Disclaimers: See Chapter 1

Additional Note (Please Read): This tale is tied in with, Xena & Gabrielle: A Turn of Fate. If you haven't read both stories' chapters preceding this one, you should do so now.

The Conqueror & Ri,
A Twist of Destiny,
By, Ahkiken

Chapter 12: Felicitations

"Hello, Akemi." Ri greeted. "What brings you here?"

Standing outside the storyteller's chamber door, wearing a plain tunic, Akemi noted the petite strawberry-blonde's attire. She was barefoot, and adorned in a purple Doric chiton, pinned closed on one of her shoulders by a yellowish fibula. Her hair was styled back with a yellow brooch, too, and on Ri's neck was the gorgeous jewelry, blatantly advertised for public viewing.

The Chambermaid's mood waned. "Afternoon, Ri. The Chancellor of the Realm request your presence at the Banquet Hall for Lieutenant Oris' celebration this evening."

"I have explained to the Chancellor I wouldn't attend because I have a session with my tutor." Ri replied. "However, a friend talked me into going, so I am inclined to be there. I'll just be a couple candle-marks late."

"Your study with Master Eramus is cancelled for today." Akemi's tone was direct. "It's important that you are present at the celebration as soon as possible."

The former Handmaiden didn't care for Akemi's intonation. "I do not believe Chancellor Meleager's requisition for me is discourteous like the way you are delivering it."

"What make you think it isn't?" She challenged smugly.

Ri was taken aback by Akemi's behavior that bloomed from nowhere. She wasn't prone to confrontations and disliked conflicts, but was determined to defend herself.

"The way you are speaking to me is borderline rude, Akemi. What imagined slights have I committed to cause you to treat me so?"

"I'm to notify the Chancellor you are unwilling to comply?"

"What?" Ri couldn't understand the brunette's audaciousness. "I will be there. Good day, Akemi."

She closed the door in the smiling Japian woman's face.

'What is wrong with her?' Ri cogitated. 'We haven't chatted to each other as if we were friends when performing our duties together, withal it was polite and respectful. What could have provoked such an acrimonious attitude? It all started the morning Milady left.'

Realization dawned in Ri's mind, remembering the curt farewell Akemi gave her once she saw the necklace the storyteller wore.

'Is that it?' She mused. 'Akemi knew that Qoutis created it for our Lord, then Milady presented it to me. Could this all be induced from jealousy?'

Ri was discontented with Akemi's grudge towards her, yet she wasn't going to let it daunt her day. Slipping on her diamond-encrusted, black sandals, she exited her residence, traversing to the Audience Room to entertain the denizens' children for awhile.


"You just came home and I have missed you so much." Mendala straddled her husband on their bed.

"It's to honor a new lieutenant." Vercinix said, enjoying his wife's nearness.

"The kids are in their classes. We are here alone and have a lot of Cronus to make up for." She kissed him softly. "You want to give our lovemaking a pass?"

"No, Mendala." Vercinix gripped his wife's waist. "But as a General, I do want to pay my respects, and I need to talk to the Chancellor."  

"You did talk to him." Mendala phrased.

"I did, notwithstanding, we didn't fully explore a particular topic. Those Roman ships that were idle in Gaul is bothering me." Vercinix confided. "Their presence and withdrawal from the region chills me now, more than it did when I was there. It has something to do with the Realm, if not the Conqueror herself. I am positive of it."

"Okay." Mendala yielded. "We will go to the banquet. You'll have to make it up to me, though."

Vercinix reversed their positions, sucking Mendala's earlobe. "I plan to."


Some candle-marks later, the Banquet Hall was illuminated by candlelight and torches that were placed in sconces. Tables were draped with blue cloths of silk. Set atop a few of them were an abundance of edible, exquisite delicacies, and decanters filled with delicious liquids for drinking. Musicians played a soft melodic tune as entertainers, plus castle servants appeased the nobles, warriors, and denizens in different sections of the commodious environment, while many conversed with one another.

'Wow! There's a ton of people here.' Iona thought, entering the area alongside her father.

"You are going to socialize, right, and not shell yourself up like the previous occasions you came here?" Darnelle inquired.

"Yes, father." She answered. "I actually want to meet the recipient of this dinner ceremony."

Looking around, Darnelle spotted the person of interest. "Lieutenant Oris is over there with Lieutenant Tessa and others whom are being entertained by the Fool. Do you want me to introduce you to him?"

