Angelina felt like she was locked in a dark room. It was cold and silent, and despite all her effort, she couldn't escape. There wasn't a glimmer of hope of getting out. Suddenly, a source of warmth approached Angelina. She grabbed onto it tightly. The little stuffed bear in her boudoir in the palace came to mind. The smooth and cute bear was knitted by her mother knitted when she was a child. After her caster teacher engraved a heat-generating magic circle on it, it became warm. From then on, Angelina would hug the little bear before going to bed until she turned 10.
Angelina regained consciousness for the first time when Locke fed her last night. After only regaining limited awareness, Angelina still didn't have the strength to open her eyes. The innate mental power and acquired magic practice gave Angelina a stronger spirit and will, but it did not give her physical strength.
When she was hungry and cold, she could feel some warm, fragrant food right beside her mouth, but she couldn't muster enough energy to open her mouth. I'm going to die, Angelina thought. Her instructor once said that after death, a person would transform into spirit form, before dissipating from living in the world after half an hourglass' time. Thinking of her own end, Angelina had a dazed and calm mind. She thought about it as a detached spectator would, someone who couldn't do anything before she died. I might just be the first princess to starve and freeze to death.
But the reality was unpredictable. Just as Angelina gave up on herself, she was caught off guard. A warm mouth pried open her own, and a hint of sweet-salty food entered. By reflex, she swallowed. Before she could make sense of what was happening, another bite of food was delivered, and another. Angelina, who had never had much contact with others, was at a loss from the inexplicable series of events. She felt something prickly and surmised that the culprit who was violating her was a bearded man.
Every inch of her was resisting the man's actions. She would rather starve to death than be taken advantage of by a man she didn't know intimately. Never had she ever suffered such humiliation, but she was too weak to do anything about it. She didn't have the strength to even move her teeth; how she wished she could bite off the guy's tongue invading her mouth.
The food slowly fell into her esophagus, and her stomach no longer felt sore. Never having experienced intimate contact with the opposite sex, Angelina was starting to feel a flutter in her heart. Of course, the main feeling that dominated her was resistance and grievance. The feeding process felt like an eternity. She wanted to wake up so badly, learn the fireball spell low-rank Lehrlings could use and blast this shameless man directly in the face with it. Unfortunately, she couldn't. When it was finally over, she didn't know if what had just happened was real. When the man was finally leaving her lips alone, she rolled her tongue gently. This was the first time Angelina experienced such a trance, and after being fed in such an odd manner, she fell back into unconsciousness again.
The next time she came to was the previous night. Although Angelina was lying on top of a straw mat and was mostly by a grass weave, she could still feel the piercing cold. A warm body lay near, and Angelina involuntarily moved closer. The heat was familiar, so was the feeling, and the smell. Angelina knew that this was the same sensation she felt earlier. This welcome source of heat was the same person who fed her at noon, the one who had harassed her in such an unprecedented way. This is my little bear, this is my little bear, Angelina repeated to herself. Perhaps, if she said it enough, she would be able to think of Locke as her own little bear. Like an octopus, she wrapped herself around Locke tightly for the rest of the night.
On the second day, Angelina had just barely recovered. After a full day and night of deep sleep, her mental power was mostly restored. Her talent for magic was very promising -- it would normally take two days for others to recover. From initially not being able to open her eyes, Angelina could force open a tiny gap to see through. At a glance, she recognised the person as the jarl who had been carrying her on his back. Angelina hadn't had a chance to look at Locke's face clearly, but now she had all the time to properly look at him. Perhaps Locke was too oblivious, or maybe he didn't dare to look into her eyes while taking care of her. He didn't notice this the entire day.
Angelina watched this guy disappear all morning, and came back with some fruits in his arms. Angelina managed to identify two of them -- one of which had a slight paralyzing effect. Locke, who didn't know that Angelina was alert, didn't embarrass himself as well. After successfully throwing away the mildly numbing fruit, he started making lunch.
Angelina was rather impressed by the meal being prepared. She had seen this guy run to the bank not far away and stone two salt crabs to death. Those salt crabs potentially could evolve into monsters. Angelina felt stupid on his behalf. Locke didn't use his impetus, he just relied on brute force. It seems that Angelina overestimated this salt crab a little too much. If an injured Locke could take care of it, so could Caen and Hans.
