Thumps were heard as the king walked onto the stage from an entrance hidden behind a curtain. The children lowered their heads while kneeling and saluted with their right hands across their chests.
“We greet his majesty,” they all said at once.
Randel nodded. “You may rise,” he said. The children stood up and stared at the king. A few fidgeted. Rudolph stood in the back corner.
Randel cleared his throat. “You’re all here today as the promising hopes for our future. The students at our most prestigious school with the noblest backgrounds. Today, I’m offering you a chance to become even greater. Prestige, power, benefits. Everyone wants them.”
The king swept his eyes across the room of children. “As some of you may already know, we have officially signed a peace treaty with the demons and undead.” A few children frowned and others clenched their fists.
“I understand many of you have lost parents, siblings, friends,” the king said as he stared into the eyes of the children, “to the demons during our conflicts.”
“This treaty does not mean we’re disregarding their lives or disgracing our ancestors and their sacrifices,” the king said, “but rather, we’re biding our time. Wars can’t be won with pure offence. There are times when you need to pull back to cut your losses or rebuild your strength.
“As part of the peace treaty, the demons have offered to open their mana source to us. Of course, not everyone can go to the mana source,” the king said, “they’re allowing us to send three parties of six for the time being. Not only that, but, as part of our treaty, we will be establishing a school in Flusia that will be attended by both humans and demons alike. Those of you who’d like to grow stronger at their mana source will be required to attend this new school. After a year of attendance, the top seventeen students will be selected as candidates.”
“Times are changing, and those who are able to understand demons will definitely be more valuable in the royal court than those who can’t,” the king said. “Discuss this with your parents. You have two weeks to let your principal know your decision.” The king walked off the stage and the children started to murmur. They split into groups and discussed amongst themselves as the principal sat in a corner and watched them.
Michelle and four other teens, two boys and two girls, approached Rudolph. The boys wore similar white clothes and black pants, one had red hair and the other had black hair. The girls wore dresses of different colors.
“I’m guessing the eighteenth spot is reserved for you?” Michelle asked Rudolph. Rudolph nodded. His skin was tan and he had a scar that cut diagonally across his eyebrow. His hands were calloused and he was taller than Michelle by a few inches. Michelle opened her mouth.
“I should go back with my dad,” Rudolph said and brushed past her. Michelle bit her lip, but didn’t say anything as the group watched him leave.
The girl with blonde hair turned to her. “Aren’t you supposed to be childhood friends with him?” she asked. “You didn’t even introduce us and he already left.”
The black haired boy laughed. “Seems like he doesn’t like you,” he said. “You break his heart?”
Michelle shrugged. “He’s probably really busy,” she said, “doing prince stuff.”
The boy snorted. “Right,” he said, “prince stuff.”
The girls giggled. “Are you guys planning on going to the new school?” the blonde haired girl asked.
The other girl, who had black hair, shook her head. “No way,” she said, “I’m just going to find a rich and handsome guy.” She turned towards Michelle. “The prince was pretty cute.”
“Hey, rich and handsome guy right here,” the black haired boy said as he pointed towards his face with both hands.
The girl rolled her eyes. “Which part of that is handsome?” she asked.
The blonde haired girl turned to Michelle. “What about you?” she asked and smiled. “Pope’s daughter and all that, you should convert some demons right?”
“Hmm. I don’t know,” Michelle said. “I do want to get away from home though. Ugh.”
The red haired boy snickered. “I would too with a father like yours,” he said. “How many prayers do you say a day? Ten? Twenty?”
Michelle sighed and shook her head. “Too many,” she said. “It’s like he wants me to get possessed by a sacred spirit.”
“Yeah, right,” the boy said, “like anyone’d want to possess you. They’d be too freaked out by your… preferences.”
Michelle glared at him. He smiled and pat her on the shoulder. “Don’t worry, it’s our secret,” he said and winked.
Michelle knocked his hand off her shoulder. “You disgust me,” she said and walked away.
“C’mon, Roy,” the blonde haired girl said. “You shouldn’t tease her like that.”
