enтнroneReplies: 17 / 292 days 18 hours 10 minutes 38 seconds
- [Allowed] -Solaris-
- [Allowed] shirairu
- [Allowed] LIVE
- [Allowed] ouroboros
- [Allowed] morbidity
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=La+Belle+Aurore][center [pic https://i.imgur.com/PCP3WDZ.jpg]]
[center [size11 [#f59fa2 group - drama - royalty - romance - betrayal - fluff - angst - fantasy]]
[size11 [#955d6c [b inspired by;] dandelion - harvest moon/rune factory]]]
[size11 Three hundred years ago war stuck the world of Zuosaix. For two long, gruelling, centuries, there was nothing but death, ash, blood, and blade. Clerics were wiped out and armies began to dwindle down. Eventually, kingdoms were recruiting any able man or woman from the ages of eighteen to as old as sixty. Many died, cities burned and lands were completely destroyed. War destroyed Zuosaix. The land turned into nothing, more than the ruins left behind filled with forgotten memories, ghosts, and children fables.
With no end in sight, members of each royal family gathered on a remote island, almost hidden to the ruin of the world, to come up with a solution. After several months, each member had come to an agreement to stop their armies and end the war. Instead of war, there would be a contest of sorts that each kingdom [u had] to sent their first born son and daughter to participate in. Failure to send the heirs would result in termination of that kingdom; its land, resources, and people would be absorbed by the surrounding kingdoms. The kingdoms soon to be heirs are to be split up and put on teams of three. Each 'team' would have to go against one another in challenges designed by the original royal members that signed on to the contest.
[size11 [b [u Rules of the contest::]]]
[size11 ●●Do not physical harm to any of the royal members outside of the challenges.]
[size11 ●●The contest is only conducted on the island.]
[size11 ●●When a kingdom wins, the winner is name the rightful heir while the other is put to death - if they are not married off first.]
[size11 ●● For twenty days at the end of summer, all the heirs will be sent back home to regroup. They will also be sent back to their kingdoms for twenty days at the end of winter.]
[size11 ●● The contest will go over the course of three years.]
[size11 ●● Siblings are forbidden to be on the same team.]
[size11 ●● Rules are changed/added before each challenge.]
[size11 ●● Siblings found sabotaging their own team to help their other sibling get ahead will be found as a traitor, one of their hands will be taken as punishment.]
[size11 ●● Heirs that try to run away will be put to death as well as their sibling.]
[size11 ●●Not following the rules will result in [u death].]
Each royal, wanting their kingdom to win, reached out with the magic that was running rampant over the land to beseech help. Each royal family sought out to be blessed by an animal in their kingdom. The blessing would enhance their six senses and give them extra abilities. However, the magic was far too strong and went wild over the world. The humans of each kingdom were changed, no longer just humans, while the only bloodline to retain the 'blessing' was that of the royals.
After the success of the first contest, the royals that had constructed the contest and its challenges used the last of the wild magic into large crystal tombs. There they would slumber until the time for the next contest. These sleeping once-royals would act as counsellors over the future heirs and hold control over the contest. To awaken their kingdoms counsellor, the blood from both siblings must be offered over their tomb.
With the war finally over, Zuosaix rebuilt itself, emerging from the ruins to prosper as it once had. If one looked carefully they could see the hints to the time of strife but hard work and dedication have helped Zuosaix revive back into the blossoming world it once was. For three hundred years, there has been peace all over Zuosaix, however that peace is endangered of shattering and war to return the land. For the first time, the winners of that last contest are found guilty of breaking the rules. Three royals had died in the previous contest - nothing new. However, news that they had been poisoned outside of a challenge has come to surface.
The king of Eskil, the queen of Breyx, and the king of Striador have been found guilty of murder and breaking the rules of the contest. The heirs of these traitors have the option to save their lives, [i if] they can win the contest. If the heirs lose or chose to claim a resource instead of their parent's life, they will be beheaded on the day after the last challenge.]
[center [pic https://i.imgur.com/4mDY27q.jpg]]
[size22 [La+Belle+Aurore general]]
[size10 ➤ First things first, follow the [http://rp.eliteskills.com/r.php?r=425 [size10 ToS]]. This is something that is in every roleplay, so it should already be known. But of course, I'd prefer to be better safe than sorry. If you want to push the limits and see what you can get away with, this is not the thread to do it in.]
[size10 ➤Text speak and leet speak are absolutely not allowed. There are no phones in this roleplay, so there should be no reason for it.]
[size10 ➤In general, I would like one post every [b 9] days. If you have multiple characters, I do not require you post them both at the same time. Of course, sometimes things happen. If you're waiting for someone else to post, or if life happens, I do understand. If you're going to be gone for an extended amount of time, I ask that you message me and [u tell me] about it first.]
[size10 ➤Illustrated pictures. Make sure the picture accurately portrays your character.]
[size10 ➤ ● ⋮ This will have a mature rating. There will be strong language, violence, mature humor, alcohol reference/use of alcohol, blood, and intense situations at times. There may be character death as well.]
[size10 ➤ ● ⋮ Romance is NOT the sole purpose of this role-play. You can ship characters together all you want, BUT DO NOT FORCE THAT SHIP ONTO OTHERS. Just cause you ship it, [u does not] mean that it is canon. Threatening to leave an RP because your ship isn't happening will automatically get you kicked out.]
[size10 ➤ Since this is a group role-play I will have to make sure that everyone knows the rules and follows them as such. Because people are people... When you message me your application please title the message 'wicked hearts'.]
[size10 ➤ The character limit will be 2000.]
[size10 ➤ [u This is not 'first come, first serve'. I will tell you if you have been accepted or not.]]
[size10 ➤ If you have any questions, feel free to PM me or visit the [http://rp.eliteskills.com/r.php?r=148012 [size10 OOC]]]
[size22 [La+Belle+Aurore characters]]
[size10 ➤There are plenty of roles here. And while I don't expect them all to be taken, it does give plenty of choices and opportunities to make unique characters. Being a fantasy roleplay makes for even more chances.]
[size10 ➤For the sake of plotting and my sanity with plotting, I will only be accepting female and male genders. I completely understand if that if upsets you and I am sorry if it does.]
[size10 ➤ [u All characters will know one another.] There will be no 'oh, I'm the new kid here'. They are royals, they have been to balls and events together enough to have run into one another three or four times.
[size22 [La+Belle+Aurore magic]]
[size10 ➤Magic in a roleplay, especially a group roleplay, can be tons of fun. If done properly. So I'm putting some limits in place to keep it diverse and fun. Your characters are only allowed to have one type of magic. By that, I mean ice manipulation, fire manipulation, things like that. Within that type, they may have up to two actual spells they use. ]
[size22 [La+Belle+Aurore technology]]
[size10 ➤This roleplay is strictly fantasy. That means there are no cars, there are no computers, there are no cell phones or tablets. Asphalt roads don't exist. Another thing to remember, the internet is not a thing. House phones are also a no. Now, with this being fantasy and magic being involved, there are plenty of ways around this. Items can be enchanted, for a price, of course, to make for easier communication. A mirror, for instance. Again, if there are any questions about any of this, don't be afraid to ask!]
[center [pic https://i.imgur.com/u279FAG.jpg]]
[size29 [La+Belle+Aurore Roles within the groups]]
[size10 For the contest, they will be slipt up into groups of three. Each team will have one of the three roles.
[b Leader] - They lead the group through challenges, make the hard decisions, telling the others what their goals should be, they have the final say in the group, plan out the strategy for the entire team for not just the challenges but for the balls and festivals, ect. (3/4) [b One role open]
[b Spymaster] - Spying on other, spreading courtly rumours about others , sneaking into and out of places to get information, slipping poison to the guards, ect. (3/4) [b One open]
[b Ambassador] - Strikes deals with other groups/royals, plans out the strategy for spymasters, the only ones that interact with the counsellors, promotes activities for the groups , ect. (3/4)[b One open]]
[size29 [La+Belle+Aurore Engagement & Marriage]]
[size10 Can't be engaged to someone on the same team. That being said, feel free to have affairs with the people on your team. Political marriages are welcome. If you want to start out betrothed to a certain country/royal, by all means. (Though you [i must] clear it with the other party before stating it as a fact. That being said, you can also marry for love - if you are [s foolish] strong enough to survive the court's wicked gaze.]
[size29 [La+Belle+Aurore Blessings]]
[size10 ●The only ones that get the blessings are the Royals. The citizens of the world will also have animalistic characteristics, however, they are very limited. Maybe a tail or ears. Some scales. They will never have all the characteristics that the Royals have and they will not have any enhanced six senses or special abilities. There is still magic in the world, so there will be mages outside of the royal family.]
[size10 ●Blessings will generally give your characters a heightened sixth sense and /////. They will need a 'kickback' for their blessing. Meaning that let's say your character has super strength, after using it they have to eat their weight in food twice a month to get their ability/energy back. .]
[size29 [La+Belle+Aurore Character Journals]]
[size10 Normally, I don't care if you do or don't do them. However, since this is based on Harvest Moon/Rune Factory and there is no heart levels or flower colors for everyone to see where their affections/hatred levels are at, I [i will] be requiring them. [#94101E These will need to be updated every 10 days .]
[#94101E [size29 [La+Belle+Aurore Races]]
[size10 If there were races within the world before the war, none of the kingdoms know of them. Color of skin means little in this world if anything. As far as race goes within the world of Zuosaix, whatever animalistic physical trait that you are born with is your ‘race’. Example, if one is born with the wolf tail, ‘they are of the wolf’. If one is born with cat ears, ‘they are of cat’. Racism doesn’t exist in this world. However, animalism does. Being that hatred of someone's animalistic physical trait without rhyme or real reason. ]]
[#94101E [size29 [La+Belle+Aurore The Island]]
[size10 Named Cleor, after the princess that had called for a ‘truce’ and started the talks of the ‘contest’. Most hold her in high regards, as they view her as the one that stopped the war. The island itself is only eighty miles in any direction and several hundred miles from any other land. Once one reaches the edge, nothing but never-ending seas and shape rocks greeted you all the way around. There are three much smaller islands just south of the island itself, however, they hold the challenges for the end of each season. The islands are greeted by every season right on time. The island holds a large amount of old magic that the councillors use to change the castles shapes as well certain things around the island as they see fit. . Mainly it is used for challenges. The island itself has lots of magic in its grounds and most of its staff are from the old world. ]]
[#94101E [size29 [La+Belle+Aurore Rooms]]
[size10 The heirs are roomed together by their team. Each team has a fairly large waiting room that connects to three other rooms. The leaders room in the middle, the spymaster room to the right and the ambassador's room to the left. Each waiting room looks the same, however, the rooms for the heirs are all different. Each heir room is crafted to fit their style, taste, and home routine. Waiting rooms will have a large ‘war’ table appear in the middle of the room a few hours before a ‘challenge’ is about to start. [b Waiting rooms] have bookshelves lining the left wall, the right wall is covered in maps, both of the older world and the newer, and the center wall depends on the leader's frame of mind towards the contest. In the center of the room as five large baroque high back chairs all a dark blue in color, dim grey slim metal tables set to each side. The waiting room is kept lit by bubbles the size of a grown man's hand that contains a small flame. These bubbles will pop when the flame goes out, should that happen another one takes its place.]]
[#94101E [size29 [La+Belle+Aurore Magic]]
[size10 Magic is very rare in all the kingdoms. Between the war and the summoning, there was little left within the world. As time has passed, magic is slowly beginning to seep back into Zuosaix. However, it has yet to seep into the bones of the animals and people that reside on its lands. Magic users are fair and in between, making them a very rare sight. People that are born with the gift of some type of magic will only have a [i very] simple form of the gift. ]]
[#94101E [size29 [La+Belle+Aurore Magic Users]]
[size10 If one is born with the use of magic, they are sent off to the Island (Cleor) to be trained for the next contest or sent to train along any heirs that were born with the gift. Simple magic is all that anyone can do alone. If one needs to be teleported somewhere it takes several mages that have that gift to send [i one] person to the destination. A circle of healers is required outside of the castle to heal large cuts and broken bones. ]]
[center [pic https://i.imgur.com/yXGewja.jpg]]
[http://rp.eliteskills.com/vc.php?c=397776 [size19 [La+Belle+Aurore Trepzeka]]] [size10 [u Loser of last contest.]]
[b Roles:] [http://rp.eliteskills.com/vc.php?c=397048 Vaughn Glass] & [http://rp.eliteskills.com/vc.php?c=397047 Viviana Glass]
[size10 Bordered between huge mountains to the North, huge mountains to the South, a swampland to the East and a frozen sea to the West, the country of Trepzeka mainly lives of mining, weaponsmithing, and armorsmithing. Trezpeka itself is mainly covered in caves and has a snowy climate, which has lead to a tightly concentrated population, despite the number of people, which means most of them live in megalopolises. The country's landscape is grisly; bleak, bare forests, unforgiving mountains, and snow covered fields. The people of Trepzeka are unreceptive towards foreigners and tend to welcome them with neutrality. They feel foreigners could further delay the country's well being. Trepzeka has rigid laws and law enforcement, which is to be expected. The people are satisfied due to their bond with nature, thanks to ancient, passed on secrets. ]
[http://rp.eliteskills.com/vc.php?c=397942 [size19 [La+Belle+Aurore Eskil]]] [size10 [u Winner of the last contest]]
[b Roles;] [http://rp.eliteskills.com/vc.php?c=397248 Alissa Eve Wisteria] & [http://rp.eliteskills.com/vc.php?c=397247 Alister Lucas Wistera]
[size10 Bordered between a huge ocean to the North, a small mountain range to the South, a sea to the East and fertile grounds to the West, the country of Eskil mainly lives of crafting, farming and cooking. Is mainly covered in open fields and has a calm climate, which has lead to a sparsely spread population, which means most of them live in small towns. The country's landscape is elegant; neverending fields of green, cascading rivers and neverending farmlands of green. The people of Eskil are neighbourly towards foreigners and tend to welcome them to a place to stay. They feel foreigners could assist the country's well being. Eskil has calm laws and law enforcement, which is to be expected. The people are irritated due to distressed nature and wildlife, caused by lost skills and secrets. ]
[http://rp.eliteskills.com/vc.php?c=397779 [size19 [La+Belle+Aurore Ochus]]] [size10 [u Loser of the last contest]]
[b Roles:] [http://rp.eliteskills.com/vc.php?c=397711 Xandria de La Forge] & [http://rp.eliteskills.com/vc.php?c=397712 Xerxes de La Forge]
[size10 Bordered between a canal to the North, mineral-rich mountains to the South, tall mountains to the East and large rock formations to the West, the country of Ochus mainly lives of jewel crafting, tailoring and carpeting. Ochus itself is mainly covered in deserts and has a dry climate, which has lead to a tightly concentrated population, despite the number of people, which means most of them live in large settlements. The country's landscape is hideous; large sand dunes, dark gloomy caves and concealed mountain views. The people of Ochus are kindhearted towards foreigners and tend to welcome them with friendliness. They feel foreigners could reinforce the country's well being. Ochus has docile laws and law enforcement, which is expected in their circumstances. The people are anguished due to lack of food variety, caused by greed.]
[http://rp.eliteskills.com/vc.php?c=397751 [size19 [La+Belle+Aurore Breyx]]] [size10 [u Winner of the last contest]]
[b Roles:] [http://rp.eliteskills.com/vc.php?c=397686 Xingshen Jinlong] & [http://rp.eliteskills.com/vc.php?c=397699 Xaoi Jinlong]
[size10 Bordered between a large forest to the North, an ocean to the South, a canal to the East and a glacier to the West, the country of Breyx mainly lives of carpentry, herbalism and fishing. Breyx itself is mainly covered in grasslands and has a tropical climate, which has lead to a scattered population, despite the number of people, which means most of them live in townships. The country's landscape is colourful; cascading rivers, impressive architecture and dramatic mountain views. The people of Breyx are rude towards foreigners and tend to welcome them with disinterest. They feel foreigners could restrict the country's well being. Breyx has stern laws and law enforcement, which is predictable. The people are frightened due to spreading diseases, caused by old superstitions.]
[http://rp.eliteskills.com/vc.php?c=397871 [size19 [La+Belle+Aurore Flauyae]]] [size10 [u Loser of the last contest]]
[b Roles:] princess open, [http://rp.eliteskills.com/u.php?u=128 Aali Hasib]
[size10 Bordered between a sea to the North, a huge forest to the South, a large mountain to the East and large hills to the West, the country of Flauyae mainly lives of thieving, fishing and wood production. Flauyae itself is mainly covered in lakes and has a hot climate, which has lead to a fairly centred population, despite the number of people, which means most of them live in settlements. The country's landscape is quite frightening; somber hills, black, decaying trees and dangerous mountains. The people of Flauyae are cold towards foreigners and tend to welcome them with displeasure. They feel foreigners could disturb the country's well being. Flauyae has hard laws and law enforcement, which is fairly normal. The people are hostile due to a lack of skilled craftsmen, caused by lost skills and secrets.]
[size19 [La+Belle+Aurore Striador]] [size10 [u Winner of the last contest]]
[b Roles:] [http://rp.eliteskills.com/vc.php?c=401254 Zaire de Faure] & [http://rp.eliteskills.com/vc.php?c=397233 Lisette de Faure]
[size10 Bordered between a swampland to the North, pristine beaches to the South, huge, open plains to the East and a river to the West, the country of Striador mainly lives of alchemy, wine brewing and hunting. Striado itself is mainly covered in large hills and has a warm climate, which has lead to a sparsely spread population, despite the number of people, which means most of them live in large towns. The country's landscape is elegant; gorgeous flower fields, pink blossom forests and sapphire lakes. The people of Striador are compassionate towards foreigners and tend to welcome them with food. They feel foreigners could contribute the country's well being. Striador has pleasant laws and law enforcement, which is to be expected. The people are peaceful due to great neighbourly relations, thanks to advanced techniques learned by passing travellers.]
