Lady Faye lowered her head in acknowledgement of Prince Ruen's arrival in the main kitchen. Seeing the crown prince in such a place wasn't new to her and she knew exactly the reasons why even without him saying a word.
He stopped right beside the Head Servant who was sitting at the center table carefully placing white roses in a porcelain vase.
His cold, domineering eyes scanned the whole place. The room immediately fell silent. Maid servants, errand boys and the chief cook, without a second thought, skittered out of the room to provide the two some privacy.
" Faye, where is she?" he curtly asked the moment they were alone.
She smiled slightly in response. Although he specifically didn't mention a name, she knew exactly who he was pertaining to.
" Your Highness, by any chance, you didn't see her in the hallway before your entrance here?" Lady Faye answered, acting nonchalant of his stoical demeanor. She began to pick a withered leaf in a stem.
" No, " Ruen quickly replied, successfully hiding a disappointed look on his face.
A smirk formed on her lips then. He was putting up another ruse again. He may not show it but she could clearly see how he was uncomfortable of the princess'absence in the kitchen.
There was a memory that immediately crossed her mind. A memory of the past where she saw a first glimpse of hope on the prince. That was exactly when he came back from the Vhillana Kingdom's attack. She could immediately sense that there was something that changed in the young boy's heart back then, a change she soon found out all because of the princess'presence.
His specific attention on her could never be doubted and it was thoroughly evident citing on his occasional visits for the first three months when the princess was still inside the dungeon. No one apparently knew of that fact, even the King. She however was able to notice his unusual behavior, and later found out that he was discreetly visiting her.
All the while she thought that the two would become good friends, but she was disappointed in the end. His secret visits never did develop into friendship.
" Then, you already know where to find her Your Highness, " the governess stated matter-of-a-factly.
Instant realization dawned on him and it made him grin in amusement. Even his grin was stiff. " Of course, she always goes to that place, " he muttered.
He began to walk out of the main kitchen without so much as a word of thanks, but he suddenly stopped, turned his attention back to her again and queried calmly, " How. . . is she Faye?"
The old woman then turned to face him and gave a soft smile. She reached for a stem of white rose on the porcelain vase, stood up and walked closer to him. " She is getting along just fine Your Highness. Just this morning, she had successfully gathered some white roses in the west garden without scratches on her hands, " she answered while handling the white rose to him. He accepted this, although hesitantly.
Staring blankly at the white petals, Ruen felt once again the deep chasm of emptiness inside his heart, exactly the same as that fateful day. How many roses had she picked from the garden these past few years?He cannot even count. But he had wished, if only the rose on his hand could fill the emptiness he was feeling.
With a slight nod, he exited the room. If the princess was in that same place, then that only means one thing-she wanted a moment's peace for herself.
It has been that long since Garlow attacked the Kingdom of Vhillana.
Prince Ruen who was fifteen years old then had grown into a man King Garlow had exactly honed him to be-one that possesses the apathy that he himself have. At the rightful age of twenty-five years, many had thought that he would soon take a wife, but that didn't happen. It was understandable though. Who would actually fall in love with that kind of a stoic man?
The Regaleria Mansion had been rumored to be the most grandest of all palaces in existence. Its grounds cover a total area of three thousand four hundred acres, which included five hundred ten acres of gardens along the north, south, east and west wings respectively, enclosed in the palace mansion's fortified wall of iron and granite.
Sitting at the top of the mountain 2500 feet above sea level, the south wing which was the main facade of the mansion welcomes the vast blue ocean scenery four kilometers away from the beach front that formed huge columns of white cliffs and boulders.
A generous size of white sand beach stretched throughout the entire coast. The north wing side was where the chamber of King Garlow, the Crown Prince and most royal rooms were located. It also boasts an expansive landscape of lush green fields and hills dividing the towns and cities of Regaleria, and the only part of the mansion that can be seen perfectly in view.
Both east and west wings were walled by groups of towering mountains perfect for the mansion's guise and protection from enemies.
Truly, the mansion was the perfect place to live, but in Lianne's case, the very torment of her life. Such a waste of breathtaking beauty when she herself could not even live freely in it.
It was only a fortnight after one of King Garlow's victorious battle against the City of Ruffiazk, five months after the attack of Vhillana, that the princess was at last freed from the darkness of the dungeon. It was only of course because of the governess'constant and rather persistent request to care for the poor debilitated girl.
However, King Garlow's condition along with it was that she can only be free within the confines of the palace;beyond it, she was not permitted.
Not far from the palace, at the west wing, was a broad expanse of field used for the royal horses running field. It was the only place Lianne could get a good rest after a day's worth of busy work. Initially, Lady Faye opposed her suggestion to do servant duties inside the mansion, but after sometime she acceded to her request knowing that it was her only way of decreasing her boredom and sadness.
