I. The Impact of Her
By Author Nicole Marcina
Date: February 6, 2023
Ch. 5~ Four ~

Her actions caught me by surprise, rendering me frozen. Questions began to race within my mind.
She liked me?
In what manner?
If she liked me more than a friend, what should I say?
Should I pretend that I feel the same, just so I wouldn’t break her heart?
Or should I simply acknowledge it, but at the same time, tell her to stop?
Mallory was like a sister to me. Breaking her heart would be unthinkable.
“Well, I would say that I liked you as well, Mallory,” I said as I hoped that it wouldn’t sound like it had a different meaning to it.
“You do?” she asked, her tone showed a hint of hope.
I took a deep breath and turned to her. With a smile, I explained, “Of course. We have been friends since we were little. I know who you truly are and you’re a good person.” I continued, “Everyone and anyone would love to have you as their friend.”
Her brows furrowed as she heard my answer. “Robert, that is not what I meant,” she said as she walked closer to me. Slowly, her frustration has started to show. “What I wanted to say was… I am in love with you,” she continued as she held my hands, looking directly into my eyes as she did so. “As a young girl, I have always admired you. And as we grew older, my feelings for you only grew with time. You are the only one I have ever loved.”
My eyes widened as I heard her confession. As far as I knew, I never gave her any reason to feel this way towards me, to love me in a different way. If she planned to use my kindness towards her, that I never abandoned her, those weren’t enough to justify her emotions. I was kind to her, I always watched over her because I regarded her as a sister.
Slowly, I released my hands from her grip and kept a short distance from her. “You don’t mean that, Mallory,” I said. I then grabbed the saddle from the floor and returned to Lady.
“Robert, I do. I have been thinking about this for a long time,” she quickly answered. “At first, I thought it was just a simple admiration. Just like how a sister looked up to her brother. But now, I can truly say that I love you,” she explained as she followed my every action.
I quickly put the saddle on Lady as I continued to ignore Mallory. I had to leave this stable, escape this conversation before it could turn into something ugly.
“Well?” she asked as she tried to catch my attention.
“You need to stop whatever it is that you are feeling for me,” I replied as I kept my focus on the saddle.
She stayed quiet for a few seconds before she asked, “Why?”
“Because it is not real, and it won’t lead to anything,” I answered as I locked the saddle in place.
“How could you say that? Of course, it’s real!” she protested even more. “This is some sort of infatuation, Robert. How could you question my feelings for you?”
“Your profession of love won’t change anything between us, Mallory,” I replied as I turned to look at her. “You are still a good friend of mine, a sister even.” I then filled my water container and grabbed a few apples for Lady. I put the apples inside the saddlebag, whilst my waterskin was tied to my belt.
“Only a friend?” she asked as her voice cracked, which was the point of this conversation that I was trying to avoid. “Don’t you have feelings for me? Even just a little?” she asked once more. I glanced over to her, and my heart broke as her eyes began to water.
I sighed. Without a doubt, I loved Mallory but only as a sister. I never saw her more than that. “I am very sorry, Mallory. But, you are loving the wrong man,” I replied. I then jumped onto Lady and prepared to ride away.
“Robert,” Mallory suddenly held onto my leg, “I know that deep inside of you, you love me the way I love you. Why are you denying it?”
“Mallory, do not be trapped in your delusions. There is nothing to deny, and there is nothing that I’m hiding inside,” I explained as I looked directly into her eyes. I continued, “You are a sister to me, and that is all that I can offer you. Nothing more, nothing less.”
Slowly, she let go of my leg and stepped back. Then, tears fell down her rosy cheeks.
“Come, Lady,” I whispered into Lady’s ear. And with one kick on her side, Lady and I headed to the gate.
When I reached the gate, I found Robin, the gatekeeper, who was busy sweeping all the fallen leaves at the gate.
“Good morning, Robin,” I greeted as I approached him.
As I stopped before him, he set his broom aside and ran towards me. “Your Highness,” he bowed. He looked back at me with a smile, “Good morning.”
“How has your day been so far?” I asked as I returned a smile.
He chuckled as he scratched the back of his neck. “It is the usual day for me, Your Highness. I open and close the gates for everyone. However, it has been a bit windier today. More leaves have fallen today,” he replied. “Other than that, everything is what it usually is, Your Highness.”
I nodded. “Very good.”
“What can I do for you today, Your Highness?” he asked.
“Would you be so kind as to open the gates for me, Robin?”
He nodded and quickly turned around. However, he stopped after a few steps and returned to me with a confused look on his face. “I thought you were with your family when they left, Your Highness.”
“Oh, I didn’t join them today,” I replied as I gave a firm smile. I continued, “I wanted to have a stroll somewhere. A change of scenery, get some fresh air.”
“If you don’t mind me asking, Your Highness, where are you headed to?” Robin asked another unnecessary question.
I held back my impatience and simply answered, “To the Mortal Realm. I plan to return before lunch so kindly open the gate.”
