“God, why did I ever let you talk me into riding in a carriage,” Ales asked as the carriage rolled through the capital towards the palace. “I swear, I’d prefer riding there on horseback.”
“Riding all the way from Paragos on horseback wouldn’t be very comfortable,” Lydia softly replied with a small smile. “Besides, you always complain how you’d like people to respect you more. Well, riding in the carriage like a real royal would make you look a little more dignified.”
Ales scoffed at this, closing his brown/red eyes. “As if I look dignified riding in this.”
“Ales,” Lydia sighed, her amber eyes showing weariness from the trip. “Please try to present yourself more admirably than last time. You cause mischief and sow anger for no reason. So will you at least be respectful this time around?”
Ales looked back at Lydia as their carriage came to a halt. The last time Ales had been with the other royals, he had initiated a three-way swordfight between Romeo, Riku and himself. While the memory usually provided him with a smile, his face lost some of its annoyance when he considered Lydia’s words.
“Very well Lydia,” Ales replied. “I’ll try holding back, but I’m not making any promises I can’t keep. Should Romeo or Riku start anything I won’t be held responsible.”
Lydia sighed, but put on a brave smile. “I guess that will have to do.” With that, the doors were opened for them and the two royals exited the carriage to make the trip inside the Palace by foot.
Lydia looked around at the scenery, taking in the rolling grassy fields while the wind carried her copper brown hair. A sense of peace settled within her as they continued down the path.
“It’s as beautiful as I remember,” Lydia thought out loud.
“Yeah,” Ales agreed as he placed his hands behind his head. “I forgot how much I missed this place.”
“If you miss it, why not return?”
“You know why Lydia,” He said, looking up at the Palace building itself. “Besides, what about you, why not come back and live here? I’m sure the others would love to have you back.”
“I know they would,” Lydia replied, looking down while remembering all the times she and Shards would argue and all the times she helped Strawberries out in the kitchen. “I do love this place, and the people in it, but I also love the act of waking up to an ocean view every morning. Besides, I cannot just abandon my role of governing Paragos on a whim. The people there depend on me.”
Ales nodded, his face composed into one of understanding. “Well, you should stay in Paragos then. If that’s what you truly want, I’m positive that the rest of the family would accept your decision.”
Lydia turned back to Ales with a smile. “There might be hope for you yet, Ales.”
“What’s that supposed to mean,” Ales snapped, his attitude returning to its brash self. Lydia giggled as the two of them approached the Palace steps. But instead of a royal precession waiting for them, instead they found Romeo and six Royal Guards waiting for them.
“Hello Romeo,” Lydia said with a smile. “It’s been too long since we last met.”
“Yes it has Lydia,” Romeo replied, his voice hard and his gaze aimed squarely at Ales. “You’re free to enter, but I have to wonder why you brought him along.”
“What’s the matter Romeo,” Ales spoke up with a self-confident smile. “Aren’t you glad to see your dear cousin again?”
“After what you did last time, I’d rather see you behind bars.” Hatred burned through Romeo’s brown eyes. “Now, why have you come back?”
“They have returned upon my authority.”
All eyes turned back towards the Palace to see Queen Terrya step forward.
“Oh Terrya, it’s good to see you again,” Lydia said as she embraced Terrya in a hug.
“Likewise Lydia,” Terrya said with a smile before turning to Ales. “It’s nice to see you as well Ales. You look... interesting.”
Ales looked down at his clothes: boots that would befit a sailor, tight black pants and a white button-up shirt that had the top three buttons undone. Looking back up, Ales produced a smile of his own. “It’s good to see you too, Your Majesty.”
“Could someone tell me what the hell is going on here,” Romeo asked with frustration easy to find in his voice.
“I summoned them for a private meeting Romeo,” Terrya replied, turning to face the Prince. “They are members of this family and should be treated as such.”
“What makes you think I’d allow him here,” Romeo pointed at Ales. Terrya turned to face the dark haired commander.
“Ales,” Terrya asked. “Can you promise me you won’t cause any trouble?”
Ales looked between Terrya – calm and controlled in her appearance as ever – and Romeo – his right hand resting on the handle of his sword. With his gaze returned to Terrya, Ales took an honourable bow.
“I will try my best Terrya,” He replied, “But understand I won’t make promises I cannot keep.”
Terrya nodded. “Very well then, that will do. Now, you two can accompany me to my quarters. We have a lot to discuss.” Terrya linked arms with Lydia as they strolled inside. But as Ales moved forward, Romeo fell into step beside him.
“This shall be your only warning,” Romeo whispered. “You try anything and I’ll have your head.”
This brought a smile to Ales’ face. “And if that happens, Romeo, Please feel free to try.”
“This is so boring,” Jake moaned as he, Tobias and Ginny sat atop a building near the city square, awaiting the arrival of the royal convoy. “What’s taking them so long?”
“They’re riding from Astraea, Jake,” Ginny shot back, her hazel eyes looking at him through her old glasses. “It’s not a trip that can be made in a day.”
“I know,” Jake whined in reply. “But you would think they’d ride at full speed given the current political situation.”
“Oh, pipe up Jake,” Tobias cut in as he looked through the eyepiece, gaining a better view of the stage the royal envoy would meet Duchess Stone and Sir Cassie on. “You’ve never been anywhere but Authos so how would you know how long they should take?”
“Yeah,” Ginny agreed. “Besides, the average travel time between Astraea and Authos is approximately three to four days. I’d like to see you go any faster.”
“Whatever,” Jake said, standing up and brushing dust off of his clothes. “I’m heading back to the hideout. See you later.” With that, Jake turned and left.
“Jake,” Ginny complained, but Tobias shook his head, his amber eyes now looking at her.
“Let him go, Ginny,” He said softly. “Besides, he’s never been interested in politics, you know that.”
“Yeah, I know,” She said with a smile. Tobias winked at her before returning his attention to the square.
Ginny knew she was lucky to have a friend like Tobias. His father took her in after she ran away from home and he’s looked after her like a little sister ever since. He even allowed her to be a part of his street gang, of which Jake was also a member. Ginny trusted them, but trusted Tobias even more, because he was the only one who knew.
“Hey,” Tobias said, reaching for Ginny while still looking at the square. “They’re here.”
Ginny’s attention turned to the square as she looked down at the Royal Guards now trotting through on their horses. Sure enough, among the first of them to enter was Duke Riku, dressed in his full military uniform of navy blue and red.
But as he dismounted, a horse-drawn carriage pulled into the square.
“What,” Ginny thought out loud as she looked on. Quickly, she crouched down beside Tobias and snatched the eyepiece from him.
“Hey,” Tobias complained, “What gives?”
“I need it,” Ginny instantly replied, taking off her glasses to better see who had tagged along from the Palace.
Through the eyepiece, Ginny witnessed Riku open the door, and out stepped Princess Nikz with Princess Midnight holding her arm tightly. A pang of confusion and sadness cried out in Ginny’s heart as she watched the three of them approach the stage.
“What are they doing here?”