“Woah, look at these eggs,” a fairy said as she used magic to raise a cluster of eggs into the air. She turned to the fairy next to her. “They’re glowing green. Should we tell the queen?”
The fairies were hovering in a cave that had a layer of clean water covering the floor. Thousands of worms wriggled in the water beneath them as they levitated eggs out of the pool with magic.
“You shouldn’t disturb the queen right now,” the other fairy said. “She’s busy mind-controlling her new toy. What if she loses control of it? The fairy poked the glowing eggs. “Those eggs are really weird though.” A worm lunged out of the water towards the two fairies. One of the fairies snorted and bunted it away with a mana shield.
“Stupid worm,” she said and stuck her tongue out at it. “You’ll have a host soon enough.”
“Something doesn’t seem right about that warrior,” Paul said as he shivered. The trio stood at the edge of the arena, watching Stella leave the platform. She turned towards Vur and smiled, her eyes swirling with different colors. Lillian and Paul broke out in cold sweat as Stella winked at the three of them before walking away.
“Did you know her?” Lillian asked Vur.
Vur shook his head. “The only Stella I know is a lot shorter than her. Like, a whole person shorter,” Vur said and tilted his head.
“Excuse me,” a voice said from behind them. A boy, who was half Vur’s height, fidgeted and handed him a letter before running away.
Lillian and Paul looked at each other as Vur tore the letter open.
To the winners of the preliminary:
It would please us academy students if you attended a banquet we’re holding tonight in the royal courtyard. Be there at eight. We’ll be waiting.
“Should we go?” Lillian asked Paul.
Paul scratched his head. “They’re only inviting the two of you,” he said and made a face. “I don’t think either of you know how to behave appropriately in front of those nobles…”
Lillian snorted and Vur crossed his arms across his bare chest.
“Snorting’s not ladylike,” Paul said. “And do you even have any formal clothes?” Paul turned towards Vur.
Vur ignored the question. “A banquet should have lots of food, right?” he asked.
Lillian nodded. “Those nobles from the capital spend so much on food; it’s disgusting,” she said. “I love it.”
“We’re going,” Vur said. Paul sighed and shook his head.
“Just try not to offend too many people, alright?” Paul asked. “And use grandpa’s name liberally. He should still have a lot of influence even if he was given land next to the border.”
“Mhm, yeah, I got it,” Lillian said as she yawned and waved her hand. “You worry too much. Nothing’s going to happen.” She tugged Vur’s arm. “We still have a few hours before eight. Let’s go shopping; you need some clothes.” Paul sighed as he followed behind them.
Hours later, Vur and Lillian stood at the entrance to the royal castle. Lillian wore a blue dress and Vur wore a black suit with his raccoon mask still on. Lillian presented the letter to the guards at the gate and they were given directions to the courtyard.
The courtyard was filled with tables that had a multitude of dishes arranged on them. Students milled around getting food, but the majority of them sat in a circle.
“It’s almost eight,” a student said as he sat next to the group, holding a glass of sparkling liquid. “Do you think they’ll show?”
“Of course they’ll show,” another student said as he leaned back against his chair. “Didn’t you see that girl’s demeanor on stage? She’s definitely a noble and wouldn’t pass up this opportunity.”
“Should we really scare them with Johann then? We can’t let a bumpkin win, but if it’s a noble…” a girl said as she shot a glance into the corner. Rudolph sat with his arms crossed and eyes closed, while Johann waited next to the entrance of the courtyard, crouching behind a wall.
Two figures walked past the entrance into the courtyard.
Lillian shrieked and fell over, scrambling away from Johann’s gaping maw. Vur picked his ear and turned around to face Johann. A golden rune appeared on his forehead underneath his mask, invisible to onlookers. He stared at Johann, unmoving.
Roar? Johann tilted his head and blinked his eyes.
“Sit,” Vur said and pointed at the ground. All the noble’s eyes widened as they watched Vur standoff against Johann. Rudolph stiffened as green runes shone through his sleeves, readying himself to stop Johann in case he lunged.
Johann shuddered and sat on his haunches while Lillian looked at Vur with her mouth gaping. She was still on the ground, shifting her head back and forth between Vur and Johann.
“Down,” Vur said.
Johann’s tongue flickered in and out of his mouth as he crawled onto his belly.
“Roll over,” Vur said and twirled his finger in the air.
Johann barked and rolled over onto his back. Vur stepped forward and scratched under Johann’s chin. “Good boy.”
Rudolph’s face was frozen from the time Johann sat down, but he regained his senses when he saw Johann sighing as his chin was scratched. “What do you think you’re doing!?” he shouted as he rose from his chair and stomped towards Vur. The nobles broke out in cold sweat as they backed away.
Vur stopped when Johann raised his head to look at Rudolph. “Scratching his chin,” Vur replied. “He likes it.”
“You!” Rudolph spluttered. “Who do you think you are?”
“I’m Vurdurr Besteck. I came here for the food,” Vur said as he pat Johann’s snout. Johann scrambled to his feet and sat on his haunches making whimpering noises. Vur stopped looking at Johann and faced Rudolph. Rudolph froze and he shuddered as a cold aura enveloped his body. His skin crawled and he took a step back.
“Who are you?” Vur asked, tilting his head.
Rudolph placed his palm against the hilt of his sword and found that it was slick with sweat. “I-I’m the crown prince, Rudolph the first,” he said as he tightened his grip on his sword.
“I see,” Vur said. He turned around and walked towards Lillian who was still on the ground. Rudolph let out a breath that he didn’t know he was holding as Vur extended his hand towards Lillian.
“What are you?” Lillian whispered with wide eyes as she grabbed his hand.
“Hungry,” Vur said. “Let’s eat.”