A Modern Fairy Tale Romance

 

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Prologue: The Missing Prince

A long ago when the world was young, there was a prosperous and flourishing ancient kingdom ruled by a king whose wisdom is equal by the laws of his people.

One day, the kingdom attended by a Demon King wished to form a peace treaty pact.  The king, however, had no desire to form the pact, rejected the Demon King's offer, thus resulted in an endless war between humanity and the Demon King's army that lasted for a decade.

The Demon Army were incompatible than the king's army. They destroyed many villages and crashed any warriors who were bold enough to face them. Feared for his life, the coward king sneaked out from his castle fled out of his kingdom, leaving the kingdom defend-less and unprotected. 

When all hope seemed to have lost, a little boy from a poor village stood up against the Demon King.

'I will not fear you, Demon King!' The boy said. 'You may crush our home, but you will never crush our spirits or the love that we hold dearly for this kingdom!'

Moved and encouraged by the boy's words, the rest of the villagers had joined forces with the boy to defeat Demon King. Soon enough, the battle ended victoriously for the boy's army. The Demon King's army was defeated and never returned. 

Due to his bravery and heart that touched many, the boy was crowned as a new King. His name was Excalibell Hunts. Under his rules, Excalibell combined all the small villagers and created a mighty empire. 

As many generations passed, the Kingdom blossomed prosperity with richness and numerous resources. They lived harmonically with other beings thought kept closed watch on the Demon King should he ever returned for revenge.

 

**************

 

"YOUR Royal Highness!"

A deep manly voice echoed the hallways of the Excalibell's castle where a five feet tall and nine inches’ man in his late twenties, suited in a butler uniform, stopped at the middle of the halls. He sighed deeply and brushed his smooth parted black hair. 

“Prince Duke, this isn't funny. Come out wherever you are,” His commanding voice was firm. Anyone nearby would have known, based from the tone he had used, he meant business. 

Sharp amber eyes searched for any sight of where his charge might have disappeared to while he was talking to a gardener just a while ago. Already, the man could feel a migraine slowly building up in his head.

Aidan Timbell sighed again. How could he be so careless as to let this happened? He had merely taken his eyes off the Crown Prince for just a minute to speak with the gardener over the decorations on the window for tonight's event. By the time the conversations were over, His Royal Highness had disappeared from his side.

Aidan had taken every measurement to make sure that the Prince would not be able to escape from tonight's dinner – he'd even went as far as walked reasonably closely beside the Prince as not to lose sight of him, much to the latter’s annoyance.  

Huffed a sigh, the butler scratched his head. He had known His Royal Highness since he was a young toddler as he was the latter's caretaker and tutor, above all, before Aidan officially got promoted and became his Butler. However, being a Butler and personal attendee to such a carefree heir to the throne was an exhausting job and at times, a frustrating one. Nonetheless, Aidan had never disliked the job, no matter how many times he complained to the King about his son's misbehaviours.

Shaking his head, Aidan decided to focus the task on hands before the King found out his son had gone missing again. 

Turned on his heels, the butler headed to where his troublemaker Royal Charge might be.

 

**************

 

“IS it not ready yet, Lexus?”

“In a minute, Your Highness. Please be patient.”

Two figures were seen hunching over something in a dark underground dungeon, surrounded by glowing mushrooms. Only the sound of water from the wells dripping and mechanism fixed filled in the silent of the room.

One of the two men was a tall, fragile-looking man in late thirties, with a very sharp feature and medium wavy silver-white hair. He wore a dirty and worn laboratory coat with a pair of hands modified goggles while he was busily crouching down and working intensively on fixing a portal mechanism.

Not further away from him, a young fresh looking man in his mid-twenties, wearing a brown leather with a buckled upfront short sleeved jerkin, worn-over the doublet, a pair of dark trousers and the Royal family's crest pendant, was walking back and forth waiting impatiently for the former to finish the job.

Prince Duke of Excalibell sighed for the tenth times as he crossed his arms.  A frown appeared on his tanned handsomely face with wavy brown hair curtained his sharp and wolfish angular features – no doubt that he was the heartthrob of the Kingdom.

Getting tired of waiting, the young Prince glanced over to his friend, the greatest inventor in the kingdom who did not look like he would be taking his eyes off the portal anytime soon, decided to wander off.

"Call me once you finished, Lexus. I'll be outside!"

"Will do, Your Highness," Lexus answered without as much as looking at the latter, focusing all his being on the mechanism instead.  

With a charming smile, Duke climbed up the staircases to the entrance and exited the underground dungeon.

While waiting for Lexus to finish fixing the portal, the young prince decided to take a short rest underneath an Oak Tree. Duke laid on the grass and folded his arms behind his head. He inventively laughed as Aidan's annoyed look crossed his mind along with his endless lecturers that surely awaited him.

Closed his eyes and sighed, Duke decided to let his butler faded in his mind and replaced by his beloved's face – his darling Marian.

He remembered her soft rosy cheeks whenever he teases her when they're together. Her lovely gaze and charming smile.

“Oh, my sweet Marian. How I've longed to see your lovely face. To hold you in my arms and to kiss you so passionately,” Duke smiled, slowly reopening his eyes and staring at the evening skies, disappointedly.

Sighed softly, he took out a small box from a leather pouch he always carried with him whenever he goes. Opening the box, it revealed to be a beautiful 10-carat diamond ring.

"Today is her twenty-second birthday. With this ring, we can officially get engaged and married," The Prince probed deeply about their future together, when all the sudden, he heard footsteps approaching him.

"Your Highness," Aidan's calm and collected voice unwantedly sent shivers down the Prince's spines.

“Aidan! How delightful to see you here! Though, I didn't expect you to show up so soon," Duke faked his laughter and looked away, running one hand over his soft locks.

“Your Highness. I must say at the very least, your magic has improved dramatically, seeing as how you managed to escape from my sight so frequently these days," said Aidan, while approaching with steady steps while Duke sat upon the grass, shrugged at his comments.

"What is that you're holding?"

"Marian's engagement ring. Do you think she'd love it?"

"If it is a gift from the heart, I'm sure she would be pleased, Your Highness. Speaking of which, your father the King has sent me to inform you that he wishes to dine with you tonight. I'd imagine he would like to have words regarding your engagement and marriage with Miss Marian."

'It's about those senile senators, isn't it? They've been pressuring father a lot about cancelling the whole engagement just because Marian isn't from a royal bloodline–"

"–And also, out of this world. Your Highness, you know I have your full supports with whoever it is you chose to spend the rest of your life. However, as the only heir to the throne, you should also take into consideration what the people might feel about this whole marriage situation. In the end, you must put the people's need first before yours," Aidan's firm tone caused the Prince to frown.

By all means, he had no intention to be mean except to continually remind Duke of his duty and responsibilities to his people first over his true love.

“I am aware things will not go easy since the day I'd made up my mind and announced to father and the councilmen my intention of marrying Marian," Duke spoke after a long silence. "Truthfully, I could not imagine myself living without her standing by my side. We both have agreed to wait until she finishes her studies before we wed. Her parents have kindly accepted me into their family – though it took me years to finally earned her father's blessing!"

"Indeed. Master Woodlocks is doubtfully a great man who made you proven your worth by making you, the sole heir to the throne, working at his farms for months. Until now, I'm still getting an earful from His Majesty for letting it happened."

Duke laughed fondly at the memories of working at farms and how happy they all were when Marian's father finally given his blessing to marry his little girl. Even the robotic Aidan had congratulated the happy couple and graced them with a bottle of fine wine afterwards.

