I knew my Guardian’s would support my decision. I also knew my father would not. As an only child, he’d grown up with everything resting solely on his shoulders. He didn’t understand the freedom he’d given me when Luna was born. And I wasn’t about to give it back.
“Reiner thinks he’s going to be made a Guardian.” Seraphina told me as she sat down.
I hadn’t left the memorial courtyard since our gathering. My Guardians took turns sitting with me and bringing out meals.
Seraphina combed her fingers through her red hair, anxiously pulling at the long strands. “It’s tradition for the heir to have the sacred Guardians by his or her side. If the king decides…”
“If my father decides to make Luna heir.” I said for her.
“We’d all be disbanded.” She pulled at her hair some more. “We’d have to fight whoever your sister picks, then be on our way.”
“She’d probably keep Natsuki and Mizuki.” I pointed out. “They’re all the same age.”
“But Reiner will definitely be chosen.” Seraphina’s shoulders slumped. “And he’ll definitely bond with fire.”
“You’ll beat him.” I said calmly. “If I tell you to, you will.”
“Thanks for your confidence.”
I sighed and leaned my head against Peran’s memorial. “I won’t let him take my ring.”
Seraphina bit her lip nervously. Averting her eyes, she said “I… agree with your father, Lucia. Just a little, though.” She placed a hand on the ground between us, a gesture of comfort while respecting our difference in position. “Without a Darkness Guardian, all of us are weaker. If you picked a new one, maybe it could just be ceremonial. They wouldn’t even need to hold the gem.”
I narrowed my eyes and held the band closer. “No.”
“Or we could take the gem out, and set it in a different--”
“No!” I lurched to my feet, causing Seraphina to lean back in surprise. “No one is touching it! No one!”
There was a knock on the door and I glared at it. Without waiting for permission, the door opened and Luna poked her head in.
“Lucy?” she called out tentatively. “Can I talk to you?”
“Fine.” I waved my hand at Seraphina. “Leave.”
She bowed and got to her feet. “Of course, Princess.” There was a slight edge in her voice from anger that no amount of respect could hide. As she passed Luna at the door, she whispered something, causing the second princess’s face to fall.
When the door was closed, Luna stepped forward. “Lucy, I’m worried about you.”
I met her eyes and she averted them. Our eyes were the same pale blue, but while mine reflected like ice, hers swam like tropical water. It never left any room for doubt about who was older.
“You haven’t left in days.” She continued. “If you came out, dad might be more forgiving.”
“Forgiving?” I scoffed. “Of what?”
“You directly challenged him.” Luna sat on a bench, probably hoping I’d join her. “You basically said that being the king didn’t mean anything.”
I shook my head. “It doesn’t. Not when it comes to this.”
“Our family has protected the powers of Mana ever since…”
“Since Queen Amali.” It was impossible to forget that name. She’d arrived with the first Guardians and founded our kingdom. Her portraits were everywhere in the castle.
Luna nodded. “Dad’s only looking out for her legacy. If the Darkness Guardian is forgotten, then everything will be out of balance.”
I grit my teeth, realizing that, eventually, I’d have to give the band to Luna’s Guardian, even if she wasn’t named our father’s new heir. As my heir, she’d assemble her own Guardians once I was queen. It was our family’s tradition.
“Get out.” I snapped. Her hurt was evident on her face, but I wasn’t ready to care. “Tell father that Peran will always be my Dark Guardian. Even if his body is dead, his spirit is still here.” I lifted the band, offering her a quick glance of the black gem. “He’s right here in this band, always by my side.”
She got to her feet and offered me a small smile. “I…” she brushed small tears from her eyes. “I might be getting engaged. I wanted you to know.”
“I don’t care.” I turned my back on her. She somehow always drew people in when she cried. “Do whatever you want. Just leave us alone.”
I hugged my band close to my chest and sank to the ground in front of Peran’s memorial. When I heard the door close behind Luna, I let a few tears fall.