Chapter 7


Chapter 7: Relaxation & Infatuation

I thought I would melt away into another reality as I sat in a hot rose petal bath. I knelt in the bath facing the edge of the tub, my head rested on my hands. Norio sat a few feet in front of me blind folded. He refused to leave my side even for a moment after the night’s earlier events. It was a bit strange to have him there while I bathed but he made no attempt to sneak a peek at me so I was able to relax. There was a female servant sitting not far from the large tub with a big fluffy towel in her hands, waiting for me to finish. My thoughts were running wild even in such a comforting moment. Zola was valuable to King Dorieus so I was confident that he wouldn’t hurt her but, I won’t be able to be at ease until I can hug her again. I sighed heavily as I tried to escape my dark thoughts. I noticed Norio tilting his head to the side. His head was facing forward but I knew he was well aware of where everyone and everything was in the room. It was like he wasn’t blind folded at all.

Norio – Is something bothering you?

Malaika – I just have a lot on my mind…

Norio – I’d be surprised if there wasn’t. Tell me what I can do to help.

I looked up at him for a moment and I couldn’t think of much else but the mystery he was shrouded in. I figured this was as good a time as any to ask him about himself.

Malaika – Tell me about yourself. How did you get mixed up with The Phaloa?

Norio sat up a little straighter and crossed his arms before he spoke.

Norio – Circumstances of my birth forced me down the path of a Phaloan. I was separated from my mother when I was only five years old. I had to learn how to survive on my own. I got into trouble a lot growing up because I was often caught stealing food or being a pick-pocket. A strange turn events ended up with me stealing a coin bag off of one of the Phaloan mercenaries.

My eyes widened with surprise.

Malaika – Oh no…What did the person do to you?

Norio – Because I managed to slip away so well, when he caught up to me he offered me a job. From that moment I became one of them. I have personal reasons for staying with them. There’s something I must do, and I can only achieve it if I stay a part of them. Over the years they became my family so I can’t see myself ever breaking completely free of them…

He didn’t sound entirely happy about that last part, but I was sure there was a deeper meaning behind his words.

Maliaka – Norio, may I ask what happened to your mother?

He was silent for a long time. He uncrossed his arms and rested his fore arms on his knees since he was sitting cross legged.

Norio – She and I were banished from our homeland. My mother has a devastating power within her and she passed it on to me. My father not only banished us, he sealed her away in a tomb under a sleeping spell. It’s a layered spell made by multiple shamans. Maybe he hoped I’d die being so young on my own in the world so he’d be rid of us both. I’ve been trying to search for anyone with strong enough magic to remove the spell sealing her but I’ve had no luck so far…

Malaika – I’m so sorry Norio…Your father sounds like a heartless man. I’m sorry you’ve gone through such pain. I won’t press you to talk about anything more. Forgive me for making you speak on such painful memories.

He shook his head at me.

Norio – Don’t apologize. It’s not as painful to talk about anymore. Besides, I gave you my word that I would let you get to know me. That includes my deepest, darkest secrets. For now, I can only tell you this much.

Malaika – That’s alright, I’m honored that you’ve told me as much as you have. It’s taken my mind off of things a little.

Norio – Malaika…

My eyes widened slightly when he said my name, I felt my cheeks getting a little warm. It was something about the way he said it.

Malaika – Y-Yes?

Norio – I hate to bring this up after helping put your mind at ease but, you do realize we cannot stay here tonight?

Malaika – I know…Where do we go? We can’t go back to my family’s hideout now that it’s been compromised.

Norio – Well, there’s one place we can go that is secure and well hidden. I wouldn’t suggest this if it wasn’t the safest place for you…

Malaika – Where? Tell me.

Norio – One of the Phaloan bases. King Dorieus would never expect to look for you or your sister there. If we want to keep Nyah safe as well, she has to come with us. I think even the prince would agree. If Nyah isn’t here, King Dorieus will likely be uninterested in taking the place over.

I frowned then. As much as I wanted that to be true, it wasn’t.

Malaika – You underestimate his hunger for power. Even if my sister and I weren’t here, he would still want to take Fa Palace. He wishes to have power over all kingdoms. One King, one large kingdom under his rule. He’s a bloody tyrant.

Norio – I agree. Then if you would allow me to princess, I need to contact my people about this matter. I’ll only be gone a moment. Will you be alright?

I found myself nodding, realized he couldn’t see it and shook my head.

Malaika – I’ll be fine, you may go.

He nodded before getting up and leaving the room. It was almost eerie the way he was able to walk and avoid the benches and other furniture as if he could see. I almost suspected him of being able to see this whole time but I knew it was silly. He had a thick, black cotton blind fold on so he couldn’t see at all. He must’ve had years of practice. I turned around and sat against the wall of the bathtub, looking up at the ceiling. It was so high it reminded me of cathedral ceilings. The ceiling and walls had one giant mural painted all over them. There were exotic animals, jungles, and even angels among the art, it was beautiful. The pillars around the bathtub were painted a cream color and matched well with the beige marble floors. I did my best to embed all of it into my memory as it may be the last time I see such a sight.

Later after I’d bathed and dressed, my sister, Norio, the prince, and myself discussed the plan to go into hiding. Norio was correct in thinking that the prince would agree to sending Nyah off with me to a safer place, it was too risky for us both to stay in Fa Palace. We stood outside in the back of the palace. There was a second gate to go through leading out into the rest of the land and beyond. Nyah and Prince Jian were saying their goodbyes. As Norio and I stood there a few feet away from them, I was happy to see that despite their marriage being an arranged one there was a genuine love between them. Prince Jian held my sister Nyah in his arms and kissed her tenderly. Her hands were holding onto his shoulders as if she were afraid she’d float away. I was happy to see she’d found love in her marriage even if she didn’t choose him herself. I must’ve been smiling too hard because Norio nudged my arm, making me look up at him.

Malaika – Hm?

Norio – Have you never shared a kiss with a man before?

The question was so blunt I instantly became embarrassed. I looked away from him suddenly.

Malaika – That isn’t something a body guard should be concerned about…

I heard him laughing before he walked in front of me. He leaned in towards me with a teasing expression and I leaned back from frowning. My cheeks felt like they were going to burst into flames.

Malaika – W-What’s the matter with you all of a sudden!?

Norio – How adorable! You’ve never been kissed! I can tell by how uncomfortable you are talking about it.

He said as he reached out and gave my left cheek a gentle pinch. I gasped, putting my hand up to my cheek.

Malaika – Now you’re just being rude!

He continued to laugh but stepped back from me and turned to face my sister and Prince Jian who were now looking over at us smiling.

Nyah – You two seem cozy. Should I worry about my little sister being in your care Phaloan?

Norio – No my lady, I am a well behaved man. Are you ready to head out?

Nyah nodded and Prince Jian raised her hand to his lips and pressed them against her hand.

Prince Jian – Please take good care of her, I want her back Phaloan.

Norio simply nodded.

Malaika – Thanks again for providing us safe shelter Prince Jian. I look forward to returning the favor someday.

He shook his head no.

Prince Jian – No Princess, you saved my family’s lives and the life of the woman I love. We are forever in your family’s debt. Safe travels to you all.

We all gave him a humble bow before heading to the back gates. The soldiers opened them for us and we went on our way. Norio walked a little bit ahead of us, his bow and arrow in hand at the ready. I held my sister’s hand tightly as we walked, just like when I was little. I was close to both of my sisters and I missed their touch, their scents. I was afraid I’d never see them again, I planned on holding her hand until we reached our next destination. I was afraid she would suddenly disappear if I didn’t hold onto her…