CHAPTER 46 - Of Revelations

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A panting servant came over to the dinner table. "Your Highnesses," she bowed, looking at all of us, speaking through strained, urgent breathing. "There's someone at the gate."

Serena got up, "Una!"

"We don't know that yet," Ralph said and I watched him and Doran scurrying off their chairs at the same time. Serena walked after them.

I took a step forward as well, but Lord Orlon spoke –

"I am afraid, dear, you've to stay hidden."

I nodded; he was right. Sitting back down on my chair, I wrung my hands in my lap, twisting Ralph's silver ring. The silence was awkward as we both sat, waiting for an answer from the others.

"Your Highness," I cleared my throat, "Since how long have you suspected that there was something off with the Gemini Princes?"

He sighed, before answering, "I always had an inkling but a little before coming to the Conquest, a strange fear struck me. I was not going to participate, honestly but the discovery... forced me to."

I snapped my head at his words. "What?"

Lord Orlon let out an embarrassed laugh, "There was no reason for me to partake in the Conquest, when our House had Doran. You haven't seen him duel. He is the best. Ask Ralph."

I kept blinking at him.

He continued, "I thought they were working together, the twins. How could I send my son into a death ring? Who was to know whether or not they would kill my second son as well? I only have Doran."

I put my hand over my mouth, letting his words sink in. All this time, he was protecting Doran.

"How could you make that decision for him? How could you not tell him?" I asked, my voice rising higher.

"It was too late. It is too late for me to win his trust back. There are some things that I've said to him ever since he was a child, that can never be forgiven. I tried my best to keep him away from all this, to not let anyone's attention fall on him, to keep him safe from the twins...but it never works with him." Lord Orlon sighed, "That rule-breaker. Both my sons."

"Doran needs to know that his father doesn't deem him unworthy." I whispered.

Lord Orlon averted his eyes from me, and reclined back in his chair. I suddenly felt awful for having meddled in their family matters, but the men were so bad at communicating their feelings, I couldn't just sit and watch, could I?

Footsteps rang in the passage through which my three friends had left. I felt Una, before seeing her, and smiled to myself. She had come! To a Summer Palace!

But something was wrong, I felt my breath hitching in my chest, as I really looked at Una, her face was hung low, skin flushed, her short hair wet and stuck to her face, shoulders slumped. She was drenched in water. I remembered the mysterious thundering and the rains that had followed, as I took her in. Her boots were soiled with wet mud, as though she had walked the distance. A murderous thunderbolt sputtered in my heart.

I looked at Serena's extremely worried face as she kept an arm linked through Una's and supported her. Even Ralph and Doran seemed perplexed by the situation.

"What's going on?" Lord Orlon asked, skeptical like me.

Doran pulled a chair for Una, and she sat down without a word. My body went still as I realized her eyes were swollen red, as though, she...she had been crying...? Una?

And I was suddenly afraid to know what had made Una this way. What could make Una cry in front of everyone, in a Summer Palace?

Serena pulled another chair, and sat as close as possible to Una's. My eyes met Doran's and he gestured me to go ahead. "Una, are you okay?" I asked, afraid of the answer.

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