Chapter 37 - Round Table
Slowly, the grin on Eric's face went wider—almost evilish—upon hearing the confirmation of his triump.
It didn't surprise me that Macforth agreed to what Eric has in store—even though he's yet to disclose it—because the moment we entered his quarters, Eric seemed like he knows what he's talking about.
Clearly, he's finished planning for tomorrow, there's no denying that. All he needed was Macforth's yes, a solidification of his will, and then the plan's ready to roll out.
"Just back me up, hun. All you need to do is say yes to what I say, lemme do the rest of the work. You will not regret the day you take side with the almighty Primeric Yukio Takizaki." He threw himself back to the bed, shaking both of us a little.
Macforth almost rolled his eyes at Eric's words, but I find myself entertained at their conversation.
Before meeting Eric, I thought Dave and Macforth are the total opposite of each other. One that's welcoming, and one that's reserved. One that's light, and one that's dark—in a good way.
And it's adorable watching them together.
"But really, why did you do it?"
"Don't you have better things to do?"
"Alright, you ill-tempered one. Leggo find the gullibles, before you change your mind." Eric was on his feet then.
"It'll be easier if they'll hear the news from us." He was towing Macforth and I out of the room before we knew it. And I find it funny—delightful even— that Macforth just let Eric do what he wants, especially when it's out of Macforth's character.
"They're in my room, we're suppose to be having dinner right now." His face lightened up at my words. It's as if good news are piling up for him tonight.
But guilt instanly washed over me, realizing I starved my friends, waiting for me. Knowing Dave, he would never touch his food until I arrived, because we planned having dinner together. Despite his hunger, he wouldn't touch his food, even though we both know I won't mind.
"Great. Now, as for you, I want you to remain silent, and lemme do the talking. Don't ruin this one shot we got." His eyes were shooting daggers at me.
I nodded, assuring him my compliance.
Eric went on, instructing us, as we turned to the next hallway where Errol's and my assigned room are.
I shivered, walking. The night breeze, effortlessly making their way into the long hallway, due to the openness of the castle.
"Remember, Forth, just say yes and agree to what I'll say. Then we're all good."
Maforth just let out a loud sigh of annoyance before walking faster than us. He might not say it, but it's very obvious that he just wanted to end this charade the soonest possible time.
"Alright, let's go, team!"
That made me smile. The idea that we're on a team is very comforting. Another sense of belongingness caressed my whole existence.
We stop in front of the gigantic wooden door, the first door in the infinite hallway, my assigned room.
"Forth." All three of us turned around before I could pull the knob down.
It was Jermond who called. His face's so serious, and it saddens me that his eyes are steady on me as he makes his way to Macforth. It's as if, he's mentally communicating with me.
It's a shame that even through that, I don't want to hear what he has to say to me. Coward.
"Go inside. I'll follow." His face, blank.
"K." Eric opened the door for us. He didn't even bother to say hi to his brother nor invite him for dinner, although I think I already know how he would respond especially that I'm here.
I sighed, entering the room with him.
"What's for dinner? I'm famished." He said, going straight to the table, announcing our presence in the room.
Errol and Dave just watched him. They're not even surprise that Eric's with me. I'm guessing, they'd probably expected him to eat with us.
I took one last glance at Macforth before closing the door behind me.
"Hello." Both guy smiled at my greeting.
Now, I don't know if this place doesn't have electricity, or they're just maximing the use of the moonlight, and letting it illuminates the whole room through the massive window. Either way, it looks entrancing.
And the lit candles on the table, just made our dinner more special.
"I'm sorry have you been waiting for long?"
"Not at all." Errol answered, still polite even though we all know how long I'd been gone.
I went straight to the bedside table, placing Peach's home out of plain sight. I didn't want them asking about it, before Eric could actually begin rolling out what he planned. I wanted to fulfill my end of the plan, to let Eric do the talking, and not ruin our shot.
I placed Peach in my backpack, but I didn't close the zipper. The darkness and confinement of my bag will only scare her if she decides to step out of her home. So I just let it open.
I started walking to our friends.
Eric, on the other hand was walking to my bed. Before he walked pass me, his eyes reminded me one last time not to blow our chance.
I nodded, assuring him that his unspoken message was received.
