Chapter 23:

How It All Began - Part 5

The Heroes' Story After Saving the World

I was hoping that this question would lead to the two women showing me the wonders of this magical city, while shopping for a suit. However, we were short on time, and I guess magic was the solution to everything. Because with a flick of her wrist Jeanne had me clad in a pretty snazzy outfit.

At least when it came to the mask, which was a nice silver, with a cat-eye look.

Immediately afterwards, we left my small chamber to accompany Zenia to her room, as she had yet to get dressed. The way we so nonchalantly traversed the halls was almost cause for even more anxiety, as I was hyper-aware of the fact that I was not supposed to be here. Thankfully we did not see a single soul during the short two-minute walk across multiple hallways and two floors and so found ourselves in front of Zenia’s room.

Immediately the large double doors gave away that her room was much bigger than that small chamber I was given. Which made me wonder who that chamber was for. Housekeepers? Or maybe my first instinct about this being an actual prison cell had been right?

There was no time or reason to get hung up on this thought however, as we were about to enter Zenia’s room.

“Come on in,” she invited us. “It’s better to hide you in my room, than leave you standing in the hallway all dressed up and nowhere to go.”

I made an indistinct noise of confirmation as I followed her, Jeanne behind me.

I’m going to spare you the details on the room, as my memory has been hazy in that regard. After all, that’s the only time I ever visited this room. Though I remember entering the room and immediately turning into a pillar of salt.

Jeanne closed the door behind me, as Zenia disappeared around a corner behind a room divider.

“Jeanne, would you come help me?” Zenia asked. I found myself irritated at her seemingly ignoring me. Wouldn’t she at least tell me not to peep?

And so, I was left standing, unsure what to do.

I looked around the room, found myself a dressing table and went over to check myself out. Though completely unintentionally, I managed to catch a tiny few glimpses of a stray naked arm through the reflection. I decided to take a closer look at myself and was surprised to learn, that suits did in fact suit me. Although I was reminded of many a wedding photo, where it was just a sea of same-looking men along all the women in their bright and individualistic outfits.

And that feeling resurfaced when Zenia came out from behind the room divider.

She wore an extravagant red ball gown that reached to the floor. The sides of the dress were decorated with golden embroidery. Her sleeves looked like they were made from satin, so tenuous it was almost see through. The pattern from the embroidery weaved along her sides, up her chest, gaining a tight grasp around her neck to ultimately tenderly wrap around her muscular arms.

In this moment Zenia embodied both strength and beauty. Her red hair rested on her shoulders in subtle waves, making way for the heavy golden earpieces brushing against the fabric of her dress next to her neck. Two metal pins kept the hair out of her face, allowing it to be tied together on the back of her head.

Pretty and deadly.

“Wow, um, are you sure, you want me to accompany you? Because I don’t know if that’ll work out,” I voiced my concern.

“Oh, don’t worry about that,” Jeanne interjected, excitedly tippling towards me. “Black and red work well together.” She eyed me surreptitiously and then flicked my chest. “Though I guess, the white shirt wasn’t a good fit.”

I glanced down at myself and was surprised to be wearing a ruby-colored button-up shirt beneath my suit coat.

“Now you’re ready to go,” Jeanne said and put both her hands on my shoulders, slowly directing me towards the princess. Princess? I wasn’t sure at the moment, but definitely wouldn’t have put it past her.

“W- wait, what about you?” I sputtered.

“Oh, I wasn’t invited, so I can’t exactly show up. But I will put an eye on the both of you, and if things go south, you can count on me to bust you out,” Jeanne explained.

“And that will work out? Won’t we have to coordinate ourselves just a bit?” I questioned Jeanne’s lackadaisical approach at our plan.

“Do not fret my dear, I will see and hear everything happening through your eyes and ears. Some good old espionage ...” Jeanne mused.

“I can’t believe my father really has the audacity to rely on your work for literal decades and then not even have the decency to invite you to a party,” Zenia complained.

“Well, of course he has the audacity, he is the king. And I do not have any decency, for I am but a lowly witch.”

“You and your theatrics ... well at least they do something for your sense of humor.” Without even finishing her sentence, and in a manner so casual one might mistake it as friendly, Zenia tucked her right arm into mine. Immediately I tried to straighten my back and bring some tension into my body. But the fear of looking goofy probably made me look...goofy.

“Well then, shall we go?” Zenia asked. I was pretty sure that was supposed to be my line.

Without waiting for a response, Zenia led me out the room.

Dave Mania