The Ballroom Meeting
“You fell in love with a child?” Victoria shot Alima with a strange judgemental look.
“Must all love be romantic?” Alima said.
“Did you ever see that child again?” Victoria asked. Alima opened her mouth to speak but was interrupted by the knock of their hotel door.
Attention guests! The ball starts in an hour!
Earlier, Alima had hired a wake up man. In the kingdom, there were no alarm clocks or any sorts of electronics to remind you of your schedule, so they hired a door-knocker instead. Their job was to knock on the door and remind you of your schedule.
“Alright then!” Alima shouted. “Looks like our time is up,” Alima gave Victoria a little smirk. “We better get dressed.”
Victoria hundreds of questions for Alima but they would be forever unanswered. Alima tossed Victoria her dress and it flew across the room and landed on Victoria’s face. She peeled the dress off her face and sighed.
“Such joy, the ball,” she said sarcastically. Alima rolled her eyes and the two quickly got dressed and left.
Alima had rented a seahorse and they rode to the castle. When they had arrived, Victoria looked up and let herself be awed. The castle was so tall that the tip of it almost reached the surface of the sea and its walls were made of several materials. It was mostly made of stone coral but if you looked closely, traces of remains of shipwrecks and seashells were used in its making. There were several guards that stood by the main gate. The majority of them were mermen. Mermen weren’t exactly what you would picture. At least, the original mermen. They were rugged and they always scowled. But there were also mermen who were benevolent and friendly. But the original mermen were also very aggressive, which was mainly why most mermaids tended to fall in love with human men and not mermen. They wore armor made of unbreakable searock and held swords were made of the bones of sunfish.
“Do we need a pass or something of the sort?” Victoria whispered. She was afraid the mermen would hear them.
“Already taken care of,” Alima said and held the invitation between her fingers. They showed the invitation to the guards and passed. Once they were inside, they were up for another surprise.
The place boomed with loud music and the ballroom was lit up with bedazzling multi-colored lights.
“You are joking,” Victoria said and gawked at the scene that took place in front of her. Merfolk were moving their bodies to the beat and happily chatted with each other. “This is a ball?”
“Of course,” Alima said. “They don’t have parties where you come from?” Victoria shook her head. Where she came from, there were no music, unless caws of the penguins counted and the grunts of the polar bears. There weren’t parties either. Antarctic mermaids were not well-known for their social culture.
“Come,” Alima said and led the way. The dinner table should be around here. Victoria swam behind her and halted when Alima stopped near a long table. Sitting there was the North Atlantic queen and five other exotic mermaids. Alima quickly and formally greeted the queen and introduced herself to the guests. Then, Alima introduced Victoria.
“Your majesty, you remember…” Alima had just remembered that it was she that named her. “She goes by Victoria now,” Alima said. “And Victoria, these girls right here,” Alima gestured to the mermaids who were sitting down at the table. Some of them waved. “These girls are also involved in the search of the princess.” The girls took turns greeting Victoria.
“Hello,” The first mermaid said cheerfully. “I am Maria and I come from the Caribbeans.” She had a sun-kissed complexion. Her caramel brown hair was braided down her back and her tail was a bright neon blue. The next mermaid introduced herself.
She had dark black skin and a shaved head. And when she smiled, her pearly white teeth lit up the room. “I am Garai, and I come from the river of Zambezi.” Victoria mouthed, wow. River mermaids existed but they never visited the ocean because the salt of the ocean would burn them. But apparently, this girl was an exception. Her tail was a dull gray but by just looking at it, Victoria could tell that she was a strong swimmer. Her tail was thick and long and its fluke slightly flared. Her tail was also sleek to help her to cut through the river’s rushing currents. The third mermaid introduced herself.
“Greetings,” said the next mermaid. She was the smallest of them all and had long silky black hair that was put in an updo and her eyes were a cold brown. “I am Xi Shi. I come from the South China sea. It is an honor to meet you all.” She bowed her head. Xi Shi had pale porcelain skin and her arms moved gracefully whenever she would use them. Her tail was a deep red and her tail was short and thin. The longer Victoria stared at her, the more suspicious she became. There was something off about her. The fourth girl introduced herself.
