My school uniform set me apart from the rest of the school. I was a drop of darkness in their bright blue sky. I was not wearing my shoes, after falling over in the boots. My hair was covered by the sheer fabric with a feather tickling the center of my forehead. My face mask hid most of my features, allowing me to not worry about my facial expressions. I wore long fingerless gloves and the instep wrappings around my feet. The only skin I showed were my fingers, heels, toes and eyes.
Weeks have passed since I had started to attend the school. In the beginning, people parted in front of me. I carried a set of books that the school headmaster had handed to me the first day. As time passed, I noticed that the students were becoming bolder in their actions towards me.
A couple of the males tried to catch my attention, but I ignored them. Some of the girls, those I would clique as the popular princesses, started their games on me. They would bump into me, throw my books to the ground and talk loudly about me as I passed. I did not care about these petty little games with these stupid little girls. I just had to wait for the final bell to ring so I could go into the Repository.
The final bell finally rang, music to my ears. The professor asked for me to wait, while the class emptied out. I walked up to him and he asked, “How did you get here?”
I did not stop my mouth from speaking, “I walked?”
He sighed, “I do not mean physically. You are far more advanced than most of the students here, yet you are a servant.”
I squirmed under his gaze, “I was taught in Nevarra.”
“I figured that. But that dodges my question. How is it that you know more than the rest of my students, yet you are of a lower class?”
I lied to him, “When the princess was taking her lessons, she had invited me along to help tutor her, because I am a very quick learner.”
I watched the gears move in his mind, “I have talked to the other professors about you. We were all worried that you would pull the other students behind. Now we worry that you will surpass them all and that does not look good for the school. You may continue to do the work to the best of your abilities, but please do not answer correctly in class.”
I thought about his words. “That makes sense. Permission to leave, sir?”
He nodded, “Go to the Repository.”
I ran out of the classroom and towards the hall of knowledge. I slowed to a walk as I entered the doors. The smell of books, old and new, filled my senses. I felt gleeful as my world narrowed down to the bookcases and their precious contents. I slowly walked each aisle of the Repository, reading every title that I saw. I grabbed a few books that pertained to legends, myths and the war. There was one book that looked old and ratty, and the binding was faded. I tried to reach for it, but it was just out of my reach. I set the other books I had down and jumped to reach it, but still to no avail.
I went to find a ladder and came back with a small step stool. I turned the corner to the aisle and saw someone else riffling through the book I had been trying to reach. Their back was turned to me, so I lightly touched them on the shoulder, “Excuse me.”
The person turned and I caught my breath. I bowed deeply, “I apologize, Prince Hiku.”
He smiled at me and I felt my heart start to melt. “Ah, the Nevarrian.” He looked at the books on the ground, “Eclectic tastes in books, I see.” He picked up each book up one by one. I felt heat rise to my face as he looked at each one. Thankfully, my face mask hid most of my blushing. “Might I ask what you are researching?”
I looked at my feet, “I am looking for something that I hope these books can help me find.”
He held all of the books, including the tattered one. “Well, I have nothing to really do. Maybe I can help?” He looked hopeful.
I nodded, “If that is your wish, my Prince.”
He led the way to a secluded table in a quiet empty room. “So, why were you looking for books on legends and the Gods?” He set the books down and grabbed another chair to sit next to mine.
I pulled out a bind of paper and a writing instrument. “I am looking for the Morokian Star. I hope these books will help me find it.”
“The Morokian Star? That is a myth…” He looked thoughtful, as he sat down.
“I am hoping that if I find it, I can fix Nevarra.” I did not want to tell him much more than that, in case he wanted to shoot my idea down.
“Well…” He opened the tattered book, before pointing the largest book on the table, “I would start there.”
“Thank you, my Prince.”
“Please, just call my Hiku.” He looked at me, “I never did learn your name…”
“My name is Sori, my-” I shook my head, “My name is Sori, Hiku.”
I watched him sit up straighter as I spoke his name. He set the book on the table. “Since I am your prince…” He grinned as he reached forward and took off my face mask, “I ask that you remove this while we are together. It muffles your voice and since we are inside and alone, I do not think Nevarrian protocol is in effect.”
I looked at the book, knowing I was turned a brighter red as each moment passed. I opened the book and hid behind it. I read the table of contents and found a passage about the war. I set the book down, turned to that page, and started to read.
Through the Gods, Ada was made, but through the actions of the people, Ada was nearly destroyed. The war started when the Akiti invaded the neighboring kingdoms. They demanded slavery of the other nations and were adept at manipulation. They convinced each of the other nations that their fellow neighbors were trying to destroy them.
As each day passed, and more people killed, the Akiti was able to infiltrate the other kingdoms and poison the land and the people. They had nearly succeeded in enslaving the world, by using their vast numbers and by confusing the enemy into killing each other.
The Gods intervened on behalf on a prayer from a mother. She begged for the Gods to protect her child from the encroaching Akiti. The Gods smiled upon her prayer and from her tears, the Desican Star was born. As the Akiti came, she stood before them, holding the Star in her hands. She was captured and later killed, but as she died, the Star shattered.
