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Chapter 5: Underestimating Love

Three knocks on her door alerted Elsa as she was dressing to prepare herself for slumber. The queen raised a brow, trying to discern the person based on the way he or she pounded on the door. But since only Anna knocks hard and thrice on the door, it had to be her. It had to be her because she only pounded on her door that way the year their parents died. When she was younger, she'd rap her tiny fist on her door rhythmically, always trying to call her out to play and be with her. Elsa never did told her sister that she was secretly pleased that Anna still wanted to be her friend even when she turned her back so many times, so she's going to reciprocate the fun, love, and fondness as much as she can.

So when Anna shouted from the other side of the door, "Elsa? Are you still up? I have to give you something!"

Ah, yes, it is her, she thought, smiling. "A moment, Anna. I'm not yet decent," the queen replied as she tied her robe and made her way to the door.

Finally done, she opened the door and let her sister enter.

The queen looked at her curiously and asked, "Is this about the report I asked from you three?"

Anna nodded and made to close the door for her sister before giving her a piece of parchment. "Listen, I know I told you I'd give it at a more suitable hour, but, um, it needs your immediate attention. We found out a lot today, and I'm telling you that not everything is good. So I'll leave you this paper. I'm afraid it might get on the wrong hands if I gave it to you any later. We're going to tell you more about it later morning. It just has to be safe with you."

Elsa held the parchment tightly in her hands and nodded, patting her sister's shoulder.

"It's all right. Thank you, Anna. Give my thanks to Kristoff and Olaf, as well. I'll handle it from here," the queen said, feeling the parchment's weigh.

Anna hugged her sister and whispered, "Happy birthday, Elsa. I'm sorry it's not the kind of present one gives for birthdays."

Elsa shrugged as her sister released her. "It will eventually go that way, Anna. I have no choice," she said, opening the door.

Her sister shook her head and replied with a smile, "You underestimate the people who love you."

Raising a brow, the queen asked, "What do you mean?"

"I meant that you have a propensity to do everything by yourself even when you are struggling. That's not a bad thing, sis, but sometimes you have to learn to share your burden. You can lean on us, too," Anna replied, gazing at her directly.

The elder sister sighed, her shoulders drooping. "I just don't want to hurt you or anyone."

"And look where that put you, Elsa," Anna rebutted, her brows knitting together.

Elsa gazed away and pouted. "It's easier that way, sometimes."

"And look where that put me," her sister pushed.

And Jack, too, Elsa thought sadly, her eyes not meeting her sister's. "It's just that I… I don't know how to… how to…," she tried to say but found that she couldn't for fear of hurting Anna's feelings.

But her younger sister is insightful enough to say, "Trust. You have a hard time trusting people, Elsa." Anna took her hand and held it tightly before continuing, "It's not unnatural, Elsa. It's not all right for me, but that's fine, even if it stings a little bit. Gradually, though, you will learn to because you have people who love you. Like me, like Olaf, like Kristoff, like our people, but most of all, like Jack."

Elsa raised a brow and looked up at her, but smiled and said, "Thank you."

Anna laughed and shrugged. "Was that hard, Elsa?"

Her elder sister shook her head and said, "It wasn't. But I do thank you. You better rest now. It's going to be exhausting tomorrow."

Anna nodded and hugged her sister before going out. "You sleep, too, all right?" she said, watching Elsa shrug. She pouted but when she saw her sister shake her head, she sighed and closed the door before leaving.

When the door closed, Elsa immediately sat on her duvet by the window and read the parchment. She went through it carefully, taking care not to miss anything before she reacts. The first time she finished, she could hardly breathe.

The second and third time, there were tears in her eyes.

They told her it would be hard to be a queen. She understood that. They told her it wouldn't be easy. She didn't ask for it to be. They told her it was important. Of course, it was, but they were pertinent, too. She did not want to crumple the paper or tear it into shreds or freeze it then break it, so she stood, walked towards her bookshelves and hid it in the favorite book of her father.

