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Angel in the Slum

Chapter Text

The luscious, mountainous terrain is a home to the beautiful nation of Tenebrae. Citizens pass their days in peace and harmony. White birds soaring in the daylight, foliages and flowers paint the land with their greatest colors. The moon and stars illuminate their world in silvery lights transforming the castles into glowing quartz. However, even the graceful and enchanting Tenebrae has their own deprived provinces, places where the less fortunates live—the slums.

The rising increase of these segregated areas has became one of Tenebrae’s pressing problems over the years alongside with their wavering economic growth.

Will their days be better tomorrow? Residents of said areas muse almost every day. Will the heavens ever recognize them? This problem falls on one angel.

~

The celestial court gathers at the Eye of Entirety—a hanging ground in the astral realm where the beings of the sky assemble to meet the heavenly ruler. On the many floating islands surrounding the Eye, angels watch the heavenly trial. In the center of the ground is the angel of accused.

The Holy Crown’s great, magnificent voice tolls across the court. “Angel Of Wealth. Your offense of unjust distribution of fortune will see its consequence in this jury. The decree is set: you are revoked from your standing in the heavens and repent to your wrongdoing in the mortal world.”

A round of surprised murmurs comes from the spectators. The angel said nothing as she is ordered to Gate.

The angel of wealth hovers at the edge of the Heaven's Gate—a large circular sigil carved into the ground, confining the ancient runes of the divinity—where angels would use to travel to other worlds within the celestial and mortal planes. She enters the circle and the runes come alive with a bright blue light.

~

Gray droplets of rain come down like cold needles on the slums of Tenebrae. Scurrying feet splashing up mud puddles as people run in the downpour. The food monger gives you a weird look as she’s closing up her vendor for the day. “You’re just going to sit here?” You look up at her and back straight ahead without a response. The woman just shakes her head and wheels her produces home.

You look down at your ragged clothes, heavy with water. Your entire body is wet and your skin prickles with goosebumps. So this is your human form. You sit there against a run-down building staring absently at the muddy puddles on the road when a voice reaches your ears.

“That girl,” the young man sounds exasperated. “Where is she? She’s not picking up her phone, either.”

A teenage boy with hair so fair it look silver passes through the narrow street with an attendant hurrying behind him, holding an umbrella over his head. “Perhaps Her Highness has already returned home. It is raining. She knows better,” the man says.

The boy pauses and sighs. “Probably. She couldn’t have gotten this far. Let’s look there again.”

The man nods. “Yes, Your Highness.”

The boy turns to go back the way he came when his dual-colored eyes meet yours. You look away. Then you hear his footfalls and look up to see him handing you an unused umbrella, a kind expression on his freckled face. “Go home safe,” was all he said before he’s gone down the cold, muddy street.

You stare at the offered gift in your hand for a moment before opening it and start down the wet path, to wherever it leads you.

The streets are almost empty; people running home and some seeking shelter in the porch of small shops. Others carrying umbrellas in the same condition as everything around here. You observe the world you’re in as you go.

It’s dirty. Near dilapidation. The long fabrics hanging overhead acting like a roof are sagging down as they collect more and more water. Stores and buildings look like they’ve seen better days. The air smells like mold and decay and rain. Most people are scantily clothed.

In front of a small bakery two children stand under a ripped awning that barely protect them from the rain, you make eye contact but walk passed. You glance back, the kids huddle together for warmth, their skinny forms shaking in their thin, soaked clothes. You go back and offer the umbrella without a word. They hesitate, confusion in their big, round eyes. “Take it,” you say a little impatiently. The taller one gingerly accepts it and smiles happily.

“Thank you, pretty lady!” Their smiles are a bright opposition to the gray slate of the city and you watch them disappear behind the hazy sheet of pouring rain.

You wait under an eave until the rain lifted. By then the day has already moved toward the horizon, the sky dimming to dusk. You continue to walk until you come out to a different district. This part of the town is a stark contrast to the one before; this one is bursting with lights and colors. Festivities and music. Men and women hug closely together, laughing and giggling, without the weight of the world.

Judging gazes and whispers follow you as you wander further into the boisterous area. They’re staring at your clothes. You stick out like a sore thumb compare to the clean and colorful clothes they’re wearing, but you don’t care.

Finally, you come into a quieter street at the edge of the area. You’re glad you’ve made it out of there; the choking perfume the women are wearing made the air stuffy, the music too loud it hurts your ears. The sky is getting darker, and just when you’re thinking of finding a place to take shelter you hear a loud crash coming from the alley you’re passing by.

Peering into the dark alley you see a group of thugs clad in gaudy clothes beating a single man hunched on the ground. One of the gaudy ones spots you. “Hey! What ya lookin’ at?”

You turn away and continue to walk when a rough hand catches your arm in an iron grip. “Don’t even think about reporting it.” When he sees your face he smirks with interest. “Not a bad one. You can join the business, sweetheart.”

You glance at the hand on your arm. “Let go.”

“Seein’ that you’re all rags and dirt, you must be in need of some money. We can help you out if you come with us.”

“I said unhand me.”

He drags you into the aisle where the other three are still handling the battered man in a suit. “Boys!” he calls out. “Found a new one.” The others stop what they’re doing and their mouths twist disgustingly when their leering gazes fall on you. You step back as they close in like predators.

“If you so much dare to touch a hair on me I will blow you to many pieces,” you hiss. But the men don’t seem to be fazed by your threat and laugh.

“Yeah, please blow us, missy. Let’s see what that cute little mouth of yours can do.”

You flick your wrist, summoning your power to bring upon them a pain they’ve never known. They won’t ever dare to lay a finger on you again. But...

Nothing happens.

That’s right… You’re a human now, you don’t have your angelic powers. Without it you can’t protect yourself, so there’s only one other way…

You snap out of the man’s grasp and make a bolt for the street. Strong hands shoot out and you sink your teeth in the arm around your body and immediately the man lets go with a yowl.

“You bitch!”

His punch sends you to the wet ground. Your head spins as you push yourself up, your eyes landing on a metal beam against a group of loose bed frames. You seize one in your hand and brandish it with untrained whips. “I’ll make sure you will suffer for laying your filthy hands on an angel, mortals, ” you growl.

The goons look at one another and pick up their own weapons on the wooden crates: long, shining machetes, gleaming with a vicious light. “Ya makin’ it difficult for yourself,” one of them warns.

Two of them rush forward, machetes slicing the air. You swing the metal rod around, catching their weapons in a clashing ring. The other two come up for another attack. You’re not trained to fight so you’re easily defeated. They knocked the weapon out of your hands and force them behind your back.

“Take her to the boss.”

As they haul you along you realize something. Before you can turn around, a heavy trash bag is thrown at the man to your right, knocking him prone to the ground. All eyes whirl around to the beaten man from earlier, bruises mark his face and his brown suit dirtied and ripped, glaring back at them. He huffs out lowly, “Let her go.”

One thug spits. “Ya just dunno when to stop, huh?” Tightening his grip on the machete and jerks of his chin. “Take him out!”

The band of gangsters all charge at once, their task shifts away from you to the other man. The shaggy man lifts another trash bag and swing it at the attackers. “Go! Go!” he shouts at you. You stand there a for moment, stunned, before running out of the alley. He looks like he could only handle so much of the group, you must get help.

Thankfully, two police cars are stationed at the end of the block. You report the incident to the officers and immediately they ring the sirens. You could’ve just be on your way now but you’re concerned about the man in the brown suit. He did save you, after all. You need to know if he’s all right.

By the time you come back to the site, the whole aisle is a mess: torn bags, trash and garbage everywhere, broken crates, and amidst all those is the person in question; sitting there with his head down, his shoulders rising and falling rigidly with his breath. The band of thugs is gone. You approach him.

“Sir,” you say. He looks up through his curtain of brown curls, his eyes blue like a bright ocean. “Are you alright?”

He stares at you and then grins toothily. “I’m okay. Thank you so much for your help. Nearly got the daylights beaten out of me.”

You are puzzled. He could’ve been dead from doing what he’d just did and he’s still have the ability to laugh. You offer him your hand which he takes gratefully. “Thank you again.” He bows formally. You observe him.

“You saved me first. Merely returning the favor.”

He straightens up and gives you a searching look. “You said you’re an angel.”

“Believe it or not.”

His aqua eyes shine with curiosity. “Oh, I believe you. Not everyday you bump into someone claiming to be one in the face of death.” He fetches up his broken glasses and puts them on, albeit crooked. “And the way you’d flicked your hand in attempt to use your power. I saw that.”

You peer at this man. Somehow he knows of the functionality of an angel. Is he a prophet? That couldn’t be. You would’ve known if he’s a favored apostle of the heavens. Could he be… “You’re an angel?”

“Formerly,” he corrects. “The name’s Yozel.” He holds his hand out with a welcoming grin. You look at it and back to him, leaving him suspended in the air.

“Yozel, the Record Keeper? You were punished to the human world for fraudulence in rewriting records. You permanently lost your role in the heavens.”

“That’s me.” He retracts his hand back, concluding you probably won’t shake it. “So what’s your name? Why are you down here?”

“Y/N. Committed unjust distribution.”

A look of shocked amusement crosses his features. “I was wondering why the slums haven’t seen much improvements over the years. And the riches only get richer. What grudge have you against the poor?”

You simply shrug. “Those who have earned their financial bestowments provided greatly to the world. Apparently, the Crown was furious I have neglected the less fortunates. I’m the being of wealth. I will decide how I should assign fortune to particular recipients.” The images of the worn down town you’d seen refresh in your mind. “It appears that my endowment is insufficient among the poverty-stricken.”

“Yes. The numbers of the poorer communities are increasing as well as its crime rates. It’s been an issue the nation has been trying to solve for years. Are you going to do something about this? I suspect this is the Crown’s decree?”

That is their decree. You have come to realize the Crown is showing you a problem you have so impassively disregarded. You are going to learn the hard way.

“Yes,” you admit.

“So what’re you doing now? You have a place to stay?”

You shake your head.

“If you want, you can come to my place. I can tell you how to function in the human world.”

How to function in this world.

Certainly, you don’t know enough about the customs of humans to traverse without someone who does know it—someone like him. With your powers gone you’re basically vulnerable in a meat suit. You need guidance so you decide to accept his offer.

He makes a sound of approval. “Great! Then let us go. The night can be a bit perilous.”

He leads you down a few blocks toward a residential area. You watch his back. Is it a coincidence that you’d meet a former angel like this? Did the Angel of Serendipity order this?

“Oh and,” he suddenly speaks, turning to you. “You shouldn’t accept anyone’s invitation to anywhere so easily. You don’t know what they might do to you.”

You raise an eyebrow. “Why are you telling me this now?”

“Thought you’re aware. It’s common knowledge. Humans are weak creatures but some can still be as wicked as demons, like you don’t already know. You can trust me, though. I swear to you I have good intentions.”

“Is that not what people with bad intentions usually say?”

“Stop it.”

You hold back a smile, finding his apparent offendedness amusing. He was an eccentric angel. With his unique nature it’s hard to reconcile to the fact that he ever committed a crime. “Why are you helping me?” you ask him.

“I wouldn’t neglect a former comrade. Don’t worry, I don’t expect any repayment. So you can accept my help with your entire little human heart.”

After more quiet treading you’ve finally arrived outside a small apartment complex. When he opens the door to his home you stand there, bewildered, peering inside.

Mess. Havoc. Trash hell.

He lets out an embarrassed chuckle, scratching his head awkwardly. “Sorry. If I’d known I’ll be having a guest over I would’ve cleaned.” You step inside without a word and he quickly kicks and moves some stuffs out of the way.

After settling down, he prepares dinner. Food and rest are crucial to maintain a strong, healthy body, he told you, so you mustn’t skip any of those. And humans feel differently than angels do. The many emotions you will experience are not to be understood in the span of a day. You will learn and feel as you go.

He also informed you about falling in love. A complex and profound human emotion. It is all happiness and sadness. Euphoric and painful. Fulfilling and draining. The feeling that controls the human.

You tilt your head to the side as he explains, finding it quite intriguing. To leave such force in someone, strong enough to unravel them. You would never understand it.

That evening Yozel offers you his bedroom but you insist on the couch in the living room. As you lie in the dark, the events of the day come back to you. The first day in Eos hasn’t been very kind but at the end you’ve found someone trustworthy who will guide you in this foreign realm and you feel a little bit more at ease. And so, you spend your first night as a human in a human home in the human world.

Chapter Text

Fenestala Manor

“Sister.” Ravus has just emerged from his study when he spots Luna in her civilian get-up heading for the front entrance down in the foyer.

Luna turns around to her brother, Tenebrae’s current king, and a smile blooms on her face. “Brother.”

“Heard the foundation you’ve established is officially under your name. Congratulations.”

Luna grins with joy at her brother’s praise. “I’m really proud of myself, too.”

Since young she’d been helping with humanitarian causes; to provide aid and support for those in need. At the age of twelve she founded a charity, registered under a name of a supervisor, just for that purpose. Now at age twenty-four the establishment is officially under her administration.

“I’m happy you’re doing something I couldn’t. What are the people going to do without you?” Ravus says.

“That’s not true. You’re a great ruler who will lead his nation to higher grounds. Mother would’ve been proud to see her gallant son striving to make his country a better place for his people. It’s also my duty as princess to look out for their welfare. So,” she rests her hand on his shoulder, “don’t say you’re not helping them. You did so much more than you think.” Then she gives him a few good pats. “And you should smile more, Brother. You look like a grumpy old man if you don’t.”

Ravus raises an eyebrow. “I do?”

“Maybe more like a troll.

“What’s so bad about looking like a troll?”

“I certainly don’t prefer to be seen with a trollface of a brother on news outlets. Totally going to clash with my outfits.”

Ravus lets out a soft laugh. “Do you even make sense?”

Luna beams, pleased with having incited a laugh from him. “That’s it! Keep it on, okay?” She gives him a peck on the cheek and bounds down the hall and out the house.

~

“Y/N! Y/N! What do you have for us today?”

Children flock around you like a herd of ducklings the moment you step into the day care. Their excited little faces and squeals never fail to make you smile. “Am I Santa Claus? You expect me to come in with something every time?”

“Well yeah! You always do!”

Just then Yozel bursts into the threshold, huffing and puffing, his long hair coming out of his bun, while heaving two big bags of items in each hand. “You...You’re heartless, Y/N,” he wheezes.

“Look. Santa Claus is here,” you gesture at the worn out man.

The holiday is right around the corner and you come bearing gifts for the kids. You watch happily as each of them receives their mystery box wrapped up in colorful gift wraps. Such small deed is enough to light up their world; it makes you warm inside.

You learned and improved on the ways of the human customs over the years. You worked different jobs, rented your own apartment, made friends, now you’re a human resource specialist and co-founded a small private-owned school a year back with a charity organizer. You would drop by from time to time to see the progress and condition of the place.

To your utmost surprise, your angel abilities are returning gradually with each progression you make toward your divine assignment. Nothing too wide range; simple telekinesis, telepathy, and healing. You wouldn’t use these in the public for obvious reasons. Cleaning and sharing secrets with a certain someone have been so much easier; merely swirling your fingers around and things are put back in place and informations are shared through the minds. You don’t get injured or sick often so healing are rarely used.

You and Yozel walk down the busy road with people putting out their homemade wares and home-grew produces to sell and trade when he brings up the recent news of the politicians’ plans for the slum towns. “You heard of the higher-ups are trying to make the northeastern coast into port cities?”

You nod.

The council wants to rebuild the poorer districts into ports to open up more business opportunities. However good the idea may sound, port towns are way too expensive to live in and most citizens cannot afford it. And the poors will have to condense into the already overcrowded impoverished streets.

“Citizens are already protesting against the proposition,” you say. “I understand it will open up more opportunities for the economy, but where else are these people going to live? It’s a double-edged blade.”

Yozel sighs. “If only there are more people representatives in office there will be more good changes that benefit everyone. The northeastern coast does have a bay that is suited for an excellent seaside harbor.”

A commotion from a distant ahead catches your attentions. Someone is yelling after a man with a rag over half of his face and dashing at top speed toward your direction. The man mows through the crowd, shoving people aside roughly while clutching something inside his clothes. Yozel pulls you out of the way. You’re about to go after him when someone else jumps in front of his path.

The thug swears and brings his fist up to attack. The person—in a chic coat and a silk scarf over her head, obscured behind a pair of dark sunglasses—nimbly twists away and lands a kick to his stomach with her knee. The man doubles to the ground, clutching his abdomen.

“Give back what you’ve stolen,” the mysterious woman says.

The man groans in pain and then springs up toward the woman so fast she stiffens. Something glints in his hand. A piece of glass. Your eyes widen. “Watch out!” you shout.

The woman brings an arm up to cover herself from the oncoming blade. You’re standing a little too far away to reach her in time, so you rake around the vicinity for something to intervene—a beat up bronze vase lying at the side of the road. With a flick of your wrist the pot goes singing through the air and knocks the glass shard out of the man’s grip. Taking this opening the woman harshly twists the man’s arm behind his back and pins him to the ground.

He yells in pain. “I’m sorry! Please let me go!”

“You stole and tried to injure someone with a weapon. I can turn you in to the police,” the woman says.

“I’m sorry! I just need some money to feed my family. My wife is sick and my children are hungry. I don’t mean any harm! I’m desperate!”

The woman doesn’t move, holding him in place. “Don’t make any reckless moves,” she warns, and when the man submissively nods she slowly releases him.

He hands the worn pouch from inside his shirt to her. She takes it and looks down at him. “What’s your name and ward?” He tells her what she asked and the woman gives him some money to buy food and will have someone to go check on his wife.

The woman returns the little bag of coins to its rightful owner. The crowd who is watching the entire incident disperses. She notices you looking and comes over with a smile. “Thank you so much for saving me. It could’ve gone really badly.”

You incline your head subtly. “There’s no need to thank me. I’m glad you weren’t hurt, Your Highness.” You say the last two words in a low voice so only the woman and Yozel could hear. You see her surprise behind the sunglasses.

“How can you tell?” Instead of being suspecting the woman looks rather amused.

If you concentrate hard enough on a person you can sense their spiritual identity. Another one of your returning abilities you are discovering lately. “I have a knack on distinguishing people easily—even when they’re covered up.”

“That’s impressive! Since you already know who I am, may I ask yours?”

“My name is Y/N. This is my longtime friend, Yozel.”

Yozel perks with excitement. “Hello, I’m Yozel. An utmost pleasure to meet you, Your High—” he stops himself before he could finish.

Luna giggles. “Luna will do. So, do you guys have time at the moment? I want to repay you for your help. Perhaps we can have lunch together if you haven’t eaten yet.”

You are going to respectfully decline when Yozel beats you on opening his mouth first.

“We’ll go.” He turns to you. “I mean how can you turn down lunch with the beautiful and graceful Luna? You’re basically insulting her if you decline.”

“No pressure, Y/N.” Luna smiles.
You can’t say no to a princess, even if she says no pressure , so you accept her lunch invitation. You end up having a splendid time with the Luna; she’s very easy to talk to. Easygoing and casual. After lunch you exchange phone numbers and before long you two became best of friends.

Chapter Text

You’ve found yourself drawn to Luna’s cheery nature and has no problem admitting to being her new sister when she expressed she’s always wanted a sibling to whom she could share girly secrets with, go shopping and try out new cafes, talk about boys, basically doing what normal girls do. She’s also a thrill seeker, always chasing for an adventure.

One week ago you were out with Luna and she handed you an invitation to the gala the Nox Fleurets will be holding. She also sent a lovely dress for you to wear: an elegant sky blue, off-shoulder gown. You were taken aback when you received the gigantic gift box at the door and forgot how to blink when you saw on the content inside.

Now you stand in front of the mirror admiring the extravagance on your body. This is Luna we’re talking about: a princess with incredible discerning eyes for fashion. Whatever she picks out for you will compliment you from head to toe. A sleek, black vehicle is already waiting outside your apartment by the time you’re done applying the finishing touches to yourself (also arranged by Her Royal Highness).

~

The castle in which the party is held is an entire different building from the Fenestala Manor; just a stone bridge across from it. The crystal structure is lit up like a white diamond against the night backdrop, the spire a fine arrow piercing the stars.

An usher comes to lead you up the red carpet stairs. Reporters and paparazzi are bordered at the bottom of the steps, prevented from passing through to the actual venue, their cameras are a constant sheet of blinding flashes. You give your invitation to one of the greeters at the entrance before escorted to the ballroom—a golden world of yellow light and grand crystal chandeliers hanging from an ornate ceiling of heavenly paintings.

Luna spots you first thing and excuses herself from the party guests. She’s donned in a sophisticated white-blue dress that reaches the polished floor in a train. Her fair hair is done up in an elegant updo, adorned with delicate little hair pieces. The very image of a princess.

You curtsy with a greeting. “Your Highness. Thank you so much for inviting me.”

Her blue eyes twinkle up and down at your makeover. “You look splendid, Y/N! I’m glad I chose this one. It looks perfect on you.”

“Thank you for the lovely dress, Luna. I was worrying if I can really do this dress it justice.”

Luna nods her head with an approving hum. “You did exactly that. Come, I want to introduce you to my brother.” She leads you by the hand to where Ravus is talking to a couple of bigwig guests. The guests bow to her before they leave to entertain with other attendees. Ravus turns to your direction. He wears a sleek, white tuxedo suit with purple and silver accents on the button details and a purple tie which compliment his unique eyes and silver hair. His expression, as always, a face of calm and solemnity. His gaze goes from Luna to you then back to his sister again. “Brother, I have someone I want you to meet.” Luna brings you forward. “This is my dearest friend I’ve told you about—F/N. Y/N, this is my older brother, Ravus. You already know.”

You bend down in a graceful bow. “An honor to meet you, Your Majesty.” There’s a second pause before he addresses back.

“Thank you for coming, Miss Y/N.”

When you come back up Ravus regards you with a studying look. “Lunafreya has told me quite a lot about you. You saved her life. You have my utmost gratitude.”

“Your Majesty is very humble. Her Highness is a very capable woman, my help was only optional,” you say.

Luna smiles demurely at your commendation and her eyes wander over to a couple of guests at the other end of the ballroom. “Oh! The Spencers and Wolvenhouses are here. I’ll be right back, Y/N.” She goes and leaves you with Ravus.

For a moment you stand quietly side by side. Ravus is a man of few words and rarely shows emotions. A sheer contrast with the boy when you’ve first met him. The open friendliness of his younger self, wearing a proud smile on his face when he appears on news with the Nox Fleurets. The apparent changes in his demeanor occured after his mother, the previous queen, died. People said it is grievances but you think there’s more to it. Something he’s kept to himself and never told anyone.

You watch Luna converses cordially with the attendees. “What is a like to have Princess Lunafreya as a sister? She’s worth more than the heart of an angel.”

“I wouldn’t have another sibling other than her. Her disposition is a stark contrast to mine,” says Ravus. “however, her whimsical tendency is what I’m anxious about. The world is dangerous, especially to someone of her standing.”

“Hm?” You glance at him. “Have you seen her in action before? She kicked those thugs back in their high chairs. She’s really something.” You let out a little laugh before realizing you’ve gotten a bit too comfortable in front of him and inwardly reprimand yourself.

This, to your astonishment, makes Ravus chuckle—a sound foreign in your ears but enticingly pleasant. You stare back.

“I actually have. It was truly a sight to behold.” Now he’s looking at you with that searching attention as if looking for reminder in you that might refresh something in his memories. “You seem familiar. Have we met before?”

Does he remember him giving you his umbrella? It was a very brief encounter, however, nothing significant to remember by. “You gave me your umbrella quite some years back. I don’t know if you still remember.”

His pale eyebrow arch up as if trying to recall an event to what you said. “The lost girl sitting in the rain in the slum?”

“So you do remember.”

“Vaguely. I recall giving a spare umbrella to someone while I was looking for Luna. So that was you.”

You nod. “I still have to say thank you for the gift. You helped two children go home safely.”

At first he blinks, and after catching on to what you meant he smiles mildly. “That’s great. And very kind of you. You’ve come a long way.”

“I have.”

Luna returns, noticing you two chatting amiably, and grins. “Have we become friends? Y/N, have you managed a complete conversation with Brother?”

“His Majesty is a wonderful chatting companion,” you say, taking a glance at him.

“Likewise.”

The Spencers and Wolvenhouses come up to give Ravus their greetings. Ravus excuses himself politely before going with the aristocratic family heads.