Iona surveyed the spacious Hall, hoping to see her best friend. 'Ri did say she'll be late.'

Darnelle espied her, knowing she was worrying. "Iona, Ri will be here when she get here. Do you want to go over, or not?"

"Yes, father." The long-haired blonde accepted.

When they had reached the two lieutenants, the Jester was in the middle of his joke.

"The Warlord told the merchant, 'I'm not paying for these weapons'. The merchant became offended that the Warlord wouldn't pay him and demanded, 'Give me my dinars now, or leave!' The Warlord responded, 'I cannot do either'. This puzzles the merchant, so he asks, 'Why not'? The Warlord says, 'Because, my shoes.'" The Jester's brown eyes locked on Iona, shouting, "My shoes!"

Then he grabbed his left foot, hopping on the right in a farcical fashion, before jumping in the air to land on his back. Shutting his eyes, he pretended to be dead, inciting the crowd surrounding him to burst in applause and laughter.

'Poor fella.' Darnelle pitied the man who lied on the Banquet Hall's floor with white pasty makeup on his face.

The Jester always implemented crazy stunts in his acts. Gods forbid if he did really injure himself whilst people laughed. After long moments of playing dead and the spectators walked away, a young woman stood over the fallen man.

"Did you fall again?" She queried knowingly. "You have to be careful. You might break a bone in your body if you keep throwing yourself about."

"Shush, I'm supposed to be deceased." Peeping one orb open, he made eye contact with greenish-blue irises. "And what if I'm not falling down on purpose?"

Bending down, she began retorting with a smile, "Either way, I would deem you the fool."

"Ri-Ri!" Joxer yelled, kipping up gracefully onto his feet and pulling her into a tight hug.

"Okay, Joxer. I need to breathe." Ri gasped, delighted to see him.

"Sorry." He extricated her from the enclosure. "I haven't seen you in a fortnight. How is everything?"

"I've been studying mostly throughout all of April and it's continuing this moon, also. To avow that I'm overwhelmed, somewhat, wouldn't quite define it."

"You had free Cronus to tell a tale to a class, though." Joxer beamed. "Virgil wouldn't stop telling me the story of Midas, the king whose ears got transformed to resemble an... Well, you know."

Ri's visage reddened. "The fable touches on humans' fear and respect for the gods, including our mortal weakness for avarice. Between you and me, I would never recite that tale to my younger audience."

"Will you be giving us a yarn this evening?" The Jester questioned. "Perhaps a comedy?"

"Highly doubtful. Besides, I'll leave the comedic role in your capable hands." Ri praised. "Speaking of Virgil, where is he?"

Joxer's lips went flat. "He's here somewhere. He doesn't care for my profession anymore, so he strays from me."

"I'm sorry to hear that, Joxer." She offered her condolences.

"Thanks, Ri-Ri. I just want him to be proud of me." Joxer asserted.

"He will be, and if for some reason he doesn't, do not let that discourage you from doing what you like."

"You are a sweetie. Come here, you." Joxer embraced Ri once more, and while gazing at other people to perform for, he disengaged. "Gotta go. Work calls."

"Be safe. Oh, have you, by any chance, seen Iona?" Ri asked him as he walked backwards in a comical manner.

"Yeah. She was with General Darnelle. I don't know which way they walked off, 'cause I had my eyes shut during my ending act. Nice necklace by the way."

"Thanks." Ri self-consciously twirled the sparkling chain. "I'll see you later."

Joxer waved farewell, and Ri traversed an area that would hopefully lead her to Iona.

On the other side of the Banquet Hall, finding a table in the back, the General of the Fifth Army commenced making introductions, "This is my daughter, Iona."

"How are you, love." Oris spoke with an accent.

"I'm fine." Iona rejoined shyly. "Congratulations on your promotion."

"Thank you, darling."

Iona became mesmerized by Oris. His eyes had a hue that resembled violet, and his head was full of reddish-brown hair. He was the only warrior who was dressed in armor that was white and had an emblem on its right chest-plate. The other occupants, whether a noble, denizen, or soldier, was wearing tunics,  shirts, dresses, and trousers of varying colors.

"You already know Lieutenant Tessa." Darnelle continued. "The woman who'd  boosted your passion to become a warrior."

"Hello. And again, I'm very gracious for your display on sword handling." Iona stated.

"You're welcome." Tessa professed. "I'm trying to coerce your father into allowing me to teach you more fully, if you are to join the army of the Realm, that is."

