Ro rubbed her forehead in annoyance. The last thing she needed is for this behind the scenes scheme to get out into the news. So it was his plan all along, to betray her? "Who is this, Till?"
Till frowned at Kylith without any trace of recognition, "No idea, man. Are you another desperate reporter?"
"Excuse me?" Kylith stepped forward as Posker also revealed herself slightly. "I'm trying to save your sorry face from this toxic friend of yours here."
"Toxic?" Ro raised an eyebrow. "Hey, are you seriously recording this?" she screeched again when she leaned back and saw Posker holding the phone. Ro went to grab the phone from her and Posker jumped up on the rock, laughing. "Yeah Ro, keep making a fool of yourself live on the internet."
Ro froze, her eyes freezing over. "You're live..."
Kylith's jaw dropped slightly as she too turned to look at Posker.
"You're dead," Ro declared. "Both of you. So dead. And you, Till," she turned to look at him. "I'll deal with you in my office." She walked away, her hair flying in quiet, but burgeoning rage.
Till watched her go before he sighed and turned to them. "Are you both done begging for attention? Can you leave us alone?"
Kylith rolled her eyes and dragged Posker out, "Save the insults, we were about to leave anyway. Didn't expect you both to be such horrible people."
"You know what they say. The more time you spend on a computer, the more socially dumb you get."
Kylith walked away as she heard those words. She snickered and nudged Posker, "You think the crown prince is that dumb then?"
"Why are you bringing the crown prince into this?"
"I was just asking, if what Till said was true, then crown prince should also be a horrible person right? But he isn't."
"Have you met him in real life?"
"Well, no... ah. You're saying I'll get disappointed like this if I get to know him in real life too."
"Basically. People are just born impostors. Maybe that's why the prince didn't even come to watch the game. Everyone would know who he really is."
"He didn't miss anything though. This so called greatest duel in history, was completely trash." Kylith blinked, as they reached Posker's house. "Hey did you actually go live?"
Posker snorted, "Yeah, but from my alt account. The one only you and a few of my other friends follow."
Kylith snickered, "Gosh, Posker. You scared her to death. Are you going to post it publicly?"
They thought about it for a while inside Posker's bedroom. Posters of their favorite characters and shows looked down upon them from the light gray walls. Thinking about it, Ro did have the power to mess up Posker's life a bit. Kylith's, maybe not so much, considering who her father was, but it wasn't entirely impossible. If Ro was persistent enough, it could be enough to tarnish her father's image and have him kicked out of the royal court. Only if the King didn't support him, the Grace's most loyal commander.
"Maybe we should keep it a secret as blackmail for the future. She left us saying that we both were dead. She might have something up her sleeve. Knowing her from her online streaming with other players, she isn't one who holds back a good old revenge."
"Yeah but that was in-game. Revenge was fun online. But this is..." Kylith sighed. "What a horrible day." The bright sunny atmosphere shifted as a couple of clouds covered the sun. A mild breeze ruffled their hair, trying to calm their nerves. The smell of fresh grass from the farmlands floated over to the two confused girls, strangely putting them at momentary ease.
Posker's house's doorbell rang. Soon after, Posker's mother came in and called Kylith. "Your mother wants you back in the house. And why aren't you picking up your phone, sweetie?"
Kylith frowned and checked her phone, which was on DnD. "Oh gosh, 6 missed calls?" She stood up and patted Posker's head twice before rushing out with the driver who had come to collect her. "Bye, Aunt Nish!"
"Bye sweetie, take care!" Posker's mom waved back and looked back at her daughter. "What kind of trouble did you both brew this time?"
Posker deadpanned, "Nothing, mom. We were just strolling around the farmlands nearby."
Back home, Kylith opened the door and met with the serious faces of not only her mother, but also her father. The last time her father came home in the afternoon, they were moved into a shelter camp. It had been the precedent of an earthquake. This time, she knew there was no earthquake, but her heart worried. "Dad, what's wrong?"
"Have a seat." The long couch beside them lay empty, and called Kylith silently. Her younger brother Tobio must be sleeping inside her parent's after lunching.
Kylith walked forward slowly and seated herself on the plush velvet. Her parents sat opposite her, a quaint vintage teapoy separating them. Flowers sat in a vase, drinking up water.
"Were you out on the streets?" Her father asked, judging from her attire.
"Yeah, with Posker."
"Kylith, we'll come to the point," her mother said, placing a hand on her father's arm. "It's about our crown prince."
Kylith's ears perked up slightly, but she tried not to show it. "Um... what about him?" Their family wasn't directly related to royalty except by the fact that her father was the King's favorite general. She knew her father watched them both grow up and he had a soft spot for the young crown. She knew just like he would do anything for his own family, he would do anything for the royal family too. Sometimes she used to wonder if he would sacrifice his own family for the crown.
She waved the dark thoughts building up inside her head and it fluttered away like old smoke, letting her focus on the matter at hand. What could she possibly do to help the crown prince? They had never laid eyes on each other ever before. So she blurted out the first thing that came into her mind.
"Am I supposed to marry him or what?"
The Chief General bent over coughing as he kept his cup of tea down on the teapoy. Kylith sat up in fright, "Wait, for real? What the-"
"Honey, no-" her mother started speaking.
