After knocking out the group of bandits on her way, she freed the two injured Fang soldiers who were held captive. The soldiers seeing the high concern etched on the Heart princess urged her to go ahead and look for their Princess, promising to catch up after tending to their own minor wounds. She nodded but tells them to inform the Heart soldiers nearby for assistance. With that, she followed the tracks they pointed to where the warrior was taken.
She clutched the blades that belonged to the captured Princess tightly. She found them laying on the floor while patrolling the outskirts of Heart just by the border, along with other Fang belongings scattered. Three Serlots were distraught, as they laid on the floor, breathing slow. Tranquilized. She walked towards a certain Serlot that she knew belonged to the princess, gently patting her. She looked like she was ready to bolt, the creature shaking her head and trying to get up but falling immediately, “It’s okay, bud. I’ll go find your owner. Catch up when you can” She stroked the Serlot’s fur lightly then made her way.
She finally caught sight of the three bandits, all wearing Heart clothing much to the Princess’ disappointment. Namaari was on the ground, hands tied behind her and ankles tied together promising no escape. She stopped in her tracks to observe the situation, trying to make out what they were saying while thinking of a way to ambush them.
However, she regretted the decision immediately when she watched the bandit in the middle raise his sword to strike, yelling. She turned to see Namaari’s movements, her eyes closing in defeat.
What was she doing?!
Her breathing getting caught in her throat, Raya used all her strength and sprinted towards the Fang warrior. Her back turned as she grabbed Namaari out of the way, but she hissed in pain feeling the blade slice her back shoulder causing her to fall on her knees with the warrior.
She glanced down at the Fang Princess grinning, “Not like you to give up without a fight, dep la” she managed to mutter ignoring the throbbing pain on her back.
Namaari wide eyed stared at the princess of Heart in disbelief. Before she could utter a word though, Raya had already stood up and turned her way towards the bandits.
“What have you done?!” One of the Heart bandits growled looking at the man who raised his blade towards the Guardian.
“You’ve struck the Heart Princess! This was not part of the plan!” The other bandit yelled furiously.
“This is not your business, your highness. Move away” The man in the middle ignored their yells.
Raya glared at the bandit in front of her, “That is where you’re wrong, bandido. This is no doubt part of my business. Explain your intentions immediately, maybe I’ll give you a chance.” Her words were laced in venom as she felt her anger boil over her. How dare they try to kill Namaari?
“The Fang binturis have no place in Heart’s land!” The man spat out as he turned his gaze in disgust to the warrior on the floor behind Raya.
The Guardian scowled at this, “We may be Heart, but this is no longer our land, this is Kumandra’s. And that binturi is part of the council.”
She raised one of Namaari’s blades towards the bandit’s face, “You are committing the highest treason by disrupting the peace we have settled for our lands and I will make sure you face multiple charges for your ill thought actions” Her voice firm and unwavering caused the bandit to clench his own sword in fear. The two bandits behind shared a frightened gaze, their façade noticeably wavering.
“Now, I suggest you drop your weapons before this turns to something you can no longer handle.” The bandits behind seemed to have a sense in mind to drop their weapons immediately, as they kneeled on the floor bowing while raising their hands in a circular form.
Raya nodded at their direction but noticed the reluctant look of the bandit in front of her, watching him debate his options. She challenged him with one final look causing the man to step back. Just as she decided to lower her weapon, the bandit charged towards her.
“Raya!” Namaari’s yell behind her made her react blocking the strike with the two blades. The sword being stuck in between, she took the opportunity to twist it out of the bandit’s hands kicking him with force that caused him to stumble backwards. She threw away his weapon as far as possible behind her. The Fang princess behind her watched in bewilderment as she dropped her own blades to the side.
“A fist fight it is then” She cracked her knuckles waiting for the bandit to get his bearings and charge at her again, this time swinging fast punches and kicks that Raya dodged easily.
She continued dodging, throwing her own painful blows to the stubborn bandit. She could see his stance slightly wavering. She was waiting for the right opportunity to strike a final blow knowing she could end it if she actually tried but the throbbing on the back of her shoulder was taking more effect than she expected.
She finally got her opportunity when the man spun for a flying kick. She caught his ankle in a firm hold, he tried shaking it off but failed miserably. The guardian took the chance and kicked his side forcefully sending him flying to the ground. The man grunted in pain holding his side as he rolled on the floor.
