Chapter 20 - Dame Irene
Finding herself alone in the room from which Kael had just left, Irene muttered to herself, “What the heck did I just do?” She stopped straightening her clothes and covered her mouth in an attempt to swallow down the laughter that threatened to burst out from her mouth. It was the type of awkward laughter that seizes one after experiencing the truly absurd. “And why did he have them bring me here at this hour? It’s only natural that I’d misunderstand him if he calls for me while I’m living here as a hostage…”
Irene covered her face with both hands as she felt a surge of embarrassment overwhelm her. Thinking it’d be too awkward to leave the room now, she moved to sit on the bed and wondered if it’d all been a dream. However, when she lightly pinched her thighs, a stinging pain rushed in. ‘Hold on. What do I have to be embarrassed about? I was just following orders. Still… curses!’ Irene tried to shake away the embarrassment that heated her face, but the shame she’d rarely experienced in her life stayed with her for a while.
“Lady…. Hah. Lady. He called me a lady,” she muttered. It sounded unfamiliar to her ears, since she’d always been Dame Irene. As she repeated the title which Kael had addressed her with over and over, she thought, ‘Did he call me that last time too? Lady Irene.’ As her jumbled emotions began to settle, Irene found herself growing increasingly melancholic. The 10 years she’d spent as a knight had impacted her more than she’d thought. In spite of all her struggles, she remained unchanged. She thought she’d left everything behind in Theorin as she endured the humiliation, but that wasn’t the case.
“If it’d been any other young lady, he wouldn’t have acted this way. I wonder if he would’ve unhesitatingly stripped down and rushed in… I can’t believe I’ve become so unmoored just because I have no purpose to strive towards without orders to follow,” Irene mused, as she shook her head. Was this what it’s like to suffer from withdrawal symptoms? Honestly, she’d felt at peace when she was once again given an order. However, when the first order she received from the empire suddenly rescinded, it left her frustrated. “How long have I been this way? How long?”
Irene knew that her behavior could hardly be considered normal. Rather, the whole life she lived was far from normal. Nonetheless, she’d never been dissatisfied or felt the need to strive for the semblance of normalcy that she lacked. When she truly reflected on it, she discovered that she didn’t really know how to do anything except be a knight. “How do I live like a lady? What’s it like to live just as I am?” She’d never questioned it before and didn’t have an answer for her troubles. She found herself at a loss when faced with the reality before her.
“Lady Irene, you can do whatever you want. It’s not like we brought you here to keep you captive.”
Kael’s words only served to confuse Irene. “Anything he said…” She was uncertain what she was supposed to do. Already on the verge of losing her mind from being suddenly plucked from the battlefield and placed into the peaceful existence that she now lived, she wasn’t sure what she was supposed to do. After all, the only thing life she’d ever known was one where she held a sword.
“Why do you look at me… with those eyes?” Looking towards the door from which Kael had departed, Irene asked a question she knew would remain unanswered. Somehow the firmness and certainty in his words and gaze irritated her. Unlike how Kael’s heart increasingly leaned towards her, Irene felt only bothered by him.