“Your Highness, where are you going?”
“We want to take a walk around the castle.”
A knight who had been waiting outside of the library heard Reggie’s plans and a nearby servant went running off.
After a slow walk with Reggie through the castle, we arrived at the stables. The stable master had known that we were coming, thanks to the servant that had run on ahead. He had prepared Reggie’s own horse and what was likely the horse of some knight and he handed them to us.
Two months had now passed since I ran away from Sunday school, and it felt like it had been ages since I was last treated as nobility. Noblewomen did not usually practice riding, but there were people that served you who make the preparations should you show the desire to do so.
“Kiara, can you ride?”
He asked and I shook my head.
I had often thought of riding, but they would never allow me to get near a horse at the house of the count.
…Thinking back, it was probably to prevent me from escaping.
Being a complete novice, I was impressed by the beauty of Reggie calmly placing a foot in the stirrup and mounting the horse. After that, he took my hand and pulled me up to him.
I was surprised by how strong his arms were as he sat me down sideways onto the saddle.
“Oh, it’s quite high.”
Where I was sitting was higher up than I was tall. And looking down made me quite uneasy and I was filled with both curiosity and a fear of heights.
And then Reggie smoothly slid his hands passed my waist and grabbed the reins.
“Don’t lean forward too much, Kiara. I won’t help you if you fall.”
Reggie said with a laugh. I quickly straightened my back as the horse started to walk forward.
The dark brown horse was walking slowly, but even so, it swayed widely to the side.
I frantically grabbed onto the front of the saddle with my hands, but I could still not feel stable. I was scared that I would accidentally slide off the saddle in any moment. Just as I was thinking how I would have preferred to be sitting like Reggie, instead of sideways, Reggie’s hands tightened around my waist. At that moment I felt very secure and relieved.
“I’m sorry. I won’t let you fall, don’t worry. You can relax, I’m holding you.”
Reggie said with yet another laugh, and I nodded.
We eventually left the castle grounds, a mounted knight tailed us a short distance away.
The castle did not have a drawbridge or moat, but there was a sprawling field of grass that covered the surrounding hills. Here we continued on over an upward path.
By this time I had grown quite comfortable with horseback riding.
I understood how to react to all the shaking, and I could now allow my attention to take in our surroundings.
After a while, the path started to lead into a grove that was thick with leaves.
“The trees in this grove are quite tall. They seemed to be growing much more sparsely when I first came here, but I suppose I was wrong.”
I said, mostly to myself. Reggie answered.
“You were in a carriage when you came here. Perhaps you could not take in all of the scenery through such a small window?”
“Yes, perhaps I was seeing things. Oh, it ends here.”
Further on the gentle hills turned into flatlands and fields.
There were ridges of raised dirt in some places, most likely seeds had just been planted there. And there were round vegetables growing in another field, were they cabbages?
And what about that other field with little bits of greenery growing?
As I was entranced by the fields that lay on both sides of us, I was suddenly brought back to myself when I heard Reggie gasp.
Something had happened.
I didn’t have time to ask. Reggie immediately turned the horse around and started to gallop.
I held on to Reggie for dear life as the horse ran at such a speed that I felt like I was going to be thrown off.
“It’s your pursuers.”
What did he mean by pursuers? But it was hard enough for me to just stay on the horse, and I could not look around me.
When the horse finally slowed down to a trot, we were back inside of the grove.
“Pur-, pursuers? What do you mean?”
“They came after you when you were on your way here. I saw one of Count Patorishiel’s men. I do not think that I was mistaken.”
But, why? I was shocked.
I could understand if it had been right after, but it had now been quite some time since the encounter at the field of thundergrass.
“You don’t think… Could they have assumed that I was with Alan and have had this place watched over the whole time?”
But surely I was not so important a person that they would go to such lengths to get me back. Especially as I had yet to become a magician.
Reggie looked back at the path behind us and simply said, “I’m not sure.” and started to talk with the knight.
“That man who came out from the cottage up ahead. Did he appear to be following us?”
“No. He did not seem to be riding a horse either, so it would be quite difficult for him to follow.”
“Then, there is no worry…”
Reggie sighed in relief.
“Perhaps they are still looking for you. They might have heard something from the inn you stayed at on the way. And now they are finally here, as late as they may be… It’s been nearly a month.”
Even Reggie had not considered that they would search for me for so long. His face turned dark.
“I don’t think they saw your face yet, but we should return to the castle now… It might have been too early to take you out. Next time I will have to have people search the area in advance.”
“Um, you don’t have to go to that extent. I will just stay hidden in the castle…”
“But you understand that you can’t hide in there forever?”
The horse continued forward as we talked.
We then saw several men who appeared to be cloaked knights on horseback coming from the direction of the castle and straight towards.
I thought that they were Reggie’s personal guards.
After all, he was a prince. They wouldn’t allow him to leave with only one guard to protect him. They had probably been sent to catch up with him now.
I was naive.
As soon as they had confirmed us as their targets, the men drew out their swords.
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