PROJECT X

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Chapter 1

ASH

The feeling was always of nostalgia. The crunch of the fallen autumn leaves beneath her boots, the scent of pine and wet moss after rain, the small puff of air that left here trembling cold lips.

This was her favorite moment of the year. The time in which she could relax and take some time to herself without anyone wondering about her every action.

The sun was just setting beyond the trees and as she gazed at it through the thin and bare branches she couldn't help but sigh.

Even in her favorite moment she was not content. She still felt as if something was missing. What that something was...she had yet to figure out.

She stepped forward and found herself at the opening of the forest, the small wooden bridge that led out into the cement pathway taunting her for her return.

Her gaze followed a flock of birds and she was lost in the moment, wanting nothing more then to freeze time.

But she was ripped away from her peaceful illusion when the familiar buzz of a ringtone could be heard. Her fingers wrapped around her phone from her hoodie pocket, barely taking any time to read at the caller name before it was pressed to her ear.

"Yes?"

"Ash!" She winced as she heard the voice but didn't make any attempt to reply to her name. "Where are you? Your mother just called asking about you and by the sound of her voice she does not seem happy."

Ash closed her eyes and pursed her lips at the news, her body filling with dread.

"I'm in the forest just behind my house. I'm heading home now as we speak. Thanks for letting me know Zen."

"Honestly you know how much it pisses of your mother when you go out when the sun is setting."

"That's my form of rebellion don't you know Miss Zero," She chuckled. "I'll see you at Danny's studio tomorrow after school."

With those words she hung up, shoved her phone in her pocket and made the dreadful walk to her house not at all looking forward to the yelling she was about to receive.


In any former case scenario the door to the house was locked as per her mother's precautions. She wanted to know who was leaving and why they were leaving at all times. That being said she was also the one to answer the door if any arrived. This was simply because she was nosy and wanted to know every bit down to the bone when it came to Ash and her life.

Ever since Ash had lost her parents trust it had only made living all the more difficult.

But to her surprise the door was unlocked today. Strange.

She turned the knob ever so carefully in hopes of keeping silent of her return, but even her best efforts couldn't fool her mother.

"Where have you been?!" She heard her mother's clipped voice before she saw her. It was when she glanced at the top of the staircase that she saw her waiting and a heavy sigh left her lips. It seemed today she'd been doing so a lot.

"I was just taking a walk mother. No need to get upset." Her mother looked at her with fury and rage. How could she reply so casually when she knew the trouble she'd be in? It drove her mad. Nothing she did these days had any effect on her eldest daughter, whether it be yelling, lecturing, or being gentle. She couldn't understand when and where she went wrong.

Her eyes softened from there angry bird glare to one more of worry and sadness. Ash noticed the change and gulped.

"Mom, I'm sorry okay? I'm an adult. You can't keep controlling me like this. I should be able to go where I please without you breathing down my neck about it," her mother looked at her for a good minute, digesting the words before she decided to head back up the stairs and leave her alone.

Ash stared blankly at the spot in which she stood seconds before, her mind racing, calculating. The door had been unlocked and now her mother was letting her off the hook.

Something was off for sure and she wasn't too sure she wanted to find out what.


MAANA

The girl she saw in the mirror before her was beautiful. An elegant peach lace dress adorning and showing off her petite body. Her long silky hair spilled down her back in a waterfall of chocolate brown curls, small beads and clips that held the intricate hairstyle in place sparkling under the light.

She looked absolutely breathtaking, but the girl she saw in the mirror wasn't the girl she deserved to be.

Maana raised a perfectly manicured hand up to her dolled up face, feeling over her cheekbones lightly as not to ruin the makeup. Her eyes shone in a faraway look, thinking, waiting for the guilt inside her to subside...but it never did.

She could stay like that for hours, just staring at her reflection in the mirror. Her inner self was at war while her outer self looked peaceful. It was tragic how much she considered her self as the glass of the mirror. One wrong move and everything could come crumbling to the ground.

She was only interrupted when someone could be heard tapping at her hotel suites' door before it opened.

She turned to find a female servant come in nervously and bow.

"Princess, your mother and father are requesting you come down for dinner."

"Has the rest of the family arrived?" The servant nodded.

"Yes, everyone is getting seated down in the ballroom. Apart from Prince Minghao due to his circumstances." She nodded and took a glance at herself in the mirror once more.

"Lets go," She walked away from the mirror, her back turned to herself just like in reality.


Maana was led down in a private elevator just outside the Royal's suite, descending down to the main floor. She stepped out of the lift with a powerful walk, her heels clicking against the floor. The small train of her dress followed suit behind her. Heads turned, eyes popped, people whispered as she was led across the main lobby and to the grand ballroom doors.

The female knew of her striking beauty and grace and paid no attention to anyone, instead mentally preparing herself for the family meal that was about to take place.

The large gilded doors closed shut behind her catching the attention of the few people that were already seated and waiting at the end of the long table.

Her family stood as she treaded near in a welcome. She was taken into an embrace by her father before being passed over to her mother.

