They accompanied me to the farthest tower of the Royal Palace. They forced me to climb a long flight of stairs until we arrived to a small cell just under the roof. I was then made to sit with my hands tied behind me.
The Captain stared at me and began his interrogatory: “Answer honestly to what I’m going to ask you. If you lie, your fault will be even more serious.”
Suddenly, my status of “possible bride” turned to the one of “possible convicted”. I was sorry for my father. The reason of the crime, how I could have acquired some Rudy, the way I added it, why I changed idea just before the Prince drank the wine: those were just some of the many questions they asked me, sometime gently, sometime menacingly.
“I could never have thought about murdering His Highness…. I usually cultivated Rudy in my garden, but it was always kept under strict surveillance. I didn’t put it into the wine. I didn’t change idea, I just grabbed the chalice to save his life. I didn’t plan anything…”
Not a single question, even the trickiest one, could ever make me admit some kind of crime. I told them that they should have focused on Lady Cecille if they would have wanted to find the real culprit.
“Are you really accusing the other Lady?”, the Captain probably wasn’t believing me, but he still sent a subordinate to investigate.
I feel a little relieved. He looked at me puzzled, probably noticing that I appreciated that my request hadn’t been ignored.
Hours passed, and I lost track of time.
Even if they didn’t lay a single finger on me, my arms hurt and I’m all stiff by sitting so many hours. Even my voice was slowly becoming hoarse after all those questions… then, finally, they untied me.
“You are really stubborn. You are not even trying to flatter or make me feel sorry for you. You even thanked me..”.
While I was staring at the mellowed Captain’s face, I suddenly remembered I already saw him somewhere: It was the knight at the garden. Just as the Royal Knights, the high rank nobles are chosen to serve His Highness. I was surprised about the vulgar language which he used, thinking that he was of an higher rank than me, daughter of a Baron, however, I remained impassive to keep my good manners in this peaceful situation.
“You can’t accuse me, because I have no fault. Sooner of later, you will understand that interrogating an innocent is a waste of time.”
“Can you wait just one day?”
“As soon as you can, please. I can’t bear this situation any longer…”
He smirked and threw me a small blanket from a corner of the cell.
“I must confess: I don’t think you are the culprit. Try to sleep now. Tomorrow will be a long day.”
“I thank you for the kind words.”
He answered me ironically and left, closing the door with a rusty bolt.
There was only a small window with bars and the ground was seeming so far from me. I immediately discarded any chance of breaking through the sturdy door, so I just collapsed on the floor, on the small blanket. Oh Lord, my arms hurt so much, and the hard floor was not helping at all. I recovered a small bookmark that I hid in a fold of my dress near my breasts.
Since they had already found the Rudy in my pocket, the knights didn’t frisk me any further. They didn’t find this, because they were looking for “weapons”.
“My room must be a mess right now…..”, I though.
I miss my beautiful hat, but at least I’m happy I have this.
Inside the bookmark I attached the Lirott flower which His Highness has gifted to me. Since I didn’t want to lose it, I pressed it inside and let it dry, to preserve it. Its petals lost their color, but my hearth and my memory keep them blue. He didn’t see me at the end… I can remember how his gaze didn’t meet mine. I hugged the bookmark close to my sore breasts. I closed my eyes and felt relieved, like if it was transferring heat to my heart.
“—resa, Theresa, Ehy!!! THERESA!!!”
“…..No, I’m Anes…. Wait, is it really you, Peko?!?”
Still half asleep, I woke up, I raised my head and… then I saw the girl with black hair grabbing the bars of my window….. from outside!
I’m aware of the huge height of this tower. There’s no eaves to get a hold for the feet, and if you fall you are surely going to die. Peko was just standing there, like she was standing on something I couldn’t see and, grabbing the bars with a hand, she was looking inside with her face squeezed between the iron pipes… It was better not to tell her that her cheeks looked so weird that way!
“What are you doing here, Peko??!!! It’s dangerous!!!”
“Do not worry. I’m with a Protector. I’m here because I heard everything… I’m so sorry….”
Under her black eyes which were nursing me with compassion I was almost going to burst into tears. I didn’t want to be a concern to a girl younger than me…. “Do not be worried for me” I smiled at her, shaking my head.
“I don’t know what they told you, but I’m not guilty…”
“Of course you are not!!! I’m going to “kill” you if you think I might have some doubts about that!”
“You are a monster Peko. If I told you that I had some doubts it would be a bad time for me…”, I found some strenght to joke.
“I can judge people! If I couldn’t believe you, how could I pretend to be your friend???”
She’s so adorable when she gets angry. It was really hard for me to not start crying.
“Do not get too much upset, Heroine, you could fall!”
“Stop playing with my neckline! Why can’t you behave?”, Peko scolded his Protector.
