A Modern Fairy Tale Romance (Chapter 4)

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A Modern Fairy Tale Romance (Chapter 4: Homecoming) How can I decide what’s right?When you’re clouding up my mindI can’t win your losing fightAll the time Nor can I ever own what’s mineWhen you’re always taking sides...

A Modern Fairy Tale Romance (Chapter 4: Homecoming)

How can I decide what’s right?
When you’re clouding up my mind
I can’t win your losing fight
All the time

Nor can I ever own what’s mine
When you’re always taking sides
But you won’t take away my pride
No, not this time
Not this time

-Decode, Paramore-


Thursday,

May 2015

7:15 A.M

Dear Diary,

Another day, another day. Last two months had been really horrible. Not only had I encountered a Prince from another Dimension, but I’d been kidnapped by his nemesis! And to make the situation worse, I’d suffered a bad fever that very night when it happened.

The man who had kidnapped me, was a blue-skinned mutant bastard  a rock-star wannabe. He wore dark coloured makeups, completed with a lipstick too! His hairstyle was inspired by Elvis, I suppose.

I would have laughed my butt off if I didn’t suffered from the fever. Seriously, no joke. The only charming thing about him was his eyes  deep blood red, but very beautiful.

Oh, his name was Zanon.

Same as Duke, he too had claimed to be a Prince, and the Demon King’s son. Though, Aidan had called him ‘perky Zanon’, which angered the latter greatly.

The whole thing had been hi.la.rious.

Anyhow, after a whole of struggling, Duke and his annoying butler had managed to save me somewhat from Zanon. From there though, the three of us had a brief argument about respecting my privacy.

Thank Goodness Duke had stood up for me about this! Even he had thought and agreed it was utterly disgraceful for what that stupid butler had done to me — ESPECIALLY after he had the nerves to make unnecessarily remarks about how flat-chested I am, and how my choice of clothes was utterly distasteful!

To show his sincere apologies, Aidan had given me a wrist-band with a nice ruby gems on top. It’s waterproof and even fireproof. He said should I ever encounter with Zanon again, I should press the gems and he’ll come straight running to my aid like a true butler that he is! (Okay, so I may have extravagant it a bit on that part... Big deal! He pisses me off often than what I’ve ever done to him). Sigh.

Anyway, I’ve got to go now. See ya later, Diary!

Much love,

Anya


The sound of the food-processor being used in the kitchen, was the only sound that could be heard loudly throughout the Romans’s household, early that Thursday morning.

Three people were busily baking cupcakes. Two of them were putting the icing on top of the freshly-baked muffins in the kitchen, while the other one was whisking the white and fluffy cream in a big metallic bowl until it became soft peaks began to form.

Prince Duke of Excalibell hummed a soft tune as he delicately put the already soft whisked cream aside. He had flours on his nose and some part of his face. He wore a simple long-sleeves grey shirt (whom he’d borrowed from Dean), with an apron on top of it. His head was wrapped in a bandanna, with few hair clips on each sides to keep his bangs from falling down.

All in all, he did not looked like at least like a Royal Prince. But Duke didn’t mind at all. After all, it’s not everyday that one got the chance to take off the heavy and thick garment in exchange for something lighter and simple.

Removing the flours on his cheeks, Duke looked at the clock hanging on the wall: Eight twenty-five.

He softly gasped.

“Isn’t it time for Anya to get ready for class, Aunt Rosy?”

“Tell her to come down! I’m a bit busy over here, dear.” Shouted Rosy from the kitchen.

“Yes, Ma’am.”

Duke took off his apron and carefully put it aside before making his way to the youngest Romans’s private chamber.

Upon reaching, he knocked the room twice.

“Miss Anya? It is I, Prince Duke of Excalibell. Isn’t it time for you to get ready for class? Have you awaken yet?” Duke heard an audible squeak came from the other side of the door before a familiar voice told him to come in.

Turning the knob gently, he opened the door to a neat and organised room. No paperwork lying on the floor, no reference books buried under the table. Even the floor was clean and sparkling too.

What had caught Duke’s eyes the most however, was the owner of the room herself. Dressed in a light yellow sunflower printed drawstring dress with her brushed and untied long straightened shoulder-length hair, was Anya.

She had been standing in front of the mirror for hours before someone had knocked on the door. Anya kept checking herself on every angles. Worries filled her face as deep frowns appeared on her forehead.

Eventually, the youngest Romans child sighed. Taking a glance at the Prince who was still standing at the entrance of the room, she blushed when he didn’t say anything.

“Well, say something. How do I look?”

A wide smile spread across Duke’s face lips as he walked toward her.