Their moment was short-lived by the sound of Lexus' voice excitingly calling out Duke's name from the dungeon's entrance.

"Your Highness, it's alive! Come quickly!"

"What does he mean by 'alive'? Moreover, what were you doing in the underground dungeon with him, Your Highness?" Aidan frowned deeply. Before he could probe deeper into the matter, Duke grabbed his arms and ushered him into the dungeon.

 

**************

 

"I am most certainly against this idea, Your Royal Highness," Aidan's sharp tone echoed the dungeon as he stood in front of the activated portal, firmly crossed his arms on his chest. Beside him, Duke lightly tapped on his arms.

"Oh come on, man. Lightened up, will you? I'll be sure to be back in time for dinner, and no one will know I'm missing."

"Except me and this stick in the mud here", Lexus scoffed.  

"This stick in the mud would gladly to blast you to the other dimension and forth without the need of using that portal over there."

"Now, now, gentlemen. I trust everyone here can keep their lips sealed. Besides, it's not like I'm breaking any laws. I'm just visiting my fiancée, that's all."

Aidan huffed a heavy sigh. "Does Miss Marian knows that you're coming to visit her, Your Highness? It would cause her troubles if you were to show up unannounced during her dance recitals like you did last time."

Duke waved at his butler's comments. His eyes instantly fixed on the activated portal which he had been waiting for quite some time!

“Excellent work as always, Lexus!” Duke praised loudly, shaking the man's hands before stepping closer to the portal. “Honestly, I have no idea what happened earlier. It went off suddenly on its own when I’d just about to enter.”

“Must have been the wired connections. It happens,” Lexus shrugged, taking off his goggles and blinked rapidly.

Grey eyes looked at the crown prince sternly as he handed over a black and small device.

"Here, wrap this around your wrist."

"What is it?" Duke asked, wrapping the device on his wrist.

"Desperate times call for desperate measures, Your Highness. In case you got lost along the way, or something bad happened, presses that button on the device, and you will be teleporting back. Albeit, forcefully and painfully."

Winched by the inventor's words, Duke shook his head. His hands trembled with anxiety and excitement of surprising his beloved with an engagement ring on her birthday. He inhaled and exhaled deeply for a few times and repeated the process.

Meanwhile, Aidan was frowning profoundly and had long given up stopping his stubborn charge from leaving. He knew he would be in big trouble if the King found out about this.

"I'll be back before dinner. I promise," Duke said, reassuringly.

"I'm holding you to your words, Your Highness,” Aidan spoke firmly. "If you're not back in half an hour before dinner time, by will or force, I will drag you back, regardless."

“Thanks,” Duke flashed a smile before stepped into closer to the portal. For some odd reason, he felt nervousness at the pits of his stomach. Putting both hands at the sides of the portal and taking another deep breath, Duke prayed he would land safely on the other side before stepping into the entrance and disappeared.

 

**************

 

“TRUE love, huh?” Lexus sighed softly after the Prince had left. “I gotta say, I'm quite envious of His Highness; still youthful yet so full of life. Out of curiosity, have you ever been madly in love before?”

He received no response from the butler.

"Aidan?" Lexus turned only to find the man was already halfway heading to the exit. "Hey!"

While the inventor behind him was noisily nagging about being left behind, Aidan's mind wandered on how he should handle the situation with the King should the occurs arose where he asked for his son's whereabouts.

"Are you even listening to me!"

“I am," Aidan nodded. "Now tell me how should I handle this situation with his Majesty should he asks for the Prince's whereabouts?"

"Just tell him half-truth: His Highness went to the other world to visit his missus before you had the chance to stop him. His Majesty was young once, he should understand. Just leave the part where he escaped under your watch, and you'll be fine!"  

"If only it were that easy. I got a feeling this dinner meeting tonight is highly significant than usual."  

“Oh, you’re such a worry-wart! His Highness's fine. He'll be back before you could say–”

All the sudden, there was a buzzing noise came from the portal.

“What was that?”

Aidan shook his head. Taking a few steps back to the portal. The buzzing sound was distinctive yet loud enough to make disturbing noises. The noises increased with each minute passed.

“Has something like this ever happened before?” Aidan whispered lowly.

“N-Never! I’ve always checked to make sure everything goes soothingly well before His Highness uses the portal. I have never allowed him to use the portal without being supervised!”

“Then why–”

The portal suddenly shut itself, caused the two men to halt in their conversation.

“No! Your Highness!” 

Lexus rushed in panic, checking the portal. "No. No!" He gave the portal a few knocks when he was being pulled away all the sudden and got dragged by the butler.

“What are you doing?! The portal!”

There were no signs nor warnings when all the sudden, the portal exploded in blinding white. The explosion caused the whole place swallowed up in a disaster.

Lexus, who managed to get out to safety, gawked horrifyingly at the scenes before them.

“Oh my god... OH, MY GOD!”  Panicked swamped him over like a big tidal wave. “All of my researches... The Portal. His Highness!

“Could you please be silence for a minute,” Aidan hissed softly while nursing his slightly bleeding head.

"Oh God, you're bleeding! Are you alright?"

"I'm fine. Moreover,” Aidan took out a dagger he kept hidden in his sleeves and stood on his guard.  It was then when he realised the noisy buzzing sound had gone and replaced with total silence.

The deafening silence lasted for only a minute before Laxuz’s panicked attack came back alive again. This time, in full force.

“This is bad... This is really bad! Oh, what should we do? What should I do? Without the portal, even if His Highness uses the device I've given to him, there's no way for him to return to this world!"

Gasped sharply, he rambled. "The king will be extremely furious! Oh, what am I supposed to do!"

“Quiet!” Aidan snapped.

A deep scowl appeared on his usual calm and collected face which caused the inventor to instantly stopped his ramblings. Sighed deeply, Aidan straightened his back and inhaled deeply. He then spoke in a calm tone.

“Is there any way for you to fix the portal?”

“Oh, that’s so easy for you to say! I didn’t spend endless of sleepless nights just so–”

“Can you fix it?” Aidan said firmly and louder the second time. His patient getting thinner with the inventor as time passed quickly.

Lexus huffed a sigh, scratched his head.

“Well, I can try and recreate another portal. I have a copy of the portal’s design back at my place. With plenty of brainstorming and as much helps as I could get, it should take me at least three months to get it done."

Aidan firmly nodded. “Understood. I'll see what I can negotiate with His Majesty regarding the matter. Also, is there any alternative way I may be able to use to go to the other world beside the portal?”

Lexus pondered for a while before snapping his finger. “There's a new invention which I’ve just successfully developed its prototype! It's still fairly new and hasn't been tested yet. So...”

“It's perfect. Do you mind if I borrow this while I look for the Prince on the other side?”

“Did you not hear a word I’ve just said? It hasn't been tested yet!”

“I heard you loud and clear. As the His Highness' Butler, it is my duty and responsibility to protect him, regardless of what.”

“But,” Lexus sighed deeply again. There was no point arguing with Excalibell’s finest Gran Mago once he made up his mind after all. 

"Well, all right. The prototype is at my place as well as everything you may need for your journey there. We'll meet up in an hour.”

"Very well then."

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Chapter 1: An Unexpected Visitor

HILLVIEW TOWN, a modest city with an average-sized population with all the usual amenities such as shopping malls, restaurants, parks, beaches, lakes and a transit system. The community was lively and reasonably friendly. At the Northern coast of the Town, stood a high-density condominium called ‘Starz' Condominium. 

