1"Flute-sama, are you all right? You look pale..." Percuss asked from his place to her right. "Surely the notion of marriage can't be that shocking, you are after all a princess."
Poor Percuss was never very good in situations such as these, and a recent poll suggests that things might have turned out better if he had just not said anything.
"What do you mean 'can't be that shocking'!" Hamel slammed his hand down on the table in rage. "Do you mean to say that having your entire free will taken away from you in a single moment shouldn't be shocking!"
"Calm down you stupid fool. Is it really so strange to you that a princess is expected to marry a prince?"
Luckily for everyone present at the head table, the rest of the hall had broken into chatter among themselves and few people noticed the beginning argument.
"Flute should be able to marry whoever she wants!" Hamel protested angrily.
'It's unusual for Ha-chan get this worked up in such a short amount of time...' Raiel thought to himself. 'I hope this doesn't turn ugly.'
"This is for the good of our country- no, our world! Besides, the princess will be well taken care of."
"You bastard! How can you say that? You-"
"Hamel," Flute cut him off, her voice was small and shaky. "It's okay, I'll be fine."
Hamel stared at her.
"Like Percuss said, it's for the good of the world. If my marriage will help bring peace then I can hardly object."
"What are you saying?" Hamel looked shocked, the others had similar expressions.
"You are truly a fine princess," Percuss said. He stood and bowed respectfully. Queen Horn looked sad.
"Oh Flute, I'm so sorry. If there was any other way..." She tried to comfort her daughter.
"I don't blame you, but if it's all right with everyone I think I'd like to return to my room. I don't feel well."
Hamel said nothing as he watched her leave.
"Let me go talk to her," Sizer offered. "Maybe I can help comfort her."
"That's a good idea," Ocarina agreed. "I'll go with you, we can have some girl time." Sizer nodded and the two left the way Flute had gone. Everyone was silent.
"Hamel?" Raiel looked to his friend uncertainly. Hamel was said nothing for a couple seconds then he too stood.
"I'm going to the library," he stated simply then he left.
"I feel sorry for Flute-neechan," Trom said sadly. "I never expected that something like this would happen."
"None of us did," Raiel responded.
"This must be why Clari seemed unusual earlier he probably got information from Queen Horn," Oboe said seriously.
"I wonder why Hamel is going to the library though," Trom said, "He's never really seemed like the reading type."
"Why don't we go find out?" Raiel suggested. "I'm worried about him, he seems to have taken the information pretty hard. Plus the atmosphere here is suffocating." Trom nodded and the three left the dining hall and headed in the direction of the library.
"It's no wonder Hamel took it hard, you'd have to be pretty stupid not to notice that he likes her."
"Well yeah, but still," The trio hesitated at the entrance to the palace's library. That's when Trom was struck with a sudden thought.
"You know, this could turn out in our favor," he said.
"How's that?" asked Oboe.
"Maybe this will be the catalyst that prompts Hamel to reveal his feelings for Flute-neechan."
"That's a silly idea, have you forgotten that even if that were to happen Flute would still have to marry one of those princes." Raiel said matter of factly.
"Unless we can find some way out of it... Maybe there is some kind of book in the library that can help, like a text on government history or something."
"Good idea! I wonder why I didn't think of that."
"Duh, you're blonde."
"You two bring up and interesting idea," Oboe interjected, "Though I'm not sure it's entirely original."
"What do you mean?" asked Raiel.
"What do you suppose Hamel is doing in the library?" Oboe asked.
"I'm actually rather surprised that he thought of it first, I mean, this is Hamel we're talking about."
"Well why are we standing here? Let's go help him."
It didn't take long to find Hamel, just as Oboe said he was off in the history section. It was rather strange to see him concentrating heavily with his nose in a book. He didn't even notice them until they were practically standing on him.
"Find anything?" Raiel asked his long time friend/rival. Hamel jumped slightly as he was startled out of his concentration.
"What do you mean?"
"Your looking for a loop hole right? Some way of getting Flute out of the marriage."
"Not really, just a bunch of useless information on the Council of Kings and an overview of past ages. Though I did learn that Sforzendo princess' always marry a prince from one of the world's ten original kingdoms. All princes from ages 10 to 30 come to try and win the princess' hand. It's supposed to keep the powers of the world on good terms or something like that."
"Then that's what Queen Horn meant when she mentioned princes from the 'ten kingdoms'." Trom said.
"So what are these kingdoms?" Raiel asked. "I'm guessing Sforzendo is one."
"I know that Dal Segno is one too," offered Trom. "I've heard my father mention it."
"You're around ten or eleven right? Doesn't that means that you're one of Flute's suitors?"
"What!" Hamel burst out in surprise. "This brat is eligible to marry Flute?"
"So it seems," Oboe replied.
"I'm sorry, but that's just wrong."
Flute lay sprawled on her circular bed not unlike the time that she had first come to Sforzendo. Tear stains lined her cheeks and she knew her hair probably looked like a horrid mess. It was hard enough finding out she was a princess then, but that was nothing compared to now.
After the initial shock had worn off denial set in, it was most likely the only thing that had kept her calm at dinner. Now however, she was really beginning to feel the enormousness of the blow that had been dealt . Marriage...she knew it would probably happen eventually but she hadn't really put that much thought into it.
