Ever since this thought had dawned on him, Kalion had paced restlessly around his office.
He’d thought harder on the matter and realized that Erna always lowered her voice when she was talking about Haband’s delegation. She always ended the conversation as quickly as possible, or stated that they were coming for scouting purposes, brushing off other questions by promising to tell him if something happened. It was the first time that Kalion realized she was scared.
The thought of this had upset him greatly. The image of her all curled up in fear just kept replaying over and over in his mind.
She’s normally so confident.
She never missed out on an opportunity to back-chat him, but she cowed down to a lowly Marquis of Haband.
Kalion didn’t like that at all. Erna was now a strong wizard and Hessenguard’s Archduke. Everyone knew this, everyone respected her for it. She was no longer the abandoned princess from 10 years ago. There was no reason she should feel small and insignificant in front of Marquis Canavan…
If that man so much as treated her rudely…
The thought had hardly entered his mind before Kalion had mounted his horse and was galloping towards the meeting spot. Surprised, Cedric tried to give chase, but couldn’t keep up with him.
Kalion took a road that was familiar and well-trod. He could still see the track of Erna’s party, even at the speed he was going. As soon as he arrived at the meeting point, he quickly summed up the situation.
The first thing he saw was Erna struggling to force herself out of the carriage, and then the subordinates standing around, looking uneasy. Then he’d seen Haband’s delegation, standing around and scoffing at her dilemma.
Without a second thought, Kalion had dismounted, gone to the carriage and opened the door. Just as he’d expected, Erna was frozen in a state of terror, no doubt reliving her first arrival here 10 years ago.
That scared, abandoned girl who’d been all alone in an unfamiliar carriage…
And so, he’d offer her his hand, silently telling her he’d escort her.
I don’t know… Kalion thought to himself. I don’t know why I did this.
He glanced at Erna out of the corner of his eye; she was still glaring at him, waiting for an answer.
He had to find something to say. But he just couldn’t understand why he’d come. Why had he followed Erna? He must be crazy to be worried about her. If this had happened in the past, he wouldn’t have cared. This was a matter between her and her homeland. But now…
Kalion rolled his eyes, if only to buy himself a little more time. He had to think of something. Suddenly, he remembered Cedric’s report on the standards of the knights being sent. Without thinking he answered, “I was told we had to send handsome, fit, skilled knights.”
“Excuse me?” Erna had no idea what he meant. She’d asked him what he was doing here, how was this an appropriate answer? But then she remembered what she and Vanessa had said when they’d requested an escort from the Knight Order. Kalion had just repeated her exact words.
“So, here I am. You forget about the person most suited to your description,” Kalion said.
Erna tried to say something, but just ended up opening her mouth and staring at him. So, he was here because he thought he fit the brief best?
Erna subtly twisted her hand out of his grip. This man had lost his mind.
As she slowly backed up, a look of irritation unfolding on her face, Kalion quickly added, “To watch over the Haband delegation.”
But it was too late for that. Erna was already fed up with him. “Why don’t you shout a little louder. I don’t think they can hear you over there,” she seethed.
Kalion reached over and closed her mouth, cutting off any other sarcastic comments she might have made. They stared at each other for a moment, then turned and approached Haband’s delegation together.
The Haband’s delegation made no move to leave their carriage, even when they saw Erna and Kalion approaching.
In terms of hierarchy rank, Marquis Canavan was a few steps lower than Erna. But even though she, the Archduke of Hessenguard, was approaching him, he gave no indication that he was going to leave the carriage.
This was a sign of immense disrespect but Marquis Canavan didn’t seem to care. He acted as if he were of a rank higher than she was, and the Haband’s delegation didn’t deter him.
These assholes haven’t changed a bit… Erna thought as she crossed her arms and glared at them.
Quite suddenly, it dawned on her that she was no longer scared. Before she’d got out the carriage, she had been literally frozen with fear, but now she was regarding them with an irritable stare and a laid-back stance.
The fear from the past 10 years seemed to have disappeared, leaving her relaxed and confident. She glanced at Kalion, noting how he had taken up a stance very similar to hers. And he was making no effort to hide his displeasure.
He still irritated her to no end, and today she felt that he was acting rather strange, but she was comforted by his presence. She got the impression that if she lost her temper, he would as well.
While she’d been studying him, Marquis Canavan finally exited the carriage with an escort. It was the first time in 10 years that she saw him.
With his hair carefully brushed back and his well-manicured moustache, and his Haband vestments, he looked exactly the same as she remembered him, if only a little older
Once he was standing firmly on the ground, he stared at Erna, blinking slowly before he said, “Are you a Hessenguard councilor? I’m Marquis Canavan from Haband.”
Against her better judgement, she scoffed at his words. He didn’t even recognize her.
Erna took her time studying him, noting how he looked a little smaller than the last time she’d seen him. She knew it was because she’d grown, but in her eyes, it was because he was nothing more than a thin, weak old man.
She had once regarded him as a being of absolute and overwhelming power, but now she could see in his eyes that he was nothing more than a fool.
Erna wasn’t scared of him anymore.