Elsa proceeded to lie on her bed and tried to stop her tears. She sobbed instead, so she sat up and tried to breathe, clutching her hands. She didn't want to release it yet, but the pain was too much because she knew.

That's why, she thought, gasping, it was so hard.

Because it was always the last person you thought would do something nefarious to you.

And the queen, pondering somberly on this, fell asleep.

Fell asleep until rays of the light of the sun shone past her windows and hit her sorrowful, sleeping face.

A knock woke the queen from her slumber.

"Stefan? What is it?" Elsa said, groaning and rubbing her eyes as she sat up.

The butler replied, "Um, Your Majesty, I have to wake you. Theodora has to prepare your bath."

Elsa stood clumsily, stretching a bit, and replied, "Ah, yes, thank you, Stefan. Call Theodora after five minutes. I am not yet decent. Go wake Anna."

"Yes, Your Majesty," Stefan said.

"And I told you not to call me that, yes, Stefan? Do not forget," Elsa said back.

"Ah, yes, sorry, Your Maje—um, Elsa," Stefan stammered before leaving.

Chuckling, she released her hair from her braid and headed to the lavatory. Sitting on a chair, she took a brush from a nearby desk and tended to her thick, wavy hair. Using her other hand to loosen some tangled curls, she winced in pain. A few minutes later, Theodora entered, curtseyed before her, and worked on her bath.

When Theodora was done, Elsa stood and removed her outer robe. The brunette helped the queen unfasten her laces and undergarments. Fully undressed, Elsa stepped into the water and started bathing.

Theodora left her to prepare her attire for the day. When Elsa was done washing, she got up to dry herself and wear her underclothes. She went out of the lavatory and allowed herself to be clothed by Theodora. Thanking her, she released the brunette from her service and stood by the mirror.

Four years ago, when she looked at herself in the mirror, she would only see a scared girl with a scarred soul—afraid of her powers and capabilities, uptight and strict with braids twisted tightly. Now, though, on her twenty- second birthday, she found herself smiling and letting her hair down, not minding the soft curls forming at the ends of her hair. She now perceived a woman who looked charming and powerful, at the prime of her beauty and bravest.

She felt brazen and emboldened, her heart thumping, her thoughts happily spiraling—almost as if ominous news had not bothered her the night before. Indeed, if one saw the queen regnant, a leader of her own rights and prowess, one would perceive a sort of aureole around her. A halo of some indescribable light, and only people who have experienced it could manage to explain its feeling.

Elsa could feel it in her heart, head, and down to her toes. She did not regret anything, not her queen ship or her powers. It just strengthened her and pushed her to achieve more and move past her errors. This is why, as she put on her crown and disregarded the turquoise gloves lying on the table, she strode out of her room confidently and regally.

Her magnificent blue robes swayed with her every move as she walked towards the chamber where her councilors, sister, and Kristoff waited. When she neared the room, Stefan knocked on the door and opened it, telling the people inside that the queen will arrive momentarily. Closing the door, the butler greeted the queen as cordially as he could, for it was the queen's order.

"Good morning, too, Stefan," Elsa said, smiling as he opened the door to the chamber. Upon entering the room, she greeted everyone likewise and walked to her seat beside her sister and Kristoff.

"Good morning and happy twenty-second birthday, Your Majesty!" the council of advisers and her family spoke happily.

Elsa's lips curled into a smile and acknowledged their greeting with a nod. "It's much appreciated, Councilors, Anna, and Kristoff. Thank you. Please be seated."

As the queen strode towards her chair and finally sat, she observed everyone – Frederick Janvier and Victor Courtenay, usually arrogant and seated near her side, chose chairs farthest from her. Elsa would never admit it, but that suited them well. Despite this, though, she could clearly see the red- haired Victor looking irate and somewhat constipated. Janvier, on the other hand, pleasantly chatted with Louise. The queen was not surprised, but she did raise a brow subtly. Only Alphard, Anna, and Kristoff were near hers.

