Chapter Twenty-Four: Remember

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I stepped into the darkness lit up by the moon and the stars. The night air felt cool against my skin as it embraced me. My eyes adjusted to the darkness to witness a spectacular sight. From the balcony could be seen the entire Royal garden. Blue, full bloomed flowers swayed with the gentle breeze as they glimmered and glistened under the moonlight. My stiff shoulders relaxed at the magnificent view.

The man, his face covered from my line of sight with the shabby hood, spoke, "You must have felt very suffocated in there."

I stretched my hand towards the sky, "Well, you saw right through me. However, who would have thought there would be a place like this where you could oversee the entire Royal garden."

Turning to the man in the hood, I continued, "I guess introductions are in order. I am Eliza Arielle Rosario."

"I know," he replied, his warm voice feeling unexpectedly familiar to me.

My eyes widened in surprise, "Do we know each other? From the moment we met, I felt a sense of familiarity from you."

The man whispered, concern in his voice, "There is no way you remember..."

Now, my attention had completely shifted to the man in the hood from the picturesque view in front of me, "What do you mean?"

My reply flustered the man, "Ah...I mean-n...you are the infamous daughter of Marquess Brandon! He brags about you every day when the Royal Knights begin their morning practice."

If I look closely, I can see the uniform of the Royal Knights under the tattered hood. Does that mean my father has been going to the practice area of the Knights to brag about me?! When does he ever get time to work?!

Embarrassment overwhelmed me, "Haha...ha my father is quite eccentric. Please excuse his unruly behaviour."

He shook his head in denial, "Not at all! Having Marquess Brandon around brightens the atmosphere and boosts the morale of the Knights."

I laughed at the thought of father jumping around with his grumpy attitude, "If you say so. Also, I have yet to know the name of my saviour."

"Ah, I am no saviour. I merely led you to your destination. My name is Ior," he answered gently.

A smile crept upon my face, "Ior...it has a nice ring to it."

I expected a 'thank you' in response however silence had followed my words. Only the sounds of our breathing could be heard as the man in the hood inched closer to me. I could feel his fierce gaze, hidden under the hood, fixated on me. As if I had fallen into a trance, I could not look away.

Why can't I move? He is opening his mouth. What is he saying? Why does he sound like Duke Zenos? Wait...Duke Zenos?

The words of the hooded man became incoherent amongst the shouts of a worried Duke Zenos, "Eli! Where are you?!"

The man in the hood took a step backwards, "It's a shame that we have to part so early but it isn't farewell forever. We will meet again and maybe you will remember by then. However, that is my own selfish wish."

"Wait! Remember what?" I questioned, my heart pounding loudly in my chest.

"Farewell, until next time," the man whispered as he jumped down from the balcony.

Before I could process the series of events that had occurred, Duke Zenos entered the balcony, "Where have you been all this time?! I was worried sick!"

I could see sweat dripping down his temples as he panted slightly.

Apologetic, I said, "I am sorry. I was just searching for a place to take a breather but ended up venturing too deep into the halls of the palace."

Duke Zenos let out a sigh of relief, "As long as you are safe, it is fine. Let's go back."

"Yes," I replied, looking back one last time to find a vestige of the hooded man. 

However, the mysterious man who had appeared out of thin air magically, vanished into the thin air leaving no traces behind.

We made our way out into the bustling ball when Duke Zenos asked, "Although the first dance has already taken place while I was looking for you, it is not too late."

He extended his left hand and smiled, "May I have this dance, My Lady?"

I chuckled, "My pleasure."

As we moved with perfect sync and rhythm, I sensed the stares from the nobles around us.

Whispers like "The cold-hearted Duke is dancing with a woman," or "So it was true that Lady Eliza broke her engagement with Young Lord Uken to jump to Duke Zenos," filled the air in the ball.

Duke Zenos pulled me closer, "Are you nervous?"

I nodded, hesitantly.

"If the people around you are making you nervous, then you can just focus on me," Duke Zenos replied, softly.

I looked up to meet his eyes. His red eyes shone like an elegant ruby but also resembled fresh blood. Mixed feelings were aroused in my conflicted heart as I drowned in those alluring pair of eyes. The deeper I delved, the more my anxieties and my troubles dispersed. Before I knew it, the dance had come to an end and he was bowing in front of me while I stood there in a daze.

Duke Zenos stared up, his face possessing a rather arrogant expression, "Were you that enthralled by me that you can't even move?"

My complexion flushed red as I hurriedly bowed, "What do you mean?! I just have a lot on my mind..."

He smirked, "Yes yes, I know it is not every day you come across a face like mine."

What's with that smug-like expression?!

"Well, let us just go with what you said for now. Since you have a lot on your mind, let me escort you back home," he added, his smirk growing bigger by the second.

The ride back home was peaceful and soon enough we arrived at the Rosario estate.

Duke Zenos walked me upto the door of the mansion, "Let us meet on the weekend to plan things through for the future. I also have to tell you about my discussion with the Crown Prince."

I agreed, "Yes. Then, please excuse me. May the Spirits bless you."

I entered my chambers and jumped onto the bed without changing my outfit. Mariah complained in the distance about my unladylike actions. I wanted to ponder on who the mystery man in the hood was however my exhaustion got the better of me and I fell into the world of dreams.

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