Part 16: He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not
Janus finally rolled out of bed in the late hours of the morning, knowing he should have been out training before the sun had even come up. He couldn’t get himself to care. Grumbling, he got dressed and washed his face with water from the small, wooden basin on his dresser. His mirror was still cracked, but he could see himself well enough. Once he was satisfied with his appearance, he left his room, and nearly ran into Emerald as soon as he stepped into the hallway.
“Oh!” Emerald squeaked out like a frightened mouse. She took a few steps back. “I’m so sorry! I didn’t think you were about to walk out…”
Janus’ heart thumped in his chest, and he was worried it would be audible to her. He felt himself flush. “N-no need to apologize,” he said flatly, looking down at the black boots he was wearing.
“I came to return your cloak,” Emerald said, handing over the dark article of clothing. “You left it last night.”
Janus quickly took it, a realization fluttering through his mind that he only owned black clothing, save for one blue cloak that he rarely wore. Maybe he should expand his colors…perhaps he could where blue more often, like Hunter did. But why would he want to dress like Hunter? He mentally chided himself and forced himself to return to the present, where Emerald was looking at him expectantly. “T-thank you,” he choked out, giving a slight bow. “You didn’t have to bring it, though.”
Emerald shook her head. “It’s all right. Besides…I was wondering if I could watch you train with the knights today. They’re all going to be out in the field in the afternoon, and I heard they were going to have a race!” Her eyes brightened.
Janus felt butterflies in his stomach. Just great.
“You…are going to be in the race, aren’t you?” Emerald’s smile began to fade. “You shouldn’t give up on at least being a regular knight. You still have a chance to become a Knight of Dusk too, so you should at least keep up with your training!”
“I don’t see why you care,” Janus said, heaving a sigh. He put his cloak around his shoulders and brushed past her. As he expected, however, Emerald was quick to follow him.
“So are you going to do it?”
Did she have to be so persistent?! Janus closed his eyes and searched for patience inside of him, then clenched and unclenched his hands. “I suppose I will,” he said. “I will keep training, and I’m not giving up on becoming a Knight of Dusk. But why you are so invested in my career is beyond me. If anything, you should be afraid of me. Hunter will be angry if he knows you are spending so much time pestering me.”
Emerald was quiet for a moment, and when he glanced at her, he noticed there was a look of conflict in her eyes. Had something happened between her and Hunter?
“I’m not afraid of you,” Emerald said, clasping her hands behind her back. Her skirts swished as she quickened her pace to keep up with him. “I know you won’t hurt me.”
“How can you be so sure?” Janus asked, stopping in the middle of the hallway and turning to her. “I can’t even trust myself sometimes.”
Emerald looked down at the floor, but she said nothing in reply. She almost seemed ashamed.
“You can’t trust me, Princess,” he said quietly. “No one else does, and they are right not to.”
Still, Emerald did not speak. He waited a moment to see if she would before finally leaving her to continue on through the hallway. She did not follow, and again he felt the strange sensation of being tethered to her…like a line was being pulled taut. It made him feel as though he was going to be sick.
“Why can I not rid myself of this wretched feeling?” he asked himself, one hand clutching the hilt of his sword that he wore at his side. “I can’t love her. I don’t love her.” But his steps wavered, and he eventually stopped to look back and see if she was following him yet. She was no longer standing where he left her. The sight of the empty hallway made a hollow feeling come to his chest. If he didn’t love her…then why did he feel this way?
Emerald had gone straight to her room. She burst into a fit of tears the instant the door was shut behind her, and it made one of her handmaidens, Louisa, look up in surprise.
“Milady?” she said, setting aside the dresses she was putting away and coming over to her. “What’s happened?”
“Oh, Louisa!” Emerald cried, sitting down in a little armchair by the fireplace. “I wish I could help the way I feel, but I can’t! I wish I could make myself love Hunter, but it’s so hard!”
Louisa stared down at her in confusion. “I can’t quite understand what’s going on, Milady,” she said apologetically. “Has the king upset you in some way?”
“No, not really,” Emerald said, wiping away tears with a little pink handkerchief. “He’s just…oh, he’s asked me to court him!”
“He has?!” Louisa sat down in the second chair next to the princess. “But…you don’t want to?”
“I don’t love him, Louisa! At least, not like that!” Emerald plopped her hands into her lap and glanced up at Louisa with a helpless look. “I want to marry him if it makes everyone happy…but I don’t know if I can ever love him like that.”
“Well, Milady, King Hunter seems to be a very fair man. If you don’t want to marry him, I’m sure he would support your decision.” Louisa paused. “Is…is this because there is someone else you like?”
Emerald wiped away the last of her tears, feeling very silly for crying. All of a sudden she felt trapped into a relationship with Hunter. Though she did care very much for him, she just couldn’t see herself being happy as his wife. Still, it felt silly to cry, especially since she knew Louisa was right. Hunter would understand if she decided against marrying him. But that would disappoint so many people… “I-I suppose there might be someone else…,” she said, twisting her handkerchief in her hands. “I’ve known him for a year now, and…well, despite everything, I think I like him. He just doesn’t seem to like me very much.”
Louisa tilted her head. “Please don’t tell me it’s who I’m thinking of…”
Emerald stared at her, then whispered, “Janus?”
Louisa cringed. “Milady, he’s the twin brother of that witch! The very same witch that cast that spell on you, remember?!”
“I know, I know, but I can’t help it,” Emerald said. She placed her hand over her chest. “Whenever I am near him, the strangest feeling is in my chest, like…like we are bound together. He is my True Love…the fairies said so, and he even broke the spell. But I thought maybe I could defy fate by marrying Hunter. I just want people to be happy…”
Louisa sighed. “Maybe you should talk to His Majesty about this.”
Emerald’s eyes widened. “Oh Louisa, he can’t stand Janus! This would only upset him more!” She stood and went to the window. “No…I’m sure this must be only infatuation I’m feeling. Besides, love isn’t a feeling. Maybe I’m wrong, and I will be happy with Hunter. There’s a side of him the kingdom never sees, you know. He can be gentle, and kind…” The determination she had felt in the throne room when Hunter had asked to court her returned to her heart, and she stood up straighter. “Yes…besides, we are only courting for now. And please don’t let word of this get out, Hunter would rather keep this a secret, at least for a while.”
“Of course,” Louisa replied. She got up to continue putting away dresses. She didn’t seem on board with Emerald’s idea of making the kingdom happy, however.
Emerald sighed and watched out the window. In the distance, she could see the knights training in the fields. It was too far too see any faces, but she knew Janus was out there with them. It was almost as if she could feel him out there.
“Janus,” she whispered to herself. “What should I do?”
~ <♥> ~
Hey guys! I hope you enjoyed this part! Janus and Emerald are beginning to realize they’re in love, though it might take Janus a little while longer to fully realize that! I have a feeling he won’t know how to respond, so this will be interesting! Again, I hoped you like the part! Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
Thanks for reading! God bless y’all and have a wonderful holiday weekend!