Chapter 4: Words To Live By
I awakened still feeling fatigued. I barely slept last night because my mind was full of “what-ifs” and worry for my sisters. On top of that, I was sleeping in a new place with a complete stranger. This situation was going to take some getting used to. I yawned heavily as I sat up in bed and looked around the room. My eyes found Norio sitting up against the wall; he was sound asleep with his head lowered. His bow was in his hand resting on his lap and it looked like he had a firm grip on it. I wondered what he had been through in his life to be able to be on guard even in his sleep.
My stomach suddenly growled loudly and I put my hands on it as if that would quiet it. It was then that I remembered I hadn’t eaten since early yesterday afternoon.
I jumped when I suddenly heard Norio’s voice. I was under the impression that he was out cold, but he was looking up at me with very alert eyes.
Malaika- I thought you were asleep, you scared me half to death you know!
He laughed half-heartedly.
Norio- Forgive me princess, I didn’t mean to scare you.
He said before standing up and stretching. When he had stretched to his heart’s content, he placed his bow on his back and looked at me curiously.
Norio- If I may…Do you know how to cook at all?
I suddenly looked away from him embarrassed and shook my head no, I heard him sigh.
Norio- Well come on then, I’ll feed you.
He said before leaving the room. I thought better of him for not teasing me. I got out of the bed and did a little light stretching of my own before joining him in the kitchen. In 45 minutes he’d made baked sweet potatoes, two chicken omelettes, and wild rice on the side. I was beyond impressed seeing as it wasn’t very common for men to have cooking skills in my world. I sat at the table eager to try his creations as he placed a plate in front of me and then his on spot across from me. He sat down in the chair across from me and picked up his fork ready to dig in. I put my hand up in a “stop” motion and he raised an eyebrow at me.
Norio- Is there something wrong my lady?
Malaika- Aren’t you going to say grace first?
He looked away from me for a moment then placed his fork back down on the table next to the plate.
Norio- I’ve never had time for any of that. I’m always eating on the run, so…
I smiled and held my hand out to him. He looked at it with uncertainty.
Malaika- I’ll say grace then, take my hand.
Norio- Is that all I have to do?
I almost laughed but held it in, it was the first time I’d met anyone who didn’t pray over their food.
Malaika- Yes, and bow your head. All you have to do is listen and then we can eat ok?
He nodded and took my hand but he seemed to stare at it briefly before bowing his head. I felt my heart beat speed up slightly and I wasn’t sure why. I nervously cleared my throat before I bowed my head and said a short prayer. When I finished we raised our heads again and I was the first to pull away.
Norio- So, that’s all there is to it then?
Malaika- Yes, not difficult at all.
I said giving him a warm smile. He didn’t return my smile but picked up his fork and started eating instead. I didn’t understand him but I was hoping at some point I would come to understand him at least a little. I knew nothing about him aside from his name. I picked up my fork and tried some of the omelette. The taste was like a party in my mouth! I never had one before and I didn’t know what to expect but this was really good! My father had told my sisters and I that people would be cooking for us our whole lives so there would be no reason to ever see a kitchen. How wrong he had been.
Malaika- This is really good, I didn’t know what to expect.
Norio- I’m glad my food could please the princess’s tastes.
Malaika- …Do you think you could teach me how? To cook I mean…
He looked up from his plate and nodded which made me smile.
Malaika- Thank you, I’d like to cook something for you in return someday. My sisters will be jealous that I’ll learn to cook before them…
I said taking another bite. My joyful mood suddenly died as I thought of my sisters. While I sat here smiling and eating breakfast with a strange man I had no idea if they were safe or not. I know I have to eat to keep up my strength if I was going to do anything but, I couldn’t help but feel a little guilty.
Norio- Princess? What’s with your expression all of a sudden?
I looked up at him and set my fork down next to my plate.
Malaika- I should be discussing what to do next, not sitting here enjoying breakfast like nothing has happened. To be honest I’m not sure where to start.
Norio- You can’t sit here beating yourself up about it either. You had a vision last night right? Start there.
I nodded as I thought about the dark vision. It was obvious that it was a warning, but I didn’t know what I could do to be of help to them. I was a liability.
Malaika- We have to make it to the Palace of Fa and the Takeo Castle to rescue my sisters. We need to warn the royal families of King Dorieus’s plans before it’s too late.
Norio was halfway finished with his food while mine was pretty much full. He looked at my plate and then up to me.
Norio- Fill your royal belly before your stress ruins your appetite. You can talk and eat right?
I nodded before picking up my fork and continuing to eat. He was very blunt which I found annoying, but I was in no position to complain.
Norio- We have several problems. You have to conceal your identity 100% of the time we’re away from this safe haven, it will be hard to pass the checkpoints at each region’s boarder. I’ll need to reach out to my contacts and look for a way to avoid them.
