All Strings Attached

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Chapter 7: Tolerable Partners

Seeing her biggest bane leave so soon made her grin from ear-to-ear

“Oh praise the goddess! This is the quickest I’ve ever gotten rid of that nuisance! You’re more useful than I thought, Vira!” Arika spun on her heels and danced around him. She hummed and giggled like a child. When she looked at the prince, his expression didn’t share the same energy. “Hm? Are you alright, Sin-Vira? You were looking forward to fighting him, right?” She asked.

 Sin-Vira stood stiff with his arms crossed with a defensive look. “I’m pleased I was able to help you. But it bothers me when you refer to my actions as ‘useful’. I know you don’t mean it maliciously, but it makes me see you as your father with that word.”

 Her demeanor changed when she heard the reference to the king. “Oops! My bad. I was so excited I didn’t think about my words.” She placed her hand on his shoulder. “We’re not using each other, we’re helping out. We’re tolerable partners racing against time…” she sighed.

 “That sounds better. Now, you okay? This is the second time I’ve seen you so scared and the day isn’t even finished.”

 She held her arms behind her back. “It’s been a pretty unlucky day… but I’m fine! Men can be asses sometimes. Oh! Like how you tried to bring harm to me before!” She beamed a wide grin.

 He sheepishly rubbed the back of his neck with a weak chuckle. “Um… yeah. But you weren’t scared when I first met you. You were an arrogant ass yourself, princess.”

 “Ha. You’re as well-mannered as a barbarian. Well, partner, would you like a roll? They’re still fresh~” She sang, gesturing to the woven basket.

 “I guess before we argue again…” He reached into the basket and pulled out the bread. He took a cautious bite and instantly smiled. “It’s so sweet and warm! Where’d you get these?” He asked before cramming the rest in his mouth and picking up another one.

 Arika watched with amusement as he ate one roll after the other. “My friend, Suni! She heard about you coming over and made these to share!” She explained.

 “Tell her I said thanks!” He reached in the now-empty basket and looked disappointed. His eyes became fixated on the two rolls on the ground and reached for them.

 “Don’t you-” Arika reached out to stop him but it was already in his mouth. She shrieks and covered her eyes in disgust. “Spit it out! Spit it out! Spit. It. Out! Agh!” She writhed in agony. When she opened her eyes, the food was gone and Sin-Vira looked satisfied.

 “Food was never plentiful for us. So I’m not privileged to see them as things to throw.”

 He was a literal poor prince. The concept of eating was entirely meaningless to her. “While I understand you have your views of food, eating it off the ground is still vile. So please refrain from doing anything like this in front of others. We want to improve the people’s view of your kingdom. Which you represent.”

 “How strong is that blondie? Wiping the ground with him is gonna impress them, right?” He asked with a smug expression.

 “While I’ve never seen him fight, I doubt he’s anything worth noting. He might not even show up!”

 They both laughed at the idea and continued mocking Prince Beka with occasional stories of how Arika dealt with them. It was a new record of how long they spoke without arguing over something trivial.

 “He proposed to you when you first visited him?” Sin-Vira exclaimed.

 Arika giggled as the memories came back to her. “Oh yeah but it’s worse than you could ever imagine! There were lights, music, and even a banquet! Since it was my first time visiting the Hyacinth kingdom, I thought they were welcoming me, and it was gorgeous! However, that boy dropped to his knee and held my hands like this–”

She grabbed onto Sin-Vira’s hand and held them in hers. Leaning close to him with a gentle expression. “Even though our meetings were short, I knew you were the one the moment our eyes met. Every little thing about you makes my heart skip a beat. I don’t care if it takes days or years, I’ll make sure I prove myself worthy of your love.”

 While it wasn’t obvious due to his skin color, the prince’s hands became excessively warm and his eyes were fixed on only her.

 “My– young love truly does advance quickly.”

 Queen Juliana’s voice made the royals jump in surprise. Sin-Vira fell backward while Arika fumbled to stand. Their parents stood beside each other and glared at their children.

 “Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait another day for kissing and hand-holding. We’re going home, Sin-Vira. Get up,” she ordered. The prince stood on his feet and stood by her side.

 “Sibylla, go inside before you end up wandering off again,” The king spoke as he pointed to the door.

 Arika’s expression became duller. “Yes sir.” Arika curtsied towards Sin-Vira. “It was a pleasure spending this time with you. Please have a safe travel home and sleep well.” She quickly went through the doors and went to her room without hesitation. It had been some time since she felt this humiliated.

Sin-Vira sat across his mother in silence. Keeping his eyes focused on the window. The Gardenia kingdom had the most beautiful sunset. Falling behind the castle in the distance that bathed in a golden hue. His hands still shook as he thought about how his mother saw them.

“Mother? About earlier, it was a-”

His mother silenced him with her usual glare. “You don’t have to waste your breath. I don’t care how you do it, I’m only disappointed she’s more desperate than I thought. Keep up the good work, but don’t let her think you’re easy to obtain.”

Sin-Vira laced his fingers together. “Of course, Mother…”

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