Hartwell quietly made his way through the hall towards Angelique's quarters. He tried not to make a sound, as if not to disturb her.
She looked so... heartbroken. Who were they? He thought.
He slowly opened the door to find a lump in the bed, presumably Angelique.
"Please leave me be..." A sad voice came from the mountain of blankets. Hartwell could hear her sniffing.
"Angelique, please get yourself out of there. It's unlike the Queen."
"Well maybe I don't feel like putting on that act at the moment..." Angelique whimpered.
Hartwell sighed. He stepped inside the room and pulled the sheets off, only to find a very sad and wrinkled Queen, whose face was puffy-eyed and wet with tears. "Poor thing..." Hartwell whispered. All he got in response was a sulkish moan and seeing Angelique roll over on her side.
"I would like to be alone... Please..."
"Well, sadly I can't leave you like this, now can I?"
"Yes you can."
"Please be rational, Angelique."
"Not possible at the moment." She began to slowly pull the covers back over her when Hartwell stopped her, picked her up and sat her upright.
"Angelique, tell me, who were they? What made you feel so desperate to let them in?"
Angelique took a moment to calm herself, to not to burst into tears again upon the subject. "W-Well... those were the Orb Hunters. My companions. My friends. One of them actually my... brother..." Angelique's face quivered and Hartwell calmed her down.
"Please go on." She had him intrigued.
"That's all I have to say, at the least. What else do you want me to say? I can't guarantee I won't cry."
"I have been informed enough. You can tell me whatever you need to. I'm here for you not only as a Knight, but as a friend." He bent over and kissed Angelique on the hand.
"T-Thank you... You're the greatest friend I've made ever since I returned." Angelique blushed and smiled. It was true. Ever since she had returned, she had been kept in Celestizam like a bird in a cage... Exactly how Rune-san had put it long ago. Her heart ached just to see him. But she knew it wasn't possible. But what kept prodding her was, how are Rayne and the others still alive after what, a century? 100 years! A human can't live that long!
Nonetheless, she was overjoyed they were still alive. But then the pain returned.
Angelique's face quivered.
"No... don't cry..." Hartwell wiped her face tenderly and brought her in for a gentle hug. "You're such a sweet girl, I can tell. You care so much for others and you go out of your way to help those beneath you... it's just how they predicted the Queen to be..."
"R-Really? Is that so?"
"Yes indeed. Now. Are you feeling better?"
"...I guess that could be true..."
"In that case let's go get you something to eat. You must be starving."
Bernard had just arrived back to the group with the stagecoach when he realized it wasn't such a good idea. He came upon the sight of Rayne and Roche almost in a fist fight, Hyuuga in a wave of depression and J.D trying but failing to cheer him up.
"Ugh... These guys..." Bernard sighed with frustration as he walked over to Rayne and Roche.
Rayne's forehead practically had his veins popping out while Roche surprisingly kept it cool.
"You called me WHAT?!"
"Why should I repeat something you came up with in your imagination?" Roche was so carefree it was unbelieveable.
"That's it!" Rayne took his gun out and almost shot Roche square in the forehead when Bernard stepped in at just the right time and took it out of his hand.
"This belongs to me now," Bernard said as he put the gun in his satchel. "and you won't be getting it back anytime soon." Rayne's jaw dropped to the floor like it was an anvil.
"You heard me."
"Oh, and what about him?" Rayne's face went from pure shock to pure anger in a split second as he pointed to Roche, leaning on the faded stone wall like it was a Saturday morning.
"Oh, what did I do?" Roche plastered a stern look upon his face.
"You did nothing," Bernard looked at Roche then back at Rayne. "but I'm keeping my eye on you two kindergarteners."
"We are NOT Kindergarteners!" Rayne and Roche both said in unison.
"You two just proved it. Now behave yourselves and get your things. I found a good cottage where we can stay. Hyuuga? Can you park the stagecoach as near to the cottage as possible? It's not far from here." Bernard suddenly took on the role of the leader.
Hyuuga grunted as he got up from his spot in the shadows. "Fine."
