Raiden was in the company of one of his advisors. Specifically, Mr. Zarean, but to Raiden, he was just James. His closest friend since forever. They were sitting together in a private study, working on some matters that regarded the Red Kingdom.
James had arrived at the castle in the early hours of the morning after coming to the palace at the King’s request. “So, here are the contracts you need to read over and sign in a few spots. That way, we can meet the demands of the western cities with the least amount of trouble.”
Raiden took the papers from James and started to skim over them. “So... Raiden, how do you like your bride so far?”
James was allowed to be improper when he and Raiden were alone. And curiosity was eating away at him. He knew Raiden wasn’t one to fall head over heels after meeting a woman, but he could only hope that he took a liking to the princess.
“I don’t know, not any strong feelings as of right now. She’s very polite when sober, so I know she’ll have great etiquette when we’re amidst company. It’s also a benefactor that she’s a sight for sore eyes.”
“What do you mean ‘when sober’?” James questioned. He leaned forward in his seat, ready to know more. The only other thing he picked up was that Princess Malia was a beauty. Apart from that, he wasn’t really listening.
“She got drunk last night and pounced on me when I took her to her room,” Raiden informed his eager friend, “Malia’s not the shy type when she has alcohol in her system.”
“You didn’t take it any further, right?” James asked. He was earnest about these things and made sure to keep Raiden in check.
Mr. Zarean knew his friend was very popular amongst the noble ladies, especially since he started to spend more time with Lady Amaha than with any other woman he could recall.
Apparently, the Red women seemed to believe that messing around with an ‘exclusive’ man was hot.
“I didn’t sleep with her if that’s what you’re asking,” Raiden answered, signing the contracts he was reading over.
James sighed in relief. He didn’t want the future Queen to become pregnant before the official marriage or her crowning ceremony. Not that it would be a problem, it would just delay everything further and create more stress for the advisors, council, plus he or she would be the first mixed color child---
“Snap out of it, James, you’re drifting away again.” Raiden scolded his friend, flipping the page to continue proofreading the contract.
“Sorry,” James mumbled. He opened his briefcase and brought out some more papers he’d brought with him and then began to busy himself with work.
It was four hours later when both men were notified that lunch was being served. “His highness, the White King, expects King Raiden and Mr. Zarean to join him for lunch along with Princess Malia.” A maid had entered the study and informed them, “Lunch is being served on the terrace, and I’ve been ordered to lead you there.”
Both men cleaned up their workspace and followed the maid, who stared straight ahead of her the whole way.
“Here we are, your highness and Mr. Zarean.”
Raiden thanked the maid, and James winked at her, causing a blush to taint her cheeks.
The terrace was beautifully done, and Raiden was glad to be dining outside. He hadn’t checked out the gardens since he had arrived on castle grounds.
Raiden noticed a table a fair distance from where they stood. The King could identify the princess, for her silver hair was blowing in the breeze.
When they had made their way up to them, Raiden gave a stiff nod to the White King, as they were equals, and James bowed.
“It is a pleasure to meet the both of you once more away from diplomatic affairs.” King Dacian, the White King, greeted both men.
“The same to you,” Raiden remarked politely.
“My daughter says that the meeting between you two was successful.” the older King adds, and Raiden glanced at Malia. Her ears were pink in embarrassment.
He smirked. She probably remembered everything that happened last night.
It’s going to be so much fun toying with her.
In an hour, both Kings and their company had finished lunch. When Raiden finished chewing on his last bite, he asked Dacian a question.
“Would it be okay if my bride accompanies me on a walk?”
King Dacian was more than happy to oblige.
“Of course you may. I believe she’s done with her meal, aren’t you?”
“I am,” Malia responded, looking down. With the princess’s confirmation, Raiden stood up and rounded the table to Malia. Then he offered his arm, and Malia accepted it.
Raiden led them both down a stone path and deeper into the gardens.
Malia’s heart was pounding. She was nervous. How would she explain her actions yesterday? He must’ve known she was intoxicated and would be understanding... right?
Would he think that his fiancee was a total drunkard?
She gnawed on her lip anxiously.
“I seems you remember the events that took place yesterday.”
Malia stopped walking abruptly, and Raiden turned to face her. “Uh, yes,” she admitted. She’d considered lying, but there really was no point. It would only make things worse.
Raiden smirked at her honesty. “So you know what you did,” he stated, starting to walk again, and Malia hurried to catch up.
She nodded quietly, staring intently at the flowers they were in the midst of. If only she could disappear into their array of colors.
“I’m really sorry. I shouldn’t have gotten drunk last night,” she tells Raiden, facing the flowers, afraid of what his reaction may be.
She held her breath when she didn’t hear a response from him. After a moment of silence, she heard footsteps come closer, and Malia closed her eyes.
Warm fingers ran themselves through her hair, and she gasped at the feeling. They angled her around to face Raiden before suddenly stopping. His hands gently tugged on the strands they were holding. It wasn’t hard enough to hurt Malia, but she hissed at the slight stinging.
“Look at me when you talk to me.” Raiden scolded, his voice low and tantalizing. Malia bit her lip, clenching her thighs underneath her blue dress.
They stare at one another, not uttering a word. “Do you understand?” Raiden asked, breaking their silence.
“Yes,” Malia responded, but she didn’t think her voice would be so airy.
“Good.” He turned and began to walk. The remaining of their walk was in complete silence, and when they returned to the terrace once again, Malia had something weighing on her mind.
