Violet was not sure how much time passed until she regained full consciousness, but when she did, she immediately knew that she had been drugged so that she would stay asleep as the group traveled back to their home.
Waking up was like dragging herself from the depths of a quicksand. When she opened her eyes, she found that only one opened, which she immediately squinted shut again, the sun was so bright.
She could remember seeing glimpses of Gilbert, the feeling of the soft sheets that he had wrapped her in. She could remember the doctor’s face before he somehow sent her back into darkness. What she did not remember was arriving back in Leidenschaftlich or changing into a plain white gown or laying herself down in a soft bed that smelled of roses and powder.
She tried to open her left eye again but to no avail and when she reached her right hand up to touch it, she found that her fingers felt no sensation.
Violet’s working eye widened, and she stilled, realization and horror running through her. She shakily brought her hand down to her lap…only to find that her hand was not there.
What was left of it was a stump, covered in bandages.
She stared at it for a full minute, actually surprising herself that she produced no tears. Instead, she found that relief washed through her. Despite the pain in her shoulder, which she now noticed was wrapped up as well, her eye and the lack of her hand…she was alive.
And when Gilbert walked through the door, his eyes brightening when he noticed that she was awake, she was thankful that he was too.
He was dressed in a plain cotton shirt and pants, making him look boyish and not as princely as usual. It was the most relaxed outfit she had ever seen him in, but she still thought that he looked beautiful.
“Glad to see you’re awake,” he said. Violet hadn’t noticed before, but there was a pitcher of water and a glass on the nightstand next to her. He picked it up and poured her a glass, which she drank down quickly. The cool water felt good going down, clearing her throat and washing away the taste of medicine.
“Thank you,” she said lowly, testing her voice.
Gilbert nodded and sat in the seat that was conveniently near her bed. “That was incredibly stupid of you, you know.”
Violet frowned and looked down at her stump. But Gilbert caught her attention again by placing his hand gently on it. When she looked back up at him, his eyes were shining with admiration and gratefulness. “It was also incredibly brave. You saved us.”
She shook her head. “I only created a distraction until the real help came.”
“No, Violet,” Gilbert replied, “if it weren’t for you, who knows what would have happened. You were selfless and strong. In a single moment, you changed the world. I know that it won’t be your real hand, but my greatest doctors and scientists are working on creating a hand for you, if you will accept it.”
Violet nodded, amazed that it would even be possible. “Prince Dietfried agreed to that?”
Gilbert grinned. He gave her a soft kiss on the forehead. “Actually, it was his idea.”
Before Violet could question what he had just said, Gilbert placed a finger to her lips. “I’ll answer your questions later. For now, there are three ladies who have been waiting for you. I’ll come back later; I promise.”
He spared Violet one more look before his presence was replaced by a flurry of skirts and girlish squeals. Iris, Cattleya and Erica ran to her bedside, practically tripping over each other to get to her. Iris, always the quickest, reached her first. She captured Violet in a bear hug that made her shoulder ache, but Violet was nonetheless just as happy to see them.
“You insane girl,” Cattleya laughed. “You really did it this time, didn’t you?”
Violet smiled sheepishly and the room went quiet.
Erica blinked. “Did she just…”
“Is she…” Iris continued.
“Blushing!” Cattleya cooed and crushed Violet’s head into her bosom. Violet may have laughed if she could breathe.
Then, her brows furrowed as confusion swept over her. “What time is it? How are you here,” she looked to Cattleya. “Why aren’t you cleaning…or in your cabin?”
“Well, for one, Prince Gilbert decreed that we could visit you whenever we want. And secondly, things are about to change around here. For the better.”
Violet raised her eyebrows, but Cattleya did not clarify. Instead, she squeezed Violet’s shoulder, a look of fondness flowing over her features. “We’ll go get you something to eat. I’m sure the doctor wants to know how you’re feeling in the meantime.”