"I can become your pupil." Iona's facial expression showed tremendous glee. "Father, is it true?"

Darnelle couldn't prevent himself from grinning at his daughter's infectious smile. "We've talked of it. Let us expatriate on the subject a bit more and we'll go from there."

Iona gave him a heartwarming embrace.

"Let's get some wine." Oris elected.

"Yes." Iona agreed.

"Only honey milk, or fruit juice for you." Her parent smirked.

Meanwhile, still searching for her friend, Ri wasn't having any luck.

'Gosh, Iona. Where are you?' Ri huffed after being bombarded with compliments referring to her apparel, and inquiries regarding if she would put on a performance.


She glanced all over to find the person who had called her name.

'So many people.' The storyteller ruminated.


Turning on her heels, the strawberry-blonde was unprepared for Virgil, who launched himself into her barely opened arms.

"Virgil!" She exclaimed.

"You came!" He cheered.

"Yea, Iona kinda forced me into coming." Ri jested.

Virgil frowned, separating from her. "Iona can be a jerk, but I'm happy she got you to come."

"Iona's not a jerk." Ri defended. "She's coming into herself, that's all. It's the woes of growing older."

"So, she's growing up to become a jerk?" Virgil innocently inquired.

Ri chuckled, patting his ebony-cropped hair. "You're hilarious like your father."

"I'm nothing like him." Virgil snapped.

His comment caused Ri to get concerned. "Virgil, why does your father being a jester upsets you?"

The thirteen-year-old became reticent. "Will you be telling a story, Ri?"

The future bard reluctantly let the issue drop. "I'm not sure. I'm really here to see Iona and converse with the Chancellor."

"That's all you've come for?" Virgil inspected the shiny necklace, touching it. "Wow, what is this?"

"It's a gift from our Lord of the Realm to me." Ri explicated.

Ri felt like heavy weight was lifted off her shoulders now that she no longer carried burdensome lies and half-truths.

'From now on I will be honest.' Ri reaffirmed her sworn promise to the gods.

"It's beautiful." Virgil appraised the jewelry and his crush. "Almost like you are, Ri."

"Awe, what a little charmer." She kissed his forehead.

Virgil's cheeks turned red from bashfulness. "Some people are dancing. Do you want to?"

"Um, I do have to seek out-"

"Please." He interjected. "One dance... For me?"

Ri faltered. 'What type of monster would I be if I said no.'

Concurrently, while the former Handmaiden was dancing with Virgil, Iona internally carped, 'Gods! Come on Ri.'

The small ensemble of just herself, her father, and the two Lieutenants, grew in addition when General Nale joined them. Then, Lieutenant Dex became a part of their group, along with others briefly stopping at their table to offer felicitations to Oris. All of that made the fifteen-year-old girl verecund. The adults' consumption of spirits helped establish the point that Iona was barred from any further conversation, because she had no idea what they were discussing. Vacating her seat to lean on the wall close by, Iona listened to them whilst hoping to catch a glimpse of Ri.

"Out of the purple armor and into the white, huh, Oris?" Dex teased.

"Better be lucky it wasn't your position." Darnelle told the dark-haired and olive-skinned Lieutenant of the Sixth Army.

Everyone laughed, except Iona.

"Your wife happens to enjoy my companionship." Dex boasted.

"I know." Darnelle acquiesced to jive, "She likes it better than your abilities on the battlefield, that's why you're here and not travelling with her to Crete."

Once more, laughter rang out, minus one.

"Be wary of General Nale. I heard he can be meanly." Tessa playfully warned Oris.

Nale looked at the younger man, shaking his head. "Don't place your faith in rumors."

"I tend to deal in facts, General Nale." He purported.

Nale grinned. "We will get along greatly."

"Until you piss him off." Darnelle whispered loudly for everyone to hear.

"I had a choice to serve under General Nale, but I'd turned it down immediately." Dex joked.

The two Generals, and the three Lieutenants guffawed as Iona slumped back against the wall in boredom.

Finally, in the center of the Hall, Ri was gladdened her dance with Virgil had ended, though it had nothing to do with the teen. It mainly was because of the incessant, flattering remarks to her bardic skills and the jade pendent necklace. Afterwards, it was the soldiers, and nobles, whom obnoxiously tried to cut into their dancing, wanting to usurp Virgil's place with her.

She had to admit, it was endearing when Virgil blared, 'Can't y'all see the Lady is with me!'

