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“This is the Palace Garden sir.”

“There’s no need to call me sir, just Ren is alright.”

The butler only shook his head, that stern smile of his lifted up slightly.

This garden in the middle of the castle courtyard that extended outside the castle. It was a large reserved space where sky streams poured down from above, nurturing the plants with sustenance while miniature rainbows danced around.

Decorative wooden obelisks were occupied by crawling tendril plants, fluffy looking plants with thin leaves growing in giant glazed pots.

They passed under a white arch with white flowers hanging down from the structure, in front of them a fountain, water overflowing from the vase-shaped spurt.

Ren and DoQian inspected the garden. Azalea, roses, peonies, tulips, bougainvillaeas, and the likes.

|The plants are so organized, different from our place.| DoQian said, exasperated.

|I do agree.| Ren nodded. Everything was wood in Elfian Dynasty.

The butler looked at them. And for a moment he thought the butler’s smile widened a little.

“Sir Fresc, how big is this garden?” Ren was the one to request a tour around the castle to begin with. Brought by Fresc, the butler, they made a round trip around the twisting, turning corridors and hallways of the palace until, Fresc brought them to this place, the garden. A humongous area from what Ren had concluded after peeking out of the windows from the upper floors before they made their way down. The surreal part was the fact that it was a vibrant green world inside castle walls.

“This garden can be divided into three main parts. The first one is here, the flower garden. Taking this route we will reach the coral garden,” the butler pointed to one of the paths, “While this one will lead us to the garden hall. The garden hall is an open area where parties and bouquets would be held. Sir, where would you like to go first?”

“A garden divided into three—That’s very interesting. I’ll leave the decision up to you sir. Though I do wish to visit all of them.”

The butler contemplated silently for a moment, “The are paths that interconnect between gardens in a triangle, so due request, this way please.”

|Where are we going?| DoQian kept up by flapping his wings. He was glowing in a green light, though barely perceivable due to the natural daylight.

Following Fresc, they dove into a long winding path, entering a hibiscus tunnel with flowers blooming in great numbers. After a short walk, they passed the exit, finally arriving at the coral garden. Notably, the first thing that caught their eye was the floating seaweed.

‘Fundamental laws of physics defied by seaweed…’ Ren wiped the lenses of his glasses with a cloth before taking another look at the impossible.

As the name of the garden suggested, sublime coral could be found everywhere. There were giant rock structures where the corals grew in or on that towered above them. Staghorn coral, elkhorn coral, ivy-bush coral, starfish coral...

|EKKK?!| all hairs on DoQian body stood on its end—not that pixies had any.

|Hm? What is it?| Ren, surprised by DoQian’s squeal.

|Trypophobia… that..| he pointed at a peculiar coral. The grooved brain coral.

Ren felt shivers caressing his spin, the feeling of something crawling underneath his skin. He had seen and experienced this before, but it wasn't like he especially liked the experience. Compared to scenes of blood and flesh, this coral was for some reason, scarier. At the same time, in his honest opinion, the fluorescent blue that outlined the coral did look quite appealing.

“Is something the matter?” The butler turned around.

“N..nothing,” Ren tried to cover it up with an awkward smile.

Fresc took didn’t ask further and proceeded onwards.

The coral garden faded into the distance, a lush green world appeared before them.

DoQian flew around a pond and called out, |I’ve seen these flowers before, I think they are called lotuses. It’s super neat. First time seeing them in captivity like this.|

“We are entering the third area, the garden hall,” the butler said.

“Hm? An orchestra?” Ren perked his ears. A sense of nostalgia washed over him.

“Yes, there’s a practice session today. It’s in preparation of the royal bouquet for the coming week.”

Slowly, as they approached, the symphony grew louder and clearer. They came to the main square of the garden hall, music coming from the stage in the front.

It was an orchestra of around 50 people. Violin, viola, cello, double-bass (absent), trumpet, tuba, trombone, piano, percussion, flute, clarinet, harp—

Ren stood there in a trance.

DoQian tugged at his clothes. Without saying anything, having been Ren’s familiar for a long time now, he knew that Ren had missed this.

 

The orchestra was arranged on an elevated platform, a hard canopy folded over the top and side to create a cave-like structure that provided shade. The structure also had the purpose of augmenting the quality of sound generated. This was similar to how opera halls were usually built with a curved interior. The reverberation of sound played an important role in enhancing the quality of the tone.

There was the main stage was in the centre, separate from the cave looking stage beside it where the orchestra was. Though, the orchestral stage looked to be larger.

“You seem interested?” Fresc looked at Ren.

“I am,” Ren couldn’t help but let out a smile, “It’s been a while since I last touched my cello.”

“So you play the cello,“ the butler widened his eyes for a second before returning to his stern expression.

The conductor who noticed the small audience huddled at one corner of the open garden, waved at the three. DoQian rushed to hide behind Ren before he got noticed.

The conductor said something to the musician before hopping downstage.

|Concealment Spell activate!| DoQian said, shooting a comical pose, Fresc paid no mind.

“Good to see that there are spectators here today,” the conductor smiled, raising his hand for a handshake, “I’m Nile.”

Ren accepted it, though, he wondered why the conductor personally came to greet them. “Call me Ren. I don’t think it’s alright to stop the practice because of us right?”

“No worries, It’s called taking a break for a reason,” the conductor nodded his head to himself in self-satisfaction. “So what do you think? The music, I mean.”

Ren thought for a moment, “This is merely just my opinion but, I think the violins should be more pronounced at the end, before the rit, section. The volume of the trumpets should be reduced. Also, for that same part, the piccolo felt like it was lacking. It plays a part of the melody so it shouldn’t be drowned out by the other instrument, it needs something to differentiate itself from the rest, it needs to draw attention. I didn’t really pay attention to the technicalities and the beginning of the piece so this is all I can say.”

Nile looked at Ren and blinked a few times, “Do you know music?”

“Yes, I’m a cellist,“ Ren spoke, he had been expecting this.

“That’s surprising, “ Nile said with a smug, “Can I ask which grade you are in, currently?”

“Grade?”

Nile stared at Ren.

“Hello, nice to meet you, I’m Juliet!” And a voice came and broke the silence.

“Princess?!” Nile jumped in shock.

“I’m Ren, so, Princess Juliet?” Ren and the Princess gave each other a handshake, all before Nile had the chance to piece together what had just happened.

Juliet’s blonde hair tied into two ponytails at both sides of her head. Her sparkly violet eyes gazed at Ren with a cheeky smile on her face. She was, however, very short from Ren’s perspective.

“Nice to meet you,” Ren repeated.

“I heard just now you play the cello? Are you good?” Juliet glanced at the top of his hair for a brief second. He thought that she knew about his identity.

“I’m a little rusty in earnest. It’s been a while since I last touched my cello.”

“Then could you show me?” The Princess pulled at him.

“Princess?” repeating the same addressing as before, Nile’s voice quivered.

|Ren, what’s up with her,| DoQian laughed silently, his legs practically kicking in the air.

|I’m not sure myself,| Ren spoke silently.

“Did you say something?” Princess Juliet cutely tilted her head.

“N-Nothing. Then I’ll be trouble you a bit Mr. Nile,” Ren looked upon the stage where the other members were looking at him likewise.

“Y-yes! Someone borrow him a cello!” Nile yelled, sounding fairly joyous.

Fresc stood there, paying no mind. He thought it was all part of the king’s plan. When he was called on to meet the king this early morning, the prince was also present to discuss the issue pertaining the unorthodox mages. It wouldn’t be surprising that the princess would also know something about them, hence her reaction.

Though it could be something else..

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