The eighteen-year-old girl looked for a place to hide. Despite her apparently ‘mature’ age, she really didn’t quite see the sense in attending ‘another stupid party’ and just wanted to get away from it all for a while. At first, she’d been ecstatic that Heero had chosen her as princess of Marenia, and it was as much of an honor now, but the responsibilities left her with so little free time that it made her head spin.
She ducked into a side room and looked around. No good. She couldn’t hide with normal magic, not from Zechs and Tai-shan. She was running out of ideas, and about to hide in a wardrobe, when a black-haired Canaiese boy ran into the room.
“Chang Tai-shan She-ni-ro, if you tell Zechs where I am, I’ll hang you by your feet from a chandelier!” she hissed.
Quite promptly, the boy turned and shouted out the open door. “Zechs, I found her!” He then turned around and fixed her with a righteous smirk.
Within what seemed like seconds, the blond archmage ran into the room and glared at her.
“Mariemaia Khushrenada!” he scolded. “You’re a princess now. You have to attend this celebration!” he said. He sighed, glanced at her clothing, and nodded. “At least you’re dressed properly. Come along.”
Mariemaia decided to give up and go along. She followed Zechs out of the room, and was in turn followed by Tai-shan. The little dragonbound had a superior look on his face.
“Tai-shan, didn’t Wufei ever tell you that it’s dishonorable to betray your friends?” Mariemaia asked acidly.
“My parents said that dishonoring an elder is worse. Plus, Dheni said you’d have fun,” the boy replied.
Eventually, the three arrived in the palace gardens, which were bedecked in royal Marenian silver and blue and imperial Zarisnian red and gold. Tai-shan left to go stand next to his parents, but Zechs stayed with Mariemaia and led her over to her father, King Heero, and the king’s official stealth advisor, Duo. The position that Duo held had mysteriously appeared on the roster one day, but nobody complained about it, due to the fact that Duo was fun to have around.
As soon as she arrived, two others drifted over—Quatre and Trowa. With them was a girl, about the same age as Mariemaia, with light honey blonde hair and sea colored eyes.
“Fellow ruler,” Quatre said genially, “this is Sylvia. She hails from the Tower of Truth.”
“Really?” Heero asked. It seemed that he was surprised by nothing, despite the fact that Mariemaia, Zechs, and Treize all were by this bit of news.
“Heero…” Duo said quietly, “We’d better start the celebration.”
“Ah, right,” Heero said. He stood and gathered the crowd’s attention, then began to speak.
“This is the tenth anniversary of our alliance with Zarisnia! This is truly a thing to celebrate. May we have many more such anniversaries,” Heero said. The crowd cheered in response. “As to make this more special, we have food from both countries, as well as activities from both. Let us Marenians see how our cousins live, and let you honorable Zarisnians see how we live. Have fun.”
While the king was talking, Wufei and Meiran walked over. They didn’t notice that their son’s attention was elsewhere. Neither did Trowa or Quatre notice that their guest wasn’t making small talk. Treize and Zechs, talking animatedly to Duo, failed to realize that Mariemaia wasn’t paying attention either.
Meanwhile, Mariemaia, Tai-shan and Sylvia were all staring up into the cloudless blue sky. They had sensed something, or thought that they had, but their awareness of it faded as Dheni winged across the sky.
The three shared a look. They knew that evil never laid dormant for long, just the same that they knew somehow that the next quest would be theirs, and that instead of freeing a country and saving a friend, it might be saving the world.
The Trickster gazed into a scrying pool deep within his new hideout. He gently rubbed his fingers over the eye patch that covered his ruined eye and hissed at the water.
“Yes, you might have beaten me for now, bastard king and ex-thief, but I have Zerixco’s sister still, and don’t think that yours was the only Trickster’s Quest!”