An Unlikely Alliance
Something had been peculiarly out of place ever since Mint walked out of the dining area.
It was as if a spell had been cast to drown the entire castle in a most unusual state of placidity. The place was never this quiet no matter how late into the night and it was this sense of foreboding that plagued anyone who dared disturb the eerie silence that has befallen the castle's empty halls.
Dinner had been sent to the princess' chambers, as she requested, and the dishes had been returned to the kitchens to be washed hours ago.
There wasn't a sign of activity from her room since then.
No noise bounced off the walls. There were no sudden explosions to alert the guards, no commands to send the maids into panic and no shrill voices to signify that the siblings had gotten into another squabble – nothing.
They had simply assumed that the princess had gone to bed early, as unlikely as that seemed, and soon all the castle occupants had gone to sleep as well.
All but two.
Maya stood outside her elder sister's door, questioning her own common sense and lack of better judgment. The young princess couldn't help but wonder what the hell she could be thinking, wandering the halls in the dead of night when not even her father's loud snoring dared venture into the empty spaces of the castle.
Someone might as well fetch her a knife from the kitchen so she could slice through the tension that was hanging thick in the air.
The girl wished life could be as simple as it was in the worlds she escaped into, spending countless hours reading through her favorite books in the castle library. She would then be the brave hero, sneaking around in the shadows of the evil witch's den, or the nervous maiden anxiously awaiting the arrival of her secret lover.
Alas she was none of these and the situation was far more ridiculous than the romantic prose to be found within the yellowed pages of an expensive book. No. Oddly enough, the reason she was out here was because she needed to speak to her sister. The sister she knew would never give up the throne that easily.
Something was amiss and the slightly ajar door of Mint's room confirmed her suspicions.
"Mint?" she tested her voice to see if her vocal chords were still functioning properly.
Soft moonlight slipped into the dim corridor through the small crack in the doorway. Maya decided to forgo knocking and took a little peek instead.
Inside, shadows danced on the walls of Mint's room. Not a single patch of the pristinely washed Ephlesian cotton sheets could be seen under the steadily growing pile of clothes that was strewn haphazardly about the bed.
"No, no no! I can't take any of these with me!" Mint's clear frustration seeped into her hushed words as she proceeded to raid the contents of her fairly sized wardrobe.
Out flew robes, gowns and cocktail dresses. Silk sashes, diamond encrusted belts and various pieces of jewelry joined the mess of papers, books and pillows littering the lush carpeted floor.
In two stacks among the clothes left on the bed were folded pairs of leggings and underwear. The girl hated to waste her time trying to figure out what else to bring with her.
The moss green gown she wore to Maya's last birthday celebration?
The teal ensemble given to her by the prince of Ixpen on his last diplomatic visit to the kingdom?
The stupid robes she had to wear every time Gramps forced her to sit down in every boring High Council meeting?
"Nah, don't think so."
The golden trimmed, pink chiffon wedding gown with elaborate ruffles and a huge bow that her father had tried to make her wear last month when he attempted to force her into an arranged marriage with the prince of –
"- not even thinking about it!" Mint violently tossed the pink monstrosity across the room while waving the horrible memories of the failed wedding away from her mind.
At that point, Maya had gained enough courage to forget about seeking permission to enter her sister's room and pushed the door fully open. Mint's gaze snapped from the rumpled clothes to the intruder almost instantly.
Her muscles tensed and ready for an attack, the girl's hand instinctively wandered to the rings fastened to her back. Her apprehension was replaced by confusion when the dim light made her sister's form recognizable. "Maya is that you?"
"Yes dear sister, it is I." Maya began before noticing the poor state of order her sister's room was in. "My goodness! What is all this?"
"What's it look like to you?" Mint lowered her guard just a little bit, reminding herself that Maya now had the Book of Cosmos. "I'm packing."
Maya's brows furrowed in question. Packing? But that was absurd! Where was her sister going? Did their father know about this?
Neither of the sisters has left the castle alone before and they most certainly did not do their own packing. Especially not Mint. "Where are you going?"
Mint knew that question was coming next so she began stuffing her underwear and leggings into her knapsack to stall for time. How was she to answer that when she couldn't even explain why she had this sudden urge to leave for a town she only ever knew existed in her dreams? She wasn't even sure that there was really a town called Carona at all, nor did she even know what general direction it was in.
Still, she had to do something.