As if on cue, a bunch of Heart soldiers surrounded the area, crossbows in hand as they looked at the scene in front of them.
“Seize them.” Raya plainly ordered before making her way to the Fang princess.
She grabbed the blades on the floor and went around Namaari to cut the ties off her wrists and ankles, “Sorry for not cutting you off sooner”
“That’s fine. But are you okay?” Namaari immediately standing up in front of the princess of Heart in concern.
Raya just huffed, she was getting dizzy knowing it was from the slight blood loss from the wound. She managed to nod assuring the Fang princess but lost her balance when a wave of dizziness hits her. She felt strong arms wrap around her waist catching her before she fell, careful not to touch the wound. She leaned her head on the young woman’s chest to steady herself.
Namaari looked from her position to glance at the injury. She grimaced at the dry blood mixing with the new ones that were oozing out due to the exertion from the fight. The wound was deeper than she thought. Her heart clenched painfully, why would she take the strike for her like that?
“Princesses!” One of the Heart soldiers approached them in caution, she is followed by Namaari’s soldiers who were unfortunately caught by the bandits earlier. The warrior internally sighed in relief to see them alive. She cursed herself silently for letting their guard down.
“Princess Namaari, you’re okay!” The Fang soldier stated sighing.
Namaari offered a gentle smile. She turned towards the Heart soldier, “The Princess needs to be treated urgently but I will leave my soldiers to help you with the rest of the bandits. I believe there were more than these three.” She ordered firmly but her voice couldn’t help but waver.
She beckoned one of her own soldiers, “Help the Heart soldiers with the bandits and scout the area for any escapees. I will take Raya back to Heart safely.”
The soldiers bow respectfully and made their way to fulfill her orders.
The Fang princess whistled loudly, hoping her Serlot will come to her. Raya who was going in and out of consciousness in her arms grunted, “Why did you have to do that right by my ear?” Her voice was low and fading.
Namaari chuckled shaking her head, “Stay with me, Princess. Can’t have you blacking out right now” She teased with a hint of concern in her words.
Raya managed to scoff, “I am not blacking out, I’m just dizzy”
“I would’ve been okay if you hadn’t taken that strike for me, I had a plan.” The Fang warrior frowned looking down at their slightly uncomfortable position.
The guardian clicked her tongue, “If your plan included having a pretty cool scar on your face like me and maybe dying then I might believe you. If you wanted to match with me so bad, offer me a matching gift of sorts” She joked lightly. She glanced up to smirk playfully at the woman, but she felt her face turn more into a grimace.
Namaari matched her gaze, worry creased her forehead but managed a small teasing smile back, “Maybe I will if you promise not to die on me”
“Oh? Then I’m definitely not dying now” The Fang warrior rolled her eyes trying to control the heat from coloring her face.
A grateful distraction came in form of a light roar signaling the arrival of her Serlot, Chati. It immediately crouched down for her to mount. Raya was delighted to see the Serlot up and moving.
“Think you can manage climbing up?” Namaari asked pulling back but kept her hands on the guardian’s waist. Raya nodded turning her body towards the Serlot as she managed to lift herself on the saddle with slight struggle. She groaned at the slight pain that elicited from the movement. Namaari followed suit, sitting directly behind her. She gulped at their slight position knowing she had to take the reins by going around the princess’ waist.
Raya positioned herself so she can lean on the warrior again without putting pressure on her back trying not to seem awkward and ignoring the abnormal thudding of her heart. Namaari took a deep breath beckoning the Serlot to start their way towards Heart’s palace.
After a few moments of being tense plus the weakness she felt due to the wound, she let herself relax into the Fang princess’ chest once again. She didn’t know if it was the blood loss or the fact that she was comfortable, but she felt her consciousness slip away to the darkness.
Namaari sat in Raya’s quarters, a chair propped right beside her bed. They had managed to get to the healers in time despite the princess blacking out. The Fang warrior had to carry her carefully and navigate her way inside the palace to a room. Chief Benja rushed calling in for their healers. She had stepped out respectfully, but the worry still twisted her insides. She waited patiently outside when the Chief exited the room.
“Princess Namaari” He greeted softly, Namaari bowed placing her hand in a circle, shifting her gaze downwards.
“Chief, I’m sorry-” She was cut off by a hand on her shoulder. She looked up to meet his gaze, there was no malice or anger in them.
