Sayumi dashed away to the stable, hoping maybe she could leave her confusion behind and ride her horse, Kayo. She smiled as she walked up to his stall, and saw his large head sticking out in the aisle looking for her. He neighed happily and she stroked his muzzle. Kayo had been the unplanned product of a wild stallion and one of the royal mares, and had it not been for Sayumi taking an instant liking to the little buckskin colt, he would have been disposed of at birth. Sayumi never regretted her decision; Kayo was the most loyal horse in the stables, and he could run faster and longer than any horse he had ever come across, even the horses bred for racing. And his hooves were different than the other horses, so he never needed shoes.
Riding was the only time a woman was ever allowed to wear trousers, since it was so impractical to try to ride while wearing a dress. And the sidesaddle method that the women in Westbrook used was so uncomfortable that it never caught on in other domains. Sayumi tried it once, and she almost broke her leg falling off. She never saw the point of it after that.
As Sayumi cantered Kayo across the countryside, she started to sing an old folk song to get her mind of things.
“Fair princess of the north lands, hear my song;
never has another held my heart so
but how could one as I ever hope to stand by you?
For I am just a stable boy
with nothing to my name
all I have is this one song
to play for you today;”
And as she began the next verse of the ballad, another voice chimed in, as smooth and rich as the desserts they serve in Repremendant (consisting mainly of chocolate, a delicacy that even royalty rarely are granted) Sayumi stopped Kayo and listened to the beautiful voice:
“You are not like the other girls;
who spit right in my face
you treat me as no other will,
you go right past my tattered clothes
and see my heart inside
What love, I have for you
you are the only one for me, for always.”
Sayumi turned Kayo around and faced Eliah, smiling at her as he always was. He explained, “They told me you went riding, and also that you have the fastest horse in the kingdom.” He held up the reins and his horse lifted his head. Sayumi looked at the gorgeous stallion, his gray coat speckled with little white spots. He was more muscular than Kayo, and a bit taller. Eliah added, “So I figured me and Simon should challenge that title. Care for a race?”
Sayumi smiled mischievously at him, “You're on.” With that, Eliah kicked his horse and with a shout Simon leaped into a gallop. Sayumi slammed her feet into Kayo's side, and he dashed off after the gray stallion.
Simon was faster than Sayumi anticipated, Kayo actually broke a sweat catching up with him. But one he did, Simon was no match for the superior stamina of Kayo. After about ten minutes, Simon couldn't hardly trot anymore. Kayo was only slightly winded, and danced around Simon as Sayumi called proudly to Eliah, “My horse may not be purebred like yours, but he is the fastest horse I've ever came across!”
Eliah laughed, and bowed his head. “I admit defeat my princess, your mount is superior to mine. But mine is very tired, and must rest for a while before returning back to the castle. The thing is, I have no idea how to get back. Can you wait for me so you can show me back?”
Sayumi agreed and they walked their horses to a nearby tree for a rest. Sayumi found herself feeling much more comfortable in Eliah's presence today, like he was not to be feared. While their horses rested, the pair talked about their childhoods, and she found herself telling him more than she needed to. The words just sort of spilled from her mouth, and she was mildly frightened by this. She even told him of her late mother. “She was a very beautiful lady; she looked a lot like Rakelle. She was kind, but she did always favor Rakelle. Sometimes when I looked at my family as a child, and I felt so different from them at one point I was convinced my mother had an affair and I was unwanted because she was scared Father would figure her out. But when she passed away she left me a message saying how much she loved me, and that I needed to make sure Rakelle didn't get into trouble. I was eleven, so Rakelle was eight at the time.”
Eliah listened thoughtfully, a strange look crossing his face, like he was investigating her. “I take it she took it pretty rough huh?” He leaned his arm on his knee as he sat on one of the larger branches in the tree, about five feet off the ground.
Sayumi nodded as she sat on one of the large boulders around the tree. “She cried like a baby for days. She wouldn't eat either, we had to force her to eat after the second day. Then suddenly, she was fine. She didn't cry at all, not even a sad face. I asked her about it when we were a little older, and she told me it was because Mother would have wanted her to be happy and enjoy life, and not dwell on the past. It was then I realized that while Rakelle may be young, she is definitely stronger than a great deal of people much older than herself. I really admire that strength in her.”
Eliah nodded, then replied, “We should probably be getting back, it's getting a bit late.” He stood up, but forgot momentarily that he had been sitting in a tree, and fell off the branch and landed with a sharp crack on one of the boulders.
Sayumi gasped and dashed to his side and demanded fearfully, “Are you alright?”
