CHAPTER 31

The chestnut horse chewed on the hay as Fayte tied his bag to the saddle.

"I miss Whitesong," he said.

"I miss Amelia," Wilson answered.

"I miss my ale," John said.

They were at the stable near the gate of Eres Star City. It had been two days since the attack. Rinmar was still resting at the castle with Emily. Wilson and the Eres Star castle priest agreed that it was best for the Prince to rest a few days more, for neither priests were familiar with what Promella the herbalist called a 'surgery'.

"I had to cut open bodies and study the makeup of a person when I was yet a priest," Wilson was explaining to the Prince when he woke up. "It is how we learn to heal. Our magic does not make someone better all on its own. It is a directed process not much different from swinging a sword."

"Then I see no problem here," Rinmar said, sitting up on his bed with Emily next to him. "I am well. Let us not delay our return. We have much to prepare for the wedding still."

"I open up corpses," Wilson told him. "Not living people."

And so the Prince stayed and rested for two days more, delaying Fayte's pilgrimage for two days as well. During that time Fayte trained, sometimes alone, sometimes with younger squires in the city, and John who even taught him some moves.

"Ye knights likes ta play defensive," John complained. "Sissies, the lot of ya. If a man holds a sword then a man is out to cause damage. Ya fight. And that means-"

He rammed his shoulder into Fayte's shield with knights and soldiers watching in the courtyard of the City Watch barracks. Fayte stumbled, not because his guard was down, but because John hit him harder than he had expected.

"We hold a sword to protect those who need us," Fayte told him. "We swing it defend the weak."

John scoffed and spat on the ground. "So ya kill a man to save another man. Great plan!"

They traded blows and parries, slashing and stabbing at one another. Fayte was struggling to keep up and his shield was getting increasingly battered and thus less useful by the second. John on the other hand was not slowing down. His sword remained sharp though it was old - very, very old. Normal swords could only be sharpened for so many times, for the steel is thinned each time a whetstone runs across it.

Templar swords, on the other hand, were forged from Eresteel and it did not dull or wear like a normal blade.

"Yer weak," John said, slamming the pommel of his sword on Fayte's shield, creating a tiny hole. "Afraid! Ye don't take risks!"

Fayte rolled away and dropped his shield before it broke his arm trying to withstand another blow.

"Ye bade yer time and ya watch." John charged at him, knocking him to the ground and his sword out of his hands. "Tell me, after watching me for so long, ya found my weakness yet?"

Plenty. But fighting John was like fighting Jeremiah. What made sense in theory did not apply in practice. Jeremiah could perform a move that they were taught numerous ways to counter, yet never have it be countered in combat. He could be exposed but Fayte would be too busy defending himself to take advantage of the opening. It was the same for John.

"Put a sword in a dragon's head and ye kill it." John reached down and helped Fayte up. "Try putting a sword in a dragon's head when it's coming to eat ya."

The horses followed them out of the stable. Outside, the stable master, his assistants, and everyone around them were getting up from their knees.

"You're leaving without saying goodbye," Emily said, glaring at them with Preston on her shoulder.

Wilson looked lost. "But I did."

"Not you! Him!"

"Me?" John went.

"FAYTE!" she yelled.

Sir Percson was laughing softly until his commander nudged him in the arm. Fayte shook his head and got onto his horse, gesturing for Wilson and John to do the same.

"I'm leaving," he said. "Goodbye."

"Aren't you…" Emily was suddenly aware that everyone around them was watching and listening, so she went closer to him. "Aren't you coming to my wedding?"

And watch my nation join hands with the people who murdered my family? "And watch you marry someone you don't even love?" He took care to keep his voice to a whisper.

Emily frowned and for a moment Fayte was afraid he had been too harsh.

"And you?" she asked Wilson.

The friend caught in the middle sighed. "Duty comes first, my sweet Princess."

Emily knew that best. Fayte was aware that while Emily was loved by the nation, she did not have many friends. And now on this day both her friends were telling her that they would not be present on the most important day of her life. She had to feel lonely and he wanted nothing more than to comfort her. Alas Fayte could not bring himself to attend the wedding and watch her marry Rinmar. He did what he thought was the next best thing.