One of the residences that lived in the condominium was the Romans Family.

Mrs Rosy Romans, a widower, at the age of forty-three years old who was also a  proud mother of three adult children. She had a successful family business that she named as ‘Romanz' Cake  House'; a dream she had fulfilled ever since she was just a little girl.

Mrs Romans has twenty-five years old twin sons, Dean and James Romans; both worked as successful culinary chefs who operated a joint Fine Dining restaurant overseas, while her youngest child and only daughter, Anya Romans, was a Second  Year Literature student at the Shield's University.

 

*********

 

IN a small bedroom painted in light olive, was where the youngest of the Romans' family slumbered. Her soft medium length chestnut hair laid spreadingly on the pillow. 

Dawn was slowly approaching as the rains began to pour drizzlingly when the alarm clock on a small desk nearby her bed started to ring loudly at six-fifteen o'clock in the morning.

“Mmmm. Five more minutes," Anya softly muttered, covering her face with a pillow. Laying next to her on the right, was a small bundled covered with furs with four legs and soft pads. Soft meows echoed the otherwise silent room. 

“Mmmm Not now, Casey," Anya Romans groaned softly, refused to budge from the comfort of her bed. She knew Casey was a faithful yet demanding kitten despite its small physique. If she did not get up on time, no doubt the kitten's meowing would increase tremendously as it demands to be feed.  

Sighed tiredly, Anya decided for once, she would be okay at being yelled at by her cat and buried her face deepened into the pillow, letting out another sigh before her mind took off and drifted back to sleep. In less than five minutes later, something loud crashed came from her closed closet, instantly woke up the youngest Romans.

"W-What! What the hell was that?" Mocha eyes looked at her dark surrounding wildly before her instincts kicked in. Anya grabbed a wooden baton hanging around the bed headboard.  

Her overly-protective older brothers had bought her a baseball bat for her eighteenth birthday, insisted she kept it near her bed for safety and just case something unlikely were to happen while they were away studying overseas, five years ago.

Flash-forward to last Spring,  Anya had called in her brothers out of the blue to inform them she had used and broken the bat after some guys decided not to stop harassing her best friends in college. Dean, being strict and no-nonsense out of the twins, had been distraught to hear the news and that she involved in a fight. Nonetheless, on her birthday of the same year, he had couriered her a gift: a new baseball bat, with a letter attached, to promise him that she would use it wisely this time.

Inhaled deeply, Anya bravely walked toward the wardrobe, with Casey followed cautiously beside her, rubbing its furs against her legs protectively. Approaching closer to her door, Anya could hear the muffled sound of someone hissing and grunting in the closet.

Red alarms flashed in her mind, Anya quickly dragged a sturdy chair from its place and pinned it against the door before grabbing her smartphone and Casey and hurriedly stumbled out of the bedroom. 

Anya rushed toward her mother’s room, at the end of the corridor. Not bothered to knock, she turned the doorknob and rushed in. Putting Casey on the floor, she quickly went to her mother's side to wake her up.

“Mama,” Trembled hands shook the older woman. “Wake up! Please wake up! There’s someone in my closet!”

As soon as her mother started to move and yawned, Anya pressed on a speed dial number on her phone and waited impatiently for the recipient to pick up.  

“Anya? What's wrong, baby?” Motherly instinct quickly kicked in despite her fatigue. Her daughter rarely showed up in her bedroom unusually this early in the morning.

“There's someone in my closet!” Anya whispered softly, surprised even herself at how shaken she was at the moment.

Rosy stared blankly at her one and only daughter, waiting for the words she had said to her to register in her brain. Slowly, her facial expression changed from blanked to terrific and in great shock.

“Oh my God! Honey, are you all right?  Are you okay? Did they hurt you? Josh! Call Josh right now! Right now!” Rosy got up from the bed and quickly put on a robe as she spoke.

“I’m calling him right now. I'm fine. I locked whoever the damn bastard is in the closet and secured it with my study chair.”  

“Hello?” A deep grouchy male voice answered the phone.

“Josh! What took you so damn long to answer? No. Sorry, I’ll get straight to the point — there’s a burglar in my wardrobe! I'm fine, in Ma’s room now. I’ve locked whoever it is in the wardrobe and secured it with my chair. Come here as fast as you can. Please?”

“I’ll be there in a minute. Meanwhile, I want you and your mother to go and wait outside. This is an order, you hear?"

“Noted. Thanks, Josh," Anya hung up the phone and notified her mother Josh's firm instruction.

 

*********

 

THE two Romans women along with their kitten in a carriage, waited outside of the front door of their apartment, as per instructed by Josh, holding on a mug of hot coffee to keep themselves warm from the cold morning shower.

Within ten minutes later, a dashing young man in his late twenties, sporting a retro hairstyle and dressed smartly, came rushing toward them. Behind him were two men dressed in police officers.

“Anya! Rose! Are you all right?”

Rosy looked up and offered a small smile. “We’re fine, dear. Though, I feel my blood pressure increasing this morning."

Josh signalled the two policemen to go in. He then turned to face with the ladies again.

“Rose, I'll take you to the clinic later. Stay here,” He said sternly before entered the apartment cautiously.

Once again, the Romans women were forced to wait outside again, their neighbours who were about to head out to work, looked surprised to see the commotion going on outside.

Anya groaned internally before briefly told them what happened. While she was in the midst of explaining the situation to the neighbours, all the sudden, they heard a loud shout coming from inside of the house, followed by struggles.

“Unhand me! I am innocent! I would never dare to harm nor have I ever wanted to do anything indecent to a fair young maiden!”

“Save your explanation in court. Pervert,” said one of the policemen as they dragged the burglar out of the apartment.

Soft brown eyes widened in surprise as they met with glaring mocha eyes.  Eyes that filled in with so much joy and loved, it was unlike anything Anya had imagined what a burglar would look like, scary and perverse. Next to his eyes was his features — smooth, sun-kissed tanned skin complexions that looked best on him and made any girls drooled, along with his tall and slender muscular frame.

Although her heart was beating faster than the usual at the incredible sight of the burglar, what caught her attention the most was the weird clothing he wore that looked something from Medieval Era.

Aya didn't say anything but kept on glaring at the burglar as he was being taken away by the policemen. Not long afterwards, Josh came out with a piece of cigarette on his mouth, shaking his head.

“Unbelievable. First thing in the morning too. Hell, I haven’t even had my morning coffee yet.”

“Sorry, Josh,” Anya smiled apologetically. "Thanks for coming.”

"Not at all," Josh lightened up the cigarette and heaved a long sigh.

“Perhaps you would like to have a cup of coffee before you leave, Josh? I’ll make my special coffee,” Offered Rosy with a motherly smile.

“Thanks for the offer, Rose, but next time, perhaps. I should probably hurry up and check on how the guys are dealing with that pervert at the station. By the way Anya, as of now, I'm afraid I'll need to disclose your room for further investigations for the time being. You may take your clothes and belongings, but do not touch anything in the closet. Understood?”

“Damn it,” Groaning lowly, Anya picked Case's carriage and brought it inside to the warmth of her home.

Watching her only daughter groaned and muttering words under her breath,  Rosy smiled wearily and shook her head.

“You want me to drop you off at the clinic, Rose?”

“No thanks, dearie. I'll be fine.”  

“You sure? Well, okay then. Just call me if you need anything.”