She of course had the usual dreams of falling in love and having a big extravagant wedding celebrated with all of her close friends, then having some children and living happily ever after. Of course that would never happen now. It all seemed terribly unfair and she wanted to protest so badly, but it really was for the good of Sforzendo for her to marry one of the princes. It was the only way for them to gain the defense against the mazoku that they had been lacking since the fall of Dal Segno. The more she thought about it though, the more the whole thing seemed totally pointless. If Hamel succeeded in his quest- their quest, then Sforzendo wouldn't even need that extra protection.
Once she was married she wouldn't be able to go with him any more, she might not even see him or the others ever again. Her dear friends, they had spent so much time together, shared so much with each other. They were her family.
Flute's thoughts were interrupted by a knock at her door. She quickly wiped her eyes and tried to make her hair look at least somewhat decent. She couldn't let anyone see how she felt. She had to be strong for her country.
"Come in," she called. She was surprised to see Sizer and Ocarina walk in.
"What are you guys doing here?' She asked them.
"We came to make sure you were all right," Sizer responded. Ocarina nodded.
"Of course, why wouldn't I be?" Flute tried lamely.
"Don't give us that, we know you better than to think that something as big and personal as this wouldn't phase you.
"I suppose that does seem kind of silly doesn't it?" Flute admitted.
"Only a lot."
"So it's final then?" asked Ocarina. "The marriage I mean."
Flute nodded sadly. "I see no reason why it wouldn't be."
"Well this is a problem isn't it?" Sizer sighed. "Here."
She tossed a container of ice cream to Flute who caught it wonderingly.
"We stopped by the kitchens on our way here." Sizer pulled out a spoon and dropped it on Flutes lap. "I may have been raised by mazoku, but I'm still a girl, and I know that things feel better when you drown yourself in ice cream."
Flute felt tears itch at the corner of her eyes again but smiled.
"Don't mention it. Anyway, is there anything that we can do to help?"
"I could kill off all the princes for you," Ocarina offered innocently.
"Uh... I appreciate the thought but I really don't think that will solve anything."
Flute didn't know if it was because of Sizer and Ocarina's thoughtfulness, or if it was the just the denial returning, but she felt a little better.
"Thank you so much, you two are such good friends," Ocarina and Sizer both smiled at being called 'friend'.
"By the way, you might want to eat that before it melts all over you," Sizer remarked casually .
Meanwhile in Hameln (Again)...
Hamel was surprised to find Flute the next morning calmly sipping some tea and watching birds fly in intricate little patterns out the window in the living area in front of her room. She had already bathed and dressed and seemed very much at peace in a large comfy looking chair. He had been expecting her to lock herself in her room for a couple days and refuse to see anybody or eat anything like last time.
'Maybe she doesn't mind being married after all.' For some reason this thought caused his chest to tighten unpleasantly.
Flute caught sight of him as he walked towards her.
"Good morning Hamel," She smiled brightly. Hamel was slightly taken aback at her cheerful greeting.
"Uh… yeah…you too," he responded rather lamely.
"So I take it you're feeling all right?"
"Yep, everything's fine!" Flute grinned enthusiastically. Something was definitely wrong with this picture.
"I'm having a hard time believing that." He stated blatantly. "You seem too cheerful this morning, so unless you absolutely adore idea of marrying a total stranger…" He trailed off. "Never mind, this is none of my business." He turned to go but Flute stopped him.
"Wait Hamel, you're right." She focused her gaze on her feet. "I don't want to get married, especially not to a stranger." She set her teacup on the end table next to her chair. "But I don't really have any choice. I thought a lot about it last night and decided that it would be best for me to just accept things and move on." She smiled sadly up at him.
Hamel frowned. What happened to the strong willed Flute that he had come to know so well? That part of her seemed to have completely disappeared. Seeing her like this angered him somewhat.
They were both silent for a couple minutes. Hamel stood and stared at Flute intently, arms crossed over his chest, and she resumed looking out the window. Soon though the silence was interrupted by the sound of approaching footsteps.
As the person came into view around a corner Hamel recognized him as one of the young men that sat to Trom's other side the previous night.
Hamel watched as the guy walked straight up to Flute and bowed respectfully.
"Good morning Princess," He smiled charmingly, "I am Prince Tuba of the kingdom of Senza." He took her hand and kissed it gracefully. "I am honored to make your acquaintance." He smiled at her softly. "You indeed are as beautiful as the rumors say." He released her hand slowly. Flute blushed and remembering her manners curtsied.
"Why thank you, you are very kind to say so," She responded sweetly. She couldn't help but notice that Prince Tuba was as tall as Hamel and good looking to boot. He had spiky mid length black hair with long bangs that shaded his lime colored eyes, and he was dressed in the style of Senza.
Hamel glared at Tuba's back.
'Who does this guy think he is?' He thought spitefully.'And what gives him the right to speak to Flute without my permission?'
"I would very much like to get to know you better," Prince Tuba continued"Won't you allow me to treat you to dinner in town tonight? I know of a nice restaurant that is claimed to be very good."
Flute hesitated. She looked over at Hamel who was busy death glaring the guy's back
'Hamel's never asked me to dinner before,' She thought. At times she had wished he would do something like that, but the big jerk was just too stubborn. Truehe probably didn't think of her the way she thought of him, but she could still dream couldn't she? 'Maybe I should accept the prince's offer and see how he reacts.'
Flute smiled sickeningly sweetly..
"I would love to Tuba-san."
Hamel's jaw dropped.
'Did she just say what I think she said!'
"Great! How about I meet you here at seven?"he asked pleasantly.
"Magnificent, I'll see you then," was the last thing he said before he turned and left.
(To be Continued)
Yay! Another chapter up! Please review, I'd like at least one! Cries