PIASPM Chapter 4
Jade woke up and slowly blinked away the sleepiness that settled on his eyelids.
‘Where am I?’ He thought as his current state of dazed consciousness dawned on him. He had to bat his eyes several times to wipe away the fog that blurred his vision.
‘How did I get here?’ He had no idea what had happened to him.
He forced himself to recount his steps and jog his memories while he scanned his eyes around the room. He was hoping to get some clues that will tell him about his current situation. His five senses still tingled, and everything felt unfamiliar. From the feel of the sheets, to the scent and humidity in the air; there was nothing that he recognized.
He reached out to rub his eyes.
His sights settled upon the old wooden ceilings, while his back felt the texture of his mattresses. He realized that he was lying on a sturdy and hard material, but the sheets and duvets smelled and looked clean. As a gentle and cool breeze swept inside, he unconsciously inhaled its pleasant smell of medicinal herbs and salve.
There was a wide and open window near his bed, and when he turned his head to look in that direction, he could see the blue skies, green leaves, and even hear the pleasant chirping of birds outside.
However, when he tried to move, he felt a sharp pain that broke out from his head and reverberated all throughout his legs. He felt like a boulder just fell on top of him and that even his nerves were bruised.
‘That’s right, I was injured…’
It quickly became apparent to Jade what his current condition was. He carefully raised his hand and felt with his fingertips the white bandages that were wrapped around his head. He breathed a sigh of relief, while his blue eyes glistened from the memory that flashed through his mind, ‘I didn’t die…’
When Jade was growing up, he was often told that he had very clear and beautiful blue irises, but whenever he was feeling animosity, furry, or when negative and cold emotions settled in his heart, it would also shine through his eyes and he’d always end up giving them a sharp look; much like a knife that cut through their soul.
As of that moment, he was feeling a bit of resentment welling up inside him. He breathed out his first words in a low husky voice, “Todd?”
His voice was currently more subdued and dull, compared to how he normally sounded. He struggled to even swallow and felt that his throat was incredibly dry. He tried to raise his voice again and his brows furrowed as he exerted more effort than before. Thankfully, his faithful knight didn’t need to be called more than twice.
Todd finally heard his summons and immediately strode over to his bedside, “I’m here, Master.” He had earlier been sitting by the doorway of Jade’s room. While his master was sleeping, he was focused on sharpening his sword as he waited for him to wake up.
Now that Jade has opened his eyes, Todd knelt beside his master and peered at him intently, and waited for any command. He can see that Jade was still struggling even as he spoke.
“Where are we?”
“We’re at an inn inside the forest of Espin,” Todd replied.
He could see the slight furrowing of his master’s brows and he tried to decipher what he was thinking by the expressions on his face, “Master Jade, do you have any memories of us arriving at the inn?”
He could notice the young master’s eyes were still rather hazy and unfocused, as if he still couldn’t see clearly, “Espin Forest… Inn… Right.”
Jade was still a little incoherent, but he was slowly remembering things.
He remembered that there was an incident wherein he was moved with Todd supporting him. He recalled being in tremendous pain and moments where he struggled to not lose consciousness, “Something unexpected happened, didn’t it?”
Jade memories became more vivid. He began to see in his mind where it all started to go south and what he’d done wrong.
“I never expected for things to turn out like this.”
This all happened because he couldn’t refuse his third brother’s invitation to go hunting. Even though his retinues were reluctant to let him go and advised him to not accept his brother’s offer, he still stubbornly went to join the hunting party. He figured that since the weather seemed to be good, and the hunt wouldn’t last long, it would be fine and he and the party could return before sunset.
He was convinced that due to Espin Forest’s rough mountain terrain, its location would be disadvantageous not only to him, but to everyone as well and they couldn’t plan any attack against his life without risking their safety as well.
However, the clear skies they were promised had suddenly turned black. Thunder and lightning surprised them, followed by a barrage of heavy rain that poured down on them.
