“My Lord Theo! You’ve finally come!” A servant let out a breath of relief as I ran up to the door, still slightly out of breath.
I put on a grin. “I had to take care of some guests. However, the wedding ceremony can continue.”
“Yes, my lord. Once you are comfortable in front of the room, we will send the bride.” He quickly fixed my suit and then went to the doors and threw them open.
“Introducing, Lord Theo of Greenvale, Prince of Peri.” He announced in a loud voice, eliciting some relieved claps.
I walked out onto the floor of the massive room. It resembled a church, although it definitely had more nature-based themes. The walls looked like thick bark trees. The ceiling consisted of green leaves and vines. Everything had the same natural look as if they had managed to coerce a tree into growing in exactly the form they wanted. It was a very beautiful place. As to whether it was a place of worship, I had no clue.
Perhaps the elves worshipped some kind of god of nature. I had never bothered to ask these kinds of questions. I walked down the path; hundreds of elves of every type were on either side. They had been waiting for over an hour. It looked like once Gorwin had arrived, it had ended up holding back the wedding by a bit as Theo personally vetted all the new arrivals. If nothing else his attention to detail told me who was really in charge here.
Although it appeared like Akkar had become King, Theo was the one calling the shots. I was almost certain of this now. There were numerous things that showed this other than his micromanaging. The way he talked to Akkar, Akkar’s own paranoia, his skills and knowledge. It was clear that he wasn’t a good elf. Then again, I had met very few elves since coming to this world that I would say were honestly virtuous.
I had once thought that elves were special. I was taking lessons from books in my old world, and that had influenced my perception of elves in ways I hadn’t thought. Elves were supposed to be immaculate beauties and paragons of good. I had many expectations about how they were one with nature and the such. However, the more I found out about them, the less I found was true. My disenfranchisement started almost immediately with Saria, a sadistic girl who wanted me dead.
Of course, elves did live with trees, and they did create skilled archers. However, in many ways, they weren’t that much different from humans. That was probably true for all of the demi-human races. They had slightly different cultures, architecture, and customs, but they were generally more alike than they were different. Some were good, some were traitorous, some were ugly, and some were beautiful. Although, if I did have to see one difference, I didn’t think I noticed a single fat elf in the crowd.
I reached the front, and couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow as my eyes fell on the woman standing at the head. She was standing on top of a box and wearing a gloomy look. Baba was wearing what appeared to be a ceremonial robe, but it was much too big for her, and no one had fitted it. Since she was at the head, it was very clear what she was there to do. As I turned to half-face the crowd of tired, waiting elves, Baba leaned toward me and hissed in my ear.
“You’re lucky it’s you walking up that aisle. If you didn’t show up soon, I was going to burn the castle to the ground.”
I gave a smile to the crowd while speaking out of the side of my mouth. “So, I guess I can’t fool you. Is that a problem?’
“Hmph… I taught you everything you know. The day you outstrip me is the day I pass on to nothingness. You should be safe, though. It’s not like they’d suspect a groom of being an illusion in the middle of his wedding. Someone would have to be crazy to even try.”
“These people don’t understand the extent that desperation will take someone…”
“Is the real Theo dead?”
I lightly shook my head. “Distracted. He’s indulging on a Bala-shaped pillow. Depending on how long he lasts, I do wish you’d carry this along quickly.”
She snorted. “I’m a Grand Magus. Other than a Celestial, there is nothing closer to the gods. What I mean to say is that a bond made before me is more than just a bond. That’s exactly why this Theo wanted me to do the procession. They were actually overjoyed by my appearance since a Celestial failed to come.”
“Alright. Then, let’s get this done.”
“What I’m saying, fool, is there is no way I can fake it. If we go through the procession, it is binding.” She hissed. “Am I making myself clear?”
My eyebrows raised for a moment, but I quickly recovered, lifting my hand and signaling the start of the wedding. Baba looked me up and down with a considering look, a slight grin on her face.
“It was bound to happen eventually,” I muttered quietly.
I was a bachelor in my old life, but I had been born into this life already having a fiancée. I hadn’t managed to bond her as my slave, but maybe that wasn’t necessary. The music changed. Although it wasn’t wedding music as I was familiar with, it was orchestral and had a step to it. At this moment, everyone turned to the back, and a woman began to walk down the aisle. Her eyes were covered with a veil, but I would recognize her from anywhere.