“You look absolutely stunning, Miss Anya! What’s the special occasion?”

“N-nothing special.”

Liar.

Anya coughed and looked down on the wooden floor. “Just because I like to wear pants, doesn’t means I won’t or can’t wear a dress every now and then.”

“I see.” Duke smiled warmly at her. “Well I think you look absolutely stunning and terrific. But what’s with the long face?”

Anya let out a loud sigh.

“I have everything perfectly matched except for my hair! I look haggard with my hair loose like this. And ponytail style is getting boring.”

Anya looked at her wrist-watch and gasped. “Crap! I have like, fifteen minutes to get ready before I have to leave the house! What should I do? What should I d-”

Anya stopped freaking out when gentle fingers suddenly brushed through her hair. She looked up and meet with the still smiling face of the Prince.

“I know just the thing that will goes well with that dress.”

“Huh?” Anya blinked her eyes.

“Come now! Let’s not waste the time we have left.”

Duke gently pulled her toward the bed, had her seated on the floor in front of him, while he sat on her bed. With a brush on his hand, Duke started to brush her hair.

To his astonishment, she actually had beautiful, smooth and healthy hair, despite her rough-on-the edge attitudes and tomboyish behaviour. He began pulling her hair, divided them, and then began to braid it while softly humming a tune.

Meanwhile, Anya was having a hard time to believe the Prince actually knew how to braid a girl’s hair! Not just any braid too, but a Dutch Braid.

Anya could only do normal braids. Often, she would ask for Emma’s helps if she wanted to do her hair in any other braids.

When Duke started to hum a tune softly, Anya snapped out from her thoughts and listened carefully.

It sounded like a lullaby, but not one that she’d ever heard of.

Must be from his kingdom. Anya thought silently. I wonder if he misses going back home?

“Hey.”

“Yes?”

“What’s the song that you’re humming? It sounds like a lullaby.”

To her surprise, Duke softly chuckled. “It is a lullaby that is famous in Excalibell. Would you like me to sing it?”

“You can sing? Sure.”

Duke took out a deep breath and began to sing. His voice was soft and endearing as he sang.

All the pretty little horses.
Black and bays, dapples, grays,
All the pretty little horses.
Hush-a-bye, don’t you cry,
Go to sleep my little baby.
Hush-a-bye, don’t you cry,
Go to sleep my little baby.
When you wake you shall have
All the pretty little horses.

Anya had her eyes closed as she listened to his singing. The melody of his voice. The words that he sang, they were filled with emotions. It was as if he was carrying her to a far-away nostalgic place.

Anya was so into his soothing voice, she didn’t even realised Duke had stopped singing until a hand gently patted her forehead.

“All done! Have a look, Miss... Anya?”

Anya reopened her eyes when she felt his hands gently cupping her cheeks that were surprisingly wet.

“Are you all right?” Duke’s voice filled with concern. “What’s the matter? Is your braid too tight? Should I take it off? Why are you crying?”

Anya brushed his hand off her cheeks and wiped the tears rolling down her cheeks.

“That’s odd. I-I don’t even know why I cried.” Anya laughed nervously.

“Are you sure?” Duke asked carefully.

It was probably the first time ever that he saw her cried. Within the two months he’d stayed with her, Duke had grown to care for her at first, as a friend, and now as a little sister he never had.

Anya Romans wasn’t all that bad to deal with — once you got passed her brash and unladylike attitude. She might be bossy and demanding when it comes to work, but other than that, Duke viewed and valued her to be a kind and thoughtful friend.

Anya got up to her feet, ignoring the Prince’s question, and walked to the standing mirror to get a good look of her new braided hair.

“Wow!” She gasped loudly.

He had braided her hair in Dutch Braid before twisted it to one side, and wrapped it in a circular coil around itself, and turning it into a bun. 

It was really cute, even the stubbly end. Best of all, it matched perfectly with her dress! The style swept her hair neatly out of the way and even showed her neck — something that she sometimes forgotten she had one.

“Great job. I love it! Thank you.” She gave him a thumbs-up in the air, not taking her eyes off from the mirror.

“Thank you and you’re welcome. Marian loves that hairstyle. In order to please her, I’d made an effort to have the servants to teach me how to do it.” Duke couldn’t help but to smile at her excitement of how beautiful her hair looked now.

“I can teach you how to do it, if you want me to.”

“That’d be nice.” Anya replied, patting the back of her head. Just then, as if remembering something very important, she looked at the clock hanging on the wall:

Eight forty-five.

“CRAP! Now I’ll be very late!”

