Angelica grabbed his hand, still holding the brush, and looked into his eyes. Her cheeks slightly flushed. “Yes, thank you uplifting my mood and taking time out of your day to check on me.”
“It is truly my pleasure. Anything for you.”
Angelica’s lips curled. “You are to join me in the courtyard for tea today. Bring me tea, but do not put it together – I am looking to practice my magic today.”
“As you wish.”
Brent lifted Angelica’s hand kissed it.
The vibrant blue afternoon sky was dotted with white clouds, adding to the contrast of the maze of crimson roses and deep green bushes below. The maze itself was the backyard of the castle and was half the size of it, but twice as big as the courtyard. In the middle of the maze stood a small, cream-coloured gazebo with a light green roof. Inside the wide-open gazebo was exquisite furniture that appeared to be a bit too high quality to be around the elements.
Lounging in one of the cushion backed chairs that matched the roof sat Princess Angelica, reading a book. The hardcover, cloth-bound book matched the blue of the sky and was accented with the colours of the sun’s rays. It was slightly worn around the edges – as expected of a book tucked away in the back of the royal library, on the bottom shelf. She unconsciously read the words on the page under her breath aloud as her eyes worked their way from one word to another.
“Is that such a way for a princess to be reading?”
Princess Angelica sat up and gave Brent a half smile. She swiped off her bookmark from the table in front of her, just as Brent placed down a tray full of everything that was needed to make tea. “Is that really anyway for a servant to greet their master?”
Brent grabbed Angelica’s hand, got down on one knee, and bowed his head. “My apologizes, Princess Angelica,” he replied. He kissed her hand, standing back up.
Princess Angelica placed the book she had been reading onto the chair as she sat up. She pulled one of her fans – this time a hot pink one that matched her typical princess attire of a hot pink halter dress that reached to the floor, with black straps and a skirt tapestry of sorts with the official emblem of Astral Isles in hot pink embrodiered into it – from her dress pocket.
Brent watched Angelica curiously as she elegantly flicked the fan open and walked around the gazebo in a circle. She didn’t even say anything – sparkles in yellow, blue, and pink appeared, running all the way up to the top of the gazebo, giving a brief flash of solid light before disappearing. Brent’s eyes widened in observation as she went around two more times before returning back to her seat. In one go, she lifted up her book, sat down, and held up her fan to her chest.
“Well?” she asked, smiling.
Brent looked around. It was kind of hard to see, but translucent walls of yellow, blue, and pink pulsated from nothing to just visible though the eyes. “What…what is this?” he asked, turning to her. “Did you just shield us?”
Angelica lifted her chest and smirked, fanning herself. She turned her head as if to look away from Brent. She looked at him with her eyes. “I put up warding from prying eyes. Wouldn’t want someone interrupting us now, would we?”
Brent’s mouth stayed gapping up until Angelica snapped her fan shut. She pointed to the cushioned chair across from her. “Sit.”
Without saying anything, he sat down. Princess Angelica, in turn, stood up. She leaned over the tray of ingredients, observing each one. There were numerous dried herbs, all that she knew would make an excellent tea for relaxation. She placed her hand onto the tea pot, feeling its cool surface.
Princess Angelica removed the tea pot’s cover and placed it off to the side. She unfolded her fan once more, ever so slightly and began to make a circular motion over the pot. After few twirls of her wrist, steam began to come off from the teapot. From there, she began to tap the air above each ingredient. “Lavendar for relaxation, rose petals for love for us and for the self, and some earl gray for balance and joy.” Each ingredient floated upwards. As if she was directly a symphony, the ingredients moved in rhythm to her fan’s direction, gracefully twirling into the teapot.
She then turned her fan to a plate of lemon wedges. She grasped the sides of her fans with both hands and spread it all the way out. As if she was flipping food in a pan, she flicked the fan upward twice, causing two lemon wedges to rise. She slightly turned her fan towards the pot, the lemon wedges floating above the steaming pot. She then opened and closed her fan twice, squeezing all the juice out of the lemons. She paused for a moment before grabbing the lemon peels from the air and palcing them back down on the tray.
She then moved her fan in a circular motion once more above the pot. Yellow and orange sparkles dances around the sides and the steam increased. Soon, the teapot was shrieking and steam was coming out from it like an angry person. Princess Angelica fully unfolded her fan with a flick of the wrist, holding it in one hand. She lifted the fan up as if she was moving up the pot, allowing it to come up with her movements. She carefully poured, while holding the pot in the air with her magic, into each of the cups.
Angelica closed her fan, flicked it towards the small bowl of coconut milk. Two tablespoons of coconut milk leapt from the bowl and into her cup. She sat back down in her chair and took her tea into her hand. She placed her fan down on the table and used her finger instead to direct the magic allowing her to mix together all her ingredients.