The Akiti thought they had found a treasure and stopped their march, before returning to Aki. Sinkta was given the Shard, but has he touched It, he, his armies and his generals were destroyed, saving the praying mother’s son.
I looked up from the book, my mind whirling. Hiku was staring at me, “What are you looking at?” I asked curtly.
He just smiled and shook his head, “You would not understand.”
I tilted my head in confusion. “What do you mean?”
He leaned forward and lightly touched my cheek. “Did you find anything in that book?”
I turned red as I pulled away quickly, “Just more of the legend. It said the Desican Star was created when a mother prayed to the Gods. But the Gods are dead now, are they not?”
He nodded, though his face was a light tint of pink, “Yes, they went to rest quite a few Eons ago.”
I sighed, “Then, I did not find anything…”
He grinned, “Maybe I did.” He handed me the tattered book.
I could barely read the cover and it was written in a language I did not know. “What language is this?”
He shrugged, “Not sure.” I looked at him, confused.
I opened the book, the words jumbled together and the writing was fluid. I felt a tad bit miffed. “I cannot read it.”
He shrugged again, “It was worth seeing you confused.” I wanted to throw the book at him, but it would destroy it.
I then found an idea, since he was playing with me, I would return the favor. “Hiku,” I smiled sweetly as I stood up. He turned a bright red in reaction to my voice. I walked over to him and ran my fingers through his black silky hair. I leaned on the table as my hand lightly touched the side of his face. I leaned in close to him, “What is it that you want?”
His eyes fluttered shut, “You would not understand.”
I stepped back from him, not expecting that answer, “What do you mean?”
His eyes opened and I could see that they were glazed over. He looked at me, before standing up. I did not realize that he was taller than me by about two hands. He lightly touched my shoulders, before pulling me close to his chest. “Do you really want to know what I was looking at?”
I nodded against his chest. I could hear his heart racing, or maybe it was mine that beat fast. He was warm under my cheek and body, making me wonder what he looked like. I tried to shake my head of all of those thoughts. “Please, if it is what I think it is, please do not tell me…”
“Then I will not.” He let me go so quickly that I almost fell. He looked almost angry, “You think it is funny to toy with people?”
I shook my head, “No, I do not, Hiku.”
I felt air whoosh around me, “I am your Prince and you will call me as such.” His eyes were becoming lighter, warning me of the danger.
I kneeled to the ground, “I apologize, my Prince.” I did not dare to look into his eyes, until the storm calmed. When the wind died, I looked up and found myself alone in the room. I sighed, “Why did I do that? People are counting on me and here I am toying with a Prince… A beautiful, smart, easy to be around Prince…” I shook my head of all of those thoughts. “He is a Prince meant to marry a Lady Maria… Not me.” I still could not stop my mind from wandering about him, though.
I sighed and moved the books away from me. I set my arms on the table, making them a pillow for my head. “I am truly sorry, Hiku. I did not mean to offend you.”
“Then why did you?” I recognized that voice. I shot up to see Erick leaning against the doorway.
I bowed to him, “Good afternoon, my Prince.”
“You did not answer me. Why would you offend someone without meaning to?”
I did not look up from my toes, “I am still not used to how people act here, sir. I thought that he was toying with me with the look. I did not realize that he was being serious, nor did I realize what he was talking about until he embraced me.” I started to shake, as I tried to contain my tears, “He is to be married to Lady Maria and I have no right to have these kinds of feelings for anyone.”
I watched his feet get close to mine, telling me that he was standing in front of me. “You have just as much right to have these feelings as the rest of us. These feelings are what makes us human instead of Akiti. Embrace these feelings and use them to your advantage.” He lifted my face to look into his eyes, “He has not chosen to marry Lady Maria, just as I have not chosen to marry Lady Isabella. These are rumors that they are spreading to force us into making them Queens. There is only one princess that he and I want to meet before we choose our marriage and that is the princess of Nevarra.”
“She is to be wed to another…” I mumbled.
“That does not matter. We want to meet her and try to convince her to be ours. We both decided that if we both loved her, that if she would have us both, we would share.” He grinned. “So, since you are the closest Nevaarian to us, I need to borrow you to see how something would look.”
“See how what would look?”
He took a step forward and brushed up against me, “There was a reason I wanted you in my room that night. I created something that I want you to try on to see how it would look on Nevarrian skin.” He grabbed my hands and held them in his. “Please, come with me.”
I started to shake my head, but he stopped me, “If you do not do this, I will keep my promise of making your life hell.”
I thought about it for a second, “My Prince, I warned you that you are only human and that compared to what I have seen, nothing you can do would terrify me.”
“Then I will tell Hiku that you like him.”
I balked at him, “You cannot do that! He wants a princess, not someone like me!”
He pulled me close to him, “Or is it that you turn red for more than just him?”
I looked at my feet, hiding the embarrassment on my face. “I know not of what you speak.”
He pushed me away and into the back wall. He walked towards me and survival instincts kicked in. “Come any closer and I will leave you bleeding on the floor. It will not matter that you are a Prince…”
“You honestly think that you can defeat me?” He stood straight up, instead of going into an aggressive stance like I thought he would.
