All Strings Attached

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Chapter 14: Bloodless Blush

~Arika’s POV~

 The day of the festival arrived before the first bell rang to awake the kingdom, dozens of residents were already up and mingling about. Colorful booths were set up in lines, providing different services ranging from seasonal foods to competitions.

 Those who ran the booths were up much earlier to prepare for the hoard that would ravish their entire inventory.

 Arika was already on her way to see Suni’s booth, which was typically the first to be sold out even though her booth is typically the farthest away. She still found it amusing, as the planning committee that arranged the booths did this to appease the envious cooks and bakers who complained about how popular she was.

 Looking ahead, there was already a crowd forming at a lime green booth with a line already forming. Suni was covering baskets of green-tinted loaves and handing them to each customer.

 “Good morning, Suni! I see you’re already working hard,” she greeted as she stood beside her booth.

 “Good morning, Princess Sibylla! You look very stunning this morning! Thank you for stopping by to see me!” Suni spoke as she continued working. Not glancing at her for even a second.

 Arika looked down at her blue dress. It was far more frilly than her usual attire and covered in white blue ribbons. Her maids even spent hours styling her hair. She even had a laced floppy hat to match. She couldn’t deny such a comment, she rarely had the chance to dress fancy.

 “Thank you! I had a lot of help with it!” Arika clasped her hands together.

 Suni continued serving the customers until she handed out the basket to the last customer. “The first bell hasn’t even rung and I’m already feeling the pressure.” She wiped her forehead as she leaned over the wooden counter. “Did you come by to get some too? I can give you and your date a special discount!~” She teased.

 “I did come by for that. But I don’t want the discount. Paying the full price with a tip, for my best friend!” Arika exclaimed. She opened her small purse and dropped a few extra coins along with the appropriate amount. Suni left to wash her hands. “I can get Vira to help you out for a bit if you want?” she called out to her.

 “That’d be nice! But I rather the two of you have your fun! Mama’s gonna try to make it in the afternoon to help out anyways!” Suni shouted back as she began making more dough. She pulled out a purple melon and held her laced hands above her head. “Ha!” She shouted as she brought her fists down, cracking the melon to reveal the green insides.

 Arika clapped with a giggle. “I haven’t seen her in a while. Last I heard she was visiting the Hisbiscus Kingdom, right? That’s quite the travel from here…” she commented.

 “Oh yeah! Had to buy a boat and bring a crew with her. But she’s hoping to import their flowers here. Apparently, she wants to add exotic teas and other drinks to the menu.” Suni used a spoon to scoop out the fruit and fold it into the dough. “If the deal’s set, she’s hoping to stay for the year and help me with it.”

 “That woman always has the strangest ideas! But she’s what made the melon bread thing such a hit! I hope things work out for them both!”

 “Hopefully. I just want mama to stick around for a bit longer. It sucks I’m always working here while she’s exploring the world.” She slid the dough into the stone oven before walking over to Arika. “But enough about my family issues- when’s your special guest coming?” She playfully winked.

 Memories from their last encounter flooded Arika’s thoughts as her face grew warm again. “Sometime today. We never bothered with a set time.”

 Suni stared at her face with a shocked expression. “Your face…”

 Arika noticed her expression and cocked her head to the side. “What about it? Oh gods did I mess up my makeup?” She asked in a panic as she dug into her bag. Pulling out a mirror to examine her makeup. But it all looked fine, though she never remembered her cheeks such a red tint.

 “Wait… this isn’t makeup!” Arika frantically rubbed at her cheek with a cloth, but the makeup remained. “What is this? Did the sun burn me or something?”

 Suni stopped her hand from rubbing against her face with a bright smile on hers. “You’re actually blushing! Like normal reaction! I saw it myself!” she squealed in a hushed tone. Other booths could overhear if she was careless. “You’re red in the face blushing!”

 Arika stared in the mirror as the red marks slowly faded, leaving her face a sheet white once more. “Is that bad? Should I inform father before it gets worse?” she asked while covering her face carefully.

“It’s fine, really! I’m not sure why you can do it since you don’t have blood. Trust me, it’s normal to do when you’re hot, embarrassed, or mad! Which one’s got you turning that shade?” Suni rests her elbows on the counter with a smirk.

 “I’m not sure either. It just happened when I thought about when Vira showed up last night.”

 Suni slapped her forehead. “I can’t tell if you’re dense or naive, sweetie. Just go and wait for Vira to arrive. I’m not spelling this one out for you. Come back when you get him. Your order should be cooled by then!”

 The baker waved as she went back to work.

 Arika huffed and left to find Sin-Vira. She hated not knowing what was happening to her, especially since she was far from being normal.


 She stood in the shade by the entrance until the second bell rang. By then, a rickety, dark carriage came into view, drawn by burgundy horses that lacked any flashing things to them. Arika approached the carriage as it began slowing down.

 The driver held the door open. To Arika’s displeasure, Ivy was the one who came out.

 “Greetings, Ivy. A pleasure to see you arrive safely.” Arika bowed.

 “I didn’t want to be here. It was an order to accompany the prince.”

 “You’re curt as always. Just a simple ‘Thanks’ works!” Vira laughed as he stepped out.

 Vira wasn’t wearing the usual loose-fitting, dusty clothes he would arrive in. He wore the ones given to him and made the effort to impress. He wore a white suit with a black bow nicely tied and a black cape over his left shoulder. His wild, red hair was tamed and combed to the side.

 He eyed her up and down before clearing his throat. “You look different. In a good way…”

 Arika pulled her hat down slightly to hide her face from him. Her face was getting warm again. “You look good in a suit…”

 The hat became flicked upwards by Vira, who was standing close to her. “C’mon. I wanna see what this place has to offer.” He held his right arm out to her.

 “Of course! Suni has my gift for you!” Arika spoke as her face seemingly calmed down.

 Vira reached into his pocket and pulled out two small black boxes tied together by a red ribbon. “Which reminds me! I brought a gift for you and Arika.”

 Arika felt uneasy but kept it from showing. “Of course. The visitations are open in the evening. I’ll make sure to take you there by then…” She held onto Vira’s arm loosely. “I’ll take you to see Suni, you’re welcome to join, Ivy.”

 All she could hope for was to stay numb and not think about her grave rather than having fun.

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