409 Falling Behind
The cleaning continued as the girls took turns washing off. Despite their tardiness, rushing would do them no good in the end. The Trials weren’t something Lina could rush into without a calm mind.
At least, that’s what Crysta told the princess when she started to panic. The delta was able to temporarily calm the princess down enough to keep a normal coherent conversation. The signs of worry did not completely vanish, but Lina knew there was nothing she could do about her situation… so she reserved her complaints.
Halfway through the cleaning, Honour’s mother came down from her room and embraced her daughter, planting a kiss on the divine girl’s forehead, “Hey, sweetie… and her lovely friends, did you have fun last night?”
“I’m sure you heard it all,” Honour replied, hugging her mother in return, “Did you sleep well, mother?”
The woman soon let go of her daughter and covered a yawn that escaped her. There were dark circles under her eyes, indicating the opposite of what she said next.
“Oh yeah, totally,” the woman lied, “It’s not like the five of you were trying to wake up the whole neighbourhood.”
“It’s called Karaoke, mother,” Honour replied, turning her attention to tidying once more.
The woman proceeded to the kitchen and called back, “It’s called noise, that’s what that was. I’m glad neither of you chose to be a musician.”
“My mother has always complimented me on my beautiful voice,” Bree piped in cheerfully.
“Which lasts barely a second before you start asking for a glass of water,” Crysta threw a pillow at her friend.
“Hey, these magnificent pipes are high maintenance. It’s not my fault those high notes are so tasking,” Bree replied smugly, shielding her face as the pillow soared towards her, “And please watch the face, Crysta.”
The girls giggled before proceeding with their aimless banter. Honour’s mother listened in with a smile on her face while she got the tea ready.
After the disappearance of Katie Sirius and the death of Ginger and Honour finding out she was a goddess’s reincarnation, it felt like they would never get back to the happy family they used to be.
It had been the darkest time in their family and Honour had struggled very much with everything that was happening around her.
Honour wasn’t the only one that had struggled through… No, that was far from what had happened. Honour’s struggles only seemed the most significant because she was the woman’s daughter… and her world.
Fortunately, time and companionship had healed their wounds and the five of them had become as thick as thieves. Even Madeline had stopped having nightmares of her missing grandmother, Beatrice.
For as long as the five of them were together, they were happy. Listening to the harmony and the melody of laughter that surrounded the group of friends never failed to put a smile on the woman’s face. Eventually, all of them were done tidying.
Lina asked them to leave, showing how nervous she was about being late for the Trials. But with a little coaxing, the woman had them eat the breakfast she’d prepared before bidding them all farewell.
Lina led the girls out of the house where a car was waiting outside. “Good morning, Simon. Would you get us to the start of the Trials?”
“Yes, my Lady… If you must know, however, your parents have asked that you take your time to check yourself before you set off,” the man replied calmly.
If it hadn’t been for the fact that Lina expected her parents to be furious instead, she wouldn’t have noticed his implications.
The princess stopped in her tracks and turned to her friends, “Hey Bree, did you bring the bags?”
“Crysta and Madeline are bringing them out right now,” the girl replied. Right after she’d said it, the delta walked out with Honour following behind. Crysta had a large rucksack on her back and another in her hands.
The last one was resting unsteadily in Honour’s weak hands, “Umm, Lina… a hand,” the girl squirmed as she tried to carry the bag, “What’s inside this thing?”
Lina rushed to help her friend with the heavy bag. She reached for the bag and helped it out of the girl’s hands, “Try to lift with your legs next time.”
“It’s easy for you to say,” Honour replied, sighing with a slight hint of exhaustion. While the princess carried the bag away, the girl couldn’t help but acknowledge her significant transformation.
It had been nearly two years since the disappearance of Katie Sirius and Lina… had gone through a tremendous transformation since then. Not just in strength because of her strenuous training, but her looks as well…
She’d grown more beautiful with time… but the most significant change was her striking resemblance with the missing Luna of the Lycaon pack.
Lina hadn’t simply grown taller and stronger, she’d also grown to look very much like her older sister, both in spirit and in strength.
The girls took turns exchanging hugs with Honour’s mother before the car set off for the palace. The start of the Trials wasn’t exactly at the palace, but it was significantly close.
At the edge of the forest, peering into the welcoming treacherous wilderness, a banner with large letters written into it was waving lightly in the wind.
The words ‘Safe Journey’ were written into the banner and the meanings of these words were reflected in the eyes of all the wolves that had come to see the princess off.
