Elise nodded weakly, unable to lift her head or summon the strength. A shiver coursed through her body, despite the thick cloak that enveloped her. She couldn’t fathom why she felt so feverish, until she realized her hair was drenched. Not only her hair, but her entire body was damp from the plunge into the lake after the carriage accident. The cold seemed to seep into her bones, unyielding despite the layers of protection.
“We’re almost there. Please hold on a little longer,” came a voice.
Despite her bedraggled appearance, Elise realized her condition wasn’t as dire as she had feared. No injuries or bruises marred her body, and she could move without difficulty. It was a miracle, really. Had Andrei’s magic somehow shielded her from the impact?
A faint memory tugged at the fringes of her mind. When I fell into the lake, it felt like something was leaving my body, she thought. Was it possible that the barrier had failed to hold up, leaving her exposed and vulnerable?
She clenched her hand, searching for any indication of magical ability, but found none. Elise had always been painfully aware of her lack of magical prowess, a source of shame in a world where it was prized above all else.
If that was the case, then it seemed like the breaking of the barrier was just a hallucination, Elise mused. It was because the barrier that she was in was in such good shape.
With a determined cough, Elise managed to clear her throat, relieved to find her voice intact. “I can walk now. I’m fine,” she assured Rezette, though he regarded her as if she was crazy.
“You’re not okay. Even a knight wouldn’t come out of a fall from a cliff into a lake unscathed,” he pointed out, his tone firm.
“But I have no broken bones or injuries. My brother’s magic seems to have worked well,” Elise countered, feeling a pang of regret that she had wasted the barrier she had saved in case of any mishaps that might happen when spending the night with this man. It had served its purpose, however, shielding them from the onslaught of arrows that had rained down upon them.
“Please let me down,” she pleaded, hoping to convince Rezette to release her. “I’m feeling much better now, so it’s really okay.” Elise waited for his response, but Rezette remained silent. He found it pointless to answer to what he considered to be worthless words.
Elise sighed, shifting the topic. “Where are we going?” she inquired.
“We’ve arrived in a nearby town. We plan to stay here for a few days,” he replied, leading her into an inn. Ruben handed Rezette a key and informed him that the bathwater was being heated on the third floor.
“As soon as it’s ready, let me know,” Rezette instructed him.
“And the rations, sir…”
“And the rations… half a day. Until midnight. Don’t leave anyone behind. That includes you, Ruben.”
Rations? What rations? Elise was puzzled, but Ruben simply bowed and left, his expression stern.
Elise couldn’t help but ask, “Do the knights of Rotiara receive rations?”
Rezette’s response was sharp and unsympathetic as he rushed up the steep staircase of the inn, leading them to a cozy third-floor room with a blazing fire. “They failed to do their duty and protect their master. They are only receiving the appropriate punishment, so don’t worry about it,” he said.
Elise thought he would let her down now, but Rezette surprised her by continuing to carry her inside, his arms still holding her close. He closed the door behind them, leaving Elise feeling bewildered as she looked around the room. Though it couldn’t be called luxurious, even in the most generous terms, it was a well-appointed bedroom, complete with everything one would need, certainly a far cry from a shack or a prison cell.