The beast next to her, with beautiful golden feathers, must have been his “Protector”. It was so reverent and timorous…
“I would have loved to have a calm conversation with you, but my friend here is too visible, I must hurry…. Can you summarize me what happened? I’ll do an investigation too!”
“Will you do it? I already asked for it to the Captain…”
“Captain Jack, right? He told us the there is the need of a deeper investigation. The poison was too weak to kill someone, and the assassination attempt was too clumsy to make you look a heroine by saving the Prince. However, now you are the main suspect. The first reason you are here is that you had the Rudy powder in your dress. You also had to admit that you grew it in your homeland. Clues are poor, but we cannot find any other traces. Can you tell me something particular which you have noticed?”
I told her the exact words which I said to the Captain.
After some questions, she smiled at me and stretched an arm through the bars: “All right, I think I know where to investigate next! Give me your pinkie!”
“….. I-I can’t give you my pinkie…”
“…No, no! What did you understand? I just want to make a promise to you!”
We crossed our pinkies as she asked me.
She pronounced some weird magic formulas, then she suddenly withdrawed her finger: “Cut! Now that I cut my pinkie I have to swallow a thousand needles if I break my promise! Don’t worry, Theresa. You will be out soon without a doubt. I’ll clear any suspect of murder from you, like blowing a light feather of Rionos!”
The eyes of Peko are black, but not too dark. They shine as if they were inhabited by the stars of rhinos which guides each dawn. She has such a strong gaze that she can vanquish the darkness….
“Than… thank you for believing me…”, I didn’t notice my little voice was trembling… her affection made me shudder.
Every time that she or His Highness call me “Theresa” my hearth breaks under this fake mask.
I’m Anessa. I came to the Royal Palace only to replace my sister who ran away due to love. I’m just a woman who wouldn’t have ever had the rights to set foot in the Royal Palace, nor being one of the possible brides for sure.
It hurts me wearing this mask… The hearth beneath that mask hurts even more, it’s ruined because It would like to tell the truth and return back home.
“Wait for me, I’ll return to pick you up as soon as possible!”
Peko waved his hand and her head slowly disappeared. Worried I tried to look outside the window. The sound of her Protector’s wings broke the silence of the night. A pure golden wind blew through the hole from below and then the Heroine and the sacred beast were already gone.
It was a long day imprisoned in this cell.
The Captain who questioned me the day before just asked me something else this morning as a greeting before keeping to read some books. It seems that he’s guarding my door alone, since I don’t see anyone else around.
“… No more questions for me..?”
“Yes. Did you do it?”
“No, I didn’t.”
“Really? Everyone says it’s innocent. But everything will be clear soon. Knight Order is really good in finding proofs.”
Having noticed that I was looking at him not convinced – an exemplar knight wouldn’t read books while guarding – he told me: “Baron Dalton has been arrested.”
“He had Rudy balm on him”
“It’s mine! I gave it to him!”
“I don’t care of who that balm is. It was an attempt of murdering His Highness. It’s more reasonable to find other clues and other accomplices than thinking a woman could have planned it all alone. We have not discovered anything yet, though.
They arrested my father. My House has never been involved in dumpy policy before, apart me impersonating my sister. I can’t imagine how heavy could be the crime of posing as someone else. It was me who accepted the proposal of my father. I just hope that he won’t get involved if they find me guilty.
“They are searching in my room too.. right?”
“Of course, from the cotton inside the cushions to every page of every book.”
“…. I-I must ask you a favor. There’s a cream colored hat in my room. Can you just tell them not to ruin it?”
“Ah, that one”, He was smiling.
I didn’t get it.
“Does that hat have something do to with this situation?”
“No! I-it’s just something I care for. It makes me remember a person…”
“All right, I’ll tell them.”
Even the next day has been the same: they asked me those usual formal questions then I borrowed a magazine which the Captain had already read. “Places where to find beautiful women?????”
“Do not tell to High Highness It was mine”
I promised him not to say anything, and he answered to me with a smile: “Today it’s the second day: It seems that I’ve won the bet”.
He then told me something I couldn’t quite understand… “It’s ok that you make me earn money, but you must learn to read one man’s feelings”
“I don’t know anything about your bet, but how is he doing?”
“He’s fine. He is busy preparing his brides selection’s final phase. He would have had to participate in a group dance, but it has been postponed due to this situation. He will do all the stuff the last day.”
“Everything in a single day? But there won’t be enough time to dance with all the ladies….”
“Well, that’s not a problem. He doesn’t want to dance with all of them.”
It’s true. Noone would like to dance with more than a hundred people.
I was still mulling about what he had told me, when he pressed: “Did anyone ever told you you are slow on the uptake?”
“Noone in particular. Ah, just one time it has been told to me by His Highness in person”.
“Oh really? Well, let’s hope the young one’s passion will do the trick. Be smart with my Lady, you might be the one who will hear the sing of the birds every morning…”
I lowered my head, I didn’t get if this was an encouragement or not. I hear the birds singing every morning from here too…
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