Kylith gasped, "No. You never call me honey. Oh my god, am I actually supposed to marry him? Is that why-"
"Kylith calm down," Her father said, after he calmed himself down.
"It makes sense," Kylith stood up, having an epiphany of a lifetime. "The crown prince has a girlfriend, and the King found out about it. And like I suspected, the Grace doesn't approve and he is trying to dispel this girlfriend. So, to clear all the scandals, he wants someone from a noble family to try to stand in as the prince's actual girlfriend to send away the commoner girlfriend. The Grace has only one son. If the crown prince acts according to his own will and tarnishes the royal bloodline with a commoner's blood, civil wars can erupt. So the only way to secure the throne... is to marry off the crown prince to a noble girlfriend like me before he dies and produce a worthy heir!"
She finally turned to meet the frozen eyes of her parents, like the eyes of cold fish arranged in the market for sale. That's when she realized the things she just blurted out loud. "Oh crap- I- uh." Her hands dropped to her side.
But her father looked slightly interested now. "The crown prince has a girlfriend already, you say?"
Kylith narrowed her eyes and sat back down, wiping her hands on her pants. She furtively glanced at her mother to see her look of disapproval at that 'unladylike' action. "I think so? Posker and I do, at least. And loads of people online."
Her mother sat straight and waved her off, "Online..."
"No, and they might be right! In the personal interviews he gave a month ago at the prestigious HET Gala, when asked about questions about his love life... he seemed happier? That's not usually how he replies."
Her parents exchanged a glance and then shook their head slightly.
"Be what it may, Kylith, I need your help. To be frank, the King himself has bestowed the responsibility of finding a good wife for the prince on me. Therefore-"
"What do you mean 'bestowed the responsibility'? For stars' sake, can you old people just, just stop deciding kids' lives? If he is to marry, he will marry someone of his own choice, right?"
"Kylith, we have bigger concerns as well. The royal blood needs to be saved. Time is of the essence."
Kylith shook her head, "Yes, I get that, but that doesn't mean you have to choose a random girl that is fit to your interests for him. What worse curse will you place upon your crown prince than to have him spend his days with someone he doesn't truly love? Do you only care about the kingdom's legacy? What about the integrity of the crown prince himself?"
Her mother kept her eyes cast down. Her lips moved to mutter something.
"What was that, mother?"
Her mother looked up at her with her stark blue, all-knowing eyes. "You spend too much time with Posker."
Kylith tilted her head in disbelief, "No, mom, maybe you spend too much time pondering about treasure and mutual benefits. So much that you forget you're denying a basic human right of freewill here."
"Do not speak against your mother like that," her father's voice boomed across the room. He immediately collected himself, so as to not wake up the baby.
Kylith let out a breath of air. "Right, I apologize." She tried to hold herself back from rolling her eyes, another unladylike action.
"What do you suggest we do, then?" The chief general finally asked. "He is currently not fit to go out courting. The King is also against telling the nation that his son is unwell. So we can't hold a Selection either. There are way too many young ladies waiting to marry the prince, and for all the wrong reasons."
"A Selection would take way too long," her mother added, nodding.
"Wait, what?" Kylith tilted her head. "He's unwell? What's happening to him?" This was a new development she didn't see coming. Her voice came out like old Chinese paper, "Is he going to die?"
That would be the only explanation as to why the King wanted him to marry so hastily. Kylith's eyes drifted back and forth her parents, the gears in her slowly turning.
"Can you talk to him?" Her father formed his words slowly. "The King told me to convince him, but maybe someone his age may be better at the job. You're right about freewill. But in the face of death, our options are limited. You know even our gods follow the rules so as to not disturb the royal bloodline."
Kylith sat back down, her slightly curved fingers digging itself into the edges of the velvet. Her eyes travelled to the clock, which suddenly took on an evil countenance. How much time did the Prince have left before he left them?
What kind of cruel fate is this?
And how can their first meeting, which she had fantasized and scripted and re-scripted inside her head countless of times, be so far and opposite to what she had dreamed it would be?
Posker knew very well of her little stories. "We'd meet at that posh cafe that only the rich go to." Or "The ID I had actually been flirting with online, is actually the crown prince in disguise!" And "We'd bump into each other at the Royal Observatory during the private ball next month."
Every scenario ended up in her taking him into a glimpse of her life and him complaining about how boring his royal life is, followed by Kylith agreeing to be his ray of sunshine from now on. As colorful as her dreams were, Posker always pointed out a lack of imagination. Kylith would swat her opinion away and they'd continue with their day.
Kylith wondered if she should refuse, and keep their First Meeting for later, so that there would still be a chance they'd meet cutely, like in the movies.
"If you do this for me," her father said, in the words of a desperate chief of general who sometimes thought being the King's favorite was a dull curse rather than a privilege. "I'll..."
Kylith shut her ears immediately. "No, please. No rewards. What you're asking me to do isn't a good thing."
"But don't you think it's the right thing?" Her mother asked in her stark tone. She was a whetstone to her father's pleas.
When Kylith made up her mind, she let them know, and retreated to her room before locking it twice.