Saria’s hair, face, and body had been completely decked out as a bride should be. She had been trapped here for a few days already and prepared to be given to Theo. Now, that final moment had come. I could sense unease and regret coming from her, but I also noticed a few guards watching her intently. One had a mini-crossbow hidden under his robe and aimed at her. It was very clear she was being threatened to march up the aisle. They were giving her no chance to ruin things for Theo.
For me, I couldn’t help my mouth opening just a bit. She was extremely beautiful. Her dress wasn’t white, but full of browns and greens that fit with the nature of the wooden chapel. She had numerous flowers intricately woven into her hair, and even her chest, which normally wasn’t much to look at had a swollen look. I wondered if this was done with magic, art of perspective, or some kind of technique. She finally reached me, but rather than look at me, she looked straight at Baba and ignored me with an icy arrogance.
“You’ve got what you wanted. Now. Stop looking at me like an idiot buffoon.” She hissed hatefully.
I closed my mouth with a click, and a mischievous smile was forming on my lips. I took her arm, and the pair of us kneeled at the step under Baba. She looked one last time at me, snorted, and then turned to the audience.
“This world is a cycle of life and death. It’s an eternal balance. Good and evil. Hate and Love. Everything has a balance, even people. As light is nothing without the darkness, men are nothing without the women beside them. It is a beautiful day when two such people find a compatibility with each other. In their differences, they can come to understand that they are also the same…”
Baba continued to drone on while the pair of us sat kneeled in front of her. Saria was gritting her teeth, a furious expression on her face. She looked like she wanted to bite me. I leaned slightly over to her, and I whispered into her ear.
“In just a bit, you’ll be mine. So, bear with it a moment longer.”
I meant to tease her, but the second after I spoke, her body froze. She looked over at me, and a flash of realization spread across her face. She looked up at Baba, who gave the slightest of nods as she continued the ceremony. However, when Saria looked back at me, there was terror in her eyes. She was shaking even more than before! She looked angrier, more helpless, and above all, terrified. I cocked my head to the side, wondering what was going through her mind.
She started crying! She was having a complete mental breakdown in a matter of seconds. I had no clue what was going on. I cleared my throat and shot Baba a look. I had said, make it fast. It looked like I was losing Saria here. She was almost hyperventilating, and sweat was running down her face in waves. I reached out and squeezed her hand, but she almost fell over.
“Ah! So…to keep things short, let us begin!” Baba coughed as she looked down and noticed Saria’s breakdown.
Baba pulled out a knife. “With this knife, cut your palm, so that your blood may flow as one.”
She had to kick Saria to get her to snap out of it and take the knife. She then turned to me with the knife in her hand, a strangely unhinged expression on her face. The guards tensed, and I was suddenly aware why so many eyes were on her. She had to cut her palm, but it was also the perfect time to try to kill Theo. She likely had planned that from the beginning. However, in a second, her plan to kill herself had been shattered, and now she had no clue what to do. She was breathing hard, and even the people in the rows were starting to notice how sweaty and strange she was acting.
“The palm!” Baba hissed.
Saria looked down at her palm at the knife, and then she stabbed forward. She stabbed the knife right through her palm. A squirt of blood even struck her dress. It was probably why she didn’t wear white. Everyone in the crowd gasped as they saw her stab her own palm. It was definitely painful, but other than gritting her teeth, Saria didn’t make a single noise.
I reached out and grabbed the knife, taking it from her free hand. Just as it looked like I was going to carefully pull the knife out of her hand, I gave her a gentle smile. I pushed my palm on the blade, jamming the knife through my hand. I shook as I bought my hand down the length of the blade until it was pressed against the back of her own. I wrapped my fingers around the back of hers, holding her tightly.
Saria’s panic seemed to disappear in an instant. The pair of us stared into each other’s eyes, our hands held up and pinned together by a blade. Blood ran down our arms and dripped from our elbows, but the two of us only looked at each other. This display seemed to impress some in the crowd, who let out cries and cheers and clapping. She started to smile, and so did I. Baba grabbed the knife and yanked it out of both of our hands.
“Ah…” She cried out.
“Owww…” I moaned.
She shook her head, tossing the knife away. “You crazy damn kids. Just do the damn ceremony correctly…”
As she muttered, she forced our hands apart and then back together palm to palm, and then began to wrap it in a ceremonial cloth, which is how it was supposed to be done. Although I had a thick skin, I found myself blushing, and so did Saria. It was hard to say what was going through either of our minds, but I felt like we had come to an understanding of sorts.
“Okay, now kiss the bride!” Baba snorted as she stood away.