If she had to leave the administration of her kingdom in the hands of those stuck up, close minded old farts any longer then she might as well run away and hatch a plan to win it back. But the girl knew leaving the safety of East Heaven meant learning to stand on her own. Mint was no fool, brash, but not simple-minded.
If she wanted adventure, she had to learn to kick butt faster. Late night sparring sessions with the Masters and self taught magic just wouldn't cut it anymore. Her first logical step would then be to go to –
Maya was surprised. She hadn't expected Mint to be serious. Indeed, her sister had threatened to run away a number of times before, usually when she got something her sister wanted, but it was only now that the princess seemed so decided to go through with it. "Y-you're really going to leave aren't you?"
"Yep." Mint answered without even bothering to look at Maya anymore. Her plan was finally taking shape in her head and she was too occupied with trying to catch up with the speed of her running thoughts.
Mint had a natural talent for thinking on her toes.
"And since I don't seem to have any clothes that would pass as normal in a public setting, I'm just gonna have to go in what I'm wearing now. Maybe I'll buy myself more later." Mint stated with as much vulgarity as usual.
"I can't be Queen of the world just sitting around here watching dad get bossed around by those old bags you know."
"…" Maya did not know what to say to that.
Mint slung the small bag over her back and checked to see that her rings were in place before kicking a few dresses out of her way to the door. The larger picture of her devious plan slowly began to take form in the girl's mind as she brushed passed her speechless sister.
"Central's got an updated library of texts on the ancients," she mused, "I need more information on the doo…" the girl paused.
"On the Duper...Du...Dupe something. Ah who cares! I'll find out once I get there."
"The Dewprism?", Maya thought as she ran to catch up with her sisters pace. "Mint! How do you know of that?"
Maya dared not believe any one of their magical instructors would be careless enough to mention the potentially dangerous topic to Mint of all people.
The elder princess continued to walk down the corridor without bothering to look back at Maya. She knew her sister would follow close behind. The conversation wasn't over yet.
"If I told you Maya, you wouldn't believe me," she said. "I don't even believe it myself…"
Soon, the castle's main doors came into view, just a few more paces down the grand staircase and across the polished marble floor. The cold milky surface of the reflective marble was streaked with gleaming streaks of pure gold. Ah, how she would miss this place…
"Mint wait! What do you really plan to do anyway?" Maya finally tired of her sister's uncharacteristically cryptic words.
Mint paused and turned to her sister. She knew it was now or never. Should she get caught, her dreams of ever leaving would be toast.
"You wanna know what I'm gonna do huh?" she placed a hand on her hip to show Maya that her patience was wearing dangerously thin.
"I've decided Maya," she announced, "that I'm going to be Queen of the World."
"I knew the council disapproved of my er… choice of lifestyle, but I didn't think they'd go as far as revoking my right to the crown."
Already Mint's hand was at the golden handle of castle's main doors. Never mind that the entrance was locked, how did she even expect to be able to push them open?
It took three servants to move the majestic doors enough to allow passage into the castle everyday. The doors were only closed at the end of the work day, before the castle servants retired to their quarters.
The ridiculous security measure was implemented merely a moth ago to reinforce the strict palace curfew. Sadly, it did little to keep the princess in. Trying the backdoor would have been a good idea but that door was closer to the servant's quarters and that increased the chances of getting caught.
"How on Earth do you plan to get passed that now, dear sister?" Maya watched her sister tinker with the heavy lock and gasped when she heard a faint click. The lock fell to the floor with a dull thud.
"A little trick Trap taught me to shut me up about him crushing over Mode… hard." Mint explained with a mischievous grin.
"Y'see Maya," the girl continued, "I don't believe for one second that those damn old men at the council find you any more suitable to rule East Heaven than I am."
"I mean, sure ya got the brains and I'll admit, the influence, but without that book y'got now, your strength just doesn't count for much."
Maya couldn't help but feel insulted although the girl knew her sister spoke the truth, childish rivalry and jealousy aside.
"So I thought I'd get me a relic too, just to even out the odds."
Maya was appalled to say the least. Did Mint know the implications of the things she was telling her? If she wasn't careful, she could very well be charged of treason for even saying anything about taking over the current Kingdom's administration, not to say running away was any better.
This had to be, by far, the most ludicrous scheme the number one terror of East Heaven Kingdom had cooked up yet.
Mint ran back up to the top of the staircase and Maya breathed a sigh of relief, thinking her sister had thought better of it and decided to just forget about everything. However, this little moment of respite proved premature when her sister decided to continue her explanation, almost forgetting to keep her voice down in all her excitement.
