Zalair stopped to look at himself in a large extravagant mirror hanging on the hall near the throne room. He rubbed the wing on his forehead, then nodded when he saw and felt no damage to his skin.
He chuckled a bit, starting down the halls again. “It was easy to cast that spell on him,” Zalair smiled to himself.
Keigo was still in the banquet hall, trying to yank and pry the sword out of the wall before the royal family members and their servants came in and saw all the overturned wooden benches and the sword in the wall. It’d be very awkward to explain the fight.
“Try pulling it up then down.”
Keigo yelped, turning around to look at the little boy staring at him.
“G-Go away, Lettale!”
“If I go away, I’ll tell my parents that you tried to kill Zalair with it.”
Keigo groaned, “…Fine.” He turned back to the sword, grabbing the tang again. “Up and then down?”
Keigo did as instructed. “Didn’t work.”
“Pull on the down, and push on the up.” Lettale crossed his arms. “Honestly…”
“Shut up!” Keigo snapped, doing as instructed. With a soft twang, the sword came free. “Whew…” He slid the sword back into the scabbard. “Gonna tell your parents now?”
“…What’ll it take for you to not?” Keigo asked, leaning down to look at the prince.
Lettale shrugged, crossing his arms, “Don’t bug my brother and leave today.”
“Geeze, thaaaanks.” Keigo grumbled, walking past the prince, giving him a quick glare as he went.
“Sire,” a servant stopped Keigo as he was walking through the main hall to get back to his room.
“Yeah?” Keigo looked at the man.
“Your ride’s here.”
“Oh? Uh… Thanks, I’ll be right there.”
“We’ve already loaded your stuff.”
Keigo nodded. “Oh, thanks.” He followed the servant out the front doors and down to the carriage. “Hey, Binsley,” he waved to the driver.
“Prince Keigo,” the man nodded, lifting his hat to add more respect. “Are you ready to leave?”
“Yeah, I guess so.”
“You weren’t able to apologize to His Majesty?”
“Naw,” Keigo shook his head, “He doesn’t exactly wanna talk to me anytime soon it seems.”
“Too bad. You’re a very kind person, Prince.” Binsley said with a nod.
“Heh,” Keigo nodded, getting into the carriage. “Let’s go.”
“Of course,” Binsley nodded, slapping the reigns. The black strong stallions at the front whinnied, then began their trot down the road.
Keigo watched as the palace disappeared, then turned his attention to daze off in the carriage. He yelped, seeing a purple smoke mist and form in the seat across from him. A moment later and the smoke formed into an old man, dressed in a dark cloak with a tall twisted staff.
“My Prince,” the man motioned an over extenuated bow with his arms.
“What do you want, Afrat?” Keigo groaned, leaning back.
“You sure are being cold to your kind and loyal fortune teller.” Afrat chuckled a low raspy laugh. “Have I not ever told you the truth, my Prince?” Keigo huffed, looking out the window. “I foretold that Prince Zalair would be cold to you if went to apologize to him.”
Keigo turned, pointing at the man, “You also told me he’d die if I attacked him here.”
“The future is never set in stone.”
“What’s that mean?” Keigo’s eyes thinned.
The old man shrugged, chuckling, “It means that there’s always options and factors that can change the outcome of any and all events, my Prince.”
Keigo sat back. “Fine, whatever. So what’d you want? Come to laugh at me?”
“Never, my Prince.” Afrat made his voice sound as if he had been hurt by that assumption. “I’m always looking out for your well-being.”
“That why you told me he’d kill me when he’s nineteen with ten knights?” Keigo waved his hand, almost doubting Afrat’s words. Afrat nodded in answer. “Well, what are these ten knights? The Ten Ruby Knights?”
“You’ve heard of them, my Prince?”
Keigo shifted to play with his bangs, his hair all curled instead of spiked for once. “Zalair was reading about them and Orion in the astrological study or something…” His blue eyes glanced to Afrat, “Do I have reason to worry?”
Afrat nodded, “My Prince, everyone has reason to worry for their life and their family. After all, the kingdom to the north’s sour princess demands to wed you, and you refused.”
“She’s a freaking spoiled brat, Afrat!”
“Of course,” Afrat laughed a bit. “But now you have the powerful army threatening war breathing down your neck, and you’ve now failed to convince Prince Zalair to marry you for the safety of your two kingdoms.”
“Don’t you think I know that?” Keigo slid down.
“My Prince, what happened to the rubies? I have had a vision of dark clouds falling over our kingdom.”
Keigo shifted back up, “I sorta broke nine of them.”
Afrat’s eyes thinned, “What happened to their shards?”
Keigo leaned toward the man, “Why are you so worried ‘bout them?”
Afrat straightened up, “I’m worried about the well-being of my Prince, for I am your dear and faithful follower.”
Keigo huffed, leaning back. “Got rid of them.”