Lianne was sitting comfortably under the shade of a cypress tree with her knees bent to support the book she was reading intently. She was wearing a blue peasant dress that reached to the ankle hiding her ivory-skinned legs. Covering her face was a delicately weaved wide-brimmed hat that was embellished with a red satin ribbon. The field of grass surrounding her was moist and fresh from a dense rainshower earlier that noon. The afternoon sun was hidden behind some clouds and the ocean breeze was evident in the air.
It was a perfect condition for a good reading, but her solace quickly ended when a man neared her.
" I was looking all over for you, " the intruder spoke. He had a voice that was rich, masculine, a bit crisp but soothing to the ears. He stood without any hesitation at her front with his white shirt unbuttoned halfway through his abdomen revealing a good amount of his well-toned sinews. He was wearing black trousers and a pair of dust-covered boots. His light brown hair tousled and his eyes gleamed an ash mauve color under the sun.
" Lord Cain, a good afternoon to you, " the princess responded without even glancing at her intruder, the book still on her front.
" I am flattered by your accurate guess of my voice, princess, " Lord Cain said as he sat neatly beside her. " It seems you are quite fascinated with what you are reading. Am I disturbing you?"
She raised her brows as she glanced at him. " Too much time within your hands that you are confused on where to spend it?"
His smile died out and his face turned into an expression of confusion. " What do you mean Princess?"
" As much as I can remember, don't you have training with your father today?" Lianne inquired suspiciously at him closing her book at the same time.
" Ah, that. " He tilted his head up and smiled sheepishly.
" Yes, that, " she echoed, whilst rolling her eyes upwards.
" I just finished the task that my father gave me. I did hand-to-hand combat today. He said if I will win, he would give me a chance to visit you. " Cain responded with much enthusiasm, his deep gaze directed at her.
" Funny, I don't seem to remember your father and I are in good terms, " the princess responded raising her brows in disbelief, then crossed her arms and observed him as his cheeks blushed.
" I just created that last sentence though, " Cain sheepishly answered. She could easily see if he was joking or not.
" Hmm, I see. " Lianne nodded and gave him a lopsided smile. " So he doesn't know that you're here in the first place. "
" Lianne. " Cain spoke her name softly. He had already been accustomed to speaking her first name since they first met, and Lianne didn't mind it at all. It was a brotherly gesture for her, nothing to feel awkward about. " I don't mind visiting you always. At least, I can accompany you whenever you are lonely. I don't want you to sulk with a book in such a lovely day!"
She cleared her throat for a second, then replied, " Lord Cain, thank you. I am grateful with your attempts but you don't really have to. And besides, I like reading, it takes me far away from this place. "
The glimmer in her eyes blunted and Cain noticed it quickly. He stood up and then stretched out his hands to her and said, " Hush. . you don't have to hide your sadness from me. "
Cain's gaze was overpowering when she stared at it. He really was so supportive of her. She remembered the first time they met and it was all too clear in her mind.
He was seventeen of age that time and already was having another tedious training with his father one afternoon in the barracks of Regaleria. Lianne was in the stables trying to befriend a five year-old black colt of high breed when the colt's mother was startled, frantically kicking its hind to scare the young princess away. Accidentally, a bucket was kicked forcefully sending it towards the princess who was frozen scared. Fortunately, the young lord, out of nowhere, came to pull her out to safety, embracing her during the course of it.
The event itself became the start of her innocent friendship with Cain, but to him, it was much more.
Cain Vincent Von Cavill was his name;five years older than Lianne. He was the first born and only son of General Lord Midas Von Cavill, thus intently trained to be his father's apprentice and heir to the Soulisse Mansion and the House of Von Cavill. The Crown Prince and the young lord were expected to be best of friends, but somehow it never happened.
The princess placed her right hand on his open palm and began to stand up with Cain pulling much of her weight. " Thank you, " she stated with appreciation.
" I am always here for you, Lianne, you know that. Don't ever hesitate to call me whenever you need my company, " Cain gently spoke as he cleared the locks of curls from her shoulder.
Surprised by his gesture, she could not reply more other than a single smile towards his way. Briefly, he softly traced the curve of her cheeks causing Lianne to flinch in awkwardness.
" I. . . I better go. It's almost sunset. See you next time my Lord?"
Cain smiled teasingly at her. He inched a bit closer to her face and requested something that surprised the princess momentarily. " Can I have a kiss goodbye then?"
She was hesitant but nevertheless, like lightning, she planted a kiss on his right cheek. It was only a simple gesture that he would always request every time they part ways, but now it made her feel unusually uncomfortable. They weren't children anymore. He was basically a virile young man and she, a young woman, vulnerable to men's advances.
She swiftly walked away and gave Cain a wave goodbye. He waved back and sent her a promising smile. He stared at her for a while, and as she was faint in sight, he softly murmured to himself, " I didn't mean a kiss on the cheek Lianne. "