The sound of trumpets could be heard in the distance announcing the start of the hunt. The little girl tried not panic but at this rate they would get discovered and ultimately punished for even stepping outside the confines of their quarters. No one would believe the reason they were out in the first place, in fact that, telling the truth would likely get them into more trouble.

The forest was nowhere to be for either of them. Her little maid was pacing up and down trying to figure what to do.

”My Lady, Ill run and get one of the guards for help, ” she said, almost crying.

”No, don ! ” insisted the other girl. Besides if she ran about, she might be mistaken for prey and get injured since the hunting event had started.

”My Lady is already bleeding this much, what else can we do? ” The maid got on her knees and tried putting more pressure on the injury. The young Lady looked down at her leg and winced while rocking back and forth trying to distract herself from the pain while trying to think of something. Blood was already seeping through the torn material from the little maids dress as the wound was deeper than expected.

This was not one of the accidents that she could brush away by saying that she fell or some other flimsy excuse. They could hear dogs barking and the barking was getting closer. There was no hiding their situation now, it was over.

”Whoa there boys, ” said what sounded like a young boy. The dogs were barking at something up ahead. The two boys ran to catch up to the dogs and peered over to see what they were barking at. At the bottom of the slope between the trees, they saw a dirty little girl looking up at them.

”Young Master, it looks like theres two of them, ” said the boys servant.

The one they had seen first suddenly stood up. It wasn until that she had fully turned towards them that they realised that she was stained in blood.

”Ill come down to you! ” shouted the young master. He hurriedly handed his bow and quiver to the servant and asked him to watch the dogs before sliding down the slope to meet the little girl. There were two girls, both seemingly around the same age. They were well dressed but both stained with mud and leaves as if they had rolled down the slope. They had to be from a noble household but what were they even doing outside without a companion or guard?

”Please help us, my Lady is injured, ” pleaded maid with tears in her eyes.

The boy couldn even have been five years older than them, but he was fully kitted and equipped for hunting meaning that he had to be part of the hunting party even though he was quite young. He must have been a son of one of the guests, but it didn matter who helped them anymore. Maybe one of the boys could go and get help. It was better than leaving the little Lady alone in the forest.

He rushed towards the injured girl who seemed to be holding onto her leg. She must have bled quite a bit if there was blood on her maid. The little Lady looked up at the boy who had just arrived, but she could barely see him through the tears as she tried not to cry out loud from the pain.

”My Lady, Im going to wrap this again, ” he insisted as he took a piece of cloth from one of his pockets. He unfolded it before thinking about how to wrap it around the cloth that was already there.

”Im going to need you to be very brave, okay, ” he said, and she nodded.

The boy started wrapping the cloth and tried to tighten it as much as he could. He had thought that the little girl would cry but when he glanced at her, there were just silent tears rolling down her face.

How could such a small girl not cry out loud considering the severity of the injury?

”Where do you two live? We need to take her home immediately. ”

”W- we came from, from the palace, ” stuttered the maid.

The palace? The young master was surprised. How had they managed to leave the confines of the palace without being discovered?

There was no time to question or scold them about anything. He helped up the injured girl and managed to get her on his back. He was not that much bigger, but he could manage as he slowly climbed the slope with the maid behind him.

”Young Master, what happened? ” the servant asked at seeing the young masters bloodied hands and clothes.

”Thats not important, we need to get to the palace. Her injury is bad, ” he urgently insisted as he walked ahead. He knew the general way back to the palace. This was the one place where his navigation skills could work in his favour. They were closer to the palace when the maid started recognising the way.

It would be silly going through the main gates because that would bring about all types of trouble. He could feel the girls body starting to relax so he looked over his shoulder and shook her awake. Due to the tears, the little Ladys vision was already somewhat blurry, but she fought to stay awake.

It didn help that the boys back was so warm and comfortable, but it was the cool peppermint smell of his hair that was helping with keeping her awake.

”Are there any nearby entrances? ” he asked as they came to one of the impossible high back walls. The little maid looked around and found what she was searching for. They went down a relatively quiet tunnel, that led to a garden. Even within the garden, they meandered until coming to a smaller gate that seemed to lead to a courtyard. Compared to his own home, the palace was huge and the gardens beautiful, but this was no time to be admiring gardens or architecture.

”Ill go and get someone, ” she insisted, and he nodded. He understood that the girls would get into trouble, so they had to get help with as few people as possible knowing. It seemed noble households were not very different whether it was a duke, king, or emperor. Within a few minutes, he saw two women who looked like palace maids rushing towards them with the little girl close behind. The young Lady was taken from him while a third woman walked toward them. Her air of authority made him guess that she was a steward.

”Young master, please come this way, ” she insisted.

He looked at the young Lady one last time before being led through the garden. She was already unconscious but hopefully she would fully recover. It was unlikely that she would be able to get away without a scar even though it was considered quite a shame for a noble lady to have imperfections besides birth marks. After all the chaos, he was brought to a room where he sat alone for a while.

Thinking things through, maybe it hadn been such a great idea coming into the palace. His father and their party were guests but what if he never got to see them again? For someone as young as he was, he understood noble and royal politics a little too well.