[center [pic https://i.imgur.com/jIB7oSO.jpg]]
[size9 More to be added later on.]
[size25 [La+Belle+Aurore Spring]]
✦✦[b New Years Festival](1)
➜ [u First challenge](3)
➜[u Second challenge](4)
[i Alister's Birthday] (5)
➜[u Third challenge](6)
➜[u Fourth challenge](8)
➜[u Fifth challenge](10)
➜[u Sixth challenge](12)
✦✦[b Passion Gala](14-16)
➜[u Seventh challenge](17)
✦✦[b Flower Festival] (19)
➜[u Eighth challenge](20)
✦✦[b Cooking Festival] (22)
[i Vaughn's Birthday] (25)
➜[u Ninth challenge](28-30)
➜[u Tenth challenge] (33-35)
[size25 [La+Belle+Aurore Summer]]
✦✦[b Summer Festival/Beach Festival] (1-2)
[i Xandria's Birthday] (5)
[i Xerxes' Birthday] (6)
✦✦[b White and Black gala] (12-15)
[i Adela's Birthday] (18)
[i Augustus' Birthday] (18)
[i Xaoi's Birthday] (22)
[i Xingshen's Birthday] (22)
✦✦[b Starry Night Festival] (23)
[size25 [La+Belle+Aurore Fall]]
✦✦[b Masked Formal] (1-3)
[i Loren's Birthday] (7)
✦✦[b Full Moon Festival]
[i Alissa's Birthday] (42)
[size25 [La+Belle+Aurore Winter]]
✦✦[b Winter Gala] (5-8)
✦✦[b Star Night Festival] (14)
[i Vivianna's Birthday] (27)
[i Lisette's Birthday] (30)
[center [pic https://i.imgur.com/yCcQZxp.jpg]]
[size11 Feel free to add on more to it.
Blessed animals taken: Wolf, bunny, cat, fox.]
[#f59fa2 ● ━] [size8 [#955d6c [b NAME]]⇣] their name
[#f59fa2 ● ━] [size8 [#955d6c [b NICKNAME]]⇣] if they have any
[#f59fa2 ● ━] [size8 [#955d6c [b BLESSED]]⇣] animal they are blessed by
[#f59fa2 ● ━] [size8 [#955d6c [b ROLE]]⇣] role they will be taking
[#f59fa2 ● ━] [size8 [#955d6c [b AGE]]⇣] 16-21
[#f59fa2 ● ━] [size8 [#955d6c [b BIRTHDAY]]⇣] season and date
[#f59fa2 ● ━] [size8 [#955d6c [b GENDER]]⇣] gender
[#f59fa2 ● ━] [size8 [#955d6c [b SEXUALITY]]⇣] sexuality
[#f59fa2 ● ━] [size8 [#955d6c [b ENGAGED TO]]⇣] n/a
[#f59fa2 ● ━] [size8 [#955d6c [b COUNTRY]]⇣] country they are representing
[+white xxxxx][size8 [#f59fa2 *][#f59fa2 ♚] [#955d6c [b TRAIT]]] : [i explain trait]
[+white xxxxx][size8 [#f59fa2 *][#f59fa2 ♚] [#955d6c [b TRAIT]]] : [i explain trait]
[+white xxxxx][size8 [#f59fa2 *][#f59fa2 ♚] [#955d6c [b TRAIT]]] : [i explain trait]
[+white xxxxx][size8 [#f59fa2 *][#f59fa2 ♚] [#955d6c [b TRAIT]]] : [i explain trait]
[+white xxxxx][size8 [#f59fa2 *][#f59fa2 ♚] [#955d6c [b TRAIT]]] : [i explain trait]
[+white xxxxx][size8 [#f59fa2 *][#f59fa2 ♚] [#955d6c [b TRAIT]]] : [i explain trait]
[+white xxxxx][size8 [#f59fa2 *][#f59fa2 ♚] [#955d6c [b TRAIT]]] : [i explain trait]
[+white xxxxx][size8 [#f59fa2 *][#f59fa2 ♚] [#955d6c [b TRAIT]]] : [i explain trait]
[+white xxxxx][size8 [#f59fa2 *][#f59fa2 ♚] [#955d6c [b TRAIT]]] : [i explain trait]
[size11 [#f59fa2 ▇▇▇▇][#f59fa2 ⋮ ] [#955d6c [b BLESSING]]]
[size8 [#f59fa2 [b ♚]]] explain the blessing placed on the family
[size11 [#f59fa2 ▇▇▇][#f59fa2 ⋮] [#955d6c [b QUIRKS]]]
[size10 [tab] o1: a peculiarity of action
[tab] o2: or behavior
[tab] o3: or personality]
[+white xxxxx][size8 [#f59fa2 *][#f59fa2 ♚] [#955d6c [b LIKES]]] : [i what they like]
[+white xxxxx][size8 [#f59fa2 *][#f59fa2 ♚] [#955d6c [b DISLIKES]]] : [i what they dislike]
[+white xxxxx][size8 [#f59fa2 *][#f59fa2 ♚] [#955d6c [b FEARS]]] : [i what are they afraid of]
[+white xxxxx][size8 [#f59fa2 *][#f59fa2 ♚] [#955d6c [b HOBBIES]]] : [i their hobbies]
[size11 [#f59fa2 ▇▇▇▇][#f59fa2 ⋮ ] [#955d6c [b SKILLS]]]
[size8 [#955d6c [b O1.]]] They have been training for this contest their whole life
[size8 [#955d6c [b O2.]]] Should know how to do something.
[size8 [#955d6c [b O3.]]] Nothing super overpowered, like lord of the swords.
[size11 [#f59fa2 ▇▇▇▇][#f59fa2 ⋮ ] [#955d6c [b COURTLY RUMORS]]]
[size8 [#955d6c [b O1.]]] something
[size8 [#955d6c [b O2.]]] something
[size8 [#955d6c [b O3.]]] something
[size11 [#f59fa2 ▇▇▇▇][#f59fa2 ⋮ ] [#955d6c [b MARRIAGE REQUIREMENTS]]]
[size8 [#955d6c [b O1.]]] something
[size8 [#955d6c [b O2.]]] something
[size8 [#955d6c [b O3.]]] something
[size8 [#955d6c [b O4.]]] something
[size8 [#955d6c [b O5.]]] something
[size8 [#955d6c [b O6.]]] something
[size8 [#955d6c [b O7.]]] something
[size8 [#955d6c [b O8.]]] something
[size11 [#f59fa2 ▇▇▇▇][#f59fa2 ⋮ ] [#955d6c [b NOTES]]]
[size8 [#955d6c [b O1.]]] anything extra you want to add
[size8 [#955d6c [b O2.]]] anything extra you want to add
[size8 [#955d6c [b O3.]]] anything extra you want to add
You don't have permission to post in this thread.
[google-font https://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Didact+Gothic][Didact+Gothic [center [pic https://i.imgur.com/9EHmZrS.gif]
[i [#b72cc9 Stiff.]] Golden brown eyes trained on Vaughn's smile, before it was momentarily broken by his sigh. Her mind brushed off her observation after a moment, deciding that there was nothing she can do about it at the moment, not while anxiety continued stirring an uncomfortable sensation in her chest. She has not yet fully decided on her plans for tonight, she wanted to say, until he mentioned something about 'an array of desserts for tonight.' Her ears perked up, eyes glistening, expression more attentive than earlier. She sensed Alister shift beside her, and she didn't need to look to know that he had a similar reaction. [b [#b72cc9 "That [i is] an important piece of information. We're truly grateful that you shared it with us,"]] she told him on Alister's behalf, an almost playful quality audible from her tone. She turned her head to face her brother, who had a sour look on his face, his cheek puffed up. He raised his gaze, and, after a few seconds, started to walk away.
[b [#b72cc9 "Lester,"]] she called out, but he only continued to walk, avoiding each royal that came his way. She sighed, wondering what it was that caught her brother's attention enough to forget formalities about excusing himself. She raised her hand, hesitated, then gently squeezed Vaughn's arm. [b [#b72cc9 "I will talk to you later."]] She turned to the other royals in the same group and, while she was certain that they probably wouldn't even notice her disappearance with how they all conversed, curtsied slightly before she followed after her brother, passing the Prince of Striador on her way. Briefly, she overheard Loren invite Augustus over a bottle of wine. Though the cat prince hasn't been exactly warm towards the Wisteria siblings on their visits to Striador, which made her knowledge about how the prince was normally like quite limited, she could at least tell that Loren was more responsible than the fox prince, at least with his liquor. Maybe she could leave the task of being the man's "adult supervision" to his other friends.
She found Alister crouched over a bush, of all things. He probably found a small critter, or the plant that might be endemic to the island. Knowing how his mind worked, there were several other possibilities. She sighed, her eyebrows knit together in exasperation. He shouldn't be as easily distracted as this for the competition, throwing away their training for his fascination for less important things. Just as she reached out to catch his attention by lightly grabbing his shoulder, the sickeningly sweet voice boomed over the area once again, making Alissa unconsciously lower her hand.
[b "The hall is now open, siblings please pair and start making your way into the castle. The awakening will happen now."]
What followed was the thunderous noise of the opening of the golden gates, the sound attacking Alissa's ears. She winced as she instinctively brought her hands to her ears and flopped them down in an attempt to lessen the sound that reached them. Alister was curled up beside the bush, covering his ears as well. The noise still rang in her ears seconds after the gates opened.
As royals grouped by pairs, some strikingly donning their kingdom's colors, flowed into the structure's interior, Alister was already by her side, lending his bent arm, her small scolding regarding going off on his own fleeing her mind. His smile was strained. Before taking his arm, Alissa tidied his slightly disheveled hair, searching his face for any hint of left-over unease brought by the loud noise. He sent her a look that meant [#6e34bc [i 'I'm fine,']] which eased her worry. Satisfied with her work, Alissa hung her hand on Alister's arm. [b [#b72cc9 "Let's go."]]
A breath left her lips the moment they stepped into the Hall of Heroes. It was teeming with what she sensed to be ancient magic, with floating crystal bubbles enclosing small flames that illuminated the site. If they were here for leisure, she would have taken her time to admire everything, including the architecture that was hundreds of years old. It briefly crossed her mind if it was the same magic that kept the whole place together. [i Maybe uncle would know.] The thought made her shoulders sag for a moment. She wouldn't be seeing him anytime soon. Shaking the thought off her head, she tugged on Alister's arm for him to quicken his slowing pace, even if she hated to rid of the wonderstruck expression on his face.
Two pairs of blue and black wings caught her attention as they searched for their family's portrait, the purple-blue glint of the silky black feathers unmistakably familiar. Had she been younger, Alissa would have released the smallest of groans, accompanied by a narrowing of her lips. She hoped they wouldn't notice as they passed by the pair of blackbirds, consciously making her steps lighter than before.
[b [+gray "Cousin Alissa. Cousin Alister."]]
Alissa fought the urge to scowl as they turned to the other pair of siblings. [b [#b72cc9 "Lamai, Lamon."]] She made a small curtsy towards the twins as Alister bowed, their unreadable masks already on their faces. [#6e34bc [b "While we'd like to catch up, we still need to look for our family's painting,"]] her brother spoke for the two of them, and both of them knew that was mostly directed to Lamai. The taller Lamon literally looked down on them, his stern face turning into a snide sneer as he shifted his attention back to their family's portrait.
[b [+gray "I'm definitely going to be the winner this time,"]] Lamai announced with a smug look on her face. Alissa's lips quirked in a small smile, her eyebrows rising. [b [#b72cc9 "We shall see about that."]] Not waiting for their cousins' response, they bowed their heads and returned to their search for their painting. It might have been a little rude, but the last thing she wanted at the moment was a prolonged interaction with the bird twins, and she knew Alister shared the sentiment.
After what felt like a thousand steps, they found their family's painting. If one was to stand a good foot away from the work of art, it held an uncanny resemblance to the painting that hung in one of their palace's largest halls. They stepped closer to the painting, Alissa's eyes roaming the replica. It was a near-perfect copy of the family painting made roughly six years ago, with eleven-year old Alister and thirteen-year-old Alissa standing beside their seated mother, muted smiles on their lips. The king stood behind the queen, his stoic gaze boring into the painting's viewer, instantly reminding Alissa of the long talk their father had with them before their departure. Her brows wrinkled slightly, her eyes moving back to their mother's face. It wasn't a perfect copy, but it was the same, familiar smile that never failed to ease her nerves.
[#6e34bc [b "You were so cute back then, sis,"]] Alister's voice, with a nudge to her side, brought a stop to her train of thought. The smile on his face was both nostalgic and cheerful, as if the painting wasn't going to lead them to a place that would decide their fates for the next three years.
Alissa allowed a smile to settle on her lips, crossing her arms in front of her chest. [b [#b72cc9 "If I remember correctly, though, between the two of us, it was your cheeks that was pinched the most."]] Instantly, her brother winced, placing both of his palms on his cheeks. She chuckled softly. At the corner of her eye, she noticed two royals enter the passage their painting revealed. She sighed. [i [#b72cc9 Right.]]
Giving Alister a gentle pat on the shoulder and a smile, she stepped forward, fixing her eyes on her mother's smile. [i [#b72cc9 It'll be okay. I'll be okay.]] After taking a deep, shaky breath, she raised her hand and extended it towards the painting. The moment she touched the painting's surface, electricity gushed into her hand and traveled all over her body. She sucked in a sharp breath and pursed her lips, the determined expression on her face turning into more of a grimace, her other hand forming a fist, gripping a handful of her skirt. Her gaze remained on their mother as she did her best to rid her mind of the urge to pull her hand away to halt the searing pain her entire body was subjected to. Long agonizing minutes passed, and the pain was no more. She breathed a sigh of relief, letting her hand drop to her side and letting go of the cloth of her dress.
Silver flames disintegrated the portrait, revealing a cave entrance that was disconcertingly beautiful, with its walls of shimmering teal-blue crystals, the luster being more than enough to illuminate the cavern. Alissa rarely entered caves, but she could tell that this was extraordinary.
[#6e34bc [b "Lisa...?"]]
She raised her head as she flipped away lavender curls that strayed while she was opening the passage, turning her attention to Alister who was frowning with worry. [b [#b72cc9 "I'm fine."]] She offered him a smile to further prove her words, even when she felt her skin faintly tingle with the electric pain that used to be there, and her chest squeeze with every step they took towards the contest. One of her palms open, stretched towards Alister, she gestured with her head to the direction of the cavern. [b [#b72cc9 "Let's go?"]]
[right [pic http://i64.tinypic.com/2jczfko.jpg]]
[center [Barlow+Semi+Condensed [size13 Xerxes didn't hear Viviana before he saw her, and his inability to hear her gave him a sick feeling in his stomach. One could say that he harbored a... [i distaste] for those of the Wolf Kingdom. He had to fight his urge to pull the small girl off of Xingshen as she sunk her teeth into his hand. Instead, Xerxes crossed his arms across his chest and sent a disapproving glare her way as she spoke.
"[+red As fun as that sounds I’m with Xerxes on this, the stones were laid to strategically, the best bet would be to check the garden for any ivy growing on the walls or find some decorative pillars, you’d be surprised how easy it is for me to climb up those. Not that I am consenting to have you shove whatever stupid thing you steal into my mouth and making me scale the walls. Because, as I said, I’m staying inside where it is warm.]" Xingshen stated, with a look at Augustus that made Xerxes smile just a small bit.
"[#6A5ACD I agree, I would much rather stay inside by the fires than go gallivanting around in the cold.]" Xerxes agreed, his temporarily hurt pride suddenly swelling in his chest as Xingshen agreed with his sentiment about the bricks of the castle. A loud chuckle emanated from behind Xerxes, and he turned to see his cousin Ishim standing in a group not too far off. Xerxes nodded his farewells to the other men and made his way towards Ishim, bumping their shoulders together to get his large cousin's attention.
"[+goldenrod Xerxes! How have you been?]" Ishim boomed, clapping Xerxes on the shoulder, nearly sending him sprawling in the dirt of the courtyard. Xerxes let out a chuckle.
"[#6A5ACD I've been well! I wanted to congratulate you on your little... ahem... prank, with the Wolf siblings. I wish I could've seen it.]" Xerxes said with a grin on his face. The expression was returned by his cousin.
"[+goldenrod Well, the next time I get an opportunity, I'll have a portrait painted, just for you, Xerxes.]" The two men were laughing when the same sickly sweet voice from earlier rang out through the courtyard again.
"[b The hall is now open, siblings please pair and start making your way into the castle. The awakening will happen now.]" Ishim rumbled a quick goodbye before loping off to find his sister, Rahael. Xerxes was tall, but he was still shorter than many of the people that surrounded him, and Xandria was even shorter; there would be little chance of them finding each other prudently just by sight.
"[#6A5ACD Dri, over here!]" Xerxes called, hoping his antlers would assist Xandria in locating him. Evidently it did, because only moments later she was looping her arm through his, their twin gold-trimmed green and brown cloaks rustling in tandem as they moved forward. They were both brought to a halt as the screech of the large golden gate nearly brought them both to their knees. Xerxes' ears flattened against his head, a sharp pain piercing his eardrum and leaving it ringing for several minutes after the gate had crashed open. He took the lead, pulling Xandria through the crowd of chattering royals. The hall smelled like magic, and Xerxes could almost feel his palms growing warm. He shook it off, though the feeling of lightheadedness and happiness still permeated his form.