“You must’ve left quite an impression on him,” Luna says. “He seemed to be enjoying the chat with you.”

A waiter walks up carrying a silver platter of champagne and offers you and Luna a glass. “Oh please. I bored him more than anything.” You examine the bubbly pink drink and take a sip. The bubbles tickle your tongue with a rosy flavor. “He’s a nice man.”

“He is. Too bad he doesn’t show it. He would’ve attracted many more suitors that way.”

This catches you by surprise. “He’s not seeing anyone?”

Luna shakes her head. “Not seeking for potential brides, either. It’s as though he doesn’t like women very much.”

You raises your eyebrow quizzically. “Is he…?”

She laughs. “Not that, either. After Mother passed away he’s become more reserved. And aloof. Building walls around himself and wouldn’t let anyone in. Not even me. He blames himself for Mother’s death. I don’t know why.” There’s a faraway look which you haven’t seen on Luna before. She absently swirls her glass, the liquid inside sloshes around.

You decide to dissolve the tension by changing to a lighter subject. “You said before you have many gentlemen begging on their knees to be your suitor. None of them suit your taste?”

At that she chuckles, her mood lighting like a candlelight. “Not on their knees. Honestly said, I’m not looking for one at the moment. Can’t be bothered by marriage and providing heirs and whatnot.” She looks at you, expectations in her eyes. “And what about you? You said you’re not seeing anyone. I don’t believe it.”

“Trust me. I’m not.”

Luna doesn’t look convinced. “You said your household once forbade anyone to fall in love until a certain age. That was a strange rule.”

You made up a story of where you were from. How your family had upheld a strict rule to never fall in love to substitute the fact that angels don’t feel those emotions. Then how your family was killed in an arson by a criminal group and you fled your old country to come to Tenebrae. You don’t like lying to Luna but there are some things you cannot afford to divulge and compromise a chance that might reveal who and what you’re really are.

“I’ve followed that rule for most parts of my life. I’m still inexperienced.”

“It’s still surprising that you’ve never fallen for someone at all. Judging from how beautiful you are you must’ve had at least some lovers in your life. But then again, you have those rare kind of beauty so you might be hard to capture.” A devious smirk stretches on Luna’s lips. “Standards up to par with your looks much?”

You let out a flattered chuckle. “Exaggerating much? I’m just like you. A girl ought to have her fun while she still can.”

After the party the same gorgeous car drives you home. You’ve had a wonderful time with Luna. A few gentlemen asked you for a dance and you graciously accepted. Despite all the swirling festivities, you found yourself stealing glimpses of Ravus every now and then.

You can tell why people are intimidated by him yet also enamored; his graveness and his occasionally shown tenderness certainly give him an impression of a man of alluring secrecy. And you are, in fact, effected by it, too.

Chapter Text

Vrrr… Vrrr… Vrrr…

You stir in your sheets, trying to muffle out the sound of vibration. Today is your day off and all you want to do is to sleep in. Oh how you wish you’re an angel again. Whoever it is they are going to know who they’re messing with. You snatch your phone from the nightstand, your blurry eyes focusing in on the caller’s name—Yozel. You answer with an irritable groan. “What?”

“Yo! Did you see outside your apartment? It’s crazy!”

You lie still in bed for a moment, holding the phone against your ear, unsure of what he’s on about. “...What?”

“Look outside. Just peek.”

You sling out of bed, pad over to the window and brush aside a tiny gap in the curtains. Through the barred railings of your balcony you see a swarm of reporters right in front of the complex, unable to get in. Suddenly, you’re wide awake. “What’s going on?”

“You tell me. You’re all over the papers. With King Ravus.”

“What?” you say for the third time.

“Here, I’ll send you a picture.”

A few seconds later the image comes in and you suck in a breath. Yozel is right. On the front cover is a picture of you smiling up at Ravus and he’s looking at you with a rarely seen expression on his face. The headline is written in giant, yawning letters: “King Ravus’ potential bride?! With human resource specialist and philanthropist F/N?!” Your eyes run over the thick words over and over to make sure you haven’t misread it. No. The letters stay fixated on the paper, true and clear.

“Yozel, where are you?”

“I’m outside your complex. I’m hiding somewhere.”

“Can you make them go away or something?”

“You think I haven’t tried. They tried to attack me for information so I ran.”

You tangle a hand in your hair and groan in frustration. “What am I going to do? This is ridiculous.” At that moment another call comes in. It’s Luna. “I’ll call you back, okay?” You quickly hang up and pick up the new call. You haven’t even open your mouth to speak yet—

“Y/N! Are you okay?” Luna screams through the receiver.

You hold your phone a little away from your ear, then press them back. “For now, yeah.”

“Stay indoors. I’ll have a vehicle to escort you to a safe location. Pack anything you want, we have everything you might need here.”

First you woke up to this crazy turn of event and then here is Luna adding on to your jumble by telling you move out of your home. You’re reeling. “Luna,” you manage to say through your fog of tangling thoughts. “I really appreciate your concern for me but I can’t be a burden.”

“No. We’ve involved you in this. Now you have almost the whole nation on your tail. How can you be a burden? I’ve prepared one of our villa for you until things die down. I’m worried about you, Y/N.”

Her concern is palpable even through the phone. If she insists on having you to go there then you’ll take her up on her offer. Besides, you can’t hole up in this little apartment with the packs of hyenas prowling outside the complex. “Okay. I’ll go.”

Luna must’ve known you would say yes in the beginning. “Fabulous. They’ll be there at ten sharp tonight. Use the back exit and be careful not to be seen. My guards will be there to help you.”

~

It’s almost ten. Everything is ready to go. You don’t know how long you’re going to be away so you pack as many outfits as you can in a duffle bag along with your essentials. You called Yozel earlier and filled him in on your situation and he will keep you updated on the reporters.

You look around your small apartment one last time before leaving it for a few days. Or a week. Maybe a month. You have no clue. You dress yourself down in a black hoodie, big enough to hide your hair and face in its shadow. Black pants and shoes. A dark mask to hide your face. It might be a bit over the top but you aren’t taking any chances to be recognized the second you step out your safe spot.

Grabbing your duffle bag you walk out without a glance back. Trying to be as stealthy as possible, taking light, quiet steps, you finally make it to the back door. Slowly and gingerly, you push the door open a slight gap, sensing no one is outside you peek your head out to see the back alley dark and empty.

You come out and silently make your way toward the street when two tall and bulky men in black suits abruptly appear before you. You almost let out a yelp of fright. The men bow in unison. “Miss Y/N. Allow us to escort you to the car,” one of them greets.

The other man politely takes your bag and you follow them to the black vehicle and drive off to one of the Nox Fleuret villa hidden in the lushes of a floating mountain where Luna is waiting for your arrival.

After an hour or so car ride, you’re led into the threshold of the estate, Luna is there to welcome you. Her tight expression is visibly loosening to when she sees you. “I’m so glad you made it.”

“Thank you for doing this for me,” you say, giving her hand a gentle squeeze back. “I owe it to you.”

“I know just how nasty paparazzi and reporters can be. But you don’t have to worry now that you’re here. Come, I’ll show you to your room.”

The house is enormous. Very modern and a white interior. The glass windows in the living room reach high up to the ceiling, covered by a large length of white blinds that blend them in with the white walls. The furnitures are mostly black to compliment the colorless interior.

Your room is about two times bigger than your studio apartment. There’s a balcony overlooking a great scenic view through the sliding glass doors that run the length of the room. Tall pale curtains reach from floor to ceiling. A plush bed is situated at one side. Polished furnitures furnishing the space. One door leads to a luxurious bathroom. You take in the aesthetics of the room. You changed your abode in the heavens to any beautiful places or sceneries you liked, but this simplicity is quite impressive of its own.

Luna orders the guard to set your baggage down and return to their duty. “Does this room suit your preferences?” she asks.

“Like I have any to start with. This is gorgeous.”

“Don’t be afraid to ask if you have any questions. Think of anything, name it, you’ll have it.”

There is one thing that has been on your mind since. “Well, this isn’t about me but…how’s King Ravus?”

“He’s doing fine. Rumors and gossips don’t bother him in the least. He’s worried you’re having trouble.”

“Really?”

Luna leans in and lowers her voice as if you’re not alone in the room. “To be honest, Brother wanted to bring you to the manor but I’m against it since paparazzi will be prowling near the area. When I went to talk to him about the tabloids the first thing he said was to contact you to see if you’re doing fine.”

To think that King Ravus has your safety in concern first. It makes you happy.

You need to apologize to him first thing tomorrow if you get the chance. With that, Luna bids you good night and leaves you to your own accord in your room. That night, you lay awake in bed. Ravus’s cold and serious face hovers distractingly in the forefront of your mind.

Tossing and turning in bed some more you force your eyes close and beg for sleep to come. After a while of counting numbers in your head you finally drift off to slumberland.

Chapter Text

In your dream, you are in a room—not really a room but under a starry sky. Soft, white fabrics fluttering in the breeze around your bed. Ravus is there with you. The moon shines down on where you two lie in the pale sheets—and Ravus is kissing you. Hard.

You break from your sleep, heart battering from the dream. Groggily, your mind processes the unfamiliar bed and new room you are in. Taking a deep breath you calm your thoughts and think about the situation you’re currently in just for the sake of having something else to dwell on.

Of all things to dream about. The gossips must be really getting to you.

You sling out of bed, brush your teeth, and gather your appearance together before heading out. A knock comes at your door. “Y/N, are you awake?”

“Yes. Please come in,” you reply.

The door opens and Luna follows in and greets you with a sunny smile. She’s wearing a simple, white dress today, and to your surprise, two beautiful wolf-like dogs strut in behind her. Luna introduces them to you: the pure white one is called Pryna, the sister to the darker one Umbra, her brother. You bend down to pet them, their mouths open in an adorable smile. “Breakfast is ready downstairs.”

You follow her down to the dining room where the maids are bringing out platters of food from the trolley. A simple, filling breakfast of sunnyside eggs, french toasts with butter, sausages, and a small Tenebraen dessert.

“It’s been a while I’ve had breakfast with someone,” Luna says from across the table. “The food also tastes much better.”

“King Ravus doesn’t eat with you?” you ask, cutting into your eggs, the liquid yolk spilling out.

“He’s mostly already out the door by the time I come down to the dining room. And even if we do sit together at the table he would just take a few bites and excused himself for work. So I often eat alone.”

“Even dinner?”

“We have dinner a little more often. But after we opened a trade pact with Accordo our economic growth has been sailing up. Brother sometimes doesn’t even come home. I’m worried he’s pushing himself too much.” Luna looks so troubled you can’t help from reaching over to hold her hand. She quickly clears the grimness from her face. “Sorry. I don’t mean to spoil your meal.”

You want to help her, but it’s not like you could go up to Ravus’s face and force him down on the dinner table and tell him to eat with his sister or confine him in bed to make him rest. All you could do is encouragingly squeeze Luna’s hand and reassure her that Ravus is a smart and sensible man, that he couldn’t afford to cripple his health, so he must be taking care of himself on his own.

After breakfast, before Luna leaves, she’s given you a tour of the villa. The game room. A small theater. A crystal clear swimming pool outside that overlooks the same beautiful view from your bedroom balcony. The library filled with books of every types and genres.

You were quickly ushered to your room last night so you didn’t get to marvel at the living room closely. The blinds that were pulled down over the tall glass windows now drawn up letting a bright sheet of sunlight into the room. The white walls are decorated with pieces of soft abstract paintings and arts. A large TV embedded flat against the wall. The entire home is impeccable.

Luna even left Umbra and Pryna here to keep you company. The two canines follow you everywhere you go like pups trailing after their mother. They must have sense the unworldly presence in you; animals do have special perceptions.

And you certainly can’t walk in to work at the moment, not without being stormed by medias the instant you’re in public. So, you talk it out with your superiors to work from home until things are settled.

~

That night, you talk with Ravus via video chat. He prefers to talk to you face to face in person—it’s more genuine that way—but he couldn’t risk the chance of your location being revealed if he does.

“I apologize for involving you in such a nonsensical scandal, Miss Y/N. I can only imagine how troubling it is for you.” He looks neat and polished even after a day’s work.

You shake your head. “I should apologize. I sparked the rumor in the first place. I’m very sorry.”

“It’s simply a groundless rumor. It will die down sooner or later. And this isn’t the first time something like this happened. In three days I’ll be holding a press conference; to put all of this to rest. So be at ease.”

You didn’t expect something like this would break out when you attended that ball. You knew some stories might come out from such a grand event, but rumoring to be a royal bride is an over-the-top claim. You nod. “But let me say my apologies again. I feel better afterwards.”

“Whatever suits you,” he says. “How do you like it there in the villa?”

“A gorgeous place. Everyone is very kind. Thank you for your generosity of opening your home to me.”

A little snicker comes from him. Maybe he’s laughing at your stiff formality. “Feel free to make yourself at home. Should you require anything, just ask the caretakers of the household. I’ll have it so you can go home as soon as possible. And if there’s anything that is bothering you, please let me or anyone in service know.”

The conversation you had with Luna during breakfast comes back to you. “There’s something I must say to you. On behalf of Luna as well.”

Ravus blinks curiously. “What is it?”

“Luna’s been very concern about your health. She said you barely eat and sometimes don’t come home. She’s worried you might be over exerting yourself. And I feel the same way, too.”

Ravus doesn’t say anything for a second. His gaze casts down, guiltily. “I’m really adding on to her worries, aren’t I? I’ve been so submerged in my work I didn’t give her a phone call. Knowing her, she’s probably afraid to reach me thinking she’ll interrupt me.”

“So you are overworking yourself.”

“It’s the best way to tire myself out.” He suddenly looks bashful. “Thank you for telling me this. I’ll make time to go home tomorrow and see her. And...you said you’re worried about me, too?”

“Yes. Because you are upsetting my friend. If she collapse due to stress because this, not even a thousand apologies from you will be enough to seek forgiveness.”

You pause, realizing you’re mouthing off at him without meaning to. You wait for his callous scowl to stab you, but...

He arches his eyebrows. “Wow. Pretty harsh, isn’t it?”

He doesn’t.

“She collapses.”

“My apologies. I’ll take care of her. I’ll take care of myself. Are you pleased?”

Did you just make the king of a nation apologize to you? And asking you, Are you pleased? You buried a haughty smile down and nod your head in return, satisfied with his answer.

When he bids goodbye you blurt out before realizing your intention. Ravus pauses. His eyes as still and unwavering as a midnight pond, waiting for you to continue. You’ve got his attention now what are you going to say?

“Do you have time?” You decide to ask.

“I do.”

“Can we talk a bit more? If that’s okay with you.”

Ravus stares. You stare back, heart racing a little. And he says, “Are you lonely perhaps?”

Lonely? You guess you are, and swallow down your flustered reaction. “Perhaps,” you echo back.

He lets out a subtle chuckle. “If you think I can cure you of boredom, I’m free to chat.”

You don’t know why he’s making you all ruffled up and shy, but you’re not complaining. You don’t believe he is like this toward anyone.

An hour passed by like a breeze and already past midnight when you look at the time. Your tiredness manifests in a yawn.

“I shouldn’t be keeping you, then. Go rest,” Ravus says.

“I enjoyed your company, King Ravus.”

“And I enjoyed our chat. Good night, Miss Y/N.” With a good-natured smile, he disconnects. You sit there looking at the home screen.

Well, that was a fascinating course of the evening. You’ve seen a side of Ravus tonight probably very few get to see. You find yourself more curious about him the more you talk. You’ve never been interested in a human before.

Your phone rings beside the computer. Yozel. “Hey, how you holding up over there?” It’s only been a day since you “moved in” to the villa but it feels like it’s been a long time, and you kind of missed Yozel’s witty quirks and company.

“Protected and fed,” you offer.

“The royal treatment, I see. Can’t say I’m not a little bit jealous,” he quips. “I know who’s behind those pictures.”

You straighten up. “Who?”

“This paparazzo named Burke. Notorious guy. Somehow he wedged through the gala security and snapped some photos of the party. The man always sniffing for a big scoop. If not, he’ll create one.”

“Isn’t that lovely? Having that kind of guy on my trail.” You rest your elbows on the desk. “Is my apartment safe?”

“Not quite. Some have gotten into the building and waited outside your place. Authorities were called in to remove them. But they’re back the next day.”

“I guess they don’t know that I’m gone. That’s a relief.”

“Oh, no relief, little angel. If they notice you haven’t come out the complex, they will start to suspect. Wise to clarify the rumors sooner.”

Yozel is right. The reporters will find it weird that you cooped up in your apartment without coming out for a few days. They will figure out you’re not home. Their fingers might be itching to slam down more unreasonable scandals. You hope they don’t do anything before the conference Ravus mentioned to you earlier.

“King Ravus said there will be a press in a few days. After that, I think I’ll be able to come back.”

“That’s good to know. I’ll be looking over your place until you return.”

You smile gratefully. What are you going to do without this dorky companion? “Thanks, Yozel. You’re the best.”

“I know I am. What’re you gonna do with me?

“Stay humble, Record Keeper.”

Yozel clucks his tongue rebelliously. “Never.”

Chapter Text

You look up from your laptop when Luna prances into the living room, her mood lively like the afternoon. “You’re chirpy today,” you greet her.

Her eyes crinkle. “Brother came home and we had lunch together. And he said he’ll be home for dinner tonight.”

“Isn’t that great? Your wish came true.”

“I want you to come over as well. Have dinner with us.”

You raise a curious eyebrow. “Me? In your house? Is that all right?”

Luna waves her hands frivolously. “No problem at all. You’ll get dropped off inside the premises, anyway. No outsiders will be around.”

~

That evening, you sit with the Nox Fleurets at the dining table. Gourmet food are brought out from the kitchen by the servants. Expensive wine is poured into your glass. Luna sits across from you, and Ravus at the head of the table.

Luna engages the dinner conversation talking about her trip to Niflheim—a nation so advanced with their technologies and known for it—when she was younger. Niflheim’s technological influence has spread to many other kingdoms like Lucis and Accordo. Tenebrae’s major cities are built heavily in their fashion.

You add your own comments while Ravus listens, cutting into his dinner, unbothered. Everything is going well until princess suddenly throws you this curiosity. “So Y/N, what do you think of Brother?”

The wine you’re drinking goes up your nose and you almost choke. Luna makes a guilty sound and leans over to help you. Ravus looks a little concerned, too. As you recover, you notice his stiff neutral face, his weak attempt to hide his mirth. “What do you mean by that?”

Luna gives you a rueful smile and apologizes. “You two talked late into the night last night, didn’t you? So I was wondering what you thought about my brother. Did he offend you in anyway? Was he mean to you? If he was, tell me, I’ll help you get back at him.”

Oh. S o that’s what she meant . You feel stupid now, getting the wrong idea. “No,” you say. “His Majesty is surprisingly a talkative person. I didn’t expect him to be so...casual?”

“Surprisingly?” Ravus who has remained silent, trying not to laugh at your little ordeal, finally speaks. “I don’t believe I’m a quiet person. I’d gladly talk with you if you spark my interest.”

Luna says in response, “Yeah, the thing is you remain a facade of a silent man. Maybe a few can strike up a decent conversation but many gave up. Not to mention, you look like you want to strangle everyone with your constant glare.”

“I don’t see how it’s my fault they failed to carry on a conversation. And my looks have nothing to do with it.”

Watching the siblings’ back-and-forth brings a sort of entertainment to the table. You sit there, clearly amused. You say, “Your Majesty is the type to not hold back his tongue, huh?”

In Ravus’ response, “Why would I not speak my mind? The world must build on truths and honesty.”

Your mouth parts slightly. “Luna, your brother couldn’t get any more eloquent than this.”

~

You’ve been given a room instead of returning to the villa tonight. Again, you find yourself twisting and turning in the sheets, unable to sleep . You might as well just club yourself in the head.

Putting on a soft night robe, you take a stroll in the garden Luna has shown you during the tour of the palace. Umbra and Pryna come out with you too.

The sylleblossom garden is just as magnificent at night as it was at daylight: a sapphire sea. The grass is dusted with fallen petals.

Feeling playful, you send the petals into the sky with a graceful sweep of your arm. Umbra and Pryna bark excitedly at the sight, jumping along with the dancing flowers.

The petals twist and turn in the air as you trace your finger around, making them form shapes of a great serpent coursing through the sky, of chocobos flapping their wings, of Umbra and Pryna, and the amorphous figures of angels.

The canines stop dancing and dash to an approaching figure turning the corner. The shadow of the building obscures them, but when they come into the light...

Ravus.

Ravus pets the dogs and turns his focus on the floating flower petals, baffled. Quickly, with a twitch of your fingers, the magic sways naturally back down to the ground. Finally he notices you.

You bow when he approaches.

“I didn’t expect you to be out here this late,” he says. “Can’t sleep?”

“Yes.”

“You can ask for a cup of tea to induce sleep, you know.”

You raise up curious brows. “I can? What do you put in it? Some kind of drug?”

His own eyebrows rise with suspicion. “You’re not suppose to know that.” You return a short laugh.

“Why are you out here?”

Ravus eyes you as if you’ve said something dumb—and you probably might have. “Because it’s my house. I can wander around it whenever I like.”

You blink. Of freaking course . You cringe at your own embarrassment.

He lets a wry smile on his mouth at your expression. He’s totally making fun of you. “I’m only kidding,” he adds. “Don’t take it to heart.”

You cross your arms. “Sire has a cheeky streak, I see. Intriguing.”

He shifts his gaze to the field of sylleblossoms. “Did you see that?”

“See what?”

“The flowers. That was strange.”

You school your face to look innocent, as if you haven’t been the one who created that. “There is a slight breeze out tonight. I was pretty bewildered too. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”

“You’re very strange.”

You give him a quizzical look. “How so?”

“First I met you taking a sorrowful shower in the rain. Weird flower phenomenon happening. Umbra and Pryna are very attached to you, they normally aren’t like that with strangers.”

“I like to think I’m different.”

He steps closer, a tall structure of bones and muscles and silver looming over your shorter height. When he speaks it’s in a low voice, hinting a note of tease. “I noticed your attention on me at the gala that night.”

Your heart does a flip. He saw? You thought you’ve been discreet about it. Maybe you didn’t. You reply in a steady tone. “Am I that obvious?”

“You were very subtle; not obvious at all. But I’m quite perceptive, you see. How you’d look away when you sense I may be aware of your gaze.”

Even worse.

“It was a shame that I let you go without a dance. You looked very stunning.”

You heart rams within its confines. He’s playing with your emotions. Calls you out for peeking and then compliments you.

“I’d like to make it up to you,” he says.

“Like right now?”

“If you wish.”

Cannot bring yourself to refuse his request you give him your hand. In one fluid movement he pulls you close, his other hand presses gently on your back. Yours on his shoulder, strong and defined under his lounge clothes.

No music is playing but this doesn’t feel awkward at all. Nature’s music is enough; the soft chirping of crickets and the gentle rustling of the swaying sylleblossoms in the wind. Right now you just focus on Ravus, and your dream decides this is a good time to crawl itself to the front of your mind, making you self-conscious.

Before you parted ways he asked you if you would like to enjoy one of his hobbies with him sometime. He didn’t tell you what it was but you said yes, regardless. Sleep came naturally and invitingly. You dreamed of three figures in a blue meadow; you didn’t know who they were but they seemed happy together while they played in the sea of flowers.

~

Day of press conference.

The day has come where the hot rumors and gossips of late will lay to rest all together. After this you can finally be able to go home.

You watch Ravus in the news. His posture is tall and serious. Back in his innate glower, a different person from when you shared that dance in the garden.

As you stare at the TV screen a tiny disappointment prickles in your chest. You won’t get to see him in person anymore. Eat with him. Or chat with him. You know what this feeling is, but what can you do about it?

Chapter Text

A group of news reporters flocks over the moment you step out your complex the next morning. Large camcorders and boom microphones thrusted right in your face. A man with a mop of red hair pushes his mic at you. “What do you have to say about the press conference yesterday?”

“Are you related to any in aristocratic position? Were you invited to the gala by the royal family themselves? Are you really not seeing King Ravus?” One woman in a neat suit bombards you with questions.

Overwhelmed, you deliver in a forceful tone. “Calm down.” The crowd turns down their enthusiasm yet trembles with anticipation. “What King Ravus said at yesterday’s conference are all true. It was simply a false rumor. And I’m not related to any elite families or groups in any way. Princess Lunafreya is a friend of mine and she invited me to the gala as a repayment because I helped her some times ago. So, I hope this clears all of your remaining curiosities.”