Calling everyone's attention to start the session, Elsa said, "Everyone – is everything ready?"

When almost all of the councilors quieted and gave their reports, the queen noticed that two people have not yet confirmed their assents. She eyed the other advisers and ordered them to remain silent. They followed and stared at the noisy couple.

"Frederick, I said not here!" Louise's voice was thick with her French accent as she whispered hotly to Janvier. Her auburn curls bobbed as she leant and shot a finger at his face.

"Well, pardonnez-moi, mamselle, but I think you've forgotten tha—," Frederick replied before being cut short by the queen.

"Lady Chevalier and Sir Janvier – how did you fare with your parts?" Elsa inquired, raising a brow at their discussion.

Louise sighed and faced the queen, saying, "Pardon us, Your Majesty. But there's been a bit of a trouble with the kingdom of Corona. Princess Rapunzel, Duke Eugene, and their escorts will arrive tomorrow and not today. Their liaison told me that they were delayed due to a small rancor with our associates there. I confess I still do not know why or how this happened, but the ambassador of Corona said that there was no harm done between both parties. Your cousin the Count Duchess and Duke both give their greetings and offer you a present in advance for your birthday and as a peace offering. It will be presented by the courier, Floriane Beaulieu, who they have sent ahead."

Elsa nodded at this and replied, "Thank you for that report. Is that all?"

Lady Chevalier nodded, saying, "Yes, Your Majesty."

"Good," the queen said, "But I want this settled as soon as possible. Find out what caused this particular ill rapport between my cousin and her husband with our connections there. Then have a present ready for them, as well. If you can, by the time that the winter festival is over, sail over to Corona and talk to our liaison there. You must be accompanied, though. After that, report back to me."

"Yes, Your Majesty," Louise replied, gazing down and fidgeting with her gloves.

"All right. How about you, Frederick?" the queen inquired, noticing how his mustache twitched.

"The food is good, Your Majesty. I have already talked with our chefs. It will be ready after the announcement this morning," Sir Janvier reported, running a hand through his brown hair.

"All right. Thank you," she said. Elsa tried not to wince as Frederick pursued combing his hair before finally putting it down on his lap.

"I believe things are ready, then. You may all prepare yourselves before we invite the people in, then. We will talk about the report given to me by my sister, Kristoff, and Olaf once the festival concludes this Friday. Everyone can go now – except for Sir Alphard Bedivere, Kristoff, and my sister. Thank you," the queen said, watching as the rest of the council went out. Some of them breathed sighs of relief, probably because their most detested topic would be delayed for a bit. She saw Louise eye Alphard, who did not know she was gazing, before leaving.

When the door was shut, the company she excluded from going out gazed at her expectantly. Elsa first turned to her sister and Kristoff. Anna started, "You've read it, then?"

The queen nodded, saying, "Yes, and I wasn't surprised with some, but two names really scared me."

Kristoff nodded, as well, and replied, "Well – you can't have too much of a good thing."

Alphard raise a brow at their discussion and inquired, "Um, pardon me, my Queen, but I do not think I follow this conversation."

Elsa felt her shoulders drop before answering him. "I have told you and the other councilors that I have had my family check your industries. And according to the report, not everything is good. Now, I tell you this because you're the only one that has no sad tale to tell. The rest, though, is rather unfortunate."

"Even Louise?" the raven- haired prodigy said, his mouth agape and eyes widening.

Anna nodded and pouted, saying, "Unfortunately."

"But the matter's not up for discussion today because we don't have the time for it yet, so we put it aside for a bit," Elsa said, gazing at Alphard. "But I want you to accompany Lady Chevalier when she goes to Corona, so that you may guard her and find out whatever motives she may be hiding. Be careful, Alphard."

The raven- haired prodigy nodded.

"Um, Elsa? Actually, Kristoff and I have a suggestion," Anna said, smiling a little nervously while holding her fiancé's hand. Encouraging the princess, the ice master held her hand tightly and nodded to her.

"Yes?" the elder sister inquired, raising a brow.

