The tent wasn't nearly as extravagant as I thought it'd be. It was only big enough for a bed and a writing desk, both of which were half covered with letters or open books. A shelf nearby was bursting at the seams with more literature, but the prince didn't appear overly concerned. Instead, he set about stringing a hammock as I snooped around his desk.

"My prince, surely the servant girl could sleep on the ground," Aoi suggested.

"She could, but she won't. I feel sorry enough a young noble girl must sleep under these conditions," Katsu answered.

I thumbed through the letters on his desk as Aoi approached me. The papers were snatched from my hands as if I was carrying a rare disease. He set them back on the table in front of me as he eyed me dangerously.

"She's not a noble anymore," Aoi reminded us both.

"Translate for me, will you? Tell her she's here to make me look as though I have some interest in going to war with her people, although I do not. Tell her she is to make sure my cup is full during meetings and that is all," Katsu explained as he tied the last string on the hammock.

The long-haired man relayed the prince's message, only leaving out the parts in which the prince mentioned he had no interest in war. I glanced up from the important looking letter I was reading just in time to catch the prince and Aoi looking in my direction. The man immediately took the parchment from my hands and slapped me across the face hard enough that I fell to my knees.

"Aoi, leave us!" Katsu exclaimed as he rushed over to me.

Embarrassed and angry, I smacked the prince's hand away when he attempted to force me to look at him. I cried silent tears of hatred that I refused to let my captor see. Then he took my hand in his and raised it to his lips.

"I'm sorry. My people have all been hardened into cruelty from the way we've been forced to live. I pray yours will never know how that feels," Katsu clarified in a soothing voice. I had the urge to scream at him, to tell him that my people knew what having a dictator was like. As he placed a gentle kiss on my knuckles, all I could do was turn to stare into his piercing blue eyes with a look of unrestrained anger and sadness laced upon my features. He stared right back at me as he held my hand.

"Your name?" he questioned in my native tongue.

"Delphinium," I answered hesitantly. He nodded, glancing off to the side as if he was trying to remember something. In his own language, he muttered, "Like the flower."

"Bountiful," he responded in my language. I stared at him for a moment before I began to giggle. Quietly, I corrected his pronunciation and he repeated himself.


"Prince Kat- oh, I apologize," declared a young man entering the tent. He turned to duck out just as quickly.

"You haven't intruded on anything, soldier. What news?" Prince Katsu inquired as he got to his feet and offered me a hand. Hesitantly, I took it.

"The commander has requested your presence at a meeting with the generals," explained the boy. He couldn't have been much older than fourteen; I was appalled to see him in armor. At that age, he should have been riding horses and finding what he would do in the world.

"I see," Prince Katsu replied simply. He thanked him for the message and started outside with a gesture for me to follow. He wove his way through the crowd as soldiers occasionally stopped to bow. It wasn't long until we reached a much larger tent. Katsu ducked inside first while I followed closely. Around a great wooden table sat six men talking about a map laid before them and one hulking man stood over them all.

"We need all of our soldiers if this is going to be a success. They train their men and women to fight in Rosebell. Ah, Prince Kat, good to see you finally got yourself a servant girl," declared the tall man standing over the others.

"Isn't she pretty?" questioned a long-haired blond man sitting at the far end of the table. He leaned his cheek on his hand as he stared at me.

"She's also mine," Katsu warned while he took a seat and shook his cup at me. Blush spread lightly across my face as I eyed the other servant girls with bright colored hair wandering into another section of the tent. Hesitantly, I followed and found a pitcher lying near several barrels and filled it with some dark colored beverage.

"You always did have something for girls with blue hair after that strange visit from that Rosebell witch years ago. It can't be that you believe her 'prophesy'?"

"Of course not. I just happen to like this girl. She's feisty and she's got a mind of her own. She killed the Bull on the first day Lea brought her into the camp. I hear he looked at her funny," Katsu explained after he thanked me for the drink. A snicker erupted from a couple of the men around the table, assumably in disbelief.

"Well, we're not here to talk about your choice in women. We're talking invasion of Rosebell within the month," the commander said. The breath hitched in my throat at the mention of war coming so soon. I spotted several of the other girls perched on their captor's lap looking only mildly interested in the meeting. Quietly, I took a seat on Katsu's knee and leaned forward with my chin resting on my hands, eager to hear more. The commander eyed me curiously.