She took a sip of her tea. Her shoulders began to relax. “Brent, it is your turn now.”
Brent’s eyes were wide in awe. “Thank you, Angelica, this is too much,” he said. taking the cup into his hand. He slowly took a sip. Angelica watched as his eyebrows rose, then fell as he tasted the tea.
Angelica giggled right before taking another sip herself.
Brent removed the tea cup from his lips and scooped in a teaspoon of sugar and two tablespoons of coconut milk. “Angelica, I am impressed how you made this. From the shield to this tea – you did not even have to say a word this time!”
“This time?” Princess Angelica scoffed. A laugh followed shortly after. “The last time I did anything like this was a bit more than three years ago. Of course I have improved.”
“And improved much, you have.”
Angelica blushed, holding the tea cup with both hands closed to her face, hiding her blushing cheeks. “Don’t flatter me so much without my fan in my hand!”
“But you deserve it all, Angelica.”
Angelica breathed a laugh before taking another sip of her tea. “It’s perfectly blended, I would say/”
“I would say that as well.”
“The iherbs you picked out, I must say, were what we just needed.”
“I thought they would be.”
Angelica and Brent both let out a relaxd sigh as they melted into their seats. They sat in silence for a few moments, enjoying the warmth of the tea and each other’s company.
“What else have you practicing?”
Princess Angelica placed down her tea back onto the tray and stood back up once more. She grabbed her fan. Brent jumped and partially stood up from his seat, reaching out his hand. “You don’t need to demonstrate! You can just tell me.”
Princess Angelica smiled at him, her face seeming to glitter. “I think it is more fun that way, don’t you think.”
“That may be true, but what about your tea?”
“It’s just as easy for me to warm it back up.”
Princess Angelica unfolded her fan. She moved her hand in a c-shaped motion, chanting: “flower snow, appear right here, rain down upon me, out of air.”
Brent looked up as various flower heads gently floated down from the top of the gazebo down towards the ground. There were so many different varieties, he didn’t know which ones were which. However, he did know one – a single red rose floated its way down and into his lap. He lifted it from his lap with both hands, looking at it, then looking at Angelica.
“What do you think of that?” she said, snapping her fan shut. She smiled. “Perhaps it’s not as useful as tea, but that doesn’t matter. I think it’s quite beautiful.”
Brent stood up and walked up to Angelica. He slid the rose into her hair, giving her a gentle smile back. “You are beautiful.”
Angelica’s cheeks became rosy. The slow bat of her eyelashes reflected just how bashful she was. Her lips pressed together as she looked into Brent’s eyes. Brent’s lips did the same.
Angelica then cast her gaze off to the side. “If only we could kiss.”
“Don’t you think it best to wait for your wedding night?”
“Yes, I do.”
Brent took Angelica’s slender fingers into his hand. He gently ran his thumb across each one as he brought her hand up to his lips and kissed it. He then looked at her in the eye. “Let this tide you over until then.”
Princess Angelica let out a single “ha”.
Then a bell tolled throughout the garden. Angelica and Brent exchanged disappointed frowns.
“Looks like it is time for me to change tasks.”
“I will be requesting you once more.”
“Of course, Princess Angelica.”
It had been a whole month since Princess Angelica had any close interaction with Brent. The day after she had tea with him in the garden maze, his work shifts seemed to have suddenly increased. It wasn’t as if he wasn’t busy before, but something seemed off – terribly off. The one hint? The amount of time Bedelia showed up and ushered Brent away to other tasks. The most Angelica had been able to do was give him a friendly wave and smile from a distance.
Angelica’s mood had plummeted to the point she was snapping at the servants. She shooed away all but Natalia for the remainder of the day. Natalia poured the princess a cup of hot tea. Angelica was sprawled out on the couch in her room, looking up at the high ceilings. She turned her head to the table, seeing the steam from the tea. “Thanks, Natalia.”
“The pleasure is all mine.” Natalia bowed her head.
Angelica sat up just enough to sip her tea without drinking it. Natalia stood close by the table, watching her drink in silence. After a moment, Natalia cut through the thick silence. “Princess Angelica, how are you feeling?”
Angelica whipped her head to Natalia with a frown. “Irritated. Annoyed. Angry, even.” She shrugged her shoulders. “I’ve been trying to see Brent for a month and every time I get even close enough to see him, Bedelia shows up to drag him away.”