“You bet I could defeat you.”
He grinned, “I will take that bet and raise you a wager.”
I leaned against the wall, “What do you wager?”
“You win, I will leave you alone. I win and you come into my room tonight.”
“Who will be the judge?”
Hiku walked in. “I will judge and it will be to first blood.”
I could not meet Hiku’s eyes, though I wished to know how mad he was at me. “Where would this take place and when?”
Hiku clapped his hands together and the Repository vanished. We were standing in a cleared field filled with meticulously raked sand. “Here and now.”
I felt at home with the sand under my heels and between my toes. It was not as burning hot as the Nevarra Desert, but it was warm. I removed my outer clothing, only wearing the leggings, undershirt and undergarments. I replaced the mask on my face and double checked the wrapping around my feet. “Weapons are hand to hand?”
The Princes look at each other, before Erick replied, “Lady’s choice.”
“Weapons.” I answered quickly, hoping I was not making a mistake.
A weapons rack appeared on the sideline, where grass encircled the sand field. Hiku moved away from me as I set my extra clothes down and chose a pair of shortened blades. They fit in my hands like they were made for me, the blades curving against my arms. I also noticed that the blades were heavily dulled so not to cause too much damage to my opponent.
Erick chose a two handed sword and I accessed the situation quickly. Since he was going for something large and slow, I could either draw it out until he gets tired, or I can try to end it quickly using my speed to an advantage.
“Get ready.” Hiku spoke, as I walked towards the center of the sandy field, where Erick already stood. “Whoever draws first blood wins. If you leave the arena, you are disqualified. Begin!”
I chose my plan of attack and decided to end this quickly. I used my speed to run up to him, before he had the chance to move. He swung right where I was standing, barely missing me. I then realized that I made a grave miscalculation. He may have grabbed the largest sword on the rack, but I did not account for his strength. It was luck that I dodged out of the way of that first swipe.
I jumped back from him, beyond the length of his sword. He took that opportunity to surge forward. I used the two blades against my arms to block him swinging the sword. He kept pushing me back and as the vibrations of the two metals clashing against one another hit each arm, my arms to started to become numb.
I felt the grass tickle against the backs of my ankles, so I changed positions. I waited for him to swing, then ducked under the sword. His momentum kept the swing going, so I took this chance to slam one of the blades against his stomach, going for the soft tissue.
He doubled over as the wind was knocked from him. As he bent over to catch his breath, I raised my knee to slam it into his face, hoping to draw some blood. At the last second, he moved just out of the way, as he grabbed the ankle I was supporting myself with. He pulled my ankle, causing me to fall on the ground hard.
I tried to use my arms to catch my fall, but I remembered that though the blades were dulled, they could still hurt me. As I fell, I dropped the blades on the ground. He stood up, grinned and swung the sword above his head to end the fight.
As the sword came down, I knew it was over, but my body refused to give up. I swung my foot around and slammed my leg against his ankles. It knocked him off balance just for a moment, but it was just the perfect amount of time I needed to settle the blades on my arms and block the sword from hitting bare skin. I crossed my arms above my head, effectively stopping the sword.
The metals vibrated against my arms, completely killing all feeling I had in them. He used his strength to push down, hoping to break through my crossed arms. I had an instant to make a decision, before he was able to overpower me.
I was able to move from a sitting position to my knees without letting the sword move too far. I had one last chance to beat him, but it would drain my strength and I had one shot to do it. I quickly lowered myself to the ground, rolled to the right and used the momentum to stand up. Right as the sword hit the ground, I used both blades to swipe him across the arm.
I hoped to see some sort of wounds, but the blades were so dulled that I did not have the strength to cause him to bleed. He dropped the sword and slammed his fist into my stomach. I coughed, dropped the blades and hit the ground. I tried to convince my body to stand, but the pain in my stomach killed my drive to win. I felt like I could not breathe, so I ripped off the face mask.
He stepped up to me and lifted me by the collar of my tunic, “You have a choice. End this now, by your hand or mine.”
I did the only thing I could think of doing. I slammed my forehead into his face, one last shot at being the first to draw blood. He dropped me and I felt pain shoot up through my legs, before I sat on the ground. He yelled as I watched blood drip through his fingers.
Hiku ran over to his friend and healed the broken nose. I tried to stand, but yelped as I put weight on that foot. I fell back on the ground and gingerly touched my ankle. I bared my teeth as I fought the urge to scream. I had won, but I twisted my ankle in the process.
Hiku finished healing Erick’s nose and when they both walked over to me, they both looked annoyed, bordering on pissed off. “That was a cheap trick.” Erick grumbled.
“No… It was a desperate move.” I growled at him.
Hiku tried to take a look at my foot, but I refused to let him. “I am fine.”
He knelt down and glared at me, “No, you are not.” He did not touch my skin, but kept his hand a few inches above it. “Let me heal it.”
I tried to stop the tears from falling, but I had to let them out. “Do not touch me. I do not want either of you near me. I just want to complete my mission and go home. “
He looked above me. “Do it.”
I felt a sharp pain against my head, before the world went completely black.