As I left the room, I ran into the person I wanted to see least of anyone. It was none other than Prince Cole. This was the guy who was spending all of his time with Kate. He had also been the one to condemn Faith to that horrible fate. There had to be some way I could spare her. There had to be something!
“Shouldn’t you be in the store room identifying objects?” The prince asked, his voice sounding snobbish and grating on my ears.
“I know what you’re doing, and it won’t work.” I snapped.
He raised an eyebrow, a small smirk appearing on his face. “Doing? Whatever do you mean?”
“Kate is my girlfriend. We love each other.”
His smile only grew. “Oh? That’s quite cute. You know… in my world, it’s the strong who get the women. What strength do you have?”
I took a step forward. “Why don’t you find out?”
“Cole! Cole! I figured it- ah!” It had only been an hour or two since our fight, but seeing Kate run around the corner made me feel like I had been punched in the gut.
She had been calling his name, and she had a glowing smile on her face.
“Kate, you’ve learned the incantation already? You are truly a remarkable woman. Women with your aptitude in magic are extremely valuable for a kingdom.”
Kate blushed. “I-it’s not much… Connor… what are you doing here?”
“It seems he’s shirking at his responsibilities. Perhaps he’s hoping all of his classmates can pick up the slack where he is failing.”
“That’s not true!” Realizing I was looking too hostile, I quickly cleared my throat. “I was just asking Riley for some advice.”
“Oh? Is that the girl learning to be a priestess? Yes… the church is quite excited by her presence. Good alchemists are hard to come by.” The prince smiled. “You weren’t saying anything that might cause problems, right?”
“What are you asking?” I demanded.
“Connor!” Kate frowned, shooting me a glare.
“Just that she’ll need to do a lot of studying, and probably has bigger things to worry about than your problems.” He responded flippantly with a shrug. “The initiation only happens twice a year, and it comes in only one week. If she misses it, it’ll be another year before she can join the alchemy guild. They’re very particular about such things.”
“It sounds like Riley does have a lot to worry about.” Kate nodded, accepting his words immediately before shooting me a look. “You probably shouldn’t bother her anymore.”
“You’ll be just as busy.” The prince laughed, tapping her nose in a familiar way that caused her to blush. “Come on, I’ll teach you the next incantation.”
“Another one? Ahhh… my head already hurts.”
“Hah… well, without a little pain, you won’t be able to experience pleasure.”
The two walked away, engaged in a conversation almost as if I wasn’t there. I glared at Cole’s back. The pair left, and Kate didn’t even look back at me once. How could she be so cold? It had to be that guy’s influence.
I jumped, only to realize Cole had glanced back out into the hall after leading her into a room. “It’s Connor.”
“Heh… like I care about your name.”
“I just wanted to let you know that you really ought to work harder. For example, if you found a device that kept father going, perhaps your cousin wouldn’t need to work so hard to produce.”
My dumfounded expression turned to fury. “What did you say?”
He shrugged. “It’s your choice, but I’d think you’d want to make things easier on everyone. Any magical device that can do what she does would mean she doesn’t have to do it, right?”
With that, he put his head back into the room. I shook for a minute, realizing that he absolutely knew the truth about everything. The prince was an asshole, and he was an asshole who happened to have complete control of me. My first tightened, but he was gone, and even if I attempted to attack him, I wouldn’t get very far. After all, he had the power of magic at his disposal, and I had nothing.
It was afternoon at this point, half the day gone, but I finally returned to that treasure room. I didn’t know what else to do. Maybe there would be some magical item that could save my classroom. Actually, my thoughts went a bit darker. I was looking for a magical item I could use to exact revenge. There had to be some kind of death stick or hero weapon. Once I found it, I would claim it as my own, and then then I would make this kingdom suffer. I just needed to have patience and take my time.
The real problem was that there were several weapons that had formidable power and skills, but they required either talent as a warrior, or magical ability as a spellcaster. I didn’t have either, so these items were worthless to me. More than that, these items were things my enemies could use, so whatever I found would have to be even better than that.
I worked through dinner time. I didn’t want to see the prince flirt with my girl, and I didn’t want to hear rumors flying around. Instead, I picked up an item, I identified it, and then I wrote it down. I thought about writing a lie. I could tell them it did something else, something that, when they finally tested it out, would lead to their deaths. I needed to find the right item, and the right lie.
If I picked any item, then I could be quickly found out. It’d have to be an item where survivability was nonexistent, and the thus the chances of me being found out were also nonexistent. Plus, I needed to know who was going to get the item. I didn’t desire to hurt some random person. If there was someone, I wanted dead, it was that despicable commander who had tied me to the chair and forced me to do things with my cousin. It was the line of men who happily banged her person after person.
“Shit!” I hissed.
I had been thinking about the sights from the previous night, and I had ended up clenching the arrow in my hand so tightly that it cracked. Looking around, I quickly straitened it. The wood returned to looking like it wasn’t broken as long as it was held straight. I had felt that it would have burst into flame midflight, so it wasn’t useless. I logged it on the parchment and then I hid it in a pile of other stuff where it couldn’t be easily seen.
With luck, by the time someone found it, I would be long gone. Given the fact this treasure room was dusty, I had probably been the only one that had been in there in some time. It was late at night when I finally let the treasury room and returned to my bed late in the evening. I wish I could say that I couldn’t sleep. I wish I could say that I stayed up all night fretting over where my poor cousin was getting the same treatment that night that she had the previous. However, I was exhausted, and no sooner had my head it the pillow then I fell asleep.