"Aana my lovely, how have you been?" Her mother kissed each cheek before placing a kiss to her forehead as well. Internally she wanted to lash out and tell her that she didn't want to be called by a name that was chosen for her rather the one she chose for herself, but she bit her tongue and smiled warmly in return.

This was not the time nor the place to be hasty.

"I've been well mother." Her mother patted her hair gently before leading her to the seat beside her to which she sat gratefully.

Maana greeted her siblings with a simple bow of her head. Both Mushu and Moxie acknowledged her hello but made no other effort greet her after. It stung at her heart considerably but she couldn't think long over it.

"You're looking rather sharp today sis," Maana raised her head to see her youngest sister watching her intently. She chuckled smoothing out her dress as she did so.

"I always look sharp sis, don't you know?" She replied with an equally childish tone.

"Of course you do, but I'm more intrigued with your dress. The intricate designs formatted with the simple silk and lace. It's very lovely and even more so it makes you look jaw dropping." Montie inquired her thoughts, the passion for fashion oozing from her like a river.

"I had it especially tailored for her from a nice man in Whales who specializes in complicated dress work," Their mother jumped into the conversation. "Who knows...maybe he'd love to create your wedding dress someday." Her cheeks flushed red instantly at the comment.

As much as she didn't mind having a specially tailored wedding dress it was the thought process her mother's words that were making her feel uneasy.

"Mother, I'm only eighteen, I have many years until my marriage so I'd appreciate if you wouldn't bring up the topic again," She casually sat back in her chair as her sister Montie decided to caste her eyes down no longer interested in the conversation as the tension in the air had thickened.

Mushu was busy stabbing his fork at the meat that was on his plate and Moxie was staring blankly at the food in front of her.

"Beta, I know you feel like there is plenty of time but really there is no time like now. You're at your prime age. This will be your last year of high school. You need to start thinking about your future," Her mother rested her hand against her wrist in reassurance but Maana couldn't help but scoff.

"The future you want and the future I want are very far off Mother," the atmosphere seemed to thicken more and more with each word. Her siblings glanced at each other and her father was busy scrolling through his phone, no doubt listening but making no attempt to defend.

"I want to be a model. I want to showcase my beauty and be seen as an inspiration for others. I want to take my life one step at a time but that's not what you want at all. You'd rather fast forward everything. I'm the eldest daughter of us three but that doesn't mean you should start marrying me off as soon as you see fit. Your blinded by power and greed."

The room was silent. Not even the tampering of the utensils could be heard anymore. Even breathing seemed impossible with the way the air seemed so suffocated. It was a long pause but it was finally broken.

"You can never be an inspiration," Maana's heart practically stopped at the words as she turned to her brother. He wasn't looking at her instead focused on his plate before he looked up at meet her gaze. His eyes shown anger, betrayal, and pain, motivated signs that left her shattered from the inside out.

"Mushu..."

"You can never be an inspiration with the toxic history you hold. How do you expect her to ever take care of her future family seeing as what she's done to her own?" His words were liked daggers, aimed, and meant to kill.

"Mushu...," It was their father that called his name, a warning to watch his tone.

"She's nothing but a lying, manipulative, backstabbing cockroach!" His fist landed on the table with a thud causing for his glass of water to tip and spill. Gasps arose but Maana was frozen in every aspect.

"Mu Shen!" Her mother screeched his name in anger, her finger waving across the table to discipline him. "Watch your tone, she's your elder sister. Do you have no respect at all?"

Mushu's breathing was labored and his seat dragged across the tile before he stood.

"Me? I'm disrespectful Mother? This witch just discarded one of your children like she was nothing. She talks of her as if she was dead...but she might as well have killed her anyway," His tone was saddened at the end but he failed to stick around to hear another word, instead turning and walking wistfully out the ball room.


Maana stood in front of the mirror. Just an hour and a half earlier she had been feeling guilty and uneasy for her family meal. Now all she felt was shame and disgust for herself.

She stared at her beautiful reflection in the mirror, her eyes shining with the effort of trying to keep herself together but it was too much.

Even the toughest soldiers break at times like this.

Her hands gripped at the sides of her perfectly fitted dress, grabbing a hold of all the lace and silk before pulling with all her might.

The irking sound of fabric being torn filled the room as she tugged and scratched at every tightly stitched part of her dress till it was a mess of peachy colored shreds on the floor.

She kicked angrily at the destroyed attire pushing it aside as she also threw off her heels in the same motion.

Maana stood now in front of the mirror almost naked besides her under garments but she was still not satisfied. Her long nails combed through her set hair, picking at the simple jewels and pins that had been holding the style in place. She could feel the sting of her hair being pulled and ripped from there roots but she didn't care.

At this point tears had already been streaming down her face making her mascara run considerably. Both her hands wiped aggressively at the trails, smearing the mascara further more as she ruined the perfect fake complexion that had been her makeup caked face.

She cried.

Maana cried. Shallow yet ear piercing screams echoing around her room where she curled up in front of that same mirror that had once shown her as a princess.


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