16 Only Girl In the World
(From the point of view of Damian Carmichael)
When Madame Belladonna woke up, she quickly stumbled around all over the place. By the look of her sweaty face, she seemed to be scared about something. Her beautiful countenance was now covered with a dreaded expression as she continued to shuffle her hair while muttering beneath her breath.
I decided to approach her with a weary look. I was about to extend my arms towards her to tap her shoulders, but midway through it, I decided not to do it instead. I then straightened my body and asked as I stood behind her panicked figure. "W-what's going on, Madame Belladonna?"
"THE PRINCES!" Madame Belladonna uttered as she turned her head towards me like she was under some kind of psychic spell that threw her psyche in some sort of unbearable trance. "HAVE YOU SEEN THE PRINCE HERE!? ANYWHERE? WHO TOOK THEM, SIR DAMIAN!?"
"C-calm down, Madame!" I said with a puzzled look on my face as I waved my hand in an attempt to ease her nerves. "Th-they're inside of the Captain's Quarters with Uncle Bert!"
"Eh?" Like a bug scurrying around the surface of the world, she hurriedly ran towards the room beside ours. She swiftly swung the door of the Captain's Quarters open. Madame Belladonna still had a dreadful expression on her face when she heard the whereabouts of the princes, but she only managed to heave a relaxed sigh when she saw that the princes were soundlessly sleeping beside the now snoring Uncle Bert. "I was so worried..." Madame Belladonna said as her legs slowly fell onto the ground in the Captain's Quarter's doorway. She continued looking at the princes with a relaxed smile, but her shaking body made her unable to go towards them.
I then approached her while the voices in my head battled among each other as to what I should do next: Should I console her? Should I wrap my arms around her? Should I give her a dazzling smile to ease her pain? OH, MUST I REALLY THINK THIS PROFOUNDLY BECAUSE OF THIS SMALL MATTER!?
However, when I saw the way Madame Belladonna tried her best to crawl towards the princes with her tired feet, I knew then what I had to do.
"M-Madame Belladonna, may I help you move towards the princes?" I said as I knelt beside her with a worried expression.
"It's okay, I..." She then tried to stand up, but her legs surrendered once more, and her weakened body had fallen into the wet wooden floor once more. Her beautiful pale face then brilliantly flushed as she looked at me with an awkward grin. "... I guess I can use some help..."
A bright smile then started to appear on my relieved face when I heard the words that came out of Madame Belladonna's lips. "Yes!" I then ever so gently lifted Madame Belladonna's limping hands and placed it above my shoulders before raising her entire body entirely with my arms around her waist. "I hope this is not... uncomfortable..." I weakly said as I saw that Madame Belladonna's feet are pretty much limping powerlessly on the floor. Thus, it almost felt like I'm dragging her body forcefully from the ground.
She then chuckled as she tightened her grip around my shoulder. "It's fine, Sir Damian. You're doing me a great service already." She then diverted her gaze at me before showing a smile that could send the world into a wave of eternal peace. "I should be apologizing for making your carry a powerless woman like me when you're still injured."
"N-n-n-n-n-n-n-not at all, Madame!" I said, trying my very hardest to utter the first syllable of my words but inevitably failed hard. "I hope... you can rely on me more too..."
"I've already relied on you enough for these past few days." She gently whispered as I slowly descended her body to make her sit beside the peaceful-looking princes. It would have been a beautiful sight if it weren't for Uncle Bert's unbearable snores. "Unbelievable. I must be getting older, indeed. I remembered hearing that magicians' bodies will turn into a vegetable-like state if they overexerted their magical might. Still, I never once expected that it would ever happen to me."
I then looked at Madame Belladonna with a puzzled look on my face. I have never once known what it felt like to wield magic in my whole life, and this is also the first time I spoke with someone who actually casts spells, unlike my Uncle Bert. I would usually only mingle with the type of people who only know how to use the sword and the shield, so I must be showing some kind of dumbfounded look on my face right now.