He then looked behind me, as if he was looking for something. “Where are your guards, Your Highness? You shouldn’t leave the castle alone, especially if you’re heading to the Mortal Realm,” he said. “This must be the fault of the guards. Should I call for Master Gonzalo to fetch the guards for you?” he continued.
I closed my eyes as I took a deep breath. “Robin, I will not repeat this: open the gate,” I spoke in a firmer manner. I stared directly at him as I didn’t want to say anything else.
“O-Of course, Your Highness. As you wish.” And with that, he rushed to the gate and opened it with his head down.
“Thank you, Robin,” I said as I trotted towards him. I handed him an apple and continued, “Should the royal family return and ask of my whereabouts, you are not to tell them what you know. If I find out that you spoke of me, going to the Mortal Realm, there will be consequences for you. Do I make myself clear?”
Robin knelt to the ground with his right hand on his left chest. “I will do what His Highness tells me to do.”
“Very well. I shall return right away. Have the gate ready for me,” I said.
After he nodded, I rode off to the Mortal Realm.
As I arrived on the outskirts of town, my appearance quickly changed from an Immortal to an ordinary traveller. My shoulder-length hair was now tied up. My elegant robes turned to a mere monk’s robes. My sword remained as what it was, but its sheath changed from a majestic gold appearance to an ordinary wooden one.
I entered the gates of the small village and headed straight for the marketplace where a chaotic atmosphere welcomed me. Buyers and vendors trying to settle on a deal with various goods. All sorts of conversations in regards to trade happened in each store. Random people looked through the different stalls, hoping that they would be able to buy something that they like.
As dangerous as it sounded, I still decided to make Lady walk through the crowd. Of course, I did it with utmost caution whilst I tried to maintain her calmness. One thing about Lady was she was somewhat claustrophobic. And once she was pushed to her limits, she had the tendency to panic, and act like a wild animal.
As much as possible, this was something that I wanted to avoid, as well as attracting attention from the people here. I didn’t want to give them any idea that I wasn’t of this world, or that I had riches to splurge.
“Hello, good sir,” a merchant suddenly approached me. “You look like you have some money to spare. Would you care to try some of my delicious tea? It’s directly made from the leaves of the Mountain of Falls.”
“No, thank you. I’m just here to look around,” I politely declined.
A few more steps forward when another merchant walked up to me. “Young man, might I interest you in some rare and antique jewellery? It will surely get the attention of any young lady,” she bribed as she gave me a sly smile.
“No, thank you,” I refused with a smile as I proceeded with my stroll.
“Oh, hello, stranger!” a merchant jumped right in front of Lady, which caused her to whiny out of shock. He continued, “Perhaps you would like to try some of my home-made wine?”
“Thank you, but drinking is not something I do,” I replied with a smile.
“Well, perhaps, you have a few coins to spare,” he asked politely as he walked towards my left. He continued, “I haven’t had much luck in selling my home-made wine. And I haven’t eaten for today.”
By the look of this merchant, there was some sincerity in his words. So, I carefully pulled out my coin pouch from the saddle bag. Without warning, he exclaimed as he pointed at it, “Your pouch! It carries the sign of the immortals from the Mountain of Fog!”
I quickly looked and to my horror, there was indeed the symbol of my father’s kingdom. I kept my emotions in check as I knew any sudden reaction could cause a crowd. The only thing that was on my mind was that I had to keep this man quiet.
“Are you an Immortal?” he asked recklessly. He did not mind that people had started to look in our direction.
“Elder, I am not an Immortal,” I said as I tried to create a credible excuse in my mind. I explained, “This pouch… was but a humble gift from the gods. I followed one of their missions for me, and this was my reward.”
“Is that so?” he asked. Slowly, a sly grin formed on his face. “That means that you carry a massive amount of gold with you. You don’t mind sharing some of them to a lowly merchant such as myself, do you?” he asked another as he arched his brows twice.
My blood boiled as he tried to phrase his greed as a pathetic excuse for sympathy. I couldn’t let him take advantage of me. However, I also needed to prevent him from telling everyone what I carried within my person. To receive a gift from us Immortals was absolutely rare, and was always seen as a big deal. Once a mortal received a gift from us, others would take advantage of that.
This was the reason why we refrained from rewarding mortals. Because, whether mortals tell their fellow mortals or not, it would always end in bloodshed. We strived to keep the mortals alive and safe from our enemies. For them to kill each other, all for the sake of gold, went against everything that we wanted for them.
I pulled out seven gold pieces from my pouch and handed it over to him with a forced smile. In my perspective, I only wanted to give him three. But, then again, I had to keep him silent.
As soon as the gold coins landed on his palms, he began counting. “Young man,” he chuckled as he looked up at me, “Seven gold pieces isn’t enough to feed me for a whole month. You are aware of that, correct?”
“Good sir, you only asked for something that will help you eat today. What I have given you is more than enough. And I’m certain that you will be able to sell some of your wine within the day,” I explained as I tied the pouch onto my belt. I added, “Whatever it is that remains with me, I will need it for my journey back to my village. I hope you understand.”
