"Out of my way!"

Anna felt herself pushed through the streets. She got shoved into a dark alley, and she brushed her dark bangs from her eyes with a sigh of annoyance. If she stayed in Relona—

No, Anna warned herself with a scolding expression even though she was talking to herself, that place was not worth it.

She straightened her clothing before she headed out to the busy main street, but the moment she took a step forward, she realized straightening her shirt was completely useless.

Anna immediately retraced her step to avoid being run over by a speeding carriage (the rider screaming barely coherent obscenities), which was her mistake, she noticed, as her backstep made her stumble again. The horses that came by were ridiculously fast—the ones in the previous towns would never even dare going half this speed.

She lowered her head and covered her mouth with her arm, coughing into it, trying to avoid any more dust that could pollute her lungs.

Walking on the side of the streets, Anna was careful to avoid the carriages and the shoppers that were hurriedly running down the roads. She glanced side to side, noting the difference between Erano and Relona and looked up to stretch her stiff neck.

The sun was blinding her. Anna had to appreciate the amount of light she got in this country; it's awfully different from Relona.

She held up her arm in an attempt to block out the rays of sunshine, walking down the crowded road of stone. A horse carriage rides past her, bobbing up and down the uneven road. Anna had brief guilty thought of wanting a ride, like how she always received in her old kingdom, instead of walking down the streets, tiring under the heat. But she shook of the thought.

Anna took a quick glance at the white circle. When she averts her eyes, she still sees blots of large circles resembling the hot white she just saw, but decided it was a bad choice. When her vision cleared, she realized she was standing in the middle of the road, a horse carriage several feet away from her. With a sudden realization, she saw a body next to her and instinctively pushed him away.

The horse neighed and stood on its hind legs, moving the two forward feet and up down before landing and stopping right before Anna with a thud. No physical damage came to her, but she fell anyways, landing on her behind.

"What is going on here?"

Anna braced for the worst—that being thrown back into a castle, Anna realized wryly—inhaling sharply and squinting one of her eyes as she faced the sun. A man hopped out of his carriage, the sun behind him shadowing him as if he were glowing, and if this were a different circumstance, Anna would have laughed at his comical entrance.

"You!" Without a doubt, he was pointing at Anna. "Get over here!" Obediently, she stumbled over to the man, extremely conscious of the attention she's getting. The other shoppers of the market pauses to look at the commotion the man—and Anna—was creating, intrigued by the rare denouncing.

"What do you think you're doing, running in the middle of the road?" Anna wanted to protest that she merely tripped there. She didn't know she was already in the center streets. But she knew this will do nothing. Years of staying with Mother Kuevaina had proved that.

"I'm sorr—"

"Look at what you could've done to my horse!" He pointed to his carriage as if it were a gift from god. "What if you harmed this marvelous steed?"

What if you ran over an innocent citizen? Anna retorted mentally. Well, not a citizen, but a person!

"You'll need to pay for this. It might teach you peasants to be more careful and not to waste your money on drinking and useless garments!"

He stormed towards Anna, raising his hand, and she squeezed her eyes shut. A strange feeling of revulsion passes through her, despite that she has never been in this position before. She blamed it on the corruption higher ups have these days. That she knew fully well. However, a shadow passed by her face and Anna never felt the hit that should have come.

"Sorry to intrude," a man in a cloak said, standing before Anna. From his stature, Anna could tell he caught the other's hand. "But it'd be awfully uncourteous to lay a hand on a lady."

If it weren't for him helping her, Anna would've scoffed. She hasn't heard something like "courteous" since her father died.

"This lady here almost ruined my horses!" the man defended, pointing to Anna.

"Oh, yes, I'm sure damaging the wheels of a poorly made carriage-no matter how much you try to cover it up, it's quite obvious that is, in fact, Undeen wood, not Chivar as you would like to convince people it is-and giving a couple of horses a bump is much worse than killing a lady."

The accusation of his carriage made the man flush with anger. "Why—"

"And," the man in the cloak continued, and Anna finally noticed it was the body she pushed over earlier, "the lady pushed me out of the way. I would have been nearly ran over if it weren't for her. So if you do have a bone to pick at, it'll be me."

The man looked pleased. "Then I'd like to speak to your fath—"

The cloaked man tensed. "Yes, of course." He took of his olive cloak hood and Anna sees that the man was not a man but a mere boy. He couldn't have been any older than she was. The boy had fair blond hair and seemed almost white in the sunlight and by looking at his profile, Anna noticed her wore a pendant and a long earring.

"If you'd like to speak to Father, he'd be in the Northern Castle this time of year. He finds the heat in Erano quite terrible during the summer and because there is that diplomatic issue with the Northern borders, he's also trying to fix our relations to maintain peace. But if you'd like to interrupt his trip, I'd be happy to send a messenger—"

"Father? Northern Castle? You don't mean—"

"King Lysar IV? Why yes, actually I do. How could you have guessed?"

By now, even Anna was getting tiresome of the boy's haughty act and would just like them to get on with it. Apparently, the man as well, but it was evident from his reddened face and beads of sweat that he was getting anxious.

"You're the prince? Prince Ahwain? That's not possible—"

"Ah, then how could I have this?" He pulled out the pendant Anna took notice earlier. Even from the side, Anna could tell it held the symbol of the Erano's royal family.

"You could have just stolen that!"

"Well, we could always just hop to the Centere Palace and test your theor—"

"Okay, enough! I understand, and I apologize, your highness." He bowed and Anna thought it's not low enough for someone of the boy's status. "Please pardon me."

The boy pondered for a while before agreeing. "Why not? I've done enough execution decisions today."

