“You’re sure you’re okay?” Ginny asked as she and Midnight sat in the main room of the hideout, with Tobias, Jake and a few others standing off to one side. Midnight sat on a wooden crate that rested next to an old, dusty couch in the corner of the room, and a rug fraying at the edges lay on the floor in the centre of the room.
“Yes, Ginny,” Midnight said, looking kindly at her sister. “I’m fine now.”
“So... wait a minute.” Jake interrupted. “Ginny, since when have you known royalty?”
“That’s none of your concern,” Tobias swiftly came in, standing after leaning on the wall. “These two want some privacy, so all of you get going.”
There was a common groan and complaints, but once they looked eye to eye with Tobias and Ginny, they all accepted it and walked off, Tobias joining them to leave the two Princesses alone.
“Who are they,” Midnight asked as she turned back to Ginny, who was smiling being together with her again.
“They’re a street gang,” Ginny replied, resting her hands behind her head. “They’re not bandits or anything like that. We just look after this place and make sure no real criminals cause any problems.”
“But isn’t that the responsibility of the City Guards?”
Ginny sighed. “Midnight,” She said. “Most of the time, the Guard don’t patrol down this far. There is a rare occasion when they have to, like when you and Nikz arrived, but other times, it’s only people like us that help people feel safe.”
Midnight’s gaze was locked towards Ginny, shock registering on her face as the information filtered through.
“But,” She mumbled, “There was never that problem in Astraea.”
“That’s because Astraea hosts the Palace,” Ginny continued, careful to keep her emotions in check as she placed a hand on Midnight’s shoulder. “We don’t get the same luxury out here because Stone’s the Viceroy. If it was someone like Nikz or Abi in charge, then it might be different.”
Midnight looked down, feeling stupid about her naivety. Ginny noticed this, and came in for a hug.
“I’m sorry for leaving like I did,” she apologised, “But I didn’t want to be nothing more than a pampered figurehead. I wanted to see what it was like to be normal, to live life without the constraints and protocols of being a Princess.
“But I’ve also missed each and every one of you back at the Palace... you and Shards especially.”
“So have I,” Midnight said, feeling tears welling up as she returned the hug, the silence of the moment hanging in the air. When Ginny pulled back, both Princesses wore tearful smiles.
“So,” Midnight said, trying to change the topic, “Who is the leader?”
“Oh, that’s Tobias, but I call him Toby,” Ginny explained. “He’s the leader of the gang, and he’s really cool. He’s kind, responsible and his father even let me stay with them. He’s... also the only one I’ve told that I’m royalty.”
Midnight’s smile widened a little, her posture easing. “You like him, don’t you?” She asked.
“W-What,” Ginny stuttered, her face quickly going a shade of red.
“Just because you have been gone for a few years, doesn’t mean I still can’t tell when you like someone Ginny. At least that part of you has not changed.”
“Hey,” Ginny wagged a finger at her sister. “Just because he’s a boy and he’s a friend, does not mean that he and I are in love.”
“Oh really,” Midnight replied cheekily. “Then why do speak of him so passionately?”
Ginny opened her mouth to argue her point, but realised doing so would give Midnight more reason to tease her. Instead, Ginny pouted and turned away, causing Midnight to laugh. And even though she was trying to be mad, Ginny couldn’t help but let a smile cross her face as well.
But that was when a loud horn broke the calm atmosphere of the room.
“What was that,” Midnight asked, but Ginny shook her head.
“I don’t know,” She replied. “I’ve never heard that horn before.” As the horn sounded a second time, Tobias rushed into the room, his face wearing a feature Ginny rarely saw; fear.
“Ginny, Your Highness,” He said quickly, the tone of his voice scaring Ginny. “We’ve got to move, now!”
“Why,” Ginny asked, wondering what could be so drastic to have Tobias concerned. She turned to Midnight, whose hands covered her mouth while her eyes were wide with shock.
“The border dispute,” She murmured, before a loud crash echoed throughout the city.
Angel stood on the high Palace walls, letting the wind toss her long blonde hair about. She looked to the north, past the edges of Astraea and out to the horizon, her thoughts on how Riku, Nikz and Midnight were doing.
“It’s not often to see you out here, I’d bet.” A familiar voice spoke out. Angel turned to see Ales standing nearby, and in his personal military uniform.
Always one to stand out in a crowd, Ales’ uniform consisted of a dark red trench coat with the sleeves torn off, a long sleeve black shirt – of which the top two buttons were undone – and dark pants. He also wore black combat boots and armoured wrist guards, upon which intricate lines circled and flowed.
“Maybe I like to look out at the capital,” Angel replied, looking back out beyond the wall.
“Suit yourself,” Ales said nonchalantly, resting his arms against the wall itself as he joined Angel in gazing out beyond.
“You’re worried about them, aren’t you?” Ales asked after a minute of silence. Angel was surprised, but regained her composure quickly.
“Yes, though I’m certain you aren’t, are you?” She said with an accusatory tone.
“Oh here we go,” Ales moaned. “I’ve got enough problems with Romeo watching me like a hawk. Stop treating me like an enemy already.”
“We will once you stop giving us reason to,” Angel replied quickly. “I can only hope you have apologised to Straw for what you said.”
“I did apologise,” the Prince replied, his emotions starting to get the better of him. “I wrote her a note saying so.”
“Funny,” Angel said sarcastically. “Straw never mentioned it to me.”
“Well... I delivered it by shooting it onto her windowsill with an arrow.”
“And you think she’s going to notice it there?”
“Just leave me alone,” Ales shouted, turning to face the city, but away from Angel. He let out a drawn out sigh before falling silent.
“Ales,” Angel said, her tone a little less acidic. “We do care about you, but we all think it’s time you grew up. If you were to slow down and relax a little, then maybe you wouldn’t see the need to cause fights and mayhem.”
She paused, hoping to see if he would react, but Ales remained turned away. Sighing, she placed a hand on his shoulder.
Finally reacting, he gently took her hand in his before turning to face her, a sombre face staring back at her.
“You really think everyone else would believe me,” Ales asked, “even if I did change?”
“If you do wish to genuinely change, then I have no doubt you would have the family’s support, even that of Riku and Romeo.”
A small smile stretched across Ales’ face, and Angel replied in kind.
“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” Ales admitted. “Those two will take the most convincing.”
“True,” Angel laughed softly, before something caught her eye.
Far out on the horizon, a small blur was starting to inch closer towards Astraea.
“Well, that’s a shame,” Ales muttered out loud. “We’d just made a connection and now my plans have to ruin it.”
“What plans-” Angel asked, but was interrupted by Ales’ fist colliding with her stomach.
Shock mixed with pain as the two flowed through Angel’s body. Her eyes froze in a wide state as she was eased to the ground by Ales, shushing her like a young child.
“It’s a tranquilliser,” Ales explained, revealing a green-tipped needle extending from his right wrist guard. “The effects should wear off in about half an hour.”
Ales stood up, looking towards the horsemen that were fast approaching the city limits.
“W-Why,” Angel was barely able to say before the tranquilliser took effect.
“Because Terrya’s plans will greatly accelerate my own,” Ales said, looking down at her. “I feel this is the best path for all of us.” Ales’ face held no specific emotion as he bowed before turning away.
“Farewell Angel. I can only pray you aren’t harmed in what is to come.”