Chapter 9: No Goodbyes
THE Home Coming ball for the Crown Prince who had just returned after four months on a business trip was grand and magnificent.
Aside from welcoming back the Crown Prince, it was an opportunity for noblemen to mingle with the Royal families and the higher rank nobility. The mingle conversations between the noblemen and the higher rank nobility ranged from the unpredictable weather to the market’s price in the town skyrocketed, to political.
One common topic that often came out from their mouth was the mysterious Honourable Guest that His Royal Highness the Prince claimed to be his dear friend from the ’Other World’.
Some of them were actually quite excited to see the Prince’s Honourable Guest, for they have plenty of questions to ask regarding the Other World. Others were merely curious and wondered just how a plain Commoner got to befriended with their Crown Prince in the first place.
Though their ambition to meet with the Honourable Guest quickly being dashed when they were being told by the royal guards the Prince has personally requested for his Honourable Guest’s privacy ought to be respected.
Somewhere guarded and far away from the public’s eyes, Anya Roman sighed tiredly. Initially assumed that she would attract many attentions while dressed beautifully in a red gown (after all, when else would she be wearing it if not tonight?) to her disappointed, Aidan had informed her due to the Prince surely getting a lot of attention tonight, hence, His Highness has entrusted to leave her in his care.
“This is really not what I expected,” Anya yawned tiredly for what seemed to be her fifteenth times of that night. Seated at the high table amongst the Royal family, she grown incredibly tired of watching high noblemen gave boring speeches and rambling endlessly on their loyalty and devotion to the royal family.
“Then, shall we have your sleeping legs to move awhile after this speeches end?”
At his suggestion, Anya quickly leapt back to life and straightened her back. “Am I finally allow to mingle with the noblemen?”
Aidan smiled partially but didn’t reply.
Once the last nobleman ended his speech, the audience gave him a big round of claps. As the crowd left to mingle, the dance floor began to open, Anya felt someone tucked her arms. Looking up, she saw a gloved hand held out for her to take.
“Shall we then?”
“Tell me something again.”
“Of all the noblemen who are available tonight and wished to waltz with me, why am I stuck here with you?”
“Why, Miss Romans... Do you detest being with me that much?”
Anya scoffed, twirling graciously on the dance floor.
“Please. This is the closest that we’ve ever been with each other since the first time we met. It’s become a well-known fact that you and I are like water and oil. We simply cannot be mixed, otherwise, we’ll murder each other. Don’t tell me you’ve gone soft simply because I look ravenously gorgeous tonight?”
“These marble floors are much more endurable to look at compared to you, Miss Romans. I strongly advice do not flatter yourself.”
Soon the music drawing to a stately end. Aidan released her, stepped back, and bowed, and Anya hastily curtsy as applause erupted on every side.
Aidan was escorting her back to their seats when someone stopped them.
“My, I never knew the talk of the night would be so beautifully gorgeous in person!”
Anya blinked rapidly at the tall, middle-aged figure with a glass on his right hand, smiling lecherously while two guards were about to interfere but they were stopped by Aidan who raised a hand at them.
“You, my dear! You’re the most talked conversation I’ve heard tonight. I just could not resist finding out just who was the troublemaker from the Other World who had caused a ruckus in the castle earlier. But my oh my... who would have thought the troublemaker would be someone so beautiful to look at. Yes. A rare flower, indeed...”
Anya swallowed the gulp on her throat. and smiled politely. “Thank you for your comments, kind Sir. I’m flattered.”
The man raised his glass in the air. “No. Thank you. May we have the chance to be able to speak again tonight. Or perhaps you would enlighten me with a round of dance later?”
“I’ll think about it.”
The older man winked before he walked away, leaving Anya completely stunned.
“That was Lord Harmon. You must not let your guards down around that man,” Aidan’s stiffed voice caught her attention.
Holding a glass of red wine in his hand, Aidan kept his gaze on Lord Harmon who was happily chatting and mingling with the noblemen.
“Is he dangerous?”
“Yes. Men like Lord Harmon are sharp and very cunning. He certainly knows how to obtain certain information without being too obvious. In fact, he was merely testing the water on you. He wanted to know just how valuable you are to the Royal family, by approaching you casually. Which is why I ordered the guards earlier to stand down and let him be. We must not let him suspect anything.”