Eric continued going to my bed, with a plateful of bizarre food on his hand, then threw himself on it.
On a normal occasion, I would've called his attention for bringing food on the bed, but right now, my mind is somewhere else. I'm actually testing the mood in the room, I'm thinking what would Dave and Errol's reaction be once we started explaining to them what happened.
"You haven't eaten yet. I'm sorry." I feel bad, staring at the clean plates on the table. Even though I'm completely aware that they won't touch the food, I'm still hoping they'd already eaten, even just a little, I won't mind since it's my fault I'm late.
I could only imagine how starve these two are right now because of me. I know, because I'm starving too.
"It's okay." Dave assured me, already filling my empty chalice.
I was about to sit beside Dave, but I notice the table could only accomodate four people, and I remember that Macforth will join us any minute. I'm sure he wouldn't find it very comforting if he has to sit beside Errol.
On the other hand, I'm happy that Eric noticed it too. He's thoughtful enough not to let Macforth sat on the bed, like what he's doing now. It will only make Macforth more uncomfortable.
So, I took the seat next to Errol instead, and let the chair beside Dave available. I believe both guys noticed my hesitation on the chairs, but none of them commented.
"Don't worry about it." He added.
I glanced at the door, waiting for Macforth. I don't know what he and Jermond are talking right now, but if it's about him making me his protectorate, then Jermond's probably arguing with him now. Without a doubt.
Macforth has been consistent to either remain neutral or occasionally side with Jermond when it comes to my involvement in this magical world, so I'm guessing, this whole protectorate thing won't sit well with Jermond.
I hope he wouldn't think that our friends are siding with me, because that's far from the truth. They wouldn't do that to him, nor to anyone. It just happens that Jermond has his own way for unravelling things. And I understand where he's coming from. But at the end of the day, there's no sides here. We're all for the truth.
"Let's eat." I encouraged. My stomach, grumbling.
I reached for the bowl that contains an illuminating soup-like in it. It's literally glowing, like it's a pulverized pixie dust that's turned into a soup.
When I taste it, it's like the heavens opened up in front of me. The taste is utterly foreign to my tongue. It doesn't fall under the category of sweet, or spicy, nor bitter, sour, or salty. It is on a different level of taste that my race is yet to discover.
"Errol and I were talking about the guys bothering you at school..." I was choking with the soup. His words caught me off guard.
It has just been hours since my return here in Utovaj, but I'd already forgotten all about the incident in the university, or my home. I was so caught up in my suppose involvement in this magical place, I'd forgotten my own predicament, things I really have to deal with once I get back to my homeland. It's as if, I'd already forgotten I have my own life.
Being in Utovaj, it felt like it has been eternity that has passed, making my memories blurry. But in reality, it was just hours on Earth.
"Oh that. I'm not sure if they're really after me."
"Unfortunately, it happened to other girls before you. By any chance, have you told anyone that you're friends with Forth?"
"No. I don't think so. Why is that related?"
"Are you familiar with the Arab princess in your class?" I have a real princess in my class?
While that thought shouldn't surprise me anymore, since it's Ciopova we're talking about, I didn't know that I was closer to a monarch on Earth than here on Utovaj. It sounded surreal.
"Princess Shalani Latifa Ramektou? Have you met here already?" Shalani? It rings a bell.
Oh yes, the stunning girl I sat with, one break time, with her equally gorgeous friends, Julie and Katharina.
And, I don't want to remember what happens next that break time.
"I am." Although it took me a moment to remember. I need to refresh my memories. My brain is clouded with just thoughts about Utovaj.
"Well, she's suppose to marry Forth—"
"Macforth?" I gasped.
"Yes, our Forth." Dave chuckled at me, but I can't see why is that funny.
"Aren't they too young to get married?" And seriously, Macforth? I haven't even seen him around girls before, except for the Moon Princess, but on Earth, never.
"Well, it was a political marriage so—"
"An arrange marriage?"
"We can say that, but from what I heard, the mortal that originally owns Forth's life, did love her. So does she."
Oh. Right. I forgot, their present life on Earth was just borrowed. And I forgot we're not just talking about one Macforth.
It means that, the people on Earth believe they'd lost their memories, but truth is, the owners of those lives, really died at the plane crash. My friends were just continuing those borrowed lives, so they can fulfill their mission on Earth, without causing inconvenience for my race.
