Chapter Twenty-Nine: Carpe Diem

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Duke Zenos took a few steps towards me, "Tomorrow...I want to take you somewhere."

My eyebrows arched up curiously, "Where?"

"Let's discuss the details tomorrow. You should rest for today," he replied.

"May the Spirits bless you," I smiled.

With a nod he exited my chambers, followed by Sir Elliot and Mariah.

I looked out through the open windows, my eyes stinging as the cold air gushed in.

I should close the windows or else I might catch a cold. A cold is the last thing I need right now.

With a heavy heart, I slipped into my sheets. All the crying had thoroughly exhausted me. Through my semi-open eyes, at the verge of dozing off, I saw someone. A man, his face hidden and his identity unknown, stood near the window, his cloak ever so slightly swaying in the wind. The familiarity he emitted was translucent. I felt that he stood there for a long time, even after I had fallen into my deep slumber.

The next morning, I awoke, sweating profusely and panting heavily. I had a nightmare but could not remember what it was.

"Miss! Miss!" Mariah shouted, relentlessly.

"Ah," I finally noticed Mariah.

"Are you okay?!" she asked, concern vivid in her voice.

I took a deep breath, "Yes, I am fine. Calm down. It's rather warm in here. That is why I am sweating."

Mariah was thrown into confusion, "With the windows open?"

The windows are open?

I stared towards the windows which were wide open.

I clearly remember closing them shut last night. How...wait...was the man I saw really not a fragment of my imagination? Am I really going insane?

"I mean...the weather is warm nowadays," I hesitated.

"Well, if you say so. The reason I entered your chambers is to let you know that Duke Zenos is here," she said in a hurry.

"Wait, what? What is the time?" I questioned.

"It is already evening. The sun has almost set. You slept throughout the day," Mariah answered.

Ahhh, how could I sleep for so long!

"The Duke has said to dress you as inconspicuously as possible," she added as she brought out a piece of pitch black clothing.

After I put on the attire given to me by Duke Zenos, I glanced at myself in the mirror. A black coat with black trousers to match and to top it all off, a black hood.

No matter how I look at it, this feels very conspicuous.

I stepped out of the mansion to be greeted by Duke Zenos and Cesar.

"It has been some time since we last met, Cesar. It is nice to see you," I said to which he replied with a slight nod.

Duke Zenos threw a dark look at Cesar, "Will you not greet me and only him?"

I remarked sarcastically, " apologies. It is a pleasure seeing you again although we saw each other just last night."

Duke Zenos let out a small grin, "At least you are in a state to tell jokes. That is a relief. I accept your apologies. Those clothes suit you. As expected, I have a keen eye for things."

Wow, his not-so-rare smug side is seeping out.

We walked into the carriage and I found myself asking, "Where are we going?"

"The Abbey."

"Why?" I asked.

An answer shrouded in mystery was served to me, "You will know soon enough."

Throughout the ride, we made small talk. However, not once did he tell me the purpose of today's outing.

We arrived at the Abbey. It looked as dreary as I recalled it to be.

In this life I really am doing all sorts of things. In my previous life, I couldn't have imagined that I would ever lay my eyes on this place, much less lay my foot here twice.

Duke Zenos led me to a narrow alleyway, which seemed to stretch for miles and miles. As we trotted down the raggedy path, I encountered countless peculiar people. Some with distorted faces and some with distorted minds. I marched forward, avoiding eye contact.

Duke Zenos stopped in front of a small pub, "We are here."

I looked at the half broken, half tilted sign above the door. It read:

               ~CARPE DIEM~

He pushed the door open with a clang, to reveal a relatively small and shabby pub. One step into the pub and my nostrils were filled to the brim by a strong stench of liquor.

Duke Zenos strode towards the bartender. As I got closer to the bartender, her features became clearer to me. Her black, lustrous locks reached up to her waist and her curvaceousness was enhanced by the stunning red dress she adorned. It seemed like she had walked straight out of a painting. Her bewitching and captivating presence was in pellucid divergence to the dilapidated pub.

Duke Zenos locked his eyes with the ravishing woman, "How are you, Madam Roxanne?"

Her voice had a sweet nasal tone to it, "So-so. You arrived earlier than I expected."

"After all I have someone new with me," he responded.

Her eyes scanned through the dingy tavern to meet mine, "Oh my, we have a guest. Is she the little miss?"

I felt rather taken aback and frankly offended when she referred to me as 'little'. Her closeness with the Duke bothered me slightly.

Regardless, I answered, "It is a pleasure to meet you, Madame Roxanne."

She beamed, "It is just Roxanne for you, my dear. Now then, why don't you tell me why you are here?"

Duke Zenos shrugged, "You know exactly why. Do we really have to do this?"

A grin creeped up on her face, "Rules are rules. If we do not follow the code of conduct, 'he' might get cranky."

Who is 'he'?

"Fine. I am here for a bottle of tiffany," annoyance palpable in his tone.

Madame Roxanne's grin shifted to a more serious expression, "Time to do some business."

She led us through a door at the back. As soon as we exited the pub, the atmosphere completely changed. We were surrounded by well maintained walls and a sturdy floor. The interior wasn't anything grand but it was better than what I had witnessed previously. Sounds of a gathering of people, talking amongst themselves, became louder and louder the further we travelled. Soon we arrived at our destination and Madame Roxanne pushed open a heavy wooden door.

I examined the sight in front of me. A chandelier loomed over the hall, casting on it a ghostly glow. A map of the Empire hung on one wall while photos of certain nobles on another. Numerous people, nobles and knights alike, sat in a circle at a long table. My heart pounded as adrenaline coursed through me. Finally, my gaze fell to the person at the head of the table who gladly returned it. It was none other than the Crown Prince of the Empire.

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