There is nothing more the reporters could say. They’ve already gotten Ravus’ statement and now they have yours. If that’s not confirmation enough then there’s nothing else you could do. Afterwards, they all voluntarily left without another fuss.

Several days gone by, reporters and paparazzi no longer lurk outside your apartment. Not there when you got off work. Life is getting back to how it is before and you can finally breathe freely again.

One evening you call Yozel, telling him of the new manifestations of your supernatural abilities; one of them making your job a tad bit more easier—manipulating people’s fortune, guiding them to small findings of riches.

“My little girl’s growing up so quick,” he trills down the line. “You’re making progress. In no time you’ll be able to go back.”

You sigh. “I’m glad. Human life isn’t for me.”

“You don’t sound so glad.” When you don’t answer back he implies, “They’ve given your heart a stir, haven’t they? The Nox Fleurets.”

You play with the small moogle bobble head (a gift from Luna) on your desk. The little head bounces and sways. “And what can I do about it? My time here is limited.”

“What are you gonna do, then? Are you ever going to tell them the truth?”

“I don’t know. It’ll be something like ‘Hey, I’ve been lying to you all along. I’m actually a real-deal angel. And it’s time for me to go back home to the heavens now.’ I mean I could do that, but that doesn’t feel right. And faking my death is just too...too cruel.”

“Do what feels right to you,” Yozel says. “Knowing and not knowing of what you are doesn’t really change how they live their lives. How they’ll remember you is important.”

How they will remember you. Either way, their world will continue to spin whether you’re in it or not. The humans’ saying, Sometimes the hardest thing to accept is the truth , and you think you understand, to an extend, what it means. You’re about to reply when you feel a presence outside your door. You whirl your head around and stare at the entrance.

Yozel’s voice buzzes through the line. “You okay? You’re not talking.”

“Wait.” You pad over to the door and peek through the peephole. No one is outside. You open it—the bright corridor is void of any person except for your neighbor Buttercup down the hall entering her home. She sees you looking out and gives a friendly wave, you wave back and close the door. You hold the phone to your ear again. “I think the paranoia of the whole issue dies hard. I’m on edge. I feel like I’m being watched.”

“Really? I mean it’s not really a surprise. After having so many eyes on you, it always leaves a lingering effect. I can do a check if you want.”

“No, it’s fine. It could be the lingering effect, like you said. I’ll get over it soon.”

You hear the slight hesitation in his voice. “Okay…? If you do have any trouble, call me.”

“Will do.”

~

One afternoon, you are out with Luna on your day off. After dropping by the school and the construction site of a new housing project you’re contributing to build, you make for the city together.

The metropolis is bustling with people, cars, and construction. The central plaza is surrounded by high-rises that look like standing prisms with their glass exterior.

Luna’s in a vibrant red coat and a intricately designed silk scarf wrapped over her hair and a pair of chic sunglasses, much like how she looked when you first met. “Who knew silk could be so hard to find. Let’s go grab a drink.” Her shoulders sag as you walk through the grand space of the plaza.

“You are looking for silk made from a rare kind of spider,” you say, pulling your pouty friend closer to make way for a vendor with his cart. “But the city’s big and many textile shops around, you might find some.”

You head toward a dainty cafe down the block when, all of the sudden, a groundshaking explosion startled everyone out their skin. A giant plume of black smoke rises from behind one tall skyscraper. You and Luna decide go to check it out.

Ambulances and firetrucks whir by as you follow the hectic stream of people. By the time you arrive at the scene a horde of onlookers has already surrounded the police barricades. You tilt your head back to look up at the office building. Flames and smoke pour out from the broken windows.

“This is horrible,” Luna mutters, peering up at the firefighters blasting water from their aerial lifts.

Your attention goes to the firemen as they help injured victims out of the building. A man carries a little girl out with an oxygen mask over her small face. She keeps looking back over the fireman’s shoulder as she’s handed over to the waiting paramedics. She can’t speak so she makes big gestures, pointing wildly at the building. The paramedic tries to calm her down but she only gets more agitated. You move closer to the girl’s ambulance so you can communicate with her through telepathy. When the paramedics turn the other way the girl hops off the truck and darts back into the building.

“Hey!” you yell.

You jump over the barricade after her. Luna calls your name but you’ve already gone ahead. Other firefighters are yelling after you too, but you don’t care and charge into the burning premises.

The girl is nowhere in sight. You throw open the door to the stairwell and climb up, two at a time. The smoke grows thicker as you go higher and it’s getting harder to breathe.

You come out to the ninth floor—having a feeling she might be here. You choke on the smoke, finding yourself trapped in walls of raging fire. “Little girl!” you cry out. The entry to a hall is nearly blocked off by tall flames. With a flick of your hand the burning pillar flings off to the side. Covering your nose and mouth with your arm you trudge forward into the hallway. As you go, you saw red smears dragging along the white walls and floor. You will your legs to go faster, your body begins to feel like weight from the lack of oxygen. Following the trail of blood you round the corner to a slumped heap within the dark smoke.

Is it her?

You go near to the dark figures, and just as you guessed; it’s the girl and a man who could only be her father because she’s calling him through coughs and tears. The blood belongs to the father. He is twisted in an uncomfortable position; one of his leg is stained with blood, a sharp piece of broken metal pierces into his thigh. Red pools on the floor under him. You kneel down next to the man, gently pushing the girl aside.

The father moans weakly. “Please...get my daughter out…”

“You have to move,” you croak out. Closing your hand tightly on the bloody metal you yank the piece out, causing a wail from the man. “Bear with me.” You hover a hand over the wound and your palm glows a bright blue light.

The girl and the man gasp. Slowly the deep rent begins to close until only a white scar is left. You haul the man to his feet, barely supporting his weight as you wrap his arm around your shoulder. The girl grips tightly on her father’s other hand. Together, you drag yourselves back through the smoke-filled hall to the open floor. A low groan comes from the ceiling above and you barely have time to react when a flaming chunk breaks away. You summon an invisible shield over your heads and fling the chunk of ceiling aside.

You barge into the stairwell—this time, your legs finally give up. You crumble to the floor, coughing and wheezing. Your vision blackening to a tunnel. The man shakes you harshly. His voice falling in and out.

“...Just go. Save your daughter…,” you manage that much.

The father makes it obvious that he would like to carry you, but he’s also too weak. Precious seconds are wasting the more you hang around here. “We’ll get help. Please stay conscious,” he says.

You lean against the wall, suffocating and everywhere hurts, telling yourself you must remain awake. With your hanging consciousness you concentrate your power into a ball of energy, using it to clear your mind and heal your aching body. The small space around you lights up as your eyes flare a white-blue light. Slowly, you crawl down a few steps before firemen come up the stairs and bring you out of the building.

At the first sight of you, Luna leaps over the barriers, her face opened for all to see, not caring about people watching her. Authorities try to stop her but she shoves them away, her eyes on you, wide and red and terrified. She wraps you up furiously in her arms and bursts into tears. It takes all of you to stay upright or Luna’s holding you up. Regardless, you wind your arms tightly around her, feeling her shake.

You didn’t intend to go to the hospital but Luna glared at you, a look so feral and so heated, you backed down and did what she said. On your way there, she scolded you fervently for being so reckless and all you could do was hang your head and apologized over and over.

Your report showed nothing too serious, except a slight inflammation in your airway from inhaling so much smoke. They were surprised you didn’t sustain more than a slight swelling in your lungs. The doctor prescribed you some medicines and sent you home on the same day. Luna had you called Yozel, who almost fainted at the news, to come pick you up from the hospital.

~

“What?! They saw you using your powers?” Yozel exclaims when you stop in front of your apartment.

“Be more louder, can you?” You fumble inside your bag for your keys.

“You’re just going to leave it?”

“I’m visiting them at the hospital later. Come with me.” Twisting the bolt, you push the door open and go in.

~

A few hours later.

A nurse directs you to the room of the father and daughter pair you saved earlier today. The nurse knocks on the door, announcing your visit to the people inside. At the sight of you the man’s face lights up with astonishment and invites you quickly inside. The little girl sitting on her father’s bed shares the same reaction.

“Angel!” the man hollers, and you stiffen. “Thank you for saving me and my daughter. Oh divine!”

You smile at them. Thankful that humans use the word angel also in a metaphorical term. “Please. No need to thank me. I’m glad you both are save.”

“Miss Y/N. Thank you so much for saving my husband and daughter. You truly are sent from above,” the man’s wife bows to you in gratitude.

The father nods vehemently. “I’m telling you, honey, she’s really an angel! She healed my injury with a wave of her hand.”

Uh oh. This is not going to look good if they say anything more. You need to do something. And to your huge relief, a nurse comes in to ask the mother to go sign some paperwork, leaving you with the man and daughter in the room. You walk closer to the bed. Their eyes twinkling as if looking up at a star-filled sky. You’re just going to make a slight change in their memories.

You breathe in and give them a friendly smile. “I want to express my utmost gratitude for your help earlier. Alerting the firemen to come find me. And about what you saw...you cannot remember that.” You bend down to look closely into their eyes. “You’re going to remember me as a regular person getting you out of the fire. Your injuries were very light, they were easy to treat by the paramedics. Okay?” You tap two fingers on their foreheads, igniting a quick flash of light on their skin. The man and the girl jolt as if shocked once by electricity and hang their heads low. A few seconds later they look around curiously as if they’ve forgotten where they are.

They regard you with a look of recognition. “Miss Y/N,” the father says, calmly. “You risked your life for us. We couldn’t thank you enough.”

It worked.

You glance at Yozel, and back at them, and grin.

Chapter Text

You wake up to a missed call and a text message this morning.

Ravus: Lunafreya told me about what happened yesterday. Are you all right?

You reply.

You: I’m okay. It’s not very serious. Nothing to fret about.

Ravus: I’m glad. I was going to call you yesterday but thought better to just let you rest fully. Make sure to rest well and go get a checkup.

You: This body won’t go down just because of some smoke. But I’m taking care of myself. By the way Sire, you’re so worried about me and I can’t help but think I’m occupying your mind more than I should.

...

Ravus: I was wondering if we could meet. To fulfill my promise to you the other day. However, your recovery is an absolute priority at the moment.

You: I’m completely fine. Really. Good enough to get out and graced my eyes with you and that special skill you claim to have.

There’s a slight pause.

Ravus: Your words are stinging, Ms. Y/N. And rather teasingly so.

Your thumbs pause over your keyboard. You look back at what you said.

You: You have a date in mind?

~

A week later.

You’re back to the Fenestala Manor. The night scene passes by your window as the familiar palace draws nearer.

Ravus personally welcomes you at the steps and leads you inside. It’s a coincidence that Luna is away in Accordo two days ago to attend an international event; Ravus couldn’t go due to debate in the council. The spider silk fabric she tried to get was to make a handkerchief as a gift for the Lady of Accordo. It’s strangely awkward without Luna around. She’s always been the one to greet you at the door; now you’re being hosted by the man of the house himself.

You are expecting dinner at the dining hall but Ravus escorts you out to a expansive balcony where a table is set up elegantly. The area is lit up with soft-glowing lanterns and candles. And the view—a scene straight from a painting. The dark sea interweaving with silver of the white moon, distant ships can be seen from here with their tiny dots of gleams, the land below green and bright with lights from houses and buildings. And the sky full of stars.

“Up to your liking?” Ravus startles you back to land.

“Yes,” you say. “I’m in awe.”

Ravus looks pleased. “Come, have a seat.”

Dinner is brought out as soon as you sat down. All the while, you engage in lighthearted conversations. Ravus talks about his trips to famous kingdoms like Lucis, Niflheim, and Accordo; how their lifestyles are different to Tenebrae’s. How Lucis’ developments is powered by a single crystal that they claimed to have come from outer space. Accordo was once an abode to a mythical mother serpent and worships her as the nation’s protector.

While you listen with inquisitive interest you note that you’ve accepted quite a few refills of your glass from the waiter. The wine tastes particularly delicious this time, you can’t seem to stop drinking tonight. Ravus notices this, too, and offers you an impressed look. “Are you not drinking a bit much?”

You swirl your wine lazily, the red liquid creating a little tornado inside the cup. “No. I can handle my drink. Where I was from, I was prohibited to drink alcohol. So I’m grateful that I can now.

After the waiter refills his glass Ravus dismisses them. They bow in unison and leave the balcony. “I never knew of your family background,” he says. “Lunafreya mentioned you came from a different kingdom. May I ask which?”

You find out you said something unnecessary. Luns never asked you which nation you were from. You improvise by offering a smaller domain that you know of in this planet. “I’m originally from a small republic of the island Aquarius. I lost my family to an arson fire so I came to Tenebrae to start a new life.” You recoil inwardly; lying to Luna already doesn’t sit well and now you’re doing the same to Ravus who’s also been nothing but kind to you.

There’s sympathy on his complexion. “I’m very sorry to hear that. You must’ve not wanted to speak of it.”

You shake your head. “It’s a long time ago. I can’t let the past live before me. Or else I’m not going to get anywhere.”

“A nice point.” Ravus looks lonely all of a sudden, then the hesitation is gone.

“You okay?” you ask.

“My apologies. I thought of something. Please, don’t mind that.”

“I don’t,” you reply. Trying to lessen the somber mood the table has taken you change the topic. You stand up from your chair to the balcony railings. The white marble is cold under your touch, the air is clean and chill and smells slightly of trees and sylleblossoms. “Let me ask you,” you begin. “Why does the brown chicken never made it across the road?”

There’s a surprise inflection in his voice. “Why?”

You spin around to face him. “Because,” you say, with a cheeky grin, “the brown chicken has already been roasted.” You feel stupid laughing at your own joke, and at the same time fret that it didn’t have the effect you want it to, because he doesn’t look amused.

At first.

He exhales a snicker. “You’re quite humorous, aren’t you, Miss Y/N? What else are you not?”

“I’m not mean. I might not be an alien. I’m not afraid to fight someone if I had to. And I’m totally not trying to get your mood up by cracking a silly joke.” It must be the alcohol—you feel incredibly bold. Leaning against the railing, you give him a knowing glance. “People say a little bit of wine gives the final push. Majesty, sure you know you’re a lady-killer… don’t you?

“Miss Y/N.” Something flickers in Ravus’s eyes. “Are you tempting me?”

You speak in a seductive drawl. “You should know what you’re doing to me. Or are you pretending you don’t?”

“Oh?” He stands up from where he sits and saunters, with the grace of a cat, to you. He leans his hands on the railing so that you’re trapped in his arms. “What am I doing to you?” His voice is smoother than silk, as deep and thick as sweet honey. His jewel-toned gaze shines with an otherworldly spark. Of tease. Delight. Desire.

You stand fixed on the spot—completely enraptured. Words freeze on the tip of your tongue but it needn’t be said. Action speaks for itself; so you lean up and close the inches of gap separating you. And then you’re kissing him. Really kissing him.

Thankfully he returns the deed and you loop your arms around his neck, pulling him lower to you. His pale hair like pure silk in between your fingers. He groans when you tug on them and it drives you on. His strong arms press you smooth against him, feeling his firm muscles twitch and making you wonder how it’d feel without the barriers of his clothes. His mouth on yours is bliss and he’s enjoying it.

You need air and he’s sucking it away from you. “Your Majesty…”

“Ravus,” he murmurs. “Ravus will do.” When you comply he kisses you. “Once more.”

You’re flushed. You want him on you. “Ravus.”

~

That moment could’ve led to something else, but it stopped before you’ve forgotten what he really brought you here for.

The round pavilion is even whiter at night in the sylleblossom garden. Sparkling wine glasses are lined up in rows on a table, each is filled with different amounts of water.

“What’s this?” you ask.

“A hobby of mine that I want to show you. It’s called a glass harp. Ever heard of it?”

“No.”

“Then you get to play it. Your hand?”

You slip your hand in his and he positions you in front of the glasses. Then coming around behind you, he dips your fingers lightly into the water to moisten them. “Relax your hand a bit,” he says, and grazes your finger delicately over the rim of a cup and you suck in a breath at the pleasant, echoing note it produces. His hands are lukewarm; the warmth and coldness shift as he guides you around the glasses in gentle motions. A beautiful melody comes together to fill the pavilion and night with its sweet, silvery sounds.

Angelic music—mankind’s belief of the sound of divinity—sounds much more exquisite when you’re the one playing and producing it. You will bring this sound back with you when you return.

Ravus plays the finishing note and holds you there for a moment longer before releasing you.

“Where did you learn this?”

“My mother,” he says. “She loved to play this and I wanted to play it for her, so she taught me when I was young.”

“It’s very pretty. I love it.”

“I’m happy you do. This helps me take my mind from things when it gets difficult. I thought of Mother whenever I play this; her teaching me, praising and encouraging when I had it right or made a mistake.” He pauses there and move to sit on the railing, looking out at the field of blue flowers. When he speaks again you barely catch it. “...It’s my fault.”

The ethereal glow of the moon gilding his profile; he looks like a depicted sad deity. You stay by the table, inquiring in a silent voice. “Your fault?”

You don’t expect him to go on, yet he does, in a faraway place in his mind. “She would’ve lived if it weren’t for me.”

“...What happened?” He looks like he’s not going to say any more. You cast your gaze down. “I’m sorry.”

“I was ten,” he begins. “Every autumn Mother would take me and Lunafreya to the small wood near the palace to play. It was beautiful—the trees were golden and red, the ground was covered with leaves—we were looking forward to it. She trusted me with myself and my sister’s safety, so we wandered away because we know that place by heart. Lunafreya spotted a wild bunny and chased after it. I went along with her. I knew we shouldn’t follow it but I wanted to catch it for her and show Mother.

“We wandered too far off and Mother followed behind us, telling us to come back. We were so close to capturing the little animal so I ran after it. I didn’t realize I was near an edge with a steep drop. The bunny was right there. I threw myself forward and caught it. Then I heard my mother scream, she looked terrified, her hand reaching for me as my foot lost the ground and I fell backward. She caught me just in time and pulled me back, but she herself slipped and fell down.”

You stand very still. He looks as though someone has stabbed him with a knife but he can’t cry out because his body is paralyzed. He must be reliving that moment while he tells you this story. “There was a lot of blood. She laid there so still, a broken branch protruding from her chest. I thought I could die from relief when they said she’ll be okay. I wanted her to be angry with me, but she said she’ll never do that and smiled at me like she always had. She was all well and fine, just like how she’d always been, until one day… she suddenly collapsed.” Ravus clenches and unclenches his fist. “Her condition was a lot worse than how she looked. The doctors did everything they could… She wanted to rest.”

For the first time in sharing his past with you he meets your gaze. His are red and shadowed. His voice cracks when he speaks. “I robbed my mother of her life. I took Mother away from Lunafreya when she still needed her parent the most. She trusted me.”

You stride over and grab his hands. “No. You did not rob anyone of anything. It was an accident. You mustn’t blame yourself.”

“Doesn’t change that she was fatally injured because of me. I caused her death. It should’ve been me instead of her.”

You release him, taking on an reprimanding tone. “You think torturing yourself by blaming it all on you would make things better? You think you should die in place of her? Would your mother be happy to hear you say that?”

Ravus’s face is pale and unguarded as if waking up from a bad dream.

“Think about Luna. Why do you think she’s always so worried about you? You may hide your feelings from anyone, but she’s your sister. She knows. How does it make her feel to see you suffering something all by yourself?”

Ravus casts his eyes down. Guilt and regret wrapped him like a quilt, making him small and vulnerable, like a little boy.

You go on. “You’re Luna’s only family. Her older brother. If you care about her at all you would share that trouble with her, cross that bridge together. Your mother...she’d be glad to know you’re doing very well, that her rescue meant that her son lives happily with his sister. You have a strong heart, that’s why she left Luna in your care. Did she not?”

He doesn’t say anything for a long moment. His mind working to ponder what you said. You trust he would listen to your words because the expression he wears is one of acceptance and realization, as though his inner fortress is slowly falling down.

Ravus reaches out and embraces you, his head on your stomach. He’s silent and you keep it that way, and wind your arms around him, too.

You remain in that position until he lets you go home. He didn’t see you to the car, you didn’t want him to, it’d make it harder to leave.

~

You tell the driver to drop you off a street away from your apartment. As you walk up to the complex someone calls your name. A man with dark brown hair and wearing a trench coat introduces himself as Burke, a journalist from the news broadcast company Oracle.

He’s the paparazzo Yozel told you about; the one who started the rumor. You wave him away and hurry home but he blocks your path.

“I heard of your rescue a few days ago. And you almost didn’t make it out unscathed.”

You cross your arms. “Miracles could happen. Now, if you’ll excuse me and let me through.”

“What I find strange is the father was trapped inside the building for quite a while and he comes out as though he merely ran a marathon and not collapsing on the spot, as was his daughter. And you, too, seemed completely fine after escaping the fire.”

“What are you trying to ask?”

“I want to know why is that? How come you are in stable conditions so rather quickly?”

This is getting annoying. You make up some excuses to ward him off. “Maybe he didn’t inhale that much smoke? Or his body could withstand the raging heat? I don’t know what you’re getting at here, Mr. Burke, but you should go.”

What he says next stops you dead in your tracks. “Are you human?”

You sense a red flag from this guy. Your caution is raised. “And what put that in your head?”

“I’m a believer of many things, see. You don’t know—all kinds of things could happen in this vast universe. I’m just a curious journalist who’s eager to learn and discover new knowledges and share it with the world.”

You look him up and down, scrutinizing his haughty posture and inquisitive face. He’s going to be a tough stain to remove. “I see you’re the type of person who’d risk anything for a groundbreaking piece of news. As you did with the false news of me and King Ravus.” You assume a tall posture of your own. “I admire people of your eager caliber, actually. But I’ll tell you this—I’ve had all the fun I’m gonna get these past few weeks. You might want to dig somewhere else other than the dirt around me. I simply work as a human resource specialist. Not at all special. So, I hope you could let me return to my good ol’ quiet life, just like how it was. Have a good evening, Burke.”

Leaving him with the last words you spin on your heels toward home, ignoring his gaze on your back.

Chapter Text

Ravus and Luna watch as a sophisticated vehicle pulls up into the grand driveway of the manor. A noble man steps out and bows in greeting to the king and princess. His sleek blond hair shine in the sun like gold filaments. His angular face is framed with a neatly groomed beard. His needle-like gaze is gray and strict, and when he looks at Ravus it eases slightly.

“It has been a while, my good nephew. How have you fare?”

“Days are simply going by, Uncle Ulysses,” says Ravus.

“Even in Lucis I heard news of your rumor with a young lady. You should consider taking a wife so news such as these wouldn’t be a problem.” Then Ulysses’s eyes go to Luna and his gaze softens. “And how is my beautiful niece?”

Luna offers a mature smile, one she uses for anyone who is not her brother or her friends. “I’m doing well, Uncle. You must be tired. Let’s go inside and prepare you some refreshments.”

The family of three sits at the dining table, enjoying an afternoon meal. Ulysses Nox Fleuret has recently returned home after his political stay in Lucis. He suggests how Luna should consider making acquaintances with King Regis’s son, Prince Noctis, in which earns him a good-nature glare from her.

“Acquaintance as in platonic friendships? Otherwise I am way too busy to bother with other things,” Luna proclaims, popping a piece of fruit into her mouth.

Ulysses turns to Ravus incredulously. “She is still like this?” Ravus casually shrugs his shoulders, the gesture implying, I couldn’t do anything about it. Ulysses smiles resignedly at his niece. “My dear Lunafreya, you took too much after your father. He was too adventurous and couldn’t stay in one place for long, just like you. He once tried to call off his betrothal with your mother because he wished to ride the waves and clouds to explore the span of the world.”

Though she has no memory of ever interacting with her father since he died when Luna was still an infant, her mother often told her about what was he like. Luna especially loved going through the album consisting photos of her mother and father when they were young and of his many expeditions. That was when Luna aspires to be like him—to see the expansive beauty of the world. “What’s wrong with taking after Father? I heard everyone loved him during his reign. He was kind and benevolent. Open and smart. Attentive and considerate. Right?” She looks at Ravus.

Ravus doesn’t seem to be entertained—like he ever look like he does, Luna thinks poutily—as he concentrates on his plate. “I guess,” he says. “I remember he took me to go horseback riding when I was seven. Didn’t uncle raced against him? He lost by a second and then sulked like a little boy?”