And while I feel bad for her, and for all the people that still think he's Macforth, the thought that it's not actually him that's really involved, somehow allay the shock I suddenly felt.
"It is believe that she hasn't moved on yet from Forth, although a lot of bachelor had shown interest and pursued her. One of the guys who bothers you in the university is one of them. Either Shalani ordered him to do that, or he's acting on his own will to impress her, we couldn't know for sure. But one thing is absolute, all the girls that tried to be close with Forth before, experienced the same. Most of them had transferred to a different university—or country."
"I feel bad. She doesn't know that the one she really love isn't the same Macforth anymore."
And it made me wonder, what was the human Macforth be like? Was he grumpy too? Cold and intimidating? Was he picky to whom he'll let his guard down, but deep down thoughtful and actually solicitous? If Macforth's human version was alive today, will our paths ever cross? Will we be friends like I am now to his magical version?
Unfortunately, the answers to these questions, I would never going to find out.
But as much as that thought alone saddens me, I still couldn't help but be grateful— selfishly though. Because if it wasn't for his or their sacrifice, I would've never met my friends, and I would've never seen this magical world. That alone is a gift that I would forever cherish, even with the bad stuff that happened alongside it.
"We can't do anything about it."
"Don't worry, I'll give that princess a visit some time." Eric joked, but none of the guys find it funny.
Worse is, if my friends succeeded in destroying the Alf'ru, they will be back in this magical world, forever.
"Eric said that once you're done with your task on Earth, you'll be going home here. Is that true?"
"Is that true? What do you mean is that true? You think I'm a liar? You are hurting my feelings, mortal."
"No, it's not like that. I just wanted to know if that's for good. If that's permanent? When the Alf'ru is destroyed, are you not going to come visit Earth?"
Are you not going to visit me? Is what I really wanted to ask, but somehow, my tongue hesitated, because I didn't want to hear the answer. I'm not ready for it, I'm not even sure why am I asking in the first place.
Eric made it clear when he said that the mortal lives they borrowed won't be reincarnated as long as they're still using it. And knowing my friends, they're not selfish to take advantage of something that will cause trouble to others.
"Well, who knows we can sneak in from time to time." He smiled, encouraging, probably sensing the change of tone behind my question.
"After all, your friends earned the reputation for either not upholding expectations or breaking the rules since day one, so never say never, shall we?" Errol added.
And that's all the hope I needed.
I continue eating. My optimism, coming back. I will just cherish every second of being with them. Every second of being in this magical world. I will collect a lot of experience in Utovaj, so when the time comes that I have to go home, I won't be able to forget. I'll have dreamy memories and magical tales of my own. On Earth, no one will believe me, but that wouldn't matter, because I know, that on the other side of my world, every bit of my story is alive. And every people in my narrative, is only a portal away from me. And that's more than enough.
I immediately drink the beverage on my chalice, positive that my taste buds will be taken on a different degree of satisfaction.
The white drink did not disappoint.
It tastes amazing, magical and bizarre. It drew a straight line from my lips down to my stomach in a way that no human drink has quenched thirst before. It's like, this is the first time I'm actually introduce to a drink.
I wanted to adore the drink more, but the door suddenly opened, catching everyone's attention.
I didn't need to turn around to know who it was, but Errol and Dave's reaction, eyes widening at the exact same time upon seeing him, are almost comical.
While Eric showing up to our dinner—even though he's uninvited— isn't surprising, Macforth's presence on the other hand definitely is. We all know that Macforth isn't fond of people he's not comfortable with, something he never hesitates to show. So, him, showing up tonight is a big deal.
"This taste outstanding, what is this called?" It was my attempt to take the spotlight from him. That's the least thing I could do.
I know it's also awkward for Macforth to join us for dinner, especially when he didn't intend to in the first place. I remember him, taking down my invitation at the mention of Errol's name. So, I should at least try to make things a little less awkward for him.
"Krasi." Dave recovered from that mini shock, hid his smile, and casually transferred his utensils to where Macforth will be sitting.
Since it's just the three of us that originally planned this dinner, the plates are just enough for our number. And Dave, being the welcoming one, as usual, acted quickly so Macforth wouldn't feel bad nor embarrassed that there's no extra plate for him.
