My healer, had been what he wanted to say. It had been easy at first, when she was just that. But now that wasn't the whole truth anymore. She was his life-savior. Also, she showed him how to fly a kite, and gave her first kiss to him. Like a butterfly, he didn't really feel it, but the sight of it was nurturing to the soul. Then this hug... when he concentrated, the warmth nearly reached his skin, even if it was only a memory. This day had changed him. Maybe it changed her, too. But he wouldn't know, cause he pushed her away afterwards.
Instinctively, he knew that she was the one to call him in his deep sleep. Called without a name, but full of hopes. Would she have called the earl the same way she'd called her patient? After how he treated her, it was unlikely. But pushing her away was the right thing to do. Yes, the right thing.
"Nathan?" A hand waved in front of him. "Did you just space out for real?"
The prince looked like he couldn't believe it. His eyes were wide with playful curiosity. "Is this girl - I mean, is there something with you and this girl?"
The earl blinked, his face expressionless. "You're too easy to fool. Two times in a row."
Disappointed, the prince pouted. I would be too good if this ice-cold person was spacing out because of love. In his regret, he didn't even notice that it was unnatural for Nathaniel to be playful like this. "So you're not interested in the girl? Not even the tiniest bit?"
A sigh escaped Nathaniel's lips. "She has a unique ability, that's why she's with me. To me, she's nothing but a chess piece. A good one, for sure, but not the queen. If I ever get a queen, she has to be as black as me if she doesn't want to die an early death."
"Wow, that's a hard condition!", Aston exclaimed unbeleavingly. "Did you never dream of a sweet, simple girl waiting for you at home? I heard that's the dream of every normal man. Why does it need to be a black queen?"
"I don't think you've ever dreamed of this", Nathaniel countered easily. "The rumors about you include anyone but sweet stay-at-home girls until now."
A little blush creeped on those high-end cheeks. "Well, that's because I haven't found the right one yet. Or the right time. I'm not yet ready to marry, I'm only sixteen, damn it! Stop teasing me!"
A small grin flashed across Nathaniel's face like an arrow. "I don't think I started with this topic."
"Oh, but you started with tricking me! I, a simple, innocent child, was tricked by you twice. Don't deny it!"
Nathaniel snorted lightly. "Shameless."
"Exactly, you're shameless!", the prince nodded righteously. "As a hero, it is only right to know your own shortcomings and try to better yourself!"
Nathaniel could only shake his head, giving up on correcting the prince's misinterpretation. Silently, he finally gobbled down the rest of the soup. It was just too tempting.
The prince continued to talk, about how he came to save Nathaniel and killed all the bandits by himself. It was a long monologue, filled with unnecessary, flowery details. They were a mixture of exaggerations and direct lies.
When the bowl was empty, Nathaniel finally raised his head again. He hadn't even bothered to listen to any of that crap, ignoring the prince blatantly. "Get out. I want to sleep."
"But I didn't reach the point where I saved the damsel in distress yet! Don't you want to hear about that awesome rescue?", Aston whined. However, under Nathaniel's stare, the courage soon left him. "Fine, suit yourself. I'll be outside. Riding a horse is way better than a carriage anyway!"
With that, he left, and Nathaniel finally got his peace back. Though he was very exhausted, his thoughts wandered to Katherine. He wondered if she was doing alright. Sadly, he couldn't just summon her and see for himself. There was just no logical reason to. He was healthy again, so it would be weird to call her here. Besides, Aston was already suspicious of their relationship.
It's better not to see her, Nathaniel consoled himself. He didn't forget that it was always healthier for people to stay away from him. With a quiet sigh, he laid down and let the exhaustion take over his weakened body.
"He woke up? He really woke up?", Katherine asked, her eyes glittering.
"Yes", Sam confirmed, his lips curving upwards. It was refreshing for him to see someone else worried about Nathaniel, too. He could only tell himself that Nathaniel was the strange one, not reacting to his 'resurrection' at all.
"I knew it!" Katherine would have punched the air in excitement, if she didn't remember her manners in time. With the patient awake, she didn't need to worry about the prince attacking him while he was helpless. "I knew it! After he already moved once, I was sure he'd wake up soon!"
In surprise, Sam nearly misspoke. "The e - ah, patient did? Milady, why didn't you inform me about that great development?"
"Well, that was what I wanted to talk to you about, actually. But it looks like that isn't necessary anymore. That's great! If only the earl could see this, he would ..."
Suddenly, Katherine turned quiet. Yes, what would he do when he got back? Her job was finished, so maybe he would lose interest in her. If she was really unlucky, he could try to kill her cause the patient was obviously someone important.
No, that's not like him, Katherine consoled herself. Don't grow paranoid. He could've exploited her completely when she was at his mansion with nowhere to turn to, but he instead made a deal with her. Though he may not be a good person, he wasn't unreasonably bad either. Hopefully.
Anni told me, he might even like me. If that's the case, he at least won't kill me. And who said he might not have other uses for my ability? According to Ethan - she gritted her teeth when she remembered her crazy cousin - according to that bastard, he won't ever let me run away. How much of a threat it was back then, now I'm counting on it. And I hope he doesn't share any other traits with this psycho.
"Milady?", Sam asked, puzzled.
"Ah, pardon me. I just thought he would be happy to see the patient getting better. Do you know when he'll be back? Did he find the cause of the black pillar?" This black pillar was something that irritated Katherine up till now. She was still wondering what it really was. The rumors that a single mage had cause it where just too unbelievable.
"He did, but it took some time to convince the person that he is trustworthy. We'll meet up with his lordship at the capital."
To make the days of traveling easier, Nathaniel had decided to stay in his alternate persona for now. He didn't want Katherine to start suspecting why she never saw both of them together.
But Katherine's thoughts were occupied with another information. "The origin really was a mage? How can that be true... it's so illogical...", she muttered to herself. Than she looked up again. "Will he bring that mage with him?"
"I'm afraid not, milady. He seems to prefer solitude. His lordship didn't want to irritate him."
"Oh..." Katherine was a little disappointed. She was very curious how such a powerful person could exist. And well, if he did exist, she wanted to try to pull him to her side, help her with her revenge. Sadly, they wouldn't meet. But if the earl had some understanding with him, maybe she could convince him to introduce them later...
Looks like the starting point is still how to convince the earl, she silently sighed to herself. Hopefully, he really liked her, even if it was suppressed. She wanted to try some of Anni's tricks the next time.
As a little blush crept on her cheeks, she hastily turned around. "Thanks a lot, Sam. I'll be back in the carriage!"