Chief Benja just smiled amused, “I’m just glad both of you are safe. You can tell me what happened later. For now, we need your help transferring my daughter to her chambers”
Namaari was taken aback but quickly straightened herself and nodded.
The Chief left her in the room after she explained what happened in detail. He went to deal with the bandits insisting for the Fang warrior to stay by Raya’s side till she wakes.
She respectfully obeyed. Also, it would be ridiculous to even think she would leave the girl at all after what happened. Thankfully, she herself came out unscathed. A few bruises and cuts but nothing that needs healers to tend to. She glanced at the woman sleeping soundly. They laid her down on her stomach, to avoid any pressure on the wound. The cut started from the back of her right shoulder slanting down right before her spine, it was successfully cleaned and stitched by the healers. She wore nothing but her bindings and the bandage that wrapped around her shoulders and chest. Namaari could still feel the burning sensation of skin touched where she had to carry the princess like that. Soft yet so full of scars.
When they had laid her down promptly on the bed earlier, she noticed the numerous scars that scattered around her back and stomach. Her breath hitched unconsciously, she was not aware of the amount of encounters the Heart princess had to face the six years she was alone, the Princess had never told her in depth, and she was too afraid to ask. She even caught the Chief’s surprise as he glanced down at the scars of his own daughter, sorrow filling his eyes. Her heart twisted painfully, still filled with regret that lingered from the betrayal. She pulled the covers up gently to cover her back, moving her long raven hair away from her face.
She released a tired sigh, her head was reeling from the day’s events. She leaned forward resting her head on her arms while watching the princess’ steady breathing. Her cheek was squished lightly on the pillow, arms bent resting beside face. Namaari suddenly attacked by an urge to hold the girl’s hand in her own, she unconsciously reached over with one hand hovering over the guardian’s but decided against it a moment later. She shook off the feeling and smiled to herself as she let sleep take over.
Benja knocked on the door softly, only to see both princesses fast asleep. He smiled knowingly and left them to themselves. Dinner can wait.
As dusk approached, Raya awoke groggily. Her whole body ached, almost forgetting that she was injured as she tried to turn. She silently grunted releasing an annoyed huff. She noticed a figure bent down with her head hidden in between her arms, her hand resting fairly close to her own. A position she could imagine far from comfortable. She snorted at the sight. The familiar undercut confirmed her guess then gently grabbed her hand pulling it closer to her face. She pressed a featherlight kiss on the knuckles before snuggling closer, she was lulled back to sleep immediately.
They meet again two weeks later for the council meeting being hosted by Fang this time around. The slice on her back almost completely healed but was still refrained much to her disappointment.
They had arrived a day earlier requested by the Queen of Fang herself inviting them to a dinner before the council meeting the next day as a thank you for saving the Fang princess.
As they reached the Fang Palace’s main doors, her father offered her help to dismount Tuk tuk. She reluctantly accepted but not before giving her own father a look,
“Ba, I can move just fine now, you know?”
The Chief of Heart merely smirked, “Ah, of course, Dewdrop. No harm in being a gentleman for my own daughter, yes?”
Raya shoved him playfully, “Oh, how Kumandra will be wooed by the gentleness the Chief of Heart possesses!” She raised her voice bowing, the other Heart soldiers chuckling at the princess’ theatrics.
They immediately stood in attention as they see the Fang Chief and Princess approach from behind her, “I see you are doing well, Dep la”
Raya visibly perked up at the sound of her voice much to her Ba’s amusement. She turned to the warrior with a big grin on her face, “Much to your disappointment, princess. I can spar you soon enough” She haughtily announced.
Chief Virana curiously raised her brow at the two before turning serious, “Princess Raya, I have yet to thank you for saving my daughter from harm’s way. I’d personally like to thank you, not only as a Chief but as a mother. If you’d need anything, be it a favor or a request, I will do my best to grant it.” The older woman bowed her head towards the guardian, Namaari bowing along with her.
Raya suddenly uncomfortable at the formality, shifted on her feet. She finally just decided to bow back respectfully, “Of course, Chief Virana. I would never let any harm come near your daughter.” She stated boldly causing a faint blush to appear on Namaari’s cheeks. Her statement held no lie or remorse in them.
“A bold promise, Princess. But I believe you.” They raised their heads back, Virana offering a welcoming smile.