“There’s a specific reason why His Highness the Prince did not want you to be left on your own tonight, Miss Romans — to keep men like Lord Harmon at bay. What you’ve encountered earlier was just the beginning.“
“Luckily for you, he stepped down because I’m here with you. Had you were to be left alone, there’s no telling what else would he’d be able to gather by just having a conversation with you. Not only that, Men like Lord Harmon looked down upon women and only see them only as tools to serve and satisfied their sexual needs and desire. That explained the way he looked at you.”
“What!” Rage overcame Anya like tidal waves.
“Please bear in mind the way the world here works is highly different from your world, Miss Romans. Women in this world believe that getting married and bearing children are the most fulfilling achievement as a woman.”
“Backward thinking, I couldn’t agree more. Though you’ll be pleased to know both His Majesty and His Royal Highness are working hard to encourage women to have the education they needed and offer jobs, however, small there are, to them. It all started with Lady Marian who first came to this world when she was sixteen years old. Lady Marian reacted no differently from yourself just now and made a vow to help these women earned their education by teaching them how to read and count. Her hard works eventually paid off when His Majesty, who had been very impressed with her thoughtfulness of his people, that he launched a campaign that would ensure women to earn their education throughout the country, despite the many backlashes he faced from the nobility and the Senate.”
“Let me guess, Lord Harmon was one of the nobility who was against it?”
Aidan nodded. “Though it’ll take some time, for the nobility to accept the fact women too deserve an education, considering how stubborn the other Lords in the Senate are, slowly but surely, things are progressing well. It is much better than not doing anything at all. Don’t you agree?”
Anya firmly nodded. She really hoped Duke and his father were able to change the mindset of the men here. Degrading and belittling women should be something to condemned for.
Listening to Aidan’s story, Anya could not help to feel envious of Marian. She now understood why a man such as Duke would fell head of heels for a complete stranger because of her big heart.
Even someone like Aidan showed respect of the woman by the way he addressed her.
SOME time passed by when Duke finally able to greet them at the Royal table.
“My apologies for not able to entertain you soonest, Miss Anya,” Duke eagerly took an empty seat beside her.
“The senators have been very eager to know regarding the ‘business trip’. I’m running away while letting my father deals with them. ”
“Your Highness,” Aidan scolded.
Duke playfully swatted his hand in the air, then focused his attention on Anya. He smiled warmly and asked, “Are you enjoying the night so far?”
“Mmhm. Not as bad as I’d initially thought it would be.”
“Excellent. I was quite worried leaving you two together, but I’m glad things worked out well, ” Duke reached out and patted her head gently.
“That reminds me. My father would like to meet with you, Miss Anya. You there, please let my father knows that I have the Honourable Guest here with me if he wishes to meet her.”
“Yes, Your Highness,” The guard saluted and left to deliver the message.
“He should be here any minutes now. Don’t fret, Miss Anya! My father’s not going to eat you — at least I have not yet seen him doing so...”
“So this is the ‘Honourable Guest’ you’ve mentioned about, Duke?” Came a deep voice belonged to King Edwin.
Anya had never been so terrified her whole life meeting a person moreover so as she stood before a tall, muscular and intimidating man with the size of a large beast.
He had the face of a man who had just killed someone and still lusting for blood and sharp eyes with menacing glares that would have killed anything that moves in seconds.
Pale as white, Anya turned her attention from the King to His Highness the Prince with a gleeful smile.
Are they really related?
“Finally I get to meet with the young lady, whom my son wouldn’t stop talking about,” King Edwin’s deep voice broke any thoughts Anya had, leaving her standing awkwardly in front of the man.
“I-It is truly an honour to meet with you, Your Majesty.” Anya bowed curtly.
“As Duke has informed me, the reason why you are here due to the unfortunate circumstances whereby you had forgotten to return something that is very precious to him, that is also an heirloom to this kingdom. Is that correct, Miss Romans?”
“Yes. But I did not—,”
“Do you intend to steal the heirloom and use it as a threat against our existence, Miss Romans?”
