"How peculiar" Izzy blinked. The rest of the team all gathered closely to stare at the strange book that Davis had uncovered underneath the mess in his living room. "It's certainly not a book I'm familiar with. Did you ever have something like this when you were a kid, Davis?"
Davis shook his head. "No, I've never seen it in my life, which is why I brought it to you. I mean, just check out that blurb on the back."
"I'm surprised you even knew what the word 'blurb' even meant" Yolei snickered. Davis glared at her but didn't comment.
Izzy rubbed his chin and turned the book over. Mimi butted her head in, pushing the redhead away from seeing the book. "What does it say?"
"Will you let me read it?" Izzy asked irately. Mimi sheepishly backed off. "Well that's odd. 'There are four tales in this book. Each one is different every time you read them but the result will always be the same…Death. With each tale comes a new set of characters; with each new set of characters comes even more death. That is the one thing that is certain in life…We die…But is there someone behind it?'"
"Scary" Kari remarked.
"I've never heard something so creepy" TK added.
Tai took the book out of his younger friend's ands and took a look at the cover again. "There's also no cover…" The book was just completely black except for the gray words on the back. There was this strange golden pattern on the spine but nothing else to indicate who the author or the title of the book is. "Davis, did you open this book at all since you found it?"
"No…I'm not the reading kind of person and I thought that wouldn't be smart to open something as weird as that" the teenager replied.
"Maybe we should open it" Sora suggested. "I mean, how bad can it actually be?"
Joe shook his head at the idea. "I say that's a bad idea. Something strange always ends up happening to us whenever we do something we're unsure of. I say that it's safer to just leave this book alone, keep it locked up or something."
"What's the worst that could happen?" Matt inquired.
"A lot" Ken replied. "We've seen lots of strange things happening, what makes you think that this will be no different?"
Cody nodded in agreement with both guys. "As curious as I am about the book, I don't think we should just carelessly open it. For all we know, some monster could come out of it like Pandora's Box. That wouldn't be very good, would it?"
Kari looked to her big brother. "What do you think Tai? This'll be your call."
Tai took a moment to think about it before he sat down and placed the book on his lap. It appeared that this was his answer so everyone took a chair and sat down. "Are you guys ready for this?" After receiving a nod from everybody, he slowly opened the black book. "Once upon a time…"
A beautiful princess with her long caramel brown hair flowing down her back and lovely pink dress around her stood atop a chair as a redheaded seamstress took her measurements. The princess was known to be an honest maiden as well as a gentle one. However, the servants of the castle saw her as vain and selfish; it was difficult to work under her as much as it was prestigious to. She was kind to few within the castle, one of them being the royal seamstress who was now showing her an array of dresses for the ball.
"Ah, Sora, this gown is absolutely gorgeous, I am sure everyone in the village will simply adore it" the princess cried out in joy. "You are certainly the best at what you do."
Sora bowed her head to show her respect for the princess. "Of course, Princess Mimi, I worked hard on it all last night so that you would not be disappointed."
"Well then you succeeded!" Mimi giggled. Sora went back to collect her items and Mimi seemed to remember something. "Oh, that's right, I forgot to ask. You've met my new knight, right? Well, he seems to have taken quite a liking to you."
Sora stopped her packing and turned to the princess in surprise. "Really? I thought he was just making small talk with me. What makes you so sure?"
"Are you saying that I am wrong?" Sora quickly shook her head; she's known a couple of servants that had been kicked out of castle simply for disagreeing with the princess. "Good. And trust me, I can just tell from the way he looked at you. Perhaps I should have Sir Davis take his shift for a little while so that you and he may interact and socialize."
Sora blushed. "Oh, well, I appreciate the thought but you don't have to do that for me. I will find love on my own, I don't really need you to play matchmaker for me. And besides, Sir Tai is certainly brave and handsome but I don't think a knight will truly love a lowly servant such as myself."
"What are you talking about?" Mimi bent down and held her servant's hands in hers. "You are a fine maiden and a brilliant seamstress. You shouldn't doubt yourself, but if you want me to back off, I will. Besides, I am sure you will find a prince one day."
"…" Sora was both grateful and speechless but she smiled anyway. "Thank you, Princess. You and your parents have been so kind to me ever since you found me. I am truly in your debt."
Mimi smiled in return and then stood up. "Now then, we have about seven dresses left, why don't we see if one of them can be yours for the ball. Who knows, maybe we'll both find princes for us there."
Just then, another voice came from outside in the hall. "Princess Mimi, the duchess is here to see you!"
Mimi sighed. "Alright, I will be right there!" She turned back to Sora with an apologetic expression. "I'm sorry that I have to leave now. I wasn't expecting Yolei to be here so soon, she must've gotten the carriage ready earlier than usual for her ride here."