With that, the women flurried away just as quickly as they had come. Violet was left alone, confused and achy everywhere, but at least she felt at peace for the time being as the doctor checked her wounds. She had no idea what was going on within the kingdom now that they were home. She definitely had no idea what was going to happen between herself and Dietfried now…but if she had to guess, she would suppose that him agreeing to let her have a be fitted with a new hand was his way of reward, but that nothing else would change.
She was most likely still his slave.
After telling her more about her injuries, the doctor gave her some pain medication to consume after her simple lunch of chicken soup and water. She was grateful that her friends stayed by her bedside, but she also couldn’t stop herself from looking at the door every few moments for another familiar face.
By the time the sun set, she was drowsy from the medicine and found herself drifting back into sleep. As her eyes fluttered and the room was left quiet from her friends leaving, she forced herself to keep her eyes open when she heard the door squeaking.
In walked a man with black hair and intense green eyes.
But it wasn’t Gilbert.
He strolled up to her, as intimidating as ever. But as she looked into his eyes, she was surprised to find they lacked their usual rage towards her. In its place, she saw a hint of confusion and frustration.
Unlike Gilbert had been earlier, he was dressed impeccably in a dark blue vest and pants. When he finally stood beside her, he regarded her for a moment before finally speaking. “I believe you are a fool.”
Violet was not sure if she should laugh or cry. Despite all she had been through, at least she could count on Dietfried to always remain the same. His straightforwardness was something that she now found she could actually appreciate, as they were the same in at least that.
He continued, “but it was your foolish actions that potentially saved us. I believed that you did not truly love my brother, but I can see now that you do. No matter how much trouble that could cause or if it means risking your own life. That is correct, isn’t it?”
Violet sat up straighter, immediately answering, “yes.”
They stared into each other’s eyes, unwavering, before Dietfried made a small sound in the back of his throat and took a step away from her.
“Your actions, of course, does not change what happened years ago to my aunt. It does not change the insubordination shown to us. It does not change anything. And yet-”
Before he could get another sentence out, the door opened.
Finally, there stood Gilbert. His clothes were changed, and he looked refreshed and happy to see her before his eyes trailed over to his brother. Their eyes met, and it seemed his eyes began to sparkle as he stepped more inside of the room.
Then, the brothers regarded each other. The usual animosity between the seemed to be missing and Violet did not feel the normal exchange of wrath between them. For once, the air seemed to be clear between them.
“Did you tell her,” Gilbert asked, turning and taking Violet’s only hand. His eyes momentarily flickered to where her missing one would have been before his eyes quickly moved back to her face. She wanted to pat his hand but did not want to touch him yet with her still aching nub.
“I was getting to that,” Dietfried replied, though his glare lacked its usual luster. He turned his attention towards Violet again. “As I was saying…despite the fact that your actions does not change the past, the kingdom is regarding you as a hero. They are saying that it was your bravery that changed the tide of what is being called The Abduction.”
He paused, as if to let Violet digest that information. She wished she could squeeze Gilbert’s hand with what would have been her free hand, but she was left gripping the sheets below her, her mind racing. Her? A hero? But she had only been trying to save Gilbert out of her own selfish desire. She now had blood on her hands and had lost one to pay the price.
She didn’t want to be praised or regarded in the public eye from the same people that had thrown rotten fruit at her when she had been paraded across the stage for all to see. It felt twisted and wrong, but Gilbert’s eyes were shining with warmth and admiration for her.
“As such, I cannot ignore what you have done. The people are crying for change and a new beginning,” Dietfried continued, cutting Violet from her thoughts. “Today, we shall announce that because of your courage, the punishment for The Revolt will now be lifted in three months’ time.”
Violet’s eyes widened.