"I want to go," he said, seeing the sudden glimmer of hope in her eyes. "But I can't. Not when we have yet to find out why squires are being targeted and by who. Your father is counting on me for that."

"But you can take a few days off from it, can't you? What other reasons could it be but to draw focus away from my wedding? Or perhaps it is so that the wedding would be postponed to investigate the matter. There could be many reasons but all of them point to the intention of disrupting the wedding." Suddenly Fayte saw how desperately she wanted him to be there. And it just broke his heart. "I'll talk to my father so you can come. Fayte, plea-"

"I'm sorry," he cut in, for if she begged then he would surely give in. "There is too much at stake. We must know for sure."

He saw the hope burn away from her eyes. Yet Emily did not cry, in fact, she smiled at him. A smile that Fayte saw right through.

"I understand," she said, reaching up to hold his hand. "I'm… I'm just glad that you're not mad at me anymore."

Fayte wasn't so sure that was the case.

"I… I have something to tell you," she said. "Something that you will be of interest in."

Emily was straining her neck looking up at him so he dismounted and held her hand again. Wilson and John moved their horses so that the people around could not see them.

I miss this hand, he thought, holding it tightly, feeling the softness and warmth of her palm and fingers. "What is it?"

"I asked… I asked about Kamille." Emily took care not to mention Rinmar by name. "She's a Princess now."

Fayte laughed as the thought of Kamille being a Princess meant that she would be in some sort of a royal dress. "By the light, you are serious."

"It's true," Emily told him, laughing as well. "She had a coronation shortly after she returned to Saldara. Her father announced proudly that she was his daughter even if she did not have his blood. She was the child of the woman he loved dearly and so she was his own."

"That does not sound like the best idea." The Emperor had lost much love when he beheaded the chieftain of the Skarm's Shadow tribe. It may not had been as bad if Kamille was his own bastard, but that was not even the case here. "There is a reason why Kamille's mother kept it a secret."

"But it turned out just fine! The people of Saldara respects strength and they respect the Scygards even more. When they learned that Kamille was training to be a Scygard, they quickly grew to like her. When before she was a bastard with questionable origin, she was now the Princess training to become the first female Scygard in the history of their nation!"

Fayte smiled as he listened to her talk with so much excitement and energy. He missed this. He missed chatting with her like this. And with what Rinmar had told him the other night, Fayte wondered if they might still be able to end up together somehow.

"I am glad to hear that," he said. "Will she be attending your wedding?"

Emily shook her head. "She is in the middle of her training now and does not have the time to make the trip here. But I am sure we will meet her again once she has completed her training."

"I look forward to that day," he said.

For a while they just looked at each other, feeling happy and light-hearted, and wishing that this moment would not come to an end.

"I'm sorry I cannot attend your wedding," Fayte said, hugging her. "I am sure you will be beautiful in your wedding gown."

Emily did not let go of him when he did. "It's… it's all right. You stay safe on your pilgrimage, alright?"

She was sobbing.

"I will."

They hugged for a little while longer so that Emily could stop her tears and dry them. When they finally let go of each other, Wilson came down and hugged her as well, kissing her on the forehead.

"Have a glorious wedding, Emily," Wilson said. "Preston will be there in my stead."

Preston was not aware of that plan.

"Are you sure?" she asked, stroking Preston along his neck after he climbed back onto her shoulders. "Don't you need him in case Fayte gets hurt?"

"I won't get hurt," Fayte mumbled.

Wilson laughed and shook his head. "We will be fine. This way I am assured that both my friends are safe."

"Alright," Emily told him, turning to Preston. "Would you like to be a part of my wedding then? I'm sure we can find a job for you."

Preston barked happily at the idea.

They mounted up and said goodbye one last time before they rode out of the gate. Emily waved at them from behind while Wilson yelled for Preston to take care of her.

"Fayte!"

He looked back to her, seeing her at the gate with her two Whiteguards flanking her.

"The next time we meet, I want to see my knight in shining armour all charged up with the Light of the Spirits! "

Perhaps I can still be her knight in shining armour. Fayte smiled and raised his hand. "As you wish, my Princess!"