Hurriedly, she grabbed her bag on the floor (thankful she had already prepared today’s lesson last night), and ran out of her room. 

At the corridor, she’d almost bumped into Aidan, who was on his way to check on them.

“Good morning. I see you’ve finally decided to leave your chamber after all.”

“Whatever. I don’t have the time to deal with your sarcastic remarks first thing in the morning, so move!” Anya pushed the Butler to the side and tried to get passed by him, when long slender fingers suddenly grabbed firmly of her left shoulder.

“Before you leave, Miss Romans, might I suggest you say goodbye to your mother and wish her all the best at the Bakery Conference today? She won’t be back in a week.”

“That’s right. I’d forgot all about it.”

Letting go of her shoulder, the handsome butler watched her as she made her way to the kitchen to kiss her mother and wished her mother all the best at the conference before leaving the apartment.

“What was that all about?” Duke’s amusing voice brought Aidan back to reality. 

Turning his head to an amused-looking Prince, Aidan’s stoic face remained. 

“Whatever do you mean, Your Highness?”

“You told her — no— reminded her to say goodbye to her mother before she leaves. Knowing you, you don’t bother to do such things for the person you don’t particularly care about.” Duke grinned and crossed his arms.

“I absolutely have no idea what you’re talking about, Sir. I simply thought it was the polite thing to do since we are living under Madam’s rooftop after all, hence, I feel indebted only to her. Other than that, whatever happens to the wicked witch, is none my concerns.”

Duke rolled his eyes at his butler’s remarks. He had been trying to make the two of them get along with each other, but somehow, they had always ended up with arguments.

Anya’s sharp tongue and Anya’s temper were two combinations that was enough to make Duke’s head hurt.

Sighing to himself, Duke made his way to the living room, followed by his butler.


“I’M super beat!”

Anya stretched her arms in the air. Her last class of the day had just ended at three o’clock in the afternoon. Sitting beside her were her best friends and circling the rest of the table in the cafeteria, were two of her classmates.

Just then, one of her classmate spoke out.

“So, Anya,” a smirk spread on her ruby lips. “Who’d made your hair this morning?”

“How rude. What made you think I don’t know how to do my own hair, Re-bec-ca?”

“Cause you don’t!” Everyone replied in synced, before they laughed aloud.

“Face it, Romans. The only reason why you’re so willingly to put on a freakin’ dress every Thursday, is because of the Literature Club’s Meeting, isn’t it?”

At her friends remark, Anya blushed and turned away.

“So what?”

“Um, hello! Literature Club Meeting PLUS wearing a beautiful dress EQUALS to — meeting with one Ethan Carter A.K.A, the Club’s President!”

“It’s too bad the meeting got cancelled today. I heard Ethan was called out for an emergency.” Emma patted her best friend’s back. “Or else, I’m sure you’d kill him with your stunning appearance today.”

“I have to agree with you, even though I’m not a woman.” Steve adjusted his glasses. “Frankly speaking, you’d nearly gave me a heart attack when the first time you walked into the class wearing a piece of dress, Anya.”

“Yea, no kidding. Steve and I had been cornered and questions by almost all of the guys in our school about you! Even the bullies had thought you were sick. Hell, some of them even went as far as thought you were going to die on that day!”

While they were all laughing their heads silly, Anya stared at the table, pretending it to be the most interesting thing to see at the moment, and trying her best to get rid the deep blush that was increasing.

True, she had a reputation in the school. Unwillingly and unexpectedly, so to speak. The male populations known her as ‘the Anya Romans’ or ‘the bodyguard’, mainly because she was a force to be reckoned with when she kicked their lame arses whenever they tried to harass her friends or simply just want to pick a fight with her.

It wasn’t really Anya’s fault. They were the ones who started the spark. She just happened to be the fire.

Anya looked at the time on her wrist-watch and sighed. “I’d better get going.”

“Oh, you’re managing the bakery while Aunty is away, right?” Said Emma.

“Yeah. Those newly hired staff are good and reliable. But they’re still new. Someone needs to watch over them.” Grabbing her bag, Anya stood and scratched her back and arms.

“Then, we should get going too.” Steve and Emma got up from their seats as well. “I have to buy a present for Mum. Her birthday’s coming soon.”

Oh! I can help you with that, Steve.” Emma hugged Steve’s arms with a knowing smile.

“Yeah, yeah. I know you just want to shop. Come on.”

As they were saying their goodbyes to the rest of the group, all the sudden, they heard a loud shrieking scream coming from the cafeteria’s entrance.

“Did you get his picture? He’s so hot!”

“Is he a new student here? Oh, please let him be!”

