[15th of September, 2740 AD; The Royal Kingdom of Thekohn – Rio Grove]
The scent of tulips was a warm welcome for Rain. She and the rest of her friends had finally made it into the kingdom that she called home. It was here that Rain could finally get to the bottom of the the potential assassination of her father. Before she could return home, though, she had to make it through the Rio Grove first, a place where many a tourist had nothing but high praise for.
“I bet you come here a lot, don’t you?” Sorin asked.
Rain nodded. “Whenever I feel tired or I just want to blow off some steam, I always come here,” she replied. “Though it’s been a while, to be honest. It’s almost nostalgic being here.”
“Wow, so this is where you grew up,” Mina said. “Just looking at that big tree over there almost makes me want to take a nap!”
“Hehe, don’t get tired yet,” Rain said. “I still want to make it home before we rest. I must ensure my father’s safety first and foremost.”
“It really is a nice place, though,” Noa said, as he soon muttered to himself. “If only I didn’t listen to him that day, then maybe…”
“Are you okay?” Rain asked.
“It’s nothing,” Noa answered. “I was just going over some thoughts in my head. Should we move on?”
“We can do that,” Rain said. “I know for a fact that my sister should be in the castle, so perhaps we can see what she has to say.”
“If nothing is holding us back, then let’s go,” Sorin said. “It’ll be my first time actually seeing your home up close.”
It took little time for the four of them to make it over to Thedam Castle, making it past the grove and towards the gates where two guards stood tall as if nothing could budge them. Upon seeing Rain, however, their faces turned from stoicness to delight.
“Your Highness, welcome back!”
“Same to you, Wess,” Rain replied. “And how are you, Thom?”
“We’re doing really good out here,” Thom replied. “There’s been no problems whatsoever to speak of, Your Highness!”
“I’m glad to hear that,” Rain said.
“Are we to assume these people are with you?” Wess asked.
“Yes, these are my friends,” Rain replied. “I’m sorry, but we’re in a bit of a hurry.”
“No need to apologize,” Wess said. “I understand it gets pretty hectic in the castles sometimes, so go right on ahead. As for you three, any friend of Her Highness is a friend that Thom and I can trust.”
“That so?” Noa asked. “Even someone like me?”
“You haven’t done anything wrong, have you?” Thom asked back to Noa. “Take a load off and enjoy the honor of visiting Thedam Castle, sir.”
Noa exhaled of sigh of relief. “Thank you,” he said. “I’ll try not to get in the way too much.”
“I’ll make sure you don’t,” Mina said, “After all, this is Rain’s home and we shouldn’t make too much of a mess while we’re here!”
“That’s quite enough for now,” Rain said. “Wess, Thom, have you seen my sister around?”
“Oh yes, she should be inside,” Thom answered. “She was actually wondering where you’ve been the past few days now. I’m sure it’ll put a smile on her face to see you return.”
“I’m sure it will,” Rain said. “She’ll get along with these three, I think.”
“Well, Princess Storm likes to learn,” Wess said. “No doubt she’s gonna ask them plenty of questions about who they are and what they do.”
“It would be surprising if she didn’t,” Rain said. “Anyway, I’ve held you two up for too long. Take care for now.”
“Same to you, Your Highness,” Thom replied.
“See you around,” Wess said. “Come see us again sometime!”
Rain laughed. “I’ll be sure to do that,” she said. She turned to Mina and the rest. “Shall we?”
Rain led the others past the gate and into the castle. Sorin took a look around the inside and it was as astonishing as he imagined it in his mind. The royal blue walls lined with sparkling gold stood out amongst all else as Mina and Noa walked up to the desk nearby. On the desk was a small, well sculpted statue of the first King of Thekohn, Meredith Rio Thedam.
“Woah, who’s this guy?” Mina asked.
“Ah, well, that happens to be my great, great, great, great grandfather,” Rain answered. “I take it you know how this region was founded, don’t you?”
“Sort of,” Mina said. “So he was the one who founded it?”
“Not by himself, no,” Rain said, “But he was part of a legendary group that helped to establish this land.”
“Thedam, Iiayine, Ahnle, Maein, and Ji. Though they were commonly referred to the founders of the ‘Thekohnian Region,’ there were multiple others that had settled into their own lands as well.”
Rain turned in the direction of the familiar voice. Her sister was atop the stairs and started to walk down.
“Sister, it’s so good to see you again,” Rain said as she rushed over to greet Storm. “How have you been?”
Storm embraced Rain. “I’ve been well,” she replied. “These are the friends you have traveled with?”
“Yes they are,” Rain said. “If you don’t mind.”
“Of course, of course, sister,” Storm said. She moved over to Mina and greeted herself. “Amazing, your handshake is quite strong.”
“Thanks,” Mina said. She then proceeded to give her introduction to Storm. “I’m every villain’s worst nightmare and I’ve been helping your sister along the way to help stop evil wherever it may be!”
