12. The Null (Page 4)

Sighing, the princess warily stepped forward and thrust her left foot into the image, making it ripple, and when the fogginess cleared, her foot was swaddled in a creamy, silk ballet slipper. Intrigued, she continued into the ballroom, her filthy pink dress shimmering into one of her favorite recital gowns ─ bright red with black and white feather accents. Immediately, Hataru found herself in the middle of the dance floor, chasséing in the spotlight. The princess could feel the eyes of all the party-goers on her, which sent shivers down her spine like it always did, but she had been contracted as the evening entertainment for this academy's annual ball in return for a hefty donation towards the opening of her first orphanage; she couldn't let her nerves get to her now. Instead, she focused on the flow of the music, lost herself in it, and before she knew it she was bowing to a roaring applause.

“That was incredible, Princess Hataru!” a blonde-haired girl in a strapless purple dress and clunky glasses chirped, handing her a glass of water, “As head of the student body, I would like to personally thank you for gracing us with your talent! Do you compete?”

“Oh, not really... I usually just perform for functions like this, trying to raise money for my cause.”

“Well, you really should consider it. I bet you could win, and maybe even spread the word of your orphanage campaign. I've already had our agreed donation sent to your ship, by the way.”

“Thank yo─"

“Hey, Marcy! You still saving a dance for me?” A handsome young man called to the girl in the purple gown, walking over to join them.

“Hmph. You do realize that there aren't enough songs for you to dance with every girl here tonight, don't you? You sure you want to waste one on me?” Marcy teased.

“A song could never be wasted on our fearless leader!” He turned to Hataru, bringing a single rose out from behind his back and offering it to her, his brown eyes sparkling, “You, ma'am, are an incredible dancer,” he leaned in closer and glanced around, arching his eyebrows, “and I believe you've stolen plenty of hearts tonight. If you need help fending off all those fellas, give me a call.”

Hataru accepted the flower coyly, “And what exactly should I call you?”

“That depends on who you ask.”

“I'm asking you.”

He snickered, glancing away, “My name is Prince…” Something behind the princess caught his attention, and he fell silent, his expression melting into bareface awe. Hataru and Marcy both turned to see a tall young woman with long, wavy ginger hair standing off to the side by herself and looking rather uncomfortable in the shimmering yellow silk dress that showcased her slender form. Nervously, her eyes ─ colored with minimal cosmetics, which set her apart from the other women at the party ─ darted around the ballroom.

“I'm sorry,” the prince breathed, not taking his eyes off of the girl, “would you excuse me for a moment…” In a daze, he strode toward the woman, her cheeks growing faintly pink when he called, “Elden! I thought you said you weren't coming! You look fantastic!”

Marcy sighed, “That's Tarin for you. Always such a flirt.”

The world grew dim and everything faded until Hataru was once again standing barefoot ─ save for the bandages on her right foot ─ in her dusty pink dress beside the old soothsayer.

“Yes, very interesting…” Sybil mused. “Your powers are returning to you remarkable fast. This is a good sign.” They started walking again.

    “You... you saw that one, too?”

    “As a Seer, you'll have to get used to the fact that others can look into you at any point in your life, and you'll learn to become comfortable with looking into the pasts and futures of others as well.”

The End

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