Natalia opened her mouth to speak, but Angelica put up a finger. “I do not think it’s because of the relocating of assets. I understand that is long and difficult work, but it does not explain the oddity of the situation.” She placed her hand on her cheek. “I’m worried about Brent at this point. Each time I see him, the more worn out he appears to be. He is a hard worker generally speaking, but even this has gone to far.”
A few beads of sweat dropped down Natalia’s face. “I am aware that there had been a mid-week schedule switch a few weeks ago.”
“Did my parents order it?”
“I am not aware of the reason behind the decision.”
Princess Angelica continued to sip her tea. Her eyes stared off into the air. Nothing really made sense to her. Could my parents have ordered the schedule re-arrangements? No, I would not think so. I am certain they are fully aware of how important Brent is to me.
Angelica’s eyes narrowed. “It was Bedelia,” she mumbled.
Princess Angelica sipped the last of her tea and placed it back down on the tray, She then stood up and headed towards the door.
“Where are you going?” inquired Natalia. A hint of panic surfaced in her voice.
Angelica held onto the door frame of the open door, allowing the light from the hallway to illuminate her. She turned half her body to Natalia.
“To my parents,” she replied.
Princess Angelica disappeared down the hallway.
Princess Angelica stood outside the throne room, watching as a group of villagers gleefully exited from the large double doors. She slid over to the door and peered inside. The grandiose throneroom was mostly whites and light blues, with tall pillars and a ceiling made from glass, allowing the sun’s natural rays to illuminate the whole room. At the end of a long, dark blue carpet was the thrones. Sitting up them was the king and queen – Angelica’s parents.
“Hello, Arwinwalde?” Princess Angelica said quietly, leaning in behind the doors.
A young man with grayish-brown hair, glasses, and a prim stature turned to her. “Oh, Princess Angelica! What a surprise to see you during the day. What brings you to the throneroom today?”
“I need to speak with my parents. When is the next appointment?”
Arwinwalde opened the book in his hands. He smiled after a quick glance. “There is an hour and twenty three minutes left before the next meeting. Would you like to speak to them now?”
“Most certainly.” Arwinwalde nodded.
Arwinwalde knelt down beside him and pulled a small trumpet from the floor. He stood back up and blew into it, producing a melody that matched the grandoise appearance of the room. “Announcing, Princess Angelica!”
The King and Queen both perked up in their seats, smiles spreading across their faces. The few staff members neatly stationed around the room knelt down on one knee and bowed their heads. Princess Angelica held her head high and walked down the carpet towards her parents. When she approached the raised platform which her parents stood on, the knights standing in front of them parted and Angelica took a step onto the platform.
Immeditately, the King and Queen hugged her.
“Angelica! What a surprise!” exclaimed her mother. “It is so wonderful seeing you during daylight.”
Her father grabbed her shoulders and took a good luck at Angelica. “As beautiful as ever!”
Angelica gave him a smile that was clearly laced with sadness.
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
Angelica’s browed furrowed as she looked at both of her parents. “I first must ask – did you request Brent to work additional time on the storage rearrangements?”
The King and Queen exchanged looks before looking back to her, shaking their heads. “No.”
The princess cleared her throat. “I have been trying to reach Brent for a month now and every time I see him from a distance, Bedelia comes out from the side and whisks him off somewhere else. Every time I look at him, he looks more and more drained. I suspect he is being overworked on purpose, rather than necessitiy. The other servants appear to be well-rested and an abudance of free time in comparison.”
The queen covered her mouth. “Oh dear.”
The King pulled away from his daughter. “That does seem a bit odd. You don’t think Brent would have volunteered more time, do you?”
“No, I do not.” Angelica let out a heavy sigh. “From my understanding, his hours increased not too long after the ball. I am aware that Bedelia saw Brent and I dancing outside on the balcony and increased his hours in regards to that.”
The King frowned. “Are you sure?”
“Yes, I am quite certain, father. I suspected she saw Brent and I in the garden about a month ago and punished him directly for that. I was practicing my magic and had him accompany me and bring tea.”
The King and Queen both did not look particularly happy. If anything, they looked as if they had heard this all before. However, they hadn’t, at least not from Angelica quite like this – her usual complaints were much shorter and a minor annoyance, not a serious accusation like this. Most of their dismay was directed towards Bedelia.
“Have you tried to speak to Bedelia about this?”
Angelica scowled. “She seems to be avoiding me as well. I never seem to get close to her enough to say something.”
The king and queen nodded to each other. The king placed his hands on his daughter’s shoulder. “My precious daughter, we will see to it that we speak to Bedelia about this matter. She is just looking out for the best interest of the kingdom, but she seems to have gone a tad too far.”
“A tad?!” scoffed Angelica. “She clearly has been increasingly hostile!”
“We will see to it that we sort the matter out.”