“Father! This is not what we have discussed. Furthermore, Miss Anya would never do such things!”
Anya looked up to the King straight in the eyes.
“You Majesty, With all due respect, I apologise sincerely for not returning the engagement ring to His Highness throughout the whole time he spent living with my family. However, would Your Majesty really think anyone would believe me if I told about the mere existence of this world? I think not. Modern day people where I am from are not so biased of the supernatural. Heck, they won’t even believe in magic unless it happens to them a few times, and even so...”
Clearing her throat, Anya continued. “My point is that an engagement ring will be useless for me to use as a bribe against His Royal Highness.”
A long silence occurred between them. Even the noblemen stopped their chattering and were watching the exchange in awe.
“Useless, you say?” A loud roar of chuckles came from the King himself, much to the shock of everyone. The laughter slowly faded as King Edwin inhaled deeply.
“You really have no idea, do you?” Turning his back at her, King Edwin spoke again.
“You are welcome to stay as long as you want, Honourable Guest. Please, make yourself at home. Aidan, come forward.”
“Your Majesty?” Aidan moved toward the King, tilted his head and nodded.
“What are you standing there for? Play the music! The night is still long! Let’s party all night!”
Immediately the music began to play and the crowd started to chatter and dance again.
Three people, however, remained still on spot: the Crown Prince, his butler and the Honourable Guest.
Anya shot a curious look at Duke who was surprised himself at what just transmitted between them earlier.
“Aidan, what did my father say to you just now?”
“His Majesty merely said to send the Honourable Guest back to her home safely when she leaves,” Aidan replied calmly.
The Crown Prince wasn’t really convinced but he let it go and sighed.
“I suppose it is getting rather late for Miss Anya to stay up. Shall we head back?”
“Before we do, here, Duke,” Anya returned the now stained engagement ring. “Sorry, it wasn’t as shiny as before. the blood stain was hard to remove.”
Duke took the engagement ring in his hand and inspected closely.
“Thank you, Miss Anya. Though, I do have a confession to make — I admitted of forgetting about the ring as time passed. Hence, I will take responsibility for the ruckus caused at the castle earlier.”
“So what now?”
The three walked toward a beautiful Rose Garden. Beyond this Rose, garden lied the new portal which enabled the Crown Prince and his butler to arrive safely from the Other World.
“I would most probably be stuck with months of worthy and endless paper works which my father has kindly left them on my desk,” Duke grimaced. He absolutely not looking forward to it.
“Tough job being a prince, huh? What would you do with the penthouse you’ve just bought? Sell it?”
“Absolutely not. We’ll keep it, of course. It’s nice to have a place to stay in the Other World for whenever I’ll come to visit. Or when I feel like escaping from being a Prince,” Duke winked at Anya, which she chuckled.
“Absolutely not, Your Highness. Did you not learn enough after all we’ve been through? Please know that I shall keep all available keys to the penthouse so that you may not stay there and treat it as an escaped hideout whenever you please.”
Duke rolled his eyes playfully. He then turned to Anya and say, “As for your family and friends, I’ve already ordered Aidan to cast a memory spell on them when you return home. They shall not remember a thing about us.”
A wave of sadness overwhelmed him as he reminisced from their first meeting up until today when Anya had so kindly taught him to make his first dinner.
“Though everything that happened is my fault, I have no regrets we crossed the path, Miss Anya. To be truthfully honest, I hesitate to send you home now. I feel like we’ve grown closer like a family.”
A soft smile graced upon Anya’s pink lips. She raised one hand from the Prince’s shoulders.
“Dummy. Why are you being sentimental for? You can come and visit me anytime. Speaking of visit, did you manage to finally contact Marian and tell her what happened?”
Duke smiled sheepishly. “I did, but only for a little while. I felt guilty to have caused her to worry about me when she has specifically informed me that she would be busy with her dance recitals until August.”
“August? That’s just like two months away!”
Duke said nothing. With flushed cheeks, he say, “I just couldn’t wait.”
Anya snorted and hit the Crown Prince on the arm slightly hard.