“He looks like a model! Or a Prince!”

“Hey, what’s with the screaming?” Anya asked to one of the many girls who had gathered at the front gates of the school.

“There’s a real-life Prince standing at the entrance gates! He’s like, super hot!”

“Prince?” Emma and Steve exchanged looks. Turning to look at their friend, they were shocked to find she had disappeared.

“Anya?”

“Steve, over there!” Emma pointed out at someone who was running wildly through the crowds.

‘Excuse me! Coming through, please!’ could be heard from the distance Anya pushed and literally shoved herself to move forward to the main gates.

“What’s she doing?”

“I dunno. Come on, Steve. Let’s get out through the back gates and see what’s happens.”


Finally, after what seem to be an eternal struggle, Anya managed to get away from the busy and heavy crowds and landed her feet safely at the front of the front gates.

She made a quick inspection of her hair, just to see if it still looked all right. 

Yes. Still all right.

Letting out a relief sigh, Anya looked closely at the person standing at the entrance gates.

He wore the same grey shirt since this morning. The boyish, charming smile plastered on his perfectly white teeth remained the same as he waved his hand at the many girls at the gates — making them all sighed dreamily.

Oh, geez. Anya rolled her eyes. She made her way to the man, and tapped his left shoulder from behind.

Duke instantly turned around. The charming smile that he had a while ago, instantly changed to pure glee the moment his eyes landed on the young woman.

“Miss Anya!” Duke had his arms ready to pull her into a hug, but was instantly stopped by Anya who put her hand on his forehead and pushed him away.

With a forced smile, she whispered lowly. “Not here. Are you trying to make my student’s life miserable and a living hell?”

Duke looked taken back by her question. “Whatever do you mean by that?”

Anya tugged his arm slightly, and pointed out to the many glares she could feel behind her.

That is exactly what I meant.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah. Anyhow, what brings you here? How did you get here in the first place?”

“Actually Miss Anya, I—” Before Duke could say anything else, Anya put up her hand in the air, in his face.

“Wait. Did something happens to Home’s? Is that why you’re here?” Anya glared dangerously at him. “What have you done?”

“What? No! Please calm down, Miss Anya. Nothing bad has happened, I promise! I swear on my mother’s grave back in Excalibell!” The Prince held up both his hands.

If look could kill, Duke had no doubt he would already be dead right now. The look that Anya given him was much scarier than when he had to deal with his father’s angry outburst!  She looked like she was really ready to eat alive him if something bad really did happened to Home’s.

Anya stepped a few back from her desire to choke the life of said Prince. She breathed in and out, deeply.

“Why are you here then?”

“Oh, Aidan had told me to take rest of the day off.” Duke replied cheerfully.

A long silence.

“...What?”

“Aidan had told me to take the day off!” Duke repeated clearly. All the while, he was being totally oblivious of the unbelievable look on the younger woman’s face as he continued to speak.

“He said I have been doing so much work lately, and that it is not good for my health as I am not use of doing them. Oh, but worry not, Miss Anya. Aidan had told me to tell you that he has everything under cont—” 

Duke choked on his words when he felt a pair of hands roughly yanked his collar forward, until he came face-to-face with a pair of angry eyes. He could feel hot breath on his face when the lady gritted her teeth.

“HE’S NOT THE BOSS! I AM, dammit!

Duke’s face was quickly turning blue due to the lack of air in his lungs as Anya tightened her grip on his collar. His eyes were widened, and his face paled as snow. 

He was really scared at this point. He had never met an aggressive and hot tempered woman who could easily made his heart beat fast out of fear!

“You will come with me. We are going to have a long TALK with that damn butler and TELL him just who does he thinks he is! Why, I’ve had enough! I’ve had enough of his sarcastic remarks and disrespectful attitudes toward me these past couple months! That ungrateful son of—”

“ANYA!”

Anya was stopped by a familiar female voice yelling at her from terrorising the daylight of the Prince — Emma and Steve.

Emma was not happy. Not happy at all. She had been curious as why her best friend had suddenly disappeared on them a while ago.

The couple had went through the back door, only to meet with an unforgettable sight of Anya in the middle of aggressively terrorising a man, not older than her own age.

“Anya.”

Emma moved forward toward the aggressive young woman, whom had not yet let go of her vice-grip on the Prince’s collar.

“Anya, listen to me. I want you to let go of that poor man’s collar right now.” Anya’s left eye twitched at Emma’s commanding tone.

“Now, Anya!” Emma’s voice increased and the other woman released her grip on the Prince.

As soon as she released the grip on Duke, Emma took a few brave steps forward and pulled the aggressive woman far away from the suffocating Prince.


