Here's chapter 5. Enjoy!
|"Washar, I'm glad to see you here." Naimoor greeted his brother as soon as he crossed the threshold of the palace. The others only gave him an indifferent look and nodded casually.
Almost every Madegaldian prince arrived in the huge audience hall, still filled with the smell of the feast from the previous day. Naimoor, Sujin, Seishin, and Misheril. Only the oldest and the third were missing. The youngest prince was also gone, but he left Madegald a few months ago, so no one was surprised by his absence.
"I arrived as soon as I found someone to replace me. What happened? Where is Shao Tien?"
"We met to find out," prince Seishin muttered, and looked at prince Naimoor. "Oh gods, I wonder why he disappeared without a word so suddenly!"
"I'd like to know it myself," Naimoor replied, ignoring the perfectly sensible provocation.
"I suspect our father must have said something about who is first in line for the throne. For example, that after Vishimon's possible death he is more inclined to transfer the crown to Shao Tien. It's logical. If someone wants to get into the fight for the crown, he would have to get rid of Shao Tien first, and then take care of Vishimon."
"If I were you, I would not try to accuse anyone too soon. You have no evidence for your thesis yet. And even if you're right, it means that the conspirator is among us. He hears what you say and may remember you. By the way, it's a shame Vishimon isn't here with us. Don't you think, brothers, that the future emperor should first take care of the imperial family before he sits down to write documents that could be done later?
"He'll help later in the search for sure," said Sujin. "Now, let's think about where to look. I suggest you ask your loved ones first, and then servants. We don't know if he left alone or if he was kidnapped, but he couldn't evaporate. Someone must have seen him carrying horse saddle, running away or fighting. Take anyone who can help!"
Washar offered to question the other guards in the treasury and headed there. The other brothers also returned to their duties.
Everyone saw Prince Shao Tien, but long before his disappearance, so their testimony was not helpful. Washar was fed up with listening so, he took a walk to the most guarded part of the building filled with valuables, where an old copy of the dynamite recipe that had to be burned lied in the black, crystal-studded box.
Or rather it supposed to be there.
It was not there. It disappeared. Washar incredulously checked the crate, and after a while poured its contents on the floor. The pearl necklace ripped apart and bright beads spilled all over the room. The coins rattled while falling, and the silver bracelets echoed them.
Fear pierced the prince to the bone. Once again, he searched all the places carefully, trying to not give up to panic. After that, he went to the place where the new, rewritten copy of the recipe was stored, deluding himself that maybe by accident he also hid old parchment with it.
When he did not find it there, he was sure that he failed as the guardian.
The treasury was robbed.
And the thief knew exactly what was the most precious thing there.
The sun was going down when Kalena noticed someone entering the garden.
Together with Galaspiael, they decided to take advantage of the charm of an exceptionally warm day and work outside. In addition to learning calligraphy, the prince showed her the basics of Shen fighting.
That day, she wrote eight pages of her fairy tale translation. Thus, she has already completed the second of a hundred stories.
"We were supposed to rewrite just one a day," he reminded when she asked him to translate the content of the following pages. "You don't want to finish the whole book today do you?"
"Thanks to this we can rest tomorrow," she said. Galaspiael laughed softly.
"Little one, you'll also have to rewrite one page tomorrow," he responded, "just because you worked more today doesn't mean tomorrow you won't."
"But ..." She paused noticing the mysterious stranger who had entered the garden and was heading towards them. "Who is this?"
Galaspiael leaned out.
"Ah, it's Zarkin. Rikken probably sent him with a message."
Hearing these foreign-sounding names, the girl began to look intensely at the stranger. So far, she hasn't met anyone from the Scribe's Association, except of course Galaspiael.
Zarkin turned out to be a young boy, probably her age, or a little younger. He was thin, and by his movements, it could be concluded that he was also extremely agile. He had fair, blonde hair and a calm look, but when his eyes met Kalena's, the girl shuddered. If it wasn't for a modest dress, one would get the impression that he was also a prince.
He bowed respectfully to Galaspiael and handed him the tube with a letter hidden inside.
