28: An Illusion of Paradise
Ceres’s eyes almost popped out of her skull. With an excited yelp, she scuttled across the room on bare tiptoes and took Emily’s hands in hers. “’Nothing serious’ is more than what most people can say,” she said, looking up at Emily with a breathless wonder in her grey-green eyes. Mumblings and rumours suggested she was—or, at least, had been—some kind of Donaran highborn, the only daughter of a powerful chieftain. Her hair, which she dyed a bright shade of fuchsia, framed a delicate face and high cheekbones before falling over slender olive shoulders and a patchwork of hand-me-down clothes stitched with multicoloured threads. In a normal world, she would have found herself the target of a dozen affections, but in this world blessed with Maidens that podium would always stand a single step of infinite distance away from her. “The only Sidhe I could call a friend is Princess Phantasia,” she added. “Prince Freyr, he’s—he’s one of the greatest Sidhe to have ever lived. Well, if you count them as living, that is.”
“I—I didn’t realise he was so important,” Emily lied. “He just—he just complimented me on my looks and, well…” She made her cheeks flush almost as bright as Ceres’s hair. “He told me I’d be really popular in a place like this.”
“I bet he did. A girl like you could have anyone you wanted.”
“T—that’s not really my thing.” Emily Fomalhaut continued to blush. The Macha contemplated just how she could abuse such power. Aliza Adel curled up and started to sob.
“Shame.” Ceres fluttered her eyelids and shook the hair from her shoulder. “Let me know if you change your mind, yeah?”
No one could resist a Maiden.
The tension lingered in the air a moment more, then popped as Korrie Wedekind entered the room with a cry of “Cerie, are you flirting behind my back?”
“Want to join? The more the merrier, right?”
If there was anyone who could step up to that podium and divert attention away from a Maiden, if only for a moment, it was Korrie-Anne Wedekind. Where Ceres was slender and frail, her partner stood tall and voluptuous, her hair a thigh-length cloak that shimmered a dozen shades of gold, her voice a delicate, intoxicating melody tinged with the same tease of mischief that gleamed in her spring-time eyes. Bouncing across the room with carefree abandon, she took her lover’s hand and pouted like a child. “You could have told me first,” she said.
“Sorry, dear,” said Ceres, “I got lost in the moment. Say, did you know Em here is friends with Prince Freyr?”
Korrie had that same, wide-eyed expression as Ceres when she first found out.
“Passing acquaintance,” Emily repeated.
Korrie turned to Ceres. “Then, do you think she might know Himeros?”
The tension snapped back, catching the breath in Emily’s throat. “Who’s Himeros?” she asked.
The girls shared a look, then Ceres said, “Well, that’s what we’re going find out.” Holding out her hand, she added, “You wanna come?”
Chapter 28 End
Hopefully I’ll be better in time to figure out if the next chapter works better as one or two parts!
(2018 Dary: and this is why I stopped forcing myself to follow a weekly schedule XD)