"It's okay, I can pick out a dress on my own and if I can't, I'll just make a new one."
"That's the spirit! Now then, the next time I come in here, I hope to see a beautiful princess."
"I promise you, Princess Mimi."
A young man with blond hair watched as his little brother spar with their training instructor in the way of the sword. The brothers were exceptional swordsmen but nowhere near as great as their teacher. The younger of the two, the one sparring, was beaten easily.
Their teacher, an even younger man, but a prodigy with a blade sheathed his sword and walked towards his student. "Prince TK, there is too much hesitation in your sword" he told him. "You also seem a bit unfocused today, are you okay?"
TK took a moment to regain his breath as he slowly got off his butt. "Yes, I am fine. There is nothing wrong with me."
His older brother chuckled in amusement of the lie. "Now we both know that's not true, go ahead. Why don't you tell Master Cody about what happened last night?"
Cody blinked and looked to the younger of the two brothers who was glaring at the elder. "What happened last night?" Cody asked, as emotionless and casual as ever. If one didn't know him, they might've thought he didn't actually care.
"I…" TK hesitated but figured it would be okay to tell him at least. Cody has been one of his best friends after all. "I met this beautiful girl last night and I just fell in love with her. But I don't even know her name or anything. I tried to talk to her but she didn't seem to notice me. Now I can't stop thinking about her. You must think I'm pretty hopeless now huh."
Cody shook his head and smiled towards the prince. "Don't be silly, of course I don't. I think it's good for you to fall in love."
"But she was a commoner."
"So?" Cody shrugged. "It doesn't matter what class she's in, such laws stating that you must be royalty to marry royalty was abolished years ago when your father fell in love with one of his maids. There's no need to be secretive about it or feel embarrassed."
"Even so, it isn't exactly common for royalty to fall for commoners, even if that law was abolished" the older prince stated.
"Then what about you Prince Matt?" Cody asked him. "Don't you think it's about time you settled down? Your father is getting older after all, according to the village doctor; he doesn't have much longer, especially due to his ailment."
Matt frowned and turned away from them. "There just isn't any girl that excites me or gets that feeling from my heart. That's why father is throwing this stupid ball; he's hoping I'll find a young maiden to spend the rest of my life with. He's just being selfish, looking at me as just his heir rather than his son."
Cody sighed. "You know, I'm starting to wonder why I even serve your family anymore. I'll be in my bedchamber if either of you two needs me. Oh, and be sure to look your best for the ball tonight."
The two brothers nodded out of respect for their teacher. "Right."
The door slammed open to the village library and the bespectacled redhead looked up from his book. "Izzy sir, it's happened again!" the villager huffed in exhaustion. "That warlock is back!"
Izzy didn't look up from his book but he did frown. He closed the book after finishing a sentence and it floated up and moved by itself back into its rightful place in the bookshelf. "I'll see what I can do" Izzy muttered as he took of his glasses and laid them on the table. "Take me to him."
The villager and Izzy ran to where the sounds of screaming and the way other villagers were running from. Things had never been this bad before. "What the hell is that guy thinking?" Izzy wondered aloud.
They both stopped when they saw a black-cloaked figured choking a young man and others trying to stop him. But there was some sort of barrier around him and other villagers were distracted with a fire around them.
Izzy muttered some enchantments and the sky above them turned dark, rain pouring down and slowly putting down the fire. The cloaked figured stopped and looked over to the other wizard standing before him. The dark warlock dropped the choking man and grinned maliciously at the older wizard. "Well this is a surprise, usually it's the royal guards who come and stop me" the warlock cackled. "But this time, the man who sealed me himself has arrived to the party! Well this is truly a wondrous surprise indeed."
Izzy glared at him. "Why don't you take off that hood so that we can talk face to face."
The cloaked figured continued grinning as he took of his hood and his raven locks fell down his face. During his twenty years of imprisonment, he hadn't lost any of his maniac tendencies such a being polite to those he holds a grudge against. "Izzy, my old friend, I haven't seen you in years, you haven't changed a bit."
"You're not my friend Ken" Izzy muttered. "And who undid your seal? As far as I know, the only wizards in this kingdom are you and I."
"How cruel" Ken laughed. "Well, I wish I could tell you but I'm afraid I am held back by client confidentiality."
"I see…So the person who unsealed you needs you for some sick job" Izzy concluded. "I still don't know how this person undid the seal but this time, I am going to lock you up for good. So I hoped you had your fun but now it's over."
Ken only smiled. "We'll see about that." Izzy muttered a few more enchantments and lighting came down from the cloud above them striking the spot Ken was standing in a mere second ago. "Ooh, so close, but you won't be getting me this time."