“By no harm, does that by any chance exclude you?” Namaari quipped jokingly, crossing her arms in challenge. Raya glared at the princess for a moment, she turned back to Virana,
“My sincere apologies for this, Chief” Virana stared back questioningly watching the younger woman bow down again.
The princess of Heart suddenly charged towards the Fang warrior, who was already expecting it, sprinted towards the opposite direction.
Chief Benja sighed at his daughter’s actions, “So much for manners”
“Namaari’s manners seem to disappear when your sunlight is around” Virana observed, she could almost hear her own daughter’s laugh as they both sprinted towards the palace, passing the guards who were eyeing them confused.
She sometimes forgot that her own daughter was still young. Royalty didn’t let her grow into a normal childhood, along with the twisted decisions made by herself while raising her own daughter. She remembered the anguish she had caused by her own selfishness to rule, to be superior to the lands but it had costed her daughter’s brightness. Even if the decision were for the prosperity of Fang and was only doing what was best for her land, a part of her silently wished she could have spared Namaari’s pain. After being turned into stone, she had considered all of her actions greatly.
“I guess we will let them be. They are still young after all.” She muttered mostly to herself but Benja smiled knowingly.
“Then, shall we? I heard dinner was in order. We brought some of Heart’s Palm sugar!” The Chief of Heart prompted as they started walking to the palace.
They would be okay eventually. It had only been a year, there would be many more to come.
Namaari slowed down her pace as they reach the inside of the palace. The only reason she taunted the princess was because she needed her alone and knew that she wouldn’t be able to get her in private till later. Plus, she may or may not be a little nervous and impatient as a wrapped gift was sitting on her bedside table.
She finally heard steps approaching behind her, slightly panting. A pair of hands grabbed her shoulders from behind and shook her back and forth eliciting an amused chuckle out of her.
“I swear to Dragons, dep la. You made me embarrass myself in front of your mother and let me get lost in your palace on purpose!”
“First of all, you’re not the one who’s definitely going to get a scolding from my mother later for losing my manners, but that second part is all you, Princess. Not my fault you lost track of me” Namaari smirked teasingly.
Raya let her go scoffing and walked beside the Fang warrior, “Fair point. But what is the real reason you got me running all the way here? I’m a little out of practice you know”
“You’ll see” Thankfully she didn’t probe any further, leaving Namaari to her thoughts. If Raya noticed she was jittery, she chose not to mention it.
As they reached her quarters, the princess of Heart stretched her arms a little, entering before slumping on to the bed. She grunted when her back hit the mattress, forgetting that her injury was still pretty tender.
“How’s your back doing?” Namaari asked sitting right beside her, leaving a respectable distance.
The young woman hummed, “Better. It’s still fairly hard to swing swords or stretch towards anything out of reach. Quite bothersome really.”
“Then I can’t really look forward to sparring with you anytime soon, I’m guessing. Should be an instant win for me” The Fang princess grinned.
Raya snorted at this, she tried to sit up using her shoulders but regretted it immediately as she felt a sharp pain causing her to hiss loudly. Namaari reached out automatically helping the girl sit up, a hand on her lower back and the other one being used as support so the princess can pull herself up.
“Like I said, quite bothersome” She muttered out grimacing as soon as she finally sat up properly. She sighed in relief.
“At least you didn’t die”
“This is true,” Raya’s face lit up at that, turning her body towards the Fang warrior, she raised her hand in front of her palm outwards, “Speaking of! Your promise. I’m guessing it’s why you called me here in the first place huh, dep la?” She wiggled her eyebrows taunting.
Namaari rolled her eyes but a smile gracing her lips, she wasn’t surprised that she’d remembered. She quickly turned around to her dresser grabbing a red cloth that was folded neatly into a square and placing it on top of Raya’s waiting hand.
The princess of Heart looked down trying to hide her surprise, instead she genuinely smiled. She met Namaari’s gaze one more time, asking for permission to open it. The warrior nodded looking somewhat nervous, she lifted her hand to brush her hair back, a familiar move that Raya had found endearing.
