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The influx of air entering your system after taking deep breaths had calmed your pounding heart. Trying to convince yourself that this little kiss on your hand was something he did often to other ladies, you suppressed the thoughts that the notion could represent something more. Which was preposterous and something so farfetched that you were an idiot for even spending a second on the idea. Why oh why did he have to play with your feelings like this? He was but a mere stranger.

Finding the courage to look at him in the eye, you noticed him grinning at you, his cheekbones sprinkled a soft red. Clearing your throat a little and forcing yourself not to look away again, you stood your ground this time. "So... what did you want to talk to me about?"

"Oh, I was just-"

Suddenly collapsing onto the cobblestones of the road, you let out a groan. The rough pebbles and dirt grazed through your pants and bruised your skin. Capturing the attention of a few people, they all stared at you in bewilderment. Nausea and dizziness spiraled through your head and you reached your arms up to rub against it.

Polished, black shoes stepped towards you in your vision and you could see that the young man's face was twisted in concern. He bent down to reach your level, ignoring the bystanders who continued to watch the two of you as if you were a show. "What's wrong, [Y/N]?" he said urgently, whispering your real name since you were still deemed a male among outsiders.

A cool palm was pressed against your forehead and you nearly yelped in shock. Leaning your head back from his touch, you gave him a pointed look. "Blaise, please. There are people around and there is no need to do that. I am not sick. That, I know of."

As if to prove your objective, you heaved yourself from the surface of the earth and straightened yourself out. While doing so, another wave of nausea overcame you, and your head began to hurt. Your vision blurring and the world spinning, you stumbled and would've fallen once more if it weren't for someone's support. The same hands grasped firmly on your arms, keeping you uplifted. "Hey, I am fine now. Thank you, but I can manage on my own from now," you told the young man.

You weren't let go. "Somehow I doubt that," his voice taunted. Without looking over at Blaise, you could hear the smirk that followed his words.

Protests were about to leave your mouth, but the pressure on your skin was released. Smiling in satisfaction, you took a step forward only to stumble again. Blaise's hands held onto you for the millionth time that day. You sighed loudly and knew that you had no choice, but to submit to defeat. "I apologize for asking you of this, but would it be possible if you walk me to the stall? By then, the headache will be gone for sure. This is just a small setback."

His forehead furrowed and his lips pursed into a thin line. He shook his head stubbornly, his locks flying in the air. "Working in such a state? You have to go home and rest up. It will get worse if you push yourself too hard," he chastised you, clicking his tongue. He spotted you parting your lips and immediately interrupted you before you could try. "No excuses. We'll stop by the stall for you to fetch your fruits, but afterwards, you're leading us the way home."

The feeling of panic settled in. He didn't understand. This was about your stepmother, not about your well-being. You would rather spend a few more hours out in the market than see another one of her tantrums. No doubt, even if you come home earlier, she'd make you do work anyway. There was no time to rest - especially not to someone like you. The precious free time you sometimes could get weren't spent on rest either... those minutes were wasted on your dress.

You knew this young man wasn't going to budge and now you had no choice but to follow it. Unless you preferred to spill your entire sob story to a person you barely knew, you had no other reason to argue. He began you to guide you through the streets, heading towards the direction you came from earlier. The very same direction being opposite from the royal palace. Walking with Blaise's steady grip, the further your dreams felt... and the more your hope felt foolish.

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