“Yes, Rosy nodded reassuringly. “Thank you so much for coming, Josh,” With a final goodbye, she gently closed the door and locked it.

Sighed heavily, Rosy looked at the clock hanging on the walls.

“Anya sweetie, it’s already seven forty-five. You’re gonna be late for class if you don’t hurry up.”

“Shoot!”

 

*********

 

AFTER a quick shower and dressed in a simple three-quartered sleeves blouse with small pink floral patterns and black jeans, Anya stared at her reflection at the mirror while applying daily moisturiser and beauty cream.

Earlier on, she had spent fifteen minutes to gather her stuff into a small box and put it on a King sized bed of James' bedroom which she had decided was the best room to sleep in a while her room was being set as off-limits.

Out of the twins, Anya was closest to James, who took on the paternal roles of raising her after their father died in a traffic accident when she was ten. Dean would help out at the bakery with their mum while James stayed at home and took care of her until she was old enough to take care of herself.

It was at that time, the twins had developed their interest in culinary arts. What started as duties turned to deep passions that both decided to pursue it professionally when they graduated high school.

While the twins continued with the family business, Anya decided she found herself fascinated with books and literature, a passion she shared with her late father who was an Author for Children's Books.

During her high school's years, Anya participated in a school's writing essay competition. Her submitted work, entitled 'Everyday Life at The Bakery Cafe', made her won first place in the competition and seriously considered to pursue her dreams as a novelist.  

 

*********

ANYA sighed in relief after making sure she had all that she needed for today's class. Checking herself in the mirror again, she made sure she looked decent enough for school before grabbing her bag on the floor.

Kissing Casey on the forehead and petting her softly, Anya smiled affectionately at the kitty and whispered softly,  “Bye, my darling. I’ll be home soon before you even know it.”

Anya walked out of James' bedroom and just about to head to the living room when she stopped, turned left at the corridor to her room to fetch something she has forgotten to pack earlier. 

Anya sneered at the yellow tape at the entrance of her own bedroom. The light from the sunlight shone through the curtains of her room, not too dark nor entirely bright either. Carefully stepped into the room, she pushed the curtains to the side so that the sunlight would come in. 

Casey meowed at the door before rubbing her Mistress's legs.  Anya smiled, pulling the kitty in her arms.

“Sorry, babe. We can’t use or sleep in our room for the time being. Hey, don’t look at me like that. Blame that innocently stupid-perverted-bastard who was in the closet this morning.  I’m just going to get something, so you just stay outside, okay?” Gently, she pushed the kitten to the door and closed it.

No time to waste, Anya began her search for the one thing she was here for — her assignment papers which she needed to submit today!

Aha! Found it. Grinning to herself for the small victory, Anya took the assignment papers that were lying on a messy desk filled with books, notes and documents. Nodded to herself, Anya was just about to make her way to the door when something caught her eyes. 

Laying on the floor, was a small leather pouch.

Frowned deeply, Anya walked toward it and bend on one knee and ready to pick up the pouch when something fell out of the pouch — a golden ring. 

Anya stared at the ring until it stopped rolling on the floor. As she was about to pick it up, there were a few knocks on her bedroom door.

“Honey? What are you doing? Didn’t Josh tell you not to come in? What’s that?” Rosy pointed out at the pouch.

Anya quickly scooped the ring on the floor and put it back into the pouch. “I came here to take my assignment on the desk when I saw this pouch. The burglar must have left it behind.”

“Leave it, dear. Josh and his team will come in later and investigate the room. You mustn't touch any of the evidence.”

“I know,” Anya got up to her feet and walked toward her mother and kissed her on the cheeks before saying her goodbyes.

“Oh honey, Josh said to inform you to head down to the station after classes are over. He needs you to testify about this morning."

“Sure,” Anya nodded. “See ya!”

“Be safe!”

*********

 

“STOP! Please stop hurting him!” 

A young woman watched helplessly as a group of gang-members laughed loudly as their leader punched someone in his stomach, blood burst from the latter's mouth and spilled on the ground.

“Steve!” The young woman cried out, desperately. Her rich emerald eyes grew widened when one of the gang kicked the man named Steve’s stomach, causing the weaker man to spit more blood and dropped on his knees.

“Hah! This weakling's a piece of meat who can't even protect his woman! How the fuck could get a scrawny guy like you to be with such a fine looking babe, huh?!”

“Max, leave him alone! He’s much of a better man than you’ll ever be!”

Max instantly stopped his bullying. He turned his head slowly to face the woman who had just insulted his manhood.

What did you say?”

“You heard me! Acting all tough and badass when all you ever know is fighting against the weak! You're not a man. You're just a little boy throwing tantrums when he doesn’t get his way!”

“Emma!” Steve shouted, painfully holding onto his bruised ribs. His raven hair stuck on his damp forehead. He had fair-skinned and ocean-blue eyes that glared sharply at Max.

Steve got up on his feet, shakenly when one of the gang-members knocked him down again using his heels.

“You’ll regret saying those words to me, babe,” Max smirked wildly, holding one of Emma's arms in a tight grip as she struggled and pulled her closer to him. I’ll make sure you'll be begging for mercy when I'm done with –”

Max's words were abruptly cut by something hard flown and landed on his cheeks – a coffee tin can.

“Haven’t you jackasses learned your lesson already? Stop harassing my friends!”

“Fuck! It’s Romans!”

Anya glared sharply at each one of the gang members with her hands on her hips. Sweats were rolling on her cheeks and dripping off from her chin, but she didn’t care. Her soul felt like it was on fire when she arrived at the University’s gates only to find some assholes were bulling her friends again.

The incident this morning didn’t help the situation either.   

“Well, well… Look who finally shows up,” Max got up to his feet again and spat another broken tooth — his fifth of the week.

Anya narrowed her eyes. “I’d thought I told you to stay away not to come anywhere near us again. Seems like I need to teach you all a lesson in Knuckletown,” clenching her knuckles as she prepared for a fight.

Max spat again, and another tooth fell off. He glared dangerously at the petite woman who looked like she’s ready to tear the place apart.

“Later, bitch,” Max gave a rude gesture to them before leaving with his gang, like nothing happened. He released all of his rages to an innocent dustbin nearby, kicking it so hard it flew to the opposite side of the wall and even shouted obscenities to anyone who dared to also look at him.

Anya sighed, shaking her head.

“Honestly. I could never understand those guys,” Anya sighed while shaking her head. "You two all right?"

“By all right, do you mean, not getting punched in the face? Then yes, I’m okay,” Stephan 'Steve' Aarons spoke in a raspy voice, as he got up to his feet with the help of his girlfriend. He picked up his dirty glasses, cleaned it up then put it back on.

“Thanks, Anya,” Steve smiled brightly at his longtime childhood friend. “Things could have gotten much worse if you didn't jump in.”

“Eh, don’t mention it,” Anya shrugged, shaking off some dirt on her shoulder. Tilted her head to her two friends, she said, “So, class?”

 

*********

 

THE Shield University is famously known for their many educational achievements and with reasonable tuition fees. They are among the top five selected universities in the country. Within the university, there was a group famously known as the 'Cripple Trio'.

Stephan 'Steve' Aarons came from a very wealthy background and the sole heir of a well known I.T Company. Though very wealthy, his family was very down-to-earth and humble people. Stephan's parents, Mr and Mrs Aarons, preferred to send their only one and heir to public schools for his educations.  They wanted Stephan to experience the other side of society.  On weekends, the Aarons family would serve charity works at their own charity house for the less than fortunes people.