He earned a peck on his cheek for standing up; not for her, but for himself.

Once their dance concluded, Ri reminded Virgil that she had to seek Iona, and quickly lost herself in the crowd of numerous, unknown faces till she saw a familiar one. "Chancellor."

"Ri." Meleager smiled.

They both hugged and he kissed the crown of her head. "You look marvelous."

"As do you. I'm liking the vest." Ri repaid the gesture.

Meleager proudly tugged on the laced up brownish vest. "I was indecisive about putting it on."

"You made a good decision. It suites you well." Ri proclaimed, becoming austere. "Uncle, I know I've told you that I wasn't going to be in attendance to this banquet, but Iona wounded up coaxing me into coming anyway. I was gonna arrive later after my teachings."

"If I had known, I wouldn't have ordered the cancellation of your session." Meleager uttered, cognizant of what he had promised Lyceus. "It is imperative that we have a colloquy."

"Okay, but does it has to be now?" Ri prompted. "I'm searching for Iona and I don't want her to think I neglected being here for her."

"I'm on the lookout for somebody as well. I have made arrangements for you to be seated adjacent to me during the dinner. Meet me at the Royal Table in a candle-mark." The Chancellor averred.

"Okay." Ri acceded, restarting her pursuit once more.

Back at the warriors of the Realm's table, Nale ran his hand through his cropped brown hair, his hazel orbs glared at his fellow compatriots. "I'm coming to the conclusion that I am catching all of y'alls quips. I'm not the newbie, Oris is."

"You got a small gander of how mean General Nale can be. He want us to taunt you now." Tessa predicated. "The man threw you under the wagon, Oris."

"No. He tossed him underneath the horses and carriage." Dex added, provoking mirth for his comrades.

When the merriment died, Nale announced to his new Lieutenant, "Remember, Oris. I haven't hinted at a single mean declaration. Nonetheless, gaze around you and you'll see all the truly churlish people that did."

Oris' violet eyes lit with mischief. "I repeat sir, I tend to deal in facts and you are correct; I can ascertain who the mean people are."

Nale clapped his second-in-command's shoulder. "Oh yeah, we're going to get along great."


"Forget you, First Army!"


Nale traipsed away from the table with a smiling countenance, while the Fifth and Sixth Army's higher ups jeered his army.

"Trader, sooner or later, you'll be running back to the Sixth Army." Dex emitted to Oris.

"Hey, I have to stand by my General." He argued.

"What do we have here, General Darnelle?" Tessa asked, pointing at Oris.

"I'm not certain, but it appears to be a Lieutenant from the First Army, who's all alone."

"What should we do with him?" She proposed.

"Nothing." Dex chimed. "Members of the First Army are contagious."

Chortling arose again, and even Iona couldn't halt her giggles when she grasped they were making fun of Oris.

"There you are." Ri pronounced.

Iona hastily took steps to her spirit sister, embracing her. "I'm jovial that you came. You are a beauty, Ri."

"Your appearance is striking, also." Ri took in Iona's long, blonde tresses that cascaded down her back. "You've chose to don a chiton, too, but of the Ionic design."

"It's close to my namesake." Iona spun to showcase her pink chiton and the greyish belt encircling her waist, prior to grabbing Ri's hand. "Come. You must meet the new Lieutenant and he is fascinating."

Next, they walked the short distance to her father and his companions.

"Everyone, this is Ri and she would like to say hi." Iona avouched.

"General Darnelle." She addressed the man whose family she'd lived with periodically years ago.

"Hey, Ri." He stood, hugging her. "I've missed you."

"Likewise, General." Detaching from one another, Ri curtsied to the brunette woman, her courtesy as a servant remained ingrained within her. "Hello, Lieutenant Tessa."

"It's a pleasure, Lady Ri." Spellbound by Ri's outward aspect, Tessa was thoroughly happy to behold her.

"Forgive me, but I'm not acquainted with the rest of you." Ri conceded.

Feeling a renewal of confidence radiating inside her from being beside her best friend, Iona finished introducing the final two men, "This here is Lieutenant Dex and the man sitting near him is the cause of the celebration. Newly appointed, Lieutenant Oris of the First Army."

"Pleased to meet both of you." Ri claimed in advance of giving Oris a friendly enfold. "I wish there were a profound way for me to congratulate you that would exceed a hug."

"I can think of a couple ways." Oris alluded.

The sexual innuendo flew over Ri's head. "What are they?"