“Well, you are indeed as flamboyant as you are powerful,” Storm said. “It looks as if my sister has made a very good friend in that regard.”
Sorin then introduced himself. “It’s an honor to meet you, Your Highness.”
“You don’t need to act so distant with me,” Storm said. “You are my sister’s friend, aren’t you? And the son of Kirk Wilk, at that.”
“The legend travels far,” Rain said. “I’ve had the pleasure of meeting his father and he was as nice as they say.”
“Oh, if only I went with you,” Storm replied, “But I’m sure you wouldn’t have wanted me to get in your way, would you?”
“I know that you jest, but you wouldn’t have been burden to me on my trip,” Rain answered.
“If not for my studies, I’d have gone with you,” Storm said. “It’s not all the time one of us gets to see the rest of the world, so I’m glad you got to experience it firsthand, sister.”
“We’ve learned a lot from her,” Mina said. “Your home is really beautiful, by the way!”
Storm bowed. “Thank you, Miss Mina,” she replied. “I see your other friend here hasn’t spoken up yet.”
“Oh, Noa probably feels overwhelmed by your presence,” Mina said. “It’s just who he is, that’s all.”
“It’s not that,” Noa said. “I’m just not good at introductions… Or talking to people… Or much else besides what I’m good at…”
“You don’t need to put yourself down just because you’re in my sister’s presence,” Rain said. “Please make just make yourself comfortable.”
“Indeed,” Storm said. “If you will, perhaps you guys can join me for dinner tonight? I’ll let the chefs knew there are guests coming to dine.”
“That would be nice,” Sorin replied.
“Ooh, I wonder what they’ve got cooking tonight,” Mina said. “I can’t wait!”
Rain smiled. “I think you should tell the chefs to make some extra food, my dear sister.”
“Well, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t listen to your request, Rain,” Storm said. “If you’ll excuse me.”
Storm headed off in the direction towards the kitchen as Rain and the others were left to themselves. They received quite a treat at dinner later tonight, as Mina struggled to figure out what to eat first. Noa ate his meal slowly, making sure to enjoy the time he spent inside the grand castle, while Sorin answered every one of Storm’s questions about his father.
“I heard he helped lead the Ameci army to a victory in Bel Dale twelve years ago,” Storm said. “You must be very proud of his accomplishments.”
“I guess you could say so,” Sorin replied.
“Is it true he’s never taken a life?” Storm asked. “All the texts and news I’ve heard say that he was known as the ‘Forgiving Warrior,’ though many did say he would not hesitate to use force when necessary.”
Sorin hesitated for a few seconds. “He’s as kind as they say, I guess,” he said. “I’ve not had much the chance to ask him about his tales myself, however.”
“That’s odd,” Storm said. “You are his son, yet you’ve barely expressed any enthusiasm whenever you speak about him. Is something the matter?”
Sorin did not answer.
“I think that might be a bit too personal,” Rain said.
“Oh, I’m sorry!” Storm exclaimed. “Please forgive me, Mr. Wilk.”
“It’s fine,” Sorin said.
“Well, I hope you can resolve whatever it is between you and your father,” Storm replied.
“Anyway, Noa, what do you think of the meal?” Rain asked.
“It’s exquisite,” Noa said. “I mean… it’s really delicious.”
“I’ll be sure to let the chefs know you said that,” Storm said. “They would appreciate the high praise coming from Mr. Noa Mzade.”
“You don’t need to do that,” Noa replied.
“Come on, I don’t think it would hurt,” Rain said.
“I just don’t want to bring a lot of attention to myself,” Noa said. “Please, let’s just drop it already.”
“How humble of you, Mr. Mzade,” Storm said. “I suppose that I can learn a lot from you.”
“Are you sure?” Noa asked. “If you learned what I’ve learned… Well, actually, never mind…”
He went back into eating his food as Rain turned to face Sorin.
“I’m going to take an early leave,” Rain said. “I have to go check up on how my father is doing.”
“I understand,” Sorin said.
“Thank you for treating us tonight, sister,” Rain said. “I’ve got to go take an early leave, though, so I hope you don’t mind.”
“Of course not,” Storm replied. “Just seeing you is enough of a treat.”
“Thanks again,” Rain said.
She stood up and headed out of the dining room as Sorin finished off his meal. With that done, all he could think about was what he was going to do once Rain finished up checking on her father. As he relaxed in his seat, though, Storm still had more questions.
“That girl over there,” Storm said as she looked at Mina from the corner of her eye, “Does she truly have bottomless stomach?”
“I don’t think that’s the case,” Sorin said. “Mina just trains a lot and she needs the sustenance to match that training.”
“Ah, I see now,” Storm replied. “Being a hero must be some rigorous work for you three.”
“It hasn’t been the easiest of rides, that much I can say,” Sorin replied.
Storm leaned in. “Do tell.”
“Maybe for another time,” Sorin said. “I think I’m going to go take a walk. Noa, Mina, would you guys like to come with me?”