Dave's trying not to make Macforth uncomfortable being in our dinner plan, and trying not to make a big deal about it at the same time, even if it is.
How could one not admire Dave for always being considerate, and making everyone feels included with the subtlest effort he could manage?
"We're going for another round of training later if you'll like to join I can have someone to call you." Dave ask Macforth, while munching a solid food from from a basket, pouring himself a drink, moving so casually.
"I'm done with mine this afternoon." He simply answered, taking the closest food to him.
Macforth glanced around, finding Eric on the bed, then communicates with him through his eyes.
Eric just mouthed the word 'wait' to us.
"Where's Lunea? You should've invited her to have dinner with us." The three of us were choking on our food at Dave's query.
I, especially after Eric just said wait.
"Didn't you know that the Moon Princess is not okay?" I asked.
"What?" Both guys gasped.
I don't know if Dave and Errol had been here since I separated from them. Because, if the dinner was prepared before the incident with the pond happened, and if none of them had gone out of this room since they entered here, then they're probably clueless what'd happened outside this chamber.
And since their eyebrows are furrowing at the moment, it's very evident that they have no idea what's going on.
"Were you two living under a rock?" Eric asked, finally on his feet, walking to us.
Dave, opening that subject made Eric no choice, but to start rolling out whatever it is that he's planned.
"What happened?" Dave asked me, dropping his utensils.
"The Moon Princess fell in a pond with electricty-"
"The poisoned one?" Errol asked.
So, everyone does know it's poisoned.
I was about to answer when Eric put a hand on top of my head, reminding me to stick to the plan and let him do the talking.
"How's Lunea now? Is she alright?" They asked, obviously worried.
I glanced up at Eric so he could answer since his hand on top of my head is getting heavier, purposely.
"She's fine now. Resting I must say, but I can't help to notice that Pria left one important detail. Again." I did?
"Which is?" Errol asked.
"Our mortal here was with her, alone, when that happened." I stared at him, wide-eyed.
Errol already knew I left with the princess, but what's Eric trying to achieve by pointing out that I was with her when that happened? What if Dave and Errol jumped into conclusion that I hurt her? Like the rest of the people.
I stared at my friends, anxiously waiting for their next words, ready to explain myself if I needed to.
"What're you two doing by the cliff?"
I gulped, glancing at Macforth, mentally asking him if I can answer Dave's question.
Back in his quarters he told me not to let others know why I touched the pearls in the first place. It would be detrimental for my life if the people here learned what I almost give to their queen, but since it's our friends that're asking, Macforth nodded, telling me it's okay to disclose that information to them.
"She told me to collect the black pearls. She said the Queen will like them."
"What?" They exclaimed, Eric included.
Macforth glanced down on his plate, probably embarrassed that his fiance did that.
I feel sorry that I have to put the princess in a bad light. I didn't mean to, but I didn't want to lie to my friends in order to cover up what really happened.
"Are you sure it's Lunea that made you do that?" Eric asked, and I understood why.
"Why would she tell you that?"
I'm certain that the princess has shown them nothing but kindness, so this information is like a whole new world to them.
"Maybe the princess just mistaken the black pearls for something else? They all look the same after all." I tried to offer an excuse, even though at the back of my mind, I know for sure that black pearls are rare. And even though, she tried to pushed me down the pond— let alone accused me of seducing my friends and Prince Gamette.
Besides, I'm doing it for Macforth. I owe it to him, for mending my pain earlier when even I failed to see it.
"Were you hurt? Are you alright?" Dave simply asked, and I wanted to cry at his query.
Dave asked if I'm okay even when we just told him that the princess was hurt, and I was with her when that happened. He's asking if I'm okay, when other people was jumping into conclusion that I hurt the princess, the moment they learned that I was with her.
I'd been preparing for my defense because I thought, that's how they're going to respond too. I thought that was the initial reaction, because that's what everyone's been doing.
"She's alright, for now. The elves think she's responsible for what happen to Lunea. They had her arrested this evening, just so you know."
"What?" They blurted.
"You heard it right. Luckily our Forth here was there when that happened." My heart's suddenly in panic, listening to Eric's words, knowing exactly that we're getting closer to the subject.
"Who ordered it?"
"Gamette. Who else?"