“I see.” Afrat nodded. “If you’ll excuse me. Your father’s summoning my words of fortune,” and Afrat vanished into a cloud of smoke before disappearing out of sight.
Keigo looked out the window. That guy knows too much about the rubies and the knights for my liking… he thought.
Zalair returned himself to a lush garden in the castle’s north courtyard. He felt his forehead, feeling another fever coming.
“Dammit,” he cursed. “That stupid…” He groaned, shifting to sit under a tree. Before he could get comfortably down, Zalair fainted over.
Zalair’s dreams were filled of memories of the past. The smell of the warm grass enticed the visions of the time he was in Keigo’s garden and they shared that shy kiss.
When he woke up a few hours later, Zalair hurried his way back to the astrological study. Instead of going in, he went to the one across from it, and let himself in. Inside, the shelves and tables, and even the floor, was filled with far more books than the other study.
Zalair started to look through the magical texts, reading the titles of each book. He was looking for a very specific book.
Under a stack in the middle of the room, Zalair found what he was searching for. “Curses and Blessings,” Zalair chuckled, opening the book.
He began to read through the pages of the curses, stopping to read any that had details of the symptoms he was feeling.
Zalair has read this book nearly a dozen times to find out what’s happened to him, and never found his answer. But this was only volume one, and Zalair could never find volume two.
Irritated, Zalair left volume one on the table after clearing it off.
“I know we have it!” he shouted and started to work looking through all the books.
Flanoir stopped walking down the hall, seeing the door to the magical text’s room open. “Hello?” she peeked her head in, seeing Zalair moving huge stacks of books he’d already looked through. “…What are you doing?”
“Hey, Flanoir,” Zalair waved a bit. “I’m looking for a book.”
“Volume two of the Curses and Blessings book.”
Flanoir stood and thought a moment, watching as Zalair started through a new pile. “But, isn’t that in Daddy’s private study?”
Zalair froze, turning to look at her. “Is it?”
“Yeah.” She nodded. “Daddy has a copy of all the important books from here, and all the one copies of them in his study. So I bet it’s in his room.”
Zalair thought a moment, then leaned on his back towards her, “Have you ever been in there?”
“Mommy took me in once when she was a looking for a blessings book.” Flanoir nodded.
Zalair shifted up, “Fine, I’ll go ask him to let me.”
“He’ll ask you what you’re looking for~”
Zalair shrugged, hurrying her out, “Yeah yeah.” He closed the door behind them and then headed down the hall with her. “Where’s he?”
“Probably in the inside tropical pool room with the other kids, playing in there.” Flanoir answered.
“Thanks,” Zalair hurried down the corridors.
He pushed his way into the glass doors that led into the tropical room. It was a finely decorated room, with several warm fires going, and large tropical plants everywhere. There were also some fine plants blooming pink, red and yellow large flowers. In the center of the room was a large clear pool integrated into the floor.
Most of the children were playing in the pool. The teachers and servants were keeping an eye on the children, while King Yoh was sitting in a bunch of plants surrounded by his wives.
Zalair walked through the room, the floor covered in grass in some spots. “Yo, dad,” Zalair called, stopping near them.
King Yoh looked to him and waved, “Ah! Zalair! You’ve come out of reading all those boring books, have you? What’d you like to do here in this fine warm lush room?”
“Actually, I’m still reading stuff.”
“Yeah, I need to read volume two of Curses and Blessings, and it’s in your private study.” Zalair put a hand on his hip.
King Yoh scratched his neck for a moment, thinking. Queen Rose leaned to him, whispering something into his ear. He nodded and waved to Zalair, “The key’s over by the tree by the door here.”
Zalair nodded, “Thanks.” He went back to the entrance, looking around the trees there. He found a small golden skeleton key sitting in the grass. “…Nice hiding place, dad,” he joked, picking up.
He hurried out without a word to anyone, and left down the halls. Zalair headed through most of the palace, through the large extravagant throne room, through the back of it and down the hall to the King and Queen’s quarters. He stopped near the back, pushing a large painting of his grandfather when he was king out of the way. Behind it was an opening in the wall followed by a spiral staircase.
“Sorry, grandy,” Zalair chuckled a bit. He always held his grandfather’s image in the highest respect.
Zalair went onto the stairs, being sure to place the painting back into place before he went down them. At the base of the stairs was a small narrow hallway lighted by eight torches with blue flames.
“Heh, magic fire,” Zalair mused as he went through.
At the end of the hallway was a very old wooden door carved of a woman goddess with long hair covered in clouds as her clothing, and the sun behind her. Zalair noticed her face, not because her eyes were closed, but because on her forehead in the very center was a wing that looked just like his.
His forest green eyes stared at it a moment, then he pushed in the key and unlocked the door. As the lock broke loose, the goddess’s eyes opened and the door slowly creaked open.