I. The Impact of Her
By Author Nicole Marcina
Date: February 3, 2023
Ch. 4~ Three ~

As I made my way to the kitchen - which was located in the basement - I greeted every servant that I came across with. More and more servants greeted me as I got closer to the kitchen.
The kitchen has a direct - almost secret - passage to the stables. So, since I was on my way there, I thought it would be a good idea to pay someone a visit in the kitchen.
“Good morning, everybody,” I greeted as I entered the kitchen with a smile on my face.
“Good morning, Your Highness,” they all greeted with their usual cheerful tone.
As I continued to smile at everyone within the room, I headed straight for Nana Olsa. “Good morning, Nana,” I hugged her from behind without any sort of warning.
“Oh!” she exclaimed out of shock, her hand landed on her chest as she calmed herself. “Oh, my dear boy, it is good to see you,” she giggled as she turned around to return a hug. “You gave me such a fright,” she remarked.
Nana Olsa was my nanny when I was little. She, however, was removed by James when I reached the age of twelve thousand years. He said I was old enough to be transferred into the care of my tutors. Although she was removed as my official carer, Nana Olsa was welcomed to stay as a servant, and so she did. She continued to live with us and became the head cook. She said that she still wanted to keep an eye on me, even from afar, to ensure my safety.
“It’s good to see you, too, Nana,” I said as I slowly pulled away from her and gently kissed her cheek.
“Oh, my darling boy, you’re still sweet as if you were a child,” she giggled. “What brings you to my lair?” she then turned around and continued to stir the soup that she was cooking.
“I was on my way to the stables so I stopped by to get my water container, as well as a few apples for Lady,” I explained. I added, “Also, I thought it would be nice to pay you a visit as well.”
“The stables?” she stopped stirring as she asked. She turned her head in my direction. “Are you going out on your own? Isn’t today the day for your family visit to the town? Were you left behind?” she proceeded to ask more questions before she returned to her soup.
I stood quiet for a bit as I tried to find an excuse. “I wasn’t left behind. I simply didn’t want to go with them. I’m not…” I hesitated as I continued to think of a better way to say what was on my mind. After much consideration, I continued, “I wasn’t in the correct mindset and attitude to join them today. This was one of the days where I didn’t enjoy the visits.”
Once again, Nana Olsa turned her head towards me. “Is it because of your father?” she asked.
My eyes widened as she immediately knew the answer. But, I couldn’t help but to allow a smile to form on my face. “How did you know?” I asked.
“My dear one, we live in the same castle,” she said as she put her spatula down. She proceeded to walk over to the sink and washed her hands. “Everything that happens within the castle is being reported back to me,” she continued as she wiped her hands dry with her white apron. She then walked towards me. “And besides,” Nana Olsa gently cupped my face with her soft hands, “I know that you and your father don’t have the best relationship at the moment.”
“You know me all too well, Nana,” I held her hands tightly as I looked directly into her eyes. “And I’m truly grateful to have you as my guardian.”
She let out a brief giggle as she gave a light pat on my head. “Now, there are crates of freshly-delivered apples in the stables. And here,” she let go of my face and reached for something from the cupboard above her. “Here is your waterskin.”
In her hands, she revealed my leather water container that seemed to have been cleaned already.
“This is already clean,” I replied as I received my waterskin in my hands. My brows immediately knitted together in confusion. The last time I used this, I didn’t have the time to wash it. “Did you clean this, Nana?” I asked as I looked up at her.
“For some reason, I found that thing in the garden yesterday. It was buried into the ground, I almost missed it when I passed through. I knew it was yours so I took the liberty of washing it for you,” she explained before she approached the pot of soup once more, quickly adding a few more ingredients onto the boiling soup. “I know you never liked to clean your containers unless you find it absolutely necessary.”
After I checked the totality of my waterskin, I gently kissed Nana on her cheek. “Thank you very much, Nana. I shall return once lunch is being served,” I said as I made my way to the passageway to the stables.
“Be safe, little one,” I heard her speak from behind me.
“I will,” I answered, not bothering to look back.
When I arrived at the stables, three servants were taking care of Lady as per my instruction. One was brushing her hair, one made sure her hooves were secured, and the last one took her saddle from the wall. And that confused me because I specifically told Gonzalo that I would put on the saddle myself.
“Good morning, gentlemen,” I entered the stables without any form of announcement.
As soon as they heard my voice, they dropped whatever it was that they were doing and rushed towards me. “Good morning, Your Highness,” they bowed as they ran up to me. As they did, they placed their right hands on their chests while their heads were down.
“Thank you for preparing Lady for me. I shall take it from here,” I smiled.
They took a second bow and left me alone to be with Lady.
I grabbed the saddle that was put on the table and approached Lady. “Hello there, my Lady,” I said as I gave her a hug, which was answered but a light whinny. Right away, I checked the manner of brushing given to my champion. I had to make sure that everything was done right. “I think you need a few more strokes, Lady,” I remarked. I then settled the saddle on the ground, grabbed the brush that was left on the floor, and began to brush Lady’s mane.
Lady has been a loyal companion of mine ever since I was a little boy. When I reached the age of seven thousand years, I became fascinated by how majestic horses were. When James took notice of this, he presented Lady to me on my birthday. From that moment on, Lady and I shared multiple rides, most probably when my family held summer progresses across the kingdom.
In the midst of silence, faint footsteps approached the open entrance of the stables. I turned my head to look and saw that Mallory had arrived.
“Hello, Robert,” she smiled as she walked towards me, with her hands in front of her skirt.
“Good morning, Mallory,” I greeted back as I returned my focus to Lady.
Mallory was Nana Olsa’s granddaughter and I considered her as my childhood friend. We were extremely close as children. However, as time went on, we became distant because of how James was raising me as the heir to the throne. We still managed to speak to one another every now and then. But, for most of the time, I didn’t get to see her. With my royal duties, and mountains of reports, I was always either in my study or in my chambers.
“What are you doing?” she asked as she stood beside me.
“I’m currently giving Lady a few more brush strokes before I put the saddle on her,” I replied, with my eyes not leaving Lady.
“Are you going somewhere?” she asked.
“Yes,” I then put the brush down in a wooden bucket by the pole beside Lady. I continued, “It’s still early so I have decided to visit the Mortal Realm to clear my mind.”
“Well, I can say that it is a good place for a change of scenery. The Mortal Realm has the best operas I have seen anywhere,” she said before she gave a nervous chuckle.
Throughout that short exchange, Mallory’s voice has been… shaking, to say the least. I sensed that she was tense, trembling. She never acted this way when she would speak to me, which I found extremely odd.
I turned to her and the sides of her arms. “Mallory, is there something wrong? You seem to be shaking. Are you ill?” I asked.
“Oh no, I am well,” she smiled but I knew she was lying. Mallory was never a good liar. I didn’t think she would have the heart to lie about anything.
“Mallory, we are practically siblings, which means that you shouldn’t hide anything from me,” I replied as I moved closer to her. I gently caressed her arms in an attempt to calm her down. I added, “You know that I will never judge you, no matter what you tell me.”
She then let out a sigh as I let go of her arms. “Robert, for the longest time, you have been the only person that I called as a true friend. But, there is something that I’ve been wanting to tell you,” she said as she kept her head low whilst she played with her hands.
“Well, then, go ahead,” I answered as I tidied up everything that was used for Lady’s preparations.
She took a deep breath before she continued, “There’s no other way of saying this. But, you see,” she stopped briefly in an effort to control her stutter. “I like you, Robert.”

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