“Incredible,” Midnight said as she examined every windowsill full of flowers and the signs of every store as she and her escorts walked down the main road of the city. There was hardly a cloud in the sky as the young Princess’ eyes gazed over every detail of her new surroundings.
“It’s a lot different than Astraea, isn’t it?” Midnight turned to see one of her escorts – he had been introduced as Miles – looking at her with a gentle gaze, like one would give to a sibling.
“Yes,” Midnight replied. “It is all incredible. If only I had time to capture it in a painting.”
“I’m sure there’s a store that sells those around here somewhere,” The other escort – Fredrick – said as his focused eyes belied his cheerful expression.
Stone had instructed the two of them to guard the Princess with their lives. They were not to take any side alleys or deal with known trouble-makers, in order to make sure Midnight was kept safe.
Another step taken was to disguise themselves as travellers passing through. While Miles and Fredrick were clothed in their normal clothes, Stone had done a marvellous task in masking the Princess’ identity. Midnight’s usually curly hair had been scrunched into a neat bun while the rest was braided together in a ponytail. As for her clothing, Midnight was dressed in a long-sleeved dress with circular patterns adorning the edges and brown boots.
A smile crossed Midnights’ face when she wondered what Shards would think of this disguise.
As the three of them walked along, Midnights’ eyes constantly looked at everything being sold. Spending all of her time in the Palace, she had never truly known what it was like for the commoners.
“Step right up,” Shouted one shopping cart owner. “Come and sample some of the finest fruit in the all of the kingdom.”
“I’ll take two apples thanks,” Miles said, walking over with the Princess by his side.
“Here you are sir,” The cart owner said with a smile, taking two silver coins in one hand and giving Miles a fresh green apple. “And here’s one for you, little one.” He said, handing one to Midnight. But she shied away, taking hold of Miles’ arm instead.
“My apologies,” Miles said, taking the apple for Midnight with that smile still on his face. “I’m afraid she’s a bit shy.”
“Ah, that’s all right,” The cart owner said. “You two have a good day now.”
As they walked away, Midnights’ grip on Miles’ arm weakened slightly, and she received the apple he held for her.
“Thank you,” she said, holding the apple while Fredrick walked back alongside them again.
“We’re just showing her around Miles,” He said, his voice combination of weariness and agitation. “We don’t need to interact too much.”
“No, it’s alright,” Midnight interjected. “I know we will have to return soon, but I would like to see what else this city has to offer.”
“Alright then,” Miles said. “Where would you like to go next?”
Midnights’ eyes wandered as she thought this over. A light breeze blew her auburn locks as she spotted a cat sitting near the entrance of an alleyway.
Though Miles and Fredrick showed their uneasiness over this on their faces, but the Princess ignored this and knelt, extending her arm to the black and white coated animal.
As her hand got close, the cat sniffed it before running away into the alley. Something felt different inside Midnight that day, it might have been the fact that she was in a brand new place or that she was among commoners. Whatever the reason, Midnight surprised her escorts and even herself when she ran after the feline.
And straight into trouble in the form of a group of five thugs loitering in the alley.
A gentle breeze blew Ginny’s brown curls across her face, forcing her to brush them out of the way to continue reading. It was a favourite of hers; Laws of Incasta.
While most others looked at her in confusion when reading it, Ginny was only interested in the laws which seemed odd, like the law saying that if one chose to light a pipe in a grassy area, they would need to hold something underneath their pipe in order to catch anything that could fall and start a fire.
And while normally Ginny would enjoy the book to extent she would forget where she was, today her mind was fixated on the image of Nikz and Midnight arriving to the city.
“Ginny, are you okay?”
Ginny’s shoulders hunched up in surprise as her grip on the book loosened, letting it fall to the floor. Ginny looked behind her to see Tobias standing on the roof of their gangs’ hideout with her, a concerned look on his face.
“Yeah,” She said, putting on a smile as she collected the book. “Why wouldn’t I be?”
“You can’t fool me Ginny,” Tobias replied, his face unchanged. “You’re thinking about the Princesses aren’t you?”
Ginny’s facade faded as she faced the edge of the roof. Looking outwards, the building was the same as all the others around it; square, brown and two floors high, most of them connected at the roofs by walkways and design arches.
“Yes,” She sighed at last. “It’s just... I miss them, Toby. I’ve missed them so much and all I’ve wanted was to speak to them again.”
“Then why not,” Tobias asked, stepping forward. “Why not face them again? Surely they’d understand the reasons why you left.”
“Sorry Toby,” Ginny said, shaking her head, “But you don’t understand. I have the pride of a Princess to uphold... I can’t go back now. What’s more, if I do go see them, they’ll take me back to Astraea and I’ll be stuck in the Palace forever.”
The wind picked up a fraction as they stood there in silent contemplation. Pigeons flew overhead as Tobias rested his hand on Ginny’s shoulder reassuringly.
But the silence was broken by a yell from below.
In an instant, Ginny and Tobias were at the ledge of the roof, looking down into one of the alleyways surrounding their hideout. A large bald man had stopped in the middle of the alley, his left arm showing trickles of blood running down it.
But captured their attention, and accelerated Ginny’s heartbeat was the girl he had cornered below. Even from that angle and dressed in common clothes, Ginny recognised her.
The girl was Midnight.
“Ginny, wait,” Tobias almost yelled as Ginny took hold of a rope anchored to the roof and began abseiling down the side of the building, her rational thoughts being drowned out by her desire to see Midnight safe.
But with her focus on her sister, Ginny gripped the rope while descending too tight, resulting in her hands being burned. With half a metre to go, she lost her balance and fell, landing with a soft thud.
The man turned, seeing Ginny bringing a sleazy smile to his face.
“Well well,” He said, taking a step towards Ginny. “You want to come with me girly? The three of us would have a great time.”
Ginny backed up to the wall of the hideout as her mind raced. Her instincts had forced her to react without a plan, leaving her in the same position as Midnight. Switching her gaze quickly, Ginny saw her sister curled in a ball, hoping that this was a nightmare soon to end.
“Hey, Baldy,” Tobias’ voice rang out, causing Ginny and the man to look up.
Tobias brought his hands to his mouth and whistled loudly. Within seconds, teenage boys came out of the hideout, some of them holding slingshots at the ready.
“You’ve five seconds starting now to get the hell out of here,” Tobias announced, tossing a small rock in his hands.
“Who do you think you are,” The man asked, but a small ball hit him right in the temple, staggering him. Ginny turned to see Jake holding an empty slingshot.
“You’ve now got three seconds,” He said, a confident grin on his face.
The man looked between Tobias, the host of boys and Midnight before shaking his head and running away from the alley.
While the boys cheered and joked about the standoff, Ginny was quickly on her feet and moving to Midnight’s side.
“Are you alright,” She asked, one hand grasping Midnight’s shoulder.
“I-I think so,” Midnight replied, pushing strands of her long hair out of the way. “Thank you for saving me...” But Midnight trailed off and her eyes widened as she saw Ginny’s face.
“G-Ginny,” She asked, shell-shocked. “Is it really you?”