Though Stephen was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, he has a fragile body that had been the subject of bullying in schools, which led Anya to self-appointed herself to become his personal bodyguard from middle school all the way to high school.

When both were in their first year of high school, they met with Emma Greens — a shy newly transferred student who just returned to her childhood home after spending years living overseas due to her father's constant travels for business.

 

*********

 

ANYA slumped heavily on the table as soon as she took a seat at the lecture hall. Letting out a sigh, she felt her stomach growling loudly and decided to check on the clock.

Eight-thirty hours.

Damn. Not even ten o’clock and Anya was already starving. Turned to her left, she was just about to have a chat with Emma but stopped when she noticed the latter was chatting animatedly with her boyfriend.

How adorable. 

Decided to leave the couple alone, Anya took out her phone and texted her mother to let her know that she arrived at school safely and that she beat Max's gang again — something that Rosy did not approve whenever she reported back what happened at school.

In less than a minute, she received a short reply:

‘Okay, dear. Have fun at school! :)’

Keeping her phone away, Anya waited impatiently for the lecturer to arrive and for the class to start. 

As time moved in slow pace, one by one of her classmates entered the lecture room, which the trio, greeted them with a smile and good morning. After ten minutes of anxiously waiting and it seemed no more students were entering the hall, it was then when Anya realised just how empty the lecture room was, compared to the usual. 

Have they entered the wrong lecture hall? No way! Anya checked her schedule twice this morning. She was very sure their first period of the day would be English Literature

While busily scrambled through her program when all the sudden, Anya heard soft gasps came from Emma and a few of her female classmates.

Looking up, she was surprised to see instead Mr Hayes, an old grumpy, white-haired ‘wizard’ with menacing-eyes, it was someone none of them knew walked in with confidence steps.

The man was tall and handsomely good looking in his late-twenties. He has unusually silver-grey hair in slightly long bobbed hair, parted at the right side of his face, and the rest hang behind his left ear. He wore long black pants, six buttons double breasted tailcoat and oddly enough, a white laboratory coat.

Dark mocha eyes scanned the faces of all five students gawked stunningly before him. A grin suddenly appeared across his lips.  When he spoke, everyone immediately shivered at the tone of his deep husky voice.

“Good morning, class. My name is Abel Fox. Due to personal issues, Mr Hayes will no longer be teaching at the university. I will be taking over all of his classes, mainly in Literature Studies. You may refer to me as Mr Fox.”

The class kept silence as Mr Fox opened the Attendant List.

“I was being informed by the English Department's Head of Faculty that most of your classmates are not here due to an ongoing competition out of the university, correct?"  Dark mocha eyes landed on Anya.

“What is your name?”

“Anya. Anya Romans, Sir.”

“Miss Romans, was it? What a lovely name. Now then, starting today henceforth, I will nominate you as the class monitor. I believe there shouldn't be any problems with this arrangement. Unless you do have any objections?"

One girl lifted her hand. “We do have a class monitor, Sir. His name is Ethan Carter.”

“Ah. Well then, is Mr Carter here with us today?”

“No, sir. He participates in the competition with the rest,” The girl replied meekly.

“Very good. Miss Romans, while Mr Carter is away, would you mind being a substitute leader for my class today?”

“If you said so, sir,” Anya shrugged.

“Good,” With that being said, Mr Fox closed the attendant list without finished calling out the name of the rest. “As there are only five of you in class today, I see no point of me continuing the lectures today. Yes, Mr Aarons?”

“Sir,” Steve raised his hand. “Mr Heyes has given us an assignment a week before. We were supposed to submit it by today. I just thought you would know...”

“Ah, yes. Thank you for the reminder. Miss Romans, if you would be as kind to gather the assigned papers and bring them over to me by the end of the class today,” he kept his gaze on her like a preying hawk.

Anya mutely nodded and looked away uncomfortably, pushing a few strained hairs behind her ears. 

What the hell was his problem?

“As I have said before, I will not be teaching you a new lecture topic today. However, I would like for you to do something for me. Think of it as part of an assignment, if you will,” Mr Fox walked over to the blackboard. Using yellow chalk, he started to write down one word across the board.

“Excalibell? Is that a name of a place or person?”

“I'm glad you asked, Miss Greens,” Putting down the chalk, Mr Fox turned to face them. “Before I answer your question, let me ask all of you this: How many of you believe in fairy tales?”

Nobody lifted their hands.

Raised an eyebrow, Mr Fox proceeded by walking closer. “So none of them truly believe the existence of tooth fairy, unicorn and such?” His simple question brought snorts from the class.

“Maybe when we were little and stupid,” One of the students, Beth Ambers, snickered.

“I see. What about you Miss Romans, do you believe in fairy tales?”

“I don’t.”

“Miss Romans, everyone here knows, your late father,  Adam Romans, was a well-known children author who wrote plenty of fairy tales stories that sounded very realistic.”

“Yes, well... Not believing in fairy tales does not mean I dislike it. Fairy tales are great and all when you're younger and still naive about the outside world. Reality is just not like that. I like a bit of realism in it.”

“Interesting. Well, I think you ought to love to hear stories about Excalibell. Of course, you would know better,”  Mr Fox's sharp tone at the end of the sentences caught Anya by surprise.

Her heart was pumping wildly on her chest as the silence of the room thickened. Common sense and every fibre of her body told her to dash out of place and get far away from the man who was making her feeling very uncomfortable the moment he stepped into the room.

“Miss Romans.”

As if she was being hypnotised, Anya snapped out of it and blinked her eyes rapidly. Heart still pumping loudly, she looked around the class, she was all alone.

Before she knew it, Anya was already up from her seat with eyes wide opened.

“Emma? Steve? Angela? W-Where-”

“There's no point of calling out their names. You’re alone now, Miss Romans,” said Mr Fox, who no longer bore long silver-greyish hair and was replaced by a short and slightly parted black hair.

“What are you? What have you done to my friends? Answer me!”

Amber eyes glared emotionlessly and darkly at the young woman when sudden, a small grin escaped his lips.

“My, my. So many questions shooting out from that little mouth,” In a blink of an eye, Anya was pushed to the wall.  

Anya struggled to break free from the firm grip he had around her neck.

“Where is the Heir of Excalibell?”Aidan whispered coldly, bringing his face closer and tightened his grip on her neck.

“The... Heir?” Anya gasped chokingly.

“Answer the question, Miss Romans.”

“I... don’t know what you’re...talking about... What... Heir?” Anya's face turned blue.

Aidan did not loosen his grip. “Very well. It seems I have no other choice but to use that method. So be it.”

“What are you-”  

The next thing Anya felt was a sharp pain hit her stomach before her world blacked out.

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Chapter 2: Contract

LIEUTENANT Joshua Campbell let out a very tiring and heavy sigh as he slumped down on his chair after a hard day at work. Rubbing his throbbing forehead, he closed his eyes and rest his head against the comfortable header of the chair.

“Damn. That guy is the worse," Josh muttered under his breath. "No passport or identification card, yet he knew this country's history like the back of his hands! Just who the hell is he anyway?”

“Having a hard day, Lieutenant?”

A Sergeant-rank officer with black Ivy League haircut came in with two mugs of freshly brewed roasted black coffee. He had a deep cut scar on his left eyebrow, making him looked very intimidating and fearful.

Deep ocean blue eyes stared at the man behind his desk as he handed one of the two mugs to his partner before making a short trip to his own and sat down.