"Why didn't he consult with me first?"
"Dave, Gamette is not like you. He doesn't have it in him to show courtesy to others. That's why we all should thank Forth for what he did for Pria. We should always remember the good things people does, and not condemn them by the few rules they'd broken—except for Gamette, of course, that pointed-eared, abominable excuse for a ruler."
I witnessed how Errol and Dave's eyebrows went from taking in that Prince Gamette ordered that, to being confused as to why Eric's suddenly talking about good deeds and breaking rules.
I believe Macforth didn't break any rules, it just happened that Dave prohibited using the perks of their positions to their advantage.
And for the record, Macforth didn't use that claim for his benefit.
"Did thou know that Forthy has bestowed this mortal his ada?"
"What?" They exclaimed, Macforth included. He's not aware that Eric already knew that he gave Peach to me.
His eyesbrows furrowed. It's as if, he didn't want anyone to know about that, let alone made it a part of the plan he's not fully aware to begin with.
"Yep. Again, good deeds. Good intention." He sent thumbs up and a wink at Macforth's direction.
"Is that true?" Dave asked Macforth.
Errol, for the first time since Macforth sat at the table, paid attention to him, also waiting for his response.
"Yes." His eyes were shooting daggers at Eric as he uttered the word.
"Now, will both of you do me a favor, and stop being so surprise? Everything is past tense and fine now, so you don't have to worry about anything."
Eric walked to fill Dave and Errol's chalice, then encourage them to drink, smiling widely at them.
I saw confusion on both guys, but they drank it anyway.
"On another news, someone had used his royal privilege tonight." He said the moment they emptied their chalices.
"What did you do this time?" Errol sighed. His tone is already defeated. It's as if, he couldn't get any more surprise to whatever Eric will say next. And I'm hoping that's the case.
"Hey, hey. Not me. It was Macforth. He used his protectoral power. I must say it's of good use-"
"What?!" Dave dropped his fork again, his voice raised, it made me jump.
Errol on the other hand couldn't careless at Macforth's action. His attention went back to his dinner. Clearly, the subject we're talking right now doesn't bother him at all, even though Dave's obviously upset.
Suddenly, I remembered Macforth's reaction earlier upon hearing Errol's name when I invited him to have dinner with us. I wonder what's going on between them. Haven't they became friends since I introduced them back in the parking lot?
But at least for now, we have one less person to worry about our news.
"What were you thinking, Forth?" Dave's eyebrows were pulling each other. I don't like where this is going.
"Didn't I make myself clear not to make use of these monarchal power?"
Macforth looked at Eric, signalling him to fulfill his end of the bargain. His face remained impassive even though Dave is clearly unhappy with the news we brought.
"Hear me out, Dee." Eric tried to lighten the mood, but even I can see that Dave isn't having it.
I'm tensed, even though I wasn't the one who made the claim, it feels like I am to share the blame on this anyway.
"To whom did you use it? And why?" He asked again, not paying attention to Eric.
My fingers, crossed.
My heart, beating tripple time, knowing my name will be mention any second now.
"Forth has a good reason for it. Right, Forth?"
"Yes." He forced the words, almost rolling his eyes at Eric.
"You see, if Pria weren't being arrested—"
"I'm sorry, who?" Errol snapped, cutting Eric's words.
"Are you out of your mind?" The chalice on Errol's hand broke.
"Pria, Forth? Why? These claims are binding the moment they're uttered! Why did you do it?" Dave demanded.
He then turned to me, extremely worried. It's very evident as he scanned my face, probably searching for whatever effect that claim had on me.
I smiled under Dave's scrutiny—it was my lame attempt to lighten the mood as well—but I ended up grimacing instead when Dave's unsettling stare didn't soften.
"You guys, stop being so serious. I told you it's past tense already."
"Let him speak for himself, Eric."
Macforth only smirked at Errol's remark, and that shookt me.
"That's it? You're just gonna let your arrogance talk your way out of this another irresponsibility of yours?"
"Do you think I wanted to do it?"
"But you did do it, didn't you?"
"Calm down, you guys. This is just Pria we're talking about. It's not like Forth will really gonna use her."
It worries me that Dave is being quiet while the two guys are exchanging words. On a normal occasion, he would've mediate already. But right now, he's just staring coldly at us all.
