mansion and think of a way to escape so I am fine" Jade nods his head, understanding the situation.
"Now leave and let the maids in"
"Good morning milady" the maids enter the room and I instantly notice that Ivy was missing.
"Where is Ivy?" the environment grows quiet.
"Don't make me repeat myself"
"She was called to the palace by Lord Terrel, she left thirty minutes ago" I sigh as I hear Olivia's words.
"Alphy, fetch me the fastest horse we have, the rest of you help me get dressed" they look at me dumbfounded.
"A horse milady?" it was unusual for noble ladies to know how to ride but I had learned it on my 5th life. I glare at Alphy just to see her warm complexion turn pale right before bowing down and leaving.
"Do you think I can ride with that?" as Olivia was removing a dress I frown and she quickly puts it back inside. Then, at the furthest end of the wooden closet was a pair of black trousers and a dark grey shirt, usually used by a man.
They look at each other, feeling confused about how I had obtained such attire but, even then, they remained quiet, without asking any questions.
"The horse is ready milady" Alphy comes back and I smirk.
"Olivia, go tell the Duke I am getting my maid back and the rest of you, write an invitation equal to the one on the desk"
"To whom shall we address it?" Alphy questions as Olivia leaves the room.
"Every nobleman and woman in the kingdom"
"All of them?" Alphy feels the need to reassure the meaning of my words. Ever since I had ordered all the letters of Duke Criswell to be disposed of the maids had ignored their existence.
"All of them" I grin right before heading towards the entrance of the mansion.

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