Angelina had eaten salt crabs before when she was in the palace. Despite the creature's potential to evolve into monsters, ordinary people could capture them for consumption. However, these creatures inhabited strange areas, so they were quite rare. This bloke's cooking was almost as good as the palace chef's, thought Angelina as she braced herself to endure Locke's direct mouth feeding. Only able to open one eye, she had no strength to refuse.
The sun in the afternoon was quite pleasant. The cave they were in was rather shallow, so the light shone directly on Angelina's body. When was the last time she felt such a comfortable sun? One year ago, or was it two? Although she was a princess, she had been studying magic for many years and had never had much opportunity to appreciate the joy of life for a long time. To Angelina, the feasts in the royal capital, the dance parties and horse racing, weren't much missed.
Locke spent all afternoon weaving the grass quilt. The whole time, Angelina stared at Locke. Probably because she had been so wildly violated by that man, Angelina was starting to see things. The more she looked at Locke, the more handsome he appeared. His grey hair gave her butterflies. He weaved the quilt with the claws of the salt crab with solemn care. His muscles bulged all over, and the crisscrossing scars revealed themselves, making him look very masculine.
Angelina, who spent many years deep in the palace, was suddenly taken aback. Why was she observing this person so carefully? If she could return to the palace, she would have her father and elder brother teach this man a severe lesson in a heartbeat. How dared he... Thinking of the series of events that happened last night and today, Angelina blushed. Fortunately, the sunlight came in and helped cover it.
When night fell, Locke put down the weave and began to make dinner for two -- exactly like he had done at noon. Angelina was getting flashbacks of what happened at lunch. No, she couldn't let this person go on like this. What about her dignity as a princess?
Locke chewed the food and was about to feed Angelina, who was lying on the grass mat. She moved her eyelashes slightly, and a few seconds later, slowly opened her eyes wide to quietly stare at Locke. Locke, who had already leaned over, stared blankly at Angelina. He swallowed his mouthful.
After a brief silence, Locke said awkwardly, "You... You're awake..."
Angelina did not reply, but blinked to confirm. She had yet to recover her physical strength, and struggled to speak. She could only communicate with Locke with her eyes.
"That... that..." Locke searched for words that refused to come out. Seeing the food in his hand, he hurriedly said, "Come on, eat something, I just made it."
Of course, Angelina knew he just made the food. Her eyelashes dropped slightly, Angelina gave a slight nod and accepted Locke's suggestion. But Angelina suddenly realised one thing: she still couldn't open her mouth to eat on her own.
Locke lifted Angelina upright, and the moment they touched each other, they both shuddered. Locke quickly got rid of the fanciful thoughts and put the food to Angelina's mouth. Angelina tried her best, but after struggling for a long time, she almost broke down. Locke looked at Angelina with her teary eyes. Of course, she had only just regained consciousness -- she wouldn't have the strength to eat by herself.
The same thought came to both of their minds. I shouldn't have opened my eyes, I should've just let him feed me one more time. Besides, she was not going to lose out on the food, and he had already fed her so many times. Should I feed her like I've been doing all this time? Locke thought. She was already awake. If he continued doing this, not only would it look like he was taking advantage of her, he would be behaving like a hooligan. He was not very keen on that, despite having done so several times before.
Angelina's belly interrupted with a growl. Her body was still very weak, and she was in urgent need of calorie-rich food to help her recover. Locke was not indecisive. After short consideration, he took a bite of the food, chewed carefully, and got to Angelina's mouth.
Angelina also knew what was about to happen, and closed her eyes tightly, not daring to look at Locke. Locke was not as shy as Angelina. He went straight for Angelina's mouth and delivered the food. Angelina resigned herself to her fate, mechanically accepting Locke's feeding.
After feeding, Locke cleaned up the scraps, added a few sticks to the campfire, and sat back in the cave. He went out for the rest of the morning, and spent the afternoon weaving nonstop. Locke's injuries hadn't healed yet, and he was utterly exhausted.
The space in the cave was small and the weave Locke made was not large. Knowing that Angelina was awake, he wasn't going to sleep close to her again. This meant that most of it would be for Angelina, and he would take one small corner for himself.
The forest in late autumn at night was freezing cold.