Izzy wasn't about to give up though. "Heaven's Judgement…" Lightning rained down from above but each strike was easily evaded by the other wizard. Ken's evasion kept going until he was almost right in front of Izzy. Izzy noticed the glint of the knife before Ken had pulled it out from his sleeve. "Barrier."
Ken bounced back but he quickly regained his balance. He tucked the knife back into his sleeve. "Luckily for you, I have to recharge, being imprisoned for twenty years can really take a toll on your body. But don't worry, I'll be back soon."
Izzy glared at him and pressed his hands together, his right hand clenched into a fist and he drew it away from his left hand as if he was drawing a sword. A blade made out of lightning emerged from his left hand and he charged at Ken. The warlock was muttered some words underneath his breath and just as the sword was swung, Ken vanished into shadows.
Izzy growled in frustration as his sword dissipated into the air. "I can't believe he got away!"
"He's certainly crafty" a voice commented.
Izzy turned around and he saw the village doctor standing there with a couple of bags in one hand. "Doctor Joe, I'm surprised to see you out here" the redhead greeted. He looked over at the bags in his hands. "I guess you were just out shopping?"
"Indeed" Joe nodded. He adjusted his glasses with his free hand and walked past the wizard. "You should be careful nowadays. Lots of strange happening occur in the kingdom, best to keep on your toes."
Izzy blinked, Joe had intentionally said those words quietly so that only he could hear. He supposed that was all right and all, there was no need to cause panic among the villagers but it was strange, the doctor's house was in the opposite direction. "It couldn't be" Izzy muttered.
"Daydreaming on the job again newbie?" one of the knights snickered.
The older knight flinched out of his imagination and looked back to the other knight. "Sorry, I didn't mean to get distracted Davis" the elder apologized. "I guess I've been really tired lately or something."
"Heh, yeah right, you're obviously in love" Davis smiled. "You have the same face as I do when I think about Kari."
The knight chuckled at the mention of his younger sister. "I see, so I must be talking to the expert at this kind of thing huh" he said. "Well, it's no use thinking about it. What do you think I should do anyway? My mind's all muddled and if I don't focus on work, I could get kicked out of the castle."
"For now, look alive because the princess and your old mistress, the duchess, are coming."
They both stood tall as the two royal women passed by them, both giving them respectful curtsies as members of nobility should. The knights returned the gesture with bows of their own. "Greetings Sir Tai and Sir Davis" Mimi nodded to them. "I hope things are going well."
"They are madam" Davis bowed. "We hope the two of you are enjoying your brunch."
"Oh yes, very much so" Duchess Yolei told them. "We'll be off now, wouldn't want to distract the two of you from guard duty."
"Please do, I wouldn't mind from such lovely ladies such as yourselves" Davis grinned.
The two girls giggled and walked away after waving them goodbye. Tai released a breath he hadn't known he was holding once they were gone. "That was a close one, we were almost caught doing nothing" Tai muttered.
"Oh come on, you're overreacting" Davis laughed. "We not be focusing on the job but it's not like we're completely slacking off. Don't worry about it. Oh, and about your little love problem, just ignore it for now. You can deal with it during the ball; then you can confess your love to her."
"Are you sure? I mean, what if she doesn't accept my love or has someone else?"
Davis shrugged, not quite sure himself. "Then that's how it is, you can't do anything about that, it's not like you have any control of such things. You'll just have to patch up your heart and move on as hard as that may sound. Don't worry; I'll be by your side the whole way through."
"Thanks, you're a big help."
Just then, they heard rushing footsteps coming towards them and heavy breathing. They saw a brown-haired girl running towards them while holding her dress in her hands; she was truly beautiful with fair skin and shiny locks. Her amber eyes glittered, reflecting the brightness of the sun. "Big brother, Sir Davis, did you two hear the dreadful news?"
"Kari?" Tai blinked. "Well, that would depend, what exactly classifies as 'dreadful news'?"
Kari seemed scared of this news herself; as if she didn't want to believe it despite knowing that it was true. "I was down at the village when I saw it happen. It was that evil warlock, Ken! He's escaped from his seal and he has come to wreak havoc once again in the kingdom."
Both of the knights' eyes widened when they heard those words spoken. They were both young when the immortal warlock was sealed away. They had also heard that so was the wizard who sealed him. They didn't know much but everyone in the entire kingdom remembered the fear Ken caused with his black magic. The very thought of it frightened them all.
"What are we supposed to do?" Davis muttered.
Tai wasn't sure himself and he was the oldest on there, he felt he had some sort of responsibility but he was at a loss for an answer as well. "Who knows…I guess we just have to wait it out. Maybe the wizard will seal that warlock away again."
Kari clasped her hands together as if in prayer. "I hope so…I just can't bear the thought of losing anyone else to him ever again! Like mother and father…"