Xerxes felt like he had been walking through the hall for hours, though he knew it had only been a few minutes at best, when he finally spotted the family portrait of the de La Forges. He studied the painting just as Xandria seemed to, though her eye was less suited to picking out the details, he knew. The artist had left out the speckles of grey in his father's hair and beard, but the crinkles around his kind green eyes were still there. The artist had been good, his attention to detail, stunning. He had even taken the time to apply delicate gold leaf along the hems of the entire family's clothes. Xerxes' mother's feathers looked like they would [i actually] be there if he reached out and touched them. He had always loved his mother's feathers. They were soft, almost like hair. Xerxes had gotten his stark white hair from her, but he had his father's eyes.
Drawing his thoughts back to him and his eyes away from the painting, Xerxes looked at Xandria, whom had a positively terrified look on her face. Their father had explained to them what this was like, but mere words can't fully describe anything. Xerxes smiled at his sister with a reassuring look on his face. She nodded to him before untangling her arm from his and stepping forward, one hand on her skirts and one outstretched towards the portrait. Xerxes felt his heart begin to race as her fingertips lingered mere centimeters from the surface. Though he would not have to experience it, he had still heard of the immense pain that the first seal caused. Xerxes gave a start as Xandria gasped, lunging forward to catch her if she fell. Afterwards, he realized that it was a stupid thing to do; his sister would [i never] fall. She wouldn't let herself. Her hand was gripping her skirts so hard that her knuckles had turned white, and Xerxes felt a twinge of worry, and just a bit of regret that he hadn't been the firstborn. He was pulled out of his thoughts by the wondrous sight of the painting dissolving into silver flames. He felt slightly disappointed that the portrait would not be allowed to be taken to his rooms, but the cavern that opened up was more than satisfactory.
Xerxes felt Xandria loop her arm through his again and they started forward, the earthy scent of dark clay penetrating their nostrils. Xerxes felt almost overcome with worry about what lie ahead, and it made him pull Xandria to a stop. Green eyes met pink as he spoke.
"[#6A5ACD You'll do whatever it takes to stay alive and safe, once this starts, won't you? I need your word, Dria. I have to be sure that you'll be okay.]" His worry was only slightly soothed as Xandria smiled and cupped his cheek gently.
"[#C71585 I'll be fine, Eddy. Stop being such a worry-wart or you'll give yourself wrinkles. We will both be fine. Now let's go before night falls, please.]" Xandria dropped her hand, intertwining her fingers with his and leading him forward. Instead of letting his worry overcome him again, Xerxes instead focused on the humming of his sister, letting it drift him away to back before they had to worry about this blasted competition.]]]
[left [pic http://i64.tinypic.com/24ysftc.jpg]]
[size12 [center [font "Tahoma" "[#C71585 I've decided to wear my cream ball gown, you know, the one with the golden applique on the left shoulder?]" Xandria had worn the dress in question at least once before; if she remembered correctly it was to the Black and White Gala the year previous. Just then, however, she was wearing an elegant green dress with light green and gold accents. It complimented her pink eyes perfectly as they scanned the crowd for signs of other familiar faces while Xaoi and Adela exchanged words of dresses, but Xan found herself becoming frustrated at the blurriness overtaking her vision at long range. Her fist clenched at her skirts and her jaw stiffened as she found herself fighting off tears of vexation. She shook her head slightly to get rid of the tears, and felt a hand on her shoulder. Xandria looked back to see her cousin Rahael's wise grey eyes staring back at her. Simultaneously, smiles cracked both of their faces, and Xan embraced her cousin deeply. "[#C71585 It has been far too long, dear. How have you been? And what in the world were you and Ishim thinking with the Wolf siblings?]" Xandria pulled away from her cousin slightly, smoothing the brown and grey hair-like feathers atop her head.
Before the Owl princess could respond, the sweet, sing-song voice from before rang out among the crowd, "[b The hall is now open, siblings please pair and start making your way into the castle. The awakening will happen now.]" Rahael let a sigh escape her lips and gave a gracious, yet mischievous smile and a wink before turning away to find her brother.
"[#6A5ACD Dri, over here!]" Xandria's ears swiveled slightly to the left to where her brother's voice was coming from. She smiled in farewell to Xaoi and Adela, then made her way towards the antlers sticking above the crowd. As soon as she had wrapped her arm through Xer's, as if on cue, the massive golden gates depicting the shapes of all the Blessed animals in Zuosaix began to open. The resounding scrape of the opening gates send a ringing through Xandria's ears, and she felt her eyes begin to water from the pain. After a few moments, it was over, and the crowd of royals began to chatter again as they made their way into the Hall of Heroes. Xerxes took the lead; though he was the younger sibling, he was taller and better suited to parting crowds. The air was thick with magic here, and Xandria felt it tugging at her, begging her to utilize it. She hummed softly, willing it away with promises of '[i later] ', and instead focused on the wonder of the crystal lights and the beautiful paintings of all of the royal families that lined the hall .
After what seemed like hours but mere seconds at the same time, Xerxes pulled Xandria towards the portrait of the de La Forges. Xandria studied the painting, savoring the sight of her parents, albeit from 4 years previous. Her father, standing tall and proud, his kind face split into a large smile, one hand resting on fifteen year old Xerxes' shoulder, the other wrapped around her mother's waist. Her mother was smiling serenely, her black and white feathers falling gracefully around her shoulders. Xandria sighed softly and looked towards Xerxes, who was giving her a reassuring smile. She nodded to him and stepped forward towards the portrait, took a deep breath, and extended her hand to touch the surface of the painting. She gasped and squeezed her eyes shut in a mixture of shock and pain as a white hot feeling seared up her arm in waves. Her free hand gripped her skirts so hard that her knuckles turned white and her nails threatened to tear the fabric. Just as suddenly as the pain had come, it left, and Xandria felt weak in the knees. She exhaled, not realizing that she had been holding her breath. When she opened her eyes again, the portrait was gone, and in the place where it had been, a cave entrance stood.
When Xandria had heard that behind the portrait was a cave, she had imagined a cave like the ones at home: dark, wet, and musty. This cave, however, looked like one straight out of a fairy tale or lullaby. It was made of shimmering, light blue diamond, and light reflected off of the walls like it would a crystal in the mines back home. It was utterly beautiful, and if Xandria had a choice she would've stayed there all day just staring at it, but she had things to do. She turned towards Xerxes and looped her arm through his again before proceeding into the cave, the earthy smell of dark clay penetrating her nostrils. They had only gotten part-way through when Xerxes stopped and turned to her, looking deep into her eyes.
"[#6A5ACD You'll do whatever it takes to stay alive and safe, once this starts, won't you? I need your word, Dria. I have to be sure that you'll be okay.]" Xerxes was trying his best to be the serious, responsible sibling, but it didn't fit him. Xandria couldn't help but smile at his attempt, and she reached up and cupped his cheek.
"[#C71585 I'll be fine, Eddy. Stop being such a worry-wart or you'll give yourself wrinkles. We will both be fine.]" Xandria let her hand fall and entwined her fingers with Xerxes'. "[#C71585 Now let's go before night falls, please.]" She started on again, this time leading him, instead of the other way around, humming to keep her mind off of what lie ahead.]]]
[center [size11 [b “Think you could scale that wall with your mouth full? Just keeping escape routes in mind,”] Xingshen frowned at his friend already getting a bad taste in his mouth from whatever the fox prince was thinking of stealing. However he didn’t get a chance to answer.]]
[center [size11 Xingshen turned his head as he felt someone take his hand, though he barely had a second to take in the sight of Viviana before she was putting his hand up to her mouth and sinking her teeth in. It wasn’t anything that was painful, actually it was more amusing than anything. [#3b5998 [b “Xiii,”]] The wolf princess cooed her ears and tail seeming to perk up. Xingshen had almost missed what Xerxes had said.]]
[center [size11 [#3b5998 [b “Scaling walls?”]] The thought seemed to excite the tiny girl beside Xingshen. [#3b5998 [b “I think it would be possible, if you managed to rope the Gecko siblings in. Oh! Or maybe one of the bird royals? But I don’t think they could carry any of you, uh, enchanting gentlemen up that far,”]] The serpent prince laughed at her wording. [#3b5998 [b “Oh but maybe two or threemaybefourofthemcoulddoit!” ]]]]
[center [size11 [#D30100 [b “As fun as that sounds I’m with Xerxes on this, the stones were laid to strategically, the best bet would be to check the garden for any ivy growing on the walls or find some decorative pillars, you’d be surprised how easy it is for me to climb up those,”]] Xingshen said, giving a little thought to how he would scale the walls. [#D30100 [b “Not that I am consenting to have you shove whatever stupid thing you steal into my mouth and making me scale the walls,”]] He quickly said glaring at his friend. [#D30100 [b “Because, as I said, I’m staying inside where it is warm.”]]]]
[center [size11 [#3b5998 [b “Worried you’re going to turn into a little snake icicle?”]] Viviana teased, she knew full well how he fared in cold weather. [#3b5998 [b “Everyone is hanging out with Ace tonight?”]] The wolf princess released Xingshen’s hand and moved towards Augustus, [#3b5998 [b “I graciously rescind my previous invitation. I plan on going on an adventure, even if it is a solo one,”]] Augustus looked a little disappointed as Viviana gave an overdramatic curtsy before she moved back towards him.]]
[center [size11 [b “The hall is now open, sibling please pair and start making your way into the castle. The awakening will happen now.”]]]
[center [size11 The same voice from before called out stopping all the conversations at once, but when it finished the royals seemed to irrupt with noise as the gates opened. Xingshen was a little surprised when Viviana moved to bury herself into his side. She was practically nuzzling into his side, her ears were flat against her head and her tail tucked. He guessed the noise was a bit much for her, he placed a hand on top of her head, gently stroking her ears until she stopped and took a step back. [b [#3b5998 “I’m so sorry,”]] The wolf princess muttered.]]
[center [size11 [#D30100 [b “For what?”]] However the serpent prince didn’t get an answer as Vaughn called for her, the two siblings joined hands and began towards the now open doors. Xingshen found his sister still by Lisette and moved up to her, placing his hand on her upper back. The two shared a silent glance before they began to follow the crowd into the hall. Their hands found each other with ease, keeping them from losing each other in mess of other royals.]]
[center [size11 Finding the family portrait for the Serpent kingdom was incredibly easy, there were only so many portraits that were on scrolls after all. The scroll moved slightly, effected by the rushing crowd around in. Xingshen didn’t want to look at it but his red eyes were drawn in despite himself. The serpent prince took in the tall, graceful form of his father composed of gentle brushstrokes that matched the man’s docile demeanor. In front of him the two twins stood, only ten when the portrait was done, side by side; their hands were intertwined, even now he could see the desperation and need for each other. To the left of the twins stood Huangzhè, their younger brother, unlike the others he was smiling, practically beaming with pride as his mother kept her hand on his shoulder. Xingshen traced up from the hand, his stomach twisting as the muscles in the torso tightened as if preparing for an attack. The great Empress Jiānhua stood beautifully in the portrait her lips curled just slightly at the corners but it was her eyes that Xingshen found himself watching; a cruel, cold stare seem to gaze at him.]]
[center [size11 Xingshen knew what would come next, as he had been born just minutes before Xaoi the responsibility of opening the way fell to him. Truthfully he didn’t have any desire to touch the painting, instead he would much rather rip it from the wall so that he wouldn’t need look at his mother any longer. The prince focused his eyes on the decorative border as he reached out, his other hand still firmly holding on to his sister’s. Once his hand touched the rough parchment a jolt spread though his body like lightening. His muscles tightened uncomfortably unable to process this kind of attack on his body while the grip he had on Xaoi became almost painfully tight as if he were trying to pass this pain to her. It felt as if the scroll was sucking out all the heat in his body leaving him cold. Xingshen was kept from making any noise by the fact his jaw had locked closed when he touched it, otherwise he might have yelled.]]
[center [size11 It felt like hours before the pain subsided though he knew it was only minutes, as the scroll dissolved in white flames he pulled his shaking hand back towards his chest. The wall the scroll had been hung on dissolved as well revealing a shimmering cave, it looked like ice or glass composed the walls casting blue light about to illuminate the way. A cold air seemed to flow out from the opening. Great, just great more cold. Perhaps Viviana was right about him turning into an icicle.]]
[center [size11 As the two serpents descended into the cavern Xingshen glanced back towards the hall, waiting until all the noise became nothing more than muffled sounds. The prince stopped walking, pulling on his sister’s hand until she turned to him. [#D30100 [b “We’ve never had to go against each other before, and I know we can’t try to protect each other once this starts. But I want you to promise me that you will do [i whatever] it takes to survive. No matter what, you have to stay alive. Promise me,”]] His words came out like a desperate plea. His life had been defined by their protection of each other and now this contest was threatening that, he couldn’t lose Xaoi. Not ever.]]
/ 256d 6h 27m 10s
[center [pic https://i.imgur.com/9FAA6nE.gif]]
[b [#9B5E9D “Oh, hi, Vi. Nice to see you. I guess.”]] Viviana’s brows knitted together in confusion at the look the Liese gave her while Loren picked himself up. The young Wolf Princess couldn’t tell if Liese was about to sneeze or was actually trying to smile at her. Before she could make a judgement call, the Cat Princess was gone.
[b [#ADECA8 “I- uh. I'm sorry for Liese. She's a little sensitive right now. I wouldn't take anything she says to heart.”]] Loren had offered her his hands, but Viviana had already bounced back to her feet. Eyes still trailing after the Liese, Viviana’s ears twitching before giving all of her attention back to the Cat Prince and best friend.
[b [#ADECA8 “But enough of that. How've you been? Do you plan on going with... your brother... later?”]]
[b [#3b5998 “What plan with my brother? No. I did ask Ace if he wanted to do anything though I don’t think he will remember. Maybe we could go exploring? I was thinking about trying to find out where [i they] reside. I also kind of what to see what the baths are like here. OHANDTHEMAGIC. ”]] Vivianna didn’t get an answer to her previous question as the Cat Prince had bid her farewell, then left, moving through the crowds and left her standing there. Her golden hues watched his form disappear into the crowds that once surrounded them. She already knew he was head further in towards the group that her brother had gone off to. The small princess’s ears went flat against her head, her tail tucking, while Vaughns words danced in her head once more.
[i ‘Do you honestly think he will still continue to act as your friend?’] The answer that she was so sure of at the start of the day began to blur. Viviana had never lumped the two Cat siblings together, but it seemed that perhaps she should have. Vaughn had a very annoying habit of being right, always.
[b [#a70241 “My lady, please do not run ahead.”]] Cini appeared next to her, not a sign of fatigue from chasing her through the crowd.
[b [#3b5998 “Sorry Cini. I’ll be...more careful in the future.”]] Viviana shot him a quick smile while she smoothed down the front of her dress. All of her dresses were made out of silk - the sexiest of all fabrics. At least that is what her novels had told her and she was prone to believe them. As it clung to all the right places on one's body and felt amazing against the skin. Not just against her own but also against - No. Now was not the time for such salacious thoughts. That was for later.
Viviana could feel eyes burning holes into the back of her neck. Carefully, the small princess cast a glance behind her only for a loud groan to escape from her plump lips a second later. The Swan siblings. As a royal, she normally tried to treat everyone kindly, however, those two made it almost an impossible task. Looking back over her shoulder, Viviana caught the eyes of Princess Lucia with just enough time to stick her tongue out at her prickly cousin. However, Viviana did not turn her head back fast enough to miss the once over and sneer that crossed Lucia’s face. It was the same face that most made of her clothing choices. However, they were polite enough to hold their judgemental facial expressions for when her back was fully turned.
She wasn’t wearing her royal attire of Trepzeka. Instead she had picked out her light blue, cream, and gold colored short dress. Not stopping at just a dress, she had accessorized it with a cream colored belt around her small waist and another that wrapped from around her left shoulder through the middle of her chest and around her back. Cream and gold fingerless gloves decorated her arms while light blue and gold thigh high boots covered her legs. Most tended to point out her short outfits and Viviana had long ago stopped explaining that it was hard to find things that fit over her thick thighs in a flattering way. It was also a challenge to find something that didn’t brush the fur on her tail the wrong way.
A snort left her as she made her way after Prince Loren as she thought back to when she complained to her father that her training was making her thighs increase in size. Now [i that] was a greatly awkward conversation between the two. Viviana swore it was the only time she could recall seeing her father look uncomfortable. It didn’t take the wolf princess long to spot the large crowd, Vaughn’s height making him a beacon to her. It didn’t help that she was the shortest one there and trying to make her way through crowds of other royals, while Vaughn was almost a mountain.
Wordlessly, Viviana came up behind Prince Xingshen and slipped her hand into his, lacing their fingers. Before he had a chance to snatch it away, she brought his hand to her mouth and bit down. Her canines were nowhere near as sharp as his, but she could at least leave a nice bright red bite mark. The first time that Serpent prince had bitten her, she had taken it as a challenge in her younger age, biting him back and refusing to let go until he did. They had been the same size back then, now he towered over her and it was hard for her to find the skin to bite that wasn’t his scales.
[b [#3b5998 “Xiii.”]] Her tail finally untucked to give a small shake while her ears began perking up.
[b [#3b5998 “Scaling walls?”]] The small princess tilted her head, coming in just in time to hear Xerxes comment. Her eyes drifted towards the towering walls of the castle. [b [#3b5998 I think it would be possible….if you managed to rope the Gekko siblings in. Oh. Or Maybe one of the bird royals? But I don’t think they could carry any of you..uh..enchanting gentleman up that far.”]] The word ‘heavy’ almost slipped off her tongue. Not that she was one to point fingers. [b [#3b5998 “Oh, but maybe two or threemaybefourofthemcoulddoit!”]]
Viviana had tucked herself closer to the Serpent princes side, gifting him with her body heat out of habit. Honestly, this island was almost to hot for the young Wolf Princess. During this time in Trezpeka, if they had been standing outside, they would have been standing in four feet of snow. [b [#3b5998 “Have you going to turn into a little snake icicle?”]] She teased while using her free hand to wave a hello at Xaoi that was accompanied with a bright smile. Viviana wasn’t to speak to Xaoi just yet, since the last time she had seen the Serpent Princess it had been...awkward. For her at least.