“Thanks. Really needed this,” Josh inhaled the freshly brewed coffee and satisfyingly sighed. Sipping the excellent coffee halfway, Josh stopped when he felt eyes were on him.

Turned to his partner, who looked at him as if he had just won a lottery with an amused grin and his own mug remained untouched on the desk.

“What?” Joshua lifted an eyebrow.

Soo, who was that girl this morning, huh? You know... The one who made you illegally turned the car around at the freakin’ traffic light? Girlfriend? She’s cute.”

Josh choked instantly and spilt some of the coffee on his uniform. He gave a long threatening glare, before whipping the coffee’s stained off his shirt.

“She’s my late brother’s kid, you arse!”

“What! But you’re like, twenty-seven! And she’s like sixteen!

“Twenty-three. We're related, just not by blood. My parents and Anya's father, Adam Romans were childhood friends. When I was twelve and years before the twins were born, my parents died in a car accident. Adam and his wife, Rosy, took me in and raised me. Technically, I would have been the 'oldest brother', but since Adam and Rosy have allowed me to keep my family's name, I am known as 'Uncle Josh' to the children."

The Sergeant whistled. “Wow. I never knew. How come you never told me any of this stuff?”

“You never asked,” Josh shrugged, silently finishing his coffee.

Silence fill in their shared office except the constant ringing of the telephones outside.

“So...”

At the mischievous tone of his partner, Josh immediately cringed. Here we go. "What? You got a problem with what I've just told you, Sergeant?"

“Oh, no.  Absolutely not! Just a sense of... Enviousness is all.”

“I see,” Josh put away the mug to the side while he retrieved a stack of reports he needed to fill in.

“So, you’re never like... You know...

“Know...What?” Josh began to feel annoyed and irritated by his partner’s choice of words.

“Well, what I meant to say was, you being the younger uncle and she being young... Lady. You never feel like doing...Something? Anything? To your cute so-called 'niece'? Cause technically, it’s not illegal if you want to marry her or even want to,” The sergeant made an obscene gesture with his fingers, which earned him a sharp glare from the Lieutenant.  

“You are a disgusting pig," Josh's voice filled with malice but his posture remained calm. He pointed at the stack of reports on his partner’s table. “I want those on my desk in an hour.”

“Aww, you're no fun!”

“Speaking of fun,” Josh muttered under his breath and sighed. He looked at his wristwatch. “It’s already past two O’clock. Where the hell is she?”

Taking out his smartphone, Josh dialled a number and waited. After what it seemed to be a minute, the call went straight to the voice-mail.

“That’s odd. Anya always answers the phone after class.”

“Maybe she’s on a date with her boyfriend and doesn’t want to be disturbed.”

“She doesn’t have one,” Josh sighed and redialled the number.

“Oh, and I suppose you would know what colour of the bra she’s wearing today?”

“Yellow-polka dots.”

"Dude! I should put you behind bars, man!”

Ignored his partner’s dirty jokes, Josh groaned loudly before putting down his smartphone.

“Something not right here. I have a bad feeling about this.”

“Dude, chill. She doesn’t pick up her phone. Big deal. What makes you so sure something bad is happening to her just because she doesn’t pick up?”

Josh glared at his partner sharply but remained in silence. 

While his partner had a long smirk planted across his face, all the sudden, there was a loud commercial as the thick-glassed front doors of the Police Headquarters suddenly burst opened.

Everyone stopped at what they were doing and instantly on high alert when something rolled over at the front door and exploded in a searing white flash.

The smoke hadn't cleared yet even after a couple of minutes have passed. Sounds of emergency drills, people shouting to take cover, wheezing and coughing echoed chaotically in the Police Headquarters.

“What the damn hell!” Josh coughed and wheezed loudly, he furiously flapped his hands while quickly reached out to open the nearby windows in his office and cleared as much smoke as he possibly could.

Josh grabbed his gun on the desk all the while his eyes searched for his partner who had laid on the ground, taking cover and wheezing badly.

"Gall! You alright?"

"Yeah, just peachy," Gall coughed and stood up cautiously. "What the hell just happened?"

"We're about to find out. Ready?" Josh tilted his head at the door.

 

*********

 

WHILE chaos still ongoing in the Police Headquarters, a tall male silhouette stood calmly on a rooftop few blocks away. Amber eyes keenly observed the situation. The smoking bombs had served its purpose very well. With the whole department busily resolve the situation, Aidan made his moves.

It had been somewhat rather difficult to get into the Human World without the usage of the portal, even for the Gran Mago such as himself.  Right after Aidan had informed His Majesty about what happened to the Prince, he suffered the King's wrath by enduring long lectures from the usually wise and warm-hearted King.

Adjusting the collar of his butler suit, Aidan made his way cautiously toward the Police Headquarters.

 

Meanwhile, trapped behind bars in the underground jails of the Police Headquarters, Prince Duke of Excalibell sat stiffly on an empty cold bench, while his neighbour cell, a muscular man with half of his face tattooed was giving him a dirty stare. The only thing that separated them was a thick glass.

Duke lowered his gaze and avoided eyes contact with any of the inmates.  When he was brought in this morning, some of the inmates made obscene noises and catcalling him due to the 'funny' attires he wore, had made the Prince cringed and even shivered. He never retaliated back their words and remained quiet as a mouse.

Just when Duke thought his life in the Other World could not get any worse than this, he heard light footsteps approaching his cell.

“My, my. Look what you’ve gotten yourself into this time, Your Highness.”

Instantly, Duke's face lightened up with pure relief when he looked up and saw a very familiar face looking back at him with a smile.

“Aidan!”

“At your services as always, my Prince,” Aidan lowered his head and gave a slight bow.

“I am so thankful and grateful you are here, Aidan. How did you know I am being kept imprisoned here?”

“Oh. You know I always have my ways to get what I want. Could you kindly step back for a moment, Your Highness?”

Duke silently nodded and took a few steps back. He watched as Aidan took a small bottle of Elixir out of his sleeves, before pouring a couple of drops on the iron bars and it dissolved immediately.

Once it dissolved, Aidan kicked the bars to make room for the Prince to come out.

“Shall we get going, Sir?”

“Yes," Duke nodded desperately. I’ve had enough of being here, thank you very much.”

“Hey, pretty boy!" The tattoed face inmate snarled at them, stomping his fists loudly against the bars. "I saw what you did back there. Get me out of here now unless you want to get caught again!”

“Please allow me to take care of him, Your Highness,” Aidan moved steadily toward the inmate's cell.  The inmate grinned widely when Aidan took out a bottle of Elixir then without hesitating, smashed it hard on the ground.

Thick purple-pinkish smoke surrounded the whole of the underground jail. By the time the smoke fades, the inmates were left stunned when either the Prince nor his butler were nowhere to be found.

 

*********

 

THANKFULLY, you kept those Elixir potions at all time, Aidan," Duke sighed in relief. 

They had successfully escaped from the Police Headquarters and walking toward the opposite sides, blending amongst the crowd like nobody's business.

“Indeed. A butler must always be prepared for the worse case scenarios. Moreover, I have endless supplies of those Elixir potions," Aidan replied cheerily.

"You didn't overdo it with magic, did you?" Duke raised an eyebrow at his butler. Though he knew very well it was Aidan's duty to as his butler to keep him safe from any harms using any necessary means, he couldn't help but be worried if the latter had gone too far.  

Aidan was, after all, the most magnificent and powerful Magician in all of Excalibell. At the age of thirteen, he was the youngest Magician to be given the title ‘Gran Mago’ — the highest rank in the Magician Guild.