Meanwhile, Duke was having a very hard time trying to absorb everything that had just happened. One moment, he had been standing and talking animatedly to Anya, and the next, something had yanked by the collar and had suffocating under the cold bloody glare of the said woman.

Duke brought his hands around his throat. He felt his blood ran cold at that thought alone.

“Hey, are you okay?” Steve’s calm voice brought him back to reality. The former gave Duke a small smile and offered his hand.

“I’m Steve. Steven Aaron, Anya’s childhood friend. You must be one of the new guys who works at the Home’s, right?”

“Indeed.” Duke nodded and shook his hand. ” I am Duke Excalibell. Nice to meet you.” Last time he’d introduced himself as the ‘Prince’ to a group of customers, it had been a complete disaster as many had thought he was indeed a foreign Prince.

Aidan had to do some damage-control had erased everyone’s memories. Since then, Duke remembered to leave out his title when introducing himself to others.

“Forgive my bluntness, but are you a foreigner? It’s rare for someone to have such name.”

“Well, let’s just say I came from a far away land.”

“I see.” Steve nodded. The two men continuously looked at the two young women arguing rather loudly.

“I may be out of place to say this, but shouldn’t we do something to stop them before they get hurt?” Asked Duke, after a moment.

Steve shook his head. “Let them be.” He crossed his arms. “Anya needs this. You could call it as a ‘therapy’ for her.”

“A therapy?”

Steve nodded.

“Yes. You see, Anya grew up in a house full of men. She has two older brothers who bullied and toughened her up, a young uncle who taught her how to fight and whom she was very closed to, and finally, me. Her father had passed away when she was younger. They were really closed. Based from her background alone, you’d understand why she became so violent, brash, and tomboyish young woman right? Well, that all changed dramatically when she met with Emma during our first year in high school. Anya admired Emma’s great beauty and her ladylike personality. There was something about Emma that drawn the both of us to her. Slowly, Anya started to change for the better.”

Steve smiled fondly at the memories.

“Before, Anya had often dressed up like a boy, you could easily mistaken for her as one. But now... Now, she began to appreciate what it means to be a woman. Or at least, learning to do so.” Steve chuckled. “One can’t easily got rid all the aggressiveness that’d been built up over the years so easily, after all.”

Duke looked at the younger man and smiled. “You really cared about her, don’t you?”

Steve nodded again.

“How could I not? She’d saved my life far too many times. Whether it’s from getting bullied by other kids, or other things, she’s always been there for me. It was also because of her that I’d gathered enough courage to confess to Emma and we’ve been together ever since then. Anya is like my own sister, so to speak. My body may be fragile and I do not have possessed physical strengths like other men, however, note that if anyone dares to harm her or make her cry, I’m willing to use my family’s influences to bring that person down to their knees and sweep them from the surface of the Earth, even.”

Adjusting his glasses, Steve let out a few coughs. “It’s a scary thought actually. But it’s the least for someone like me could do to protect her.”

Duke nodded in silence.

After the men had ended their conversations, the two women then approached them. Miraculously, they looked calm and flushed from all the shouting and yelling earlier.

“I’m hungry. Let’s get something to eat.” Anya spoke in a tensed voice.

“A-Are you sure, Miss Anya? Weren’t you the one who said—” A hand suddenly slung over the Prince’s shoulder. Emma whispered lowly enough so that only he could hear her.

“Lesson 101 on handling a cranky woman — said yes to anything that involves food.”

“Y-yes, Ma’am.”


SOMEHOW the four friends ended up eating desserts at Archie’s — a well-known dessert restaurant. The place was very popular amongst the youngsters and couples. It was often full especially during lunch hours. However, on that particular day, the place was quite empty, much to their surprise.

“I’ll have the ice-cream strawberry flavoured pancake, please.” Anya ordered.

“I’ll have the parfait.”

“I’ll just have an extra spoon — I’m sharing her parfait.”

All eyes were on Duke who was currently fascinated by the illustration on the menu.

Anya nudged beside him and whispered. “Order something, will you?”

“But there are just too many things to choose from! I don’t know which one to choose!”

Anya groaned tiredly and snatched the menu from his hands. She then pointed a dish on the menu to the waitress. After getting their orders, the waitress collected the menus and walked away.

Anya let out a tiredly yawn. One palm placed on her chin while the other scratched her head. She looked at the empty place with bored eyes. Totally oblivious with the stares of her best friends, until a cough from Emma broke her thoughts.

“So... Anya. Would you like to introduce us to your friend, whom we haven’t meet?” she said nicely with a sweet smile.