Ulysses laughs. “Little brother had always been a sore loser. We did a rematch and he thought I let him win out of pity, he did not appreciate it. There was no pleasing him sometimes.”

“Did you?” Luna asks with a playful grin. “Let him win on purpose.”

“I did.”

~

After lunch Luna excused herself to her room while Ravus and Ulysses talk in the study.

“The unrest regarding the people,” Ulysses begins to say, and Ravus interjects before he could finish.

“I know what you’re going say.” He looks down at the polished mahogany table before him, tracing the subtle lines with his gaze. “I know I’ve been delaying the decision of the port towns; the council and citizens are waiting for an answer. But we must look at the situation in both perspectives.”

Ulysses sighs quietly through his nose. “I understand what you are thinking,” he says. “When your mother passed away that year, the entire nation was aggrieved. I acted as a regent to the throne until you were old enough to inherit. During those times I’d focus on the bigger picture. It is not simple, because I’ve made difficult decisions for the sake of both parties.

Ravus regards Ulysses, thin lines of age showing at the corners of his uncle’s gray eyes like wings of a butterfly. Ulysses goes on.

“What I’m saying is sometimes we ought to make sacrifices—big or small—for the better and greater goods that benefit the people and the country. Now, I am not reprimanding you, merely imparting reassurance so you could proceed with a clearer aim. However, indecisiveness is only prolonging the hardships our people face. If you continue to hesitate, nothing is ever going to change.”

~

“Your uncle? The former regent?” You sit down at an empty table in a quiet cafe down the street from where you work.

“Yes, he’s going to be here for a couple of days for an event we’re in process of organizing. And we did some catching up and reminiscing over lunch.”

You place your order as Luna talks, the cafe uses tablets that you can order your food digitally at your table, also which you find very convenient and efficient. “Family bonding,” you say, pushing the tablet aside. “Nothing more heartwarming than cultivating familial relationships.”

“Don’t you family bond with Yozel? You said he’s more of a distant relative but you guys seem a lot like family.”

“He was a distant relative when I first came here. We’re more like annoying siblings now.” You remember what happened when Luna was away in Accordo. You’ve been working on how to explain things to her for the past few days, but all the dialogues you’ve come up with didn’t make the conversation you’re going to have any less awkward. “So, um...,” you begin. “Hear me out, okay? While you were away in Accordo, right, I visited the manor.”

“Okay,” Luna says patiently.

You start to think if you should really tell her this. No, you have to.

“And then I sort of...kissed your brother.” You brace yourself—waiting for a rare Luna admonishment yelling through the line—but there’s no reply from the other end and you thought for a split second she has hung up on you. “Luna, are you there?”

“You what?” Her voice is deep.

“I know.” You stop your pitiful cry when the waitress delivers your food and thank her before going back to the conversation. “I shouldn’t have done that. I had a few glasses of wine and I just…”

There’s nothing of her usual lightness in her voice, she’s never spoken to you like this before. “How was it?”

“What do you mean?”

“You kissed him. So, how did he react?”

“He probably kissed me back because I was desperate.”

“What kind of logic is that?” Then she squeals and you hear a loud smack in her background as if she slaps her palm on a table. “Y/N! I’ve always thought Brother to make the first move. But I’ve never imagined that you would come on to him so passionately before he does.”

“What are you—wait. You’ve always thought him to make the move? He likes me?”

Luna chuckles. “Uh yeah! You actually thought he made out with you just because you’re gorgeous as hell and that you forced yourself on him? C’mon. Yes, he may look like he’s not capable of romantic sentiments but he’s actually a little ball of emotions, you know.”

You’re not sure what to say to that. That’s the last thing you expect to hear when you were dreading over Luna’s reaction. You absently take a sip of your drink. “That’s nice to hear…”

“So I’m not mad, if that’s what you were fretting about,” Luna adds. “Though I will be if I had to find out on my own, because this is news worth telling. Good news, indeed.”

~

That evening, Ravus calls saying that he misses you. You feel satisfied; first, hearing his voice and second, him saying he misses you. Luna’s earlier words involuntarily come back and you wonder if he really does feel that way about you. Your own feelings might not be one-sided after all.

“I must look in a wider perspective,” he says. “The citizens are not going to approve and many will be affected by this.”

“You’re approving to the port towns,” you state his implication.

“In exchange for the land of their homes, I’ll compensate for what was taken. For the time being, affected inhabitants will be given a new location to stay. Positions and offers of well-paying jobs will be open for the residents once the towns are complete. That’s the most I could give them, regardless of what the council might say.”

You lean back on your sofa in your joined living room and kitchen, the new TV series you’ve been hooked on just went on their commercial break, though you haven’t been paying attention to it while you listen to Ravus. “That’s a wonderful way to give back to the people,” you say. “They may not see the reward now but in a few years time they will realize it was a right decision. More opportunities will bloom as a result of this. You’re making a heavy but an important step.”

The renovation of the slums is not an entirely bad aspect after all. Wealth comes mainly in a channel of business and commerce and a little help of luck. If you have a steady platform to impart your bestowing on, advancement sails in the more easier.

Your task here will soon take a big leap forward.

~

One evening your landlord Tony stops you in the hallway and hands you something that looks like a black mechanical ball with a frontal lens. “Is this yours?”

You and examine the small device in your hand—a camera. You don’t know why but a sudden chill went up your back. “No, it’s not mine. Why?”

“I was having that plant in front of your door removed this afternoon and I found this attached to it. It was facing your door so I was wondering if you put it there.”

Now the pinprick of apprehension turns into an icy hand that seizes hold of your spine. Someone is watching you. “No, this is totally not mine.”

Tony gives you a warning look. “Someone might be invading your privacy. You should report it to the police.”

You nod numbly, your thoughts whirling with dark possibilities, and curl your fingers on the device. “I’ll do that. Thank you for letting me know.”

Quickly entering your apartment you call Yozel. You cannot alert the police about this. Who knows what and how much things the observer has picked up. If you bring this up to the authorities, you might get exposed. If the observer has been watching you at home, then they must’ve been following you around when you were out too. The watcher is for sure alerted by now. You must do something before this turns into a problem you won’t be able to stop.

That night you had a nightmare. Someone tied you up and pulled a sack over your head and threw you overboard into the ocean. Ravus and Luna jumped in after and disappeared in the depths of the raging waters.

Chapter Text

“Today, the Council have ratified the long debated proposal to the reformation of the northeastern ward slums. Constructions will begin later in the year after the residents are fully relocated to the established sanctuaries. This is a big step for Tenebrae’s economic recovery, however, the citizens are enraged by this decision and—”

You turn the TV off and bury your face in your hands. The revelation of the spy camera has you so shaken up you feel like an already lost king trapped inside his castle waiting for enemy soldiers to charge in at any moment. You’re anxiously waiting for the breaking news of “A presence of an extraterrestrial entity has been sighted” broadcasting around the world—of videos and pictures of you utilizing your magic—baring you out for all to see. You’ve only got one clue in your possession, but where do you even start to look without going to the police?

Right after your phone call with Yozel last night, you asked for access to the control room. The security guard manipulated through a sequence of footages before slowing at the time frame between 7-9PM of that evening when you felt the anonymous presence outside your door. Through the fast-forwarding you hadn’t noticed anyone strange, by this time almost everybody was already home. Then you saw them—a suspicious looking person; obscured by a hood over their baseball cap and a surgical mask hiding their face, going toward the direction of your apartment—and leaned forward.

The figure was built like a male, at least 5’10”, and stopped at the end of the hall where your door was; last one on the right. He lingered near a pot of plant as he casually looked around, pretending to be finding a door number. The leaves of the plant beside him moved, if you hadn’t known about the camera you would’ve probably thought he just grazed against it, then acting like he got the wrong end, walked away, out the building.

You kept rewinding the tape, trying to get a clearer view of his face—hoping for at least some discernible features. No use. You watched him coming in and leaving, walking back up the street. There wasn’t much that you can glean from his appearance but you did get his name—you thought your identity reading was limited to only in real life, but video recordings were a quirk, however hazy—Marcus Elshett.

One thing that stood out about him was when he moved he had that careful, alert sway of a wild cat in his gait.

~

The next noon, Luna comes over to your apartment for the first time. It’s been something she’s always wanted to do—to visit a friend’s house—so when she asked if she could, you happily welcomed her request.

The princess is fascinated by the cozy little home that you sleep in, looking around the homey space with curious study as you set a cup of tea on the table for her, then dropping down on a seat too. You study her. “You act like this is outer space or a forbidden place or something. Don’t tell me you haven’t been in an apartment before.”

“I have never, actually,” Luna says, bringing the mug to her face, indulging the fragrant aroma of the jasmine tea before taking a sip, then smiles joyfully showing that she likes it. “At least not a bijou one like this,” she adds. “I’ve never thought of wanting to live in one. Now, I think I want to. An apartment is so cute; everything’s an easy access and all to yourself. And you can decorate however you like it.”

“Isn’t that what it’s like at the manor for you? Having everything to yourself and don’t have to lift a single finger of labor. Lucky you.” You sip your tea, the warm, sweet taste of the jasmine flowers gives a burst of scented flavor in your mouth, and a boost of energy to your body and mind.

Luna casually shrugs. “Fenestala Manor is big but it doesn’t give out the kind of vibe I’m feeling here.” She pauses. “What if we live together in a dainty little home? Imagine all of the girly things we get to do and whatnot.”

“Living with a princess? I wonder if people would really come at me that I have their princess as a roommate and they don’t.”

Luna makes a pretend-to-be-shock sound as she puckers up her glossy pink lips. She could make things happen with just a simple snap of her fingers. She could even be something like this: “I have decided. I will move out to live in a small unit with my best friend, and with strangers as neighbors. And you cannot follow.” As you secretly smile thinking of her whimsical princess manners Luna brings up something that makes you involuntarily tensed up.

“In three days, the royal family is holding a diplomatic dinner in a cruise. The council and representatives from different kingdoms are all going to attend.”

The dream you had that night swarms in like a dark cloud and a foreboding coldness rises up in your stomach. You know it’s just a bad dream, it means nothing, but this straining tension is too much to overlook, too dark to pass it off as mere ill misgiving. “Hey Luna,” you start. “This might sound kind of strange but can you postpone the event, maybe? Something tells me that that day doesn’t seem to be a good day.”

She pushes her eyebrows up quizzically, looking at you as if you’re some deja vu she’s experiencing, then laughs carelessly. “Are you a fortune teller? Don’t worry, the forecast is going to be good that night. We wouldn’t choose a date to go on the waters if it’s not going to be clear.” A tilt curves up her lips. “If you want to come, you can tell me. I’ll be happy if you’re going to be there too.”

“That’s not what I meant,” you say.

“We can’t postpone it now. The event is only a few days away. It’d inconvenience the attendees who’ve already arrived. If you’re worried about the security and the like, I reassure you, it’s going to be fine. It’s a big event with important diplomats and officials present, of course the security will be doubled and guard boats will be deployed nearby the ship.” She frowns a little at your sudden change of mood. “Did you get enough sleep? You look tired.”

The situation about your observer has kept you up at night. You heave a sigh. “Maybe not. That’s why I’m antsy.”

“Well, then you should come to the dinner. Maybe that’ll help loosen you up a bit. What do you say?”

You’re not sure if you’re even allowed to attend. It is a diplomatic gathering, Luna has said so earlier, and you’re not, in any way, of political standing. But if she is inviting you then perhaps you could? And if something does happen—which you hope not—you will be there to protect Luna and Ravus—or everyone else on the ship if you could.

Chapter Text

Three days later.

You find yourself staring up at the twinkling ship as other attendees walk past to get on board. It’s not the biggest cruise, for the event is politically exclusive. But not going to lie, the ship right now is indeed quite large itself. Decked out in your party attire—a black dress that reaches perfectly to the ground and tasteful jewelry—you present your invitation to the greeter.

A big golden space expands the lobby with curving staircases that lead up to each floor. The atrium reaches up and ceilinged with a massive modernized chandelier. Not wanting to climb three flights of stairs to the third floor in heels you opt for the elevators on the side of the lobby; they are paneled with clear glass so you can see everything as you go up. You follow the other attendees to a set of double doors, where which Luna and Ravus are at the entrance receiving the guests in.

Luna looks dignified in her royal attire: a silver dress with flowing gossamer that resembles pale wings, and a silvery plate-like shrug that bring about the look of a female knight. Ravus is looking tall and excellent in his intricately pieced, white and purple and silver suit.

The ballroom is washed in a warm color of pale gold and dotted with adorned round tables, each indicated with a number card. You find your table at the very front of the venue, already which have occupants sitting in it.

As you approach, Ulysses Nox Fleuret and a few other high-ranking council members turn their gazes up to meet you, their eyes searching and curiously amused. You introduce yourself with a mannerful bow of your head. They recognize you as the woman Ravus was involved in a scandal with and you twitch inwardly. You admit, you are only known because of the incident, but you dislike the idea of being entirely viewed as the king’s alleged romantic fling. I have an occupation to my name, you want to correct them.

Ulysses studies you inquisitively, his gray eyes piercingly severe that you feel like your back straighten as flat as it can get. You remember when he substituted for the throne in place of young Ravus; he looked very strict but not unkind. That air of him never left. He gestures to you to have a seat.

You sit down next to a gorgeous lady who’s complimented on the glinting bracelet on your wrist. Then, everyone turns toward the front of the room where Ravus and Luna make their way to the podium. The lights of the venue dim to a softer glow.

The royalties deliver their opening speeches with grandeur and grace. They express their gratitude to all attending diplomats and for being at tonight’s banquet, then raise their glass to toast. As they come over to your table Luna glances over your appearance and gives you her royalty courtesy. You meet Ravus’s eyes and nod your head with an acknowledging smile.

Foods are brought out in sessions, dishes after dishes, by attending servers. An orchestra is playing at the front at the side; music of strings and woodwinds flows through the room as guests dine. You haven’t forgotten about why you actually came; it isn’t as though you’ve decided to tag along to mainly act as a bodyguard, but more like being here, watching Luna and Ravus, to alleviate the bleak hunch that you got. Taking a casual glance behind you, beyond the glass doors that ran one wall of the room, the expanse of the night and ocean whir peacefully by like a spinning zoetrope.

It really is a quiet night. Maybe you’re just overthinking things and freaking yourself out.

~

Halfway through dinner you excuse yourself to the restroom to fix your makeup. On your way back you notice several security guards hurry along the halls in apparent urgency. You overheard one of them when they pass by.

“Boat 2 is off position and unresponsive. They’re going towards the rear end of the ship. Go have a look.”

Are they talking about the guard boats? Luna said scouts are stationed near the cruise for higher measure of security. Certainly something isn’t right when any of them doesn’t respond communication.

“Miss.” One guard comes up to you. “Please return to the ballroom. We detected suspicious activities near the ship. Your safety is our priority.”

You thought better of what you’re about to say; they probably aren’t sure what’s happening either and if it’s any danger or disorder they will handle it quietly. So you hurry back to the dinner hall like the man has instructed.

Ravus is up at the podium again, giving another address. You stand near the entrance, where you’ve just re-entered, and listen quietly as he talks, trying not to disrupt. The guards in here stand range in the corners and shadows, alert eyes scanning the floor and up at the balcony. Ravus glances up from his speech paper when the whole room is thrown into pitch black—the only light coming in is through the glass panels of the doors. Gasps of shock and surprise rise in the darkness from the bewildered guests.

Your legs move on its own, toward the podium. Coldness grips your spine, your heart setting off in an irregular beat as you weave your way through the dark. This is not a coincidence; first the scouting boat and now this. Ravus is a white splatter in the darkness. You are almost there when something in the shadow makes the hairs on the back of your neck bristle. You flick your focus to the top balcony—

A glint of dark metal.

You know exactly what it is and with a tight jerk of your arm your chair streaks upward at the figure and collided with a loud crash, right when a gunshot shatters the air. Everyone simultaneously ducks out of their seats, screaming in terror.

“Y/N, get down!” Luna yanks you to the floor just when a blaring alarm tears the room, the spinning lights cast the unlit venue in flashing red. You see more shadows darting across the upper floor and a series of bullets is fired down at your table and the podium, extracting another round of screams from the people. You search for Ravus at the front; he’s not there, he must be behind the lectern, guards are surrounding it. There are more gunfire as securities scavenge the upper floor.

Explosions went off somewhere outside the deck and outside the dinner hall, and the glass doors shatter, spraying glittering shards into the room. In a panic, a stream of people dashes forward to get out. Guards come around your table to shield the princess and the council members.

You follow into the halls, clouded with thick smoke and debris. You dash down the emergency stairwell with the others to the lobby where a safe room is but you never make it there because everywhere is ruined and crumbled, the hallway to the safety room is blocked off by rubbles. Then a succession of detonation went off, driving you outside to the lower main deck. The ship is still going, faster speed than normal. People in all black appear from around the corners and the upper decks—their faces obscured—armed, and their guns trained at your group with Ulysses, and on Ravus and Luna.

The assassins duck and evade gunshots. The shield of guards is also diminishing, baring Luna and Ravus for enemy bullets. A movement on the highest levels makes you look up—blending in with the shadow is a figure, you only have enough time to read into their identity before the figure points a gun down on the royal siblings.

“No!” You break away from your protection circle at the time Luna falls overboard, pushed by an injured guard who jerks harshly back—she hangs on to the metal railing. Ravus yells and leans over to grab her arm. It’s too late to reach them in time; you slam the person in the shadow into the wall, hard, with a swipe of your outstretched palm, at the exact moment they pull the trigger.

The bullet hits the back of Ravus’s shoulder, throwing him off balance and over the railing, bringing Luna down with him into the ocean.

You scream. Blindly, you jump into the water after them.

The agitated tide caused by the running ship throws you around underwater; you nearly lost consciousness and could barely see anything in the black water. A horrible panic races through your blood. You search frantically around in the dark looking for them. A faint movement flickers at the edge of your vision and you look down—two figures being swallowed up by endless depths, like twin silver coins sinking into the ocean. You dive with an urgency of a shark going after a dinner, reaching your hand out, glowing, and the two bodies hover in the black space. Your eyes penetrate the solid darkness with lances of blue-white light. Luna and Ravus float toward you; grabbing their wrists, you pull them up to the surface.

You take greedy gasps of air upon breaching the water surface. You’re holding them afloat only by their waists; their unconscious bodies are making it so difficult to support that you’re sinking again. Blood swirl out from Ravus’s shoulder. Seawater stings your eyes; all you can see is black and water and paling faces. You are nowhere near land. Your arms feel like they’re breaking; the siblings are slipping out of your grasp.

There are no guard boats around and the cruise is now a small speck in the sea. Drowning with two bodies in your arms, a desperation creeps up your bones and your mouth starts to move; chanting an ancient language—the tongue of angels.

The sky stirs as if responding to your incantation; gray clouds appearing out of nowhere swirling into a giant vortex, purple cracks of lightning split the night and then the sound of thunder. The growing strength of wind. The Angel of Storm. The water around you kicks up and down, bobbing you along with the growing tide. The wind transforms into a full razor sharp gale and the gray clouds shoot out forks of lightnings. Looming waves fall and crash and swallow the three of you into the water once again. Your grip lost on the siblings as the warring sea sweeps you away like a plastic bag caught in a tornado, can neither move nor think. Black hits you like a club in the head and you went dark.

~

You wake up with sand in your mouth, your cheek submerged in the grainy land. You cough, spitting out seawater and grains and pushing yourself up on trembling hands and knees. Your whole body aches; your muscles feel torn to shreds and your bones like cracking tree barks. You gauge your surrounding, registering a shore of somewhere; your foggy mind too disoriented to identify.

Ravus and Luna, washed up a fair distance away, aren’t breathing, still as rocks. Trudging desperately on leaden legs, you drag Luna by her wrists across the sand, and set yourself in between their bodies, then pressing your palms over their hearts—power summoned—you push down once. Hard. They jolt sharply, as if shocked by defibrillators, spitting up saltwater and wrecked with brutal coughs.

Their names come out cracked and tight in your throat. You feel like you’ve taken a blow to the chest and when every time you breathe, it hurts. Your skull threatens to split in half.

Luna groans. “Ravus.” She crawls on weak hands and knees to her brother, who is still lying on the sand, and gathers him into her arms. She bends over him, clinging to him so fiercely the muscles strain under her clothes. She cries. Cracking and desperate. It’s all in there—her wails—the fear of the assassins, falling into the ocean, the dark depths, dying, losing her brother.

Ravus presses her close to him lest if he doesn’t hold her tight she would fall away. His tight grip trembles on her arms.

As the siblings hold and cry to each other you sit down on the sand; your dress is ripped and torn, your skin is bruised and cut, you lost your shoes. That nightmare you had: being thrown overboard, Luna and Ravus jumping in after you. Your stomach twists tightly. How could your dream and what happened in reality be so similar? If you haven’t had the dream and if you didn’t come today... Your blood runs like icicles in your veins, making you shudder.

Who were those people? Pirates? That didn’t seem right. You sensed the thirst for blood rather than a high-scale robbery. During the havoc, you noticed the attackers were only targeting Ravus and Luna. Other guests could’ve merely been ants to them, unworthy of attention. A hurricane of questions rages in your mind and not relinquishing a single answer. The shadowed figure at the top deck—the name shatters in your thought when Luna calls your name.

She falls into your open arms and quivers in your hold. Her wet hair like clumps of seaweed in your fingers as you gently caress her head. “Everything is going to be okay,” you say softly. “You’re both all right.”

She doesn’t say anything as her tears fall onto your shoulder, wet and warm. Gently pulling away you hold her face carefully in your hands. Her perfect face cut and scraped. The dark stain of her makeup around her eyes. You softly brush away sand and debris sticking on to her skin, her hair, and couldn’t help but think: she looks like a shipwrecked mermaid—beautifully disheveled and bright, glassy eyes. “You’re okay,” you reassure again. “It could’ve went a lot worse.” You look past over Luna’s shoulder. Ravus is ghostly pale, he has a hand over the back of his left shoulder. You quickly move to check on him.

“Y/N.” The blood is scarlet red on his pale hand. “Are you hurt?”

You don’t answer him, your attention is on his wound. If you hadn’t disrupted the shooter at the last moment, the hole would be in his brain; the sudden image makes you wince. The bullet is deep in his flesh and blood is still flowing freely from it. Your hand comes away red when you peel away his wet shirt, soaked with water and blood. You rip a strip of fabric from your dress and roll it up. “Bite down on this.”

He looks bewildered. “What are you—”

“Just bite down on it. I’m going to get the bullet out.” You force the strip into his mouth and gape at the hole for a moment, biting your lip. Digging your whole finger in is a bad idea. Hovering two fingers over the wound and twitching them in small motions, the bullet inside squirms, making Ravus scream in his throat and clamps down on the cloth. You keep repeating the gesture with your hand until the shaped metal juts out from the hole. With your thumb and forefinger you pluck the bullet out, earning a painful groan from Ravus, the fabric falls from his mouth. You drop the bloody bullet on the sand and press your hand on his skin, feeling the open flesh wriggles and mending itself together under your palm.

As you do this, Luna gasps in horror, a hand on her mouth, as if she’s seeing something that isn’t supposed to happen or never imagined could happen.

Ravus turns around to see what is the cause of her appalled shock, and his eyes widen like spheres when he’s met with your blazing eyes, and scoots back in absolute surprise. The light dies down when you blink, sending the vicinity back into gloom. The sight of them—wide eyed and leaning away—breaks your heart.

“I can explain—” you begin.

“What are you?” Ravus demands. An arm in front of his sister as if to protect her. “Y/N.”

You swallow against the bitterness in your throat. This is not the way you want to tell them. The way they’re looking at you—they’re afraid. “You have to believe me. I was going to tell you this sooner but—” You squeeze your eyes shut and open them again. “I’m an angel from the heavens. I’ve come down here on a decree. I’m not something harmful.” You explain your story quickly but it doesn’t seem to get through to them, they continue to give you the look people would give to an insane patient in an asylum.

“Who else knows?” Luna’s eyes are wide.

“Yozel.”

“Is he one also?”

“No. He’s completely human. He’s just helping me.”

Her delicate brows knit, eyes dark. “When you said to postpone the dinner cruise, you mean you knew this is going happen?”

“No. I didn’t know. I just had a dream about you both falling into the ocean. It was just a dream.”

“And it came true,” her voice becomes higher. “Your dream is real, Y/N. What are you? Really.”