Upon becoming the Gran Mago, Aidan was hand-picked personally by the King to be the Duke's Magic Instructor. As their relationship grown closer over the years,  the King had promoted Aidan as the Butler-in-training for the Prince. 

Five years prior completing his intensive training, Aidan later then served as a full-fled butler.

While contemplating what happened up until now, Duke slowed down when he suddenly remembered something important.

"You never told me how exactly did you manage to track me down in this Other World, Aidan. As for myself, I remembered losing connection with you and Lexus while I was in the portal. No matter how many times I’d called out or pressed the emergency device, there was no response. The next thing I knew, I landed in a young maiden’s private chamber's wardrobe and had been accused as a pervert!” Duke cried out desperately, still unable to believe that anyone would accuse him to do horrid things to a young maiden.  

Aidan nodded understandably. “I've seen and heard bits and there about your misfortune accident, Sir. You have my sympathies. As for your questions; I have managed to get myself into this world by using one of Lexus' new invention," He took out a small and broken oval-shaped device out of his pocket.  

“This device enabled for me to teleport with the combination of technology and magic. Lexus had warned me beforehand this device has not yet being tested. He has proven his point. This device is now useless. As for knowing your whereabouts, well, let's just say I've made a contact while I was looking for you.”

“A contact?” Duke raised his eyebrow suspiciously. His butler was never a friendly person, to begin with. Polite, yes. But Aidan was never a friendly person who could easily strike a conversation with a random person.

“Let me guess, you'd used ‘Qiche’ to enter someone’s mind and stole their memories without permission again, didn’t you?” Duke glared disapprovingly at his butler.

“I had to, Sir. Your safety is my top priority. If my only option is to use Qiche in order for me to find you, then so be it.”

Duke sighed quietly. In a way, he couldn’t complain about Aidan’s loyalty and dedication to him.

“So, this contact of yours, do I get to meet him? That is if you have not wiped his memories yet.”

“Actually, it's a she,” Aidan stopped to an abandoned run-down warehouse, away from the town they were in.

Duke gasped instantly at the sight of the warehouse. His eyes grew widened as he turned to the butler.

“Explain.”

"Certainly," Aidan cleared his voice. "I made some investigation while searching for your whereabouts and learned few significant things about the situation we're currently in. First and foremost, we are nowhere close to Lady Marian's territorial.”

“What?!”

Aidan nodded and continued. “This town is known as HillView. If I have to estimate the distance between here and Lady Marian’s, it would be like the distance between Excalibell and our closest neighbour country, Mayland.”

“That’s... That's quite a distance. It'll take a day for us to reach Mayland, at the very least!” Duke cried out aloud.

“Indeed. That’s not all. Soon after you’d entered the portal, something else had followed you. According to Lexus, it was some kind of a virus. He is currently working hard on furtherly investigating the matter."

Duke slowly nodded. "That being said, why are we here, Aidan?"

"To top of all that, I believe now is the best time to say that we are officially stranded in the Other World without any communication from Excalibell whatsoever," Aidan delivered the news, ever so calmly.

“Hold on. Stranded?”

“All communications that allow us to connect Excalibell, have failed. Believe me, I’ve tried everything.”

“Father is going to kill me!” Duke cried out in panic.

“Oh, he will. Should I remind you how greatly upset he was when I told him you had gone missing?  On top of that, you were supposed to dine together and discuss significantly important affairs with him," Aidan replied deftly, with a delighted smile.

It was a payback after having to clean up his mess and dealing with the King's wrath for hours, by poking the Prince harder on the situation they currently in.  

Aidan cleared his throat. “In any case, we just have to wait for them to come and fetch us. In the meantime, we'll have to do whatever it takes to survive in this foreign place. Rest assured, Your Highness. I’ve already prepared for the worst-case scenario.”

The Butler stepped forward and unbind the protection spell he had cast on the warehouse before stepping inside.

The warehouse was dark, dusty and practically empty. Aidan had summoned a small beam of light for them to lead the way.

“Is the contact that you mentioned of lives here by any chance?” Duke asked, frowning. He had lots of question he would like to ask his butler and couldn't possibly understand the logic of someone living in this terrible place.  

"Well, that certainly explains her barbaric attitudes," Aidan muttered under his breath. "We're nearly there, Your Highness. I would very much like if you were to stay close behind me as I do not wish for your ears to suffer internal bleeding."

Duke looked at his butler with a strange expression. Did he just say suffer from internal bleeding?  Surely the person they were going to meet couldn't be that bad, right?

Soon a vision of small cage appeared and the two came to a halt.

 

*********

 

DRIP. DRIP. DRIP.

Anya Romans counted every last drop of the water leaking from an unknown source somewhere above her head. She had regained from consciousness for some time after being suddenly knocked out for few hours.

As the water continued to drip, something finally clicked in her mind.

Abel Fox, who claimed to be her new Literate Studies Lecturer,  had kidnapped her for whatever reasons and then locked her up in a cage God knows where...

Anya's heartbeat drummed loudly against her chest. Now that realisation finally hit her, she felt cold and chilling goosebumps running down her spine of her current situation.

Okay... Take a deep breath, girl. Clear your mind and above all, do not freak out!

Telling herself several times not to feel scared and panic over being caged in an unknown place with only a dim light above her head, Anya inhaled deeply and tried her very best to control her nerves.

“Hey! I know you can hear me,” her voice's cracked as she burst out desperately. Her plan to stay calmly crumbled to pieces as panic overwhelmed her like tidal waves.

“Whoever you are, know that there WILL be a bloodbath consequence if you as much dare to touch a single stray on my hair. I will fight back and when I escape from here, I will report you and make sure you will be locked in jail for life!"

"My, my. What such colourful words came from the mouth of a young maiden.”

Anya's head hit against the bars with a loud thunk at the sudden voice. When she looked up, she saw with a familiar face.

“You,” Anya growled lowly who had kidnapped her. Her eyes moved to the slightly younger man standing behind him. Her temper flared.

“You’re the damn pervert in my wardrobe! I should have known you two were related! Wait until I get my hands on you sons of-” her words were being cut by a thick tape magically appeared on her mouth.

Anya curled her fingers around the bars and clenched it tightly. She glared with so much hatred at the Gran Mago, who pitifully shook his head.

Meanwhile, Duke who had been watching Anya’s outburst felt sorry for her. Taking a step away from Aidan, he approached the cage cautiously, despite his butler’s warning.

“Nice to meet you again, Milady,” Duke greeted softly. “I apologise for what had happened earlier this morning. I swear on my beloved mother’s grave, I had no intentions whatsoever to break into your private chamber and to do horrid things to you. I swear.”

Anya made muffled noises.

“I believe she's saying ‘what makes you think I would believe everything that you have just said?',” Aidan explained calmly.

“Very well. Release her and let her talk, Aidan.”

Aidan frowned deeply at the order. Hesitatingly, he snapped his fingers and the tape on her mouth and the cage disappeared.

Smiling thankfully at his butler, Duke turned his head back to face with the young woman who was now in a sitting position and still glared dangerously at Aidan.

Duke wondered why. He was just about to ask her what’s wrong when he saw the trails of heavy chains that were wrapped around her ankles and her wrists.

“Aidan!”  Duke shouted, angrily.

“My apologies, Your Highness. I could not allow the risks of letting this violent and unpredictable young woman to come anywhere near you especially while we are at our disadvantages.”