As the group made their way through town, they got awkward stares from the citizens.
"...is that them?..."
"...I heard they tried to invade the castle..."
"Yea...just as the new Queen came...ironic, huh?..."
"...do you think they're gonna do something worse..."
"...kidnap the Queen?...Only time will tell about this group..."
Rayne scowled. "That Knight spread rumors about us trying to visit Angelique?! That's just childish!"
"Says the man who get aggravated at the flip of a coin." Bernard was just staring ahead, paying no mind to the villagers.
"Would you shut up about that already?"
"Kind of hard not to."
"I give up on you..." Rayne stuck his hands in his pockets and moved along with them.
J.D. looked among the crowd. "Do you think by now that Angelique can move around town by herself? I mean, it's a privilege."
"None of us can be certain on what Angelique is doing at the moment anyways, so what evidence do we have to work off of?"
"I never asked for evidence."
Bernard suddenly stopped walking. "We're here." It was an old-looking cottage with rotting walls and a straw roof, the flowers in the pot were wilted and crying out for water. The windows were dusty and had hands pressed upon them too many times, prints clouding the panes. It was a sad house, but at the time it was the only place they could take refuge without traveling about two to three hours back and forth from the cabin overlooking the ruins of the Sunlit Mansion.
"Bernard... I thought you said you knew a good place to stay..." Hyuuga muttered under his breath.
"Hey, I didn't have much money on me so this was the only place under my budget."
"Well we have to make do. We all know we have to find a way to reach Angelique." J.D smiled, being the only optimistic soul in the time being.
"I remember us all wishing we could someday, and now we have, only for a sliver of the time we all have gained...But what's the plan this time? I haven't a clue." Rayne looked at the ground and played with the dirt.
"Then we have a lot of planning to do."
Angelique really did feel hungry, crying had worn her out. But she had to learn better of it. She was the Queen, after all. Her childish side had to be... abandoned. She couldn't be weak anymore.
"I don't think I'm suited to be the Queen..." Angelique whispered hoarsely as she finished a plate of salmon the chefs had prepared her from Hartwell's order.
"Huh? What makes you say that?" Hartwell walked over to her and looked her in the eye. "You're the perfect Queen. The one we all waited an eternity for. Why wouldn't you be perfect?"
"...Because I'm such a childish girl... I'm weak-Huh?!" By the time Angelique muttered 'weak' Hartwell had her in his arms.
"I don't want to see the Queen say that...!" He buried his face in her shoulder.
"It pains me to see you upset... but now you're belittling yourself! You're the Queen. The strongest of all of us, harnessing the power of Purification. What evil can't you conquer?" He looked at her and gave her a heartwarming smile. "You're the light that we've been waiting a century for."
Angelique was speechless. "I-I..." She felt more tears coming on, but she held them back, as not to soil Hartwell's uniform. She embraced the man who held her tight and shuddered as the tears tried to escape her eyes. Hartwell felt tense at his shoulders, and she lay her head down upon them. "I know you're stressed about me. Don't be. We all have our worries to tend to."
"But tending to you is my duty."
"So I'm a worry of yours?" The slightest laugh rose in Angelique's voice.
"Nonsense. You're anything but." Hartwell picked up his head and looked at her. Their eyes locked for one brief moment, but they realized how long they've been holding each other they immediately let go, so that any of the bystanding Knights or members of the Elders did not get the wrong idea. After that the dining hall became silent.
Angelique decided she would break it. "So...uh...I think you should go back to the training court..."
Hartwell pushed back his hair and the tiniest hint of blush rose to his cheeks. "Y-Yes... I'll see you later..." He ran to the hallway leading outside and Angelique slowly crept up the stairs to her quarters with one question in mind: What would've happened if we held on longer?
((Did I really just make that happen?! I think there might be a slight romance between Angelique and Hartwell! What would Rayne do if he found out? But nothing intimate has happened...yet. Or at least I think so. Please leave me lots of reviews and I'll try to get back to you! I'd love to hear feedback! ~Kat))