“Please, you have to believe me. I’m not going to hurt you! I’ve never hurt anyone in my life. Please, Luna.” You move forward and she flinches, seeking for her brother. You halt—the implication is made completely clear—and take a step back. “I...I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have lied to you for so long. I didn’t mean for you to find out this way. But you both are in danger, you need protection.”

“Y/N.” Ravus sounds resigned and begging as if you should stop talking. His eyes are rimmed with red and exhaustion. His complexion matches Luna’s—pinched and ashen. “I very much appreciate you for you’ve saved our lives. Very grateful you’re so concern for our safety and willing to protect us. We really do. But…,” his eyes implores, “I think we will be okay by ourselves—for now. So… Please leave us be.” His hands tighten on his sister’s.

Your fists clench at your sides. “You’re not—”

“Please.” His voice shakes yet forceful that you don’t dare to interject anymore. He still cares about you—from the way he looks at you. However, his disbelief and overall shock beat his love for you at this moment. As is for Luna as well; when you look at her, you see incredulity and fear.

You bite your lip, enough to nearly break skin. “I understand. If you ever need me—ever in trouble—please let me know. I’ll come as fast as I can.” You turn back and walk away from the shore.

There’s an open convenience store nearby so you have them contact the police that a pair of siblings is injured at the beach and in need of immediate help before calling Yozel to come pick you up. You wait for him on a bench in front of a closed boutique shop and put your face in your hands and finally let your sobs flow.

Chapter Text

“Authorities are currently investigating the attempt royal homicide that happened last night during the diplomatic dinner banquet. The assailants hijacked one of the guard boats to board the ship and opened fire in the ballroom where a hundred diplomats and council members were present. King Ravus and Princess Lunafreya fell off the ship during the attack and was found unharmed at the shore of Krystallo Beach by authorities. The cruise ship was stopped near the western coast but no criminals were found. There are reported deaths of 3 and 17 wounded.”

You stare blankly at the TV as the morning news anchor delivers last night’s event. You’re still in your pajamas, only been asleep for a few hours in bed before wakefulness came unbidden, your body and mind sluggish.

Please, leave us be.

You left them at the beach last night; waiting outside the darkened shop, your face in your hands as police sirens and ambulances rushed by, rushing to rescue Ravus and Luna. Hunched against the cold ocean wind, you sobbed quietly until you were dried out. You looked a mess, too: hair matted with seawater and sand; arms and legs decorated here and there with purple and green bruises, and thin red slashes; dried blood crusted on your fingers from when you treated Ravus’s wound; and your once pretty dress now ruined, torn on the hem and a strap snapped off on one shoulder.

You didn’t know how long you waited; sitting there in what felt like an eternity before headlights blinded your eyes as Yozel pulled up to the curb. He hurried out of the car clutching a thin blanket in his hands, his face creased with worry, and draped it over you; the softness of it against your cold skin gave you instant warmth and a sense of safety, just what you needed.

He held your shoulders, his blue-green eyes concerned when you looked up. His smooth voice added to soothe your jumbling nerves. “You all right? You need to go to the hospital?”

It suddenly felt like years since you saw and heard him, and were so glad that he was here. You shook your head, a thin smile on your lips. “I’m my own hospital. Let’s go home.” He nodded and didn’t ask anymore as he led you into the passenger seat. The ride home was quiet, he didn’t press you to talk until you were back in your apartment and then spilled all that had happened on your own. He sat next to you tapping quick pats on your back and telling you to give them some time. They will want to see you again because friends didn’t abandon friends.

After that, while you showered, he made you something easy to eat. As a result, birthing a situation in the kitchen.

It’s still there in your small kitchenette, waiting to be dealt with. You snort—half out of love for his sweet thoughtfulness and half irritation for his lack of coordination in doing anything.

~

One evening night.

“I just got out.” A cold breeze greets you the moment you step out the building. You make your way to your car, a block down from your workplace. “A little later than usual. Should I cook or order tonight?”

Despite all of the crazy happenings that have taken place in the past week—the spy camera, the ship incident, the Nox Fleurets denying you—daily life has been sailing smoothly anyhow. You go to work and safely come back home as if all those are just distant memories. One thing has changed though; you talked to neither Luna nor Ravus ever since you parted with them that night. Luna, who you talked to almost everyday, didn’t message you. Your calls and messages with Ravus stopped also.

You miss them. Having them cut you off like that is the same as having a piece of your heart gouged out—a place in your heart in which they occupied now empty. But you will wait for them to come around. If not, then you will go to them and set things right again.

“Order,” Yozel says, over the phone. “Sorry, I left that mess for you the other time. But you shooed me out before I even offer to clean. By the way, you have a taser on you, right? Pepper spray, maybe?”

“You’re going way over the top. It’s not like they’re going to assault me or anything.”

“That’s where you’re wrong, tough cookie. Even if you don’t think you need it, sometimes you just might. Better be safe than sorry.”

You hunch against the evening wind as you turn a corner into a smaller, quieter street. “I have my own weapon, if you forgot.”

“Exploiting your powers ain’t considered a weapon. You already know the situation you’re in.”

“I can always alter their memories afterwards.”

You hear him sigh on the other end. “Sense of danger, Y/N. Do you have it? Remember how we first met? You were in deep waters and nearly got hauled away to the fun place?” he says.

“That was unintentional. But hey, I saved your ass from your getting-beat-until-beyond-recognition party. You were taking it quite well too, perhaps I shouldn’t have interfered.” You freeze and whirl around expecting someone to be behind you, but it’s just running cars, traffics lights, and brightly lit stores. Something’s not right; you start walking a little faster. “I think I’m being followed,” you say in a low voice.

Yozel who was issuing his own retort stops up short. “Get somewhere crowded. I’ll be there as fast as I can. Stay on the phone.”

You continue down the street, the faint footsteps become more clear now. You heart picks up pace but you don’t turn back to look at them and disappear into a growth of trees lining the perimeter of an isolated park. You’re somewhat relieved that someone is there; that means you can catch whoever is following you—hoping for the guy who installed the spy camera outside your door. The park is bare with only trees rising from the ground like tall, creepy shadows. The canopy blocks out most of the light throwing the area into something straight out of horror movies. However, you’re not afraid—more pumped than anything, really. You hide yourself behind a tree and wait, still holding your phone at your side as you gingerly peer out to see a silhouette in the distance weaving through the lanky trees, looking around—for you.

The figure wears a long coat, and appears to be a male. When he gets close enough you spring out of your hiding spot, startling him. Your brows furrow in distaste. “Why’re you following me?”

Burke puts up his hands in front of him, as if assuring a wild animal that he means no harm. “I just have some questions for you. If you would allow me explain myself.”

“I’ll call the police if you don’t leave me alone. I have them on speed dial,” you warn.

That doesn’t faze him, instead, he smiles smugly as he produces several photographs from his pocket and fans them out in his hand. From what you could tell, in the dimness, the pictures are of you and Ravus together. “You denied the rumors before,” he begins to say, studying your reaction, and likes what he’s seeing. “But these tell something totally different. Care to justify?”

You click your tongue, irritated. “My private life is none of your business.”

“Of course it’s not. But King Ravus’s love life is news to be shared. The royal family is such a public figure, and everyone loves behind-closed-doors details, especially if it’s royalty related. After all, I am a paparazzo and a journalist, following is what I do. And…” His face suddenly turns cold. “Can you explain this?” He presses a button on his phone and the voice coming from the audio is one you remember—the father of the girl you rescued from the burning building. You stand very still. In the recording Burke is asking questions and the father answers in earnest; saying you healed his injury with a glowing hand and stopping a piece of burning wall with an invisible force. Burke must’ve paid him a visit in the hospital before you changed the father’s memory.

You move to snatch the pictures and the phone from him, he jerks away, a mocking smile playing about his mouth. “What would happen if I publish these information? Surely you will make headlines after headlines. You’re one odd lady, I must tell you. What are you—an alien? Someone possessed by something?”

You’re so close to bringing him to his knees when a dull thump comes from behind the reporter and he crumbles to the ground, unconscious. Your eyes startle wide. In front of you is Yozel, a thick tree branch in his hand, looking just as surprised down at Burke. “You came,” you utter.

“Damn, I don’t know how much force to use. Hope I didn’t break his neck or anything,” he says, sardonically amused. “Sorry, I’m late. I was looking for the perfect stick to bust him with.” He gives the wood a spin then tosses it lazily away. His curling brown hair is coming out of his careless bun and tiny dots of sweat are fetching up on the faint stubble around his jaws. He frowns at you. “I told you to go somewhere crowded. Why did you face him alone? What if he’s got a weapon on him?”

You look down sheepishly. “I really want to catch him. I guess I got carried away. He really tried to threaten me despite knowing I’m different. The audacity.”

He rolls his eyes behind his glasses and gestures at the knocked-out man by your feet. “Well, he’s lying here all ready for us to defile him.”

You give him a look before bending down to search Burke’s pockets. You take out the SD card from his camera, delete the audio with the father from his phone, and gather up the pictures that he dropped. In a flash of blue-white light you tweak a bit of his memory before hurrying from the eerie park.

“We just gonna leave him there?” Yozel reaches back to retie his hair with a sparkly scrunchie that he stole from you. It matches him, strangely.

“The guy could use a little camping out. I could only imagine how hard it is sniffing around people’s dirt like a no-good hyena for a living.” You put the stolen contents in your bag and then turn to him. “Did you find out anything about Marcus Elshett?”

His groomed eyebrows knit a little in frustration. “Not much to lead us to where he is. All I got was he’s a native. About twenty-five years old this year. Has an older sister named Monica Elshett. His info only dated to when he was in high school. Sounds enough fishy, huh? My take is he goes by different name now, not his birth one: Marcus.”

The information process in your head for a moment—not the things you wanted to hear, but it’s better than none. “What did you get out of Monica, then? Like where she lives so we could maybe pay her a visit.”

“If I recall it correctly, she owns a small farmstead just on the outskirts of Piztala. Pretty far from here.” He looks at you, an uneasy tension on his model-potential face. “This Marcus guy knows something is odd about you, probably more than Burke does. You gotta be careful.”

You nod. “I know. There’s one more person I want you to look up. Crowe Altius. I managed to grab that name before I followed Ravus and Luna into the ocean. If we know who he or she is, then we might trace to the group they’re affiliated with or whether if someone sent them.”

His aqua eyes spark. “It’s like I’m your little personal detective.” He smirks. “I’ll look into it.”

 

~

Burke is forceful and pushy, but this Marcus seems to be waiting for a specific moment to get to you. What’s there to stop him now from exposing you. You’re basically a sitting duck; he knows you know you’re being watched. Maybe you should go see his sister this weekend. You peer over the rim of your mug and nearly choke on your drink.

“Journalist Burke Walker Found Dead In The Park” the headline at the bottom reads. Your breath caught as you lean forward for a closer take at the footage of the park you were at last night. The reporter is saying Burke was found dead by a homeless man early this morning at 5AM. There was no evidence of struggle; he died of blood loss due to a severe head injury.

Numbly grabbing for your phone on the coffee table you dial Yozel’s number. The tone rings for a long time—he always picks up before this long, and then you’re led straight to his voicemail. You try again when suddenly loud bangings come from your door, jerking you out of your skin. The person on the other side announces themselves as the police and demands you to open the door or they will break in.

Heart racing, you rush to the door and throw it open, then toss your hands up in the hollow barrels of guns pointing at you. “F/N.” The officer says, taking out a pair of metal handcuffs. “You are under arrest of suspicion for the murder of Burke Walker. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.”

You are so shell-shocked words in your defense refuse to come forth as the officer binds your hands back with a click of metal.

Chapter Text

“Brother!” Luna bursts into Ravus’s study, distress outlines her slim frame. “Look at this.”

She plays the video that has been rapidly circulating online. The video is dark and grainy, obviously taken from afar, of you and a man apparently in some kind of confrontation. The man was knocked out by another. Then comes a flash of light which Ravus is no stranger to before the video ends.

He doesn’t talk for a moment, sorting out his thoughts in his chair. It’s when Luna calls his name that he finally looks up. “Call her,” he says.

Luna is sent straight to your voicemail. She tries again, no answer. “Not good. She’s not picking up. The journalist in the video was found dead this morning in the same place. This is very bad.”

Ravus’s head whirls. He hasn’t seen or spoken with you in weeks. He’s hoping you are passing your days without the troubles of the royalty. The tortured look on your face when he sent you away is still vivid in his mind, and it cuts him like a sharp blade.

The revelation of your deep secret has him wondering everyday. Why are you staying near his family? What is your motive when you choose to approach him and make him open up to you? Did you actually care or were you just in the mood for a bedtime story? He realizes just how much he doesn’t know about you and it’s another blow to the chest.

“I’d like to visit her at her home tonight, if possible. I don’t believe she’d do such a thing.”

Luna nods. “But what if she’s not there? Then she’s…”

Even without saying it they both could deduce where you might be, the recorded evidence gives the authorities enough material to bring you in.

“You’re not going anywhere,” a voice rumbles at the doorway.

Ravus and Luna both turn and see their uncle frowning with displeasure in the threshold. “Have you lost your right mind? What would the people think of you when their king is defending for a criminal? You have so much more pressing matters to tend to than absolving a murderer.”

“Don’t talk about her like that.” Luna hisses at him. “This is not your business, Uncle Ulysses.”

“And you think it is yours? Are you planning to use your royal title to release a possible killer? Did you forget someone out there is pining for your deaths?” The siblings remain quiet. “Even if she is detained by the authorities, until a verdict is determined, she will remain under the safety of custody. You both are the heads of the nation, you should do well to uphold your responsibility to the people and your reputation as royalty. Consider before you act is what I advise.”

~

They took your fingerprints and photographs, and now you’re sitting, handcuffed, in the dim interrogation room, most likely being watched by authorities through the one-way glass. The morning news replay in your head when the door swings open and a grim looking man comes in. “F/N.” He slaps the folder down on the table with a loud smack. “I am Lieutenant Cor Leonis. I’ll be handling this case and I’d appreciate it if you’d cooperate.” He takes the seat in front of you. “Now, have you seen the footage that has sparked the suspicion on you about Burke Walker’s murder?”

“No,” you reply in a low voice.

“We have yet to find the uploader of the footage and the account it was published under was heavily encrypted. So, we’ll start with—do you have any clue who is the uploader or the one who filmed the video might be?”

You shake your head. “No. I didn’t even know we were being filmed. There wasn’t anyone around when I met Burke last night.”

“Where were you last night?”

“I was getting off work and Burke followed me. So I confronted him in the park. That’s probably what the video was showing.”

“Why was he following you?”

“Ever since the false rumor of me and King Ravus has gotten out, I’ve been having notions that I’m being watched. I swear, Lieutenant, I have nothing to do with his murder.”

“We searched Burke Walker’s, Yozel Nikolas’, and your place; we haven’t found anything pertaining to last night’s homicide. But,” he takes out several pictures from the folder and spreads them out on the table, “we found these in Burke’s apartment.”

You stare at the photos, swallowing against the dryness in your throat. Most of the images are dark for they were taken mostly at night, but you can make out the faces of you and him rather clearly. And some individual pictures of you, unaware. “This is you and King Ravus,” says Leonis. “Both of you denied the rumors surrounding your relationship, and these were taken after the press conference.” He leans forward on the table, his icy, fathomless eyes make you flinch in your chair. “We suspect that in order to cover up these evidences, you’ve premeditated a murder to rid Burke off your trail.” He leans away and crossing his arms over his chest. “Seems too extreme of a plan to just cover up some affair, isn’t it?”

You chew on your lip before answering him. “King Ravus and I are—was seeing each other. But we will never, ever plan to kill another person. Yozel has nothing to do with this either. He struck him just to knock Burke out because he thought I was being threatened. He has no intention to kill anybody.” Your voice is anxious and desperate in your ears and Leonis simply stares at you as if gauging the truth of your words.

Then, “You took something from Burke, didn’t you? What is it?”

“The SD card from his camera.”

“And where’s it?”

You hesitate. Lieutenant Leonis peers down at you with eyes that could stab. “Hiding evidence doesn’t help you in any way. If any, it’ll make you more of a suspect. More reason you wanted Walker dead.”

You didn’t have time to go through the memory card, you were so shaken during last night’s event that you just stashed it away in a safe place until you were calm enough to take it out and examine it. And devil knows what it contains in there—snaps of you doing bizarre things with your powers? You surrounded by angel light? There’s no way out of this unharmed: if you give it to them, it’s a sure chance of a breach to your identity, and if you refuse them, you’ll get convicted, and some people actually get thrown into prison for a crime that they didn’t even commit. What’s more, you can’t let them drag Ravus into this. You won’t let that happen.

Taking a breath, you look up at the lieutenant. As long as whatever contents are in the SD card remain confidential to the public, then it’s fine. You ask him that, but he only gives you a vague answer.

~

You lie awake in the hard bed in your jail cell; the place is cramped and cold, the paint of the wall is peeling, exposing the dark stone under it. A full day has passed, two more days before they either release you or officially charge you with the crime. They scoured through the SD card and found nothing that would give you out as a superhuman; only images of celebrities and politicians doing secretive activities—real scandalous stuff—and the sorts.

How ironic , you quip. Who would’ve foreseen coming down here to make amendments leads to being locked up as a crime suspect. Everywhere you go, infringements and penalties follow. Outstanding.

As you muse over crazy turn of events, a jingle of keys rings at the entrance. “Come out.” The officer opens the door. “You’ve got visitors.”

Visitors? It’s a little bit until midnight when you glance up at the clock. There are only two people you could think of who’d come by now, but won’t bet too much on it as you step out of your cell.

Your small expectation is confirmed the moment you go in the fluorescent-lit room. Seated down at the middle of the room are Ravus and Luna—washed colorless by the white lights above. You greet them with a rueful smile, “Hey.”

Luna runs up and clutches your shoulders. Her clear blue eyes are ringed with dark bags and the tinted circles are accentuated by her ashen skin. “Are you okay?” Even her voice is anxious.

You give them a genuine smile. “As fine as I’ll ever be. You sure you should be here? People will talk if they find out you’re visiting a criminal suspect in the dead of night.”

“That’s why we choose to come now—when nobody’s around,” she said.

You ask them the question the moment you’ve put names on your suspicious visitors. “You think I killed a man?”

There’s an uncertain pause yet you can’t blame them, they haven’t exactly accepted your truth and probably think taking human lives is what unearthly creatures like you do. The thought hurts like a bad burn.

Ravus speaks, his tone somber and deep. “You’re capable of anything. But killing a man isn’t one of them. Never in a million years I’d believe that.”

You hold his gaze.

He touches a warm hand on your cheek—his gentle, callused hand you’re so familiar with. “We’ll do everything in our part to help you. But you must tell us what happened.”

You comply and sit down at the table, preparing what you should tell them first. “I really don’t prefer to ask you of this but there’s no one else who could. I want you to help me find someone by the name of Monica Elshett. She’s the older sister of my stalker and—”

“Stop stop.” Luna interrupts. “Stalker? Y/N, you were being followed? Since when? Why didn’t you tell us?” She eyes you accusingly, making you avoid her gaze.

“I didn’t want you guys in on this. I can’t go to the police because of my—condition. I can’t let anyone know. And it’s also my business to take care of. Involving you two was the last thing on my mind.”

The brother and sister look at each other and then at you; the expression on their faces is one of offended and hurt. But they don’t reprimand you, rather, Luna says in an accepting tone, “Go on. You want us to find Monica Elshett. Where?”

“Piztala outskirts. She owns a small farmstead there. Ask and talk to her about her brother Marcus Elshett. Like where is he now. What does he work? If he’s married or has a family of his own. Most importantly, ask her things that would tell us where he is.”

Luna nods attentively. “Sure. I’ll go check it out. Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?” The underlying message in that question is very clear: Are there anything more we should know of?

You shake your head. “No. I’m counting on you. And don’t do anything else other than questioning her. Okay?” You clench onto Luna’s hands, worry curling your fingers. You’re practically sending her to a possibly risky location; you really don’t prefer it but you need help quick. She smiles and nods obediently.

You turn to your beloved Ravus, seeking his hands and squeeze them tight. “Look after Luna and don’t let her do anything reckless. We both know how she is.”

The girl in topic huffs in indignation and Ravus smiles reassuringly. “I know. I’m constantly watching her. An unruly sister that she is.”

“And you have to be careful, too. The cruise attackers haven’t been found yet. Stay indoors as much as possible and make sure you sleep. I swear to my fellow angels if I come out and see you in shape of a scarecrow, I will leave you.”

Ravus arches his eyebrows. “I always think scarecrows are pretty handsome looking.”

You rolled your eyes, but you are absolutely in love with his adorable, witty side.

Chapter Text

Despite the gravity of the circumstance, Luna couldn’t help feeling thrilled at the thought of hunting some crazy guy lacking a sense of immoral boundaries. With an entourage of bodyguards, she sets off to Piztala in search of the Elshett farmstead in the crack of dawn.

Upon arrival, fresh air of the countryside greets her in its pleasant manner. The smell of green grass, luscious trees, and the lack of city pollution. The sheeps are out to graze, dotting the rolling hills like fluffy white clouds, and the sparse risings of houses of inhabitants. The only time Luna came to the countryside was when her mother was still alive. She and Ravus rolled down the soft, padded hills, smiling and laughing, with all the innocence of carefree children. The memory brings a smile to her face.

~

“Your Royal Highness.” Monica Elshett bows in reverence and invites Luna into the small house.

The woman prepares tea and light refreshments on the table before having a seat. Monica smiles nervously as Luna sips the steaming beverage. “What’s brought Your Highness to this area?”

Luna looks around the compact kitchen. “Do you live by yourself?”

“Yes. Have been for a few years now.”

“You don’t have any family members around?”

Monica shakes her head. “No. It’s just me. And my many cats.”

Luna observes the woman; she seems to be in her late thirties to early forties, with short gray hair, and a demure, youthful face that belies her age. She mustn’t waste time. “Do you have any siblings? Perhaps living in the city?”

“Uh, yes. I have a younger brother, but I haven’t seen him since after he left home when he was in high school. Though he occasionally sends letters back. Why do you ask?”

“Is he called Marcus Elshett?”

Monica blinks, momentarily surprised. “Yes. Did something happen to him? Is he okay?”

Luna leans closer. “I’m sorry to inform you this, but I’m afraid he’s involved in a crime that concerns my friend and I also suspect he’s witness to a murder and uploaded the footage online and he’s nowhere to be found. So I’d appreciate it very much if you can help me to his whereabout.”

The older woman’s eyes go wide, she turns a shade paler. She doesn’t respond for a moment as the news slowly register. “I—” she begins, “I’m afraid I don’t know it either. His letters never mention his address or a phone number. I couldn’t reply to him. But he did say in his letter he’s working in the media field, didn’t specify which.”

Media? He’s a journalist or something within that category, then? Luna thought back to what you said last night. The video footage was uploaded from an encrypted account, which means he’s got knowledge of computation. He would mostly work with computers and its networks. If Marcus uploaded the footage, he knows who Burke’s murderer is. If he’s the murderer... Either way, he needs to be found. Immediately.

“How does Marcus look? Do you have a photo of him?”

Monica frowns. “Marcus is adopted, so we don’t share any common features. I only remember him before he left. He’s average height, around 5’8”; pretty skinny, about 130 pounds; very blond hair, gray eyes. And unfortunately, I have only his baby and child photos. He isn’t very fond of having his photographs taken.”

“May I see them?”

Luna goes through the picture album and, indeed, it is filled with only infant pictures. Not one can help her identify him when he’s an adult. Thanking Monica, Luna returns home, all the while contemplating about Burke’s situation. If she could get ahold of anyone in relations with him, perhaps she could come across something helpful.

~

After doing more investigation alone, Luna finds herself visiting Tenebrae News Broadcast, Burke’s former employer. If his current company Oracle couldn’t relinquish much, then the old one might. She hopes you wouldn’t freak when you find out she’s doing more than what she was told. And she couldn’t stop wanting to know more; criminal mysteries and sleuthing have always been a favorite topic to her since young. If she could contribute to capturing your bad man, all the more miraculous.

“Burke was a very hardworking guy. I must say he made quite a name for himself as a journalist. He was very capable.” The woman in a neat suit introduced herself as Isabis, editor and social media supervisor for TNB. “However, he wasn’t the most pleasant person to be around with. He sometimes looked down on his coworkers or refused to work with them. But no matter how disagreeable he was, he doesn’t deserve what befell him.” She closes her framed eyes, lamenting the loss of a former coworker.

