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21 Endearmen

 THE sizzling moment between Tilly and Kiho was cut when her stupid stomach growled loudly. As soon as the captain heard that, he pulled away from the kiss and looked at her with a worried look on his handsome face.

She was relieved that Kiho didn't make her feel like she should be embarrassed by the sound her stomach made. Most men in this world think that ladies don't fart, after all.

"Let's eat first," Kiho said.

"No," Tilly said while shaking her head stubbornly. "I want more kisses."

He held her shoulders and moved his face away from his when she tried to kiss him again. "I'm not sure if I can stop if we do something more than this."

"I want you to do more."

"I want to do more, too. But not at the expense of your health so we'll eat first," he insisted. Then, he placed a hand on her cheek while gently brushing his thumb over her swollen lips. "Don't push yourself, Tilly. You just recovered from your fever."

Damn it.

She didn't expect that her little lie would result to this.

But she had to give up for now. She didn't want to look desperate in front of Kiho. Plus, this time, she wanted to conceive Winter with love.

"Okay, I understand," she said. "We should head to the castle then."

"The emperor's castle in his island?"

"There's only castle in this island, my silly captain," she said between giggles. But she understood why Kiho had to ask. "His Majesty wanted you to rest first before you go back to the Royal Capital. And so, the emperor ordered us to spend the night in his castle. The servants there are expecting us."

For some reason, his face suddenly went red. "W-We're going to spend the night together? Does Duke Prescott know about this?"

She nodded while explaining. "It was an order from His Majesty so my father had no choice but to give his consent."

That was how loyal her father was to the royal family even though he was a noble.

Majority of the Royal Faction consisted of people related to the royal family. While the Noble Faction who wanted to destroy the monarchy were supported by higher nobles who had always hated the Moonchesters.

"Are you okay with that?" Kiho said, voice laced with concern. "If you're not comfortable with that set-up, I'll send you home. I'll talk to His Majesty so don't be scared."

"I want to spend the night with you, Kiho."

He didn't smile but his eyes glowed in a beautiful golden light. Someone was happy, huh? "Okay, let's go to the castle."

She just smiled at him, then linked her arm with his as she gently pull him out of the room. "How was your mission, Captain?"

"It was a success," he answered. "Tilly, how's your health?"

"I'm good," she assured him. "I just fainted because of high fever. But the royal doctor took care of me so I recovered fast."

"Fainting is a serious matter, Tilly. Please don't make it sound like it's not a big deal by saying you "just" fainted," he lightly scolded her. But she let it slide because she knew he was just concerned about her. "Let's be more careful next time, okay?"

She smiled and hugged his arm. "Okay."

"Oh," he said as if he remembered something. "Did Blake escort you here?"

"Of course," she said. "Kiho, please don't scold him too much for not being by my side when I fainted." Kiho was a strict captain and he seemed to be protective of her in this life time. She had a feeling that he would scold Blake later so she wanted to appease him a little. She didn't want Blake to be punished like Damian for failing to protect her. "Before I went to the palace, I sent Sir Blake on a mission."

She told Kiho about the minor "accident," then her encounter with Flint (the young boy who spread rumors about the return of Fire Mages) and Sir Ainsworth. She also talked about how she suddenly felt "feverish" when she arrived at the princess's residence. And that she couldn't just go home without greeting Princess Nia first so she had to "hide" her sickness, probably resulting to her fainting.

She didn't want to lie to Kiho but she couldn't tell him that she didn't really get sick.

"Captain Ainsworth?" Kiho asked with a scowl. "You shared a ride with the captain of the Golden Tiger Knights?"

She rolled her eyes discreetly.

[Oh, men.]

She talked about a lot of things but the only thing that seemed to stick to Kiho was the fact that she met Sir Ainsworth. Was he jealous? That was both cute and petty.

"The only reason I didn't reject Sir Ainsworth's offer was because I was running late from my scheduled meeting with Her Royal Highness," Tilly explained. "Do you not trust me?"

"I trust you," he said almost immediately. "I'm just worried. We had a dispute with Sir Belington, a knight from Captain Ainsworth's squad. He didn't bully you, did he?"

Ah, so he was worried about that.

"He didn't bully me," she said. "I'm relieved. I thought you were jealous."

"Who said I wasn't?"

Her eyes widened in shock. She looked up at him to confirm if he was telling the truth. And yep, someone was really jealous. "Oh."

"Don't worry, I know that I have nothing to be jealous of Captain Ainsworth," Kiho assured her. "I guess it's just a normal reaction to feel a little jealous when the lady I like was alone with another man."

She blinked in surprised. And giddiness. "You like me?"

"Yes, I like you," the captain confirmed, his cheeks tainted with a nice shade of pink. "I thought I was being obvious."

"Why do you like me?" she asked curiously. "Is it because I have a crab mallet?"

"Hmm... I guess it's part of the reason," Kiho said, then he put a hand on the top of her head. "But Tilly, I won't get attracted to a woman just because of a crab mallet."

Oh.

She wanted to ask what exactly made him like her but his stomach growled loudly this time. He blinked in surprise as if he just realized that he was hungry.

Then, she remembered that Emperor Aku told her that Kiho would definitely go straight to the Royal Capital without resting just to meet her. She just smiled politely at His Majesty, not really believing that the captain would do that. Now she owed the emperor an apology.

