“My condolences on your loss,” Highness,” Bonnie said. “However…”
“However, you have some business that requires my attention,” Zero interrupted. “It’s quite all right. I have had time to come to terms with it. Come, we shall speak in private.” He led Bonnie away from the group. “My daughter needs me right now, so make it fast.”
“It’s a simple thing,” Bonnie said. “I just need to know if the clerics are still powerless.”
“They are not,” Zero said. “It was quite bad for a time, but the happy report of their magics returning came not even an hour ago. You may get your arm treated and that horrible girl’s eyes, I suppose. I shall expect a report from you as soon as you return.”
“Understood,” Bonnie said. The two walked back. Lilly was on the ground with Axra and Twila, one arm wrapped around each other woman as they cried into her chest.
“Lilly, go with Bonnie to get treatment!” Zero ordered.
“Bu… But the… they really…”
“It’s okay,” Axra sniffled. “Get your eyes healed. We’ll be fine.”
Twila nodded in agreement, moving to lean against Axra instead.
“Velvet, you come too,” Bonnie said. “We’ll get your back fixed before it gets infected.”
“I’ll stay with Twi and Axra,” Lysara offered. “Come see me when you’re better, okay Bon?”
“What a pain,” Velvet said. He looked down at his dogs and pointed at Twila and Axra. “Comfort.”
The canines quickly walked forward to sit beside the two women.
It took several hours for the clerics to heal Bonnie’s arm. They cautioned her to use it sparingly for a few days while she regained her strength. She returned to the palace as quickly as she could.
Zero was waiting when she got there. “Dame Calendula, you seem to have guaranteed my daughter’s safety. However, her closeness with Silverstar’s niece seems to indicate that you failed in your second task. Am I correct?” His voice was an accusatory hiss as he spoke.
Bonnie bowed. “My apologies, Sir. The Princess sent me on patrol one night. When I returned, she, Twila and Lilly had… retired. There was a soundproofing spell around the tent and I was unaware of what was happening inside until it was too late.”
“What?” Zero slammed his fist into the palace wall. “Twila Magia, I could forgive. At least she’s part of a powerful family, mayhaps even a good match for Axra. But that awful, common girl was with them? This… this is a very grievous failure on your part.” He took a moment to compose himself. “I trust you’re prepared for the consequences?”
“I shall turn myself in for disciplinary action immediately,” Bonnie stated.
“Oh no,” Zero said. “A couple lashes won’t be enough. Not for this.”
“What would you have me do?” Bonnie asked.
“You have a trident,” Zero stated. “I trust you can turn it inwards.”
Bonnie barely managed to conceal her shock. “I’m afraid I can’t die yet, Sir. The Princess still has need of me.” She didn’t mention her upcoming wedding to Lysara, knowing he wouldn’t care.
“Who in Tartarus are you to tell me what she needs?” Zero demanded. “Insolent whelp! My Axel gave you everything! He gave you a future and even granted futures to those punks you used to lead. And this is how you repay us? You dare to…”
The two heard a loud scoff and turned. Axra was there, her eyes puffy and even redder than usual. “Father, if you’re quite done scolding her, I have need of my valiant knight.”
“Axra,” Zero whispered. He quickly spoke again, his voice louder. “I still have business with her. I’ll get you some other knights from the barracks.”
“Oh but Father,” Axra protested. “No other knights will possibly do. You see, I have promoted Bonnie as my personal bodyguard. It would simply be scandalous to give her duties to someone else.”
“Axra, I really must ins….” Zero began.
Axra rushed forward and grabbed Bonnie’s hand. “Come along, Bonnie. There’s something very important I need you to do. Don’t worry, Papa, I know you have plenty of other knights so my taking her shouldn’t hurt you too much.”
Axra moved with Bonnie in tow until they were well out of Zero’s sight.
“Princess I’m sorry,” Bonnie said. “I…”
“Enough of that,” Axra sighed. “I’m the one who should apologise. I lured you away from watching my virtue and got you into trouble. Don’t worry, Papa’s mad right now but he’ll get over it before too long. How are Lilly and Velvet doing?”
“The clerics said that they can repair the damage done to Velvet in three hours or so,” Bonnie reported. “They aren’t sure about Lilly’s eyes. They’re hopeful, but it could take days.”
Axra nodded. “That’s fine. Twila and me are gonna need a couple days. I… we still haven’t fully come to grips with it. It’s so strange, isn’t it? You leave someone to go on a trip They’re healthy and doing well and then something goes wrong and they’re gone. There’s so much I wanted to tell Axel Papa. I was going to tell him all about finding love, about how much Todberührung has aided me and how much I appreciate him giving it to me. I was going to captivate him with the whole story of this adventure but now…” She turned and buried her head against Bonnie’s chest.
Bonnie hesitantly reached down and put a hand against Axra’s back. “It’s going to be all right,” she whispered. “I’m sure his soul is watching over you right now, proud of all you’ve done, all you’ve seen and I’m sure he knows how much he meant to you. You were his one and only precious child, after all.”