“His works were commendable. He’d published many breaking articles, exposed offenders, and worked with detectives to crack numerous cases. He was a senior I look up to,” says Eddison, editor and writer. His hair is as red as ruby. Luna tries to match Monica’s description to him. His hair is obviously dyed, so she has no clue what is his real color. One thing matches, though—he has gray eyes. And does not have any resemblance to the child pictures.

He and Isabis are ones of the few who had a stable relationship with Burke.

Luna sits up straighter. “I don’t want to trouble you with this but do you have any idea of who could’ve done this to him? Did he have enemies you might be aware of?”

Ed and Isabis look at one another as though to see if either one of them know, then turn to Luna and shake their heads in apology. “Most people here dislike his personality but I don’t think there’s anyone that hates him that much to commit such a horrid crime,” Isabis says.

“If you wish to know about his private life, I think it’s more favorable to ask someone who’s close to him,” says Ed.

Before Luna could ask who might that be, a loud voice steals their attention to the glass-walled office. A man in a clean-cut suit, most likely the supervisor, is yelling at another man with crutches, his head tipped down. What they are arguing about, Luna couldn’t discern.

Ed sighs in pity. “Poor Lucas. He just has to get on Chad’s nerves.”

“What’s going on?” Luna inquires.

Ed shrugs his shoulders. “Chad’s already in a dark mood today, and Lucas recently injured his knee and couldn’t make the deadline. I hope Chad would go easy on him a bit, considering he’s just lost a friend.”

“Lucas is one of our best investigative reporters,” Isabis offers. “He also went to college with Burke.”

“He did?” Luna studies Lucas in the office. He has jet black hair, too dark to be a natural color. Looks to be in his late twenties. If he stand up, he could be well around 5’10, which is about the height of your suspicious follower. Lucas has also attended school with Burke, perhaps he might know something about Burke’s personal life. “Can I talk to him?”

After Lucas left the supervisor’s office Ed calls him over. He greets Luna with a bow of his head.

“Hello, Lucas. Is it okay if I have a bit of your time?”

He nods his head. “Of course. What does Your Highness wish to talk with me about?”

Lucas has gray eyes, too. He is skinny, but healthily so. His real hair color also remains a mystery.

“Have you known Burke for a long time?”

His eyebrows twitch at the mention of his former classmate. Luna watches his reactions carefully. Lucas lowers his eyes thoughtfully, as though thinking about old times. “I’ve known him since freshman year in college and graduated together.”

“How well do you think you know him?”

“Almost everything. We were—best friends.” His eyes flickered elsewhere so quickly Luna thought she might’ve imagined it.

She notes his pauses in his words. Why is he nervous all of a sudden? Is he hiding something?

“What can you tell me about Burke’s personal life? Did he, perhaps, offend anybody? Or made enemy of someone?”

“If he’s not studying or working, he’s out drinking in bars and clubs. Him, me, and a few other close friends would get together to celebrate the night. He rarely talks about his family. We only know he came from a single parent home with a younger brother. He hung out with the ‘sort of’ bad kids in high school but still achieved excellent grades and got accepted into college. He was a nice guy, I don’t believe he’d gone out to make enemies with people.”

“How was your relationship with him?”

“I’m a reckless person. He often stopped me from doing stupid things. I count on him a lot. When he still worked here; me, him, and two others, we were a crew.”

“Why did he leave TNB?”

“Oracle pays better. And he had enough of this place talking behind his back, that’s why they dislike his attitude when he repaid them with the same approach. And Burke was very protective of his works, and a workaholic; the reason he came off as arrogant and unapproachable to people.”

Luna lets his words sink in. He didn’t seem to behave weirdly while explaining, except the occasional catches in his speeches that indicated his attempt to steady his growing emotions. Luna learned in books and documentaries that elusive criminals know methods on how to present themselves as lawful and innocent and very convincing in their stories.

It isn’t as if she does not trust Lucas’s words, however one cannot disregard any possibility or notion to an unsolved murder case.

After talking with Lucas, Isabis, and Ed, Luna isn’t sure if she’s a step closer to finding the perpetrator or remain stagnant. She is uncertain if your stalker and Burke’s killer is one person or not. After all these investigating, she hoped at least a leading clue would surface to help her proceed forward; she is disappointed.

She pulls up her silk scarf over her hair and hides behind her sunglasses as the bodyguards hold the lobby door open for her.

She lifts her head to look at the opposite side of the road and a young man, talking on his phone, is watching her with a wry smile on his face. Luna thinks nothing of it and slips into her vehicle.

 

Chapter Text

One more day. Tomorrow is either freedom or incarceration. You blink away from the light bulb above when the brightness starts to sting, and trace back to everything that has happened so far.

Marcus Elshett appeared sometime after your once alleged association with Ravus and possibly have seen you displayed unusual things that you thought you’ve been discreet about. Whatever is his intention, it is not exposing you—else he would already have done so. His inactivity baffles and drains your mind from coming up with a plausible motive.

Burke Walker was killed right after your talk. That leaves the questions: Who? And why killed him? Looking at his line of work he could come across dirty and corrupted details and secrets. Could someone whom he had discovered incriminating evidence of done this? There’s no other reason to go after a typical journalist and silenced him in such a horrible way. The culprit could be likely one or few of those captured in the SD card you’ve snatched from Burke’s camera. The police should have much fun sifting out the perpetrator from the list.

The assassins from the cruise is still a baffling mystery. As you’ve doubted before, they aren’t pirates or bandits. They didn’t attempt robbery, only to kill—specifically the Nox Fleurets. Now with further inspection, the incident happened after Ravus announced the slums reformation. Another possible clue about the assassins—either they are objectors or were hired by someone. If that is true then it seems too much of an extreme and outrageous stunt simply because of disagreement.

You hope Luna would find something pertaining to at least one of these cases. She suspects Marcus to have something to do with Burke’s killing. They both know something is abnormal about you, though Marcus might be more privy to your secret. What if he killed Burke to get rid of a rival? And who else might be helping Marcus?

You shut your eyes, all of these theories only serve to throw you off more. Luna should be visiting again today to relay what she’s found out on her trip to Piztala. All you can do for now is wait.

~

The foyer is already dipped in the navy of midnight when Lunafreya shuts the door with a soft click. Ravus comes out from around the corner and eyes the entrance his sister has just walked through. “Never let her out of your sight. Should anything happen, escort her home immediately. Use force if you must.”

The guard bows his head and races off.

Ravus exhales a sigh, unease is second blood flowing through his veins. He is capable of many things but confining in his sister is something he cannot control nor he wishes to do. Lunafreya is obedient and sensible but her stubbornness is what testing his calm; causing both irritation and anxiety to his usual self-possessed disposition.

He has always respected her wishes to do as she please, but did he make a mistake of allowing her to sneak about the night like this? Knowing someone wants to do the royal family harm.

After that talk with you last time, he confided to Lunafreya about his troubles and dark regrets and promised to be a better older brother from then on. That made Lunafreya very happy and their relationship has flourishingly grew.

A good older brother does not permit his sibling to dabble in danger, no matter how much he loathes restraining their free will. He must bring her back. He trusts his sister wholeheartedly but not the world.

~

Something about Lucas strikes Luna as odd and she couldn’t shake her misgivings of him. All day she has someone to watch his every move and activity, trying to find any incriminating proof of him that might relate to Burke’s case.

Now under the cloak of night she tails him as he slinks down dark, deserted streets. To her astonishment, he doesn’t have his crutches. He made it look like he was freshly injured the first time they met. Now he walks with a fineness of a feline, albeit a little stiff, in a quiet neighborhood. Luna watches him enter a house and decides to wait when her driver receives a call.

“What is it?” she asks after he’s done.

He looks over his shoulder. “His Majesty wants you to return immediately.”

Luna curses under her breath. She should have remembered he is watching her closely. “I’m not going back. You tell that to whoever he sent to follow me.” The guard wavers and Luna creases her brows. “You listen to me right now. If you choose to do otherwise, I won’t hesitate to fire you.”

The man goes speechless and then nods. “I’ll let them know at once.”

Luna turns back to the window, wondering if Lucas is ever going to come out. She gives both herself and him some time in spite of her drastically dwindling patience.

Two black cars pull up in front of hers and she gets out, her driver following. The four guards Ravus has sent approach and she crosses her arms.

“Have you come to fetch me? I thought I told you to leave.”

One man inclines his head. “My apologies, Your Highness. His Majesty orders to escort you home. If you refuse to cooperate we may resort to use force.”

Luna scoffs. “I dare you to lay your hands on me. I will return after I run my errands. Give me a few moments.”

The man doesn’t even consider this and steps forward. “We are very sorry, Your Highness.”

Luna calls on her own guards. Her four securities plus the driver stands in front, blocking the adversaries. Taking this chance of distraction, she runs and disappears between two apartment buildings, Ravus’s men giving chase.

She pulls her hood over her head, hoping her all-black attire would camouflage her with the darkness. She sticks to the shadows, evading every set of stamping footsteps.

“Over there!” one man shouts. “Catch her!”

Luna runs faster, racing through blackened alleyways and paths; her heart threatens to soar up her throat and out her mouth. She has escaped their sights and could ill-afford to be captured, not without confronting Lucas first. She cuts between and behind premises when a hand seizes her wrist and yanks her into a house.

She screeches, her free fist ready to be thrown and knock someone out when they release her.

“Woah woah! Watch it. You’re safe.” Lucas tosses his hands up in surrender, his lips curving up when he sees her face under the hood. “How scandalous. Her Royal Highness stalking a lone man in the dead of night. Can’t say I’m not flattered, though.”

Luna sucks in air, her heart pounding furiously in her ribs. She scans her surroundings; noting a kitchen since she came in from the back door. “How do you know I was following you?”

“How do I not when the princess is crazily curious about me?” He lights a cigarette and a puff of tobacco fills the air making Luna scrunch up her expression. His demeanor is a one-eighty from his earlier facade; very unlike the polite man in the TNB office. His forearms are covered in tattoos from where his sleeves are pushed up to his elbows. His neatly styled hair now a tumble of lazy curls. He looks like a hooligan. “I think I know why you’re here.” He takes a pull of smoke and is decent enough to blow it the other way, though it does nothing but contaminate the space more. “You suspect me. I could tell by the way you studied me before. I don’t blame you, though. A lot of cases involved close or loved ones being the perpetrators.”

Luna raises a brow. “You are very sharp.”

“I am an investigative reporter after all. But I swear to you this—I didn’t kill Burke.”

“Everyone would say they didn’t when they actually did. Prove to me you’re not lying.”

Lucas looks at her. “How do I do that?”

“You were hiding something when I talked with you earlier.”

He blows smoke in her face. “Did I?”

“You were going to say something else before abruptly changing it. I’m not sure you were best friends.”

Lucas pauses for a second, his expression has taken on a slightly grim edge that makes Luna’s heartbeat quicken. “We were,” he confirms. “That fact is true. We used to go out but nobody needs to know that.”

Her brows go up. “Go out as in…”

“Don’t be naive. I’m talking about holding hands, kissing lips, loving passionately.” He grins at her heating face and she longs to smack him in his pretty little head.

Luna clears her throat. “Still, that doesn’t prove you’re innocent. I want to know who killed Burke. Or at least who filmed the footage. Do you know?”

Lucas takes one last drag of his cigarette and releases it right at her.

“Stop doing that!”

“You’re asking the wrong person. I know about the killer no more than you do. As for the footage, I’ve been trying to crack the barrier surrounding the account and IP address. And no, I haven’t gotten anything yet.”

Crack? He’s skilled in cryptography, then. He couldn’t be...

As if he heard her thoughts he interjects. “Before you go and decide that I’m the one you’re hunting for, allow me…” He takes out a bundle of keys and unhooks one. “To Burke’s apartment. I doubt you’ll find anything, though. I’ve already retrieved what’s necessary for my investigation, but you might find something useful that I might’ve missed. And since you’ve taken it upon yourself to investigate, I do hope we could work together sometime.”

Luna stares at the proffered key for a moment before taking it. If he offers partnership, maybe he isn’t the culprit after all. “Who are you, really? You’re more than just an ordinary reporter, aren’t you?”

He shrugs a shoulder. “I’m sure most everyone has a secondary persona.”

Luna waits for him to elaborate and when he doesn’t she glances at his leg. “How’d you get injured?”

He tilts his head, smirking amusedly. “If you pursue me so violently, Your Highness, I would think you’re interested in a forbidden tryst.” Luna looks him as if he has just done something worthy of disgust, and he laughs. “I told you I’m reckless. I also advise you to not copy me, and go home. Nasty things come out at night, y’know.” He nods at the key. “I hope that proves something of my innocence.”

Luna wants to retort back at his vulgar accusation but chooses to spare him of her venomous tongue. She eyes the glinting key on her palm and makes a decision.

~

She took the shady reporter up on his offer to take her to Burke’s place and he recommended if she didn’t want to be tracked she should turn off her phone. After arriving he claimed he had some sleuthing to do and bid her good luck.

Luna now looks around Burke’s near perfect studio home, excluding the slight mess left behind when investigators searched through for clues, and feels a shiver down her back. It’s probably the thought that no one lives here anymore that makes the place oddly cold and lonely.

After completing this last task she will call her men to come retrieve her.

Putting “time is of the essence” in mind she briskly skims through the drawers in the living room for anything substantial before heading to the bedroom. Again, drawers; nightstand; closet; desk are places most likely been rummaged thoroughly by authorities. Trying to save some time Luna checks behind and inside furnitures for any hidden nooks or storages, under pillows and mattress. Inside books. Clothes in the closet. Nothing.

She leaves to examine elsewhere when the picture on the wall catches her attention. She studies it closer—a painting of a nighttime sea and an extravagant cruise ship cutting through the water. The sky is dark and starry, much like the evening of that horrendous night in their own ship. Luna quivers, shaking the thought from her mind.

She removes it from the wall and tilt it side to side, watching the colors shine in different angles. She turns it over to the back, showing the artist’s name and media of the artwork. Her focus shifts up to the corner where a thin and narrow device is secured. Luna rips it out from the tapes and rehang the picture.

A voice recorder.

She clicks it on and the content inside freezes her bones. Despite the muffled voice Luna could make out some words being said. Something about the ship and targeting only the royal family and when to commence the operation. Luna turns it off, chills have suddenly manifested in a body and embraces her tight. She couldn’t place a name on who was talking but this is crucial information. If she turns this in, they might find a lead to whoever have infiltrated the ship.

Pocketing the device in her hoodie she hurries from the room.

She stops short at the door when the knob jiggles slightly as if someone is trying to open it from the other side. She thinks at first it could be her guards and that they have somehow tracked her here but that’s not possible. Her phone is off. Who would want to enter a dead man’s home? The landlord? A maintenance guy? A thief? Or possibly… the murderer.

Dread turns her blood to ice and she shuts off all the lights and rushes to hide in the bedroom which she immediately regrets. Of course the bedroom will be the first place a thief—if they are one—would look first. But it’s too late now, the door to the apartment opens and softly clicks shut. A set of footfalls hints only one person. Luna rakes around and shove herself into the closet, concealing her presence with the clothes.

A moment later the intruder comes into the room. Luna holds her breath. She hears rustling as the person rummages through things. Her heart might burst if they come any closer and she prays ardently for something to happen that would send the thief bounding home. While she listens to the person move around, a soft sensation crawls against her neck and all self-control leaves her. Keeping her shriek painfully in she swats at whatever it is on her skin, her elbow hitting the wall with a dull thump.

The noise outside stops and along with her heart. Luna clamps her hands over her mouth and squeezes her eyes shut, praying they didn’t hear anything. But who the hell is she kidding; the sound was clear as the cold night. If the intruder is armed, it’s all over.

I’m going to die. I’m going to die. I’m going to die.

The footsteps halt in front of the closet and the door dashes open, almost coming off its tracks. Her self-defense reflex automatically takes over and she kicks out, hard. The man doubles over and Luna bolts out of the room. He curses and grabs her by the hair, almost ripping them from her scalp. She shrieks and whirls around to attack him with her fists and knocks his cap off. She gasps in shock at the familiar face.

“You.”

Hair like fresh blood glint in the moonlight. Storm gray eyes glaring back within the shadows of his face. “Should’ve stayed in your happy little playpen, princess,” Ed grinds out in a tone that chills Luna to her marrow. “Else you’ll find yourself like this.” Before she could scream for help, Ed drives his fist into her stomach and then everything becomes unknown.

Chapter Text

The afternoon sun assaults your eyes the moment you come out the detention center. You just want to hurry home and soak up in a nice hot bath and forget about everything for a minute, especially this amiss feeling roiling in your gut since last night. Yozel is being release later tonight and you will be there to receive him.

Once home you give Luna a call, when she doesn’t answer you send a text message saying you arrived home safely and to contact you once she’s available. Ravus hasn’t replied to your earlier text yet, you assume he’s busy.

You set the phone down on the counter and draw up a much needed bath. Afterwards, you heated up a frozen entree from the freezer and waited for the rest of the day to end so you could see your best bud again. It’s only been two, three days but you miss him like it’s been months.

~

Your legs spring on their own when you see your friend, and you gather him into a big, tight hug. “Oof,” he grunted, wrapping his arms around you. “Hey, baby wings, glad to see you out and alive.”

You step back and look him over. “You’re still in fine shape. Thought they might have ruffled you up a bit in there.”

Yozel narrowed his eyes judgingly. “Don’t be ridiculous.”

You follow back to his place and order pizza for dinner. With everything going on currently you prefer to be in someone’s company, it gives you a sense of peace, if only a little.

“All the while in there, I was thinking about the name you told me to look up,” Yozel says, sprinkling parmesan and pepper flakes on his slice and then taking a bite. “I didn’t get the chance to actually do it but then that name sounds familiar.”

“You know someone with that name?” You bite into your pizza.

“I know someone goes by Rook in the underworld; alias is an important thing. If I’m right about this, the name you saw could’ve been her actual one. Rook and Crowe. Seems plausible.”

“What do you know about her?”

“She’s a member of Nonagon, an assassin group in the criminal society. Probably the most lay-low crew I know of. That’s why they vicious at what they do. Give them the right sum and they get the person done in a—” He snaps his fingers.

The ship incident resurfaced in your mind—the assassins then could be the same group Yozel has just mentioned. That Crowe Altius is likely the same Rook he knows of. If you track her down to her group, you’ll find out who paid them to assassinate the royal family.

That’s when something odd hits you. When the bombing pushed you out to the ship’s deck, the killers trained their attention to the Nox Fleurets, the objective was plainly obvious. You were too distracted by the chaos erupting about then and missed how the assassins focused entirely on getting to Ravus and Luna first, diminishing their protection circle very quickly. Meanwhile your group with Ulysses Nox Fleuret was left forgotten or second priority. If they were hunting the royalties they should’ve targeted Ulysses with just as much hunger as well.

You don’t want to jump to that conclusion. Ulysses Nox Fleuret is their loving uncle. Their family. Surely you’re just making the most ridiculous accusation. But what if?

Your phone rings just then, breaking you out of your speculations. You answer immediately at the caller’s name. His voice sounds defeated and tormented through the line.

“Lunafreya is missing.”

There’s a tense pause, you thought you heard him wrong, and then it sinks in.

“What do you mean she’s missing?” you croak out.

“She snuck out last night and never came back. My men lost her when she went after a man named Lucas.”

“Lucas?” you echo. Yozel looks your way, his eyes narrowing. “Are you busy? I want to meet up.”

A voice grumbles in Ravus’s background. “I’m with Lucas right now. Come to this address. I’ll wait for you.” He hangs up and sends in his location.

“What’s going on with Lucas?” Yozel asked.

“You know him?”

“He’s a friend of mine. Also a hacker.”

“Seems no matter which world you go, you’re still affiliated with the no-goods,” you say, getting up from the chair and shrugging on a jacket. “You really are a bad entity.”

“I’m good at heart. Where’re you going?”

“Here.” You show him the address in your phone. “Ravus is there. Probably slowly killing your friend right now.”

“Huh. That’s Tredd’s place. We meet up there from time to time. I’ll take you.”

~

A guard opens the door and you rush into the living room where two unfamiliar men seated on the couch, and Ravus stands before them wearing the most darkest frown you’ve ever seen on his face. He turns when he hears you come in.

“What’s going on?” you ask, eyes going to the two men.

Yozel comes in after and shoots a grim look at his companions. “The hell did y’all do?”

The dark-haired man with the tattoos speaks, “Nothing. Last night the princess followed me here and demanded I tell her who killed Burke. So I gave her the key to his apartment so she could get whatever she needs.”

Your face turns harsher. “You gave her access to a murder victim’s house when the killer is still on the loose? Are you nuts?”

“She wanted clues,” Lucas answers. “I didn’t expect her to run into the actual guy. Or at least that’s who I think it was. I swear I didn’t plan this. You gotta believe me.”

Ravus’s dark rage doesn’t let up—you can feel the bloodthirst rolling off of him. “Then who do you believe took her? I want all the names,” he demands.

“I’ve already listed everyone who I suspect, Your Majesty. Unless they’re people from the deep down, there’s really no one left I could say.”

“What about Nonagon?” you suggest. “Do you think they’re behind this?”

Ravus turns confused eyes on you. “Who are they?”

You meet his gaze. “They’re a group of hitmen. They also probably the ones who’ve infiltrated the cruise that night.” You’re about to tell him of your suspicion of Ulysses too but you can’t do it here.

“Probably.” Lucas shrugs his shoulders. “It’s hard to find them, though. They don’t have a permanent haunt.” He sighs. “Look, it’s my fault. I should’ve thought it through before obeying her request. I swear I’ll do everything I can to find the princess. Mark my words.”

You and Ravus exchange a glance and decide to trust this man with his promise. If he’s Yozel’s trusted friend, then maybe you should give him a chance. Afterward, you left with Ravus while Yozel stayed behind.

“It’s all my fault,” you whisper, as the car strolls down the dark road. “It was a mistake to let Luna go to Piztala. If she hadn’t, she wouldn’t have gotten involved in this whole thing. And I’m released from custody in the end. I set her up.”

Ravus covers your fists in your lap with his hand, warmth permeates from him onto you, alleviating your crave for his touch into sweet comfort. “Don’t think that. It’s not your fault,” he says. “It’s mine. I should’ve stopped her before she walked out that door, but I didn’t. I thought I was being a good brother; letting her do what she wishes to do. Sometimes giving someone too much liberty doesn’t always mean respecting their free will. If anything happens to her…” His hand tightens on yours as he pushes the terrible thoughts away. “...I’ve failed in life. I’ve failed Lunafreya. I’ve failed my mother. I’ve failed myself.”

You slip one hand out and put it over his. His dual-hued eyes glint in the moonlight that slants into the car. His dark circles are even more prominent. His soft lips are looking a little chap. Yet he still looks very charming. “It’s both our fault,” you begin. “I started it, you didn’t stop it. But,” your voice takes on a dominant tone, “we will find Luna. We will find those who took her. And we will make them scream for the mercy of death. I’m pretty sure both of us are capable of making people suffer.”

A small twitch tugs at the edge of his mouth. “Sometimes I also wonder if whether you’re an angel or a devil in disguise.”

“An angel with a devil as a best friend,” you offer with a foxy grin and then it fades away as a new thought came to mind. “There’s something I have to tell you.”

“Yeah?”

Even though it’s just the two of you in the back seat, you don’t want the driver to overhear. Your hand stays on top of his.

I suspect your uncle.

Ravus blinks, eyes darting around in surprise and bafflement.

Don’t fret, you say again, I’m speaking to you through the mind. I want you to say something back too. In your head.

This is your power? He thinks.

You smile and nod.

You said you suspect my uncle?

It’s just an speculation. I don’t mean to accuse him or anything. Don’t get mad.

I’m not. Go on. Why do you think that?

I was talking to Yozel earlier and he mentioned the group Nonagon. I thought back to what happened that evening and noticed the assassins were mainly focused on you and Luna. Your uncle was with me, and the killers barely paid attention to him despite he is of royal blood. If they sneaked onboard to assassinate the royal family, why he was left out?

A pause hangs over the space while Ravus considers your suspicion. His brows becoming more angled with each passing second. You’re saying he has relations with the killers?

I have that feeling. But I could be very wrong. It’s just a theory. I don’t want to offend anyone with this.