"You're sure she can't understand Tristeza?" the hulk of a man inquired.

"So what if she can? Who's she going to tell?" replied a dark-haired man with narrowed eyes directly to the left, smirking as he stroked a finger against my cheek," It'd be an honor to make a mess of that pretty face if she tried to escape."

My fist had crossed his face before anyone could do anything about it and left his eyes wide. A thin stream of blood oozed out of his nose as silence spread over the meeting. Katsu snaked his arm around my waist as if he thought he'd have to hold me back if I had another outburst, but I could feel him attempting not to snicker.

"I don't need to understand to know you said something dirty. A smirk like that says it all," I sneered in my language. Those who understood shared a laugh before returning to the matter at hand.

"If we take prisoners from the villages surrounding the kingdom and torture them to death, the king is likely to surrender without engaging on the battlefield. He has a very soft spot for his people," the commander explained.

"What if he doesn't? What's our strategy?" questioned the man who called me pretty.

"Our strategy is to use our entire military to surround Rosebell and cut them off from their food supply in the villages. They wouldn't last more than a few months, but that means we'll need our soldiers from the northern parts of Alma Triste," the commander continued.

"No. That's out of the question," Katsu declared firmly.

"My prince, my suggestion still stands about evacuating the northerners to the south until we win Rosebell for ourselves-" the blond man proposed

"Do you know what happened the last time we tried to move south? The creatures followed and slaughtered everyone who wasn't protected by the soldiers. Without them, our women and children are sitting ducks," Katsu interjected.

"Would you rather them bare the disease or starve? Until we take Rosebell, their condition will only worsen as winter arrives. If it were up to me, I'd murder every man, woman, and child from here to the king's front door if it meant I could feed my own," claimed the man nursing a bloody nose. I no longer regretted bloodying his face after that comment.

"So it's settled. We invade on the night of the new moon. The people of Rosebell are not accustomed to the darkness as we are," the commander announced. I couldn't imagine what he meant. We all lit candles in the night to see, but I knew I had to warn someone, anyone in Rosebell. As my body began to tense, Katsu rubbed the small of my back softly. It didn't soothe my intentions in the slightest.

The men began to stand to leave and I quickly got to my feet to allow Katsu to do the same. He took me by the hand to lead me back to his tent. Once we were inside, Katsu turned me toward him. I could feel him staring at my face, but I didn't meet his gaze.

"I'm sorry it has to be this way," Katsu apologized. He searched my face for some kind of answer, but I gave no hint that I understood. The gears in my head were already turning over the topic of escaping. I pulled away from him and climbed into the hammock he'd hung for me. A sigh passed across his lips as he crawled into his bed, leaving a nearby candle lit while he read. He muttered to himself occasionally, practicing pronunciation. Many hours later, I was wide awake when the candle finally went out.

I glanced over my shoulder immediately to see two orbs shimmering in the darkness, looking back at me. Katsu watched me for a few seconds before scooting to the edge of the bed and tucking a strand of hair behind my ear with a sharpened fingernail.

"My horse is in the pen behind the tent," he whispered. With that, he rolled over to go to sleep. I was confused and I wondered if he was testing me, but I decided it didn't matter. Several minutes later, I thought I heard snoring, so I climbed out of my hammock, snatched the letter I had been reading earlier, and dashed out the back of the tent.

Lunaria was awake, feeding Little Sister when I poked my head inside. She glanced up with a sour expression on her face that turned to excitement when she spotted me. I accepted her hug when she ran in my direction with one arm outstretched, but I hurried her outside.

"We must hurry. I overheard plans of war for the night of the new moon," I explained quickly.

I helped her mount one of the four horses I had stolen before leading the others toward the edge of camp. Lunaria glanced back into the distance, but I urged her against it. A raging inferno had everyone rushing to put it out, leaving nobody to be concerned with what two servants were doing with horses. My second stop wasn't quite as compliant. Felix was dead asleep when I began to shake him. He woke up, greeting me halfheartedly as his little brother gurgled in his sleep.

"How badly do you want to see your mother again?" I questioned. Felix sat straight up and began tossing things into a bag as I woke his father, who was disgruntled at best. He grumbled about not trusting me, but I rushed them onto the horses regardless. We were off galloping into the night before anyone knew we were gone, but there was one person I forgot to take care of.