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Chirp… chirp… chirp…
Rihannan looked at the sounds of birds flocking in the sky, their chirps ever so distinct. A bird’s nest sat atop a large tree nearby; the mother eagerly fed her children.
“You’re as big as me… children, they grow up fast,” Rihannan whispered.
She happened to pass by a bird’s nest sometime ago and surreptitiously watched them on a regular basis. Then, a week ago, the mother bird laid her eggs while the father bird cared for them with tender care.
Then one day, Rihannan heard the soft chirping sounds from the nest. They’ve hatched. Now they’ve grown.
Rihannan stood still from her place and watched the birds with intensity. In the past, the mother bird would set out hunting for food while the father bird, perched on a nearby tree, watched Rihannan, eyes gleaming and vigilant.
Rihannan smiled, finding their actions amusing. Currently, the father and mother bird was busy feeding their hungry children. They took alternate turns, one fed and one guarded.
As she watched the baby birds swallow the worms with its red beak, Rihannan unconsciously stroked her belly.
There was a time… a time she imagined herself holding a precious baby in her cocoon of arms… imagined feeding and loving that sweet little baby. She would rock that baby, soothe that baby, sing lullabies… and whisper sweet wonders.
But… eventually, her child left without warning, without goodbyes. Rihannan had her regrets. Had she known…
Rihannan turned around.
Mary was running towards her. She looked tired and breathless.
“Miss, I came to pick you up,” Mary said.
“I’m sorry. I’m late, aren’t I?”
Mary shook her head. “It’s alright. What happened in the palace?”
“The princess decided to play a game.”
“Oh goodness. Is it Kiritte? Why all of a sudden…?”
Kiritte was a sport for all ages and men and women alike. Mary knew how violent the game could become when the players get carried away. It often lead to multiple injuries.
Rihannan smiled. “Possibly. The princess was set on joining, but the ladies stopped her.”
Mary sighed. “That’s a relief.”
“Why?” Rihannan asked curiously.
“Wouldn’t want that nagging girl to get hurt, but knocking some sense into her would probably do her some good,” Mary waved her hand and hissed. “Right, anyway, Miss, you haven’t been sick lately, it seems like.”
Rihannan caught a fever not long after arriving in Chrichton. She did not know if it was sickness from the pain in her heart or the sudden relief to escape from the clutches of her past. She even had trouble eating properly combined with her fever.
Her uncle decided she needed to visit the royal doctor for treatment. After recovering a little, Dimitri grabbed her by the hand and led her outside with the aim of improving her physical strength.
“I can’t leave you alone like this. You’re too weak right now. As your cousin, this is my duty,” he would say.
Forced to walk around under the care and watch of her cousin, Dimitri, and going out to watch her her cousins hunt, play Kiritte, her health slowly recovered.
Slowly… her healing began. It took time, felt like forever — the pain, the falling, the breaking apart, but Rihannan held on. She gave herself the care that was long overdue.
She was healing.
Rihannan beamed. “It’s all thanks to Dimi. I don’t need to kneel to others anymore. I’m able to stand with my own strength.”
“Yes, it’s a bit barbaric here in Chrichton,” Mary said. “Well… no, but it’s a bit more wild than Arundell.”
Rihannan laughed at Mary’s words.
Unlike Rihannan who had been exposed to the Crichton natives since childhood, Mary was not. She suffered extreme culture shock, surprised by Chrichton’s somewhat rough lifestyle.
For example, when a hunting competition was held, Arundell’s was more proper, Arundell’s was controlled. They’d release a few deer into a controlled hunting ground and would shoot them with arrows, but here in Chrichton, whenever they went hunting, they’d go into the deep mountains.
She was scared to death once. Mary once saw Rihannan’s uncle and Dimitri throw a bloody bear in front of the door foaming at the mouth.
“So, Miss,” Mary coughed. “Would you like to go back to Arundell?”
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