"Are you sure that you feel strong enough, my Princess?" Serah was worried, watching the frail girl climb the steps to the crenellations.
All Serah had wanted to do was take a short walk in the gardens. It did the poor girl good to breathe the fresh air, but within minutes Princess Theowenna exclaimed her delight in hearing the new battalion training in the courtyard behind the garden walls.
The Princess stopped going up the steps and turned around to look Serah in the eye. "I haven't seen Small John in days. I want to see how he's getting along."
And that was that. She turned around again and kept climbing the steps. Serah followed, sweating from her brow. She watched each step that the Princess made, her hands always ready to dart out and catch the girl if she faltered.
Serah sighed with relief when they reached the top. The Princess was breathing heavily, but she could now lean against the parapet and rest while watching the soldiers train below.
"Can you see him?" The Princess scanned the gathering of men. There were five groups. Each group had a Guardian as a leader, except for the first. That was lead by Captain Jason March.
Serah recognized him below immediately. Not by the wavy gold sheen of his hair, but by the arrogant stance he always had. Feet apart, elbows outward and fists pressed against his hips as if he were the hero come to save the day. She still remembered him running around the courtyard as a little boy. It was tragic what happened to the boys when they grew up.
"Oh! There he is! Small John! He's right over there!" The Princess was pointing and leaning over the parapet with such vigor that Serah was frightened that the girl might fall over and drop off the wall or that she would collapse at any moment, having spent all the energy she had.
"I see him, Princess. Now calm down. No need to get so excited." Serah held on to Theowenna's waist to make sure she would stay upright. The Princess kept pushing herself to get a better look, but at least she had a good hold on her.
"He looks magnificent. Sword and shield in hand. He's taller and stronger than any of the others below."
Serah couldn't help grimacing, but the Princess wasn't paying attention to her anyway. The boy, John, had nothing but a tourney sword and a battered shield in hand. He was wearing padded linens and looked much like the others. Small and inexperienced.
Sure, they were high up and everyone looked small, but he definitely didn't look any taller or stronger. Especially, compared to the man he was about to fight against. Now that was a man. A soldier. He was wearing mail and armor and had to be John's Guardian.
"I think it best that we return to your rooms, Princess. I wanted you to get some fresh air and not to become breathless from excitement."
"Oh, Serah." The Princess pouted. "I just want to watch Small John a bit more. I think he is about to fight. Look he's raising his sword."
Serah winced as John's attack was easily blocked and he himself was knocked to the ground by his Guardian's shield. He lay there dazed until some of his comrades helped him back to his feet.
The Princess was outraged. Seemingly, lost for words she stood there watching until she finally let out a little huff and turned away. "I can't believe how that man treated him. No one should be allowed to beat Small John so."
Serah grabbed ahold of the Princess's arm to guide her back down the stairs. "My Princess, John is being trained. He needs some harsh lessons so that he can learn. He is only beginning to learn the way of the sword and shield. Soon he will have made much progress and I'm sure if we come to watch him again, he will be the one knocking another to the ground."
"You think so, Serah?" She looked at her, hope shining in her eyes.
"Watch out where you're going now!" Serah reprimanded her and held on tight to her arm.
The Princess looked back to her feet and kept taking one step at a time.
"Yes, I'm sure he will get better." A dark thought crossed Serah's mind.
John would have to get better and the others too. They would all have to get better soon. The King's army was already on its way to fight the Orcs. The new battalion was going to be sent next, but would they be ready soon enough.
"Oh, I can't wait to see him again. Won't it be possible to have him visit me again?"
They reached the bottom and Serah started leading the Princess through the garden, back to the palace. At a slow pace, not to exhaust the poor girl.
"I honestly don't know if he has the time. John will be training as much as he can. He has to, to get better. You want him to get better, you said so yourself. So, i don't think he'll be able to visit you anytime soon."
The Princess's smile wilted. The poor girl wanted to spend time with her friend, Serah understood that. She even understood that John might mean more to the Princess than just being a simple friend, but he was now a part of the King's army. It wasn't suitable for them to spend time together.
Serah took the Princess back to her chambers and brought her to her bed. It had been an exciting walk. She needed to rest now. Maybe she could at least spend time with John in her dreams, if not during her waking hours.