Chapter 3:

The Ambassador, the Prince and the Songstress

The Songstress of Avalon

“No, I don’t think I will.”

I scrutinised the elegant features of Lorenzo del Fiore. He had just turned down my plea for clemency on Arisa's behalf. Staring down at me from atop his throne, the young prince's lips curled to display an unamused frown; when we made eye contact, his lashes fluttered and he turned away from me, as though in contemplation.

If it wasn’t for the welt on his cheek, he might even have looked kingly.

“She’s just a girl."

“A girl who hit me."

“And she’s very sorry about that,” I started to say, "so can’t you let bygones be bygones?”

“Isn’t assault a crime, ambassador? And an assault of a prince, no less; or do you believe that commoners should be allowed to hit princes with impunity?”

“No, no, of course not,” I insisted. “Just that there’s been a misunderstanding...”

“I suggest, ambassador,” the prince uncrossed his legs and slowly rose from his seat, “that you give up the girl, or my men will break down your doors and take her.”

“That’d be in violation of the Covenant of the Kingdoms, your highness,” one of the prince’s retainers, easily identifiable as a satyr by the horns that protruded from his head, said to him as he walked past.

He muttered something hastily under his breath in reply, much to my relief, since it seemed to indicate that the threat was empty. As haphazard and unsavoury as he was, violating the Covenant of the Kingdoms wasn’t something any one person could do, prince or otherwise.

I knew that better than anyone else – after all, the signing of the Covenant and the defeat of the demon lord were intrinsically linked, immortalised events in the canon of Avalon.

“Wait a second!”

The prince stopped at the door, where Trajan was standing vigil. He whirled his head in my direction, not even deigning to turn his entire body to face me.

“Did you do the Hero Ritual?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he glowered at me, and then, “Trajan, escort the ambassador out.”

Hidden in his aversion to my question was genuine puzzlement. From this, I could gleam two things – one was that he really had no clue about the Hero Ritual, and the other was that he disliked me tremendously. The first realisation simply dotted the question mark hovering over Arisa's presence in Avalon.

I held my tongue as he sauntered out of the throne room.

“Don’t mind the boy, ambassador,” the satyr from earlier bowed lightly and trod off.

Suddenly, Trajan was standing by my side.

“He’s nothing like Tommo,” I said.

“You don’t know what Tommo was like as a child,” Trajan started walking, and I followed instinctively. After all, he was on strict orders to ‘escort’ me out of the prince’s residence.

Prince Tommaso del Fiore.

Or Tommo, as we affectionately referred to him. He was Prince Lorenzo's elder brother and the fourth person to join my party, although that was simply an issue of continuity. Trajan and Tommaso had more or less joined at the same time.

They had come as a package deal of sorts - Tommo, the carefree royal afflicted with wanderlust and Trajan, his childhood friend born into a family of lesser status. In theory, Trajan was Tommo's 'vassal' but that word couldn't be any less accurate in describing the reality of their relationship.

But now that I thought about it, it was fitting that Trajan would go back to the del Fiore family; to look after his best friend's younger brother, since Tommo could no longer do it himself.

"That girl is from my home world," I told him.

Even the perpetually undisturbed Trajan Araya looked as though he had been caught off-guard.

"Oi, oi..." he was almost gaping. "Japan, huh...?"

I nodded.

"So you won't give her up no matter what then, eh?"

"What's with that shady phrasing?" I frowned. "I'd want to keep her away from Lorenzo regardless. Remember when Tommo told us he liked to rip the wings off flies?"

"That was just a phase," Trajan laughed heartily. "In any case, he's not going to let up until that girl is behind bars. He'll go to the Legislature and if that doesn't work then he'll petition the king."

"He won't be able to touch my embassy without risking a war."

"I agree," Trajan nodded sagely as we descended the stairs to the ground floor. "So he's going to try and lure her out into the open, and then kidnap her. If you really want to protect that girl, then you should keep her locked up."

"Again with the strange phrasing..."

Only Marissa was there to greet me when I returned to the embassy. Arisa was nowhere to be seen. She slowly folded up her newspaper as I passed through the double doors, put it down on her desk, and then languidly stood up to her full height.

"Ambassador, I've held the fort," she shot me a mock salute.

I placed a plastic bag on the desk, and responded dryly: "Lunch."