“Sorry, I can’t,” Noa replied.
Mina took a break from eating. “Me neither!”
Sorin stood up. “I had a feeling,” he said. “Anyway, I’d like to thank you for your hospitality, Storm. You’re every bit as nice as your sister.”
Storm beamed. “Thank you!”
“Not a problem,” Sorin replied.
With that, Sorin exited the dining room and headed outside for a stroll. The sun was nearly gone now as night fast approached. Sorin knew that there was an uncertainty hanging in the air as he could only imagine what Gale was up to right now. Of course she would be safe, that much Sorin knew because Ayanna was every bit as strong and capable of handling a crisis. Still, he had to think what was going through Gale’s mind at the moment. Sorin had to know, which was why he went back inside and made it for the nearest telephone. Just hearing her voice would be reassuring as Sorin heard the phone ring once, twice, three times until the other side picked up.
“Hello?” Sorin asked. “Oh, I’m so glad to hear you!”
Later into the night after all was said and done, Mina awoke from her rest and sat up in her bed. After she had finished eating, Mina went outside to train with the limited resources she had in the courtyard. She had wanted to continue into the night, but Rain had stopped her before it got too dark. There would be plenty more times for her to get better, Mina knew, but now she was awake late at night and needed to go.
“Where did Rain say the bathroom was again?”
Mina stepped out of the guest bedroom and out into the hallway. There was a dim light coming from the end of the hall as Mina followed it. What awaited her at the end was two different paths as Mina remembered that the bathroom was to the right. Once she was finished with her business, Mina started to head back to her room but noticed Rain looking at a framed picture.
“Rain, is that you?”
“Oh, Mina, you’re up,” Rain said as she turned around.
“Yeah, I got up because I had to pee,” Mina replied. “What are you doing?”
“I’m just thinking to myself,” Rain answered. “I tried to see how my father was doing earlier, but his retainers were quite insistent that he still needed his rest and denied me access.”
“I’m honestly a little worried,” Rain said. “What will happen if, heaven forbid, he’s gone?”
“There’s still the queen, right?” Mina asked.
“I know, Mina,” Rain replied. “I just… I just worry about what the future holds and if I’ll be able to handle it. After what happened to the prime minister of your country, there’s no telling what direction Iiayikohn will take. I’m sure it’ll be the same difficulty for here should the worst happen.”
“Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” Rain said. “Even if it gets bad, I’m going to tell myself not to cry. I have to keep a brave face for my family’s sake. No, not just them, but for the sake of my kingdom.”
“It doesn’t hurt to let a few tears out,” Mina said. “If… if you feel sad, you can rest your head on my shoulder!”
“Thank you, Mina,” Rain said. “I should be okay, though. I have to be if I want to stop this from happening.”
She came closer to Mina and looked her in the eyes.
“Besides, I have you at my side, don’t I?” Rain asked.
“I… I guess that was a little too close for comfort, wasn’t it,” Rain said. She sighed as she turned away. “To be honest, there’s something I’ve been meaning to get off my chest for a while now but haven’t had the courage to say it.”
“You shouldn’t be afraid to say anything that’s on your mind,” Mina replied, “Just tell me what it is and I promise I won’t laugh or anything like that!”
“Always so simple with your words, aren’t you?” Rain asked. As she faced Mina once again, Rain let out a sigh of relief. “The thing is, I’m very glad to have met you. No other person has made me feel happier the way you have.”
“Really? Thanks,” Mina replied.
“It’s because of that happiness that I’ve come to develop strong feelings for you,” Rain said. “Feelings that no man has ever made me feel in my life.”
“If you don’t feel the same way, then I will understand,” Rain replied, “But if I don’t say it now, then when will I get the chance to say it? I love you, Mina. I have ever since the day I met you.”
“Are you serious?” Mina asked. “This… this isn’t a joke, is it?”
Rain shook her head and smiled. “I’d never lie to you about something like this,” she said as she grabbed Mina’s hands. “I can tell by the look in your eyes that you have something to say, too.”
“I do, I do,” Mina replied. “Oh gosh, I thought I could only feel this rush fighting villains, but I guess there’s a first for everything, isn’t there?”
“Of course,” Rain said.
“Well, I guess I want to say I love you too,” Mina said. “I wanted to know why I’d do so much for you, even more than all of my other friends, and I guess it’s because I love you so much!”
“I’m so happy to hear that coming from you,” Rain replied. “You know, up close I can see how cute your smile really is.”
“I… thanks,” Mina said. “Your smile’s really cute, too…”
“You just know what to say, don’t you?” Rain asked. “Oh, I just can’t hold back any longer… Mina, would you?”
“I thought you’d never ask!”
Mina then shared the moment with Rain, though quiet as it may be, and enjoyed the feeling of love. Her lips up against Rain’s, Mina felt it to be true and wanted nothing more than to have this moment last forever. It was a newfound feeling and Mina did not want to let it get away from her.
To be continued…