“When are you returning to the Red Kingdom?” she asked Raiden, who had turned to leave but stopped.
“You mean we, right?”
“We?” Malia was baffled. She believed that Raiden was heading to the Red Kingdom and when it was time for her to be wed, she would join him.
“Yes, we. You are going to be queen soon, and you must learn the way we run things and our way of life.” Raiden responded, clarifying for Malia. He’d thought that she already knew that she was to head back to his castle alongside him. “We are to leave in a week, so you must be ready and have said all your farewells.”
“No buts, it’s a part of the treaty. You need to get acquainted with my people, and we need to learn to tolerate one another.” Raiden said firmly and walked away, leaving Malia standing alone in the garden. She couldn’t utter a word of protest, for she knew he was right.
But why was she just informed? Malia and her father had gone over a draft of the treaty a few weeks ago, and she knew what it entailed, but they never spoke about this.
She needed some answers.
Malia found her father in his office, wearing his glasses and reading a few documents in the presence of his advisors.
“Afternoon Malia, you know not to come unannounced when I’m working.” The advisors nodded, agreeing with the King and curious about what the princess was here for. She never broke the rules and had never visited her father without telling him prior.
“I do, but this is extremely important.”
“In that case, what’s the problem?” King Dacian removed his glasses and started wiping the lenses, waiting for Malia to speak.
“I’d like to speak to you privately, father,” she requested, and the King waved his hand. His advisors filed out quickly.
“Now, what is it?”
“Why didn’t you tell me that I’m heading over to the Red Kingdom, and nevertheless in a week!” She crossed her arms, and her father only shook his head.
“You were supposed to leave in two weeks, but King Raiden has work that he must attend to,” the White King told her as if it was a sufficient answer to her question.
“So? We never discussed that I was supposed to go in the first place, and I’m definitely not prepared,” she ranted, her voice rising quickly.
“What did you expect? To be here until your wedding? You must start your role as queen quickly. Even if your coronation hasn’t commenced, you must already be a queen to his Kingdom.” Malia’s father started to get agitated at the way his daughter was acting.
“But it isn’t fair.” Malia tried to say something to block out her insufferable reality.
“We must all make sacrifices, and you must for the welfare of our Kingdom. Let the war end once and for all.”
“But that doesn’t come first, does it?” she asked, tears welling in her grey eyes.
“Yes, it does.” King Dacian affirmed.
“Even before family?”
“Always before family.” The fact that her father didn’t hesitate to respond, and with no emotion, angered Malia.
Hot, angry tears spilled from her eyes, and Malia grit her teeth as she exited the room. She slammed the door shut and then took a moment to breathe.
To think her father cared for his Kingdom more than his own family broke her heart.
Wiping her tears, Malia walked briskly to her room. Wanting to break down alone in the confines of her bedroom.
Javion knocked on the door of his sister’s room. Only sniffles were heard, and he knew it was from the argument with their father.
The advisors made it known that the King and princess had some altercation a few hours before. Before the crown prince had come to his sister’s aid, he’d made sure that all the rumors circulating were shut down immediately.
Or else, there might be an accident, and someone might not live to see tomorrow.
“Malia, can I come in?” he asked politely. Toning down any edge that could be heard in his voice.
Opening the door, a bit of light entered the dark room. Malia’s curtains were closed, and a bump on the bed let Javion know where his sister was.
He sat on the edge of the bed and opened his mouth, ready to comfort his sister when it hit him. He didn’t know what to say. He’d come all the way here with the idea of soothing his little sister but didn’t know what he was going to say.
Thank goodness, he didn’t need to speak as Malia sat up.
“You didn’t have to come all the way here.” Rubbing her nose, she looked down. Her hair created a curtain, giving her a bit of privacy.
“I didn't have to, but I wanted to. You’re my sister. I care about you.” Malia’s head snapped up to face Javion. A frown marred her features.
“Father doesn’t,” she stated.
“Is that what you argued about? Father not caring about you?” Javion inquired. He didn’t know for sure what the princess and King were speaking about that got them riled up.
“Kind of. I wanted to ask him why he didn’t inform me that I had to go over to the Red Kingdom in a week.” Malia unloaded unto her brother, and he sighed.
He knew his sister was leaving soon. It was a late request of King Raiden’s as he had work to attend in his province, so they added it on a day before the agreement.
Javion believed that his father had informed Malia as he said he was going to. But it seemed he didn’t.
What a mess.
“He said he was going to, and I believed him. I should’ve told you myself. Is that why you’re crying?” the crown prince glanced at Malia’s face, her eyes were swollen from crying, and her cheeks were red.
“No, the conversation escalated quickly, and father mentioned that he puts the Kingdom's needs over us, his family.”
Javion bristled, but he knew that a long time ago. The crown prince had been a neglected child growing up, it was only the late Queen that gave him attention, and when she died, any affection from his father departed with her.
“That may be so for father, but I’ll never put anything over you. You’re my sister. I’m going to look after you, I pro,” he told Malia earnestly, and a small smile appeared on her face.
She hugged her brother, and he only chuckled. “I’m going to miss you,” Malia told him truthfully, hugging him tighter.
“I’m going to miss you too, but I need you to promise me something.”
Malia pulled away. “What?”
“That you’ll be strong on my behalf. Don’t let anyone downgrade you. You’re going to be an amazing Queen, I know it.”
“I promise Javion.”
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