The next day, I woke up to a knock on the door. I went to cautiously answer it, only opening a crack just to make sure that it wasn’t the princess, intending to find a new situation where she could embarrass or frame me. When I opened the door, I found it was completely empty. Sitting on the floor was a seal envelope. I picked it up. There was no address, so I just opened it up.
I had a chance to speak to the church about things. They’ve really opened my eyes. It goes far deeper than either of us could have imagined. I don’t believe we should talk in person. I’m still digging into things. However, the priesthood may be willing to do something. They said that once I join them, we’ll have the complete support of the church. Isn’t that great? Just keep your head down and stay out of trouble. We’ll figure this out together. I promise.
Upon reading her words, I couldn’t help but let out a breath of relief. I hadn’t realized just how tense I had gotten, but her letter had filled me with hope.
“What is that?”
I immediately shoved the letter into my pocket, looking up to see a thorn in my side. The princess has approached while I was standing in my doorway. I immediately felt foolish for not closing the door and reading it in private. Riley had gone to such effort to be secretive, yet I had immediately blown all of her efforts.
“Nothing.” I snapped, and then added. “Just a note from a friend.”
I prayed that Princess Maria didn’t demand that I hand over the letter. This wasn’t a free country. If a monarch demanded it, it wasn’t wise to refuse. She hadn’t said anything particularly revealing, but it had both our names in it, and it could be misconstrued as us conspiring against the noble family, couldn’t it?
“How has your identification be doing?” She asked, her face just as ice-cold as always. “I didn’t see you at dinner the previous night. I inquired about you but no one knew where you were.”
It was just great. Now, the princess was asking after my well-being, selling that lie.
“It’s doing fine.” I responded showing my teeth. “I worked late into the night to do my part.”
Those words sounded like shit on my tongue, but I knew it wouldn’t hurt to flatter them and seem like a team player. After all, Riley had advised me to play along. Well, I could act the part just as they did.
“I see… however, you must come to dinner tonight.” She responded. “It is an order. I won’t have you getting weak from lack of nourishment.”
“How is that your business?” I wasn’t able to hold back my scorn earlier.
There was a door thud down the hallway, and suddenly the princess jumped forward pushing me into my room. As soon as she was inside, she turned and closed the door. She remained like that with her hands on the door, her back to me.
“What is that?” I asked.
“Shh!” She hissed.
My emotions tumbled in confusion. What was going on? The princess was suddenly acting extremely odd. That as when I realized that I had her alone.
“Yesterday, you lied to Kate about us. Why?” I grabbed her arm
She looked back at her arm, and then at me. “I did no such thing.”
“Yes, you did.”
“What lie did I tell?” She asked.
“You said that we were together, and then you thanked me for a good time!” I snapped back.
“We were together, and if you do not wish to be thanked for your time, then I won’t.”
“That’s not how it was-” There was a knocking on my door causing me to stop in mid-sentence.
“Connor? It’s Kate.” A voice came through. “Are you there?”
What were the chances that Kate would come by again just as the princess was there? No, was that why she had pushed her way into my room? Did she hear Kate coming and decide to set me up again? I saw her opening her mouth to answer, and in desperation, I reached out a grabbed her, covering her mouth. Her eyes widened, but she said nothing.
“I’m here! I am… oh, but I’m in the middle of bathing!” I closed my eyes shut.
“R-really… I heard voices, were you in their with someone else?”
Why did I have to say that? Now, if I said the princess was present, it’d be even more suspicious. I wasn’t guilty of anything. Damn it, this was awful.
“Ah… no… I’m here alone. It’s just me. What did you want?”
The princess crossed her arms, but she otherwise didn’t react to me keeping her mouth covered. There was a brief silence.
“Connor… I came to apologize about yesterday. It’s just… the stress of new world. I’m finding out all about this new power in my body. I didn’t mean to snap. I was hoping you could join me for breakfast?”
“Ye-yeah… I would love to. J-just go on without me. I’ll be there. Just need to finish up.” There was another long silence.
“O-okay… I love you.”
“You too.” I bit my lip.
“I remained holding the princess until I could hear her steps walking away. Finally, I let go of her and let out a breath.
She straightened her clothing and sniffed. “Well, if one of us is a liar, we know which one.”
“I wouldn’t have to lie if you didn’t push me in here. Why are you trying to ruin my relationship with my girlfriend?” I demanded.
“I don’t know, maybe I’m just jealous!” She shot back, her cold exterior twisting for a second.
Those words stunned me so much that I didn’t have an answer to respond. She sniffed, turning her back and opening the door. As soon as it was open, I could see Kate standing there. She hadn’t let at all, but had remained waiting. When her eyes landed on the Princess, she nodded, tearing forming in her eyes.
“As simple sound spell…” Kate spoke quietly.
“I told him to be honest about us, but he chose to lie instead.” The princess responded, and then straightened herself, turned and walked away.
As she put it, she hadn’t said a single lie, but the way she said it was clearly misleading. Worse of all, I had fallen right into it again.
“It’s not what it looks like.” I lifted my hands.
“Then… what does it look like?” Kate asked.
“They’re trying to get between us.” I explained. “The prince thinks you’re too good for me. He’s working with the princess. It’s more than that, though. This whole place is rotten. Please, you need to listen to me.”
“I… want to listen.” She said hesitantly.
At that moment, there was the sound of armor clanking. She turned, her eyes widening at something going on down the hallway. I stepped out to see a group of five guards quickly moving up. I grabbed Kate to pull her to the side, but then the guards stopped right in front of us.
“Are you Connor?” One of the men asked.
“Then you’re under arrest.”
Conner blinked. “What? Why?”
“Destruction of palace property!” He held out the arrow broken in two.
It looked like they had found it faster than I had thought.