A/N: Okay, here is the next chapter. Sorry it took so long to write. I thought being back home would mean that I could get back into a regular writing schedule, but I unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) find myself being constantly distracted. I never really realize how much I miss Taipei until I get back-- Especially the food!! I have been eating nonstop since I came back =) But anyways, I hope that you all enjoy this chapter and sorry once again for its lateness.
A Prince's First Love
The three teens sat in Artemis' drawing room, awkwardly looking at one another.
And what an odd sight they were.
Howl with his beautiful features and neatly pressed suit, Artemis with bright pink pajamas and hair in a desperate need of a comb, and Alicia, her clothes wrinkled and black circles formed under her eyes. It would have been quite comical had any of the three teens not been so utterly confused.
Artemis sat back in his chair, examining Alicia and Howl, who were both sitting in front of him. At this moment all he knew was that Howl was his cousin and that Alicia seemed to know him well.
"We're friends," Alicia said in her typical curt fashion.
"Pardon?" Artemis asked, eyebrows arched.
"I know you are going to ask, so I thought I would just get it over with," Alicia said, "Howl and I are best friends". Howl's eyes widened fractionally and he looked nervously at Artemis.
"Am I supposed to care about whatever type of relationship the two of you have?" Artemis asked, face betraying no emotion. Howl looked shocked and Alicia burst out into a large smile.
Artemis quickly decided the slight loss of breath he experienced was an aftereffect of the dimension sickness and not in anyway a result of the brightness of the girl's smile.
"That is the attitude I like to see," Alicia said, happily, "that total uncaring".
"Lee, this isn't the time to be joking," Howl said to her softly.
"Oh, I'm not joking," Alicia said sincerely, "Glitter Hearts and I are completely indifferent towards each other. We plan on having the coldest marriage!". Howl winced slightly at her words, or maybe he just winced upon hearing the odd nickname the girl had dumped upon Artemis.
"Is there a reason why you came here, Howl?" Artemis asked the boy. Howl pinned him with his shocking blue eyes, causing Artemis to feel a bit off guard.
"I wanted to come visit," Howl said softly, gently, "it has been a long time since mother and I have been here".
"Wait—so your mother is…" Alicia asked, not finishing her sentence, as though she didn't dare say what exactly Howl's mother was. The boy just nodded his head stiffly and Alicia sucked in her breath.
"And you?" Howl retorted quickly, "are you the mysterious fiancée that the whole kingdom is talking about?"
Alicia also nodded stiffly, matching looks of disgust sliding onto both her and Howl's faces. Howl's look, however, disappeared as quickly as it came and was once again replaced by a normal, calm face. He must have had a proper upbringing, Artemis mussed, unlike Alicia.
Which was to be expected, if Howl was his cousin.
Which led Artemis to another question. How exactly was Howl related to him, and why did his mother seem to be such a sore subject? The genius boy's eyes fell to the copy of The Complete History of the Lion Kingdom that was resting on the table.
It seems that this book and I will become very close, he thought as he snatched it and stood up.
"Well I will leave the two of you to yourselves," Artemis said quickly, "I am sure you have much to catch up on after not seeing each other in such a long time".
"Where are you going?" Alicia asked him, eyes slitted. Artemis raised a single eyebrow at her.
"I really don't see a reason why you should care about that," he said.
"That's true," Alicia answered, turning back towards Howl, "have fun, then".
"May I talk to you for a few seconds before you head off, Artemis?" Howl asked. Artemis stood where he was for a tense moment before slightly nodding his head. At this moment he knew nothing about Howl, so any information he could gather on him would be useful.
The boy got up and walked over to where Artemis was standing.
"Are you serious about marrying Lee?" he whispered to Artemis as soon as he was close enough to where Alicia wouldn't be able to hear them.
"I don't exactly have a choice in that matter," Artemis drolled, "you can thank my grandfather for that".
"I never actually thought that story about grandpa was true," Howl breathed out, "I just thought it was another one of those odd tales he used to tell us. Mother told me that he had to have made it up".
So it seemed as though Howl's mother and his father were siblings.
"Well, it turned out to be true," Artemis answered simply.
"When is the wedding?' Howl asked. He might have been forlorn, but his face was like Artemis'. It betrayed nothing.
"Can you not talk to Alicia about these matters?" Artemis asked. This time the answer was written clearly on Howl's face.
He couldn't ask Alicia because he couldn't bring himself to talk to her about it.
"Next month," Artemis answered quickly, "now if you would excuse me…" And with that, the boy ducked out of the drawing room. Artemis had no want to be around Howl any longer. Though his cousin was the picture of gentleman-like politeness and grace, there was something about the boy that Artemis just didn't like. Maybe it was because he was too perfect. Maybe it was his gentle voice and looks.