While Marissa dug into her fish soup and bread, I inquired as to our special guest's whereabouts.

"Sleeping," she washed down her bread with a generous spoonful of soup. "The poor girl passed out almost immediately after you left. I set her up on the third floor."

"The third floor?" I murmured. "What about Misane?"

"Still holed up in the library," Marissa replied. "And she'll probably be there for another few days. Don't worry, I'll bring her lu-dfdsf..." she shoved another piece of bread down the proverbial train tunnel.

"Don't talk with your mouth full," I chided her as I got up to leave. "Anyway, I'll leave Misane to you."

I grabbed Arisa's share and headed up to the third floor.

Standing outside the door to Misane’s bedroom, easily identifiable by the wooden placard which bore her name in large, bold letters, I placed my hand on the handle and opened it a crack – my intention was to leave the food by the door and then bid a hasty retreat, but the temporary occupant’s voice called out to me.

“Who’s there?”

“It's me,” I spoke into the interstice in the door. “Sorry, I thought you’d be asleep.”

“I was,” she replied cryptically. "What's that in your hand?”

“Huh? Oh, I thought you might be hungry…” I jostled the bag lightly as I entered the room. “Hey, it’s really dark in here, let me turn on the light…”



Had this been a romantic comedy manga, then the scene that greeted me would certainly have been half-dressed and lascivious. However, reality was rarely that straightforward; instead of a cry of 'kya!', the sound which drifted to my ears was that of a restrained sniffling.

"Sorry," Arisa said, facing me with puffy eyes.

"W-what's wrong?" I asked her.

"A nightmare," she admitted. albeit reluctantly.

I continued to probe: "What kind of nightmare?"

"I was lying down somewhere surrounded by my friends and family. For some reason, they were all crying. Incredibly upset, and I couldn't understand why. I only knew I was the cause. They were looking down at me with these anguished expressions on their faces, and I wanted to tell them that I-I-I was r-right there and that I w-was OK."

I had expected her to be somewhat reticent about opening up about her dream, but the words came out in a gush. It was almost as though she, herself, did not understand the significance of her dream and believed that talking aloud would help her to organise her thoughts.

Arisa's voice broke. I gave her time to regain her composure, before urging her to continue.

"And what happened then?"

"I couldn't say anything, or they couldn't hear me. I can't remember that well, you know, like how dreams start to fade as soon as you wake up?" she smiled sadly. "In any case, it was like I was a ghost. I kept trying to tell them, but nothing got through. And I couldn't just leave either, so…"

So she was just stuck there, surrounded by grieving loved ones.

"Sorry," she said again, wiping a tear away. "I'm just one of those sensitive types. I have been since I was a child."

I could see why a sensitive type would be upset by a dream like that.

"No, you don't have to apologise…" I took this opportunity to formally enter the room, placing the plastic bag on the bedside counter. "I got you soba. Well, the texture is similar but…" my voice trailed off, and I disguised my uncertainty with a chuckle.

"It's not really soba?"

"Yeah, pretty much."

She murmured something that vaguely sounded like 'thanks' and then asked about my meeting with Prince Lorenzo del Fiore.

"He's not over it," I told her.

"I didn't think he would be," she replied, expressionlessly.

"You don't have to worry about a thing," I assured. "The embassy will keep you safe."

"You can do that?" Arisa faced me; her lips maintained a neutral expression but her eyes glistened with what I thought to be expectancy. The cadence of her voice rose slightly. "Even though he's a prince? The king's son?"

"It's a bit more complicated than that," I laughed. "Eat and rest up. Tomorrow, Marissa and I will tell you a bit more about how this world works."

I turned around to leave, but I found myself unable to take even one step. Arisa was holding onto the sleeve of my robe with her slender fingers.



"You never told me your name."

"Ah..." I rubbed the nape of my neck sheepishly, and made my better-late-than-never introduction. "Ayatsuji Ayato."

"Ayato? What kanji do you use to spell it, I wonder...?"

The fragile grip loosened, and the girl's arm fell to the side. When I turned around, I saw that Arisa had fallen asleep again, a soft murmur on her lips that I couldn't quite make out.

Steward McOy
Caleb Grills
Dhamas Tri (dmz)
Christian Widjaya
Robin Paharya