The room was grand as would be expected in the palace. There were two large, gilded frame paintings of landscapes and multiple wall scrolls with beautiful but complicated calligraphy. The room was large enough to have a four-post bed with magnificent drapery all around but also a seating area with couches and another seating area with a round table and two chairs. He stopped pacing and sat on one of the chairs at the table.

The room was grand as would be expected in the palace. There were two large, gilded frame paintings of landscapes and multiple wall scrolls with beautiful but complicated calligraphy. The room was large enough to have a four-post bed with magnificent drapery all around but also a seating area with couches and another seating area with a round table and two chairs. He stopped pacing and sat on one of the chairs at the table.

It wasn long before two maids came in, one carrying a basin and one carrying a stack of clothes.

”Young Master, if you don mind. We have some clean clothes for you. ”

It turned out that the basin contained water for him to wash his hands. He took off his bloodied clothing and they helped him with the clean set, making sure to wipe down his hunting belts and pouches before strapping them back on him.

After this whole process they curtseyed and left. The steward from before came into the room with a tray of food.

”My Lady hopes the young master didn strain himself too much because of her daughter. ”

”Will she be fine? ”

”Not to worry, the young lady is perfectly healthy, shell recover in no time with treatment from the best physician. Please take your time with these refreshments. Once the young master is done, therell be someone to show him the way to where he wants to go. ”

The young Lord bowed slightly, and the steward curtseyed. She stopped as she was about to leave.

”My Lady would appreciate if this was just between us, ” said the steward. The boy nodded again, and the woman smiled before she left.

The way she had said it was not really threatening, more of like an aunt asking to keep a secret. It was not as if he was about to tell anyone where he had disappeared to at least not any time soon.

Besides, who would have believed the story? The girl was obviously the daughter of one of the members of the imperial family. He would be questioned about all sorts of things if he said anything, and people would most likely try to cause some type of trouble. That was the last thing he needed. He had enough trouble with his own family.

He wrapped a few of the treats in another handkerchief he had received with the clothes and then walked out the double doors to find a palace maid waiting for him.

”Could you take to me to the guests of the hunting event? ”

The maid curtseyed to him before walking ahead. The young Master only had a chance to see just a small portion of the grand palace as they did not walk through the halls that everyone else was using. As he had guessed, they were trying to keep the situation as quiet as possible. He knew that palace politics would be complicated but not to this extent.

After walking for about ten minutes or so through tunnels and pathways in different courtyards and gardens, they finally came to a familiar gate leading out to the forest-like rear of the palace.

There were guards on either side, so they stopped at a distance to keep from being seen together. The maid then curtseyed again and left which was fine since he could now see the way.

”Young Master! ” exclaimed the servant as soon as the young lord passed through the gates that the guards closed behind him. If he hadn come back, he wasn too sure what he would have done or how he would have explained himself. The little master was always so stubborn, it left very little choice for other people.

”I thought the Master would have me flogged to death. ”

”I think you
e exaggerating, ” said the young lord as he confidently walked ahead.

The servant had to jog a few steps to catch up.

”What happened? Did young Master find out who the girl was? ”

”They wouldn have told me that and I didn ask, ” he said while putting his hand out. The boy next to him handed him the quiver which he strapped on while walking.

”They merely gave me a change of clothes and some treats. ”

”Treats? ” asked the servant while eyeing him. The young Master smiled and pulled out the wrapped treats from one of the pouches. The boy handed him his bow before taking the little package. It took way too little to make him happy.

They walked towards one of the pavilions where a small group of people was gathered.

For those who had not gone hunting, they were socialising in the different pavilions and waiting for the others to come back. It was a typical royal affair as all the high position imperials had been invited. The most important guests however, the two kings, military leaders and their advisors were in a meeting with the emperor. The guests comprised of imperial officials and representatives of the two kingdoms who were either royal officials, high ranking military or high-ranking nobles.

Some of them slightly bowed their heads at the boy as he walked past. He headed toward a table with another young noble, very similar to himself. The older boys servant nudged him, and he looked up from his book.

”What happened to you? Why are you here and not out there? ” he asked, somewhat surprised.

”I got into a deep muddy pit, I couldn continue so I had to change my clothing first, ” answered the young Master in his usual straightforward manner. The teenager warmly smiled and put his book aside and then patted his brother on the head.

”Theyll get ahead of the young Master if he stays here. ”

While he wasn interested much in the hunt, he had come along for the sake of being the eldest amongst his siblings. There would be time for the more scholarly activities as well though, the imperial capital could never be short of interesting scholars. After his statement, the younger boy sitting opposite him just scoffed.

”Hes just going to get eaten alive by whatever is out there, ” he casually commented while taking a sip of the cider.

The servant behind him tried to hold back a smirk. This entire event was not interesting to the young noble at all, what was interesting however was some of the young ladies in the next pavilion. He wondered when theyd be doing official introductions, if not any time soon, then hed just send his servant over with a message. Both the youngest Master and his servant made a look. He thought it better not to comment on his brothers snide little statement.

”Anyway, Im going back out. We
e going without the dogs this time. ”

”Good luck, represent us well. ” said the eldest with a big assuring smile.

”Ill be sure to, ” commented the youngest as he turned and ran out towards the hunting grounds trying to start the process over again. Hopefully this time they wouldn be coming across any more wounded people. He had to prove himself. Young or not, he was still a son of this family, and this might make his father have something to say about the achievement.

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