If it had been cloudy that morning, Jade would have prepared better for it. However, the unexpected storm caught him off guard especially because of the overly sunny weather they had been having. He was defenseless against the heavy downpour and encountered an accident.
He let out a sigh and felt the beginning of a migraine, “I don’t know who’s really to blame.”
Jade also recalled that they encountered another misfortune yesterday. Canto, his favorite horse, was startled by the lightning and ran wild. It was concerning because his horse didn’t act as it normally would.
It’s true that Canto was difficult to handle, but after it was tamed, it became a loyal horse. It only listened to its master; Jade. It never strayed and always obeyed his commands. But yesterday, Canto was terribly scared and rampaged through the woods and no one could stop its violent outburst.
Canto was originally a wild horse before he took it in, still it was an unexpected reaction.
His mind took him back to the moment where he was caught in the middle of a heavy downpour and the only thing that cut through the foggy darkness was thunder and lightning that flashed every other second.
Canto was startled and he raised his front hooves against the invisible attack, ‘Neigh!’
“Canto! Calm down!” Jade had tried to control his horse’s erratic behavior by pulling on his reins, but somehow Canto’s thrashing only became worse.
It started to break out into a harsh gallop and tore through the ravenous mountain plains. Twigs and small branches scratched against Jade’s hunting clothes as they started to move dangerously close to the edge of a cliff.
All Jade could think of back then was that if he fell off that cliff, he would be fatally wounded. The height of the cliff was not really lofty, but there were many rough rocks and broken trees beneath it, so his life could be threatened if he fell over it.
‘Bang! Bang!’ [E/N: please read this in moonlightnovels.com]
Canto’s neighing became more incessant, and Jade could feel himself being lifted off his horse, “Canto!”
His horse slid off the edge of the cliff and Jade managed to roll off his back before he could fall with it. It happened in an instant that he barely even processed what happened to him, he just found himself experiencing sudden pangs of pain that ran all over his body, like the raindrops that spread and soaked him as he stared up the dark skies, “Ugh!”
He felt as if the pain was nailing him to the ground. His limbs felt heavy, and he was immobilized. Every move he tried to make only caused him more agony. He could tell by the fact that he felt fainter by the second, and the quick spilling of warm liquid mixing with the cold rain, that he was gravely injured.
He hurriedly lifted his head and looked around him. He glanced over the cliff but he couldn’t find Canto below it.
“Canto… uh-” Jade barely managed to utter those words as he felt excruciating pangs squeezing his insides.
He squinted his eyes as he looked around the hazy scenery of the night forest. He knew that Todd was closely following him, but he wasn’t sure if his Knight had seen him fall off from his horse. He gathered his strength and began to scream, “Todd!”
Jade found himself squeezing out every bit of the remaining strength in his body, and called out his Knight’s name. But his voice seemed to be drowned out by the strong winds and thunderous lightning.
He tried to move his legs, but it was impossible. His eyesight was also quickly becoming blurrier and he felt lightheaded. Blood was dripping from his legs and stained the water puddles with red.
That same crimson liquid also gushed from his forehead, dripped against his eyelids and obstructed his vision. He could feel panic coursing through his veins and began wailing in desperation.
Suddenly there were hands holding him up and Todd’s face came into view, “Master! Calm down!”
That was the last clear memory Jade had before he was plagued with scattered fragments of scenes wherein they wandered the woods while Todd half carried him. He supposes his vague memory of the events that unfolded was proof of how close he was to death especially when he counted the amount of times he lost consciousness and blacked out.
“Ugh- hah.” Jade let out a shallow sigh as Todd helped him propped himself up on the bed. He leaned against the headboard and casted his eyes back at the windows to stare at the clear expanse of the heavens.
He was transfixed by the simple scenery before him.
Somehow the sight of the sun rising brightly over the horizon after the onslaught of a furious storm gave him hope for a future, “Todd, what else should I know?”