Brown eyes looked at the Anya deeply in the eyes. “What’s your name, fair maiden?”

“Anya.” 

“Miss Anya. If you promise to hear us out till the end without any interruptions, I will ask him to release you from these chains. Do you promise?”

Anya narrowed her eyes and glared at Duke, then Aidan. Reluctantly, she nodded.

True to his words, Duke had his butler, to his dismay, to unchain her. Soon after she was released from the chains, Anya rubs her aching joints on her wrists and ankles.

Finally, after a minute of profound silence between them, Duke decided to introduce himself.

“My name is Duke Excalibell and this is my butler, Aidan Timbell. We halt from another world, a faraway land called the Kingdom of Excalibell. I know this is very hard to stomach, but the reason why we came here is that I wished to meet with my beloved, Marian, who lives in this world,"  Duke paused, waiting for any sort of reactions from the young woman. When there was none, he proceeded.

“We have a portal that enables me to come to this world. Usually, once I went through the portal, I would end up in Marian’s mansion. However,” Duke sighed. “Due to an incident, I’d ended up in your wardrobe,” And had been poorly mistaken as a pervert, Duke wished to add but decided to bite his tongue instead.

“Just a while ago, Aidan mentioned this place is nowhere near to Marian’s home nor is it anywhere in her town. Moreover, we’ve lost all communications to my Kingdom and it seems that we’ll be stuck here for the time being. The two of us would love nothing more if you could help us get back to our own world. To do so, we must go to Marian’s place because it’s the only place that is directly connected to my Kingdom.”

Anya who had been listening to the story silently without any interruptions suddenly started to laugh like a maniac.  Maybe she finally loses her sanity, because Anya could not stop laughing while tears dripping on her cheeks by these lunatics who might kill her.

Duke who remained calm up until now, started to panic when he saw tears rolling down the young maiden's cheeks.

"Lady Anya? Please! We're not here to hurt you," Duke cooed. "We just need your assistance to help us get to Marian's mansion, that's all! Isn't that right, Aidan?”

A heavy sigh from his butler told him that he just had enough patients with this situation.

"Your Highness, do you think it's wise for us to seek help from this woman?”

His voice was thickened and icy cold. "We do not have time to waste. I could use Quiche to extract more information from her and then end her life right here and now."

"You shall not lay your hands on her, Aidan. I forbid it!” Duke raised his voice, which surprised Anya.

"This innocent young lady has been through a lot because of the mess that I have created for myself.  Hence, I will take full responsibilities for what happens to her and us. I will get us to Marian's mansion, by all means, Aidan. But killing innocent lives is not one of them as well as stealing information without permission. Understood?”

"As you wish, Your Highness. My deepest apologies for overstepping my boundaries,” Aidan lowered his head and bowed. His cold glare on the nuisance young woman never fade.

"If,” Anya who stopped crying while the two men were arguing, suddenly speak out softly. "If I help you to get to wherever that you need to be, we'll never have to meet again, right?”

"Precisely,” Duke firmly nodded.

With a heavy sigh, Anya gave a short nod.  "Fine. I'll help you get to this Marian's mansion.”

As soon as those words came out of her mouth, Anya was stunned when she was being pulled by a pair of arms into a tight hug. 

"Oh thank you! Thank you so much Miss Anya!” 

In a flesh, the Prince of Excallibell groaned painfully as he found himself pinned on the ground with his left arm on his back.

"Kindly release His Highness, Miss Romans,” Aidan's cold voice broke the rapid heartbeat sound that was loudly drumming in her ears as instincts took over her. The butler has a hand blade aim at the back of her neck.

"I-It's alright, Aidan. It's my fault. I shouldn't have done that to startled her. M-Miss Anya, if you would be so kind to release my arm, please? I-I promise not to touch you. Please?” Duke begged.

Anya shakingly released his arms at the same time Aidan pulled away.    "My apologies, Miss Anya. I got carried away. That will not happen again, I assure you,” Duke smiled sheepishly while dusting himself as he got up to his feet.

"Now then, if you don't mind Miss Anya, we would like to seal the agreement we have made.”

"An agreement? What sort of an agreement?” Anya asked suspiciously, lifted an eyebrow.

Without answering her question, Aidan stepped forward and took one of her hands. Before Anya could react, he turned and kissed the back of her hand.

"To ensure that everything works out well in the end for both of us. Most importantly, to ensure that you won’t run or break from the deal.”

Anya gasped when there were marks on her palm where he had just kissed — a Crescent moon and fourteen pointed stars glowed on her skin before they disappeared.

“Those marks are a contract. As long as you have those marks, I shall be monitoring your every move. It takes a special spell to cast it and another to undo it. So do not ever think you could get away from us so easily, Miss Romans,” Aidan released her hand and stepped away.

This has ought to be a dream. A nightmare! She must have fallen asleep in the class. Why hasn’t Emma or Steve wake her up yet?  Or even Mr Hayes and his famous bullseye chalk-on-the-forehead technique? Anything to wake her up from this nightmare!

Anya shook her head, still in denial of what exactly just happened.

“If you’re done with debating whether this is just a nightmare or not, we should get going. The night's fastly approaching."

 

*********

 

IT was around seven o’clock when Anya finally reached her home after a long exhausting and confused day. The trio had parted ways at some point and Anya was told by the butler whatever happened today had forgotten by everyone except for them and herself.

Meaning to say, there was no perverted burglar was found in her wardrobe, nor was there Mr Abel Fox who kidnapped her. Everything had been erased done by Aidan as part of his plans protecting the Excalibell Prince while they were stranded in a foreign land.

“I’m home.”

Anya entered and immediately noticed Rosy's shoes neatly arranged on the shoes rack beside the exit. Happy that her mother closed the shop earlier than usual, Anya locked the door properly. She was in the middle of putting her shoes on the rack when she was greeted by a voice that was unlike her mother at all.

“Welcome home, Miss Romans,” A soothing male voice caused her to nearly tripped on her foot at the entrance.

Turning her head slowly, Anya's mouth dropped instantly at the figure who was standing in the living room, greeting her with amber eyes, butler suit and his ever so politely smile.

Anya never screamed as loudly in her whole life.

“Honey?” Rosy came out from the kitchen in rush to her daughter’s side, who looked like she had just seen the Devil himself. “Anya honey, are you okay? Are you all right? What happened?”

One trembled finger pointed at the man who pretended to be in shock as well.

“What is he doing here?”

Rosy looked at her daughter strangely. “Oh Anya dear, don’t tell me you’ve forgotten about this? I've told you last night and you said you won't mind having them over."

What?!” Anya shrieked.

“Oh, you silly child! Aunt Penny’s children? Jelly Bean’s Fun Park? Remember? You always played with them at the park when you were little! Anyway, Aunt Penny sent them over to live with us while she and Uncle Henry went on to their retired world tour vacations. While they’re staying with us, I asked them to help me out at Home's."

“But," Mocha eyes met with Aidan's threatened sharp and cold gaze, telling her not to say a word about them otherwise suffer from deadly consequences.

"Um. I... I must have zoned out when you’d told me that. Sorry about that. Excuse me," Anya moved away from Rosy, feeling bewildered by all the event that happened the whole day.  

As she was walking toward her room, all the sudden, someone came out from Dean's room.

"Welcome back, Miss Anya. I hope you don't mind me borrowing your dear brother's garments," Duke said, spotting a white t-shirt and medium-short pants with a towel wrapped around his neck.

For the second time of that day, Anya felt her world blacked out.

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