Not missing a beat to bed her, Oris swiftly riposted, "We could go back to my room in the barracks-"

"Or, Ri could tell us a tale right here instead." Darnelle interrupted.

"Now I remember you." Dex recognized her. "You're the bard. I've only been present for some of the stories you have performed for the kids, but they are gripping once you get hooked by them."

"Thank you, Lieutenant Dex. You are too kind." Ri flushed. "Albeit, I'm not a bard."

"Not yet, nevertheless, soon she'll be learning from Aristotle in Athens." Iona blasted.

They all descried Ri with stunned features.

'Gods, Iona, tell every soul on Terra why don't you.' The storyteller became vexed.

Although the strawberry-blonde had the Conqueror's approval to let anyone know she was leaving Corinth, Ri wanted to be the sole person to share the information. Not Iona, the Prince, or anybody else.

"If you all will pardon me." Ri excused herself, retreating from the table.

"Ri." Iona was confused by her sudden departure.

"I'll go get her." Darnelle affirmed, trailing behind Ri.

Now that her father and friend vanished, Iona started to feel lonesome. So, she returned to leaning on the wall, cogitating why Ri took off.

"Ri is bloody sexy." Oris commended. "I nearly had her coming to the barracks. Why did General Darnelle cockblock me?"

"Because, he is right about her." Tessa murmured, recalling his words.

'Calm your libido, Tessa. You don't know Ri and her ways. She's really benign. That's all.'

"What?" Oris barely heard Tessa's susurration.

"Ri haven't the finest clue what you were insinuating. If she'd had gone anywhere with you, she would had disappointed you." Tessa elucidated.

"I'm shocked she's going to be apprenticed by Aristotle." Dex confessed his astonishment.

"Yea, and how did she manage to obtain that; by being a bard?" Oris questioned. "Is her tales as glamorous as that necklace she's wearing?"

"Yes, they are." Dex assented. "By the gods, I pray my wife won't ever get a glance at Ri's jewelry. I'll never find her anything parallel to it."

Tessa lifted her cup of wine, steeped in her own captivation of Ri. "Her stories is exactly like that necklace. They are both priceless."

Farther away, Darnelle enclosed his arm around Ri's, altering their path to an empty dinner table to sit.

"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have left like that. I was just so... So." Ri sat down, stumbling in her vocabulary to not sound harsh.

"Mad." Darnelle filled in, sitting, also.


"Ri, you are going to Athens to be taught by the erudite Aristotle." Darnelle was curious. "Why the exasperation?"

"Journeying to Athens is my business. It's my arrangement to tell whomever I choose. Not anyone's elses." Ri was disgruntled.

Understanding that his daughter was the reason for Ri's shift in temperament, Darnelle aimed to remedy the situation. "Did you tell Iona not to say anything about it?"

"No." Ri's orbs were downcast. "I sorta presumed she wouldn't divulge it with others."

"Ri, she didn't have intentions to upset you. Iona has anticipated your arrival since we first got here and she's kept quiet due to her shyness. She became excited when you showed because she was able to be included in a conversation. Let her know you don't want her to impart your personal affairs, she'll respect it."

"I know how Iona is. I will forewarn her." Sighing, Ri's drab emotions brightened with joy. "Other than that, how are you and General Glaphyra?"

"Same old, same old." Darnelle repeated. "She's on a mission with the Conqueror. They should be back soon."

"Yeah." Ri's fingers caressed his brown hair and remembered when it was shorter. "It's gotten longer."

"Not so loud, Ri." He gently admonished. "It is protocol for the males serving in the Realm's army to keep a short haircut. The last thing I want is for somebody else to remind me I'm breaking the rules."

"I'll be quiescent about it." Ri ceded. "However, long hair does become you."

"Thanks." Darnelle appreciated her acclaim. "I wish Glaphyra will come around to liking it, too... Ah, enough of that. We must celebrate your amazing fortune."

Darnelle got the attention of a servant and picked up two ornate cups, that contained sweet wine, off the carrying tray.

"To you, Ri."

The petite woman took the proffered goblet. "Thank you, but I've never indulged in spirits."

"You are well above the age limit and it's bad luck not to drink after a toast has been made in your honor."

"I'm only eighteen." Ri evinced.

"I am aware of that." Darnelle verbalized. "Just one will be alright."

Smiling, Ri relished the thrill of her initial intoxicant. "To me then, and the elevation of Lieutenant Oris of the First Army."