Maybe it was the way Alicia looked at him as though the sun only shone on him.
Artemis pushed that thought out of his mind as quickly as it had entered it. He walked out of the hallway, shaking his head. There was something seriously wrong with him. Alicia did one nice thing for him and his feels of discontent for her disappeared. Maybe those morals his father and Holly had instilled in him weren't for the best…
"Your highness! Is there something the matter?"
Artemis turned and found a very concerned maid looking at him.
"You are usually not up at this hour. Is everything alright?" she continued. There weren't any clocks that Artemis could see, but judging by the intensity of the light shining through the many windows, the boys inferred that it had to be past noon.
Once again Artemis shook his head. The difference between himself and the Crown Prince always managed to take him slightly off guard. What kind of person was the Crown Prince?
"Escort me to my office," Artemis demanded. He was sure that was something that the Crown Prince would say. Judging the maid's face, his assumption was dead on. The concerned expression was wiped off the woman's face and was immediately replaced with a nervous one.
"Of course, Crown Prince" she said quickly, bowing and leading him down the hallway. Artemis followed, examining the splendor of his living quarters. It had been late when he had entered the palace last night and he had been stricken down with dimension sickness not long after so he had never had the chance to truly appreciate the beautiful artwork that was displayed everywhere.
Artemis found his mind wandering back to the bowl he had taken from Alicia's palace. He wondered where Butler had put it. Such a delicate piece of work should be placed somewhere prominent, the boy thought.
"We are here, your highness," the maid said, cutting through Artemis' thoughts. He looked up to see her standing in front of a large oak door.
"Oh yes," Artemis said. He was about to say 'thank you', but he stopped himself. That didn't seem like something the Crown Prince would do, and until he found out more about this dimension Artemis didn't want to make it too obvious that he wasn't the Crown Prince.
"Is there anything else his highness needs?" the maid asked.
"Call Lady Holly and tell her to meet me here," he answered. The lady nodded and quickly walked away, already motioning for the guards to go and get Holly from her quarters.
Slowly, Artemis opened the door and found himself in a rather sizable office. The wall opposite to the door was comprised of one incredibly large window, which provided a beautiful view of the canals and gardens. In front of the window was a grand wooden desk with a slim computer sitting on top of it. The rest of the walls were comprised of bookshelves, all stuffed with exceedingly dusty books.
It seemed that reading wasn't one of the Crown Prince's favorite hobbies.
Artemis walked over to the desk. At this moment all he wanted to was to find out as much information about the Lion Kingdom as possible. He started the computer and sank down into the desk chair. While waiting for the computer, Artemis opened up The Complete History of the Lion Kingdom, skimming through the first few pages.
"Recent history of the Lion Throne," Artemis read out loud as he turned to the chapter. He noted that the book seemed rather worn, as though a curious reader had possessed it for many years.
Artemis' eyes scanned the page, collecting all of the information that he could. When the computer finally turned on, he immediately searched for all the facts that the book left out. Half an hour and countless amounts of reading later, Artemis felt as though he was rather well versed in the history of his family. This is the good thing about being a genius, Artemis thought smugly, you pick up information quickly.
Artemis was just about to get up and see if the two guests were still in his drawing room when the door burst open.
"Who is the couple out in the hallway?" Holly asked as she walked into the room. Artemis noted that the fairy had large dark circles under her eyes and that her hair was a bit frizzled. Plus he knew the green tinge in her face couldn't be completely because of motion sickness from the gondola ride.
"Ah, you experienced the dimension sickness as well," he said, smiling slightly. Holly scowled.
"Lets not talk about that," Holly said darkly, "having the sickness is bad enough, but try being nursed by the Royal doctor. Trouble was force-feeding me useless medicine and kept doing tests on me all night long, trying to figure out what I had since I couldn't tell him the truth behind my sickness".
"At least you didn't have an insane high schooler nursing you," Artemis mumbled, motioning to his bright pink pajamas, which, for some unknown reason, he still hadn't changed out of. Holly's eyebrows shot up and it took all of her self-control to not laugh out loud. She knew for certain that the sight of Artemis in pink pajamas was one that wouldn't leave her for a while.
Burned on her retinas, it was.
"Alicia nursed you back to health?" Holly asked, "Is she the redhead out in the hallway talking to that other boy?"
"Most likely," Artemis answered, providing nothing more.
"Ah, so is she cheating on you with another man?" Holly pressed. From the way that Alicia and the mystery boy had been talking, it seemed they were rather close.