"Kalena, take a break and come here," he asked. "This is Zarkin, the future apprentice of my friend Rikken. Zarkin, this is Kalena. She will be the apprentice of mine."
She shivered awkwardly, intimidated by this official introduction, and smiled nervously, not knowing what to say. The boy nodded politely and replied with a smile.
"It's a pleasure to meet you. I see you have already started learning." He pointed to her notes. "Can you write?"
In an instant, Kalena was overcome with incredible embarrassment. She quickly slammed the book shut.
"I'm just practicing," she replied nervously, "it's nothing sensational. Actually, I write tragically, I make mistakes all the time. And I can't read fast and fluently yet."
"I can't do it at all," Zarkin admitted and looked at her with undisguised admiration. Galaspiael stood up.
"Don't be so hard on yourself, you are getting better every day." He looked at Zarkin. "You are the first student from the Association that Kalena meets. I wanted you two to meet because you have a lot in common. I hope you'll like each other."
"It will certainly be so, master," said the blonde boy.
Galaspiael winked at Kalena and, disregarding her obvious embarrassment, he left her with this boy. Not knowing what to do with her hands, she unraveled the braid and began to style the dark hair in the most careful bun she had ever made. Zarkin's expression immediately changed.
"Do you know that he's rich enough to buy the whole Scribe headquarters if he wants to? Even the Madegaldian emperor himself does not have so much gold, because he had to build palaces for all his sons. When he gets the crown, he will be the second wealthiest ruler in the world. But nobody knows it because he keeps everything hidden in his treasury. I am not surprised that he is so self-confident!" he murmured and glanced at her briefly. "You're not from the royal family, are you? You seem fine."
"Of course not! I am... I was a slave," she corrected. The prince gave me freedom. And you?" She asked, seeing his reaction. Zarkin began to stare at her so intensely that she had to look away.
"I was a slave too," he confessed, "I'm glad you're going to enter the Association. We should stick together and support each other. If other students would find out that we are liberated slaves, they will not let us live."
"You think so?"
Zarkin narrowed his eyes slightly.
"Does he treat you well?"
"Yes," she said without hesitation, "like a little sister."
"So you're lucky. For me, free people are completely different. Everyone expects gratitude as if they liberated me only temporarily and could enslave me again. They consider themselves better, but they are not better than us. Imagine how those rich kids will behave in Yagn-Sho when they learn that they have to treat us equally."
Fear overwhelmed Kalena's whole body. She shuddered, feeling the cold that penetrated her inside.
"I didn't think about it," she admitted. The seed of doubt germinated quickly. Zarkin nodded.
'It's good that you're already learning to write. The man who is to teach us calligraphy will be the master of Princess Jin-Si from Velikania. I have already met her and there's no one in the world I hate more than her. Because of her stupid ideas, I almost earned a whipping, and that was after my liberation. We must try to outdo all the free kids because they will not play clean against us. But once the masters see our skills, free brats won't be able to do anything. If the prince or anyone else would do you any harm, you can always tell me. I'm not saying that everyone we'll meet will treat us badly, but it's better to be prepared."
When he said goodbye and left, Kalena felt that she wanted to cry. She returned home visibly upset and sighed heavily. Galaspiael noticed her mood change immediately.
"So there's no chance for a friendship?"
"I don't know," the girl sighed. "One conversation isn't enough to tell if someone is your friend."
"But enough to make an opinion about someone."
"Not always the accurate opinion," she responded. "Zarkin is nice." A bit strange but nice. He doesn't like aristocrats. And probably all the people who were born free."
"So why you in such a mood?"
"He told me that we need to stick together because other students will try to bully us. Even the masters... until we prove our skills, they will not treat us well because we're liberated slaves. And I... "She gave him a look of despair. "I don't know if I should go with you, I'm so scared."
"Little one," he began, and Kalena smiled involuntarily. She liked it when he addressed her this way. "You have nothing to fear. You will go with me to the Scribe's Association and give your best. I will help you as I can. Many people have finished this training, you can handle it too. And it doesn't matter you were a slave.