"It's just like our history lessons Maya. Who knew Prof. Darwin could make something this cool sound so boring huh?"
"We both know there are only two ways to gain rule over a kingdom…" Maya could see Mint grinning madly at her.
The girl stood frozen in shock as her sister recklessly hopped unto the staircase railing and slid down towards her at a frightening speed.
The young princess barely had time to scramble out of the way as Mint sailed over her head, aiming a kick towards one of the heavy doors.
Once the heavy sole of her boot hit the wooden surface of the door, the girl propelled herself back and drew her rings to fire a few rounds of white energy at the impact point of the kick.
Unbelievably, the door gave way enough to allow one person to squeeze through. Even harder to believe was the lack of reaction to the obvious commotion produced by Mint's act of violence.
"A war dear sister? Have you completely lost all sense of respect?" Maya spoke in a hushed tone. She could not understand why she seemed to be the one more concerned about getting caught. She figured this wasn't the first time the elder sister got the both of them in trouble.
It probably wouldn't be the last time either.
Fortunately, the servants' quarters were in a different area at the back of the castle and the palace guards were patrolling the perimeter in another sector of the royal grounds.
Somewhere in the back of her mind, Maya thought she ought to tell her father about the apparent lack of security.
"Well," Mint returned her rings to their fastenings behind her skirt " this is it."
Maya hesitated but…
The older princess had already managed to slip passed the gap in the doors but poked her head back to respond to her sister. "If those geezers that make up the high council couldn't even stop me, what makes you think you can Maya?!"
The emptiness of the hallway threatened to drown the pair in the endless deafening silence so much that one would think no one else was in the castle at all.
But Mint knew better.
The castle, gardens, the area being patrolled by the guards, was a thirty-minute sprint from their position.
This was where the years the girl spent being chased around by her nannies came in handy. She knew the palace safety protocols even better than the captain of the royal guards did himself.
Maya cringed at the cold look her sister fixed her with. The young princess nervously clutched the Book of Cosmos closer to her chest as if that would stop her frantically beating heart from fluttering right out of her rib cage.
"Y'know I'm still leaving even if you try to stop me," the look dissolved into Mint's usual arrogant smile, "Then, I'm gonna come back and steamroll you and that book with a [relic] of my own."
"Then the throne will be mine… and after that…" Mint looked absolutely giddy with excitement.
"IT'S WORLD DOMINATION TIME!!!"
Evading the inevitable no more, Mint finally dropped the question into the tension surrounding the both of them. "Now or never Maya," she said.
"My side," she shifted a little to show the other the space behind her, "or theirs?" she pointed back to the room Maya was in.
The girl slowly lifted her eyes to address the challenge in her sister's tone. Their wills locked in a fierce battle of equal determination.
For once, Maya believed Mint was right. For the first time in the history of both princesses, one sincerely agreed with the other. Dear Lord, what was to become of East Heaven now that the elder had finally managed to sway the other in her direction?
Maya made her choice.
Fire met fire and the girl's lips moved to speak words far stronger than anything that has been said in all her time spent in the castle.
"Very well then, I shall not attempt to convince you to stay any longer."
Mint smiled in triumph, glad that Maya finally saw things her way. The invisible force that had frozen the pair in the heat of the moment began to dissipate but just as the elder princess took her first step away from the door, the other began to speak once more.
"Hold it Mint, I'm coming with you."
It was not a plea nor was it a question. It was clearly a command meaning there was absolutely no room left for an argument.
"I'm coming with you." Maya repeated.
And then the tables were turned on her dear sister.
Maya had, as with many occasions before, taken her sister's challenge and thrown it right back in her face!
Mint watched her world come to a crashing halt for the second time that day and this time, the nagging feeling that something was terribly out of place was harder to shake off.
But before her mind could catch up to the current situation, her lips had expelled the words into the night air almost automatically. Perhaps it was because of her willingness to take risks or it was the deeper reluctance to be traveling alone.
Whatever it was, Mint could not quite comprehend why she said, "You have fifteen minutes to grab you stuff. Any longer and the guards will find us."
"Try anything funny, and I'll leave you behind understood?" she added just in case.
Maya silently nodded and ran back to gather the things she would need for the trip from her room.
As Mint watched her sisters slowly disappearing form, she could not help but wonder out loud, "What now?"
But there was nobody around left to answer that question for her.