Ravus moves his jaw in contemplation. You don’t know what he’s thinking about but you also don’t want to ask.

The driver stops at the front of your apartment complex. Thank the heavens the area is dead like the night; also a good thing that Ravus didn’t take the royal vehicle. But if news start speaking again about your relationship, you probably won’t deny it this time.

“Thanks for bringing me back,” you say.

“No trouble. You didn’t rest today after coming back, I presume. Take care of yourself. And I’ll let you know if I find anything regarding Lunafreya.”

You nod compliantly, “I’ll do the same,” and reach for the door handle when he calls your name. You turn to look, and felt the warm press of his lips on yours. The sensation is enough to make you go numb and tingle with yearning.

“Goodnight,” he murmurs on your lips.

“Get home safe,” you whisper back, and exit the car.

Chapter Text

Two days came and went with no news of Luna. You haven’t slept ever since her disappearance, and wouldn’t even be surprised if you’re suddenly knocked out by the slightest touch. They’ve finally breached through the barrier of the anonymous account, but unfortunately the IP address is no longer traceable—as if the person knew someone will crack down the firewall sooner or later, and shut down all trackable routes.

Just when you thought a new door has finally opened, you are faced with another dead end.

Your phone starts ringing in your room, and you rush out of the bathroom with a towel wrapped around your body, thinking it might be Ravus or Yozel calling after finally discovering something regarding Luna, but there is no caller ID. You stare at the screen for a moment before answering.

“F/N.” The voice spoken on the other side is deep and artificial—it clearly has been altered.

A chill runs up your spine, and you suddenly feel very vulnerable in your towel. “Who’s this?” you ask.

“If you wish to see the princess again, you will come to the Trisdara junkyard tomorrow at midnight. Sharp. Alone. Else I can’t guarantee her safety.” And they hang up—leaving you frozen in place as multiple thoughts rush like a flood.

Who was that? Were they Nonagon? Should you tell Yozel and Ravus? What are you going to do now?

No. They said to meet them alone. If anyone else knows about this, it will put Luna in danger. You pick up the phone again and dial Yozel.

~

“So you wanna tell me what the hell this is about? You need a weapon all of a sudden?” Yozel eyes you suspiciously.

The alleyway you, him, and Lucas are in is cold and damp and trashy—dumpster bins are brimmed with garbage bags, stray wrappers and cups tumble in the night wind, soggy papers and cardboard stuck to the concrete, dissolving. The Holy Crown forbids a rabies-ridden rat to jump out in front of you. You can’t help taking another step without thinking you might have stepped on something gross.

“I’m not talking about firearms.” You lower your voice as you pass a man taking a smoke break by the wall. “Something non-lethal—like some type of grenade.”

Yozel nods along in mock understanding. “And what, pray tell, is your definition of non-lethal , Y/N?”

Lucas glances over his shoulders at you two. Yozel invited him along since the reporter has expressed about getting a new pistol for a while now. “C’mon, Zel, the femme felt the need to keep a gun or an explosive on her, you should respect her choice. You gotta admit, the world ain’t quite nice to the ladies nowadays.”

Yozel arches a brow. “You’re the type who would give your grandma a glock as a gift, ain’t you?”

Lucas whirls around with finger guns. “Fun fact, my grandma actually gave me her glock as a gift. She’s a sweetheart, Imma tell you. Makes amazing cookies.” He stops at a steel door; you can hear the loud sizzling of oil and the roar of fire behind it. A restaurant, you’re guessing.

A tall, broad man in a chef uniform answers the door and raises a thick brow, clearly judging what business do three hooligan-like persons have outside of his kitchen.

Lucas grins and peeps the man’s name tag. “Hello...Vic. Is Dino in?”

Another man with silver spiky hair comes to the door, his smile kind of sly. “Yes, I am. You guys called when I’m about to go home. Come in.” And he sounds crafty too. You guess sneaky and artful types are a necessity in these kind of businesses, especially when you’re dealing in smuggling in illegal goods. The pale-haired man leads you through the small kitchen into a short hallway outside the double doors. “So who’s the lady?” he asks, gaze falling on you.

“She’s safe,” Yozel offers. “She’s the one who needs something.”

Dino’s focus goes up and down, as if visually scanning you and obtaining your information at the same time. “Wow, babe, you look like you’re in a dire need of sleep.”

“I’m in a dire need of putting someone else to sleep, that is all,” you reply.

“Well, you came to the right place. Select your weapon of choice and give the lucky person a visit.”

You look them back and forth. “You and Lucas are so much alike. Personality-wise.”

Dino’s mouth quirks up in a bemused grin and pats a hand on Lucas’s shoulder. “He takes after me. I’m like his favorite cousin. Not related,” he adds when you raise your brows.

He takes you down the small hall into his cramped office, presses a button, and a secret door swings ajar in the planked wall. There’s a very narrow corridor and a rickety set of wooden stairs that come out into an underground cellar. Dino punches in a code on the door pad and ushers you inside.

The room behind the heavy steel door is cladded with lethal and illegal merchandises. Handguns and rifles are displayed on the walls like prizes, glass cases with knives and grenades and ammunitions also rimmed the room.

“So what’re you looking for?” Dino asks.

You take in the contents, feeling like you are in a espionage movie set—only that this is real. “Bombs and grenades, specifically ones that would throw the enemies off their sensibilities,” you say.

Dino shows you an exhibit of different types of small caliber explosives. “I’m pretty sure you’re interested in the smoke and stun grenades. Both hindered the senses rendering it easier to navigate around a tough spot.”

You examine the taunting gadgets in the glass confines and eyeing them carefully. “This is what I need.”

~

“This is a dumb idea. We don’t know what they might do to you.” Tension laces into Yozel’s voice after you told him about the threatening phone call.

You sit on the passenger side of his car, amid tall, lanky trees, waiting for Ravus to arrive. After your visit to Dino’s restaurant you called Ravus to meet you in the small grove near the palace, taking to mind of his safety; you don’t want him stray too far out, especially at night.

“I don’t have a choice,” you say. “They got Luna, I can’t not go. I’m telling you this because I need your help. And I don’t plan on telling Ravus about this. I’m sure he’ll try to stop me.”

“It’s dangerous whether he interferes or not. They’re not small-time criminals, Y/N.” Yozel drums his fingers on the steering wheel and looking out into the dark dirt path ahead. “But you’re not related to the royal family. What do they want from you?”

“Unless they know what I can do.” You feel your voice stiffens. “I was wondering the same thing. But if they know I was the one who sabotaged their cruise operation, they’ll want to get rid of me first, and then resume their agenda.”

“If someone else knew about your eccentricity other than Ravus and Luna…”

“It’s Marcus.”

Ravus should be arriving soon. You open the car door. “Don’t let Ravus know. I can’t put him in danger too.”

A muscle twitches in Yozel’s jaw. He still prefers you to not go through with this, but he nods his head anyway. “I swear to the father up in the sky.”

You quirk a satisfied smile. “Good. We both know that you’re the best.”

The air is colder here than in any human-occupied areas. Thin veils of fog make the place looks like a setting from a scary children storybook. A cloud of dense mist portrays a shape that, at first glance, looks like an apparition as you trudge up the dirt path. If there are wandering spirits walking here, they would either vanish at the presence of you, or beg for release from their forever tie to the earthly world.

Headlights shine down from another narrow road as a black car slowly comes to a stop. You step out from behind a tree as Ravus comes up, a sense of urgency in his steps.

“Y/N. You have something about Lunafreya?”

He looks more shadowed than the last time you’ve seen him. The blue and purple of his eyes accentuated by the evidence of sleepless nights. Even the shadows of his chiseled cheeks deepened. And yet his gaze haven’t lost their fiery temper; anticipation crossing his complexion at possible findings about his sister.

You shake your head. “Not yet. Come with me.” Taking his hand you lead him further into the packed trees. Once decided you are a good distance away, where his guards won’t be able to hear, you spin to look at him. “What I’m about to do will hurt, and you’ll bleed and I might faint. If I do, take me back to Yozel—he’s waiting at the path from where we met up.”

Ravus scrunches up his brows, puzzled. “What are you going to do?”

You mumble under your breath then bite into your tongue, the dull pain draws beads of tears to your eyes. Then you press your lips against his, prying his open with your tongue and let the blood flow into his mouth. He grips your arms—trying to pull away—but you cup his jaw, keeping him to you.

You’ve planned on this after making up your mind about the caller’s instructions. The transfer will diminish half of your powers, but this could be necessary. If you can’t be there for him, leaving a part of you in him is the most you could do.

Eventually he succumbs to the kiss, holding you close to him. The exchange tastes of salt and metal, but you love the feel of his lips and his hand stroking the back of your neck. If something happens to you tomorrow, this might be the last kiss you share with him. The thought makes you want to dig your fingers into him and never let go.

Then his body jerks—as pain crawls up from the tips of his limbs and spreads throughout. He pushes you away.

You continue whispering, watching Ravus drops to his knees, grunting and convulsing. When he looks up dark lines of blood trickle from his eyes and his veins flash with white-blue light, like forks of lightning under his skin. He tries to speak but the pain takes away his words. All he could do is curl into himself as your incantation reaches its peak and you throw your head back as agony so powerful rips apart your senses and then conquers your consciousness.

Chapter Text

The cold in the junkyard eats past your clothes, making goosebumps rise on your skin. Fear also contributes to send shivers to your limbs. Killers could very well be hiding behind the rows of car shells piled up on top of each other, eyeing you like bloodthirsty night predators.

“I’m here. Show yourself,” you call out at the end of the aisle.

There’s a brief moment of silence and then footsteps shuffle, and four figures appear from behind a clutter of old cars—one of them is Luna. Instant relief floods your veins to see her alive and unharmed. However, alleviation is short-lived when you sense something is wrong with her. Her hands are bound back, her eyes are blindfolded, and tape concealed over her mouth. She stands very still and doesn’t make a fuss of fighting against her captor.

Is something in her mouth?

“Make one little move and the princess’s brain will be blown to pieces,” the man beside Luna speaks. He is dressed in all black, his face obscured with a dark mask. You narrow your eyes at him and think it wise to not address his real name.

“I came alone. Now release her. If you have some score to settle with me then do it now, leave her out of this.”

“I think you’ve mistaken,” he says. “I said if you want to see her, you’ll meet me here. She should’ve been dead, if it wasn’t for you.”

You aren’t sure what happens next but something sharp, like a needle, suddenly lodges in your neck and you feel yourself falling, and nothingness swiftly takes over.

~

The words blur into hazy lines again. Ravus sets the papers down on his desk and pinches between his eyes. Coffee does no wonder at this point. Sleep refuses to cross the line of worry and fear. He needs to get it together, he tells himself. There’s a stack of paperworks for him to look over, and every line he reads the information slips out from mental holes. His concentration is deteriorating the more he pushes it.

Something drips onto the desk and when he presses a finger to his nose it comes away red. He curses under his breath and stanches it with a handkerchief.

You never told him what you did; the bloody kiss and the searing pain that followed still baffle him. Every now and then a sharp pinprick pain pulses in different spots of his body, and he wonders if it has something to do with last night.

Earlier the cup of coffee moved an inch when he stared at it long enough, and then glided across the wooden surface to his hand when he tried it again. The action almost made him jump in shock.

Why would you share your power with him? And the way you have looked—you were bothered by something. Your impatience makes him think you were hiding something from him.

A knock comes at the door, pulling Ravus out of his reverie.

“You are still up?” Ulysses comes in the study, and when he sees the blood-stained handkerchief on the desk, his brows turn down in concern. “Are you all right, Ravus? Do you need to call in a doctor?”

“I’m fine. I thought you’ve retired for the night.”

Ulysses breathes out stressfully. “Knowing Lunafreya is out there and not knowing if she is safe, how can I lie down and shut my eyes? I’d rather stay up and wait for news to come.”

Your words echo in Ravus’s mind: I suspect your uncle...he is of royal blood…why was he left out?

Ravus doesn’t want to suspect his uncle, yet he can’t shake the partial truth of your speculation. If he really is the one who ordered the chaos in the ship, Ravus will still show no mercy. Family or not, no one comes after his sister and expects to live a life of freedom again. He will ensure none of them walks the outside world again.

But what if Ulysses is not related to the killers? What if someone wants to put Ulysses back on the throne?

What if he wants the throne?

~

Someone is yelling, but it is muffled and fuzzy. Your eyes slowly peel open. Daylight is lancing in through the small row of windows at the top of the walls, and everything is tilting and multiplied. No matter how long you waited for your vision to focus, your brain remains disoriented.

How long were you been out?

The muffled yelling comes from Luna—her mouth and sight still covered. You suspect she has been trying to wake you up.

You are both tied to columns—your wrists bound back with plastic wires. Someone kneels down and lifts your head up. You see bright red hair against a backdrop of dull surroundings, but couldn’t get a clear look of his face.

“Do something cool, lil missy,” he mocks. When you grunt in return he laughs. “Of course not. You’ve taken quite a dose. You must forgive me, I had to make a safe guess, considering that you’re a little...bizarre.”

“...Marcus,” you grumble.

“Eddison is fine. You thought I didn’t know that you’ve been trying to dig me out? Going to my sister’s house.” He removes his fingers from your chin. “I would’ve appreciated it if you didn’t mess with my family. It’s kinda irritating.”

You squeeze your eyes shut, nausea hitting you like a brick. “Who paid you?”

“That, you needn’t worry about. Now that you’re both here, it’s time to go collect your kingly lover,” he turns to Luna, “and loving brother.”

Marcus stands up while another person holds up a phone. Even in your desensitized condition you know they are going to send the video to Ravus. To drive him into a corner.

Luna struggles fervently against her bindings, screaming behind the tape as they walk off. Marcus glances over his shoulder. “Try to be good while we’re away and we might let you live for a bit longer.” And then he and a few others leave, abandoning you both tethered to the concrete poles as they go hunt for the person you love.

“Luna…,” you mumble. “Don’t be scared...I-I’ll get you out…” You hear incessant scraping and then a snap.

“Y/N.” She’s suddenly at your side and cut your restraints with a knife she has probably seized on the table. She pats your face in attempt to draw you out from your stupor. “C’mon. We must get out of here.”

You stay put; you’re too weak to even move a finger. “I can’t. You go...get help.”

“Are you insane? We’re both leaving. I’ll carry you.” Luna tries not to shout, not wanting to alert the ones who have stayed behind to guard the place—wherever this is.

You push your voice out as threateningly as you could manage, and tell her to escape or else none of you will make it out. It’s either now or never.

“Hide somewhere,” you say. “I’ll get them all here, and you run as fast as you can…and…” You feel your brain slipping away again. You must keep yourself awake. “...Yozel will be waiting nearby.”

Hesitantly, Luna obediently does as she is told. You spot the smoke grenade they have taken from you and knock it from the table with telekinetic force. White fume hisses out from the canister, filling the area in a veil of mist. Then you concentrate—an impossibly difficult feat in your current state of mind—gathering your power together.

The place begins rumbling and shake as if a natural disaster is washing up ashore. Light bulbs burst and rain down shards of glass. Heavy footfalls and frantic shouts filter into the room as people charge through the smokescreen and into your field of vision. A harsh ringing sound disorients the group of killers, and they all fall on their knees as you wrench their insides with the power of your mind.

You hope Luna has already fled because you are losing your grip on your focus and consciousness. You expected your energy would last longer but you are quickly expended.

Chapter Text

“There are several bills still awaiting your approval, Your Majesty,” says the royal advisor after the morning assembly concluded, and council members file out of the conference hall. “And a reminder: you are scheduled for a diplomatic visit in Lucis next week.”

“I’ll look over it in my office, thank you Franz,” Ravus says, and then checks his messages that he ignored during the meeting, anticipating your response to his earlier message. You didn’t. But he receives a video from an unknown number an hour ago, and his blood freezes over when Luna and you tied to poles play before his eyes. A text follows after the video: If you wish to see them, come to Old Bessie’s Mill at 2AM. Alert anyone, they die.

“Are you all right, Your Majesty?”

Ravus stands fixed in the middle of the hallway. They have gotten you too. He tracks your location, but of course, that is useless. 2AM. There’s still more than half a day before the specified time. What should he do?

A sudden pain tears through his side, and he fetches up against the wall. A drop of blood trickles down his nose. He thought he would give himself time to adapt to the occult powers, but now he fears that it would gradually eat away at him until it turns him into a state of a corpse. Or possibly really turns him into one sooner or later.

Franz places a hand on Ravus’s back, his tone tinged with concern. “I know you are anxious about Her Highness, but you must take care of your health too. Return to your office and I will summon your doctor.”

Ravus pushes off from the wall. “No need. I’m all right. I’ll go clean up.”

After washing off the blood, Ravus sees his reflection in the mirror. He looks like he has been through all nine circles of hell and nearly succumbing to his doom. His skin is drained of colors, eyes are bloodshot, frown lines between his brows are more prominent than ever. His fingers gripping the sink so severely his knuckles turn white.

But he won’t be what he appears in the reflection. He’s not one to be challenged by a group of lowly criminals. Especially not by those who threaten him with the people he loves. If they want his head, they will have to kill him for it. They want your and Luna’s lives, he will destroy them all before they touch a strand of hair on your heads.

A few hours later his phone rings. He doesn’t recognize the number on the screen but he knows the person speaking on the other end.

“Your Majesty,” Yozel says. “Princess Lunafreya is in St. Aera’s Hospital. She’s okay. Doctors are looking at her right now, but you should come right away.”

~

The moment Ravus barges into Lunafreya’s hospital room, he thought he would crumble right on the spot with relief. He races over to her in a few desperate strides and catches her in his arms. “Lunafreya,” he whispers, cradling her head. She is trembling but she doesn’t cry. “Are you okay?”

She grabs onto his arms. Her eyes raw with spite and red with unshed tears. “They still have Y/N. We must do something. They will kill her for ruining their plans the second time!”

We will save her .” Ravus is as distressed as his sister. But he can only hope that you’ll be okay until he comes save you from the captors. “She has to be fine. They need her to lure me to them.”

“They drugged her so badly she couldn’t escape. She did what she can to ensure I got out. And then Yozel found me along the road and brought me here,” Lunafreya says. Ravus has just now noticed Yozel in the room. Yozel nods a greeting. “They probably aren’t even there anymore.”

Ravus leads her over to the bed and sits down beside her. “Who are they? Lucas admitted he gave you access to Burke’s home.” Though, Lucas promised that he’d help find Lunafreya, Ravus still isn’t completely sure about him.

“He actually didn’t want me to go alone. But I insisted.” She continues. “I found a voice recorder in Burke’s apartment. It talked about the operation to infiltrate the cruise ship and to—” she bites her lip, “to assassinate the royal family. At first I didn’t recognize the voice, but when I listened to Ed talk, I slowly matched the tone together. My theory is Burke knew about Ed’s criminal activity and in order to silent him, Ed killed him. He didn’t deny it when I confronted him. He only confessed because he thought I was going to die.”

“Ed,” Yozel says. “Is he Marcus?”

She nods again. “He didn’t deny that either.”

“Do you remember anything else? Something that can lead us to them?”

Lunafreya scrunches up her brows and shakes her head apologetically. “They kept me blindfolded the whole time. And they never discuss anything in front of me. But I don’t think Marcus is the group leader. They answer to someone. I don’t know who.”

Ravus planned on telling no one about the message he received earlier today. But now that Lunafreya has returned, they might have changed their plans. “They sent me a video of Lunafreya and Y/N. They want to have me meet them alone at an abandoned mill tonight.”

“They won’t be going there anymore. Now that Princess Lunafreya has escaped, you think they wouldn’t have guessed you will send a team there beforehand?” Yozel speculates. “Did they say anything back?”

“No. Y/N is their only advantage now. It’s only a matter of time before they use her to get to me.”

“I’ve already had Tredd on their backs. Lucas isn’t picking up, so I have to go. I’ll let you know if I find anything.” With that, Yozel leaves.

Once it’s just the two of them alone, Ravus turns back to his sister. “Stay at the villa for a while. Don’t go back to the manor.”

“Why?”

He hesitates for a moment. This will certainly hurt her, but this is too risky of a suspicion to keep quiet about. “I suspect Uncle has something to do with the assassination attempt that night. So I want you to stay away from him in the meantime.”

Lunafreya’s eyebrows narrow together. “Why would he do something like that?”

“I wager he is after the throne. I don’t know. I could be very, very wrong about this. But regardless, I want you to be safe.” He takes her hands, white bandages wrapped around both her wrists. “Do this for me, little sister.”

Lunafreya’s sky blue eyes show no doubt or defiance in them when she looks into his. She is brave and dauntless which Ravus often praises her for. Despite the ordeal she has endured, she remains standing tall, just like how their mother would’ve done.

She nods her head.

~

An incoming call woke Ravus from his sleep. He quietly leaves his sister’s side by the bed in her villa room. The screen shows Yozel’s number and he answers right away.

“We got a trace,” Yozel informs. “Meet us at Joel’s Auto. Come quick.” Then he hangs up.

With no additional thoughts, Ravus hurries to fetch his sport car in the garage and rips into the nighttime road. He follows the GPS to the location Yozel’s mentioned. Headlights of a waiting car flare up when Ravus approaches, and they pull onto the road, away from the auto repair shop. Ravus follows after them. Both vehicles cut through the long black street in streaks of red light.

Ravus accepts the incoming call with a tap, and Lucas’s voice sounds from the speaker. “Don’t lose us. It’ll be pretty bad if you do.”

“Where are they heading?”

“Out the city, it seems. I slipped a tracking device on Marcus earlier. So here’s the plan: you and Yozel will sneak into wherever they’re regrouping, and I’ll secure the outer premises. It’ll be just the two of you dealing with them inside. Hope you don’t come out full of holes.”

“I don’t need to hear that from you.”

Lucas sounds a bit strained when he laughs, as if he’s in pain. “We’ll see you there then.”

They pull up at a safe distance from an abandoned warehouse in the middle of a large patch of land, with several other buildings around it. Ravus opens the glove compartment and takes out a handgun. He keeps one in there for emergency situations, and now is the first time it’s actually been put to use.

Yozel carries a carbine in his hand. Lucas blends into the shadows, in search for a vantage point to perch his sniper rifle. “They found out they’re being followed,” Yozel says. “We must act fast.”

They plow across the grassy field to the blacked-out building, taking extreme care to stay hidden and detect patrolling men. Luckily there are none. But they are most certainly be planning an ambush inside.

The main and back entrance are the only easy accesses to the building, so the crew inside will train their attention there first. Ravus and Yozel split up—he takes the front and Yozel the back.

The rusty door screeches unpleasantly open. The place is eerily silent and dark and not one soul to be seen. It could have really been unoccupied, but Ravus knows better. He takes one step in and swiftly ducks behind a nearest barrier when a series of bullets blasts at where he has stood. The attack comes from the second balcony. Ravus rises up just above the edge, and fires several shots. The person drops dead right where they stood.

Ravus sweeps further into the warehouse. Cement columns, covered hunks of shapes, and wall divisions provide perfect shelters and hiding spots. His senses are heightened. He tastes metal and dust in the air. The chill of the place pricks his skin. The smell of mold and damp irritates his nose. He thought he saw flickerings in the darkness, but isn’t sure if that was his eyes playing tricks on him. The silence is too thick, but when guns come alive, the place is deafening. And his heart races at the same speed as his blood.

A person attacks from behind a pillar when Ravus leaves his hiding place to a tall stack of wooden pallets. Ravus would have been shot down if it’s not for the invisible shield he has unawarely summoned. He fires two times at the man’s shoulder and then efficiently disarming him in close combat. “Where is she?” Ravus hisses. The man only groans in pain. Knowing he won’t get an answer from him, Ravus knocks him out cold.

Gunshots that are not his own echo at the other side of the building. Loud bangs are also happening outside. Lucas is assigned to take down any who are trying to get to their vehicles.

They don’t know how many they have killed, or how many they have injured, but finally they’ve secured the entire warehouse, and all gunfire ceases.

Someone breaks away from the shadows and sprints for the back exit. Ravus reacts fast and tackles them to the floor, and brings down a few unrestrained punches. “Where is she?!” Ravus yells.

The man laughs behind his mask. “She ain’t here.”

Yozel points the gun barrel at him. “Who’re you working for? Marcus. ” A menacing chill, which Ravus doesn’t associate it with the hacker, is rolling off of Yozel like cold grabbing limbs, ready to bring death.

