“Vur? What are you doing here?” Paul asked with wide eyes. “And Ms. Besteck… I didn’t think either of you would show up for the memorial.”
Lillian stood next to Paul—frozen—with an ice cream cone on the floor in front of her. Vur and Tafel stood in the center of a plaza filled with a countless number of humans giving them a wide berth. “I-It’s been a while,” Lillian said and lowered her head to look at her fallen treat.
“Hey,” Paul whispered and nudged Lillian. “Why are you being such a stranger?”
“I’m not being a stranger,” Lillian hissed back. “We don’t really know his fiancée after all.”
“What are you two whispering about?” Vur asked and tilted his head. “I heard that the king was supposed to make a public appearance today in front of a lot of important people, so I decided to take a look.” Tafel blinked a few times and frowned as she thought back to a certain question Vur randomly asked her one night.
“Oh. Yeah,” Paul said. “The king’s declaring a national holiday out of respect for the ones who died during the worm outbreaks.” He lowered his voice. “Rudolph and the pope were among the first casualties. Lillian and I were worried about you; you just disappeared on us and we never heard from you again.”
“Do you guys want to move somewhere less conspicuous?” Lillian asked. “It feels like everyone’s staring at us.”
“Everyone is staring at us,” Paul said as he whirled around and observed the spectators.
Tafel tugged on Vur’s arm. “Can we move out of the crowd?” she asked with a tremble in her voice. “I don’t like it.”
“Our grandpa’s back there,” Paul said as he motioned in a vague direction. “We can go watch the memorial with him; he’s not too fond of crowds either.”
The sea of people parted as the group of four made their way out of the plaza. “What’ve you been up to for the past two months?” Paul asked as they headed towards a secluded corner.
“And what’s with the flower tattoo?” Lillian asked as she pointed towards Vur’s chest.
Vur looked down. Stella’s birthflower had sunk into his skin and left an outline of a rose with its roots wrapped around his body. “A friend gave it to me,” he said. “As for what I’ve been doing… making babies, I guess. It feels nice. I’ve also remodeled a mountain to make it more hospitable for my children.”
Lillian’s face turned red as she stared at Tafel whose face turned an equal shade of scarlet. Paul slapped his hand on Vur’s shoulder and gave him a thumbs up. “Vur…” Tafel said and glared at the dragon-boy. “Can you not say such ambiguous things? People will take it the wrong way.”
Paul cleared his throat as they arrived in front of the cousins’ grandfather. “Well, I don’t think that was very ambiguous,” he said. “What other meaning could that possibly have?”
“What are you talking about?” Grandpa Leonis asked and raised his eyebrow. “You must be Vur. I’ve heard a lot about you from Paul and Lillian.” His eyes narrowed as his gaze landed on Tafel’s horns. “And this young lady is?”
“Vur’s fiancée who is sleeping with him before their marriage,” Lillian said in one breath and looked at her toes.
Tafel stomped her foot. “We’re not!”
“Not in the way she’s talking about!” Tafel said as her face turned an even brighter shade of red.
“What’s going on here?” Grandpa Leonis cupped his hand and whispered to Paul.
Paul cupped his hand and whispered back, “I don’t know, but she’s the demon lord, so we probably shouldn’t tease her too much.”
“Demon lord?!” Grandpa Leonis shouted and swiftly covered his mouth with his hands. A few people at the edge of the plaza turned their heads to stare at the group.
“It’s in name only,” Tafel said as she took a deep breath and closed her eyes. “I let my mom handle everything.”
“I see…” Grandpa Leonis said and nodded. He placed his hands on Paul’s and Lillian’s heads. “You two have made yourself some very interesting friends; I’m surprised, considering how… special you are.” He smiled at Lillian.
“Hey!” Lillian said and crossed her arms. “Don’t make fun of me! It’s not nice.”
A cannon shot resounded through the air and the murmurings of the crowd died down.
“Looks like it’s starting,” Paul said as he shielded his eyes from the sun with his hand. Gale and his entourage of bishops appeared into view from the northern side of the plaza followed by the king and his accompanying soldiers a few paces back. “I see Michelle. It looks like she became a bishop since we’ve last seen her.”
“So she’s getting even further out of your league is what you’re saying?” Lillian asked as she elbowed Paul’s ribs. “You have to step your game up; look at Vur. He’s just walking straight for-, wait. Why’s he walking that way? Hey, Vur? Uh, Ms. Besteck?”
“Just call me Tafel, please. I’m younger than you two,” Tafel said as she sighed. “Vur’s going to cause a huge commotion any second now. I shouldn’t have brought him here.”
Grandpa Leonis burst out laughing. “I wonder what surprise that boy’s going to show us today,” he said as the crowd parted and made way for Vur.
Michelle wrinkled her brow as Gale stopped in his tracks when he saw Vur. Vur tilted his head as he stared at Gale’s face. “I know you,” Vur said and rubbed his chin. “You’re one of the volunteers that the skeletons brought.” He turned away from Gale’s blanching face and waved at a bishop behind him. “Hi, Michelle.”
“Vur?” she asked. “You have to stand with the crowd. You’re not supposed to pass that line by the guards.”
“What line?” Vur asked. “No one stopped me.” The guards standing at the line behind him scratched their cheeks and whistled, pretending not to notice.
The king frowned as the group of people in front of him stopped in their tracks. “Why’d you stop?” he asked and walked to the side of the bishops. His eyes widened when he saw Vur. “You!”
“There you are,” Vur said and smiled as he walked around Michelle. He amplified his voice with wind magic. “I’ve come to seize the throne. Prepare yourself.”
“Huh?” The king froze.
The crowd burst out into a commotion. Tafel slapped her forehead with her palm and sighed. Paul and Lillian stared ahead with their mouths gaping. Grandpa Leonis broke out into a booming laugh.
A flash of light emanating from the tattoo on Vur’s chest blinded the crowd. When they regained their vision, they saw Vur, with the crown on his head and golden scepter in his hand, standing over the unconscious king.
“That was easy,” Vur said and started to walk back the way he came. “Oh, wait a moment. Paul wants to be a bishop…” His golden slit eyes focused on the bishop standing next to Michelle. “Your build is the most similar to his.”
Tafel squinted her eyes to stare at Vur in the distance. “Is he stripping a bishop?”
“You’re asking the wrong question,” Paul said as he regained his composure. “Did he just assault the king?”
“I mean,” Lillian said and rubbed her chin, “he did eat a god. Assaulting the king isn’t as bad, right?”
Shouts and screams of many mixed emotions echoed through the air as the king’s entourage encircled Vur.
Vur shouted and a black rune appeared on his forehead. Waves of energy poured out of his body and washed over every person present. Chills rolled down their spines as their legs turned to jelly, while some people fainted outright. Everyone—except for Tafel—fell onto their knees with sweat pouring out of their bodies.
“Does anyone object to me becoming king?” Vur’s voice boomed throughout the capital. Silence reigned as the people remained unmoving. Ten seconds passed.
“We object,” a feminine voice said, breaking the silence. A golden spirit formed in the sky above the people.
“Wait, he’s the one who ate Sir Edward,” a different feminine voice said.
“But we still have to stop him,” the spirit said in a male voice.
“I’m not dying for something like that,” another voice said. “It doesn’t matter who ends up as king.”
The spirit cleared its throat. “We give the new king our blessing!”
“…” Tafel sighed and closed her eyes.