The Bluffs, Windenburg, 2027
The friends had left as soon as Henry agreed to speak to Alex in private. Alex still insisted on heading to the far corner of the Bluffs, at the edge of the sea.
"So," said Henry. He was getting bored of seeing Alex's back, for Alex had been standing there, facing the sea for about two minutes. "You said you wanted to say something."
Alex turned around to face Henry. "Yes," he said. "I wanted to ask you about your grandparents."
"You did," said Henry.
Alex remained silent.
"Say something, Alex, it's cold out here!" Henry laughed, but he was also aware it was already 10:00pm and his parents were going to kill him - metaphorically of course.
"Yes, right away," said Alex in a manner of speaking that sounded anything but. "It's just...well...I wanted to know....if...you see, Henry...ever since my parents died...I'm, well, you know..."
"No - don't know," replied Henry. Will he spit it out, or am I going to have to guess? he thought.
Alex pulled his gaze away from Henry. "It's just, Henry...after my parents died...I've been seeing mama's...ghost...everywhere...well, not exactly, everywhere...just in my bedroom." Alex blushed. "And I wanted to know if when your grandparents died, your father could see them...too, you know...Henry?"
"Alex," said Henry. "Has no one told you about the ghosts?" Wow, not even Luka told him and he lives with the Grim Reaper.
"What about them? They're really there? So...I'm really seeing my...mother?"
"U-huh," said Henry.
"Aunty always told me...they're not real and that mama's crazy because she used to tell ghost stories about Granny Oak and how she and her mother, Talula, reconciled in the afterlife."
Oh I get it, thought Henry.
"Your aunt doesn't much like your mum, though, does she?" he said.
"No," said Alex. "I think she's afraid of her, to be honest, Henry. There was a rumour she possessed some of the powers of Talula. She used to sleep with a voodoo doll under her pillow for good luck."
"There it is then," said Henry. "Your aunt doesn't want you to know about ghosts because she doesn't want you plotting with your 'magical' mother."
"Oh," said Alex. "I suppose we do have...megalomaniac tendencies. Yes, Henry, it does sound logical...Mama had talked about ridding the royal family of aunty once or twice." He paused for a minute, thinking about the Sneaklord news stories Adrian introduced to him earlier that evening. "Do you think, Henry, that the royal family might be hiding certain news stories from me?"
"Don't know," shrugged Henry. "Have they?"
"I don't know, which is why I'm asking you."
Henry stepped forward and lowered his voice. "Well I haven't noticed anything from my nightly stalking outside your Palace walls, as Sneaklords do, right?"
Alex blushed and avoided Henry's gaze, which was lucky because he would have noticed Henry rolling his eyes. It was just a joke, Alex. Yes, probably in bad taste, given that is just the sort of thing Sweglords do, but Evil Geniuses aren't supposed to know that. Are they?
Henry checked his watch. It read 11:50pm. Oh dear, Caleb is really going to kill me. But first I want to ask Alex something.
"Uh, Alex? Can I ask you a question?"
"Yes of course, go head," said Alex somewhat flustered.
"What unfinished business do the Sweglords have? Heard Adrian and Anita talking about it earlier."
"Ah Henry, I am sorry but I don't know what you're talking about. I will talk to Adrian and Anita, however."
Henry studied his eyes for a minute. No - don't think he's lying, but I'm not an excellent judge about these things. "Uhm, I have to go. Dad's going to kill me as it is."
"Oh, yes, Henry. Of course, you must go. It's late," said the king. Henry was about to leave. "But Henry?" Henry stopped and turned his head towards Alex. "Don't tell the others about this...conversation."
"Don't worry," Henry replied. "I won't tell a soul."
The next morning, Cruz Castle, Windenburg, 2027
"You asked for me?" said Princess and Duchess of Newcrest, Charlize Hastings. Alex stared at his aunt, sitting comfortably in his chair, in his rooms.
"I asked for you this morning. I'm busy now, Aunty."
"With what? You've answered your correspondence and we've just had your favourite part of the day, lunch with strangers at the Chep de Lama. Surely, you can spend a few minutes, telling me what's on your mind."
Reluctantly, Alex took a seat on his bed, opposite his Aunt.
He mildly grimaced at her, as he carefully phrased the next few sentences in his head.
"Aunty," he began, "I..."
"Yes, Alex, my husband and I have been discussing your education, and we thought it would be 'media suitable' if you returned to the Oracle High School. You have been cooped up here like a hermit for days and we both thought it would be best for your health if you returned..."
"I'm seventeen aunty, my parents are dead. I'm in no mood for this conversation, right now."
"Nonsense, dear boy. It's perfect timing, since you're talking again, to us, that is. But, you're king, remember, you're free to make your own decisions," mostly. "Anyway, this was just a suggestion. Oh, and I've signed you up for the same classes you have been taking, apart from that ghastly maths class with 'Pouting Henry.' - No, that disagreeable chap shouldn't bother you ever again. In fact, I've already filed a complaint to the school. Henry won't be allowed within five yards of you, and neither will his cousin, 'Flat-faced Victor.'
"What did you do?" said Alex. He narrowed his eyes at his aunt in disgust.
"Oh you don't have to attend if you don't want to. I only signed you up in case you changed your mind and if you did, you wouldn't want to come begging me to allow you to attend, now, would you. It's all freedom, Alex."
"Thanks aunty," he scowled. "I'm going to ask my question now." His aunt was silent. Alex was going to blurt out his question bluntly, he was so angry about his aunt's attack on Henry 'Pouting Henry,' in deed, how dare she, but he restrained himself and chose his words wisely. "I read something rather odd in the Windenburg Times, this morning."
"Oh yes?" said his aunt.
"Apparently Lauren is out of custody... and is going home."
"The police say she's innocent. That Sneaklord."
The duchess sucked in her cheeks, clearly not liking the news.
"Where did you read this?"
"In the Windenburg Times, I've already told you, Aunty," Alex sniffed.
"Yes, but where?"
"I'm not really sure what you're saying," he sniffed again.
"At the library? At a friend's place? Where?"
"Oh, this morning, on the office computer."
"Thank you," she said and left the room.
So she did tamper with my news? thought Alex. Good to know.
The Grandmaster's Mansion, Forgotten Hollow, 2027
It was dinner in the Grandmaster's mansion. Paris sat with her younger sister Lauren and her niece, Madelyn. She had another niece living under her care, but she was currently out late-night bowling with Lilith.
"So, you two got anything planned for the weekend?" Paris asked politely.
"Study probably," Madelyn shrugged.
Lauren's eyes widened in excitement.
"Oh yes I've got lots planned. I figured out my dream job, while I was in custody. I want to be a maths teacher!"
"But you've always hated maths," Paris frowned.
"I had a change of heart. In fact, I've aiready booked an appointment with Mrs Morris, the head of the Maths department at Oracle High School and I'm seeing her tomorrow. She's going to discuss my decision with me, help me out on which University I want, and she even might let me help in the classroom. Sounds good?"
"Sounds too good to be true," Madelyn said through a mouthful of smashed avocado sandwich.
"Yes," said Paris. "Even I'm having a bit of trouble believing a maths teacher - I mean of all teachers - would actually give you all that special treatment, when you're not even qualified and, let's not forget, you're only eighteen."
"Believe what you like," said Lauren. "But I'm going to see her tomorrow and it will be all over the papers."