The wedding was to take place after three days in the cathedral in Bertley—the capital of Clarines. All the esteemed guests invited were of the royals of the countries beyond and those of close entourage and family of the to-be-wed. The wedding banquet is to be held three nights prior the ceremony and it was also to bide time for the arriving guests.

———————————–

Kaia sat facing the mirror in her silk nightdress as Alex dried her hair. She had taken a bath few minutes ago after Hanson took his leave. He had introduced the maids assigned for her before he left but Alexandra chased them out as soon as they were done helping Kaia bathe.

”Will just an apology do? Your Highness! You let them off easily! You should have demanded something as compensation! ” Alex grumbled as she rubbed the towel around Kaias hair gently, her actions contradicting her mood.

Kaia chuckled at that. ”He was sincere enough when he apologised Alex, besides no matter how high our position is, we are in another territory right now. So we must take caution. ”

Alex sighed in resignment. ”You are right. Forgive me for being inconsiderate Your Highness. ”

Kaia shook her head at that. ”Im sure Im not the only one anxious to be here. Its all right. But do be careful in the future. ”

”Yes Your Highness ”

Kaia knew that the reasoning she gave Alexandra only amounted for half as to why she didn want to cause Hanson trouble. The other half was because of guilt.

She is marrying him as his first and only wife but she knew she would not be able to honor her vows to love and cherish her spouse. Although she knew he could take in concubines as unlike Wales where the law is against polyamory and polygamy, Clarines agrees on monogamy but doesn prohibit the men from taking in concubines. The concubines still cannot become Hansons wife or the future queen unless Kaia divorces him and he marries one of them.

Also Kaia felt that he wasn as cold as he looked and she was sure he must have his expectations for a wife too, maybe he had a woman he loved and like her, could not marry the one he wanted. Kaia sat immersed in her thoughts when she was alerted by a birds cry.

An Amur Falcon flew into her room through the balcony just as Kaia turned around. ”Alba! ” Kaia called out its name excitedly. The falcon flew straight to her and settled down on her forearm just as she raised it. Kaia smiled widely as she rubbed Albas neck tenderly. ”Did the others arrive too? ” she asked for which Alba let out a short cry.

Kaia chuckled and let Alba perch on the stand prepared for her in advance.

Alba was a gift from Leortes. She is a messenger bird he personally trained before he gave her to Kaia as her sixteenth birthday present. She was the last birthday present he gave to her. Kaias heart felt a twang of pain at that thought. She had always cherished Alba like her own child, but come to think of it, she had cherished everything she received from Leortes, not leaving the wrappers from the candies he occasionally gave her. She had to leave everything back except for Alba, her bow and…

Kaias hand involuntarily reached towards her neck, her fingers tracing the thin rose gold chain of the necklace she always wore. Her hand trembled lightly as she withdrew it back. Heaving out a breath, she stood up from the chair and walked towards the balcony. Alex hurried after her and placed a woollen shawl over her shoulders. ”The air is cold princess. ”

Kaia glanced at her with a grateful smile. ”Thank you, Alex. ”

The balcony was facing the inner courtyard of the west wing of the castle. It was a huge garden that reached far enough that Kaia cannot see the other side of the building. All her eyes could find were cherry blossom trees in full bloom and colourful roses blooming at their feet. But the sight of the light pink blossoms soothed her turbulent heart.

Soon she heard a commotion in front of the door to her room. There was a knock and Kaia heard the voice of a delicate young girl. ”Princess, its Cynthia and Athena. ”

Kaia nodded at Alexandra with a bright smile who returned it before she hurried to open the door. She watched as Alex came back in, followed by two girls, one young at the age of thirteen and one two years older than Kaia at twenty.

Cynthia was visibly excited and as soon as she saw Kaia she pounced on her hugging her tight and buried her face in her bosom. ”July! I missed you! ”

Kaia let out a hearty laugh at that. July was the shortened version of her middle name and Kaia had used it whenever she left the palace incognito.

She ran her hand through the young girls curly red locks to pacify her. ”But we just saw each other two days ago, did you miss me so? ” Cynthia lifted her face up, she tried to nod without moving her chin but only ended up blinking hard, making Kaia chuckle in amusement.

”But two days are long ” The young girl looked aggrieved making Kaia soothingly rub her head as she smiled.

”Next time I will bring you along with me ”

Kaia chuckled as Cynthia brightened up immediately at those words. ”Promise? ” She lifted up her little finger. Kaia hooked her own in the smaller girls finger and replied with a smile, ”I promise. ”

Cynthia was very young when she entered the castle as Kaias handmaiden. She met the little sunshine with Leortes when she had sneaked out of the castle. She was the daughter of his superior and teacher, Sir Nathaniel Redwood who is one of the renowned generals of Wales. His son Charlie is of the same age as Kaia and was her and Leortes bosom friend. Cynthia used to follow the trio around wherever they went and whenever they went out to town to have fun.

When the little girl heard of Leortes death, a year and a half ago, she immediately asked her father to let her become Kaias handmaiden. She was only twelve when she entered the palace. If she hadn been around, Kaia would not be here now, alive.

Kaia smiled at the young girl and gave her head a few more rubs before looking up. She smiled brightly at the other girl and Athena reflected her expression.

”Honestly, I must agree with Cynthia. The two days without you, felt really miserable. ” Athena spoke with a solemn face as she walked towards Kaia and engulfed her and Cynthia in a hug with Cynthia sandwiched in between. Kaia chuckled. ”I missed you guys too. ”

Alexandra cleared her throat but was ignored. So she cleared her throat again louder this time, which finally made Athena withdraw from Kaia with a groan.

”Oh Alex no one else is here, why are you so strict? ” Athena whined exasperatedly which made Kaia chuckle again.

”Its not that but you were suffocating Cynthia ” Alex pointed out casually.

”Oh! ”

Thats when Athena looked down and noticed Cynthia catching her breath. She gave Athena a weak smile. ”Im so sorry Cynny! ” Athena was horrified as she began fussing over the younger girl.

Kaia chuckled, watching Athena fuss over Cynthia. She met Athena while travelling out with Leortes and Charlie. She was caught up in a brawl because two of the men had their eyes on her. They brought their friends to fight it out and forced her to be a witness and marry the one who won. The girl was petrified as she stood crying. She was beautiful in a delicate sense with her long flowing light brown hair and big dark eyes that looked innocent.

The trio noticed the commotion when they were strolling around the market and immediately came to her rescue. It was obvious to the onlookers that the poor girl wasn interested in either of those men. They even started pulling her arms and dragged her into the fight. Seeing that scene, Charlie and Leortes immediately went into action. She immediately fell for Charlie when he protected her and beat those guys up with Leortes and brought her away with a warning to the men, not to bother her again.

She began to stick to them and followed them around the town until the trio decided to let a new member join in. Her main reason was to pursue Charlie but he shot her down immediately when he figured out her feelings, since he was in love with Kaias cousin Esther. Athena was crestfallen for a while but she cheered up soon, as her feelings were still at the level of a crush.

Kaia still doubts it was most probably because of her weird obsession on romance between two men and since Esther and Charlie were both handsome and made a good pair, she gladly gave up. By the time that was all cleared up, Athena and Kaia had gotten very close and later when Kaia learned that Athena is a minor noble, she took her in to the palace with her.

She had been with her for five long years and Kaia was glad to have her by her side. She was also infected by her obsession now and Kaia does not regret it. Not a bit.

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