Marcus lets out a scoff that is both mocking and angered. “Are you still so clueless? Or are you just denying it? It’s none other than your uncle, Ulysses Nox Fleuret. He wants the seat of power. That’s why wants you and the princess out of the picture.”

Ravus jerks him savagely. “I’m warning you. Where is Y/N?”

“If you find her in time, you could probably get her body back. But I doubt that.”

Blood rages in Ravus’s veins like molten metal, and for a moment his vision goes red. “Talk! Or I’ll kill you! Where is she?!” He isn’t sure if his mad outburst changes Marcus’s mind, or if some type of mind compulsion comes into play. But Ravus doesn’t care which right now.

“Verix Harbor,” Marcus answers without hesitation. “They’re gonna dump her body into the ocean.”

“Don’t fuck with me.”

“It’s true. They’re heading there right now.”

Despite his crystallizing blood Ravus refuses to let fear rule over him. He bolts out the door, nearly crashing into Lucas, and hops into his car and races back to the city. Yozel following right behind.

You are not dead. The bastard was trying to throw him off. He was mocking him. You’ve saved him and Luna when they’ve fallen into the ocean. You were completely fine then. He will find you and you will be alive.

Ravus also commands a team to secure the harbor and the vicinity. No one to come and go.

Upon arriving at the marina, a boat is already speeding away out into the waters. Two figures in black look back briefly at him. Ravus shouts at a man to get off the boat and then leaps in, followed by Yozel. The man doesn’t know whether to be shocked or offended that the king has just hijacked his motorboat.

Ravus gains on them quickly. You are nowhere in sight, but he thinks you are heavily sedated. Yozel aims the rifle toward the other boat about a hundred feet away. “You want me to kill them both?” Yozel asks.

“Get the steerer. Slow them down.”

The figures are quick to duck down from the bullets. And the rocking and swaying of the boat makes it almost impossible to hit a target. The sky is lightening up as morning approaches, which serves for better vision. One of them shoots back. Ravus and Yozel crouch down as bullets hit their stolen boat’s bow. Yozel peeks out above the glass and open fire again, and this time he actually hits the boat driver.

With one of them gone, the remaining person has to handle both the boat and the ones chasing after him. The strong wind of the ocean whips the killer’s hood back, revealing silver hair.

Yozel curses out loud. “Dino. That fucker.”

Dino is skilled; he barely taken a hit. He swerves the boat sharply around and shoots Yozel right in his shoulder.

“Hey!” Ravus yells, as Yozel jerks backward. He also turns his boat around, dodging bullets as he chases close enough to land one in Dino’s side.

A bright light flashes down from the sky. Helicopters circle above them. Security boats catch up to Dino and take him away.

Ravus finds you unmoving in the boat, and removes the black body bag off you, and everything paralyzes. One look at you confirms the fear he’s been trying to deny to be true.

The ugly red hole on your forehead and the multiple punctures on your blood-soaked shirt.

He wishes desperately and miserably that is some sick and horrible farce. But the cold weight of your body is a horrid reminder that this is all real.

Chapter Text

Ravus held you tightly in his arms, refusing to let you go even when they pleaded him to return to the harbor. He thought if he waited long enough, you would wake up. You didn’t.

Now he looks down at your lifeless body in the dim mortuary. Your skin is ice cold when he strokes your hair. Deathly purple, blue, and gray replace your once lively colors. He takes his hand away and balling them into fist at his sides. Sorrow and regret and despair and resentment roil in his heart, working to tear him apart.

“Your Majesty.”

Ravus doesn’t turn around. His eyes remain on your eternal sleeping form.

Yozel comes up beside him and watches you solemnly. “Technically she’s dead. But she’s still tethered here.”

Ravus finally looks at him. The bullet hole in Yozel’s jacket is stained with blood, but he seems fine now. “What are you saying?”

“What she gave you is not only just her powers. That’s her quintessence. Her angel self. If you return her other half that’s residing in you, she’ll revive.”

“How?” Ravus’s voice becomes urgent. “How do I do it?”

Yozel looks down at your covered body on the table. “Burn her. In order for her to be renewed, her old vessel has to be gone. Then, a ritual to separate her soul from you. Lastly, go to the place where she had first arrived in this world on the same day, same hour, same minute, and same second.”

“The same time.” Ravus believes he first met you during the winter season. Now is barely the beginning of autumn. But that doesn’t mean it was the exact time when you had first appeared in this world. “It could be months away,” he says.

“So it will be.”

~

The ritual will take place at the same grove from when you had entrusted half of your soul to him.

Yozel pours your ashes in a circle around Ravus and then steps back. “This rite is about the same thing as last time. It needs some of your blood.” He hands Ravus a pocket knife. “Whenever you’re ready.”

Yozel disclosed about his former life in the celestial realm when Ravus questioned his abundant knowledge about the angels. No wonder you and him always stuck together.

Ravus then presses the blade to his palm and cuts a red line. Streams of blood drips from the wound to the dirt at his feet.

“Now repeat after me.” Yozel begins uttering a series of words in an unknown language that Ravus would guess it to be the angel’s tongue.

A sudden gust of wind blows through the trees, and took some of the white ashes with it. Sweat beads along Ravus’s hairline and jaw, pasting his pale hair to his skin. The familiar pain surges from the tips of his hands and feet to his skull. It is as if liquid fire is injected into his bloodstream, and scorching every inch of his body. His veins flashes as though lightnings are trapped under his skin. Hot trails of blood roll down his face—even his ears and nose are bleeding. He hadn’t bled this much last time.

The wind picks up into a flurry as the inner fire climbs to the greatest degree, ripping a suffering scream from Ravus’s throat. Then everything died all at once—like he has snapped awake from an excruciating dream. He takes heavy gasps of air, tasting the blood on his face in his mouth. The wind no longer wails like ghosts. The heat that was eating at his bones becomes icy pure relief. The circle of ashes is gone—swept away by the gale.

Yozel helps him up to stand and hands him a damp cloth. “Now it’s time to play the waiting game.”

~

Dino and the remainders of his group were apprehended for the kidnapping of Lunafreya and their attempt to assassinate the royal family. Ulysses Nox Fleuret was also arrested for being the mastermind of said endeavor, and is currently waiting for his trial.

It hurt Ravus and Lunafreya deeply that the person whom they have looked up to for all their lives betrayed their trust and love while pretending that he cared. No amount of time would heal such unfathomable wound.

Lucas was shot after he discovered Marcus’s identity. He could’ve ended Marcus’s life in the warehouse to avenge Burke, but instead, he forever took away the murderer’s ability to stand with several rounds of bullets.

~

Five Months Later

According to Yozel, you will come back today. The ritual Ravus did is a success, so you ought to return. However, no one ever knew the exact time. Even you weren’t sure when you still lived. Thus he, Lunafreya, and Yozel will search the slum city right when morning greets the new day.

They decide to split up; Yozel acts as Lunafreya’s companion. Ravus worries that she would get caught in a hazardous zone if she goes alone, and that earns him a pouty glare.

It was a rainy afternoon then. A bleak January day. He had been looking for Lunafreya when he stumbled upon you soaking in the downpour. He felt bad for you and offered his umbrella.

Today is surprisingly clear unlike that time. The morning air is still cold, but the thin sunlight flowing down on the construction site is pleasantly warm. He arrives at the spot where the old, shabby brick house had once stood. The place where he first saw you.

This part of the slum has been mostly renovated. The streets are clean and newly cemented. Pristine buildings are nearing completion. The old brick house is now a brand new lodge that stands home here.

But there is no sight of you. Did he already miss you? Or you haven’t shown up yet?

You could have appeared anywhere in the slums at anytime, but coming here seems like a reasonable start. He debates whether to stay and wait, or look in a different part of the sector. If he stays, you could be elsewhere. If he leaves, you might show up.

As if to help him decide, the ground suddenly trembles—like a soft ripple. Something happened nearby, and his feet move in their own accord. His instincts leads him to a fenced off section where a sharp ringing sound permeates the open air. A half-built steel frame structure in a shape of a pyramid looms in front of his eyes. And at the base of the skeletal edifice is a lone person.

The tattered clothes. The stature. The slight halo glow about them. The person doesn’t have to turn around for Ravus to know who they are. They look exactly the same from all those years ago. He takes a step forward, and another and another. The person turns around, and he see enrapturing eyes and a face he misses so dearly gazing back at him.

“Welcome back,” he says softly.

At first you look dazed, then you grin—a smile as bright and warm as the sun beaming down on you. You spring forward and throw yourself into his arms. He catches you and holds you tight.

“I miss you.” He kisses your soft hair.

You push away from him just enough to capture him in a kiss. You taste of sweet ice and heavens. And he misses that deeply as well. “I miss you too,” you whisper against his lips. “I really gave you a scare, didn’t I?”

“Scare?” Ravus’s eyebrows twitch in something like offense. “ You died. If you hadn’t given me half of your soul, you wouldn’t have been able to return. Scared. I was more devastated.” You cast your gaze down in guilt. Ravus cups your cheek and makes you look at him. His voice full of tenderness. “I thought I’ve lost you forever. It hurt. Holding you that way.”

He sees regret in your eyes. “I barely remember anything after I went to the junkyard to meet Luna,” you say. “I certainly don’t remember dying. I knew I did when I found myself trapped in between the celestial and the mortal world. Time runs very differently there; a short moment there is a long time here, and I was worried my powers will take away more from your body if you didn’t relinquish it from you soon. I’m sorry for not telling you the truth.”

Ravus would have said that what you did was foolish. For thinking that you will die and won’t be there for him, thus you gave him protection in expense of splitting your own soul. If you were in your full power, then you wouldn’t have had died. But still, he’s more than grateful that you’ve given him something as precious and unparalleled as your soul and the chance for him to bring you back with it.

He takes up your hand, “You’re really bad for my heart, Y/N. You know that?” and presses a chaste kiss to your knuckles.

~

Ravus finds himself standing at your doorstep after not hearing from you for three whole days. It has just past eleven at night, so you’ve got to be home by now. He hears the lock twists and the door flies open, and you stare in disbelief at his unexpected visit.

“What’re you doing here?” you asks.

“You didn’t answer any of my calls or texts. So I jumped to conclusions.”

You pull him inside, close the door, and turns to him. “What conclusions?”

“That you’re breaking up with me.”

You roll your eyes. “Don’t be dramatic. Obviously I didn’t answer because I was busy.”

“With what?” he asks.

You smile innocently, and peck a kiss on his cheek, then wrapping your arms around his neck. “Busy thinking about how badly I wanna kiss you.”

He raises an eyebrow. “Dodging the question. But I’ll buy that excuse.”

“It’s not an excuse. And you’ve been thinking about me too, haven’t you?

“You’re always on my mind,” he replies. “That’s why I’m here.”

You suddenly go quiet, and he catches your eyes falling to his lips. The way you bite your lower lip validates that claim of yours. And with no further words, you press your mouth to his with a force that speaks of I am done waiting . Ravus picks you up so you can wrap your legs around his waist, and goes over to the sofa.

You straddle him, sucking and nibbling at the delicate skin on his neck. His hand slips into your hair and cradles your head. “What am I going to do with you?” he breathes. “You’re so mindless about me.” You pur against him which excites him more. “Hey.” He makes you look at him and takes in your glassy eyes and rosy face, and he vows that he will have you tonight.

He holds something up—the thin chain sways from side to side—your necklace that he accidentally torn from your neck that time when you kissed him in the grove. “I got the clasp fixed. It’s wearable now.” He unhooks the tiny clasp, and you bend lower so he can put it on you. The royal azure pendant gleams below the hollow of your throat.

“Thank you,” you say, breath hitching at his tantalizing fingertips brushing down your chest.

He snakes his hand behind your neck and tugs you back to his mouth. Your eager fingers help him out of his long coat and tearing his white button shirt open, while your tongues engage in a wild dance of dominance. Your lithe body rolls along with the movements of your kiss, making it clear to him of what you want.

“Where’s your room?” Ravus’s voice is honey-thick.

“Down the hall to the left,” you sigh. He takes you there, and lays you gently down on the cool sheets. He discards his white shirt and starts unbuckling his belt.

He watches you writhe like a little kitten on the bed—already out of your thin clothes. Your eyes alive with teasing anticipation and barely-contained lust that fuel him with insane heat. He removes the last of his clothing and presses you against the mattress with his body.

He slowly eases into you, drinking in every tiny changes of your expression, while lovingly brushes your hair with his fingers. He dips down to capture your mouth, craving the addictive taste of your lips, and never seem to have enough.

One of his hand loops behind your back and the other slips down and strokes your most sensitive spot, making your fingers and toes curl in pleasure. The heavenly sound of his name trilling from your throat drives him crazy, and he moves faster and deeper against you.

“Yes…,” you moan, “more...” You hook your legs around his waist. Your nails scratching flowery-red lines down his back, drawing a feral growl out of him.

A savage cord suddenly snaps. A surge of untamed blood that resides in the deepest part of him overtakes the mind that wants to preserve you. Loneliness and lust, desperate to make up for lost time, propel him to devour you whole. To unravel you completely.

He seizes your wrists and pins it above your head. Your eyes widen at the abrupt roughness of his behavior, and then slowly narrowed into something like mindless ecstacy. The look undid him. Ravus abandons everything and consumes you in total hunger until you are shrieking in a language so ancient it sounds like music in his ears.

Then you scream—head thrown back against the pillow, back arches off the mattress as Ravus works through your white fireworks before he, too, reaches his high and delivers everything he feels for you in one final rock of his hips.

Your eyes slowly flutter close as you descend from euphoria. He allows you to rest for now before your night restarts a several times more.

~

Sunlight stirs Ravus from his dreamless slumber, despite the drawn curtains in the room. He couldn’t remember when was the last time he has slept so well. He turns his head to the side where you should have been sleeping—it is empty and cold. Ravus blinks hazily, wondering if you are gone again. Leaving him behind forever this time. And that last night is just a dream.

He glances at the time on the nightstand. It’s a quarter until noon. This is your room, but you’re not in it. Perhaps you’re in the bathroom. Ravus moves to get dressed when the door swings open, and you stands at the threshold in a cute little apron.

“Brunch and lunch is ready,” you chime in a singsong voice. You come in and give him a kiss on the lips. “Hurry up, or it’ll get cold.” When he remains looking as if he wasn’t fully awake yet, you tilt your head. “You worked hard.”

He smiles timidly. “I’ll be right out.”

Smiling, you spin on your heels. Ravus watches you go back through the door. Your little odd walk tells him last night was definitely real. And his mouth twitches at the corner.

You in his arms. You wanting him. You needing him. Your deep red love that consumes all.

He is at your greatest mercy.

Chapter Text

The world is changing right before your eyes, as your days are spent in happiness with the ones you love. The years passed by slow and fast, like a flip of each page of a storybook; the anticipation of what your future will hold and the swiftness that it will happen.

An abundance of opportunities are paved out now that the port cities have officially opened to receive the public. With the increase of businesses, that’s where you come in. Taking up on your task and bestowing wealth and success to the growing economy. And before long, the seaside cities have become Tenebrae’s most popular places for vacation and recreation.

Everything is sailing smoothly like the cruises and ships that come and go delivering goods from foreign nations and travelers from places to places. As well as your current situation; delivering someone to their destination very, very soon. And it can’t come fast enough.

You scream. Ravus maintains his cool composure at your side as you clamp down on his hand like a vice. But the stress is tightening his jaw and forming a little line between his brows. You let out a string of curses—propriety be damned, considering how much pain you’re currently in. You want this to be over. Now.

“One more push, Your Grace. One more big push,” the midwife instructs.

You push—with everything you’ve got. And sobbing at why have you decided to ditch the epidural this time. The pain is almost as worse as dividing your soul. Ravus squeezes your hand, encouraging you on and letting you claw into his arm until his tolerance has finally reached its limit and he cries out. And then you hear the sound of your baby crying.

“Congratulations, Your Majesty! Your Grace! Please welcome the new baby prince!” The midwife rests your baby on your chest, and he is the most adorable little thing. The rosy, pudgy cheeks. The delicate nose. The purple eyes. The beautiful fruit of your and Ravus’s love.

“Thank you for your hard work, love.” Ravus kisses your damp hair tenderly. “You gave us a beautiful boy.”

“I wonder who he’s gonna take after,” you say, smiling down at your precious boy who has stopped crying once put into your arms. “He’s a mama’s boy. I tell you that right now.”

“Come now. You can’t decide that.” Ravus gently accepts the baby from you, and he is enamoured at the first touch. The baby blinks lazily up at him. “But he has your half-lidded gaze.”

A moment later Luna comes in with your four-year-old daughter smiling an eye-wrinkling grin. She lets your daughter down on the bed, and the little girl crawls up to your side and wraps her little arms around you. “She thought that they were hurting you, and couldn't stop crying,” Luna says.

“Aww you did?” you coo, and kiss your daughter’s cheek. “Mommy’s okay, sugar cub. Sorry for scaring you. But look, he’s your little brother inside Mommy’s belly.”

Your daughter stares curiously at the small baby in her father’s arms and pouts, making you all laugh. “Say hi to your brother, D/N,” Ravus says sweetly. “You will have to take care of him too, angel.”

D/N turns away and nestles against your chest, and you caress her silvery hair, just like her father’s. “Don’t be upset, precious. You get to boss your brother around when he’s older.”

“Don’t encourage her,” says Ravus.

You chuckle, and yawn. You want to hold your newborn some more but sleep is lapping at the shore of your wakefulness. Looking at your heart-filled-eyed husband, you imagine him showering your son with lots of love while you take your long-deserved nap.

~

The sky is dyed a brilliant orange and pink of sunset by the time you wake up, casting the bedroom in fiery magic. You sit up—already feeling replenished despite the long hours of labor—and stretch out your limbs. It’s just you in the room—and a baby cradle that Luna gifted next to the bed. A soft noise comes from the rocking basket, and you move closer and grin the biggest grin when you see your son looking up at you and waving their small limbs clumsily.

“Hi, baby,” you coo, heart is about to burst at the potency of his pure smile. He makes the cutest sound when you tickle his cheeks and press delicate kisses to his feathery soft hair. “Did you wake up from your nappy too?” Ravus must have left him next to you while you both slept, and lets your son surprise you when you wake up.

Speaking—or rather thinking of the devil, the door carefully opens and Ravus comes in with D/N. “You’re both awake.”

“Mommy sleeps too long,” your daughter says.

You tell them to come sit on the bed’s edge with you. D/N is still clinging on to Ravus, the same little frown from before is back on her rosy face when she meets her brother again. “Did you get to hold your brother, D/N?” you say.

D/N huffs and throws her arms around her father. “I don’t like boy. I like daddy.”

A smug look curves up Ravus’s face. “You will always be daddy’s little bratty princess. But S/N needs your love and kisses to grow big and strong. And he loves you very much. Remember he held your finger when you shook his hand?”

Ravus is the most doting of doting fathers you think you will ever meet. Ever since your daughter was born, she was all he paid attention to. He would shower her with gifts and toys that she hadn’t been old enough to play with yet, and always had her in his arms whenever he could. He would get her anything she wanted without questioning anything. You would try to warn him about spoiling her too much, but he just heeded your advice one time and then forgot about it. And he definitely had trouble saying no to her. Which is how she’s become such a daddy’s girl.

You sigh. “Ravus, you see how your pampering has turned her to be?”

He shrugs his shoulders. “I don’t see a problem. You see a problem?” Despite not knowing what you both are talking about, D/N replies with a sassy no.

You roll your eyes affectionately. They make the most perfect yet insufferable duo. Sometimes you just don't know what to do with them. D/N has definitely inherited her father’s sharp-tonguedness. “I want Yozel to come over to see his new godson tomorrow. He’s been super juiced when I told him to be S/N’s godfather. I can imagine the face he’ll make.” You have decided long ago that if you ever had kids, you want your best companion to take the honor to be their godfather. Yozel has done so, so much for you during your stay here, you wouldn’t even know where you’d be now without him. There is no better friend and ally in this world than him.

“I miss Yozel!” D/N exclaims excitedly. “He has to come be my handsome knight again!”

Ravus scrunches up his brows. “I thought I am your handsome knight, darling. Are you dumping me? Oh, my poor heart." He places a hand on his chest. "You’re breaking it.”

“Daddy is the evil Prince Charming who fell in love with me. Mommy is an angel with big black wings who will do magic at our wedding. Aunty Luna is fairy godmother giving me beautiful dresses to wear. We will decorate the boat with lots of flowers and ribbons and animals. And crystal dragons flying in the sky too!”

S/N reaches up, grabbing with his tiny fingers for his sister, as if he wants to be part of the magical wedding too. “And brother is the bunny rabbit I saved from Daddy’s dark castle,” she adds.

You and Ravus laughs, impressed by her unique sense of imagination. You read to her fairy tales and folk stories, and she will embellish the story into something more greater and more colorful that surprises even you.

~

When you were in the heavens, you were able to manipulate your environment into any beautiful sceneries and places. Your quarters were always filled with luxury and wealth and extravagance—to match your status and role as angel of wealth.

You have indulged inside the facsimile of the fiery sun, bathed in the silver of the moon, in the underwater utopia in the ocean, in the realized version of human’s heavenly paintings.

Tenebrae has always been a place of exquisite beauty. But tonight it looks even more beautiful from your balcony. The moon is bigger and rounder and brighter than any night. Stars—so many stars—a cosmic sheet of crushed diamonds. Streaks of blue, purple, and teal splash the night canvas. Below, the greens almost seem to glow with their own light. The lakes, ponds, and waterfalls all lit up with bioluminescence.

You have recorded sceneries like these so you can bring it back with you when you return to the heavens. However, the people who you look upon it with will not be there to enjoy it with you anymore. The thought makes your heart thump sadly.

“What are you thinking about?” Ravus comes to your side, eyes looking out at the night before him.

“When I first came here I had no idea how this world works or the minds of those who live in it,” you begin. “I had only one goal: serve my punishment and then leave with no attachments.” A pleasant breeze sweeps over the balcony. “Then, I met everyone else. And fell in love with the most wonderful person ever.”

The port cities are near completion. Probably in a few years time. The nation is seeing progressive increase in the economy as more avenues of business and opportunity are opened. More success means more wealth. And also reminding that your time is drawing near.

As if he senses what you’re thinking about, he comes around and embraces you from behind. “We love you,” he whispers fondly. “Our beautiful children love you. Your friends love you.” He presses a kiss to your ear. “I love you. There’s no reason to be sad.”

“I know,” you answer. “I love you all very much.” You spin around in his arms, and he catches you in a kiss. It is sweet and sincere and strong. His embrace tightened as if you might sprout wings and fly to the sky. Smothered in his scent and kisses, you forgot that time existed, and you ache for more of him.

You never would’ve known then that the young boy you met in the slums will become the man you hold in your arms now—the man who you married, the man who you trust, the man who fathered your children. You never would’ve thought then that you will share so much with him in the future.

You press him against the balcony railings. Your hands ride up his well-toned muscles of his abs, feeling the rise-and-falls, while his rest on the curve of your butt, gently yet teasingly caressing you, and momentarily a squeeze. He knows exactly what to do on how to please your body, and you moan into his mouth.

“You want a third child already, my love?” Ravus rasps huskily. “You’ve only just given birth to our precious son.”

“Mm. I do want a league of babies with you. You make it very hard not to.”

“I absolutely wouldn’t mind having more.” He latches on to your neck, sucking and biting at the skin where the jaw and neck join. Every mark he leaves, he runs his tongue over it, making you sigh wantonly and the sparks in you to start a full fire.

You claw a hand into his white silky locks, urging him to do more. Nine months of sexless waiting are storming up to claim the all-consuming pleasure that your bodies cry for. You fumble to loosen his belt but then he straightens up and stops your hands at his waistband.

“What’s the matter, sweetie?” he says.

You whirl around to see your daughter at the glass door rubbing sleepily at her eyes. “Hey, baby, why’re you awake?”

“I want to sleep with mommy and daddy,” she mumbles.

“My little girl.” You pick her up. “Then let’s go sleep with mommy and daddy, okay?” You kiss her cheek and glance back at Ravus, who is wearing an endearing smile on his face.

“D/N is going to cuddle with me tonight,” he declares.

“No. She’ll do that with me.”

~

Even if you have to leave the ones you love behind. Even if you wouldn’t be able to see your children grow old. Even when you no longer feel the emotion Love once you become an angel again—you will forever remember that you have loved them in your human life. And that they will hold you dearly in their hearts, and you will treasure them for eternity in your memories.