“Hello. I am Phoebe and I am from the Aegean sea.” She had long golden orange curly hair that was woven with pearls and colorful fish scales. She was fair skinned and had sparkling green eyes. Her tail was blue as a tuna fish.
And the last girl finally spoke. She seemed very relaxed as if she didn’t care. “What’s up everybody! I’m Katie and I’m from the beach of California!” She had dyed blonde hair and a slight orange tan. Her tail was green and it was long and had a wide fluke which meant she was a slow swimmer. Then again, if you were from California, was there even a need to rush?
Victoria and Alima were face to face with their competitors. For the first time in her life, Victoria had felt intimidated. All of these girls had came from across the world to rescue the princess for a prize they wished with all their hearts.
“Sit,” The queen demanded. Victoria and Alima sat and the servants arrived with two plates of food. Victoria was served live squid. The squid was a light pink and had one small eye. Alima’s plate was filled to its limit with seaslugs. The guests begun eating. When they all finished and the plates were cleared, the queen cleared her throat.
“The meeting shall begin. Inform me of your progress.”
The mermaids spoke in order.
“There are no signs of her in the south China sea, your majesty.”
“No signs in Zimbabwe or the rivers of Africa, M'am.”
“Same thing in Greece, M'am.”
But before the next mermaid had the chance to speak, Victoria said, “The princess is in North America.” The girls were silenced and they gave their undivided attention to Victoria. Alima gave her a harsh glare that said shut up but Victoria ignored her. Although the both of them had decided to team up, Victoria felt the need to take charge.
“You’ve found her?” The queen said, a part of her lit up with joy.
“No your majesty. But Alima and I have found some evidence. Alima’s brows shot up. Alima had thought Victoria had brought nothing with her. But Alima was wrong. Victoria dug into the hollows of her dress and pulled out broken shards of the princess’s aquamarine looking glass and the portrait of Abhilash. Victoria had taken them from Alima when she wasn’t looking! Alima was furious but she kept it hidden. She did not want to be removed from the case. Victoria presented the broken looking glass first.
“This was the looking glass of the princess. We found it…” Victoria didn’t know where it was found. She didn’t ask Alima.
“__stuck in the corals of the Great Barrier Reef,” Alima finished Victoria’s sentence.
“But that would mean you found it near Australia,” said Maria. “I thought you said the princess was in North America.”
“I saw once!” Victoria said. “She was being dragged by the hand of a man.” Victoria pulled out the portrait and pointed at him. “It was this man!”
The mermaids gasped and the queen slammed her hand on the table. “FIND HIM!” the queen roared. She roared so loud that the entire party stopped. Merfolk starred. The queen lowered her voice. But blood-thirst in her dark brown eyes did not disappear.
“All of you are reassigned. Maria, Xi Shi, and Garai. You three are reassigned to north America. Phoebe and Katie, you two will be reassigned to Australia.” The girls nodded their heads. The queen turned to Victoria and Alima and said, “You two, keep your eyes open for anymore clues.” The queen’s expression became darker and she said lowly, “And if you ever find that man, do not hesitate to destroy him. Is that understood?”
Victoria and Alima nodded their heads.
“The meeting is dismissed.” The queen said this and left the table. “All of you are to go to your assigned areas.” Her dark green tail flicked gracefully and slowly. When she left, Alima turned to Victoria and she frowned.
“You took the looking glass and the portrait.” Alima said. She was less angry, but she did feel betrayed.
“I’m sorry,” Victoria said. “But it’s not what you think. I just figured that we might need it to show the queen.” Alima sighed and patted Victoria on the back.
“I trust you,” Alima said and smiled. “But the next time you break my trust I’ll snap your neck.” Victoria’s smile dropped and they both laughed together.
“Come, let’s get back to the hotel.” And they rode their seahorse back.