Eliah lurched off the boulder with a groan, and replied, “I think my arm is broken, can you see if it is?” Sayumi looked at the arm he had landed on, and sure enough, midway between his wrist and elbow there was a definite break that made his hand and forearm completely limp. As he got up, the limp hand and forearm just flopped around, and Sayumi shuddered as she imagined how much pain he was in. Eliah's expression was that of pain, but he still mounted his horse, and using his good hand, he held the reigns tight and announced, “It won't do me any good to sit there helpless will it? Let's return quickly so a doctor can attend to this immediately.”
Sayumi quickly mounted Kayo and the pair galloped hastily back towards the castle. Upon their return, Sayumi dashed inside and shouted, “Where is the doctor?! Eliah is injured we need him right now!! Bring a splint too!!” The doctor came dashing from his room, and whisked Eliah away in the same direction.
After a couple hours, the doctor let Eliah out with the strict instructions not to jostle his arm for the entire time until the splint comes off. And after hearing how it happened, he got a slap in the face from the doctor, and a backhand from the nurse.
“I’m sorry, it's all my fault!” Sayumi whined at Eliah once she found him after her dinner. “If I hadn't agreed to race you this would never have happened!”
Eliah waved his good hand at her. “I was the one who suggested we race, and it's not your fault I decided to sit in the tree. I just didn't expect to fall and land on one of those boulders, that's all.” He smiled at her again, and she felt even worse. Eliah sighed and looked out the window. “Your kingdom is beautiful Sayumi, much grander than the lands my father governs. However, compared to you even such a land as this is a barren wasteland.” Sayumi looked at him and saw his emerald gaze upon her again. Her cheeks flushed at the compliment. He continued, “When I first came here, I wasn't sure if I wanted to rule this kingdom, but after seeing you, my mind is made up. He stepped up to her, and knelt in front of her. “Sayumi, Princess of Feresat, will you be my wife?”
Sayumi covered her mouth with her hands, and felt her eyes moisten. She nodded vigorously, and Eliah grinned from ear to ear. He hugged her gently with his good arm, and whispered in her ear, “I'm going to tell your father the good news.” She nodded, her hands still covering her mouth.
“YOU'RE GETTING MARRIED!!” Was the overjoyed scream resounding through the house the second Sayumi told Rakelle she agreed to marry Eliah (Sayumi told Rakelle the next morning, knowing this would be her reaction.) A few servants peeked into the princess' room as Rakelle twirled Sayumi around the room, and giggled as Sayumi held on for dear life. Once Rakelle put Sayumi down, Rakelle started babbling about how beautiful her wedding was going to be. “You will wear the golden wedding dress, and your hair will be gorgeous, and your makeup will be spectacular, and your bouquet will be of the most rare flowers in the kingdom: Esper's Golden Love. It will be the most talked-about marriage since Father and Mother's wedding.” And she continued on like that in a similar fashion for pretty much the rest of the day (the only time she stopped talking for more than a few seconds was at meals). Sayumi had to yell at her after a while saying, “Rakelle! I know you are excited, but this is my wedding not yours! Please leave the planning to me!” Rakelle blinked at her, and replied gingerly, “Alright, sorry I just got a little carried away.”
As a few days passed, Sayumi noticed something strange: her Father had not been coming to meals ever since Eliah proposed, and also she hadn't seen any of the knights that had escorted Eliah ever since he arrived. Suddenly, she was very suspicions about this whole thing. Immediately, she dropped the book she had been reading and dashed to her father's room, a room she dared not enter except for circumstances such as these.
Inside, she saw a sight that almost made her scream. She saw her father, the king, lying in bed His skin was almost completely white, like bone. His skin clung to him, and was so wrinkly he looked easily twice his fifty years. He looked at her, and smiled a little. “You found me.” He wheezed as best he could. Sayumi slumped down next to his bed and held his hand. She asked as tears rolled down her cheeks, “Who did this to you?”
The king coughed a few times weakly, then replied, “I'm not sure, but I remember eating some potatoes and meat a few days ago that seemed a little off. Ever since, I've slowly been getting worse until this is what I'm reduced to.” He coughed and sputtered some more, and a dark and dangerous look set onto Sayumi's face. Someone had poisoned her father, and there was only one who could be responsible. But before she could say anything, the king continued, “There is something I have been meaning to tell you, ever since my wife died. Sayumi, I'm sure you've noticed that you are very different from the rest of the people around here, especially myself and Rakelle. The reason for that is...” He coughed again, and murmured, “you aren't really my daughter. I found you as a baby on the side of the road leaving Repremendant, and adopted you as my own.”