The man scampered away and Anna breathed a sigh of relief. "You know, that was a pretty good bluff." The boy turned and faced Anna with a raised eyebrow. "The fake necklace," she amended, thinking he is confused. "To be honest, I didn't think your acting was too great, but the prop helped a tone, not to mention the man's lack of intelligence."

"Ah...yes…" the boy scratched the back of his head, causing a few locks to jump up and touch the sunlight just right so they looked as if they were on fire. It might have sounded strange, but Anna regarded it as intriguing. "...acting. That, I must admit, I have no talent for."

"Evidently."

"Completely."

"Yes, we affirmed that."

"Complete lack of talent."

"You're being quite repetitive now…" Anna cocks her head. "What are you saying?"

"I have a complete lack of talent for acting-do you truly not understand what I am saying?"

"That the man must have been extremely stupid and only lived off of his inheritance to maintain his middle class status?"

"I am the prince."


Anna panted as she roamed the streets, trying to quickly maneuver her way through the plebeians. She took a glance behind her, relieved to find that the boy with the fair hair is nowhere to be seen.

Anyone who said that must not me in the right state of mind.

Maybe it was the head.

Yes, Anna thinks with a relief. The heat. The sun in Relona, especially in the city she was currently residing in, Yfere, is extremely present. The boy must've had too much and started speaking nonsense.

Though, he did seem in the perfect state when he bluffed the infuriating man.

Anna slowed her pace and strolled through the streets. Unlike the street from before, this was strictly for pedestrians, which was good so she will not need to go through an incident like that again but also bad because there was so many people!

She stared between a fruit and vegetable stand and finds an alleyway. She saw several crates in between them and feels a sudden pain her stomach. Deciding she's hungry, Anna decided to rest on the crates before heading back to her hideout, where she hid the little belongings she had.

"Hi."

Anna started. She turned around to see the boy in cloak—the prince—standing in the shadows of the alleyway. He straightened his posture and sticks a hand out.

"Didn't get much of an introduction back there. I'm—"

Anna does not understand why an introduction is necessary when she already knows who he is. So instead of letting him finishing, she blurted, "the prince. I know." Anna had met terms that the boy was not lying. A bluff like that-and the necklace-was not the cause of any ordinary stroke. Maybe magic...but of course, coming from Relona, Anna did not believe in the legend of magic.

The young prince smiled at her and waved his hand a little, indicating that he's still waiting on that handshake. "I know you know. But you don't know my name, do you?"

Anna refrained herself from saying that she does because she realizes she doesn't. She wracked her brain for an answer but alas, nothing came up. "I know you're the crown prince," she managed to say at last, tentatively taking the hand. "Which means you're name probably has Lysar in it."

The boy laughed. "Give her an award, she knows how surnames work! You should know that everyone in my family will have that last name."

Feeling embarrassed, she tried again. "Okay, Lysar. There's literally a million kings named that."

The boy guffawed once more. "Nice guess, but no cigar." He looked at Anna more seriously, but the ghost of his smile dusted his face. "I never said I was the crowned prince."

Anna crossed her arms. "I know that's impossible," she said with complete confidence. "The king only ever talked about one son."

"Ah, yes," the boy agreed, rubbing his chin. Anna wanted to inform him that there is no need to look thoughtful when there isn't much going on in his brain. "That's correct, unfortunately so...my father," he paused, but ever so slightly. If it weren't for Ryaniel's constant skeptical words, Anna was sure she would've never caught it, "only ever talked about his son, true indeed. He never spoke about me in public." He caught Anna's eye, and although Anna wants to call him out for it, saying that anyone could just make up a story like that, the discontempt burning in the boy's gray eyes left no room for argument. Gray, Anna noticed, remembering how Erano's royal family always had golden eyes.

"Your eyes…" Anna muttered subconsciously. His gray ones lightened with eager.

"Aha! Yes, yes, your second award must be ordered. You are truly clever." He applauded her, and Anna flushed with a wave of anger.

"I cannot tell if you are being sarcastic or not."

"Pray tell, why would I need to be? I am complimenting you. Do you doubt me?"

"Where should I begin?" He laughed again.

"You're right." He touched his face, his fingertips lightly tapping his eye. "My eyes are proof I am not of royal descent. Completely royal, anyways, if you consider my mother royal. Depends on the circumstances, of course…" His volume quieted and he shifted his body slightly, turning away from Anna. He pointed his gaze towards the ground. "If you're talking about her as the Queen or with the King-my father-" He said this now with much more anger than he let on before "-she's royal, without a doubt. Now as a person herself...she's nothing more than a woman who married a king."

"Are you saying you're illegitimate?"

His gray eyes-proof of illegitimacy, she would expect-fixes on her again. "Illegitimacy." He laughs at the word. "There hasn't been a word I haven't heard more in my life."

Anna stayed silent for a few moments. Then she looked at him directly again and asked, "You still haven't told me your name."

The Arano broke into a grin. "And I you." He smiles faintly at Anna's look of annoyance.

"My name is Anna," she said with extreme exasperation. "What is yours, my prince?"

"Frei."

He bowed dramatically, extending his hand. Anna took it gingerly and smiled slightly. "Nice name, my prince."

"Are you saying my prince to be polite or to jeer? I cannot tell."

Anna couldn't tell if that was sarcasm or not. Instead of answering, she laughed. "Well, it was nice meeting you, my prince," she said, making sure it was obvious she was being satirical.

"Anna," Frei said with immense joy, "I cannot wait until we meet again."

Anna raised an eyebrow. "Who said I wanted to meet a royal prince again?"

Before she let Frei give his turn to speak, she turned around and plunged deep into the alleyways, trying to find her way back to her campout, hoping her possessions haven't been stolen.