Raya started unwrapping the cloth, her breath caught in her throat as she stared at the matching golden arm bands. She lifted one up to inspect closely. The band had two loops going around, it looked similar to the Fang princess’ current one in terms of thickness and roundness. The difference, however, was extravagant. Just like the Sisu pendant, the band was carved with the intricate details of the dragon’s scales, the edges of the fur prominent as it looped around not sharp enough to cut, the tips met on the top, one being the head of the dragon, the other the tail, and in the middle of its mouth was tiny little blue gem, resembling the dragon gem itself.
Namaari nervously glanced at the princess, taking a shaky breath,
“From one dragon nerd to another”
A line so familiar yet so haunting, she hoped to bring new meaning to every word as she lifted her own hand to close Raya’s fingers on the arm band.
The familiarity of the situation caused the Heart princess’ senses to overflow. She blinked rapidly, not noticing the tears welling up in her eyes till they already poured out. Namaari felt her gut twist, she quickly reached for the princess’ face. Her thumb wiping off the tears that were flowing out of the corner of her eyes.
Her eyebrows furrowed in worry as her gaze unwavering looking in both of the girl’s honey orb eyes,
“I’m so sorry, I didn’t… I just-“ wanted to properly start over. She wanted to say. Her hands were now trembling along with her voice, her own eyes glazing with tears which she blinked back profusely.
Raya raised her other hand to hold the warrior’s wrist still, she shut her eyes for a moment taking a deep breath, “I understand”
She leaned closer to Namaari’s touch on her cheek, her own thumb caressing the Fang princess’ knuckles, “Thank you”
A shaky sigh of relief subconsciously escaped the warrior’s lips, she nodded as she brushed away any remaining tears from the Princess’ face before finally letting go. She reached for the other arm band, identical to the one Raya was holding,
“As promised” She moved to slip her current armband off replacing it with the dragon one. She slipped it through her left hand, dragging it up all the way to her bicep, “I’m glad it was made perfectly”
“Expected from Little Miss Perfect” Raya quipped lightening the mood, she slipped her own in place, just now noticing the difference in size due to her smaller bicep. She was slightly offended, but she would save that for another day, “It’s beautiful though. Now I’m really glad I didn’t die” She joked instead.
It was Namaari’s turn to scoff this time, “You’re ridiculous.” She scooted closer to the woman, her gaze dropped down to where the new arm band rested on the Heart princess. Her hand reached out for it, gently twisting it at the right direction.
There was something intimate about the way Namaari touched Raya nowadays. She had ignored the feeling for so long, now it came bright and clear what it really was she felt for the Fang warrior. Also, the tiny bit of hope in her that maybe she felt the same way back. Fear still lingered in her soul, the inability to trust and commit fully still ever present. Despite having learned to work with Namaari the past year, it was getting easier. But she wanted to be sure, before she jumped right into it.
She felt the warrior’s hand drop to her lap. The silence wasn’t new to them, always welcome and comfortable. She positioned herself closer to the woman, so that she could lean her head on her shoulder. Somehow sensing this, Namaari raised her right arm up for Raya to squeeze in between and nuzzle closer. The way both their hearts were doing somersaults at the serenity of it all.
Raya decided internally to take their own time with exploring whatever it is they have. Till scars heal and till regret and anger wasn’t bigger than love. Till then, they would learn to cherish each moment and learn to trust deeper than they ever have before.
Eventually they would get there. Little Noi steps.
A knock on the door disrupted their moment, “Princesses, dinner is ready. The Chiefs requested your presence in the dining hall” A Fang soldier’s voice announced.
Namaari sighed, the Heart princess almost hearing the disappointment, “We’ll be right down” She responded, the irritated tone slightly present.
Raya chuckled lightly. She bit her lip slightly reluctant before looking up to face the Fang woman, she reached up a little, using the warrior’s chest for support then planted a soft but lingering kiss on her cheek. She felt the exact moment the Fang princess tensed and almost melt right into it.
Pulling back quickly, the guardian jumped up excited, trying to hide her jitters and the way her heart pounded in her chest. She surprised herself, not knowing where that unknown courage came from.
She cleared her throat walking towards the door, not daring to look back, “Let’s go eat, dep la. I’m starving!”
Meanwhile, Namaari sat there dumbfounded only to realize the princess had left her already as she scrambled to follow her to the dining hall. She had exactly two minutes to calm her red face down before she dared to step foot in the hall in front of her mother and the Chief of Heart. Her hand automatically reached out to lightly touch her cheek where Raya’s lips were just moments ago, she let a big cat like grin escape.