“Emma, meet Duke. Duke, Emma Greens. You two already knew each other, right?” She pointed at Steve and Duke.

“Hi, nice to be your acquaintance then, Duke.”

“Ah, likewise, Milady. I am Duke Excalibell. Anya’s childho—”

“—Relative!” Anya quickly cut in. “He’s my long distant relative! On my mom’s side.”

“A relative? Come to think of it, I’ve never met any of your maternal relatives before. Not even once. And to think that I’ve known you all my life.” Steve frowned.

“Well, we’re not close on that particular side. So yeah.” She laughed nervously. “Anyway, Duke and his brother are here. They are the ones that you two had met the other day. Currently, they’re staying at my place while their parents are travelling around the globe for a tour, I think. Anyway, they’re the new staffs I was talking about. Ain’t that right, Duke?”

Anya elbowed him on the rib that had nearly made him bit his tongue.

“Y-Yes.”

The waitress returned and approached their table with their desserts. She placed a plate of the ice-cream strawberry flavoured pancake in front of Anya. The parfait in front of Emma, with an extra spoon for Steve, and a chocolate-banana ice-cream pie in front of Duke, who had his mouth slightly opened and his eyes widened at the dessert.

Thanking the waitress for their meals, the four friends began to dig into their desserts.

Anya picked her fork, digging the pancake, and bringing it to her lips. For a moment, it almost seemed like she had paused time blissfully, savouring the sweet dessert in her mouth.

Meanwhile, sitting beside her, Duke carefully poked the chocolate-banana ice-cream pie with his fork. His eyes filled with curiosity of how a fruit be turned into something like this. Not wasting anymore time, he took a slice of the pie and bring it to his mouth.

Oh sweet Heavens! Duke felt like he was falling in love all over again the moment the ice-cream and pie melted in his mouth. He quickly dug into the food.

From Emma and Steve’s point of views, those two were like the Yin and Yang. The Sun and the Moon. Fire and Water. One looked like he was raised by a high-class family; so prim and proper, even as he was digging his face into the dessert. While the other one was far from being a lady, even though she was wearing a very nice dress.

While Emma was grateful Anya did not at least stuffed herself like a pig (it had taken her two years in high school to make sure the latter learned the proper way of table manners), Anya did however had one arm on the table with a palm underneath her chin, as she poked the pancake with her fork and put it into her mouth.

Drawing a soft sigh, Emma thought, At least she ate with her mouth closed.

Letting a cough enough to attract Duke’s attention, Emma smiled at him.

“So, Duke. How old are you exactly?”

“Twenty-three.”

Steve choked on the piece of the parfait. “Twenty-three?! Anya, you should be more respectful to him! He’s three years older than you!”

Anya simply rolled her eyes and proceeding with her ice-cream. Meanwhile, Emma continued drilling the Prince with questions that’d been bothering her since they met.

“Were you studying or working before you came here?”

“I—”

Anya quickly cut in. “He has a special condition — that makes it hard for him to do anything outdoor, thus, his parents had confined him in the mansion most of the times! But now that he’s getting better, his parents allowed him to go out.”

“Hmm.. Is that so? While I appreciate your concerns toward your relative here, Anya, I’m pretty sure the man can speak for himself.”

Emma’s nails kept on tapping one the table. Her eyes stared at the Prince with precise and one perfectly trimmed eyebrow rose.

“Which High School did you went to?”

“Heather—” a small piece of banana being pushed into Anya’s mouth by the man beside her before she could finished the word.

Still remained with a smile, Duke answered the given question politely. “Heatherbricks. I lived in Heatherbricks Road. Thus, I went to Heatherbricks High School. I was home-schooled up until high school due to my conditions, as prior said by Anya just now.”

“Heatherbricks Road, huh? So you are from the upper-class family.” Steve stated, crossing his arms. Many of his company’s clients came from that neighbouring area. Though he came from a wealthy background, Steve was never fond of the upperclassmen.

“Precisely.” Duke nodded. “My family owns a large fortune. I shall be the next successor when the times come.”

“I see. That explains your prim and proper behaviour. It’s very rare to see someone acting like that in this time and age. I, myself was not being taught to be like that. But, I guess it’s one for each family.” Steve smiled at the older man.

Emma nodded, satisfied with Duke’s answers. One finger pointed at Anya. “See? You should relax more and let him do all the talking.”

Anya rolled her eyes and playfully stick out her tongue. Afterwards, the four friends spent the rest of the day talking about various topics.


By the time they all decided to leave to coffeehouse, dusk already settled in.