"Alicia and I would actually have to be in a relationship for her to be able to cheat on me," Artemis answered, "and that boy is actually my cousin, Howl".
"Your cousin?" Holly asked, surprised, "I didn't think you had a cousin in our dimension"
"Father had a sister he was estranged from," Artemis said, "We didn't ever talk about her much. It seems to be that case in this dimension as well".
"Ah, so Howl's mother is estranged from the rest of the family?" Holly asked. Artemis nodded his head.
"Howl's mother is older than my father by five years," he answered, walking over to his desk. It was time to share all of the information he had found; "her and her husband were in line to be the next king and queen after my grandfather passed away, and Howl was the Crown Prince of the kingdom. However, about a year before my grandfather passed away, my aunt's husband was killed in a car accident."
Holly's mismatched eyes widened as Artemis continued on with his explanation. Though the story was a bit morbid, Holly still had to admit that things in this dimension were much more interesting than the old one—even history here was like something out of a drama.
"My aunt still would have been queen, since the official royal rules state that the eldest child of the Lion family will lead the kingdom, regardless of gender. However, the royal court found her to be mentally unfit to take the crown, they said that she went insane after her husband's death. Instead, my father took the crown. My aunt was named a duchess and both Howl and her were forced to move out into the country".
"If that is the case then what is Howl doing here in the palace?" Holly asked, sinking down into a chair near the desk.
"I suppose my aunt and him were called back for the wedding," Artemis said, shrugging his thin shoulders.
"Then how are him and your fiancée so close? How did they meet if he's been living out in the country this whole time?" Holly further questioned.
"Holly, I am not some sort of magic 8 ball that you can continue to ask questions to," Artemis said, a groan evident in his voice.
"You are the genius here," Holly retorted, "shouldn't you know everything?"
Artemis frowned deeply at the elf's words. Not because they were cruel, but because they hit the exact frustration that was torturing Artemis. He was used to being a genius, to knowing everything there was to know. He understood everything in his dimension perfectly. But now he was in a complete different world where he seemed to know less about his own history than an average kindergarten student. His brain was still sharp, but what was the use of having a sharp brain if everything was so unfamiliar. So far it seemed that all of his theories, all of his assumptions, had been dead wrong. It was a hard concept for the boy to comprehend, this 'being wrong' business.
God, he was becoming as bad as the Crown Prince.
Holly looked at the boy, noticing how his features had all darkened after she had uttered her last statement. The small elf bit her bottom lip, wondering if she had been too harsh on him. Artemis might be a genius, but Holly kept forgetting that he was also just a teenager.
"Artemis…" she started, but was silenced by a harsh wave from the boy.
"I have decided that this book and I will become best friends from now on," he said resolutely, holding up The Complete History of the Lion Kingdom.
"Did my ears fail me or did I just hear that the Crown Prince is going to become best friends with a book?"
Artemis and Holly both turned towards the entrance of the study, where Alicia was perched, one hip leaning against the doorframe.
"Do you always feel the need to barge in on me?" Artemis asked, raising his eyebrows at the redhead.
"I have never barged in on you anytime before," Alicia said quickly, "and besides, the door was open. If you needed your privacy you could have closed it".
Artemis cast a pointed look at Holly—the reason why the door had been left open. The elf just returned his look with a sheepish smile.
"What did you hear?" Artemis asked Alicia, cautiously. He didn't know how long the girl had been standing there, and it could be dangerous if she knew the truth. After all, the more people that knew about the fact that him and Holly were from another dimension the more complicated it would be to go back. As it was Foaly would have to perform a vast amount of mind wipes, Artemis didn't want to add another person to the list.
"Oi, Glitter Hearts, do you think I have nothing better to do than to listen to all of your conversations?" Alicia cried, "Considering the fact that you tend to not use words with more than three syllables, your conversations are usually pretty boring".
Glitter Hearts?, Holly mouthed to Artemis, confused. The boy just shook his head. He had a feeling that he would have to be explaining that nickname quite a bit in the future.
"So if you weren't listening to our conversation, is there a reason why you came here? Are you trying to be some sort of stalker?" Artemis asked. He expected the girl to be enraged over his comment, but she seemed surprisingly nonplussed. In fact she even grinned at the comment.
Artemis chose to ignore the entrancing way the girl's mouth curved as she shot him that lopsided grin of hers.
"I never knew you had such a sense of humor before," Alicia said, as though the thought of her stalking Artemis was the funniest thing she had heard in days.
Holly looked on the scene with growing interest. Alicia could never match Artemis in intelligence, but Holly knew that the girl could easily outwit him.
"Howl wanted me to tell you that he had to leave," the girl continued, "he had come to visit to tell you that him and his mother were moving into Western Palace".