Madame Belladonna must have realized this, so she quickly explained what had happened to her with a refreshing chuckle. "Magicians are like bottles, you see, Sir Damian, but unlike normal bottles, humans break if you take too much liquid inside of it. The same principle can be applied to blood, but when it comes to mana, well... things can get complicated."
I loved the way she spoke. It's filled with so much power and confidence that she wouldn't even need to try so hard to exude an aura of authority—heck, her very being is the very definition of what power is. I would love to hear her talk more, just a little bit more until we reach eternity.
She then looked at me with a smile, and I must have been showing a stunned look on my face because she suddenly laughed lightly, perhaps concealing herself in order not to wake the sleeping babies—including my uncle. As she continued to sit comfortably beside the princes who were happily laying on what seemed like 12 layers of blanket, Madame Belladonna spoke in a weak whisper.
"Sorry. I must have been talking about something boring!" She jokingly uttered as she tilted her head to her side, making her straight black hair gently fall into her shoulder.
"NO!" I shouted, which sounded too loud that I hastily covered my mouth after hearing my cracking voice. I then looked at Uncle Bert and saw that my sudden uproar didn't wake him. Instead, he just grumbled some more and changed the way he positioned himself on his large bed, facing away from us so that I can see her ass-crack peeking out of the rug he's wearing. I then diverted my gaze back to Madame Belladonna, avoiding my uncle again entirely. "Err... I mean... I don't mind you talking some more..." I then scratched my nape a bit as I sat beside Madame Belladonna with my gaze pointed to the creaking wooden floor. "I mean.... um... Of course, if you wanna..." I then grumbled the rest of my sentence into an incomprehensible mess as my face started to get a bit hot.
Madame Belladonna's smile widened even more as she looked at me. Her high cheekbones showed even better when she revealed a relaxed smile as a twinkle appeared in her eyes.
"Well, in a nutshell, spells need mana to be used. Let's use blood as an example so you can understand." Madame Belladonna then moved her body slightly towards me as she leaned her head forward into my chest. He then dug her fingers into my chest, making me nervous that she might feel my exaggeratedly beating heart. I then looked down at her as she continued to focus her stares towards my hardened chest. "The heart pumps out blood and mana, and the rest of your body clamors around to get it. If you use some kind of weak fire magic, it would only cost such an insignificant amount of mana that you wouldn't even feel it affecting her body. Do you remember the spell I used while we were fleeing in the jungle." She said as she suddenly raised her head, making our face meet midair with only a few centimeters between our faces. Since I'm sitting in front of her, it would have been easy for me to pull my body away, but I just can't... or maybe I don't wanna...
"Y-yesssss..." I said as I tried to move my body away from her face, but somehow, my body is too paralyzed to move like I was petrified and turned into a talking stone.
"Usually, if I used that spell for 10 minutes, I would have depleted all of the mana in my body." The same smile remained on Madame Belladonna's face as she continued, "If I kept it for an hour, I would have died."
"D-dead?" I uttered slowly as my body suddenly trembled about this fact. Does that mean... using magic can kill a person? A magician's body can kill itself? I... Then..."How long did you use it back then in the jungle then?"
Madame Belladonna's eyes then fell on the ground slightly before she established eye contact with me again with a chuckle. "About 40 minutes." She said as she moved her body away from me and directed her gaze towards the two princes.
"Holy fucking shit..." I said as the whole strength in my body slowly depleted down to the floor like I was some kind of slime, trickling down and melting to my demise. Since I'm sitting here with my Madame Belladonna on the floor, it's much easier to feel like I'm a liquid-based life form getting drained down into the tiny cracks in the wood.
"Yeah... It's crazy. I know..." She then chuckled as if the fact that she almost died was just an irrelevant factor in this entire conversation. Let me repeat that: 20 minutes more, and she would have died, but she just still kept on laughing away here like it wasn't even a big deal. Madame Belladonna then continued her words as she tapped my shoulders. "Oh, don't look so gloom, Sir Damian! I'm still here, right?"