Jade started to rub his temples as a wave of dizziness threatened to overwhelm him once more. He tried to sit up straighter to take hold of his bearings but his head still felt a bit fuzzy.
Noticing his disposition, Todd held out a glass of water in front of his master, “Here, drink it please.”
Jade gratefully took a sip of water before facing his knight, “I know you are not telling me everything. Tell me, what is it that you’re hiding?”
“Yesterday, while we were wandering through the forest, I met a man who works at this inn.”
Jade let out a dry cough as he listened to Todd’s narration, “We got to this inn with the help of that man, and treated your wounds with the medicines supplied by the workers herein. I was fortunate enough to meet someone who was good at medicine and treatment. I daresay, they are even more skilled and their medicine is more effective than anything I have ever seen in the Capital. It is thanks to them that we were able to get over the big hurdle safely.”
“I suppose; I was really lucky.”
Jade then flipped open the blanket that covered his lower body and glanced down at his legs.
He found himself wearing a pair of strange short pants that he’s never seen before, and both of his legs were wrapped in a generous amount of bandages. He also figured that the smell of medicinal herbs he has been smelling was oozing out of those white bindings.
“Master Jade, your state is still fragile and you cannot move as easily as you want to. Although we managed to overcome the worst, you are still required to recuperate here until the wound on the leg heals. You also have a cut on your head. I suggest that you stay here and rest for a while.”
Jade nodded his head at Todd’s persuasion.
The pain that he felt from his legs was more than enough for him to know his current condition. He was aware that even if he wanted to, it would be very difficult for him to leave the bed for the next three or four days.
“How about Canto and Barack? Where are they?” Barack was Todd’s horse, and so Jade wondered what happened to them.
“Barack has followed me here. It’s currently doing well and is staying in the stables. However, Canto has disappeared from the forest and we plan to go and look for him today.”
Jade scratched his head, the movement scattered his beautiful blonde locks and some of it stuck out of the bandages. He thought that if only he wasn’t injured, he would have also decided to go with Todd and look for his horse.
If Canto isn’t in a good condition, no matter how hard Todd tries, he won’t be able to bring him back easily. A nagging voice inside of Jade was telling him that he must be the one to find his horse.
Todd could sense what his master was thinking, that he was planning to join the search despite his condition, and so he reminded him once more of his present situation, “Master Jade, aside from your minor injuries, your leg is badly injured. Not only did you hit a rock, but there was also a piece of wood buried in your thighs which we had to take out. When we removed the tree branch, it caused a tear on your flesh. The same goes for the head wound. You bumped against a rock and cut your forehead open.”
Todd’s explanation may have sounded convoluted, but he was only explaining the facts to him as clearly as he could. Jade was familiar with the manner of his speech and so he remained silent and waited for his Knight to finish his story.
“The only thing you can use freely right now is your hand. So please, I implore you to rest and not abuse your body.”
There was sincere concern in Todd’s request. He was pleading with his master with pure intentions and Jade knew that.
All his life, he worked hard and trained his body so he could become as strong as the knights, but this time he knew that he needed sufficient rest to be able to recuperate more effectively.
Todd stared at Jade with a heavy expression and so the latter raised his free hand and asked a rhetorical question to ease the nerves of his companion, “Does this mean that if I show up in front of other people with this body, I will be teased?”
The ‘other people’ whom Jade referred to were his brothers and their aides. In short, they were his enemies.
“I do not doubt it.”
At the honest answer of his loyal escort, Jade let out a chuckle and laughed, “Alright, I understand. Let’s find Canto first and then plan our next steps while I recuperate.”
Jade was aware that it was unwise for him to proceed without a plan. After all, he already made a mistake, and shamefully fell into the trap his third brother had laid out in order to eliminate him.
He admits that the bad weather was beyond their control and no human could have prevented it, but Canto’s sudden rampage was most likely a ploy his enemies had devised.