Ears twitching towards her brother, she listened in on what he was spouting off. [#3b5998 [b “Everyone is hanging out with Ace tonight? I graciously rescind my previous invitation, Ace. ”]] In the middle, Viviana had stepped away from Xi and gave a dramatic bow towards Ace. [#3b5998 [b “I plan on going on an adventure, even if it is a solo one.”]] Viviana strongly ignored her brother's death glare as she spoke. A small part of her was relieved not to spend any alone time with the fox prince. The last time that they had met, butterflies had fluttered endlessly in her stomach. She had marked it up to nerves about the upcoming contest and nothing more. Viviana wrinkled her nose mockingly at Augustus and stepped back to stand beside Xi. It wasn’t out of attraction, at least she thought it wasn’t, but out of safety.
Standing next to Vaughn would just make her stand out more to other royals as the team picking would happen soon. ‘The Runt’ as her cousins had called her along with a few whispering staff members. It was easy to see that she was the shortest one in their hodgepodge group, even with her ears. The last thing that she needed was to be picked last because of her short stature. Even with Xi being taller, at least other royals would have to use what limited amounts of imagination they had to picture her standing close to Vaughn and weigh the differences between them.
[right [pic http://i.imgur.com/5n1f2Vx.gif]][b ‘The hall is now open, siblings please pair and start making your way into the castle. The awakening will happen now.’] The sweet song voice swept through the crowd, silencing everyone as it spoke. Only for the noise to triple once it stopped. The deafening sound of the castles golden gates opening caused Viviana’s ears to flat back and her tail to tug between her legs once more. Without much thought, the young Wolf Princess tried to bury herself into Xi’s side to escape the sound, freezing in place once it was over.
Carefully, she moved away, taking her hand out of his and taking a step to the side. A soft pink hue settling over the top of her cheeks. This was a moment that she knew to her core that she was supposed to apologize for being so unladylike in public. Mainly with Vaughn watching so closely, however, her brain wasn’t fully back from its animalistic retreat from the noise just yet. [b [#3b5998 “I’msosorry.”]] In all honesty, she wasn’t the least bit sorry. Since the experience had given her a new idea to work within her latest novel. Viviana made a mental note to jot it down once she was alone in her room. Or whenever she found a scrap of paper.
[b [#776d97 “Button.”]] The nickname cause her ears to pop back up and those gold eyes to widen ever so slightly. It had been [i years] since he had called her that and almost never in public. Biting back a response, Viviana snatched up his offered hand instantly, giving a quick farewell wave to everyone in their group before being pulled away. A heavy sigh left Viviana, as she patted the spot over her heart with her free hand.Suddenly, she found herself drained from being with people. Without thought, she let Vaughn take the lead, being pulled behind him like a child in trouble while Cini followed after her.
The Hall of Heroes was breathtaking. Viviana’s eyes were focused up towards the hundreds of crystal bubbles. A strong urge to reach out and touch one overtook her free hand. However, whenever one got close enough for her to touch, it disappeared before she could get a chance and reappeared high over her head. With her very limited amount of magical skill, the magic within the hall itself stunned her. Most of her younger life, she had heard tales of the old ways and how the world once was. A time when magic ran wild through the air and people didn’t have to send their children from the moment they were discovered to have a sliver of talent with the arts. Those times had their drawbacks as well. Viviana shook her head, eyes focusing on Vaughns back as they continued their trudge through the hall.
It felt like forever and all too quickly mashed together when they finally found their family portrait. Both siblings seemed to be in a world of their own as they gazed at their once whole family. While Vaughns eyes had been upon himself, Viviana’s had drifted over their mothers face stopping at her eyes. They were a soft blue, looking kind and very sad as Viviana recalled. Fragmented memories of her mother were all that she had left as each passing year, more and more blank space began to fill their voids. Though neither of the siblings had gotten her blessing or eyes, Viviana had been told over and over again that she looked like an exact copy of her mother. Something she had loved and hated growing up. Staring up at the painting, Viviana felt a strange numbness towards it now as she stared at her late mother.
Shaking her to snap back to the task at hand, Viviana gave her brothers had a squeeze, bringing him back into the moment with her. Dread began to fill her stomach as Vaughn took back his hand and stepped towards the towering painting. The Wolf Princess couldn’t look at what happened next - their father had told them several times about what one goes through to open the passageway. So instead, Viviana glued her eyes on Cini’s large brown leathers shoes as he stood forever guarding her side.Seconds turned into minutes and the dread that had built up in her stomach soon turned to a sickening worry as no sound came from Vaughn.
Peeking up at her brothers back, Viviana quickly took in a breath. The painting dissolved into thick silver flames, their once whole family vanishing once more. After a moment, the small princess warily walked up next to her brother, placing a hand on his shoulder - or rather the best she could to place a hand on his shoulder. Instantly and wordlessly, he shrugged her small offer of comfort away and started down the cavern alone.
[b [#3b5998 “Good thing this whole thing isn’t going to make him lose his sense of wonder.”]] Viviana grumbled, watching her brother trudge on. Each step that he took, she noticed that a low luminous light would flare up a foot ahead of him to light the way. Each step brought forth a new light and with it an array of color would light up the ground, making it look like a shattered rainbow had fallen at Vaughn's feet.
[b [#a70241 “My lady.”]] Cini finally spoke up, breaking Viviana’s mindless stare.
[b [#3b5998 “I know.”]] Viviana flashed her Bear Protector a bright smile. [b [#3b5998 “I’ll be right back, so don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”]] The Wolf Princess waggled a finger at her companion whose face remained emotionless at the action.
Viviana cast one final look down the Hall towards the gate. She could [i feel] Cini tense up, ready to stop whatever escape she was going to try. There was no escaping this - not now. This look wasn’t one of the silly dreams and daring runaways. This look was a goodbye. To her freedom, friends, and old life. With a heavy sigh. Viviana balled her hands into tight fists at her sides and started after Vaughn. Viviana understood what the maker of these caverns was trying to do, from the beautiful walls to the fairy lights running ahead of her - it was to distract her from the fear growing inside of her. To soothe whoever walked its way, filling them with fascination rather than terror.
[center [pic http://i.imgur.com/LZMzL7g.gif]][size11
[i [b ]
The Glass siblings stood side by side as they waited for the mages to return from gathering their energy. Neither was in a rush and neither had said a word to one another since the honey and feather incident. Viviana stood, bouncing her weight from one foot to the other, her ears flattening and springing back up while Vaughn stood motionless, arms behind his back, eyes focused on the dull silver platform in front of them. A heavy sigh soon left the Wolf princes lips, golden hues shifting to look down on his tiny sister. A whisper in his mind reminded him that very soon, one of them could die.
[b [#776d97 “Button,”]] Vaughn called out his special nickname for her. [b [#776d97 “Breathe. This isn’t a gathering of friends. It is a gathering of enemies.”]]
[b [#3b5998 “But they [u are] our friends, Vaan.”]] The tiny wolf princess had stopped her bouncing and had turned to look up at her brother. They had almost an entire foot difference in height. [b [#3b5998 “Some of them will be on your team.”]]
[b [#776d97 “Once we step foot onto that island, friendships of the past will disappear into thin air, you will do well to remember that.”]] Vaughn reached out to ruffle her hair, but Viviana had managed to dodge him.
[b [#3b5998 “Maybe with your sour puss they will. I’m still going to be friends with everyone or try to be.”]] Viviana sucked air into her mouth, puffing out her cheeks while she narrowed her eyes at her older brother.
[b [#776d97 “You will only be hurting yourself. Do you think any of them will choose your friendship over their kingdom?”]] Vaughn almost snorted at her made face.
[b [#3b5998 “Loren would.”]] Vi snapped back instantly.
[b [#776d97 “Do you honestly think he will still continue to act as your friend? After all this time of those ‘secret’ conversations? Remember who his sister is. He is just the same as her, if not worse.”]] Silence hung heavy between them. Soon Vaughn returned to his previous position while Viviana had somehow managed to bring out one of those silly books, shoving her nose into it to avoid any further discussion.
[b [#3b5998 “You’re just being pissy because of what is happening with Lisa and Xaoi. It isn’t my fault you attract loose women.”]]]
[b [#776d97 “I’m so thrilled that my dismay has brought you such pleasure.”]] He rolled his eyes at the Serpent Prince, ears flickering back ever so slightly. [b [#776d97 “In the future, I should just travel through your kingdom. Perhaps carry on the Owl’s tradition and give you the spa treatment that I received.”]] There was a fifty-fifty chance that the mountain of a prince could sneak up on Xingshen. That percentage shifting since it was Xi would have the homeland advantage. Still, Vaughn would dare to press his luck should that bluff ever be called out. Perhaps bringing in Viviana into the fight would even out the chances.
[b [#776d97 “Should you grow bored with your findings, the invitation still stands.”]] Vaughns attention drifted from the Serpent to the Fox Princess. His lips tugged into a rare soft smile as his eyes met hers for a brief moment. [b [#776d97 “You’ll wear yourself out being so formal.”]] He teased as she bowed to him. It was expected for her to be respectful, well it was supposed to be expected from all of them. A slice of annoyance at his sister's disappearance ran through his veins.
Out of the corner of those golden eyes, he caught the Tiger Princess sneering at his outfit. She had worn her homeland colors, as did many of the surrounding royalty. Vaughn straightened his crown shaped cufflink, a late birthday present from his father. Casting a look around the group, most of them had decided to wear their kingdom’s colors. He had gone against this since he was no a fan of getting blood on his clothing. Vaan had gone with black, red and gold. His shoes were the only thing made out of a different material than the rest of his outfit, a hard black leather. It had been on one of his shopping sprees with the Fox princess that he had found him and ever since they had been his favorites. He had dressed in a black button up shirt that's collar arched up with gold lining, that he threw a red and gold vest over. His ascot was white, kept in place at his neck by a large red ruby that was wrapped in gold wings. A thick red and crimson belt hugged his hips, having another large ruby in the center that made one's eye wander towards it when the light caught it.
[#10781B [b “Sorry, Vaughn. As much as I love gardens, I think I'd like to look at the kitchen. Namely the wine cellar. Gotta make sure I have access to a few things. I might join you after that, though. Who knows?”]] Vaughn resisted the urge to roll his eyes at the statement.
[b [#776d97 “You assumed I was extending that invite to you. I would be careful running wild here. This isn’t a playground, break something and they might just break you.”]] Vaughn joked cooly while he took in the interaction between Prince Augustus and Princess Alissa with a tight smile. There had been whispers all over the courts about her meeting with a lover in a dungeon. From the shameful way, she threw herself at Prince Augustus invite over his - her publicly announced fiance - left little in his mind that it was false. He made note of it for later use should something useful come from it.
[i [#3b5998 “You’re just being pissy because of what is happening with Lisa and Xaoi. It isn’t my fault you attract loose women.”]] Vaan almost found himself frowning at his sisters last whispered words. [i Almost].
[b [#9B5E9D “Roses, huh? Somehow didn't peg Van-Van to be the romance type. I think you've been spending too much time around these two. Are you secretly reading the same trashy literature Loren keeps where he thinks no one will find it?”]] Liesette spoke up, his ears twitching at the new nickname. She had never used a nickname for him, honestly, they never had a cute kidding around relationship. His smile thinned once more. Vaughn turned his gaze to the Cat Princess, briefly looking her over from head to toe. The white hair was new.
[b [#776d97 “What two? There is no one there.”]] Vaughn looked at the ground where she pointed, but the wolf prince couldn’t see any living being, only the paved stones. A brow rose at Liese as he looked back at her. Perhaps she had misspoken or it was one of her plots. For what, he couldn’t quite be sure of. Honestly, he always assumed that she was up to something, even if that something was just breathing. Everything she did had a plan in his eyes. [b [#776d97 “Perhaps you are the one spending too much time with them, giving into such silly imaginations. Though I feel that roses and fireworks with friends is a nice way to start of this year.”]] Fake sweetness was bitter tasting and Vaughn was too dry to just politely swallow it. It cracked his outer shell even at a time like this.
[b [#94101E “The Rose Gardens? That doesn't sound too terrible,"]] Xaoi’s voice melted his cold demeanor just for a second before Vaughn forced himself to freeze once more. She didn’t get to have that effect on him anymore. She shouldn’t have that effect on him anymore.
[#776d97 [b “Ah. Well, at least I will not be viewing them alone tonight.”]] Vaughn nodded towards her, his gold eyes not quite able to met hers. He needed to get control over his emotions quickly. The contest would eat him alive if he just left everything to how his heartfelt in the moment. Their moment didn’t last long.
[b [#9B5E9D “Xaoixaoixa-”]] Vaughn rose a single brow at the Cat princess. It wouldn’t have been such a shock if the Cat princess had not gone from a rival badass tomboy that was poised, aloof, and eloquent to mirroring Viviana’s volubleness. Perhaps another plan in the making.
[b [#776d97 “Our travel to the Owl Kingdom was very silent. I am glad that you were able to rest well.”]]
Vaughn smiled, it quickly turned into a tighter smile as Alissa went on. [i ‘I'll consider joining you.’] Well, fuck. Vaughn wanted to ask her why she had to have reacted to loudly and emotionally towards Augustus only to shut his proposal down in public. Instead, he settled with a sigh. [b [#776d97 “I wouldn’t want to pull you away from anything, dear.”]] The Wolf prince took his hand away from Princess Alissa’s back, falling thoughtlessly to stand with them behind his back. [b [#776d97 “You should go to the ballroom first. My father told us that they have quite an array of desserts for tonight laid out there.”]] Vaguely, Vaughn remembered that Alissa’s smaller brother liked those types of treats, though he could be mistaken. The Rabbit Prince tended to stay clear of him, something Vaughn had chalked up to being Viviana’s handy work. Not that he blamed her for it. If anything, he applauded her for making such a strong tie with someone that seemed to have trouble remembering the simplest of things. Vaughn often wondered if the younger Rabbit had trouble remembering to breathe.
[left [pic http://i.imgur.com/1bk7zWQ.gif]] Vaughns attention was stolen away by the sudden appearance of the Cat Prince. His sisters presence the only one now missing from their group. The Wolf Prince let out an ‘hmm’ from the back of his throat as Prince Loren offered to spend his night with Augustus as well. [b [#776d97 “My, my, aren’t you the popular one tonight? Everyone offering to join you.”]] Vaughn mused at the Fox Prince, finding the thought of the giant group trying to sneak into anything - minus himself.
[#3b5998 [b “Everyone is hanging out with Ace tonight?”]] Viviana’s voice cut through the group and Vaughn found himself instantly glaring towards his smaller sibling that stood, snuggling into the Serpent Prince’s side. [#3b5998 [b “I graciously rescind my previous invitation, Ace.”]] Viviana gave an overly dramatic bow, completely ignoring his glare before returning to stand at Xi’s side.
The fair-haired prince opened his mouth to call out his sister but was cut off by the sing-song voice from before. Vaughn’s stomach dropped at the first five words that were spoken.
[b ‘The hall is now open, siblings please pair and start making your way into the castle. The awakening will happen now.’] The sweet song voice swept through the crowd. Just like this, the moment that their training had ended and the fight for their lives and kingdoms had begun. As if to call out in his dread, the large golden castle gates that had all of the blessed animals carved into its soft metal loudly screeched open. The booming noise echoed over the hushed crowd until they slide to an abrupt stop. Vaughns' ears flattened back against his skull, the volume had instantly given him a headache.
[b [#776d97 “Button.”]] Vaughn held out his hand to his little sister, which she latched into instantly. The Wolf Prince bit back a smile at the action and dipped his head, wordlessly wishing everyone luck. The Glass siblings parted from their familiar group and made their way towards the large open doors of the castle. For this small moment, they weren’t a shattered pair of siblings as they walked hand and hand into the hall. The time for pleasantry between their group was gone. Vaughn could only hold a small hope that his sister would remember how cruel people could be.
[#3b5998 [b “Wehavegotthis.”]] Viviana whisper was rushed. Whether she was trying to reassure herself or him, Vaughn couldn’t tell. Instead, he gave her hand a small squeeze as past the gates and took their first steps into the Hall of Heroes. The Hall was thick with magic, Vaughn could feel it in the air, breathed it in. This was the first time for any of them to experience the magic of old. Vaughn did not take delight in it. He could feel how strong it was against his skin, trying to ooze its way into his pours. He clicked his tongue against the roof of his mouth and pushed forward, dragging Viviana along with him. There was no lights or candles on the wall. Instead, hundreds of crystal bubbles that held small flames inside floated above and around them, lighting the Hall and guiding them towards the beginning of their ends.
The Hall was miles long. On each section hung a large fifteen foot by fifteen-foot paintings. Each painting was of one royal family and they went on for as long as Vaughn could see. Whenever a royal found their families painting, the eldest was to reach out a palm and touch it. The spark within their bloodline would cast the painting away in ghoulish white flames. Harmless to the living. This broke the first seal on the cavern to their counselors slumbering in their tomb. The second and final seal called for blood from both siblings. It was then that each sibling would learn of their role within this contest.
He lost count of just how many they had passed before the Glass siblings had stopped in front of their own. The wall behind the paintings was a very soft yellow. To Vaughn, it looked like whoever had painted it, had tried to mimic sand and was just a touch off. There were very tiny gold sketches all throughout it, making him more absorbed in trying to figure out what they were than the painting in front of him. It looked exactly like the painting that hung in their library. The last painting that their mother was healthy enough to sit for. He had been nine, Viviana eight. They had looked so sweet and innocent, while their parents loomed over their tiny bodies. Vaughn almost did not recognize himself. He stood there, motionless with his eyes fixed on his younger self.