The five girls stood still outside the car, taking in the magnitude of the crowd. A clear path had been made to the banner peering into the forest, “I’d almost forgotten what the excitement for these games was like,” Crysta rubbed the back of her head nervously.
“It is amazing, isn’t it?”
“There you are, Lina. Why are you so late?” the king’s voice broke the serenity surrounding the five girls.
“What do you mean, Father?” Lina turned to her father, mimicking her big brother while she did. Speaking of her brother, the princess looked around and started to fear the worst, “Where is Drake?”
The king pinched the bridge of his nose, “The Trials have already begun, Lina and this part is right up your alley as well.”
“I’m sorry, what?”
“Check your phone,” Queen Martha spoke up, approaching them. Behind the royals, a detail of cars was parked and ready for a long journey.
Lina unlocked her phone and found an official text from the king and queen. When did that come in?’ she cursed before reading the text out loud.
“Race to the Great Arena…
The two candidates are to race to the Great Arena that stands at the border of the two empires. The first one to make it there will be chosen as the empire’s representative. You can take your team as well as this trial will take a long time and is better done by more than one person.”
“Drake left thirty minutes ago. He tried waiting for you when it was time to set off, but… well, you know how he is these days,” the woman sighed at the end, her brows knitted in worry for the prince.
“Did he take his team with him?” the princess asked the queen.
“No, he denied all help he was offered and left on his own. He worries me more each day. It’s like he’s going through the same thing that… Never mind, I just wish he could let us in on what he’s thinking. Any ideas, Honour? I know the two of you spend a lot of time together,” the queen asked.
Honour gasped at the blunt revelation. The queen didn’t seem bothered by how close she’d gotten to the prince, but for some reason, the girl couldn’t disregard the fact that she discussing matters concerning the prince with the queen, his mother.
“N-No, none that he’s told me of,” Honour replied. The girl really didn’t know if there was anything wrong with the prince. He was just the same as he’d always been. And yet, from the reactions she read from the other members of the royal family, something was completely wrong. ‘I better ask him when we meet next,’ she thought to herself.
“That’s no good. Well, if you get the chance to ask him, please do. We are all worried and he won’t let us know what he’s thinking. And it’s not like we can break into his mind either,” the queen requested. The young goddess nodded in reply to the queen’s words.
The king suddenly spoke up, quickly changing the subject, “Lina, I suggest you announce the members of your team and leave as well. There is a map on your phone, but just in case you lose that…” from a bag Alpha Jackson brought her, she produced a roll of parchment.
“Who still uses this kind of…?”
“This map has been used for a long time and is one of the first-ever accurate maps that was ever drawn to map the empire,” the king cut her off, “Use it well and…” the king’s expression softened and he pulled his daughter into a warm hug, “Be safe out there.”
Alpha Jackson stepped forward and offered the princess his hand, which she gladly took, “Don’t do something I wouldn’t do,” the beta alpha advised.
“I won’t make any promises,” the princess chuckled.
“Yeah, I tried. Good luck, your highness,” the man bent at the waist and gave a well-practised bow before stepping away from the princess.
With that, the queen hugged her daughter and left the girls to themselves, “Lina, who are you going to pick?” Honour asked when the adults had left, “Just make sure you don’t pick me. I’d only slow you down.”
“Yeah, I know. I’ll go with Crysta and Bree. They are much more physically capable of a task such as this one. We’ll be going through no-man’s-land as well. I don’t want to endanger anyone.”
“In other words, Honour and I would only get in the way,” Madeline asked to clarify.
“If you put it like that, I feel guilty,” Lina groaned.
“Don’t be, Lina. There is no shame in protecting your friends. I learnt that from a certain werewolf,” Crysta mentioned, gesturing to Honour, “You already know I would give my life for you. Bree would do the same, just not before me…”
“So, there are no hard feelings in this matter. You’re only doing what’s best,” Crysta replied.
“Thanks, Crysta. You hear that Madeline… I’m protecting you.”
“Of course you are… I just wish there was something I could do,” the grey-eyed girl pouted.
“Well, if you can keep your eyes hidden the whole time, that will be more than enough,” the girl princess ordered before turning to the Delta to her side, “Crysta, I’m not losing to my brother. That means you two should keep up with me.”
All of a sudden, Crysta was not feeling so lucky.
Madeline chuckled and slapped the girl on the back, “I was feeling jealous at first, but now, I wish you all the luck in the world. You’re going to need it.”