Next, they both drank their alcoholic beverage, setting the empty cups on the table.

Ri grimaced from the drink that was fruity tasting, yet burned her throat going down, saying, "I should go talk to Iona, before I forget my own name."

"A moment, Ri. Don't worry, you won't become inebriated. I wanted to ask you something." Darnelle conveyed. "I have been told that you and Lieutenant Tessa had a discussion once her substitution for Clydmus' class was done. What did y'all chat about?"

Ri was feeling light-headed and carefree under the effects of the wine, whilst she brought forth the memory of when she'd spoken with Tessa.

"After the class' dismissal, Lieutenant Tessa commented that I was awesome at storytelling. I thanked her for inviting me, professing I'd enjoyed her presentation of severing the practice dummy with her axes. It was crude the way she'd dismembered the wooden replica of a human into parts. But ruminating about it now, it's pretty funny." She ceased her giggling to impede her deviation. "The Lieutenant asked me what I am good at, but I gave her useless answers, other than telling her I'm good at serving our Lord. Thereupon, she complimented my hairstyle and looks, stating that I looked radiant. I reciprocated by making an assertion on her eyes."

"What did you say?"

"That her green irises shined like emeralds." Ri accorded him an answer. "And they do when the light reflect off of them."

"So, all y'all did was exchange pleasantries?"

"Yeah." Ri thought further. "Because of my avowal, Lieutenant Tessa stood there like she was in shock."

"She gave no other reply?" Darnelle queried.

Ri's tipsy mind caused her to burst in amusement. "She implied I was flirting with her. Hold on, what was her exact words? 'Talking to someone like that, I would think you were flirting.' I smiled, confirming that I was only being truthful. Finally, I left the classroom to prepare for Master Eramus' lessons."

Her intoxicated brain began torturing Ri, knowing she would have to endure Eramus' harangue after he reprimanded her for missing two of their sessions.

"And I don't intend to sound cruel, but Master Eramus can be soooo boring. If I have to hear him say once more, 'When you have the crowds' ear, you must have the finesse to maintain it'. I'm going to lose my senses."

Darnelle couldn't hinder his chuckling at the horrible impersonator next to him. He hadn't ever seen her this vocal, other than when she recited a story.

Kissing her temple, he quoted, "You are a lot of fun. I'll remember to give you a drink when I'm in need of humor."

Ri mocked an indignant pout. "Are you inferring I am decent company only when I partake in alcohol?"

"Yes." He jokingly declared.

"That's fair. Guess I'll have to remind Milady of her policy for groomed soldiers." Ri retorted.

"That is unnecessary." Darnelle wrapped his arm around Ri's waist, bringing her into a half-hug. "I was playing."

"I know, but I'm not..." Ri let loose a loud laugh, as Darnelle tickled her side. "Okay! Okay! I'm playing, also!"

"Just like when you were younger. I assumed you would have grown out of being ticklish by now."

"Nope, but I'm working on it." Memories of the Conqueror tickling her had surfaced, and Ri's hand unknowingly touched the jade gemstone.

"Where did you come across that?" Darnelle urged.

"Huh?" Ri's ratiocination shattered.

"The necklace?" Darnelle clarified.


"It's dazzling. You can discern that the Conqueror loves you." The General articulated.

"Really!" Ri shouted with alacrity.

"Of course. She has always doted on you, even when she was absent. Equivalent to a mother and a daughter."

Ri became disheartened with Darnelle's announcement. "Milady cares for me like I'm her daughter?"

"Yeah." Darnelle concurred. "Isn't that great? The Lord of the Realm has taken you as her surrogate child, so-to-speak. I couldn't think of a more deserving person."

'A daughter? A... a daughter! That can't be correct. Milady loves and cares for me.' Doubt clouded Ri's cognition. 'Was I wrong? She haven't voiced a confession of love to me. Maybe I'm perceiving her actions wrongly.'

"We should get back. The ceremonial dinner will get underway soon and you still have to talk with Iona." Darnelle insisted.

"But she loves me." Ri rambled.

He stared at the former Handmaiden, not comprehending. "Who loves you?"

"When she returns to Corinth, Milady plans to..." Her proclamation stopped once she caught sight of Prince Lyceus circulating the Banquet Hall, and she immediately relayed, "I have to go."

Ri raised out the chair and dashed off.

"Hold on." Darnelle called out. "What is the Conqueror planning?"

The trim, strawberry-blonde kept walking, getting lost in the crowd.



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