A small squeeze of his hand jolted him back into the moment. His golden eyes darted away from the painting to Viviana. Their identical eyes locked onto one another’s. For the first time, Vaughn felt like running away. That their kingdom would be fine losing for the fifth time and escaping from this prison was possible. Viviana gave his hand another squeeze as if reading she was reading his mind and was telling him that there was no way out of this. They had already gone past the point of no return.
With a curt nod to his sister, Vaughn slipped his hand out from her and stepped towards the painting. He couldn’t look at the rest of it - at his mother, his father, even Viviana. So his eyes settled on their feet. Taking a deep breath, Vaughn held up the hand that Viviana had been holding and gingerly pressed it against the paintings rough surface. It barely took a second for a shock wave of what felt like he had dropped down into a lake of lightning, as white-hot pain spread up his arm, coursing through his whole body. Vaughn bit the inside of his cheek, concentrating on the metallic taste to keep himself silent. It lasted a few minutes, each one bringing in a new wave of pain until it came to an abrupt stop.
The painting in front of him was no more, lost in a quick flash of silvery flames until all the stood before them the cavern opening. It looked nothing like the caves that Vaughn had explored when he was younger. It looked like it was made out of pure diamond that had been dyed a teal blue. When the light reflected on its surface, it shimmered several dark beautiful colors. The floor was the only natural looking thing about it, as it smelled like nothing more than dark clay.
Vaughn held the hand that had been in the painting to his chest. It showed no signs of what he had just been through. Though his body was still screaming from it. Even his hair seemed to still be in a little bit of pain. Viviana had come up from behind him and placed her hand on his shoulder. Without a word, he shrugged it off and started down the cavern. The last thing he need was to look weak in the very beginning of the contest. Even to his sister. Everyone was now enemy number one.
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The younger royal heir of Eskil took in a shaky breath the moment he opened his eyes, the view entirely different from the one they had been in the moment before. A breath left his lips. His pair of brown eyes roamed his new surroundings, stalling at the sight of the castle. The walls felt more restricting than protecting, and he wasn't sure if they were truly there to keep things out or to keep heirs of numerous kingdoms in, to make them keep playing games adults have designed.
Alister turned to his sister dearest to make a remark, only to find her tripping on her feet and holding on to his shoulder for support. He immediately held onto her body and found her eyebrows furrowed in distress as she covered her mouth. Realization quickly dawned on him.
[b "Oh dear, I didn't expect even transportation platforms count,"] remarked Marino, the cousin Alister pretty much considered as his honorary older brother, as he looked at them in worry. Christina stared with a similar expression on her face.
He started rubbing his sister's back in long, soothing strokes, as she took heavy breaths in hopes to make nausea go away. His mind instantly moved to the set of potions he had made during their trip, all packed in one of his large cases along with some of his supplies. Why didn't he think of making her drink a drop of sleeping potion before they let magic take them here? She could have used him as support as she would have snoozed for a while, and roused just in time for her body to miss the sensation that it traveled through space. [b [#6e34bc "I'm sorry I didn't make you drink any---"]]
He was cut off by Alissa's open palm. [b [#b72cc9 "Stop. My motion sickness isn’t your fault."]] Her expression and her reprimanding tone were enough for him to bite back the rest of his apology, and he instead continued attempting to comfort her. He wasn't able to be of help this time, and now his sister was suffering when he could have helped it. His ears bowed in a sense of remorse.
Servants of the castle came to take their things away, his eyes following after them, hoping that they'd handle two certain bags with utmost care, as they contained things that might as well keep him sane in this place.
They eventually stepped out of the platform and joined the crowd of other royals, as Alissa's complexion grew better after a while of her heavy breathing. He still held onto her, however, just to be safe. The sheep siblings turned to them with smiles that marked temporary farewells. [b "I'm going to catch up with some friends,"] Christina started. He just stared at them and said nothing, though he still wanted to enjoy their company. As if noticing his displeasure, Marino ruffled his hair, the sensation immediately perking Alister up. The sheep prince knew just what to do, and it was unfair. They bid their goodbyes and parted ways, with Alister's eyes trailing after the pair before they disappeared from his sight.
A chirp notified the arrival of a bird, an actual bird that was smaller than his fist, which landed on his shoulder. He turned to welcome the presence of the critter with a smile, to which the bird replied with another chirp and a tilt of its head. Maybe this place couldn't be so bad if critters like this offered their acquaintanceship upon his arrival. Speaking of acquaintances...
He took another look around of his surroundings, now focusing more on the people surrounding them, ears moving slightly to search for a familiar voice. It didn't come as a surprise that he didn't know most of them, but he hoped one of these people would at least spark something in his usually murky memory. He doesn't [i always] forget about people; with enough interactions, he could recognize a face or a voice. Just not as well as most people. And he sometimes mixes up details. But he still remembers, even a little.
A pair of dark fox ears caught his gaze. He waited the head owning them to turn, and when it did, his ears perked up in excitement. He knew that person! Was it... Emilia? That sounded about right. He grabbed his sister's hand to steal her attention from the castle, feeling giddy at finding a familiar face in a sea of mostly strangers. [b [#6e34bc "It's Emilia!"]] He pointed to [i Adela].
Alissa frowned. [b [#b72cc9 "We don't know an Emilia--"]] Why she cut herself off and sighed, Alister wasn't certain, but, with his sister's hand in his grasp, he started towing her towards the direction where he found the fox princess. Just as he was to make his approach, a greeting already prepared to leave his lips, the serpent siblings emerged, and, to Alister's horror, the brother bit [+gray [s [Didact+Gothic [+black Emilia's]]]] Adela's neck. The bird on Alister's shoulder flew away.
[size9 shooketh]]If he could recall correctly, there were rumors circulating that the serpent prince eats his enemies to... [i what was it?] But that looked like what he was truly doing at the moment nonetheless! Panic surged through Alister's chest. What was he supposed to do? Before he could decide on something, however, the serpent prince was already pulling back, and, along with the serpent princess Alister knew next to nothing about, acknowledged their presence. The noticeable drop in tone at his name further intimidated him. [i Right.] The serpent prince didn't like him. He suddenly feared for his future.
After giving him one of their meaningful looks, Alissa greeted the two, Alister following after replaying their names several times in his head, [b [#6e34bc "Xingshen, Xaoi... Hello."]] He bowed his head and didn't look back at the two.
Before Alister could even begin to gather his nerves, it was the fox prince who greeted(?) them, talking about breakfast being served, before the fox princess acknowledged them as well. Alister attached himself to Alissa's side, fingers trembling, ears bowing. These princes weren't very friendly, Alister thought. [b [#6e34bc [size11 "Lisa, let's leave. This place is filled with predators...,"]]] he whispered next to her. He only received a scratch behind his ear in reply, even while Alissa's foot thumped in annoyance.
[b [#b72cc9 "It has been a while, Adela, Augustus."]]
[i Ah. Adela.] [b [#6e34bc "It's nice to see you, Augustus, Adela."]] He let a few moments pass before, ears perking up, he turned to Adela, vaguely remembering that they have conversed several times in parties. He pointed to her neck, keeping his gaze away from the serpent siblings. [b [#6e34bc "Adela, is that okay?"]] he asked, his eyebrows slightly furrowed in concern. [b [#6e34bc "I have an ointment that quickly removes scars and heals small wounds, but it's with my things. It works with Lisa, but I'm still improving it. If you want, I can give you some later,"]] he offered with a small smile.
][b [#b72cc9 "Vaughn."]] Alister's head whipped towards the wolf prince who was suddenly standing beside his sister, and the smile immediately fell from his lips. He couldn't recall any notable interaction with the man, but he could remember that he's the cause of the heartbreak of a good friend . Alissa signaled Alister to greet the prince as well, and even when Vaughn started speaking to them, Alister said nothing. Instead, he scowled at Vaughn as he spoke to his sister and the others, and scowled some more at the hand on his sister's back. He was grateful Alissa had been too distracted to notice.
[b “Ladies and gentlemen. We will open the doors of the castle within the hour. Once they are open, please slowly make your way into the crystal chambers.”]
As the voice silenced the crowd, Alister stepped closer to Alissa and took her hand. Whether he was reassuring himself or reassuring his sister more, he wasn't sure. He wasn't exactly thrilled for the competition, and, he knew, neither was his sister, even as she wore a brave face from the time they left their home until now.
An invitation for the festival was then brought up by the wolf prince, making Alister frown at him again for a moment before turning his head away with a huff. If that invitation was good for anything, Alissa seemed to relax for even just a little as the others chattered, especially when the cat princess who likes chocolates a lot appeared and talked to mostly Alissa. [b [#6e34bc "Good day,"]] was all he was able to say, playing safe as he wasn't able to catch her name, before she rambled off to his sister.
His mind wandered off to the feast that would happen later on. It would be great if they have a dessert table, and even better if they had ice cream, or even just had skilled patissiers tasked with that aspect. They would be serving heirs from numerous countries, in an island where they'd determine their kingdoms' futures, so they might as well provide sufficient sweets. Was there a chance he'd get an ice cream cake since he's turning eighteen in---
[b [#b72cc9 "I'll consider joining you with the others tonight."]] He was pulled out of his reverie at his sister's words. He made another huff and puffed his cheeks. [b [#b72cc9 "Both Alister and I,"]] she added, but Alister still wasn't pleased.
[b [#6e34bc "Lisa, I want to watch the fireworks with you,"]] he said with a light tone, eyes trained on the ground. They always watched it together at home, with company Alister truly liked.
Alissa raised her eyebrows in confusion. [b [#b72cc9 "We [i are] going to watch them together."]] She smiled, fondly combing his curly hair back with her fingers. He leaned to her touch. [b [#b72cc9 "The view from the rose gardens may be nice."]]
He sighed. He should be getting his daily requirement for sweets tonight.
[google-font https://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Didact+Gothic][Didact+Gothic [center [pic https://i.imgur.com/9EHmZrS.gif]
It was not the looming, intricate structures of gold that welcomed the Princess of Eskil into the island where she would be spending much of the next three years competing. It also wasn't the fresh breeze, nor the animated chatter of numerous royals catching up or expressing their anxiety.
It was a sudden, violent wave of nausea that caused her to nearly stumble until she steeled herself with the shoulder of her younger brother, covering her mouth with her other hand as her last meal threatened to come surging out of her system, threatening to place her in a disgraceful position for a lot of people to see. She was [i not] going to let herself be in a shameful situation at the very beginning of the competition.
[b "Oh dear, I didn't expect even transportation platforms count,"] she heard the slow, soothing voice of her cousin laced with concern.
Alissa bent over as she closed her eyes, hands covering her mouth, taking deep breaths one after the other. She felt her brother's hand rubbing her back in a rhythm that he ended up getting used to after years of traveling together. [b [#6e34bc "I'm sorry I didn't make you drink any---"]]
She raised her hand to her brother, taking deep breaths, before she raised her head and gave him a look. [b [#b72cc9 "Stop."]] [i Breathe in, breathe out.] [b [#b72cc9 "My motion sickness isn’t your fault,"]] she told him. His gaze fell to the ground and he nodded reluctantly, his ears lowering. She could see servants taking their luggage away from the platform, but she didn't have the energy to ask them to handle her items with care.
After a few more breaths, Alissa was able to stand by herself and let herself be guided by her brother as they stepped out of the platform. She turned to the sheep-blessed royals of Haiella, two close older cousins who warmly smiled at the two of them. It was time to part. [b "I'm going to catch up with some friends now,"] said Christina apologetically. Alissa didn't seem to mind, as they had spent the whole day together yesterday, but she caught a glimpse of the sides of Alister's lips pulling down ever so slightly. Marino ruffled Alister's hair, which immediately lifted the latter's mood.
Farewells were bid, words of still being close friends in spite of the contest were exchanged. Anything about having to meet each other in the competition as possible enemies, however, had been left unsaid.
Alissa let her gaze linger on the golden structures, thoughts traveling to the past competitions of many years ago. This was the same place her father committed the dishonor of cheating, by poisoning other royals outside of the competition. Surely, ghosts of regret, anger, and betrayal remained in this island for years, and those royals her father killed could be just some of them. After three years, would some people she knows, or even her, be one of---
Shuddering, she shook the thought away. She turned to her brother, who was looking around with wide eyes, a small bird already perched on his shoulder. His head stopped turning, eyes locked to a certain direction. He grabbed his sister's hand and pointed. [b [#6e34bc "It's Emilia!"]] he exclaimed with a wide smile on his face.
Alissa frowned, turning her head to the direction anyway. [b [#b72cc9 "We don't know an [i Emilia]---"]] she cut herself off when she found that the person her brother was pointing to was actually the Princess of Flauyae, [i Adela.] He was not even close, but she might have to commend him for figuring out that he knew the person. As a sigh left Alissa's lips, Alister was already pulling her towards the direction where he found the fox princess.
They were about the begin their greetings when the serpent siblings emerged, with Xingshen burying his face in Adela's neck and bit. Alister stalled at the sight, stepping back behind his sister, blinking at the pair with a horrified expression on his face. The bird flew away from his shoulder. Alissa raised an eyebrow at Alister's reaction. [i He doesn't really believe that rumor, does he...?] A small wound was left on the princess's neck, but Adela didn't seem to mind.
It was Xingshen who acknowledged their presence first, then Xaoi. The former had always been courteous to her, possibly due to her political relationship with Vaughn, and she always returned the formality. Xaoi... she wasn't sure. Something tells her the girl doesn't like her too much, but she cannot recall doing anything offensive. Alissa bumped the back of her hand to Alister's arm, making the younger Wisteria look at her. She gave him her usual stare whenever they started to converse with other royals, a look that meant, [i [#b72cc9 'repeat after me']].
[b [#b72cc9 "Good day, Xingshen. Xaoi,"]] she bowed her head slightly, a small rehearsed smile already on her lips. Alister repeated their names with his own greeting but seemed tense when he turned to the serpent prince. If it was the bite left on Adela's neck or the drop of tone when Xingshen addressed him, Alissa wasn't sure.
[b [#008f70 "Well, well... Looks like breakfast is served."]] She turned to look at Augustus, who wore an expression on his face that meant that he was up to no good. Alister attached himself to her arm, hands trembling, his ears bowing slightly as he looked away from the fox prince. [b [#008f70 "Good thing I brought the good stuff to accompany it."]] The man took a swig from his flask, and the way his eyes lingered on her was telling that he was mostly doing this to spite her. Her foot started thumping on the ground.
[b [#6e34bc [size11 "Lisa, let's leave. This place is filled with predators...,"]]] Alister whispered beside her, just before Adela greeted them herself, possibly the normalcy Alister needed at the moment. Alissa only gently scratched the back of one of Alister's ears in reply.
Momentarily sending Augustus a sharp glare, she turned to Adela with a smile. [b [#b72cc9 "It has been a while, Adela,"]] she regarded the fox prince with a blank look, meaning to say that she was completely unimpressed and did not bother masking it with courtesy, [b [#b72cc9 "Augustus."]]
As Alister started speaking to Adela, Alissa felt a hand land on the small of her back. She tensed with a sharp intake of breath, her ears shooting up, before she turned to the owner, and found that it was just Vaughn. [b [#b72cc9 "Vaughn,"]] she greeted with a smile she usually reserved for good friends with a small bow of her head, but whispers concerning engagements reached her ears. Her ears moved slightly to several directions to hear better. She felt her brother grip her arm. She bumped her hand once again against his leg to prompt him to make a greeting.
[#776d97 [b “Alissa, Alister. I see you are doing well. Hopefully, your trip getting here was better than ours.”]] Her ears lost track of a whispered conversation. She would need to ask him directly at some point.
[b [#b72cc9 "We have been... asleep, most of the time,"]] she confessed. The trip had been composed of drinking sleeping potions in between rides, a bit of sewing in places they stayed nights at, then meeting with the sheep siblings before traveling again to the nearest place with a transportation platform. [b [#b72cc9 "I hope you and Viviana have fared well...?"]] she asked with a small tilt of her head.
The Prince of Trepzeka then proceeded to indirectly talk about their little honey incident with the owl kingdom after greeting the other members of the group. As the other expressed their amusement, Alissa placed her fingers on her lips and hid a smile and a few silent titters, the image of Vaughn being stuck with feathers in his hair appearing in her mind.
[b “Ladies and gentlemen. We will open the doors of the castle within the hour. Once they are open, please slowly make your way into the crystal chambers.”]
As the crowd had gone silent at the sound of the voice, Alister took her hand and squeezed it. With every passing moment, they were getting closer to the competition itself. She had trained for this most of her life, but Alissa wasn't sure if she was truly prepared to face people she's known since childhood as enemies.
[#776d97 [b “On to other matters, does anyone have any plans for the festival tonight? I was personally planning on hunting down the rose gardens and spending it there - if anyone cared to join me. The invitation is open to all.”]]
Other plans for tonight were expressed, one of which was Augustus' plans to check the kitchen. A wink was sent her way, making her face twist into a frown and her arms cross in front of her chest. 'Augustus' and 'wine cellar' didn't sound like good news in a single thought. [b [#b72cc9 "I might need to consider hunting for foxes,"]] she started, staring at the Augustus with narrowed eyes, [b [#b72cc9 "[i Drunk] foxes. They may be dangerous left unguarded and I heard their fur is good for use in winter."]]
Before she could really entertain the thought, Lisette came into view and started to speak to the two of them. A smile was once again on Alissa's lips as the listened to the cat princess chatter, but her attention was momentarily caught on the now-shorter white-blonde locks Alissa admired so much. The new length still looked great on Lisette, Alissa thought. Fingers unconsciously touched her purple curls, before she dropped her hand to her side. [b [#b72cc9 "This is nothing compared to yours, Lisette,"]] she reminded the cat princess, now eyeing the braided hairstyle she wore, [b [#b72cc9 "I'd love to catch up over chocolates, however."]]
