Chapter 2.2

Despite the successful conclusion of the investiture ceremony, Jocelyn’s discontent festered with each passing day. A majority of the nobles entering the reception chamber found themselves on the receiving end of his sharp rebukes, often over trivial matters. 

Formal luncheon schedules were abruptly canceled, replaced by solitary meals in the study, where folding tables and chairs served as makeshift dining arrangements amidst the paperwork of state affairs. While understandable given the strains of governance, Jocelyn’s isolation during meals became a topic of speculation among courtiers.

Princess Odette, though not yet officially integrated into the government, began frequenting the king’s quarters. As her movements between the royal residences became routine, whispers of discord between king and queen swirled through the court.

Then, unexpectedly, Jocelyn stormed into the queen’s palace, issuing orders for a formal dinner to be prepared. Alongside this directive came a solemn plea for perfection, as the king intended to honor the knights whose valor had played a pivotal role in the recent war.

At these words, Lelusha couldn’t help but feel a flicker of relief amidst her concerns. It was a small consolation that Jocelyn still acknowledged her role by entrusting her with such a significant event. With renewed determination, she threw herself into preparations, reassured by the notion that she still held value in the eyes of her king.

Amidst the relentless demands of her duties, an unexpected visitor graced the halls of the queen’s palace.

“I offer my respects to Her Majesty the Queen,” the voice announced, belonging unmistakably to the Commander of the Royal Knights.

“It has been some time, Commander,” Lelusha acknowledged with a hint of surprise.

“Please, be at ease. Today, I come not as a knight but as a humble disciple seeking my teacher,” he declared.

The term “teacher” had long faded into obscurity over the past two years. Since ascending to the throne, Matthias had taken on the mantle of Commander of the Royal Knights, ushering in a new era where their relationship evolved from mentorship to one of lord and servant. Yet, private encounters had become a rarity, exacerbated by the physical distance between their respective residences. Matthias’s duties as Commander allowed scant opportunity for personal conversation.

“And what brings you here today?” the queen inquired.

“I have come to see you. Your disciple has been solely thinking of you while enduring the war, longing for this moment,” replied Matthias. Observing her pallid fingertips, he subtly curved his lips. “I had hoped you were doing well.”

Though his words were sparse, their underlying implications were unmistakable—a silent reproach for her foolishness. The bitter irony wasn’t lost on her as she struggled to muster a response. It was disheartening to witness a disciple who had always been so stoic now approach her with formalities. She wondered if this seemingly unfeeling disciple, who had rarely shown any warmth, was attempting to convey sentiments of sympathy or well-wishes, however poorly expressed.

“I didn’t realize you still held such concern for me,” she murmured.

“How could I not care for my mentor?” 

“True, but you’ve never been one to wear your emotions on your sleeve. I assumed I had faded from your thoughts. We were never close enough to engage in conversations like this, were we?” 

Their relationship had been forged under the directive of Jocelyn, a connection born of duty rather than genuine affection. Conversations between them often felt stilted, the exchange of pleasantries a mere formality rather than a genuine display of warmth.

“It seems the trials of war have wrought changes upon you,” she observed, her gaze searching his features. “Your visit, your admission of missing me, even your gaze—it all feels unfamiliar, almost unsettling.”

“I regretted it,” Matthias confessed quietly.

“Regretted what?” 

“What remains of our relationship.” 

With a deliberate movement, he reached out, his hand enveloping hers with a gentle yet firm grasp. It was a gesture both noble and imposing, the weight of his touch stirring a sense of unease within her.

“What do you mean?” 

“I want to set things right between us.”

The meaning behind his words eluded her, leaving her bewildered by his sudden earnestness. What did his gentle touch, his sudden approach, and the intensity of his gaze, like a predatory beast eyeing its prey with fierce determination, mean?
“Remember this feeling, teacher,” he urged softly.

She remained silent, her thoughts a whirlwind of confusion.

“The hand you should have held first belonged to your disciple.”

As his fingers gently slipped away, she couldn’t help but notice their gracefulness, a stark contrast to the calloused hands of a swordsman. His touch, though brief, left an indelible impression.

His fingers, bearing the faint marks of exertion, tapped against the table, as if imploring her to heed his message.

“Don’t repeat the same mistake next time, teacher,” he advised cryptically before abruptly departing.

Lelusha remained seated long after his departure, mulling over his enigmatic words. Initially dismissing them as inconsequential, she found herself unable to shake off the memory. The lingering sensation of his touch seemed to linger in her mind, leaving an imprint that refused to fade.



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