"You've given Kristoff and me your blessing, and since we were planning to be married by summer next year and have a little honeymoon someplace, we figured we might as well take this chance," Anna said.

Elsa frowned, realizing their intent, and replied, "So you two are suggesting that you make the investigatory trip with Louise in Corona, where you two might plan to have your post- wedding celebration?"

"Yes. And it would be more strategically wise to do so," Kristoff explained. "With us as Lady Chevalier's escorts, we may be able to have the trust of Corona more. You two are cousins with the princess, and that may establish an easy bond between our countries. Anna is charismatic – she may find out more about the problem and solve it diplomatically. On the other hand, while Anna and Lady Chevalier work on soothing your kin, I will sleuth in the background. Hear from the commons like me in the crowd. I'm not really known that yet, and I could easily blend in by being a mountain man. Anna and I could do all that while guarding Lady Chevalier and trying to reveal her secrets."

The queen looked thoughtfully at Kristoff before clasping her hands together and leaning her head on it.

Then the younger princess added, "And you need Alphard here. As of the moment, he's the only one you can trust amongst your council of advisers. Other than that, he's a polyglot, good counselor, and witty. He's also efficient in combat, swordfight, archery, and horse riding."

Alphard's cheeks reddened a bit. "I'm rather humbled, Your Highness," he said, gazing down.

Anna nodded, saying, "That is gracious of you, Sir Bedivere."

Elsa sighed; trying not to look defeated, but gazed at her sister. "Anna, even if your plan with Kristoff sounds brilliant, I cannot risk your safety. And I think Alphard would be better off to go with Louise since the Lady seems rather… attracted to him. He would be able to get more information out of her – not that I am implying that Alphard should do something ungentlemanly to do so. That is not how we work."

The raven- haired prodigy looked redder than before, but he replied, "Your Majesty, I do not think I could do that to the Lady. But if you would hear me out, as your counselo, I think you should heed your sister, Her Highness, and Sir Kristoff's idea. It would be more plausible a story and will throw Lady Chevalier off her guard. You did not tell her who should accompany her, and I think it would be a good surprise. And I suppose you need not worry much about your sister since I have heard from Sir Kristoff that she fought off wolves with him while they were on a quest for you. And I think Sir himself would be able to protect her."

Anna and Kristoff looked at her hopefully. Closing her eyes, she breathed. Then she opened her eyes and gazed at the couple.

"All right, I will concede – under the premises that you two return here safely. With the information we need without Louise suspecting you two of anything and happy kin," Elsa finally said, trying not to get too put off by the smirk of her sister. "You'll have a week to prepare, two weeks to get there in Corona, and another fortnight to find out everything and resolve matters. Are we clear?"

"Yes, Elsa!" Anna said happily, hugging Kristoff, who thanked the queen.

Elsa nodded and turned to Alphard. "As for you, Alphard, given your efficiency in many things, I will need you to be more careful around the other councilors and their many, as they say, friends. As early as now, Louise might already suspect something, but you must act normally. In case you need refuge, you can go to my ice palace. I will task Marshmallow and Olaf to protect you."

Sir Bedivere nodded, his grey eyes looking a little sorrowful but determined. "Yes, Your Majesty. Thank you."

"Good," the queen replied before turning to her sister. "And Anna, where's Olaf?"

Her sister laughed before answering, "Oh, he's in the palace gardens at the back with Jack Frost. They're playing something, last time I asked Jack."

The queen nodded, hoping that she could talk to Jack later.

Alphard raise a brow and asked, "Um, pardon me, Your Majesty, but who are you talking about?"

Elsa smiled, "You know the Jack Frost of the Legends?"

When Sir Bedivere nodded, the queen's smile widened before saying, "Well, he's real."

This time, the raven- haired prodigy gaped and said, "Well, this is a dream come true."

Kristoff nodded. "It is."

[A/N]: So how was it? Any favorite/least scene/stuff? Tell me about it! :D I love hearing from you guys. :)