It was clear to Jade who had caused his accident and what their objectives were. However, it was still a mystery how they were able to orchestrate their trap so meticulously as they did. He knew that there must have been a real plan to eliminate him and that he was dealing with his greatest rival, one that wasn’t an easy opponent to defeat.
“What kind of people are the innkeepers here? Can we trust them?”
Jade had many enemies, therefore he could not trust strangers and was often wary of people’s real intentions. It bothered him that these people were aware of his injuries and his current state of health, if they let their guard down, and his enemies found out where he was, he might really die.
“To be honest, I found it strange that there was an inn deep within the forest. Furthermore, I had never heard of its existence, so I was hesitant to go here at first,” Todd answered with his usual blunt expression, “… however, it does not appear that you will be at risk here master. There are only four people living here; a middle-aged man and a woman, who appear to be a married couple and a couple of workers. I think it will be okay for us to use this place as your residence while you recover, especially because the people here do not seem to be nosy. They don’t give us unnecessary attention, nor do they sneak around and interfere with our business.”
While Todd spoke, Jade could not help but recall a strange image. He remembered there was a silhouette of a young woman that lingered in the deep recesses of his mind.
‘I think there was also a woman who wore a fancy hat and a white lace dress…’
He found himself debating whether or not he actually saw her or if she was just a figment of his imagination. He couldn’t brush her out of his mind for the simple reason that he found it strange that she wore a hat indoors.
“Master Jade, I have one more thing to report to you,” Todd’s voice broke his reverie, “The medicines they brought for your treatment were very effective. Therefore, I took it upon myself to order some in advance, just in case you would need more of it.”
“You did well, Todd.”
In all his life, Jade had only trusted two people. His brother Seth, and his escort Knight, Todd. Therefore, since Todd was one of them, it was only natural that he had faith in his decision. He also knew, his Knight always looked out for his best interest.
“Very well then, let’s settle here.”
Jade decided for the time being to prioritize his recovery. They both could also use the time to plan their next courses of action to deal with his enemies. However, he is also worried about Seth. They would need to contact him soon as he might grow more anxious about the fact that they were missing.
They would need to find a discreet way to reach his brother.
“Wait here for a minute, Master Jade. I will go down to the dining hall and bring you a light meal which you could easily digest.”
As Todd stood up and started to head out, Jade called out to him, “Wait!”
His Knight stared at him curiously, “While we’re here, try to use the name ‘Bastille’ when referring to me. Whether or not there are people around us, please use that name when talking to me. Since we won’t be leaving any time soon, I find it prudent for us to avoid revealing my real identity as much as possible. To be safe, it’s best that we remain cautious even with the little things.”
“I understand, Bastille.”
Todd quickly changed the way he addressed his master and proceeded to arrange and tucked the blankets around him. It was only after he was done with his task of covering his master’s lower body did he finally step out of the room.
As Jade basked in his newfound solitude, he found himself staring back at the window. He couldn’t help but think that his bed was nicely positioned for he had a beautiful view of the outside world.
Even though it seems ridiculous to think that he was born with good fortune, Jade thought that perhaps he was rather blessed.
The skies outside remained a clear shade of blue and had no trace of an incoming storm. It perfectly masked the fact that it had just been pouring out rain.
He could also see the different shades of green that surrounded the inn, as well as the flowers that blossomed in the garden. Somehow, the simple beauty of the place brought him comfort and peace of mind. He couldn’t help but admit to himself that even though he had seen a lot in his lifetime, he had never seen such lovely scenery, except, through the inn’s window.
His current situation was the worst state he’s been in, still he could not deny that despite the physical ache that sprung from his bruises and open wounds, this was the best he had felt in a long time.
‘Now that this has happened, perhaps we can pretend that we’re on vacation and finally be able to get some rest.’
He sunk into his mattress comfortably as his positive thoughts washed away the bitterness of yesterday. [E/N: please read this in moonlightnovels.com]
-To be continued