“I don’t think what you’ve done was wrong at all. Sure, you’ve caused me more trouble than your worth. See the thing is, when you’re in love with someone, you wanted to spend every moment with that person. It’s very common. I can’t possibly imagine the feelings to have a long distance relationship — in your case, a time-travelling long distance relationship! When you love someone, sometimes, they’re just all you could think about - till the point that it might drive you crazy. I guess that’s what they say crazily in love.”
“Thank you, Miss Anya,” Duke smiled. “I hope you will find someone whom you can be crazily in love with.” He raised an eyebrow, “Say, Mr Aaron Carter?”
Anya felt her face warm up instantly. With a groan, she glared sharply at the mentioned of her crush’s name.
“I think I’d better go. My brain is starting to go crazy on me if I don’t sleep soon.”
“Of course. Aidan, would you kindly escort the lady and make sure she arrives safely home?”
Aidan nodded. With a swing of his hand, he reactivated the magical portal.
“I’m going to miss you so much!” Duke pulled Anya into a firm hug. “I’ll make sure to take great care of the mobile phone that you’ve given me. Feel free to call anytime, Miss Anya.”
“You’d better answer when I call or else!” Anya chuckled. “Thank you. I’m so glad I got to meet someone like you, Duke.”
“And I am to you.”
Pulling away, Anya made a curtsy bow.
“Take care of yourself, Your Highness.”
“Take care of yourself too, Miss Anya. Call me if something happens,” His tone loses its playfulness. “Zenon is still in your world. Now that I’m back here, there’s no telling if he’s still interested in you or not.”
“Got it. I’ll be more careful,” Anya nodded.
The Prince and the commoner said their final goodbyes and goodnight before Aidan wrapped one arm around Anya’s waist and entered the magical portal.
As soon as they stepped into the portal, it felt like she was being sucked into a whirlwind, quick yet it made her head spinning so much, Anya thought she might empty her stomach right there.
Slowly opened her eyes, Anya noticed the first thing that caught her attention was Casey’s small frame, hissing at her. Groaned, Anya started to pull herself away lying on the bed, with face down when she felt something wrapped around her waist.
It was then Anya realised she was sitting on top of someone in a very compromised position.
Quickly pulled away embarrassingly, with her face felt incredibly hot, Anya stared at the handsome butler still lying on the floor.
“My apology, Miss Romans. I didn’t have enough time to prepare a perfect landing. Though, you might want to cut down some of the calories that you’ve been eating,” He grinned cheekily. “I’d almost dropped you back there.”
“Y-You calling me FAT?!”
Hands reached out in the air, Anya grabbed a nearby pillow and attempted to hit him with it. To her surprise, Aidan didn’t avoid the attack like he normally does.
Putting one finger on his lips, Aidan says, “Shhh. You do not want your mother to hear the commotion, do you? Moreover at this late hour...”
He pointed at the clock on the wall. It showed the time at three o’clock in the morning.
Anya scowled but said nothing. Checking for any signs of injuries, she sighed in relief when there was none.
“I need to get change. Uh, Thank you... For bringing me home safely, Aidan.”
There she goes. Saying his name softly like it was a sacred prayer. Not to mention, the red glowed on her cheeks when she’s embarrassed, was absolutely adorable.
Despite his humorous tease about her being an ugly duckling on numerous occasions, there was no doubt in his mind Anya was, in fact, a pleasure to look at.
Silently, Aidan dusted himself as he got up to his feet.
“Very well. I’ll be taking my leave then.”
Anya nodded and waited for him to leave when he once again did something totally unexpected — Aidan took by the hand and kissed the back of her hand.
When Aidan released her hand a moment later, he looked at her with unreadable emotions in his eyes.
“Farewell, Miss Romans,” With a snap of his fingers, the man disappeared in the thin air.
TWO whole months passed by peacefully after her last encountered with the Excalibellian Prince and his butler at the Home Coming ball. As promised, things returned to normal, as if the four months never happened.
Though it was hard for Anya not to struck with sadness (yes, she finally admitted she felt sad now that the two men were gone), during the first few weeks after they’d left, nevertheless, Anya moved on with her life.
As for Duke’s warning on Zenon, she had not heard nor seen the Demon Prince anywhere near her ever since their so-called ‘date’.