"Yes, but..." I then leaned my body forward to meet her gaze, but when our eyes did meet, I felt like I became too weak to react and didn't know what to do. Thus, I immediately averted my eyes off her twinkling stares, making me lose composure as I forgot what I was supposed to say.
"Something similar to this happened when I was young. I went just full RAMPAGE on all of these people. RAH! RAH! RAH!" She then laughed heartily as she mimicked the way monsters would move along with a silly impression of an angry expression on her face. "It lasted about 50 minutes, but even then, I wasn't... like this..." She said while pointing her hands at her throbbing legs as she continued to laugh along with her words. She started kicking her feet along with her silly performance too, which made me realize that she must have been feeling better now after sitting on the wooden floor for a few moments.
"I think maybe... It's because... when you saved me, I..." I said, stuttering as I remembered what Uncle Bert told me earlier, about how Madame Belladonna saved my life with her psychic powers.
"Oh... That? That's nothing! It wouldn't tire a woman like me with just THAT!" She then chuckled, making her high cheekbones show ever further while her soft linen dress flows around her still shaking body. "I think it might be the barriers..."
"Do the barriers put too much strain on your body?" I said while looking at the way her hands softly touch the cotton-like texture of the princes' faces alternatively.
"Not really, but, Sir Damian, you have to understand that I have coated the princes with seven layers of barriers for almost four days. Amateur magicians could never!" Madame Belladonna said her last sentence with a more grungy voice as she suddenly moved her gaze towards me with a pair of burning eyes but still with the same gleaming smile. "They're lucky they have me!"
I then chuckled softly as I finally lost my train of thoughts and now don't know what to say to continue this conversation moving. Suddenly, a thought came into my mind, but I wasn't sure if I really have the right to say it...
"Madame Belladonna... may I ask, umm..." I said, not knowing how to articulate my words properly as my thoughts started to jumble all over my head.
"You wanna know why I would push this hard for two babies that are not even related to me by blood?" Madame Belladonna said precisely what I had in mind as if she was looking right inside of my head.
I then stammered awkwardly, still not knowing how to reply to what she had just said, but knowing very well that this is my responsibility now since I brought it up here. Thus, I still went on with it even if I know that... it's not really a wise decision knowing what had just happened to the king. "I-I mean, of course, I know that it's because th-they're the sons of the king since I would also, you know, uhm... sacrifice myself for them, but I just... uhm.."
"They're family to me, Sir Damian, just like their parents. To me, I always looked up at the king and the queen as this... wonderful array of hope that will always be there with me, you know? I always thought that they would light up my life during my darkest moments, just like how they did when I was young." She then looked up at the peaceful scenery outside of the window as the light touched the softness of her skin. "They're more than just friends, and I don't treat them solely as JUST like a brother and sister figure, no, no, no, no, no! I treat them like my parents and something more way above that if that thing even exists!" She then chuckled after a short moment of seriousness, plastered over her grim expression. She then showed me another one of her dazzling smiles again as she looked at me before continuing, "Bah! I'm sure you've already heard the stories about me!"
"I only heard rumors..." I said as I saw the sudden playfulness in her eyes.
She then touched the back of her hands lightly on my wounded cheek, which made me jump back slightly away from her, but not because of pain. She then spoke, "Rumors can still hold true, Sir Damian..."
As she continued to caress my bandaged skin, a part of me started cursing the world for not making me a piece of gauze instead! I then spoke with my eyes slightly closed, looking only at her smiling face through the tiny open space of my eyes. "Th-then... the ones I've heard are about how you were imprisoned when you were young..."