"Let's hurry," Tilly said while walking faster, pulling Kiho along with her. "What would you like for dinner, Captain?"

"You."

Her dirty mind thought of lewd stuff naturally. "You want to eat me, Kiho?"

"No, not that. I'm asking what you want to eat," the captain explained, cheeks red in embarrassment. Then, he paused for a while before he spoke again. "I mean, I'd like to do that later but I want to feed you first."

Now it was her turn to blush. She couldn't decide if Kiho was innocent or not. Sometimes he acted clueless. But there were times that he could be as naughty as she was.

[Or maybe he learns fast.]

"Kiho, you've grown," Tilly said jokingly while patting the captain's arm gently. "I'm proud of you."

"I don't understand what you're saying but if you're happy, then I won't ask anymore," Kiho said. Then, he gently removed her arm linked with his to hold her hand. "May I?"

When Tilly nodded, Kiho entwined their fingers together.

***

THE CASTLE in the Lunar Island was like any other castles that Tilly had seen in the modern world. It wasn't as huge as the royal palace but it was big enough for a royal family.

[And it's a castle on the cliff so the view from there is breathtaking.]

When they arrived at the castle, they were greeted by the servants headed by Malou (the head maid in her 50s) and Alejandro (the head butler in his 60s).

Then, they were ushered in a parlor room to have tea. When Malou asked if they had any preference for dinner, Kiho said that he'd ask his men to bring the main protein. Blake was the one who brought the sea creatures from the ship.

After that, the captain asked the head chef to cook it for them. While waiting for the food, they spent time catching up while having tea and some light snacks. Blake, on the other hand, went back to the ship and would spend the night there with Damian and Whitton.

She tried to invite Blake to stay in the castle because Malou said that their companions would also be treated as guests. But the vice-captain politely refused so she didn't insist anymore.

Anyway, a few hours later, they were on the rooftop where their dinner was prepared.

[It was also Kiho's idea.]

"Captain, I didn't know that you have a romantic bone in you," Tilly said, impressed by the spread of seafood on the long table. The table was facing the sea and aside from that, they also had a scenic view of the starry night sky. But the thing she liked most were the floating huge crystal balls around. They served as lights so they could see properly. "This is so nice."

"Did you like it?" Kiho asked while looking at her with an expectant look on his face. "I thought it would be nice to have dinner here instead of the dining hall."

She smiled at him and placed a hand on his cheek. "I like it," she said. Then, she tiptoed to give him a kiss on the cheek. "Thank you, Kiho."

He looked happy yet surprised. "Was that a reward?"

"Hmm?"

"The kiss," he said. "If I do nice things for you, will you reward me with a kiss?"

She giggled at his innocence. He obviously didn't know how dating works. But it wasn't like she was experienced in that department as well. Maybe she was reborn in this world to learn with Kiho. "Captain, we can kiss each other as long as we have consent. Is that okay with you?"

Kiho nodded eagerly. "I'm giving you the consent to kiss me anytime you want, Tilly."

She laughed softly, then lightly pinched his cheek. "You can also kiss me as long as I give you consent. But when I say stop, you should stop right away. Of course, I'll also do the same."

"I understand."

"Thank you, Captain," she said. Kiho was always respectful to her in her past life and she was glad to know that even thought a lot of things already changed in this lifetime, he was still as chivalrous as she remembered. "Let's eat."

Kiho nodded and ushered her to the table.

She already noticed that the seafood that the captain brought were huge. But now that she was seated facing the spread, she realized that these sea creatures were not normal in size. Even the prawns seemed to be bigger than her hands.

"Kiho, look at this lobster's claw," Tilly said in amazement while touching the lobster's claw. Then, she leaned down to try and compare the size with her head. "Wow. It's bigger than my head, isn't it?"

"It is," he said. "And your face is small anyway."

"My face is small?"

He nodded. "And very cute."

She laughed softly at his compliment. She was used to be praised as someone "beautiful" because she had a mature charm. Cute would be girls like Isabella, not her. But it made her giddy to know that Kiho finds her cute. "Kiho, call me 'baby.'"

'Baby' was a common endearment between couples in the modern world. She always wanted to hear her lover call her that way. But unfortunately, she never got into a serious relationship during her second life. That was why she got into an arranged marriage instead.

"'Baby?'" Kiho asked in confusion. "Is it okay if I call a grown woman 'baby?'"

"Just call me that when there's only the two of us," she said. "And if it's okay with you, I want to call you 'baby' as well. It will be our secret endearment."

His face suddenly lit up. "We're going to have our own endearment?"

"Do you hate it?"

Kiho shook his head. Then, he gently placed a hand on her cheek. "Baby."

Tilly smiled widely. "Yes, baby?"

***

TILLY was surprised when she saw Kiho in the room where the maids ushered her after her bath. Just like her, the captain had just finished taking a bath. While she was wearing a night gown, Kiho was wearing a silk night shirt and pants.

And they both looked shocked to find each other in the same room.

Just like that, the maids bid them goodnight and closed the doors.

"Kiho, is this also the room the maids told you to use?" Tilly asked in bewilderment. "Does this mean we have to sleep on the same bed?"

"Uh, yeah?" Kiho said, then he scowled. "Emperor Aku definitely planned this as a prank."

***

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