Lisette eventually bid the two of them a cheerful goodbye, to which Alissa simply waved in reply as she watched the cat princess leave. She then turned to Vaughn, remembering that his invitation to the rose gardens remained open. [b [#b72cc9 "I'll consider joining you with the others tonight."]] If the group wouldn't be too huge for comfort, that is. She heard Alister release a displeased huff. [b [#b72cc9 "Both Alister and I,"]] she clarified.
[b ~~1 YEAR AGO~~ ]
Everyone in Breyx knew of the man named Chao Lee- the Royal Financial Minister- who made his way up to claim high social status. His wide smile and charming laugh made all those around him feel welcome and safe. He was only in his mid-30's but he looked much older, laugh lines and wrinkles covering his face. All the ladies still swooned as he had the kindest eyes. Chao was considered one of the most influential people in all of Breyx. Well, until he disappeared.
People would talk constantly about the man who ceased to exist. Most speculated that Chao simply ran off with one of his many female suitors. The odd few, however, thought something more devious had happened to this stand-up guy. These select few, were of course, right. Chao's body was found a 7 months after his disappearance. The cause of death was a fatal stab to the heart, however, poison was also found in his system. The people of Breyx were shocked, unsure of why anyone would want to harm the man nicknamed Smiley.
Chao Lee's funeral wasn't traditional nor was it discreet. Hundreds of people showed up, giving their condolences to his grieving widow and children. Red roses were passed out to every person who came, a sign of love and acceptance in Breyx. In the middle of the room sat a closed casket. The poison had changed the pigment of Chao's skin and therefore he would not be shown to the public.
In the crowd was the royal family of Breyx. Xaoi had her hand wrapped tightly around her brother's, not realizing that her nails were digging slightly into his skin. Her vision was blurred and her stomach swirled, however, she kept a calm facade. Xaoi bowed her head, knowing her brother could tell something was off. The twins walked together, arms intwined. They both stopped in front of the casket and got on their knees. Xaoi's stomach yet again heaved, the rose in her hand feeling tainted. She did not love nor did she accept this man Chao. She decided then that she could not keep this flower. She gently laid it down upon the man's coffin, making sure her hand was still as she did.
The crowd started to cheer, seeing this as a sign of respect and love. They started to throw their roses on top of the casket as well, inspired by the moment Xaoi had. Little did they know that they were throwing roses on The Tiān Shi Lover.
The Tiān Shi Lover was the name given to a twisted man who terrorized women all over Breyx, specifically Tiān Shi. He wore a Bian Lian, a traditional mask worn by performers, and disguised his voice to sound baby-like. He would beg for the love of his victims and after every assault he left a heart branded somewhere on their bodies. Xaoi was, unfortunately, one of his many victims. However, she was his last, for the Tiān Shi Lover forgot to disguise his voice while attacking Xaoi. A foolish mistake on his part, since she knew who the man was. After she was attacked she devised a plan. Chao Lee had to die.
Xaoi said her goodbyes to the crowd, once again giving her condolences to the children and wife of Chao. She leaned against her brother as she walked away, her eyes closed, using Xingshen as a guide. She gave out a sigh of relief when they finally left the funeral and arrived at their home. She had done it. She had gotten away with murder and stopped a madman. Suddenly Xaoi felt giddy, a small smile creeping on her face. This was when Xingshen intervened.
He knew something was going on with his sister, they could be inseparable at times but she had been unusually distant for a while. Xingshen pulled Xaoi into a closed room and began to question her, grilling her to the point of exhaustion. Xaoi didn't want him to worry, didn't want to seem weak, but knew that she had to tell her brother what had happened. So she did. Xaoi wept while being held by her brother for countless hours, going into great detail about what had happened. She told him about the assault. She told him about how she recognized his voice. She even told him about the rare herb she found to poison Chao. With all this, she thought her brother would run, but instead, he held her. He did not judge her, as Xingshen knew what it was like to take a life.
[b ~~THE PRESENT~~ ]
Xaoi tapped her fingers against her thigh, heart quickening with each bump from the carriage. Her crimson eyes stared out of a crack through a flittering fabric, watching landscapes slowly pass by. On her shoulder laid her brother, whose chest rose and fell ever so gently. Xaoi made no noise, unsure if Xingshen was awake or not. Her thoughts were somewhat dark, terrified of the upcoming Games and going against her brother.
[i [#B22222 Nothing will happen to Xi. He is strong. He is wise. He is strong. He is wise. ] ] Xaoi kept repeating this in her head, trying to calm her nerves. It only worked slightly.
As the carriage came to a halt Xaoi squeezed her brother's arm as if to tell him what he already knew. When the fabric was ripped open the sun came rushing in, along with the cold. The wind bit at Xaoi's cheeks and she reeled in her neck, burying it into the softness of her large collar. Her black hair blew back with the wind, exposing her ears to the cold. She did not wear as many layers as her brother, therefore she started to curse herself. [#B22222 "You were right, it's freezing." ]
The serpent twins moved to the platform, their bodies radiating with magical energy. Xaoi was very much used to this way of travel and preferred it over any other means. She found magic to be soothing and confusing at the same time, which excited her. She closed her eyes and in almost an instant she was gone and away from the temple.
Xaoi's jaw dropped as she looked up, a golden fortress outstretched in front of her. She completely ignored everything and everyone for a moment, eyes wide along with a smile. [#B22222 "A big place like this must have hundreds of secrets waiting to be found," ] she giggled, her heart hammering against her chest with excitement. All the anxiety from before was completely washed away. Now she wanted to adventure.
[#D30100 [b “Xīngān, your hair ornament’s out of place." ] ]
Xaoi's hand's flew up to her hair ornament, her stomach dropping. She didn't say a word, running away towards the nearest mirror. She couldn't see anyone looking like a fumbling mess, that was a major no-no. Xaoi fixed her hair ornament, making sure every part of her outfit looked just right. She then rejoined her brother, who was now with some familiar faces.
[#B22222 "Addy!" ] Xaoi gave out a small giggle as she watched her brother practically pounce on Adela, an interaction she had missed. [#B22222 "You look absolutely gorgeous," ] Xaoi complimented Adela before turned and bowing to the two-pairs of bunny ears. [#B22222 "It is so lovely to see you both," ] Jealousy pinged inside her as she met eyes with Alissa. [#B22222 "Lovely..." ] She murmured under her breath before noticing Vaughn approach from behind. Her crimson eyes cautiously stared as Vaughn's hand made it's way to the small of Alissa's back.
[#B22222 "Ah, Vaughn!"] Xaoi gave him a sweet smile, trying to ignore the uneasiness that came with his appearance. She listened carefully as he spoke however a small giggle escaped from his lips when he spoke of what happened with the Owl Kingdom. [#B22222 "That is... Wow, priceless. I would of paid to see that."] Xaoi licked her lips slightly, thinking of the taste of honey. She quickly reached into her pocket, retrieving a small candy. She unwrapped the sugary good and plopped it into her mouth.
[b “Ladies and gentlemen. We will open the doors of the castle within the hour. Once they are open, please slowly make your way into the crystal chambers." ] Xaoi was a bit taken aback by the voice at first, however, it also made her feel a sense of ease. Magic, she assumed, before turning back to the group of royals.
[#B22222 "The Rose Gardens? That doesn't sound too terrible," ] Xaoi gave Vaughn another small and sweet smile, however, before she could continue and accept his invitation she was swept away by Adela and Xandria. They started to catch up and talk about the latest trends.
[b “Xaoixaoixa-” ]
Xaoi's head wrenched up as she heard the sweet noise of what sounded like her dear friend Liese. A large grin formed on her face as her eyes darted around. Soon enough she found who she was looking for and her eyes widened. Standing in front of her, as beautiful as ever, sat Lisette. Xaoi gathered Liese's hands in her own. [#B22222 "I would love to catch up with you, whenever and where ever." ] Xaoi gave Lisette a playful wink, followed by a cheerful giggle. Xaoi enjoyed her time with Liese a lot, considering her a very dear friend.
[pic http://i278.photobucket.com/albums/kk97/Starfish711/xaoii.jpg ]
[right [pic http://i64.tinypic.com/2jczfko.jpg]]
[center [Barlow+Semi+Condensed [size13 The sleeping quarters that Xerxes and Xandria had used on the ship were decidedly not suited to practicing swordplay. There is very little to do on a ship that doesn't get boring after a week or so, and Xerxes had been trapped in the wooden death trap for at least three. Eventually, after he had grown bored with reading Xandria's books on etiquette over her shoulder, Xerxes had began to practice with his great sword in the close quarters, thinking it may prove beneficial in the years to come. As a result, the walls of his sleeping quarters were littered with various gouges from when a slash went awry or he overestimated the amount of room he had to lunge. However, today the ship was docking on the Ancestral Island, where his life would most likely be forever changed. Xer had been striving to train just one more time before they docked, but he had accidentally overslept that morning, and by the time he awoke, they were quite close to the island, making it a hassle to get out his sword, practice, sharpen and clean the blade, just to pack it up again. His ears swiveled forward, focusing on a new sound accompanying the creaking of wood and sloshing of waves. Xandria was singing. He made his way above decks and approached, listening intently. He placed a hand on her shoulder, which was met with a cry of surprise. Xer couldn't help but laugh at the reaction and the look on his big sister's face.]]]
[center [size13 [Barlow+Semi+Condensed "[#6A5ACD You're too jumpy da'len. We'll be docking in a few minutes. Don't get [i too] lost in your own thoughts.]" Xer gave Xandria's shoulder a pat before turning and heading back down to his quarters to prepare his bags. Not long after, he heard the shouts of the crew, signaling that they were docking. With a sigh of relief, Xerxes left his bags to the servants that had been sent from the castle and reappeared back above decks. He saw that Xan was ready to get off the ship, and he was more than eager to as well. He held out his arm, through which Xan gratefully wound hers, and they stepped down off the ship onto the docks. Xerxes was fully prepared for not regaining his "land legs" very quickly, but evidently he was better at it than his sister, because as soon as they set foot on the wooden planks of the docks, her legs went out from under her. Pulling her up inconspicuously, he continued towards the carriage that had been brought for them.]]]
[center [size13 [Barlow+Semi+Condensed The windows of the carriage were covered with a heavy fabric that prevented most of the breeze from cutting through the carriage. This, combined with the body heat of the twins made the carriage a more comfortable temperature, but still a bit cooler than they were used to. Stepping out of the carriage came as a bit of a shock to the senses. A myriad of sounds, smells, and people, combined with the cool air, made Xerxes freeze in place for a moment. After a moment, he noticed Xandria pulling at his sleeve, leading him into the crowd. He caught sight of what Xandria was pulling him towards - Augustus Bronarch, his fiancée's brother. They had been sparring partners as children, and Xerxes had always tried to prove himself to the Fox prince, though he got the impression that it never worked. Ever since his engagement to Adela, Augustus had seemed distant and bitter towards Xerxes.]]]
[center [size13 [Barlow+Semi+Condensed "[#6A5ACD Hello, Augustus. Got anything good on tap today?]" Xerxes motioned to the flask sticking haphazardly out of the Fox prince's pocket. He glanced over at Xandria only to see a slight flush covering her cheeks, presumably from the compliment she had been paid. The Wolf princess, Viviana, greeted them, though Xerxes did not receive a compliment this time. He felt Xandria squeeze his arm, rather hard, and he got the idea that she wanted him to respond. So, with a sharp nod, he said, "[#6A5ACD Good day, Viviana.]" She went on to explain how the Wolf twins had gotten honey poured in their hair, and Vaughn specifically had also gotten feathers. He made a mental note to praise his cousins for the excellent prank when he got the chance. He noticed Adela approach, but before he could make his way to her, Xandria bounced over and wrapped her in a warm embrace. Xerxes followed, and when his sister finally broke away from Adela, he also embraced her, then pulled away to stand close beside her, his arm held tastefully around her waist. He glanced over to see her cheeks turning pink, and he realized that he had never done this with her before, much less in public. A woman's sickly sweet voice was projected magically over the courtyard, letting the royals know that they had less than an hour before they would enter the crystal chambers below the castle to awaken their ancestors and officially start the competition. Xerxes took this opportunity to lean in close to Adela and whisper in her ear, "[#6A5ACD Don't be afraid to be close to me. We are engaged, after all.]" With that, he detached himself from her and made his way towards Xingshen and Augustus, where he caught the tail end of what Augustus was saying.]]]
[center [size13 [Barlow+Semi+Condensed "[+teal Think you could scale that wall with your mouth full? Just keeping escape routes in mind.]"]]]
[center [size13 [Barlow+Semi+Condensed "[#6A5ACD The stones were laid too well when the castle was being constructed. There are no hand- or footholds. One of the Chameleon siblings might be able to do it, though.]" Xerxes replied, cutting in before Xingshen could respond. He had a huge crush on the Serpent prince, and so he was always doing whatever he could to impress Xingshen, even if it meant imposing on someone else's conversation to do so.]]]
[center [pic https://i.imgur.com/ZHoCI1u.png]]
[b *Striador has some French influence. Hence the French phrase here!]
[i Snip [size15 Snip] [size18 Snip] [size20 Snip]]
The jostling of the carriage forced the red-haired Striadorian from her nap out of a seemingly never-ending nightmare. She sat up too quickly and hit her head against the glass window. The velvet curtains did nothing to lessen the impact of the back of her head as it met the hard surface. She whimpered and rubbed at the back of her head with gloved fingers- remembering that her nightmare was not only just, but it was a reality. Ruby colored hair that had once been quite long was tied back into a short [https://i.imgur.com/4Adph7O.jpg braided] [https://i.imgur.com/XnMw6iv.jpg hairstyle] that had become quite popular in Striador.
Her ears were pressed flat against the top of her head, and she felt as though she may cry again for the loss of her glorious mane. She was... much less dignified than she might have been were there eyes on the two of them at this time. It was clear that it had been a traumatizing experience for the girl, and even more clear that her brother took some pleasure out of seeing her shoved outside of her comfort zone. Part of her had to wonder if it was some sort of divine intervention from all of those times she'd made Loren do things he hated doing. Not that it made her any less bitter to think about it.
“[#D98695 Liese,]” Loren's voice chided her from the seat across from her. “[#D98695 Stop fussing with it and calm down. We'll be there soon, and I know that's not the face you want to wear in public.]” He had yet to look up from the book that rested in his lap, but she knew that he could see her lightly fingering the ends of her hair. “[#D98695 Besides, I think you look more dignified this way. Much more becoming of a princess.]” He raised the book to his face to cover a grin that spread across his mouth.
“[#6EAEA1 Calm down? That's so easy for you to say. You didn't have your hair chopped off while you were napping and minding your own business. I blame you for this. They- our cousins- told me YOU paid them. Five bronze coins each! Each! I cannot believe you. Not that I can't believe you're bribing children, but that you paid them so much.]” One thing that irritated her more than she could ever say was overspending. The fact that Loren spent so much money on pointless things was a sore spot of constant conflict between the two siblings.
“[#D98695 Like you're not excited to see Xaoi or Vaughn,]” The mention of those names made Liese's ears perk back up. She hadn't seen either in far too long. She almost missed the way everything with Vaughn became a competition. It was almost endearing. Though, maybe this time, she'd woo Xaoi with not only her flirtatious words, but a present of her own making since the serpent girl never seemed to take her seriously when she flirted with her. Even if said flirtations were obvious.
“[#6EAEA1 Do you think she'll appreciate the outfit I made?]” She'd picked fabrics that somewhat matched those used in Breyx, and the colors that the other woman had looked best in. It was much better than her last attempt at making clothing by far. Perhaps some of Loren's prattling about tighter stitches had paid off after all.
“[#D98695 Well, she'll certainly fill it out better than you.]”
Liese straightened herself and opened her mouth to respond. She was ready to retaliate at that comment, but before she had the chance, she nearly fell out of her seat as the carriage came to a rather abrupt stop. She made a mental note to bring it up with their driver that he should be more gentle with stopping the ornate wooden box on wheels they'd traveled there in.
The door opened, and she moved to step out- slapping the hand of the driver away as he reached up to help her out. Being far from the dainty damsel-in-distress she'd acted like not even ten minutes ago, she didn't need his help to get down. The platform that would transport them to where they needed to go was not overly ornate, but it served a purpose. As long as they got safely from point a to point b, then she didn't care how it looked, but she did agree with the mumblings she caught from the driver of their carriage before the departed that it needed to be groomed better.
It took only a few moments, and when she opened her eyes once again, they were on the platform in a new area. She released Loren's sleeve and stepped down to take in the new sights. It was somewhat overwhelming. There were so many people that were in one place, but luckily, Liese was used to crowded places.
The two of them hadn't made it very far before she spotted familiar faces amongst a sea of strangers. There was a loud 'oof' sound that came from behind her as she noticed Loren was now laying on the ground underneath the form of a rather excited wolf princess. Suddenly all of those feelings of being self-conscious about her appearance flooded back to her. Though, she didn't let Viviana see that for certain.
“[#6EAEA1 Oh, hi, Vi. Nice to see you. I guess.]” Her words were punctuated perhaps a bit sharper than she'd intended them to be. She attempted to give the wolf princess a smile, but it perhaps resembled more of a grimace more than anything else. Seeing Viviana all over Loren like this only reminded her of why she didn't like the girl in the first place. Loren was smitten with her, and he was an idiot for wearing his heart on his sleeve the way that he did. The world was a place that chewed up and spat out people like her brother, and the last thing that she wanted was for him to get hurt over some stupid girl. The irony wasn't lost on her that she was being quite a hypocrite about the situation, but she could take care of herself. Loren was more idealistic about romance- thinking that he could find something similar to what he read in those stupid stories he buried his nose into.