As Anya and Duke waved goodbyes to the loving couple and prepared to leave, Steve suddenly cried out, “Ah, shoot! I’d totally forgot to give you something, Anya.”

He dug up something inside his backpack, before and handed it over to Anya. It was a thick yellow file.

“Sorry it had taken me a while to get it done for you, Anya. Here’s all the information that you’d asked for regarding the ‘Blue Tree.’ My cousin Thomas did a bad arse job getting the information. Oh, and he sent you his regards.”

“Thanks a bunch, Steve. You’re a literally a life-saver!” Anya gave her best friend a bear hug.

Steve chucked delightedly. “No problem. It’s for your assignment, right? To be honest, I’m surprised when you said you’re working on ‘The Blue Tree’. It’s quite a challenging topic from what I’d heard. But then, a great novelist always welcomes a good challenge, right?”

“Right.” Anya smiled gratefully back.

It was a white lie, of course. The Blue Tree was not part of any of her assignments at all. In fact, it was Aidan had been the one to inform her about the ‘Blue Tree’, one night a couple of months ago. The Blue Tree, was said to be magical, and according to Duke, the Blue Tree might actually be a key for them to return home.

Thus, begun Anya’s search for the Blue Tree.

The only drawback she had about finding the tree was there weren’t any information about it in the books or internet despite how hard Anya tried to look into it. Frustrated and nearly given up on the search, Anya decided to try her luck and asked Steve a favour about finding the said tree since most of his maternal family members worked as historians, archaeologist, and arboriculturist.

Anya walked steadily beside the Excalibell’s Prince, humming a cheerful tune as she held on the file closed to her chest. It was a relaxing and endearing hums that to the Prince’s own surprise, he enjoyed listening to it.

A glance look at the young maiden beside him, the cheerful and gleeful look on her face, was something that he rarely seen since he befriended with the young woman. And surprisingly, Duke found himself liking her smile a lot.

After ten minutes of walking, the duo finally reached to their destination. Anya prepared herself for the worse. She expected Home’s to be in great chaos at the hands of the Butler. She was prepared to give him a beating of a lifetime even despite him being obviously so much stronger than her.

Opening the door and expecting the worse, Anya was stunned when she found the place was still in one piece, spotlessly clean, even the customers were happy and sane.

Everything was in proper order prior instructed. Every single thing were spotlessly cleaned and polished! Anya’s jaws dropped as she walked into the bakery.

“Welcome, Miss Romans.” A seducing male voice greeted her from the bar stand. He walked to the door to properly greet her with a mischievous smile.

“Had a fun outdoor experience, Your Highness?”

“Oh, why yes! Indeed I was. It was very enjoyable. I met with met two of Miss Anya’s childhood friends — Mister Steven Aarons and Miss Emma Greens.”

Aidan nodded happily to see his charge was happy. He then turned his head and met with hot ironed glare belonged to the young woman with hands crossed, and one foot tapped on the floor angrily.

Anya had been sidetracked with Steve and Emma that she had completely forgotten to come and checked on Home’s up until they arrived at the front door a while ago. She wanted so much to yell at the damn butler for simply telling the Prince to ‘take the day off’ without her permission, but found that she couldn’t.

Home’s was not in chaos, after all. The place was cleaned and customers were happy. So on what grounds must she accused him of with? Even her own mother had told Aidan before she left for a week conference that he would be in charge of taking care of her and Home’s, seeing as he was the oldest out of the three.

Gritting her teeth, Anya took a deep breath and said, “Anything happened while I’m gone?”

Before Aidan could reply, a customer was calling them. “Excuse me, can we get an order here, please?”

Aidan nodded. With a charming smile, he pointed at the waving customer.

“We can talk about that later. For now, as Madam always said, ‘customers always come first’.” He winked at her and processed to the customer’s table.

“That man... I still don’t trust him!” Anya hissed once the Butler was out of her sight.

“I don’t know about that.” Duke chuckled. “I haven’t seen him this relaxed for such a long time. Not since—” Duke gasped before covering his mouth with one hand.

Anya raised one eyebrow suspiciously. “Since what? What happened to that damn butler?”

Duke furiously shook his head. “N-No. I really shouldn’t be talking about it.. It’s a sensitive topic anyway.”

Clearing his throat, to avoid the topic, the Prince looked at the time. “Oh my, it’s half past nine already? Miss Anya, we’d better clean up the place. It’s closing time!”


By the time they’d finished cleaned up and closed Home’s, the time was already ten o’clock.

Anya was ready for a shower and then head straight to bed. They had bought burgers from a burger stall and had eaten them on the way home.