Roy shrugged. “Whatever.” He grinned at Michelle’s back as she walked up to another group of people.
“We’re going with them?” Bella asked Yella. “Why would we do that?”
“They’re going to free our queen,” Yella said as she tugged on Bella and Rella’s arms.
“Why would they do that?” Rella asked. “I certainly wouldn’t help her save anybody.”
The trio arrived in front of Tafel and Vur. Yella sat on Vur’s head while Bella and Rella clung onto Tafel’s horns.
“You’re really going to save our queen?” Bella asked as she leaned over Tafel’s forehead to look her in the eye.
“I said I would, so I will,” Tafel said. “And if I can’t, then Vur can do it. Vur can do anything.”
“Maybe you’re not too bad of a person,” Bella said. “I still hate you though.”
Tafel smiled. “You’re welcome,” she said. “And no, I don’t want anything out of it. I just feel bad.”
“Stop reading my mind,” Bella pouted. “It’s annoying.”
“That’s not my fault, now is it?” Tafel said. “And I still have to sneeze, but I can’t and it’s really annoying me.”
Bella shrugged. “The queen can dispel our curses,” she said. “The faster you save her, the sooner it’ll go away.”
Tafel turned to Vur. “How long would it take us to get to back?”
Vur tilted his head and Yella yelped as she slid off. “About three weeks,” Vur said.
“Hey, I’m not that slow,” Tafel said and pouted. “You’re just too fast.”
Vur shrugged. “Same thing,” he said. “Ready to go?”
The five set off.
“How old are you?” Vur asked the fairies after they had been traveling for a while.
“You can’t just ask a woman for her age,” Bella said and gasped. “That’s just rude.”
Vur blinked at Bella. “So how old are you?” he asked again.
“Can I smack him?” Bella asked Tafel. “I’m going to smack him.”
Tafel’s eyebrows knit together. “I’m a little curious too,” she said.
“I’m twenty eight,” Bella said and puffed her chest out. “Don’t I look good for my age?”
“Wow,” Tafel said. “You’re older than auntie.”
“Cheater!” Bella said. She pointed at Yella. “This is your fault.”
“They’re nine hundred and twenty seven,” Tafel said as she turned to Vur.
“Then why are they so weak?” Vur asked.
Yella plucked a hair off of Vur’s head and harrumphed. “We’re not weak,” she said and threw the hair away. “We’re just not good against gravity magic.”
Vur nodded. “That’s why you’re weak.”
Rella tugged on Tafel’s ear. “Just what do you see in him?” she asked. “He’s mean and not cute at all.”
Tafel pouted. “That’s just how he was raised,” she said. “He’s my friend.” Tafel looked down. “I don’t have a lot of them,” she mumbled.
“Eh?” Bella asked. “How does the princess not have friends? Shouldn’t people be flocking to you for favors?”
Tafel shook her head. “Those people aren’t friends,” she said. “My mom wouldn’t let me make any friends. When I complained to Dustin, he just looked sad, but didn’t help.”
“That’s the problem with inheritance,” Yella said and nodded. “Too many issues. Demons should just be like us. They’ll be much happier that way.”
“What do you mean?” Tafel asked as she looked up at Yella.
“Only one person can be the demon lord, right?” Yella said. “So what happens to the people who want to be demon lord, but can’t?”
Tafel frowned. “That can’t be true,” she said and knit her eyebrows together. “Then why wouldn’t mom let me get stronger?”
Yella shrugged. “Maybe she likes your brothers more,” she said and yawned.
Tafel fell silent and squeezed Vur’s hand as they walked through the forest.
“Wow, you don’t even need to curse her to make her feel bad,” Rella said towards Yella. “That’s amazing.”
“What?” Yella said as she sat up. “Is she crying again? Please don’t cry; it makes you look ugly.”
“I’m not crying,” Tafel said with red cheeks and swatted her hand at Yella.
“Joking!” Yella shouted as she dove into Vur’s hair to dodge Tafel’s palm.
Tafel smiled. “Thanks.”