“[#776d97 On to other matters, does anyone have any plans for the festival tonight? I was personally planning on hunting down the rose gardens and spending it there - if anyone cared to join me. The invitation is open to all.]”
It was a voice that she recognized rather easily despite all of the other voices that filled her ears. “[#6EAEA1 Roses, huh?]” She raised her voice slightly so that he could hear her. “[#6EAEA1 Somehow didn't peg Van-Van to be the romance type. I think you've been spending too much time around these two. Are you secretly reading the same trashy literature Loren keeps where he thinks no one will find it?]” She pointed to the duo that was still on the ground. A Cheshire like grin tugged not so subtly at her mouth.
“[#6EAEA1 Hi Xi,]” She waved to the male half of the serpent twins. She didn't know him well, but she had no reason to not be friendly... yet. The competition had yet to start after all, and they couldn't all be friends.
There was a sense of elation that filled her when she found the rabbit duo. Alissa at the very least was a good friend. The luster and shine that came from those violet locks made her jealous that for the first time in a long time it wasn't her that had the better hair. She didn't know much about Alister, but she was at least on somewhat friendly terms with him- if he even remembered her that is. “[#6EAEA1 Lissa and Alister. Nice to see you too! Lis, I love your hair. It's sooo shiny and so long. If you want, we can talk later. I brought special chocolate from home that has alcohol inside. Might be good to take the edge off on a night like tonight. Just don't tell August because if he eats them all, I won't forgive him.]” There were few things that Liese viewed as sinful, and among them was eating all of her sweets.
As eager as she was to catch up with Alissa, keen eyes were on the hunt for Xi's female counterpart, and when Liese spotted her, she made her way through the crowd- bidding the two bunnies a cheerful goodbye. “[#6EAEA1 Xaoixaoixa-]” Liese's demeanor changed, and her smile faded when she noticed Adela amongst those that were close to her. “[#6EAEA1 Oh, hi, Del. And Xandria too~]” The tone of her voice remained cheerful, but the thought of being around someone who'd actively gone out of their way to ignore her had put her in a sour mood all over again. “[#6EAEA1 Xaoi, ma chérie*, I was wondering if you were doing anything later? We should take the opportunity to catch up too~]”
Though she was likely busy with all of the girls that had taken to swarm around her to discuss fashion. Women's fashion wasn't exactly something that Liese stayed up to date on as she tended to wear much more masculine formal attire as it was much less restricting, and she could actually breathe in it. ]
[center [pic http://image.ibb.co/cBqQjb/Augustus.png]]
[size11 Augustus stretched as he awoke from his sleep, feeling far more refreshed than he had in the past week. Which wasn't saying too much since he still had a massive hangover banging around in his head. You'd think that he had murdered his drink's mother or something the night before for it to be hurting him that badly.]
[size11 He looked over his shoulder as the one who had been keeping him company stirred on the bed behind him. She let out a soft groan of defiance as she clutched majority of the sheets. He hadn't minded since he had been sweating pretty hard the night before. And he was technically more accustomed to brisk air than her.]
[size11 He began to get dressed, regardless if his hangover told him to lay back down and go to sleep. If he was late to this competition thing, everyone in all of the realms would gladly remove his head. It was the one thing he definitely couldn't be late for, and he'd been late to his own birthday before.]
[size11 "[b Auggie... Is it really time for you to go?]" She groggily grabbed for him with her sharp nails and he quickly dodge away from her, because he'd surely go down if she pulled him to her. "[b Yup. It sure is, ma'am. And you have a promise to keep.]" He saw her pout before rolling all the way over to standing up. He couldn't see all of her due to her massive, black wings covering her from his view. They allowed her some privacy so that she could change, but he had seen plenty the night before.]
[size11 "[b Ugh... You're no fun. Can't you just forfeit and leave the kingdom to your sister?]" Boy... he would if he could some days. But other days, he actually wanted to amount to something with that royal blood of his. That particular day was actually one of the latter. And no matter how much she pleaded, he was going to make it there.]
[size11 The crow blessed woman let out a sigh before turning around, now fully dressed in her robes and boots. She was the classic stereotype of a witch when it came to fashion, but he didn't care. Her magic and connections came in handy for that particular morning, seeing as he hadn't wanted to get stuck on a ship for weeks at a time regardless. He was just going to show up like it was nothing; like usual.]
[size11 He had almost traveled to the bear kingdom, but figured he'd cash in on a favor this crow witch owed him. Usually, he wouldn't call a woman a witch, but that was her official job title. Said it was a jest or whatever. "[b Alright, your highness. If you're so stuck on going, I guess we can start heading that way.]" She seemed more upset about getting up that early than him leaving, if he was being honest with himself, but he didn't mind that at the moment. Instead, he started to grab his bags and follow her out.]
[size11 It only took them a small carriage ride to get to the platform. It would've been faster, but Augustus refused to ride on horseback. Those creatures made him incredibly nervous.]
[size11 Majority of the stuff required was already premade, mainly because the woman he slept with was a tad paranoid and was ready to leave if it looked like the locals didn't want her so close to their children. Even in a world of magic, people could still be pretty ignorant. Thankfully, the people needed to help prepare the rest were easily called to help. Though one of them seemed to not like Augustus.]
[size11 [i If I get sent to somewhere under the ocean, I will haunt his ass...]]
[size11 Once the way was ready for him, he said goodbye to her by pressing his hand against her soft face before grabbing his bags and moving forward. But the woman pulled him back for one more kiss, making him drop his bags out of shock. He chuckled at her eagerness, though, and kissed her back before she pulled away and said "[b In case you die]" and pushed him onto the platform.]
[size11 He stepped through seconds after being sent to the island and was greeted by a sense of nausea and his sister coming straight at him. And she looked both relieved and angry to see him, if that was possible. That just meant that he was in trouble.]
[size11 And he was right. Because he was greeted with a slap on the head.]
[size11 "[b [#a85800 I cannot believe you made me sail for weeks all alone, just for you to come through the platform!]]" Much to his chagrin, she actually sounded upset. As much fun as it was to tease her, he admitted that maybe leaving her alone on a boat with Mr. Suck Up was a bit much. Especially since the closer the competition came, the creepier Kristoff became.]
[size11 "[b [#008f70 Ow, Del... I told you it was gonna be a gamble. I didn't even know if she had enough magic to do this after last night.]]" Which was the truth. Last night was very... magical.]
[size11 Magic, however, reminded Augustus of the Royal Advisor. While he wasn't one to use magic, he was definitely one that liked to [i talk] like he does. "[b [#008f70 Besides... I'm sure if that Kristoff did something, you would've kicked his ass.]]" Augustus didn't actually believe that, but he felt like if he said it, it would make him feel better about the whole situation. He added a wink for good measure.]
[size11 His sister then asked some question that he didn't pay attention to because his bags suddenly appeared from the platform, obviously still running off of some thrown momentum. He didn't get to see what his sister apparently saw because she ran towards them pretty quickly. Unsure as to what it was, he rushed forward anyways. He wanted to keep his things safe from... whatever.]
[size11 [i Come back anytime, Auggie...] Just as his sister read it, he did as well. And the note made him smirk. But his sister didn't really like it. To avoid arguing with her, seeing as her face twisted, he turned around and looked at their new home. The servants jostled by to grab his things but he paid them no mind when he really took in the size of the place. It was huge. More than huge. So huge, in fact, that he actually let out a whistle to express his approval. More space meant more places to hide and to get away with things. Just like how he liked it.]
[size11 Suddenly, he felt his sister push him into the crowd of people already on the island. He didn't protest, since he was sure she was trying to hide as well. He turned around whenever she stopped, only to catch the whiff of two familiar people. The serpent twins and possibly the two closest people to Augustus and Adela.]
[size11 He smiled smugly at the two of them, especially when Xingshen went immediately to Adela before him and even asked her where her twin was. Augustus rolled his eyes and replied, "[b [#008f70 Not in your mouth, thankfully.]]" He caught the side eye hidden behind a smile that his sister gave him when he referenced the little "love bite" that Xi gave.]
[size11 He did catch a whiff of rabbit, making his mouth water just slightly. He had been dining mostly on beef lately and found himself wanting a little more... gamey. The fact that these two royals possessed the same general scent made things interesting at times. Especially whenever Alissa and himself pushed at each other's boundaries. "[b [#008f70 Well, well... Looks like breakfast is served.]]" He wasn't sure if Alister knew that he was joking or not, but he was sure that Alissa would inform him if it ever gave the bunny prince the wrong idea. "[b [#008f70 Good thing I brought the good stuff to accompany it.]]" He then pulled out his flask, took a swig and made sure Alissa noticed, before returning it to his pocket. The liquid burned slightly as it went down, but he would have it no other way.]
[size11 He caught a whiff of wolf and the sound of a commotion right before hands gripped his arm tightly and made them wobble into some sort of spinning motion. Snorting laughter caught his ears and he found himself smiling and laughing along as well. It didn't matter what was going on; Viv always brought out the purer side of him.]
[size11 "[b Ace! Doyouknowhowlongitsbeen?! Months. MONTHS. I missed you! I brought the last sculpture that you made me, so I can think of you during the-]" She brought his sculpture he made her? And she missed him? He couldn't help but beam before putting his other hand on her head to ruffle up the same spot her brother had earlier. Perhaps it was a tall-to-short person thing.]
[size11 "[b [#008f70 I missed you too, Viv! And think of me? You can see me whenever you want!]]" He had responded, but she had reacted pretty quickly to two more familiar scents that hit his nose and grabbed his hand rather than his arm. She was addressing Xandria and Xerxes, one of beautiful princess and his sister's fiance... The one that turned her down and then, at the behest of the Adela, agreed. Augustus knew, but he wouldn't dare tell anyone. Not even Viviana or the serpent twins. That was Adela's business to tell, not his.]
[size11 But he was still a little upset over the rumors circulating about it back home. They weren't too kind on his sister.]
[size11 He greeted them all the same, though. "[b [#008f70 Xandria, you're looking lovelier than ever. The same could be said about your brother.]]" He saw another side eye from his sister once her fiance grabbed her waist. Though it was obvious she was blushing. But he didn't care about any of that once Viv asked him to accompany her to the festival. He beamed down at her and chuckled even more when she suggested what she wanted to talk about.]
[size11 "[b [#008f70 Your wish is my command, my princess.]]" He gently squeezed her hand before winking at her. "[b [#008f70 I also have a tale of last night you'd like to hear.]]" Seconds after his reply, though, some sort of announcement was made and sent chills down his spine. He was about to do the one thing he had been dreading all of his life. Either he would die here, like his aunt, or he'd live and possibly rule his kingdom... which he was ill equipped to do.]
[size11 Viv gave his hand a squeeze right before abandoning him to greet her other friends, the cat siblings. And his sister left with Xandria and Xaoi to talk fashion or whatever those three usually discussed together, but only after replying to Vaughn. He had apparently offered to see if anyone wanted to visit the rose gardens with him, which probably sounded like the loveliest time for the ladies, but... Augustus had some other ideas.]
[size11 "[b [#008f70 Sorry, Vaughn. As much as I love gardens, I think I'd like to look at the kitchen. Namely the wine cellar. Gotta make sure I have access to a few things. I might join you after that, though. Who knows?]]" He turned to Alissa to wink, knowing full well she would have an opinion on his drinking and he was just itching to see what the bunny princess would say this time.]
[size11 He walked over to Xingshen, though, and leaned on his best friend while pointing up at the castle. "[b [#008f70 Think you could scale that wall with your mouth full?]]" It was an odd question, but one he wanted to ask. "[b [#008f70 Just keeping escape routes in mind.]]" That was very true, but he was just happy to see his friend again. Being that close to those he had grown up around really made him feel a wave of nostalgia. But also one of stress. He'd have to be fighting them soon.]
[size11 He merely smirked at the thought, though. There was no way this group of royals that had very little obvious animosity towards each other would kill one another, right? The losers would just lose their birthrights, not their lives... right?]
[left [pic http://i64.tinypic.com/24ysftc.jpg]]
[size12 [center [font "Tahoma" [i Back, forth. Back, forth.]]]]
[center [size12 [font "Tahoma" The rhythmic swaying of the ship combined with the gentle sound of ocean waves was almost enough to put Xandria Elise de La Forge to sleep. The ship was rather close to their destination, though, so she decided to go above decks to watch their arrival. Leaning on the bow-side rail and looking out into the ocean calmed her stomach somewhat, though it still seemed like it was performing rather intricate displays of acrobatics. Today, she would start a competition that could take her - or her brother's - life. No, she couldn't think about that. Shaking her head slightly, Xan began to sing an old Ochian lullaby to take her mind off of the daunting task that lay ahead.]]]
[center [size12 [font "Tahoma" Xandria's lilting soprano traveled across the waves towards the island as she watched it grow steadily closer by the second. She was so lost in her own head that she didn't hear her brother, Xerxes, approach. She let out a loud squeal and nearly jumped over the rail into the ocean from fright as he placed a hand on her shoulder. The sound of his laughter was soon joined by her own, though Xan was only laughing to hide her unease.]]]
[center [size12 [font "Tahoma" "[#6A5ACD You're too jumpy, da'len.]" Xerxes said, grinning. "[#6A5ACD We'll be docking in a few minutes. Don't get [i too] lost in your own thoughts.]" He let out another chuckle before heading back down below-decks, presumably to finish some last minute packing. As nice as the ocean was, Xandria was relieved that her feet would soon be back on solid, dry land. While the ship's captain brought them into port smoothly and safely, Xan focused on making herself at least semi-presentable, fixing up her windblown hair and smoothing her somewhat wrinkled skirts. Xerxes reappeared above-decks with impeccable timing, so Xandria looped her arm through his as they walked down from the ship to the docks. Xan decided that she had made a good choice in supporting herself on her brother, because as soon as she set foot on the sturdy wooden planks of the docks, her legs began to give out from underneath her, a side effect of being at sea for several weeks. She was glad that her brother had found his "land legs" again so quickly, otherwise the both of them may have ended up sprawled unceremoniously on the ground. Grateful to get off of her unsteady legs, Xan ascended into the carriage they had been provided and settled herself, beginning to hum peacefully as it started towards the castle.]]]
[center [size12 [font "Tahoma" Having grown accustomed to the warmer temperature in the carriage, stepping out into the cool breeze came as a bit of a shock to Xandria. She let a shiver run down her spine and pulled her lightweight cloak closer to her body. Glancing around, it seemed that the de La Forge twins were not the very last to arrive, but a good majority of the royals had been there for a while. While studying the crowd, Xan caught a glimpse of Augustus, whom she was more familiar with than most. She tugged on Xerxes' sleeve to lead him towards the Fox prince.]]]
[center [size12 [font "Tahoma" While Xerxes began to speak to Augustus, Xandria heard Viv's approach much sooner than she saw it; a chorus of "why I never," "watch where you're going," and "what in the-" rang out as the Wolf princess raced through the crowd towards Augustus. She immediately latched herself onto the Fox prince's arm, laughter ringing out from her lips. Xan felt Xerxes tense a bit; she knew that he didn't like the Wolf siblings, but the reason why was unknown to her. Viviana stopped her vocal assault against Augustus only to turn to the Deer twins.]]]
[center [size12 [font "Tahoma" "[#3b5998 Hello, Xan! You look so cute today! Hello Xerries! You look like...you.. today.]" Xan smiled slightly, watching Viv's tail thump against Augustus' thigh.]]]
[center [size12 [font "Tahoma" "[#C71585 Hello, Viv. Thank you, I think you look quite nice as well. Though I do wish you would wear longer skirts sometimes.]" Xan said, squeezing Xer's arm, trying to get him to respond politely. All he managed, though, was a sharp nod and a quick "[#6A5ACD Good day, Viviana.]" A short, awkward silence followed, before Viviana spoke again.]]]
[center [size12 [font "Tahoma" "[#3b5998 How long have you guys been here? Someone in the Owl palace poured honey in my hair, so it took longer for us to get here. But they also put honey and feathers in Vaughn's - he looked like an ugly chicken.]" Xan couldn't help but snort at the image of Vaughn with honey and feathers in his hair. Xan couldn't say what her cousins had been thinking when they had done so, but one had to admit, it was humorous. "[#3b5998 Xan, are you going to decorate your antlers before the festival tonight? I could help you if you want. Oh! Ace! Willyougowithmetothefestival? Unless you already have a date for you. I have things to talk about.]" The last few words out of Viv's mouth were accompanied by suggestive eyebrow wiggles, and Xan had to resist the urge to laugh.]]]
[center [size12 [font "Tahoma" "[#C71585 You know I will. I would love it if you stopped by to help. I'll leave my door open for you.]" Shortly after receiving responses from both Augustus and Xan, Viv scampered off towards, she suspected, the Cat prince and princess. Adela had apparently approached during the conversation with Viv, and as soon as Xan had detected her presence, she skipped over to the Fox princess and gave her a big hug. Xerxes had also approached, and as Xandria backed away, he took her place, giving Adela a chaste embrace and then wrapping one arm around her waist. "[#C71585 Oh, Del, would you like to help me with my antlers tonight as well? I would appreciate the opportunity to catch up.]" Xerxes took this moment to lean in close to Adela's ear and whisper something, though Xandria couldn't quite hear what it was, and proceeded to approach and start a conversation with Xingshen. Adela, Xaoi, and Xan broke off from the rest of the group, gossiping about fashion and describing their outfits for the festival later that night.]]]
[center [pic http://image.ibb.co/b4K4VG/Adela_Banner.png]]
[size11 Adela looked out of the window from her room, her right hand fiddling delicately with the locket around her neck. Land was just in sight. She was beginning to feel her nerves lighting up and going dead all in the matter of seconds. This was the time of her life that she had been training for, the one where she would be going up against majority of the friends she had made over the years. It was also a year where she'd be going up against whoever killed her father.]