“I’m so ready for bed.” Anya said tiredly, unlocking the front door. The two men were standing behind her, silently nodded.

Turning the doorknob, they were welcomed by a glimpse of bright light in the living room.

“I’m home, Casey! Have you been a good gi—” Anya’s voice stopped halfway as she stepped entered. Her eyes widened and body stiffened.

“Miss Anya? Is something wrong?” Duke’s concerned voice coming from behind as he removed his shoes. His eyes moved from the shock expression on the young woman’s paled face to it’s source in the living room.

Sitting in the living room, on the sofa with the television on, and two big luggage on the floor — was a man. He too had turned his head around from the screen to look at them in shock.

Connecting his mind together, Duke finally realised who that man was. But before he could properly introduced himself, the young woman in front of him suddenly cringed aloud.

“J-JAMES?!”

James Romans, a man of his late twenties with a successful career as a pastry chef and also the co-owner of the famous ‘Le Manger’ restaurant which he and his twin brother owned and managed worldwide.

He had a short, somewhat messy dark brown hair. Tall, with lighter brown skin, James had a soft facial structure that looked very much like his mother. He possessed a pair of beautiful Amber eyes.

James got up from the sofa and made his way toward them. He quicken his paces as he got nearer, all the while, not leaving his eyes on Anya. He then pulled his one and only sister in a firm and breathtaking hug.

How long had it been since he’d last seen her? Two and a half year? He’d been awfully busy managing the restaurant that he hadn’t got the time to come home. Sure, they’d often keep in contact via phone calls and Skype, but to see her face-to-face and holding her like this...

James sighed deeply. Dean was right, he really needed to take the time out and returned home.

Meanwhile, Anya was so deeply in shocked, she could barely remembered being pulled into a hug. It was only when James had released her and started messing with her hair that Anya finally snapped out of it.

Many thoughts ran through her mind that very moment. “James! What are you doing here?” Crap! How on Earth do I explain to him about these two?!

Frowning at her rude question, James flicked her forehead. “What? I can’t returned home and visit my baby sister?”

“Owh... You know that’s not what I meant.”

Crossing his arms and smiled smugly at her, James only noticed his other guests who were still standing nearby the door when one of them coughed loud enough to get his attention.

“Oh, I’m sorry. You must be Anya’s friends who worked at Home’s. I’m James, Anya’s older brother. Sorry I didn’t recognised you lads earlier. Thank you so much for sending her home safely, though.” James shook hand with the two men.

“You didn’t answered my question, James. What brought you here all the sudden?”

“I’d called Mama the other day, just to see how she’s doing. She’d then told me she’s going out of town for a Bakery Conference for a week. Since I managed to get two weeks holidays, I’d thought of coming home and keep you company. I didn’t come home last year, remember? Sorry for that, kiddo.”

James patted her head, much to Anya’s annoyance before she tapped his hand away.

“Um... Excuse me?”

James moved from looking at his sister to her two friends who were still standing awkwardly at the door. Letting out a small cough, James moved passed his sister and put one hand on the doorknob for them to leave.

“It’s getting really late. You lads should hurriedly get home. Good night and thank you again for accompany Anya home safely.” James shut the door before Duke or Aidan could say a word, and locked it properly.

Sighing, James turned to his sister who gaped at what he’d just done. Just when he was about to ask her why, there were knocks on the front door.

“Oh?” James went back to the door. He unlocked the door and opened it.

“Hello!” Duke greeted cheerfully with a big smile plastered on his face.

“Oh, hello. You must be Anya’s friends, the ones who are staying with us? Come on in.” James opened the door for them to enter.

“Thank you for your kindness, Mister James. We are terribly sorry to have to trouble you with our presences.”

“Oh,not at all. Mama had already informed me what happened. Don’t worry about it.” James smiled kindly.

If Anya’s eyes could be bigger than they already were now, she would have done just that.

What the hell just happened?

Her eyes kept on switching from James who was talking to Duke, to the man standing quietly beside him — Aidan.

Aidan immediately noticed her gazed on him. He returned the gaze with a small grin, put one finger on his lips, and whispered one word that made her cringed.

Magic.

“NO!” All three heads turned at Anya.

“You’re okay, kiddo?” James asked, frowning slightly.

Realising what she’d just done, Anya laughed nervously. “Uhh, I’m just tired. So I-I’ll be heading straight to bed now.. You know, after taking a nice hot shower.”

“Oh. Okay then... Good night, sis.”

“N-night.” Anya walked steadily and made her way to her room before shutting the bedroom door.

A minute later, the gentlemen heard a loud frustration scream coming from the other side of the door.

 

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