Part 51: What is Family For?

" ...She pushed him from one corner to the other and slapped him here and cuffed him there, until the poor child was in continual terror..." (The Juniper Tree, Brothers Grimm)

-Ruta-

I can't get my legs to go any faster as they carry me down the steps of the castle and out towards the city. I ignore the well-wishers who are gathered in the courtyard, eagerly awaiting which girls will come back out of the castle as winners of the second round.

My legs take me past them all. Still running, I hurry out of the castle gates. As I run, I try not to let worrying thoughts concerning Eden take over my mind. The feat proves to be next to impossible. All I can think of is the horrifying sight of seeing Eden's blood bubble and rise in his mouth like a stewing cauldron before it gushed down his chin.

"Internal bleeding," Mouse-Girl, no, Morgana called it. The wings that were trying to push their way out of his back must be straining the rest of his insides, tearing at his muscles, causing him to leak all of that blood....

My hands gather around my mouth and I stop running. It takes all of my self control not to throw up whatever contents my stomach may hold. Since I've ate nothing since returning to life, I'm sure the sight will not be pretty.

Nerves and fear try their hardest to seize control of my body but I fight them away. A couple of deep breaths helps to steady my countenance and regain my composure.

As much as I don't want to, I must get to Eden. Even if everything in me is telling me to stay away from him, that this will end badly, that I will be left as broken as I was after Mother died, I still hurry towards the city.

I hear the galloping of his horse before I see Nate. Riding his pitch black horse, Nate rides gracefully down the street, heading right towards me. I slow my running to a halt and wait for him to reach me.

He gets within a few meters of me until he pulls up on his horse's reins and gets it to stop its brisk pace. Nate dismounts and hurries over to me.

"Rose, what are you doing out here?" he asks when he gets right in front of me. His face is filled with concern and confusion. "The second round should be well underway by now."

"I could care less about the contest," I inform the curious knight. I brush past him and make my way to his lovely horse. I reach up my hands to pet his dark muzzle, but he turns his head away rather rudely. A smirk plays on my lips. Just as I expected, it's the same surly stallion that Nate had when we were children. Even now, the big beast refuses to let me touch him, just as when we were children.

I hear Nate's armor clinking, indicating that he is moving towards me. I turn my head to look at him from over my shoulder.

Nate shakes his head, still seeming confused. He looks down at the cobblestone we are standing upon and knits his dark brows together.

"Forgive my intrusion, but did you lose?" he asks.

I feel myself bristling with embarrassment and anger. I turn back to his horse and grab its bridle, forcing it to look at me. It snorts in protest but doesn't move away when one of my hands trail down the side of its face.

"Of course not," I snap.

"Then, why...?"

I huff and spin around to face the nosy knight, dropping my hands away from the black horse's face. "I withdrew from the contest," I nearly yell. "Is that enough to pacify your incessant questioning?"

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