“I must have made a very horrible impression on him, he decided I’m not worth pursuing anymore,” Anya joked.
Within in the two months, a lot of things have changed. One of it involving Anya who was now a proud bridesmaid to her best friend Emma Greens for her upcoming wedding!
The next day when she had found out her two best friends in the whole world, now happily engaged, Anya had been utterly happy and jumped for joy for hours. She invited the newly engaged couple back home for a small celebration with champagne she’d asked Josh to grab before heading home and home cooked dinner.
Aside from the engagement news, Dean, Anya’s oldest brother, made a quick recovery from the car accident he was involved in. Though the doctor’s advised him not to work in the kitchen yet, at least he could monitor the restaurant.
It was the first week of August, Friday night when Anya just finished wrapping up Homez’s for tomorrow’s business.
After washing the dishes, Anya carried two large plastic bags filled with garbage to the waste bin outside of the cafe. She placed them inside the bin and huffed once her job was done.
Stretched her arms and back after a long hard day at school and work, Anya had just finished her mid-term examination and looked forward to the two weeks of long vacation starting tomorrow.
Just as she was about to return to Homez’s, Anya saw a silhouette figure of a tall man across the road and waved a hand at her.
Anya scowled deeply. One hand gripped tightly on the doorknob, she barely could identify who the man was from the distance, but he was starting to creep her out.
Anya would have entered the restaurant but chose not to while her mother was inside, counting all the profits they made today.
What if Anya decided to run and the man decided to pursue after her? She would be putting them both in grave danger.
None of them made a move until a minute later, the figure suddenly grinned at her. Chills ran down her spine and she quickly slammed the door shut when he dissolved in thin air.
That same night, Anya couldn’t sleep. She felt cold chills still lingered on her spine and nearly told her mother what had happened.
Tossed and turned on her bed restlessly, Anya groaned and decided she wouldn’t be getting asleep at this rate.
Hand reached out to her mobile phone on the side of the table, Anya scrolled down the ‘Contact List’ until the name that she seeks for appeared on the screen.
Anya stared blankly at the number. She admitted, if this was any normal ‘stalking business’, she would be able to handle it herself. The fact that it wasn’t and Anya knew better than to handle the mysterious figure on her own.
Hesitatingly, her finger pressed the call button and wait for the recipient to answer. After several minutes of waiting, Anya almost gave up and cancelled the call when the recipient finally answered.
“H-Hey!” Her voice suddenly turned into high-pitched. Anya took a deep breath and gulped heavily.
“I have to say this is rather surprising, hearing from you. Is everything all right?”
Anya gripped tightly on her blanket, caused Casey to hiss at her annoyingly for disturbing her sleep.
“Um, maybe? How are you, though? How’s the Prince? I don’t want to disturb him in case he’s busy doing on whatever it is a Princely duty he does. That’s why I call you instead. Isn’t that just fantastic?”
On the other side, she heard him sighed. “So instead of bothering His Highness, you see fit to call me?”
Anya bit her lower lip. “Sorry. Is this a bad time to call you? Because there’s a reason why I’m making this call, you know.”
“And what might that reason be?”
“I need you to come here, as soon as possible. Something happened to me tonight and I’m pretty sure that a normal man could not possibly be dissolved in thin air.”
“Dissolved, you say?”
“Yes,” As Anya proceeded to tell the Gran Mago what happened, she declined to hear Casey’s hissing and growling at something at the window.
“Whatever it was, it must have come from your side.”
“Indeed, Miss Romans. In that case, I shall head there shortly. In the meanwhile, I’d appreciate if you—”
A sudden loud crash and glass being smashed, followed by Anya’s loud screaming broke the conversation.
“Miss Romans? Anya!” Aidan shouted over the phone.
Wasting no time, Aidan who had finished taking a shower after a long day at work, with a towel wrapped around his waist, disappeared from his private bathroom.
Aidan appeared in Anya’s bedroom in less than seconds later completed in his normal attire. He found the place was in a wreck. Her bedroom windows were being smashed with scattered glasses lying on the floor.
Getting down on his knees, he picked up something that instantly caught his eyes and confirmed his suspicion.
A small piece of moulded scales.