Malaika- Is that even possible?
Norio laughed a little.
Norio- You’d be surprised what’s possible. Now, another problem is the obvious, you can’t exactly fight beside me so I am your only protection. I’m not saying that I can’t handle myself against King Dorieus’s men, but having at least two other people protecting you would make things a lot easier on me. If we arrive too late at either of the royal houses, I can’t guarantee your safety completely.
My eyes widened when he said that last part. I avoided thinking about the possibility that we’d arrive too late to save one or both of my sisters.
Malaika- Well, let’s hope we make it there in time.
After we’d finished eating, we’d headed over to Angelo’s specialty store to request his help. The three of us sat in his office to talk. For extra security, Angelo placed a spell on the door that would block anyone’s ears or magic ability to listen in on our conversation. I had no idea such magic existed, it seemed I didn’t know a lot of things about the world I lived in. That fact was a bit frightening.
Angelo- My lady shouldn’t you stay here under the protection of the city? It’s too dangerous for you to go on this journey.
Malaika- I can’t just sit still while my sisters are in danger. Besides, who else can confirm this story besides me? You need me physically with you to vouche for your credibility. The guards at the royal houses won’t let you pass if you tried to warn them. They know of my gift, I can convince them.
Angelo sighed heavily but he nodded in agreement.
Angelo- You’re right. Fine, I’ll gather a couple of my people to accompany us. They are people I would trust to keep you safe even if it meant my death princess.
Malaika- Thank you Angelo.
Norio had been silent this whole time, which worried me. Angelo looked over at him curiously.
Angelo- Norio was it? What will be your contribution to this critical mission?
Norio placed his hand to his chin and looked at Angelo with his usual neutral gaze.
Norio- My bow and a few contacts of mine. They’re in the underground scene so don’t expect a band of honorable knights and noblemen. I’m not even on those levels myself. Just know you’ll have plenty of support from me.
Angelo looked at him with narrow eyes and I knew he was growing suspicious of him. Angelo then looked at me and I sat up a little straighter under the weight of his stare.
Angelo- Forgive me my lady but, are you sure this man can be trusted? What do you know about him?
Malaika- I know that he saved my life at the risk of his own and pledged his loyalty to my family. If he’d wanted the bounty on my head he wouldn’t have watched over me last night. Isn’t that right Norio?
Norio looked over at me and nodded.
Norio- I could’ve kidnapped her in the middle of the night and made myself a rich man, but I didn’t. As far as I’m concerned, the only one I need to convince is her majesty.
He said looking over at Angelo grudgingly. Angelo glared at him then, and the tension between them was even stronger than before.
Angelo- Listen here you little punk! I’ve been loyal to this family for years and I’m willing to die for them! Are you!?
Norio looked him square in the eyes, his eyes held so much intensity.
Norio- No, I’m not.
Angelo abruptly stood up from his seat with his fists balled up and I quickly stood up as well.
Angelo- What the hell did you just say!?
Malaika- Angelo please, restrain yourself!
Norio- You heard me. If I die for her, how can I protect her and help her get her sisters back? Only a fool would willingly die for someone they were meant to protect.
I looked down at him surprised by his words. He looked directly up at me and in that moment I thought I began to see what he was thinking. He was full heartedly devoting himself to me in more ways than I first thought. I shook my head and tried to block it out. My powers had a mind of their own at times when my emotions were hightened. Angelo sighed heavily and his hands relaxed again.
Angelo- I don’t know if it’s a coincidence that someone like you crossed paths with her, but you’d better do as you’ve so valiantly promised. If anything happens to her you’ll answer to me.
Norio stood up and went to the door.
Norio- Yeah yeah muscle head, whatever. I’m done with this conversation. My lady, I’ll wait for you outside…
Norio left the room and I looked up at Angelo shaking my head.
Angelo- Forgive me lady Malaika, my behavior is unforgiveable.
Malaika- No, you’re just concerned about my well being, there’s nothing wrong with that.
Angelo- I just don’t know what it is about him, but I don’t trust him. YOU shouldn’t trust him either.
Malaika- I’ll be careful.
Angelo- Right. I’ll get a couple of my comrades together and we’ll set out. Prepare yourself for the worst because a lot of time has passed and we have no idea what’s been happening out there during the night.
I nodded solemnly. He was right, I shouldn’t get my hopes up too high just in case. But I couldn’t help it. I had a good feeling that we’d get to my sisters and warn them in time. Having Norio with me gave me confidence because I’d seen his strength and I believed in him. He was still very mysterious and a little strange but, he was protecting me and taking great risks to do so. He may not think of himself as noble or valiant but, his actions thus far have been nothing but noble and valiant. I could see that, even if he didn’t see it himself.
COPYRIGHT ALEXANDRIA REEVES 2015