Chapter 19: [Untitled]
[Author’s Note: It’s been six months, did you miss me? Or perhaps Chloe Rhye? Haha]
Chloe stood and sort of tumble-pranced down the throne steps to at equal footing with her parents. They stood and discussed the details of the trip.
Eventually, Chloe asked, “…But should not some leader be taken with us?”
Her mother replied, “We are sending a prince, are we not?”
“Ah…I will be sent…as the leader?”
The King said, “This is your expedition, is it not?”
“And further,” her mother added, “was it not you who assembled this team of individuals?”
Her father said, “Yes, you have capabilities beyond what you may suppose. The journey will be difficult, but your years as royalty, and your capabilities demonstrated thus far will sustain you through it.”
They stood for a few moments and Chloe considered her position. Doubt crept into her mind, and though it did not grip her, it did concern her. She said, “And yet…I have only ever left the kingdom once.”
“Is it not the role of a leader to take advantage of the talent and experience of her troops?” Gwenhime said, a little fervently.
“To put it a little more universally,” said the King, “ It is appropriate for a leader to utilize and perhaps even lean on the abilities of his or her followers. Kent, for example, is your brother, someone you know and trust, and he has been, even lived outside the kingdom.”
“And so…” Chloe mumbled, “So…ah, so I can ask for help from my followers?”
“And you should.”
“Would, ha, would this not make me appear weak in their eyes?” Her gaze flicked for a moment to her mother, and then back.
“No,” the King replied, “rather, it will demonstrate that you value them and their ability.”
“Chloe, doubtful, paused and looked to her mother again, this time, for confirmation.
Gwenhime said, “Everyone has a place in an army. Commanders command, swordsmen cut, agents scout or even assassinate. Leaders lead. While we should be capable of all things, it is not necessary that we be superior in them except for that which is our role: to lead.”
“Hmm…” Chloe bit her lip.
There was a silence as Chloe thought about and consolidated the information. Then, the conversation continued on to more mundane and particular topics regarding the expedition.
Chloe sat on her bed. It was morning and she had dressed for the arena, but she just sat, swinging her feet. She glanced at her bedside table, at the notebook she had placed there. The cover read, in her own handwriting, What Little We Know about the Lussa. She breathed, stood up, and went downstairs.
Siren, a man interested in complementary food of any sort, had headed to the castle’s cafeteria.
Alexandre was already there and already eating. Siren understood how a cafeteria worked, and had no issues getting food. He looked around at all the tables filled with guards and then awkwardly sat across from Alexandre.
They ate in silence for a while, and then Alexandre asked, “So, what do you think of this whole arena business?”
Siren shook his head. “I’m not so sure. I am not so great a fighter.”
“Do you have any experience?”
“You might be in trouble.”
“Well…if Lilllith doesn’t let me go, I want to tell you something.”
Alexandre shrugged, and returned to her food.
Chloe sat down next to them, and Siren gave up on the conversation. He asked Chloe what she thought of the whole arena business, and if she was worried.
“Ah, well, I have seen combat before.”
“Oh, right, during the Legendary Event or whatever, right?”
“Yes. Since then my mother has been keeping my skills attuned. It should not be too bad.”
Siren frowned. He finished eating and went out to the arena ahead of them.
True to the King’s words, there was a section of the field just outside the city with benches arranged around it in a large circle. Chloe marvelled as they approached the flattened grounds and the bustling crowd.
The area in front of the castle was maintained for the purpose of sporting, but usually she didn’t pay much attention to such events. She tended to stay indoors and study.
“Ah, it’s been years since I have seen something like this…”
“I used to play in this field as a kid,” Alexandre stated, “Finch and Artus and Alice and I. Time moves very fast. Too fast.”
Chloe looked at her sidelong as they walked. Alexandre didn’t usually say anything so personal.
“I remember. You were one of the children then? I used to see you. It is very rare that children, even in groups, play outside the city walls.”
Alexandre nodded. A moment passed, and then she stopped walking.
Chloe stopped too. “What is it?”
“What—I remember you too, the Prince with her books.”
“No.” Alexandre turned, “No no. You can’t be the same person, that was,” she counted in her mind, “seven or so years ago.”
Chloe studied Alexandre’s features, unable to get a read; she didn’t know her well enough. She faltered, “Ah, yes?”
“No!” Alexandre grabbed her own head, “No, this…how can you’ve just exited adolescence for seven years? It is not possible. You look like you could be younger than me, but when I was a child you looked…exactly the same.”
Chloe shook her head. It is not complicated. Chloe moved Alex’s hand away and placed her palm on the woman’s forehead, pushing hair away. She took a breath, and gathered her contractions. “It’s okay Alexandre. This is not a secret. I can explain it to you in detail if you wish.” She could see Alexandre calming. “But right now is not the time. We have an ambassador to impress upon.”
Chloe let go of her head. Alexandre wondered if this is how Ammelia felt when they had encountered each other in the office.
Chloe saw Alexandre rub her eyes. The pair started walking again.