He looked at me with a blank stare for quite some time. And all I could was to pray silently that he would simply accept the gold and walk away. “I understand,” he said before he stepped aside. “Please, be on your way.”
“Thank you,” I nodded. I then gave Lady a gentle kick on her side and she began to walk.
I wasn’t even that far from the merchant when he suddenly shouted, “Look! That man received a pouch of gold from the immortals, and he is too greedy to share!”
People looked at me with wide-open eyes. Their voices got louder as a crowd quickly formed around me. I carefully turned around but every path was blocked. My greatest fear during this stroll has happened.
I was surrounded.
“Sir, please, lend me a hand! I need to feed my children!”
“Help us fix our homes!”
“Give us something! Stop being so selfish!”
They continued to shout their plights as they pressed closer. In the midst of the rising uproar, I sensed Lady’s uneasiness. Her breathing changed as she succumbed to panic.
“Please, everyone, step back!” I shouted as I gently pulled on Lady’s reins.
“He is trying to escape! Don’t let him escape!” someone shouted from the crowd.
I gave another warning, “Please, move away! You may get hurt, my horse is slowly panicking!”
“He is threatening us!”
“Get him!”
Lady was about to explode when a horrifying boom came from behind the crowd. Everyone bowed to their knees as they took cover. I hid behind Lady’s head as I moved her away from where the sound was coming from. As I slowly looked up, it was James’ guards. And if that wasn’t terrifying enough, they didn’t even make the effort to conceal their true identities!
They showed up in their royal uniforms as they sat on their majestic horses. Then, they took a few steps forward.
“Step away from the prince of Western Wind!” the captain shouted, his voice echoed throughout the open space. He continued, “Anyone who dares to cause him any harm shall face a great deal of punishment from the gods!”
The townspeople hurriedly crawled away from me. They whimpered as they rushed to get away, not just from where I was, but away from the guards as well.
“And you, Your Highness,” the captain then turned to me, “You should know that you are not allowed to come here on your own. Master Gonzalo has sent us to accompany you.”
Well, that was just fantastic. Gonzalo couldn’t keep his word. It would seem that I needed to have a conversation with him upon my return.
“Captain, thank you for your concern, but I don’t need your company. I would like to continue on this stroll alone, if you don’t mind,” I answered as I sat up properly.
“Master Gonzalo also said that if you disagreed, you are to return to the castle with us,” he said. “And that is not a request.”
And now, he has reduced to threatening me. I didn’t want them to be around me, and I also had no plans in returning to the castle just yet. This was the only time that I was able to do something on my own. And they just had to ruin my chance.
The captain added, “We can either do this the easy way or the hard way, Your Highness. It is your decision on where this will head to.”
Gently, I pulled on Lady’s reins, which caused her to take a few steps back. I needed as much room as possible so I could escape my guards. James didn’t choose just any man to be a part of his Royal Guards. He chose the best in everything, especially his riders. And these guards were no exception.
“Come, Lady, it’s time to get out of here,” I whispered into her ear, which made it twitch.
The guards and I stared at each other for quite some time as we waited on who would be the first one to make a move. I took a deep breath in as I focused on my inner core. Then, with a kick onto Lady’s side, I yelled, “YAH!”
And so, the wild goose chase has begun.
From the alleys, to the busy streets of this marketplace, the chase between the guards and I last for quite some time. Just when I thought that I lost them, I would turn to look and they were always not too far behind. But, after a few more turns, I was finally able to outrun them.
“Good job, Lady!” I praised my champion.
As I made another turn to the right, a pedestrian came out of nowhere as they crossed the street. “Whoa!” I shouted as I pulled Lady into a halt, which made her stand.
“AAHH!” a scream came from the pedestrian as they fell onto the ground. It was a woman, and as she fell, her basket landed on the road. Different kinds of fruits came out from it, and were scattered everywhere.
“Easy, Lady!” I shouted as I did my best to calm Lady down. “Easy, girl!” Finally, after a tug-of-war with Lady, she put her hooves down and walked back from the lady.
“Ugh…” the lady groaned as she tried to stand.
As soon as Lady was still, I hopped down to help the pedestrian. “Madam, are you okay?” I asked as I rushed over to her. I helped her stand with all the care I could give as I hoped that the incident didn’t cause her any bruises or worse, injuries.
“Oh, um,” she stuttered as she looked around frantically. “Yes, sir. However, the fruits are everywhere,” she replied as she immediately collected all the scattered contents of her basket. She added, “Do forgive me, good sir. I wasn’t looking when I was about to cross.”
“It was all my fault, madam. I shouldn’t be having my horse run through such a narrow road,” I said as I helped her retrieve the fruits. I then noticed that she almost left an apple. “Oh, you left one more fruit,” I said as I reached for it.
“Oh, please, let me,” she then reached for it as well.
Before we knew it, our hands touched, hers laid on top of mine. Her gentle touch caused somewhat of a spark for me. This caused us to look at each other and before I could say anything, I got lost in her beautiful emerald eyes.

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