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Friday, July 03, 2009 The Last Embrace - Part 2

The following midnight, Robert secretly slips out from the guardhouse and walks to the orchard as though he’s patrolling. In the orchard, Robert sees Eloise in the gazebo, disguising as Elaine the maid but maintaining her blonde hair.
On seeing Robert, the Princess springs and hugs him tightly, lovingly. However, Robert doesn’t hug back and stands as cold as ice. Eloise, she just doesn’t care and doesn’t let go. After a long while, Robert can’t contain himself any longer and hugs Eloise back. Both are in tears, realizing that this might be their last embrace.
Then they kiss, re-enacting the one they did in the same place, same time and when they were younger. The difference is, this time it tastes bitter. Last kisses do.
Robert lets the kiss flow until Eloise steps back. Afterwards, comes no ramce, but awkwardness between them. They can’t seem to find a word to say until Robert breaks the ice.
‘So, Prince Cristophe is the lucky one, isn’t he?’
The Princess pauses. Looks like she wants to figure something out but she can’t, so she sighs.
‘Maybe he is,’ she replies. ‘But I don’t think I am. I never know that guy, never saw his face. Is he as handsome as my Robert? Is he as kind, brave and loving? Can he fill my heart the way you do? Does he have your silver, beautiful hair? Sapphire blue eyes?’
Eloise’s hand runs from Rob’s hair, temple, cheek...
‘Tough cheeks? Strong neck? Two strong hands?’
... Down to his neck, body, hands...
... And Robert holds her hands gently, saying,
‘Am I irreplaceable, my love? How can you love me so? All this time I’ve been away, never stayed by your side, protecting you and caressing your heart with warmth every day.
I’ve been away too long. We met only once in a while then parted again for a long time. And time, yes, time, has changed me much: from cold to caring, from vengeful to helpful, from an apathetic to a leader...’
Eloise interrupts, ‘But, did it change your feelings for me, Robert? Did it?’
‘As I’ve told you before, being a hero in Enia’s Sanctum didn’t change my love for you. Even Pope Xylen couldn’t tempt me to. Up until my trial in Valanis, I’d rather die in love with you than live without.
But, one thing did. When I found out about the diplomatic marriage plan, I knew at once that our relationship is not meant to last.
And then, I received word that Cristophe won the Arsenal of Light and I feel somewhat relieved that you’ll be in good hands. If Alexis won, I’d be concerned because I can’t forget how he killed Lord Walthorn in the Battle of Ingram Coast. But Chris – I know him and I always call him that – he is fun, always cheerful, handsome and strong, you’ll like him.’
Eloise’s cheeks are now soaked wet with tears. How can she stand hearing Robert’s words? Her heart bleeds.
‘You don’t love me anymore,’ says Eloise.
‘I still love you, Eloise. But you see, I have a greater love.’
‘Is that for another woman?’
‘No. But I love this world. I love my country. I love peace better than anything. If leaving you can bring peace to the people of Lore, I’m willing to do it.’
‘No, Robert! Please don’t! Here, I have a better idea. Let’s elope together. We’ll live somewhere remote, somewhere safe. The deal will be off, and Rael’charon will cook something else up to keep the peace treaty up. I don’t want to be a Princess anymore. I can’t bear to live without you! I won’t survive!’ Eloise hugs Robert and showers his chest with tears.
Robert just hugs her softly, rumbling with his thoughts for a while, then answers with a trembling voice.
‘Eloise, my heart... How many times must I tell you this? The future of Lore depends on your cooperation. You said you love me, but you want to abandon all Lore by running away with me...? You think I can be happy living alone with you and see the world crumbling around me? I was an apathetic man in the past, driven by vengeance. But time has changed me. Now I live for this country, for this world as a soldier of Lore. I can’t sit back and relax when the world is crumbling before me. I can’t live the rest of my life feeling guilty. I’m no hero and I’m not all powerful, but I will strive and do my best to help the people, the world I love.
Even if we run away, the armies of Lore and Arcadia will pursue us to every corner in Terra Eternia. And they won’t stop until they capture us, dead or alive.’
‘I don’t care!’ Eloise shouts. ‘As long as I’m with you, even if we should perish today, I’m happy!’
Robert hugs her tighter. Now he is in tears.
‘Eloise, can’t you please understand? We can’t be together! A love like this can only end in tragedy! I just realized now that the one I love was Elaine the maid, not Eloise the princess!
I, who is willing to sacrifice my personal love for the sake of Lore can never love anyone who sacrifices Lore for the love for one!’
Hearing that, Eloise pushes Robert away. She sounds desperate.
‘Even if I give my body to you, you will leave me?’
‘Yes, Eloise. If you do that, you are no different than Pope Xylen.’
‘Then you give me no choice.’
Suddenly, Eloise takes a dagger out from her boot and puts it on the skin of her throat!
‘I’d rather die than losing you. Now, Robert Chandler, what say you?’
Robert moves extra-swiftly as though he’s going to hit Eloise. The Princess moves back, but Robert’s hand grabs the dagger blade instead!
Eloise is shocked. She tries to take the dagger off Robert’s hand but it cuts deeper and more blood comes out.
‘Don’t be foolish, Eloise. Let go!’ says Robert.
‘No! If you let that stranger marry me, you push me to my death all the same!’
‘No, Eloise! On the contrary, you’ll be more alive than you are now! You won’t have to be afraid anymore! Don’t make me use force on you! Please open your mind, open your heart to reality! Just take a look at Chris first, and talk to him one time. After that, it’s your decision!’
Seeing Robert’s bleeding hand and tears on his face, Eloise loses all determination and breaks into a desperate plead.
‘Please Robert, please, I love only you in this world, and no one else.’
‘I love you too, but I love my nation more. You should do the same. Love your people and my love will stay for you. Don’t waste your life because a true happiness than you sacrificing happens for tragedy. Please remember this always, if you love me.
For now, you need a good sleep.’
Saying that, Robert punches Eloise’s stomach!
‘Unnh... You’re... cruel... Robert...’
And Eloise falls unconscious. Robert throws the dagger away and hugs her lovingly, saying, ‘This is hard for me too, my love. No matter how hard I tried, no matter how many challenges I’ve overcame to get back to you, a greater challenge came and pushed me away again. And now I realized that I must end this love with your happiness, not tragedy. Call me unfaithful, call me weak, call me cowardly, but it’s all for the best.
Good bye, my sweet Princess, my love. Maybe in another life we shall be together in love until we die. Good bye. May Vadis give you the happiness you deserve.’
When he’s about to carry Eloise back to the palace, a voice comes.
‘Robert Chandler, thank you for preventing the downfall of our kingdom. The Emperor of Arcadia always seeks our mistakes out so he has an excuse to attack Lore again.’
Robert turns and sees Rael’charon the elf, the Chief Advisor to the King of Lore standing behind him, patting his shoulder.
‘And thank you too for keeping this affair secret for a long time,’ Robert responds. ‘Now I’ve settled things with Eloise. I can now concentrate on my tasks here. After the wedding is done, I shall set out with Kyflynn’s group to hunt the Heir of Vordac.’
To this, Rael’charon shakes his head.
‘No, Robert. Your order now is: After the wedding, you and Kyflynn’s group will escort Prince Cristophe and Princess Eloise to Myrcalia. Viscount von Bachmann has agreed to take you all in Airship Aurora, so the journey will be speedy and safer from attacks.’
‘If that’s an order, either from you or the King... I shall obey,’ says Robert with a bow. Then, he stares at Eloise on his lap with a broken heart and tears on his eyes.

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