Chapter 12

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JADE woke up earlier than she ever had the next morning. That, coupled with her fitful sleep, led tiredness through her body like a slow stream.

She pushed the sheets aside with a heavy sigh, trying to smooth her tangled hair. Her cold, bare feet touched the ground and she walked around the bed to see Arianna still asleep, flat on her back and her mouth open.

Light streamed through the window in the wall, from a small crack in the burlap curtains over them. Jade looked around with a fresh eye- the light helped her see the room properly.

The candles had blown out, but there was enough light to see. The semi-darkness just enhanced the simple beauty of the room. In all her life, Jade had never seen such modest living standards, and oddly enough, wasn't uncomfortable at all. It was just so natural.

She made sure to keep her footsteps light as a feather, so as to not wake Arianna, while she left the room. It was cold, and Jade wished that she had a cloth to wrap around her shoulders. Perhaps Arianna would light the fireplace later.

She sat on one of the chairs idly, not knowing what to do. The blankness just led her to think about the life she'd left behind.

That felt like such a long time ago, it was so different. The only real part was Hosun, and Jade felt her insides squeeze painfully when she thought about him. Hopefully Edric had managed to deliver her letter, but now there would be no communication between Jade and her husband.

She played with the bracelet on her wrist, the jade stones seeming dark and dull. The letter she'd kept on a small table Arianna had beside the bed. She was going to keep it safe for life.

She didn't know how much time she sat there for, but it wasn't long until Arianna's footsteps sounded and the girl herself appeared in front of Jade.

"When did you wake, Lily?" She asked, tying her long hair back in a simple pony's tail, like Hosun used to do.

Jade cleared her throat. "Not so long ago," she said, standing up.

Arianna nodded, "I see. Now, I have to go fetch water for our baths."

"I'll come with you," Jade offered.

"Alright. Thank you," Arianna said. "Just take a bucket," she said, pointing at the three wooden buckets in the corner. Jade grabbed the rusty handle of one and lifted it as Arianna did the same. It wasn't that heavy, but Jade suspected it would be once filled with water.

She wore the slippers she'd left near the door, walking outside. Arianna was barefoot. She caught Jade's curious glance and laughed, "We don't bother with shoes much here- only the fighters wear them sometimes. I know these paths like my own face—there's no need for slippers."

"I see," Jade nodded. And indeed, Arianna didn't seem bothered by the pebbles or rocks that littered the dirt the closer they got to the river, despite her limp. Finally, they reached, and Jade found herself on the banks of a wide river, so large that she almost couldn't see the other side, its waters looking almost green due to the reflection of the leaves.

"This is the Matawa River. On that side is Canopan, the capital of Arrian," Arianna said, pointing at the opposite shore. She stepped closer to the water, her footing secure even on the slick rocks, and dipped the bucket in.

Jade eyed the pebbles doubtfully. She felt sure she was going to slip and fall. "Take off your slippers, it's easier," Arianna called, standing up, her bucket full.

Jade twisted her lips and took her feet out of the shoes, standing on the ground lightly. The moist soil stuck to the soles of her feet, and she fought the urge to grimace and the unpleasant feeling.

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