"They are moving back here?" Artemis asked suddenly, eyebrows raised in interest.
"Are they allowed to do that?" Holly asked at the same time.
"I suppose they decided to move closer in order to help with the wedding," Alicia answered, shrugging her slight shoulders.
"He didn't seem happy about the wedding," Artemis said suddenly. It didn't take a genius to figure out who the 'he' Artemis was referring to was.
"We're best friends," Alicia said, reiterating her earlier claim. Though both Artemis and Holly could see that her words weren't all truthful, "he's just protective".
Holly turned towards Artemis, her eyebrows raised. Artemis could clearly see what the small elf was thinking. There was more history between Alicia and Howl than just being 'best friends'.
Not that it really mattered. As soon as Artemis found a way to get them out of this dimension—and he would find a way—the matters of Alicia and Howl and every other odd person in this dimension wouldn't make any difference.
Holly, however, was a bit more curious than Artemis.
"Alicia…Crown Princess," she corrected quickly, "how exactly did Howl and you meet? He lived in the countryside after all".
"He transferred into my school three years ago," Alicia said, "but we actually met a year before that in the Rondale".
Holly nodded her head slightly, but Artemis looked at the girl in confusion.
"The Rondale?" he asked. Alicia looked at him, equally as confused.
"Yes…the Rondale," she said, much slower, as though she was explaining something to a very slow five year old.
Artemis frowned slightly. It was obvious that this 'Rondale' was a place, and it was also obvious that Alicia felt as though he should know what it was. And, above all, it was extremely frustrating that he didn't know anything about it. He had accepted the fact that he didn't know much about this dimension, but accepting the fact didn't make it okay.
"Don't tell me you have never been to the Rondale before," Alicia said, her voice masked in wonder.
"I haven't," Artemis answered. And it was true. The Crown Prince might have gone, but he never had.
"What kind of Dubliner are you?" Alicia cried out, "you've lived here for eighteen years and you've never been?"
"The Crown Prince isn't allowed outside the palace grounds," Holly said quickly, remembering what Foaly had said to her earlier.
"As if all those bars that Glitter Hearts has been pictured in are on palace grounds," Alicia said, one eyebrow raised, "you let him out of the palace to get drunk, but you don't let him go the Rondale? It was named Ireland's top treasure, you know!"
"Ah, sounds like a shame the Crown Prince has never been there, then," Holly said, a smile growing on her face and a plan forming in her head.
"Of course it's a shame!" Alicia answered back. She walked up to Artemis and grabbed his arm, pulling him out of the study. The boy genius stumbled behind her for a couple of feet, a bit taken aback by the girl's sudden aggressive action.
"What…what are you doing?" he asked.
"It doesn't matter if you are the biggest jerk in all of Ireland," Alicia said, "you are coming to see the Rondale right now. It is an absolutely beautiful place, and absolutely essential place for a future King to experience".
"But Holly just expressed that I couldn't go out," Artemis said, mind reeling.
"Ah, Lady Holly, you understand the importance of this, don't you?" Alicia asked, turning her large brown eyes to Holly, "can you let it slide this once? We'll be discrete".
"Oh, I suppose it is okay this once," Holly answered, smiling widely. Artemis glared angrily at her as Alicia drug him out of the office.
"How strong are you?" he cried, turning towards his fiancée, "are you even a girl?"
Holly did her best to conceal her laughter at the completely out of character outburst that came out of Artemis. She knew that the boy would be upset at her for not helping him out.
But I am helping you, the small elf thought as she heard Alicia continue to lead a very disgruntled Artemis outside. Holly had seen the way that Artemis had interacted with the straightforward and sharp girl. She saw the way Artemis' eyes had grown soft once Alicia had grinned, and she also saw how much he tried to ignore that fact.
Sure, with Artemis' and Foaly's great minds working together, they might be out of this dimension soon, but Holly always was the mischievous one. Though, Holly thought, it couldn't really be called mischievousness if it was done for a good reason. She was just giving Artemis and Alicia a push in the right direction.
So they might be out of this dimension at anytime, but that still didn't mean that Artemis didn't deserve a little happiness while he was here.
"Who knows," Holly said to herself, leaning back in her chair, "maybe our little genius boy will actually learn something about love…"
A/N: Okay, so there it is. What did you think of it? Comments of any kind are always welcome.
I plan on bringing Minerva into the story either next chapter or the one after it, and I am getting rather excited about that fact. I think Minerva is one of the most interesting characters in this story, so I can't wait to write her!
And I will try my best to update a lot quicker this time around! I really do need to set a writing schedule for myself... haha. Until next time, Gracias y besos!!