It only means that he's really upset with this.
"Errol, Dave." I had to interferred before it gets worse.
When Eric said earlier that Dave didn't like the whole idea of that claim and everything that goes with it, it made me aware that this news might not be received well, but I didn't know they would react this way.
"It's not okay, Pria. You don't know what you're getting yourself into."
"Uh, actually, Errol, she kinda does." Eric interjected, walking to stand next to me.
"This mortal is well informed. I explained it to her."
With arched eyebrows, they glanced at me for confirmation, and I nodded.
"That's true." I don't know if I was just imagining it or I really saw disappointment in Errol's eyes when they met mine.
Is he upset that I'm okay with the consequences of Macforth's claim? Is he upset that I'm not going against it?
"I'm sorry if it worries you, but I believe Macforth only did it for my benefit."
"Coz you see, Prince Gamette ordered Pria's arrest tonight. Now, was that because she's being held responsible for Lunea's misfortune at the pond? Or his own personal intent, we couldn't be sure—"
"What is it now?"
"Well, it seems like Gamette's jealous at us for having a mortal, so he wanted one for himself. Forth did it, because it seems like Gamette's using Lunea's incident as an excuse to sentence Pria here, so he can finally get what we have."
There's a long moment of stillness after Eric spoke.
Dave and Errol were startled at that, but Macforth is the most stupefied. He didn't know this information, that's why he's also caught of guard. Even more so, when his name is being use to correlate two things that're not even connected.
Macforth stared at me, probably confirming Eric's words.
"Is this true?" Dave finally speak again.
"Earlier this evening, he told Lady Isha that he want one, and he stared at me before saying that."
I feel lame hearing myself talk about this again. Suddenly, Jermond's words earlier hit my thoughts so hard, it made me ashamed of myself.
Maybe he's right. Maybe, I'm really being a crybaby. Because, instead of taking it all in, and doing something about it by myself, here I am, bothering my friends with it.
From the very beginning I promised Father I won't be a liability to anyone, I made a truce with myself to never let that happen, but here I am, creating a rift between my friends, for my incompetence to stand up for myself.
"Oh no. Calm down, Errol. Please? I'm not that sure if that's what he really meant." I was quick to grabbed his arms before he could take a step towards the door.
He stared at me, deliberating.
"Dave, we're not going to let this slide, right?"
"But, I told you I wasn't sure if that's what he really meant."
"I say, we take Pria out with us tomorrow."
"What? That has nothing to do with this Gamette situation."
"Uh, yuh there is. Who knows what Gamette might do while we're not around? He could hid her for all we know. Forth think so too, right?"
Macforth breathe deeply before staring at Eric.
"Yes." The words came from gritted teeth. His reponse only raised eyebrows.
"And that's why you'll stay here, to keep both of you safe. We talked about this."
"Lemme correct you there, Errol. You, talked about this, I wasn't even included in the planning. You decided to left me out of the picture without even consulting me. And, c'mon, take care of myself? Do you think I'm not capable of looking after myself?"
"Yes." Macforth answered.
Eric was glaring at him.
"We are not taking neither of you out of the borders. It's dangerous out there. And you know that, Eric. It's not just her we're—"
"But, Dave. We can't let fear rule our lives forever. I'm not even scared for my own life, why should you?"
"You both are not coming, and that is final."
"But Forth isn't comfortable leaving his protectorate behind. Right, Forth?" Eric had put emphasis at his question.
"Of course not."
"See? So—I'm sorry what?" Eric rushed to Macforth's side.
"You're suppose to say yes." He whispered.
"You instructed me to, but I don't remember agreeing to it." He stood up, brushing his hands. He's not even finish yet with his food.
"I just wanted to know how far the extent of your stupid plan could go. Now that I figured it out, I'm out." He started walking away, leaving Eric dumbfounded.
Why that didn't surprise me.
"So you just used me?"
"You're not yet off the hook, Forth." Dave said, talking about the claim, I assumed. But I'm relieve the he didn't sound as angry as he did minutes ago.
Macforth paused, his hand on the knob, he glanced back to us for a moment.
He's not here for dinner, that's for certain. I can see it in his fiery eyes, as they scanned the faces of our friends with absolute urgency.
"The south perimeter is breached."