This time, it was Gilbert who said, “during these three months, they will be treated much better as we work to ensure that after their slavery, they have the opportunity to live good lives. They may stay in their cabins if they wish, but they will have the opportunity to move into the towns if they would like. If they stay here and work for the castle, they will be paid. They could also apprentice for different trades they are interested in. It will be hard work to fully integrate them into society, but we will also begin cutting back some of the woods to build a new community for those who do not wish to live near the castle anymore.”
Dietfried nodded. “The mai-…your friends, will be in to dress you shortly,” he turned to leave then, but spared her one last glance. “I will not apologize for what I did, as I still believe my judgements were sound. But I do thank you…Violet.”
With that, he left, leaving Violet to stare in disbelief after him.
As soon as he closed the door, Gilbert gave her hand an affectionate squeeze, drawing her attention back to him. He ran his thumb gently across her chin and she closed her eyes, feeling some of the stress of the last few days falling off her shoulders as if a heavy cloak was being lifted from them.
Still, there was a nagging feeling within her. When she opened her eyes, she placed a hand to her bandaged arm. “I am not a hero,” she said quietly, “I potentially put everyone in even more danger. And I killed to do it.”
Gilbert made a low humming sound and placed a hand on her shoulder. “You are a hero because you were brave and did what you thought was right, as you always have. That is the making of a hero. And don’t feel guilty about the lives you took. It was kill or be killed, in that instance. They were villains.”
Violet heaved a heavy sigh, but nodded, letting Gilbert’s words comfort her. She knew that she would still have nightmares. She would most likely always wonder if she could have saved the princes in a different way. But she wanted to take comfort in the fact that they had not given her much choice.
So, when her friends came in to help her change into an exquisite lace dress, Violet held her head up high and went with Gilbert to announce to the kingdom that The Revolt punishment was no more and that the people were finally free.
Violet ran towards Gilbert, barely allowing him to get the word out as she came at him with a barrage of punches. He deflected two of them before she found an opening and punched him. But she immediately afterwards found herself flying over his shoulder. Hitting the cushioned ground, she swept her feet out and tripped him. He stumbled, landing next to her. She tried to meet him with a punch to the chest, but he rolled away too quickly and was back on his feet a moment later. He pulled his foot back as if to kick her but stopped there. “Break,” he said.
Violet exhaled and sat up. Her hair was pulled back into a ponytail and her lungs felt as if they were on fire, but they felt good at the same time.
He smiled and handed her a soft towel. “Very good today.”
She wiped the sweat from her face, then accepted the water he offered her.
It had been a year, and Violet was trying every day to be worthy of the title of “hero” that the kingdom had bestowed upon her. She could still hear the crowd’s gleeful yelling, see the tears that wet the cheeks of the people after Dietfried had announced, with the entire royal family by his side, that the punishment was over.
They had barely listened to what would be happening in the next few months, so Violet was grateful when they had delivered letters to each of them a week later. As for the previous slaves that had escaped and were living in the slums where Dietfried had first found Violet, they had been scouted instead of hunted and delivered the good news that way. Then, word of mouth spread.
Now, Violet spent her free time training with Gilbert. Once her new hand had been finished, she had taken time to learn to write and event type and was now preparing to work as an Auto Memory Doll along with Erica, Cattleya and Iris thanks to Claudia.
She was busier now more than ever, but she appreciated how much things had changed in such a short amount of time.
When Violet stood, Gilbert easily swept her into his arms, his hands splayed on the small of her back. “I’ll see you at dinner,” he said. When he bent slightly to kiss her, Violet could have melted right then and there. She kissed him back fervently. When they pulled apart, she smiled.
“Will King Dietfried be joining us tonight?” she asked.
Gilbert nodded. “So will my parents,” he paused and took both her hands. “I think we should tell them tonight, don’t you?”
Violet repeated his nod. “We should.”
They both looked down at her hand, still made of flesh, adorned with a ring. It wasn’t too big, which Violet liked, but the diamond shone brightly as she moved her hand slightly.
Prince Gilbert, her fiancé, kissed her again before they walked out of their training room hand in hand.