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The Dragon's Kiss
Chapter 15 - FIFTEEN: Three Dangerous Secrets

Kel stepped back in shock at Lucy's words. How could a small flower be so dangerous?

Just that morning, the maids had mentioned that talking about golden hair could also get someone in serious trouble. Additionally, Thane's reaction to her question about the emperor's teacher earlier indicated that subject was taboo as well.

In one day, she had already come across three dangerous secrets. Were they all related somehow?

While Kel was pondering, Lucy had checked the windows and doors to ensure the two ladies were completely alone. After confirming there were no listening ears, she approached Kel once again.


"Now," the maid whispered, nearly inaudibly, "please tell me exactly what the person who gave you that flower said to you."

"She said she was giving me an invitation," Kel began, racking her brain to remember the girl's exact words.

"I see." Lucy's face darkened. "When and where?"

"In three days at the Seven Lions Inn," Kel quoted. "Oh! And she said specifically at sundown."

"Princess…" Lucy whined, grasping one of Kel's hands tightly, "I'm begging you. Please don't go there."

Kel had been intrigued before, and the maid's panicked actions only made her even more curious. She was longing to find out just who was behind the mysterious flower and invitation; however, she was already in a precarious position to begin with. A war hostage desperately clinging to a false identity had no business getting involved with another risky situation.

"I have no intention of going," Kel finally conceded.

Lucy let out a sigh of relief and smiled at Kel. She looked like she was about to continue speaking when the door flew open.

A tall middle-aged woman with hair pulled tightly into a bun and a plain-looking long sleeved dress strode into the room, accompanied by a few maids Kel recognized.

"Forgive the intrusion, Princess," the woman bowed, "I'm here to discuss your wardrobe."

"Welcome, Head Maid," Lucy greeted the woman in her usual cheery voice.

It was evening by the time the meeting with the head maid was finished. Kel felt embarrassed at first, considering the emperor had wrongly assumed on his own that she wanted new dresses, but she ended up being pleased with the results. She would have to keep a few of the stuffy dresses, but the woman had agreed to furnish her with several light, flowy dresses.

Just like I imagined the dresses in Pandreia to be like, Kel mused happily, flopping onto her bed. She sighed as she stared at the floral embossed tiles on the ceiling. Things had gone so differently than she imagined. Rather than enjoying the crisp salty air and breathtaking water views of the coastal kingdom, she was locked away in the middle of enemy territory.

"I want to go to the sea," she whispered, rolling onto her side.

Before she could get comfortable, a familiar thudding sounded at the door.

What now, Kel groaned, throwing her arm over her head.

"Come in," she called, trying to mask her annoyance.

Through squinted eyes, she saw Lucy enter, followed by Thane and another knight.

Kel shot straight up. What was going on?

"Princess," Lucy bowed, "from today on, the emperor has assigned these knights to guard you."

"… What?" Kel was dumbfounded.

If anyone were to pose a threat to her safety, it'd be the emperor himself. What use were guards he assigned?

On the other hand, if the guards were meant to prevent her from acting out, why bother sending his personal knight? Surely Barclay posed more of a threat than she did. At least, that's what it should look like on the outside.

"We've already met, Milady," Thane bowed.

"I am Roland," the second knight added, dipping into his own bow.

"I'll be in your care," Kel nodded.

The two men quickly shuffled out of the room after their brief introductions. Lucy stayed behind to help Kel prepare for bed, but tactfully dodged all of Kel's questions about the knights.

"Rest well, Princess," Lucy bowed after finishing preparations.

"Ah, you…too." The maid had left the room before Kel even finished.

Did all of this have to do with the yellow flower from earlier? Or was it due to her trespassing in that room in the palace?

As curious as she was, Kel was too exhausted to put any more thought into the situation. After blowing out the lamp, she snuggled in the bed's soft blankets, resolving to figure everything out in the morning.

Despite her intentions for a night of undisturbed rest, however, Kel's eyelids fluttered open long before dawn. Her body felt uncomfortably hot, and her throat was on fire.

"Water," she mumbled, reaching for the glass next to her bed. She eagerly gulped the last bit of liquid remaining in the cup, but it wasn't enough to quench her thirst.

Thinking of nothing but the burning in her throat, Kel staggered to her feet and headed for the door. She fumbled around blindly in the dark until finally her hand grazed the bulky wooden panel. She grasped the handle and heaved the door open.

Amidst the dim torchlight in the hall, she saw the sudden glimmer of metal moving to block her path.

"What's this," she murmured, reaching out to touch the mysterious bar.

"Sorry, Princess, I have to ask that you stay inside."

After blinking a few times, Kel's eyes adjusted to the light and she saw Roland standing to the side of the door, holding out a large metal staff.

"I just needed a drink," Kel explained, holding up the empty glass. She smiled politely and attempted to push the bar out of her way, but Roland held it firmly.

"I'll have somebody bring you more water. Please go back inside," the knight insisted.

"Oh, alright then." Kel slowly stepped back, and Roland pushed the door shut behind her.

Fortunately the strange encounter distracted her from her thirst long enough to make the several minutes of waiting bearable. A maid came shortly with a full pitcher of cold water, and, after ensuring Kel was back in her bed, left the room quietly.

The knights' strange behavior continued the next morning. Kel was stopped by Thane this time as she tried to head out for a short walk.

"I'd just like to walk around the garden a little," Kel said exasperatedly, "for some fresh air!"

"Sorry, Princess, I have to ask that you stay inside," Thane repeated robotically. Seeing Kel's crestfallen face, he added in a low voice, "Try standing out on the terrace for a while."

Kel forced a smile. Did this man really think he had given her a helpful alternative?

"I'll do that," she replied, huffing back inside the room.

While it hadn't been clear earlier, she now understood exactly what was going on. The emperor had put her under house arrest.

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The Dragon's Kiss Chapter 15 - FIFTEEN: Three Dangerous Secrets