[size11 She still wasn't sure who did it. The Royal Advisor -Kristoff- was leaning more towards one family, but Adela couldn't be sure that any of them had the capability to do such a thing. After all, it was because of her father that she met any of them. He was no tyrant. Perhaps he was a little strict, but that was because of the kingdom and the expectations heavily placed on him. He was leagues better than the woman he was made to marry long before his children were born.]
[size11 King Markus and Queen Adellina, their parents and namesakes, were the rulers people wanted, but very few knew what that woman was like. How she thought she was treating the twins like her own children, but she was quite mean spirited. While kingdoms were difficult to run, Adela wasn't the most difficult child to reign in. Augustus might have been, but not her. She actually tried to uphold to her name and title. Yet, because she looked more like her birth mother, the Queen seemed to like to remind her that girls like Adela don't win. Her engagement to Xerxes was a sham in the queen's eyes and because she looked like her birth mother -easy and accessible- no one would take her seriously. Why else would she have to ask a second time for a proposal to go through?]
[size11 If only it was common knowledge that they weren't her children. Perhaps she would have some humility then.]
[size11 After such mean words, Adela usually just walked away and pretended everything was fine. She would just take the material gifts that the queen gave her to show the court that they were perfectly fine. But they weren't.]
[size11 Perhaps that's why she had no issue equating love to material objects. That's what the queen asked of the King, after all.]
[size11 "[b Princess?]" Adela looked behind her at her room's door to see the Royal Advisor and a handmaiden. Kristoff was a tall, skinny fellow with blonde hair, matching fox ears and tail, and a full, blonde beard. He was probably in his late thirties or early forties; Del never thought to ask. He had beady, gray eyes that stared coldly at her, but his eyebrows arched in a quizzical way. "[b You've been very quiet since we departed.]"]
[size11 They had been sailing for quite some time, a couple of weeks maybe? They were, thankfully, not too far away from docking, but it was longer than she would have liked to seeing as seasickness was very much a thing after being on water for a few days. Kristoff offered to keep her company in case she needed someone to hold her hair back, but she felt that was far too forward of him. He might have apologized for it, but she knew he didn't mean it.]
[size11 "[b It's a shame that Prince Augustus couldn't join us,]" he stated after the princess hadn't responded to his earlier assessment. He had walked into her room at that point, seeing as she also hadn't turned him away. "[b I sure hope he doesn't arrive too late.]" She could hear the [i again] that hanged on the end of that sentence, but she didn't say anything. She couldn't keep making excuses for her twin, especially when she envied him making it there on his own time.]
[size11 Not wanting to leave everything on a rude note, she finally replied to Kristoff. "[b [#a85800 Yes, it is a shame. I'm sure everyone is looking forward to seeing him after so long.]]" She felt her nerves clench again when she thought about seeing everyone together again. It had been months since she had seen some of them, but it felt like a lifetime.]
[size11 She was especially scared to see some of the other princesses. She had cut off so many people out of grief that she was certain she hurt them and now, she had no idea how to make it up to them. A simple apology wouldn't suffice and no simple object gifted to them would convey her feelings. She had sent hired hands to scour markets for the right gift, but none seemed to appropriately convey her feelings.]
[size11 And what if she sent a gift to the person who killed her father? Wouldn't that just tell them that they held her completely in the palm of her hands?]
[size11 The ship gradually came to a stop before a voice magically sounded in her room, "[b We've arrived, your highness.]" The Royal Advisor smiled his wide grin at the princess before offering his hand to lead her outside. She looked quizzically at him, seeing as he had never seemed this familiar with her before, but warily gave in. She felt his gloved hand wrap tightly around her own before leading her out of the room and onto the loading dock, the handmaiden grabbing her bags and shuffling out with them quickly after.]
[size11 After taking her first step on the island's docks, she snatched her hand quickly away from his. She felt incredibly uncomfortable holding his hand and definitely didn't want to repeat the process. Kristoff looked like he was about to say something, but the princess began shuffling away as soon as servants from the castle had arrived with a carriage and grabbed her luggage.]
[size11 When she finally stepped out of the carriage , she felt a small amount of nausea hit her and she had to stand aside to allow the cool air hit her face. The servants of the castle were very quick to come to her aid so that she wouldn't have to move her bags. One offered to give her a glass of water, but she refused and just asked them to allow her to cool herself. After all, it was probably just remnants of the sea sickness rising up again.]
[size11 They bowed to her respectfully and gave her some space in the chilled air.]
[size11 The air wasn't that cold to Adela. She quite liked the cold and was quick to remove the headpiece from her current [https://orig00.deviantart.net/fd0e/f/2017/033/c/e/outfit_adoptable_54__closed____by_epic_soldier-dawxla5.png ensemble] so that more cold air would reach her cheeks. Her ears twitched when the cold hit them and it in turn made her shiver a little. And her long, black hair was slightly shaggy from the head piece but that was easily remedied.]
[size11 As she fixed her hair, she noticed the amount of people who were there and tried to find some familiar faces. And when that didn't work, she examined her would-be home for quite some time. She had read things about it and had some of the other royals detail it to her, but it was nothing like this. It was much more awe-inspiring and it definitely made her nerves react again. She was about to live in a place with people she could trust and couldn't trust. With people she loved, missed, and were frightened of. But she couldn't afford to let them know that.]
[size11 By the shuffling of more servants appearing and running to the transportation platform nearby, Adela figured that someone would be arriving soon. And it was then that she felt her nerves clench again. She didn't have Augustus there to lean on if something awkward went down. She would have to do it all alone, which would've been feasible, but she really didn't want to.]
[size11 Straightening her outfit of red, black, and gold, she tried to look a little more deserving of her role. She was pleasantly surprised to see Augustus appear, stumbling out of it like he was hungover. But at least he had remembered to dress nicely for the occasion. Regardless of how put together he was, Adela rushed over to him and smacked him in the head.]
[size11 "[b [#a85800 I cannot believe you made me sail for weeks all alone, just for you to come through the platform!]]" She sounded upset, but she was just relieved to see her brother on time. She half expected him to be late.]
[size11 "[b Ow, Del... I told you it was gonna be a gamble. I didn't even know if she had enough magic to do this after last night.]" So he had been drinking [i and] sleeping with someone. Yeah, that sounded like Gust alright. "[b Besides... I'm sure if that Kristoff did something, you would've kicked his ass.]" He winked at her, but she knew how much he hated that guy. Just because he was so prim and proper.]
[size11 "[b [#a85800 Whatever, Gust. Where's your luggage?]]" Within seconds of her asking that, two large bags suddenly appeared on the platform, with a note tied to them. She rushed to read the note before a servant grabbed the bags and was disgusted by what she saw.]
[size11 "[i Come back anytime, Auggie...]" was written above an obvious kiss mark and Del had to roll her eyes. "[b [#a85800 Really?]]"]
[size11 Augustus just shrugged with a sly smirk on his face before pocketing the note and looking moving towards the castle to get a good look at it. He let out a whistle, just as Adela heard another servant rush to the platform. Not wanting to risk it this time, she pushed Augustus and herself farther into the crowd.]
[size11 She was surprised to see the serpent siblings appear first, which made her nerves loosen up. Her three best friends in the world had arrived and now she felt able to take on her nerves with ease. And it made her heart soar when Xingshen made his way swiftly towards her.]
[size11 The serpent prince exclaimed her name before wrapping his arms around her and she found herself reciprocating it. It was true that it had been far too long since they had truly communicated, but she was elated to know he still cherished their friendship after that long. But it should've been obvious what he'd do next, which was lightly bite her. However, it had been a long time since she'd seen him and she was shocked by the feeling.]
[size11 "[b [#a85800 X-Xingshen, Xaoi]]," she said happily as she tried to play off the sensitive feeling she was getting from her neck. Such closeness was very intimate and while her brother was used to that, she was still quite bashful of it. So much so that her cheeks turned a shade of pink. "[b [#a85800 It's so good to see you two!]]"]
[size11 She relaxed when he released himself from her and asked about Augustus as if her twin wasn't there. She found herself smiling at the joke and even more so when Augustus decided to joke back with Xi.]
[size11 She was actually quite shocked to see Alissa and Alister so close to them. Perhaps it was the nerves or the amount of people around them, but she didn't smell them approach. It was possible that they arrived next to her right when the serpent siblings entered through the platform and she was distracted, but that was kind of embarrassing. [i I have to up my game once the challenges start], she thought to herself.]
[size11 She bowed to both the bunny prince and princess with a smile on her face before greeting the both of them. "[b [#a85800 Alissa, Alister! It's been too long! How have the both of you been?]]" She ignored the comments to Alissa that Augustus made as she attempted to converse normally with them. And she tried to act normal once prince and princess of Trepzeka appeared through the platform as well.]
[size11 Adela felt her heart ache as she saw Viviana, her nose stuck in a book, and her brother as he looked over the castle. The two of them used to be so close, but she pushed her away after her father's death. She pushed the sweet, innocent girl that probably would've helped her move on away... because she thought it would hurt less to be around such a positive light. And obviously, Del messed up.]
[size11 The fox princess looked away as the girl gave away her book, trying to avoid the wolf royal's eyes so as to not have to worry about what to say or don't say. Vaughn was something gorgeous to behold after he started growing into a man and he had been kind to her, regardless of how cold she became over the years. And he had seen her cry. He had seen her weakness and she couldn't afford for him to still think her fragile. Not for the next year.]
[size11 But it couldn't be avoided, even if she did embrace Xaoi and tell her how much she missed her or how she was looking forward to see what dresses she brought with her. Because the two came to speak with everyone. Viv asked August to the festival, which he lit up at the mention of that, they spoke of their time with the Owl Kingdom, which made her giggle a little at. Vaughn covered in honey and feathers must have been a sight to behold.]
[size11 They also spoke to Xandria and Xerxes, the latest royals to join. She smiled and bowed slightly to her betrothed, but didn't approach him as to allow him space. This was it for them, one way or another. And she didn't want to show her gratitude for what he'd done by overcrowding him. But she did want to give Xandria a hug, but decided to wait until Viv had finished speaking with them.]
[size11 While waiting, her eyes met with Vaughn, just as he invited people to walk around the rose garden with him later. As fun as that sounded, which wasn't really fun at all, she decided to decline. Their eyes met briefly as she spoke with a decline, "[b [#a85800 Thank you, Vaughn. It's good to see you de-feathered, but I think I would rather spend time exploring our new home some.]]" She smiled and bowed, seeing that Viv had now run off to welcome Lisette and Loren.]
[size11 Loren was Viv's best friend and Adela felt a little sour about that, but she never said anything. After all, it was her own fault she wasn't close with Viv anymore. So instead, she went to gossip about fashion with Xandria and Xaoi, asking them excitedly what they would be wearing for the festivities that night.]
[center [size11 Thick velvet curtains blocked out any light that might have drifted into the lacquer carriage that carried the twin royal serpents of Breyx; Xingshen and Xaoi. The ride was silent, only the sound from the wheels against the dirt and rocks of the road beneath them reached inside. A scent of pine was carried by the hanging incense holder, it was meant to be calming but the serpent prince didn’t find it particularly so. In truth the only comfort he’d found on this trip so far was his sister’s presence, his head was currently resting on her shoulder. His red eyes were kept closed and he focused only on feeling the slight jolts of the carriage and his sister’s breathing movements.]]
[center [size11 Xingshen knew they were close when he heard the sound of metal moving against metal, the slowing of the carriage was another marker. The prince slowly opened his eyes allowing them to adjust to rather dark compartment. He let out a yawn, his lower jaw stretching apart and moving separately of the other side. Leaning to the side he pushed back the burgundy fabric that hid their destination, or rather the place that would take them to their destination. The island was too far from any of the mainlands but that didn’t mean it was completely cut off. Before them was an old temple nestled in the glacier mountain range, the highest and coldest point in all of Breyx. It was here that they would find the transportation platform which would take them away to the island. The temple was originally the home of one of the royals from so many generations ago but was changed to a temple to honor the blessed serpent that had gifted their kingdom.]]
[center [size11 A cold wind snuck through the small gap in the fabric making the prince drop his hand and pull his clothing tighter around his body. The twin serpents dressed notably different from those of other kingdoms. Xingshen was dressed in a winter kimono, something he’d never needed to wear back in the grasslands of Breyx. Three separate layers kept him from losing too much of his body heat; the inner most garment was pure white and had the thinnest fabrics, the next was a black padded kimono made of thick fabric designed to help seal in what little body heat Xingshen produced on his own it was tied in place with a white obi, and the last layer was a blood red Haori jacket with intricate embroidery on the back depicting a vivid landscape of mountains, forests, and lakes all in black silk thread. The prince’s long brown hair was loosely tied with strands already falling out, as it reached the tips the brown turned to red as if his hair had been soaked in ink.]]
[center [size11 The carriage came to a halt and the front curtain that faced towards the driver was pulled back by one of the servants. The two were ushered out and onto the platform that would take them to the secluded island. The ice and snow broke underfoot as the twins approached the large platform. The grounds surrounding it were ornately decorated and he recognized some of the trees as being fruit bearings, apples and peaches mostly. He was sure if it were spring it would be far more appealing to the eye. The platform itself was inlaid, the two had to step down into it. It looked simple enough but one could almost feel the magic vibrating in the air around them. In just seconds the twins had been spirited away from the temple, and from all of Breyx itself.]]
[center [size11 Once Xingshen’s eyes and mind readjusted to his position he saw that a golden palace stood before them, towering over them with spires and trapping them in walls that stretched out far past Xingshen view. The architecture looked nothing like the palace the twins had grown up in, he was used to red pillars, ornate walls trimmed with green and yellow accents, and roofs that curved towards the sky. ]]
[center [size11 Walking through the throngs of people Xingshen found his hands absently pulling at the amber pendant that had previously been tucked under his kimono’s collar. Xingshen could feel the weight of the competition already, normally he’d be more than willing to try his hand at the challenges but competition was different, now one of the prices was a life. His mother’s life. Should either his or Xaoi’s team succeed it would likely cause great difficulties for the twins as Xingshen doubted his sister had anymore desire to save their mother than he did.]]
[center [size11 The tall young man looked over at his sister, who stood a few inches shorter than him. [b [#D30100 “Xīngān, your hair ornament’s out of place,”]] Xingshen said, poking at the hair ornament his sister was wearing. Xingshen was the only one that called Xaoi by that nickname, it was a term of endearment in Breyx meant to be used to the most precious person without whom you could not live. For the serpent prince that was most certainly his sister as she was the only one he considered to be his family. Xingshen purposely didn’t touch the hair ornament, he’d probably only make it worse and end up agitating Xaoi.]]
[center [size11 Amidst the throngs of people Xingshen spotted a familiar figure, immediately his pace quickened to close the distance. [b [#D30100 “Adela!”]] Xingshen barely gave warning of his presence before wrapping his arms around her in a hug and burrowing his face near the base of her neck. On instinct he opened his mouth and bit, though it was more like scraping than biting as he’d gotten better at keeping himself from letting his teeth pierce through the skin. Even still he caught the familiar taste of metal and spice telling him he’d cut her. [b [#D30100 “Did Auggie already take off somewhere?”]] He asked, unwrapping his arms he moved to stand beside her and glanced over at those she was standing with. [b [#D30100 “Hello Alissa,”]] Xingshen didn’t know the princess too well but she was the fiancé of friend so he was always courteous to her, [b[#D30100 “Alister,”]] The serpent prince’s voice dropped noticeably, he’d never been good at hiding his emotions and thus he’d given up trying some time ago. And Xingshen simply couldn’t bring himself to like the rabbit prince when he always seemed so fake.]]
[center [size11 Not long after Vaughn approached the group, [b [#776d97 “Alissa, Alister. I see you are doing well. Hopefully your trip getting here was better than ours.”]] Vaughn spoke each word with careful thought and a conversational tone. Xingshen and Vaughn had been close for years now, their friendship had started after Vaughn kicked his ass in a swordsmanship exhibition as children and Xingshen responded by tackling him to the ground and biting him repeatedly. Somehow the two of them bonded over the scolding they received for fighting, though it was pretty much all Xingshen doing. The two met each other relatively often considering that Xingshen hated visiting the other’s kingdom. They mostly spent their time sparring, Xingshen had gotten much more skilled and held his own against Vaughn fairly well now; the wolf was still stronger than Xingshen without question but Xingshen was faster. The pale haired prince nodded towards the other three as he greeted them, [b [#776d97 “Xingshen, Adela, Xaoi. Did any of you have, problems with the Owl kingdom when you passed through? Or does anyone know their customs. As they seemed to think it is okay to put honey and feathers in people’s hair while they are sleeping.”]]]]
[center [size11 [b [#D30100 “Damn, Vaan I would have paid to have seen that,”]] Xingshen laughed at the thought of Vaughn covered in honey and feathers, [b [#D30100 “But Xaoi and I traveled from the platform at the Temple of Wang Shó, it’s the closest to Tiān Shi[sup 1].”]]]]
[center [size11 [b “Ladies and gentlemen. We will open the doors of the castle within the hour once they are open, please make your way into the crystal chambers,”] A voice called out silencing the talking crowd and giving instructions.]]
[center [size11 [b [#776d97 “On to other matters, does anyone have any plans for the festival tonight? I was personally planning on hunting down the rose gardens and spending it there – if anyone cared to join me. The invitation is open to all,”]] Xingshen guessed that Xaoi would be taking up that offer, he wasn’t totally sure what was going on with the two but he knew his sister well enough to know how she felt. Not that he cared, if she wanted to tell him she would, until then he’d leave the matter alone.]]
[center [size11 [b [#D30100 “My plans mostly consist of being inside, where it’s warm. But if you want to go freeze in the garden be my guest.”]]]]
[center [size10 [i 1. I was thinking Tiān Shi could be the Capital of Breyx.]]
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