If anyone had been paying attention to Baba, she had gotten some of my blood on her fingers and was now licking it off inconspicuously. However, every eye was on the pair of us. I lifted up her veil, and I saw my beautiful wife. I pulled her close, and she didn’t resist at all as we met in a kiss. At this point, there was standing and cheering. I also felt something changing, but I wasn’t sure what it was. It wasn’t like the impregnation bond. It felt more subtle than that. However, I did feel it. It was a warmth inside that only belonged to Saria. By her expression, as we pulled away, I had a feeling she felt the same way. The pair of us held up our blood wrapped hands, still bonded together, and the room cheered.
For just a moment, a real smile was on both of our faces. I had almost forgotten that this was a fake wedding, and I was still in the form of Theo. I grabbed Saria and pulled her in close.
“When we’re alone with King Akkar, we make our move,” I whispered in her ear.
“Theo… he said he had my sister. He said she was going to play with us… tonight…” She said the last part bitterly.
“Your sister is safe. As for everything else, it’s already been put into motion. Just watch the show.”
“I’ll trust you…” She said, pushing against me in an oddly affectionate way.
“Please, you should show some restraint in public, sister,” I muttered in her ear, trying to remind her of our predicament as elf couple after elf couple came to greet us.
Saria, who knew all the names, did the greetings. However, the way she clung to me would make anyone who knew what was really going on suspicious. Thankfully, that seemed to be none of the main guests, as they all congratulated us and even said how cute a couple we made.
“I can’t help it,” She muttered into my chest. “You made me this way. Your blood is making me go crazy. Tonight… I guess it’d be our honeymoon?”
“How shameless are you? Don’t you know we’re overthrowing a government here? There is a time and a place!”
Plus… Aeryn will be very needy by the time I return, and I best do something to satisfy her or I’d be in trouble.
Saria subtly stamped on my foot. “Hmph, you’re already thinking of other women?”
“How did you… ahem… I mean… ow…” She dug the heel in very painfully. “Let’s go get the King’s approval, shall we?”
After both of us had our hands separated and bandaged, the pair of us made our departure. At this point, there was no reason to be hiding. We boldly walked out of the reception hall. Baba gave us a look as we went, and I gave her a shake of my head, telling her she wasn’t needed. The pair of us quickly made our way to the throne room. With Saria’s familiarity with the castle, we were able to move quickly.
Coming up to the double doors, we pushed our way inside and began to walk up to the throne room. I didn’t know if Akkar had attended the wedding, but his familiar form was sitting on the throne. As we drew nearer, I saw both Lucy and General Tucci on their knees in chains next to the column. This caused me to slow my step a bit and frown. Once we reached the steps leading up to the throne, Akkar gave a vicious smile.
“Did you think you could continue to trick me?” He demanded.
“My lord?” I asked, raising an eyebrow.
At this moment, another Theo stepped out from behind a column. “Your little illusions weren’t able to hold me long, devil. Where is Bala?”
“That’s rich, coming from an imposter.” I snorted without even looking surprised. “Brother, you were almost tricked. He’s the devil. I’m your true brother. Isn’t that right, sister?”
Saria caught on. “It’s true! He’s our real brother! Don’t you recognize him?”
Akkar’s original demeanor faltered for a second. As for Theo, his expression turned complicated.
“You…” Theo shot an ugly look at Saria. “Traitorous bitch!”
Saria grabbed me, looking away from the other man. “Brother, protect me from this ugly beast!”
Theo drew his sword. “She speaks lies!”
“Enough!” Akkar grabbed his head, looking at both of us suspiciously. “You both can’t be trusted. You’re both traitors!”
“Brother, don’t be ridiculous. Remember, we planned all of this together. It was you and me.” The other Theo cried out. “This can be resolved easily. All we need to do is dispel his illusion!”
“I don’t care!” Akkar screeched. “No one can be trusted! Guards! Guards! Kill them all!”
Both of us were caught off guard as the doors busted open, and dozens of guards started to pour in. The man himself hid behind his throne, showing that if he really was a Will user, he was absolutely committed to hiding it. As for the other Theo, he wore an ugly look on his face, and with his sword drawn, he was heading in my direction. Perhaps he felt if he could kill me, then he wouldn’t have to prove his own identity.
“Was this part of the plan?” Saria demanded.
“Not exactly…” I admitted, clenching my teeth.
“What plan are you on to now?” Saria hissed in my ear.
I pulled out my sword. “I ran out of letters a while ago.”