Manipulations

Oracle raised an eyebrow, and looked at Pixel. "Did that mean what I thought it meant?"

"Yes." Pixel nodded. "They've finally admitted that they like one another. They even kissed."

"It's about time," Oracle said.

"What is this, a dating service?" Score complained. "We'll kiss if we feel like it. And we'll fight if we feel like it, okay?"

(Book of Doom, pg. 160)

000

One week later . . .

000

"So Score." Score looked up from the jewel he was twirling in his fingers to Helaine's blue eyes.

He lifted an eyebrow. "So Helaine."

"I'm a bit disappointed in you."

"Only a bit today? I'm flattered."

Helaine's eyes narrowed. "Well, how about we find a nice sword ring, and I can be more than just a bit disappointed?"

Score flapped his hand. "Um . . . I'm good. No past lives attempting to take control of my body, no pirates wanting to enslave us, no avenging unicorns planning to kill us, and no computers trying to steal my mind . . . in fact, why ruin such a perfect week?"

"Yes, wouldn't waste such a perfect week."

"Exactly."

"In fact, you should ask me out on this date thing."

"Yes, I should – wait, what?"

"Dating. Isn't that what people on Earth call this courtship ritual?"

"Yeah, that's the right word, but . . ."

"Isn't that what couples do?"

"Well, yeah, but . . ."

"On Earth."

"What the heck? Of all the perfectly respectable worlds in the Diadem, why does it need to be Earth?"

"It's your home world, and if you keep insisting on telling us about it everywhere you go. I thought I should give the squalor another chance."

"First of all, my lady, we've already established that you need to watch what you call squalor. I lived there. Second of all, do you even remember what happened last time we were on Earth?"

"Vividly."

"I got kidnapped by my father, and a power hungry magic-user tried to kill us."

"Sounds like a typical day."

"Which is why I like this week. There's relaxation and peace. You finally stopped arguing with Jenna. I could get used to it."

"Laziness is weakness."

"You may train all you like, Renald, but I like my skin, and I like wearing it even more."

"Pixel took Jenna to Calomir."

"Yeah, but just to clean up after that computer psycho."

"And . . ."

"Thanks, but no thanks. I'm not interested in risking life and limb on another world-wind adventure. Plus you have to listen to me; I am the rightful heir of your planet. I carried that dang scepter into battle, and ended a feud."

"You killed a bunch of ants, and then quoted the Constitution at some irritated nobles."

"It ended a war, didn't it?"

"Yes, it did. Actually, now that the war's ended I'm sure Orin is a lovely place. I haven't been home in such a long while. Maybe we should have our date there."

"Excellent. I'm the High King there – servants, food, anything at the snap of my fingers."

"And my wonderful father is there, of course. Maybe he'll throw us an engagement party."

"Then I certainly take back what I said about you earlier," Score told her father. "You're not such an idiot, after all."

"Splendid," Lord Votrin said, smiling widely. "Then you are going to announce your engagement?"

Score almost choked on his fruit punch. "What?" he finally managed to gasp. To his annoyance, Helaine was there, dabbing at his face with a napkin. And she had a huge grin on her face.

"Our engagement," She said, trying to sound innocent.

"What engagement?" Score asked, half-embarrassed, half-annoyed.

Lord Votrin looked puzzled. "Why . . . I thought it was understood," he said. "That you objected to her marrying Dathan because you wished to marry her yourself. To have my daughter marry the King – now that's a match worth having."

Score's mouth moved, but he couldn't make any sounds come out of it. "Ah no, I was simply trying to stop her from doing something foolish."

"Then you do not care for her?"

"Well, yes," Score had to admit, "Just not . . . well, we're friends. Comrades in arms. Buddies. We don't kiss or anything . . ."

Helaine raised an eyebrow. The rat was enjoying this! "Dear me, have you forgotten about the time on Earth?" (Book of War pg. 252-253)

Score paled. "You are a manipulative little monster."

"Aren't I always?"

"Yes, ma'am. I'll never forget how we got stuck in this thing to begin with."

"Time to die, you worm." Nantor snarled, readying a further attack.

Helaine stepped between them. She was limping slightly from her injuries, but there was fury in her eyes. "You leave my boyfriend alone."

"I'm not your boyfriend," Score protested weakly.

"Shut up," Helaine said. "We'll discuss it later." (Book of Doom, pg. 144)

Helaine only grinned at the memory. "So it's a date?"

"I don't think I have much choice in the matter."

"You don't, really. I can always chop you limbs off and beat you with them if you refuse."

"Work on your threats. You've used that one before."

Helaine raised her eyebrows. "Doesn't mean it's not still possible."

"Point taken."

"Good. I'll get Shanara to set up a gate."

"Great. Ask her about earth fashion while you're at that. Remember the sword and armor thing doesn't fly."

"Actually, Jenna and I've already talked about it, though showing that much skin above your ankles is still indecent."

"Yes, well you think blue jeans and t-shirts are indecent."

"Well, you grew up in that barbarism, so of course you are biased. Besides Jenna agrees with me."

"Jenna. Jenna. Jenna. I hate girl gossip networks. Nothing stays secret."

"You're ashamed to have a date with me?"

Score laughed, and took her hand. "Not at all."