Lydia leaves the kitchen to ask her daughter what she’d like to drink, but when she enters the living room she catches her wiping her tears while turning her head so that her father doesn’t see her. She raises an eyebrow and walks closer to Ashley, she places her hand on her shoulder making her jump at the sudden contact and whispers, “Sweetheart? What’s the matter?”
The black haired shakes her head slowly and clears her throat to say, “Nothing mom, don’t worry. I’m fine.” she lies and lowers her head, feeling bad for being dishonest with her mother even knowing that she has no choice but to keep the truth hidden.
“You don’t look alright to me.” Lydia cups her cheeks and wipes the remaining tears with her thumbs. Charles forget his TV show for a moment to look at his daughter who’s acting a little strange than usual. He doesn’t say a word but his face alone shows all the concern. He doesn’t consider himself talented at comforting people, especially his family so he just watches his wife do the job instead. “Tell us what’s wrong darling.” says Lydia with a gentle voice. “Maybe we can help.”
“It’s nothing to be worried about.” Ashley takes a breath and places her dark locks behind her ears. “I’m just a little stressed because of exams. You know how college is.” she lies again. She has the courage to look straight at her mother’s eyes to prove to her in any way that she’s telling the truth, that she’s really doing fine and that there’s nothing to be concerned about.
Lydia keeps looking at her for a moment, trying to read any sadness on her face but her daughter is really good at hiding her true feelings. She just lets out a heavy sigh and squeezes her shoulder while looking at her husband with a small smile.
“I’m hungry.” Ashley rubs her belly while giving her mother an innocent grin. “Is the pasta ready?”
Lydia chuckles and shakes her head, “When are you not hungry?”
The next day she wakes up a little later than usual and stays in bed for a long time. She doesn’t seem to care about college or her part time job. Her mind is full of all the things that have been said the day before. Eamon’s voice keeps sounding in her mind; Diamond is your kingdom. Then she remembers the way the jewels shone bright when she rested her eyes on them. It never happened before, but as the warlocks said, the curse must be really starting to weaken. It’s time for Ashley and her friends to go back to their worlds and save their people from the hands of Mávros.
There are already four of them in Moon City and she keeps wondering who the two others are and why their parents didn’t want the same fate for them. She’s curious to know if them remembering everything that happened made any difference, if their hearts are colder than hers and her friends’.
Another thing that keeps her thoughts occupied are the blue eyes she saw twice before. She’s never seen such beautiful ones before. Eamon said that it’s surely someone from the Sapphire kingdom and it just makes her wonder if that person used to know her before. Perhaps they were friends or maybe distant cousins. Either way, she wanted to meet the owner of the gorgeous blue eyes.
She leaves her bed and gets ready to go out. She decides not to go to class or to the library because it mattered less now that she knows what’s her real duty. She sends a text to her best friend, asking him to meet downtown. She’s certain that he skipped his classes too because their actual situation doesn’t really leave them time to think about exams or their college grades.
The streets are empty, most people are currently working and studying. She spots only a few old people sitting in cafe terrasses reading the newspapers or chatting with their friends. She envies them because they have nothing to be worried about and wishes she could also be comfortable on her seat and ordering an iced tea. The first days of autumn are always perfect for nice walks and to enjoy a drink in the fancy streets of Moon City.
Nate is waiting for his friend while holding a small carton bag from their favorite bakery. He hands her a chocolate bun when she arrives and tells her to eat before anything. She chuckles and shakes her head. Even when he’s not with her, Nate always knows what’s going on in her mind, he even guessed that she didn’t eat any breakfast this morning.
“We need to go to the Papillon Doré." says the girl after taking a bite of the pastry. “Elliot has to know.”
Nate simply nods and waits for her to finish her breakfast. They take the subway and soon they arrive to the restaurant’s street. They keep thinking how they’ll manage to get Elliot to talk to them when he’s busy. Then they spot a waiter going out from the backdoor to throw the trash. The two friends hurry to catch him before he goes back inside. “A moment please.” says Nate, making the young man look at him confusingly. “We’d like to talk to Elliot, it’s kind of urgent.”
The waiter takes a look at his watch and says, “His next break is in thirty minutes, I’ll make sure to tell him.” Nate and Ashley thank him and look for a bench to sit on.
Half an hour later, they see a brown haired going out of the same door. He looks around and raises an eyebrow when he sees them waving their hands. He must not have recognized them.