"That's quite true, yes. I can't see the reason why I would hide that now that it pretty much became a part of my identity, it seems! But yes, that was true. I was taken away from my home in Duibhne and was shipped far, far away into Defuntalac wherein the only people I've seen are men—old, old men, terrifying men, and they're all there just to hurt me." Madame Belladonna then started moving her hands around my wound as she let out a pained sigh. "In those few years when I stayed chained up in that hall while this old, old man did everything to my body and turned me into his experiment, I really almost felt like I was the only girl in the world. I never once saw any other girl until I saw Queen Elara for the first time that day... That was the first time I saw another woman for what seemed like an eternity, really."
I suddenly felt a tug in my chest like something deep within me was puncturing my heart with a massive needle as I said, "That's..."
Madame Belladonna then started caressing the bandaged area of my face again as a playful grin crept up on her face once more. "Come on! What else do the rumors say about me, hmm?"
"Well..." I said as I cleared my throat with my eyes wide open. I may feel a bit weirded out about whatever it is Madame Belladonna is doing, but I do not at all intend to take her hands away from me. I then indulged her little game and started spouting more rumors the soldiers have told me in the past in admiration of her might as a female warrior during the war. "Rumors also had it that... the king and the queen saved you from those who imprisoned you."
"Ah... That part was false." She then pulled her body away from me, which made me feel so dejected that a considerable part of me wanted to pull her arms back at me. However, something like that is not... befitting of a knight such as I. "When the king and the queen saw me, my captor is already dead, poisoned—I'm sure you can piece the pieces together as to who killed them, so no, they didn't save me from the old man; they saved me from myself." A downcast expression started to reappear on Madame Belladonna's face again as she suddenly wrapped her body with her hands.
"If it weren't for them," Madame Belladonna continued as she tightened her grip around her body as a pained expression started to contort her beautiful face. At this point, I was already panicking so damn much that I pretty much already gave up thinking. I was just there looking at her with the face of a clueless child. "I would be a rampaging fool in the middle of nowhere now somewhere in the far, far western side, there in the mountains, where I could continue being the only girl in the world."
"Well... Madame Belladonna..." I said after hearing what she had just said. "If I would be so bold to say this, but..." An idea then started spewing out of my head that I had never once thought I would be able to have the privilege to think. "If you just want, of course, I would like to... I would like you to, uhm—" I then cleared my throat once more as I started feeling my heart beating so crazy that it almost made me feel like it would burst out of my ribs and leave my chest hollow and open. However, this only gave me much more confidence to say what it is that I always wanted to say from that very moment our eyes first locked in contact with each other within the warm confines of the king's court. "I would be great if you became the only girl in the world for me instead."
Silence ensured around us as I suddenly moved my head away from her, making me only face the damn wooden floor.
Earlier, I saw a few hints of Madame Belladonna's face, showing an expression filled with shock and puzzlement after hearing what I had just said. However, I didn't see it much since I hurriedly avoided establishing eye contact with her.
Suddenly, I heard a sweet chuckle erupt from her pink lips, which made my heart quiver with both nervousness and affection.
"Call me Violet." She said as she placed her hands on my legs.
"Eh?" I uttered as my gaze moved up to her face.
The warmth of her hands continued to seep through my thigh as she plastered an embarrassed smile on her flushing face. "I hate it when you call me Madame Belladonna; it makes me look old. Call me Violet."
"Oh... uhm... okay," I then heaved twice and nodded with my eyes closed before finally uttering with all the confidence I have in my heart, "V-Violet..." Yikes. I still stuttered!
"Great! And I'll call you Damian!" She said as she suddenly started to stand up, seemingly having regained back some of her energy again to make her body move as she pleases again. "Why don't you carry the princes for me, Damian? Let's go back to our room. I don't want them to snore like their old grandpa over there!"
Thus, for an entire day, Violet and I spent our time here in this little paradise-like part of the Cresca sea while an endless storm raged from a few kilometers behind us. Violet then placed the princes between us as she laid her head on my arms.
Is it really...
Is it really okay for a person like me to feel such happiness?