He takes off his toque blanche and walks lazily toward them. He’s wearing a white coat with the restaurant’s name embroidered in gold, loose pants and leather shoes. Judging from the fancy watch around his wrist they could tell that they pay him quite well.
“Hello.” speaks Elliot with a deep voice. “Pardon me, but do I know you?” he asks with a polite tone.
“Hum, not really.” Ashley smiles back. “But we did meet at the restaurant two days ago for a birthday dinner.”
The green eyed frowns and keeps thinking for a moment until he asks, “Were you the one who celebrated her 23rd birthday?”
Ashley nods, “Exactly.”
“I see.” Elliot stares at the girl and waits for her to say something but the nervous look on her face tells him that she’s probably not going to say anything. “My colleague said that it’s urgent.” he clears his throat. “I don’t mean to be rude or anything, but if you’re asking me to make a celebration buffet then I must say that I don’t do any side jobs. I’m sorry to decline.”
Ashley smiles because of his polite words. Elliot is the King of Emerald and she could definitely see the gracefulness in his steps and the elegancy of his words. She hears her friend chuckle and say, “If only it was our concern.”
“Then what would you like from me?” the brown haired raises an eyebrow.
“I have a question.” speaks Ashley. “Do you remember at that night when you saw the woman’s emerald necklace and you felt unusually attracted to it?”
Elliot rubs his chin, he seems to have forgotten judging from all the work he should have done after that. He nods after a short moment and says, “I guess it’s a normal reaction after seeing such a dashing accessory. I don’t know why you had to bring it up miss.”
“I’m Ashley.” the girl gives him a small smile. “And you know exactly what I mean.” she looks at him with a serious face, making him gulp. “We’re very sorry to disturb your break but there’s something we must show you.”
“What is it?”
“Please, let’s sit there first.” Nate points to a cafe near them. “I promise it won’t take long.”
The green eyed watches the two friends walk to the terrasse of the cafe. He thinks of them very strange but he follows them and he wonders why his feet trust them unlike his mind. He runs his fingers in his brown hair and keeps looking at them. They don’t look like bad people but their actions are quite suspicious.
Piano music is playing inside the cafe. A waiter welcomes them and guides them to a table in the corner, far from the rest of the customers. Elliot have been here before with his colleagues during their breaks, he loves their pastries and he can’t wait to order a plate of éclairs and religieuses.
“I’m Nate, by the way.” the black haired young man extends his hand and the chef doesn’t hesitate to shake it. “I’m Elliot.”
“Your real name is Ryul.” says Ashley, making him look at her strangely with his green eyes. “What do you mean?”
The girl doesn’t say a word, she just gives him a small smile and nods to her friend who immediately opens his backpack and places a large book on the table. Elliot doesn’t know how to react to their bizarre behavior, he stares at them and their serious faces make him nervous.
“Open it, please.” Nate interrupts his thoughts. “We’d like you to see something.”
“What is it?” asks Elliot. “I don’t understand what’s going on, would you kindly explain to me what you’re trying to do.”
Ashley sighs, “I know you must think we’re strange, but it’s too hard for us to tell you what you should know. That’s why we’d like you to see something by yourself before we explain everything to you.” she smiles and points at the book, “Please, we’re just asking you to open it.”
Elliot frowns and looks at the purple volume. He reads the title which he doesn’t recognize and raises an eyebrow when he realizes that the author’s name is missing. He sighs and decides to do as they asked so that he shuts them up for once and for all. He places the book in front of him and opens it.
“Please come back home, your Majesty. They’re hurting us, ruining us, killing us. King Ryul, please come back.”
The books closes and the chef comes back to reality gasping for air. Nate hands him a glass of water and waits for him to calm down.
“What was that? Is this some kind of sorcery?” Elliot looks at them with wide eyes.
Ashley rubs the back of her neck, “I can’t tell you that it’s not.” she says, remembering what Eamon mentioned about his father, Hezal, being the author of the book. “What have you seen?”
“No, no.” Elliot shakes his head violently. “I need you to tell me what is going on!” he taps his fist on the table.
“There’s a lot you need to know.” says Ashley. She takes a tissue and asks a waiter for a pen. She writes down an address and hands it to the confused young man. “Come here tomorrow at ten in the morning if you’d like to know everything.”