He strolled through, head down, planning to find Andrel wherever he was, but glanced up and was met by the sight of Marinia and Valda. They caught him by such surprise that he made a noise that sounded like disgust.
Marinia just smiled. 'Hey, Will,' said Marinia in a kind, welcoming voice that didn't sound right with her. 'How are you doing?' She linked her arm through his, Valda doing the same on the opposite arm, leading him over to the sitting area on the ground floor.
'Fine,' he said curtly, 'what do you want?'
'Well, we've been thinking...' said Valda,
'And we've decided that you're pretty cool.' Me? Cool? Will couldn't stop his inner self from lighting up in glee. 'You're not the nerdy loser we thought that you were -,'
'Thanks,' he murmured sarcastically. The Twins ignored him.
' - And we think that hanging around Dripface, Windaloo and Flowerfreak doesn't do you any favours.' Valda turned him around and pushed him down by the shoulders onto an ottoman in front of them.
'Let's face it, you're a lot more powerful than them. The way you used Almara's lame defence spell as an offence, it was genius, and the way you beat that kappa, when I heard about how heroic you were, I almost melted.'
'You - you did?'
'Mmm-hmm...' Valda winked at him amorously, then giggled when Will's face glowed red. He saw that even when they were close to him, they were beautiful, it was no trick of the light, and seeing them side by side, practically identical in appearance and pose made him imagine that they were mirror images of each other.
'So here's our proposition.' Marinia grabbed another ottoman and sat opposite him, Will's legs practically between hers, and with her skirt length, there was too much on show. 'You forget about those three loser princesses and start hanging around with us. They give the royal families a bad name, remember when Sayara got embarrassed for being called by her title today? That's wrong. The way we see it, why shouldn't we be addressed formally, it's our right, isn't it? In fact, we don't see why we have to stay in the same commonroom as the Draíochta, we'll never be like normal magi, so why try and force it on us?'
'But...we're not royals yet, right? Aren't we - huh?' Will didn't know how to react when Marinia rose and positioned herself on his lap, intimately wrapping her hands around his neck. Will felt his cheeks burn up, his throat tightening as he felt her fingers fiddle with the hair at the nape of his neck - what was she doing?
'Here's how it is, Avaric,' she said coldly. 'We're the descendants of gods, blood doesn't switch on and off. So Paradam wants us to have a normal childhood before we're whisked off to parties and galas and rooms made of gold - who cares about that?' She leaned in closer to him, Will turned away though he felt her breath on his cheek, she was flawlessly beautiful - yet she repelled him. 'What do you think will happen when we turn eighteen, huh? Your friends are going to be out of their depth and because everybody's treated them normally, they won't get any respect. What kind of royals are those?'
'We're offering you our friendship, Will,' added Valda. 'It's a rarity, I wouldn't want to miss out if I were you.'
'And this is just friendship?' he asked nervously. 'You don't want it to go somewhere...' he began to fidget in a bid to move Marinia off of his lap, '...else.'
'Being friends is fine with me, Will,' she said, 'but then again...' she grabbed hold of his hand resting uncomfortably at his side, and moved it across her, 'if it turns into something more...,' she pressed his hand against the small of her back, allowing it to move further downwards, '...then so be it.'
Will couldn't take it any longer, he moved suddenly, pushing her off of him and backing away. 'That's it. Look, I don't know if this is a game or something,' he said, nervously watching them side by side, identically beautiful and serene, 'but I'm not interested either way.'
Marinia's eyes narrowed, 'what did you say? Are you rejecting me?' she asked in a dangerous whisper,
'I - uh, I guess I am.'
Her fist clenched at her side, a muscle in her jaw flinching angrily. In an instant, she seemed different, still beautiful, but there was a cutting edge to all her features, her eyes flaring with vengeful ideas. She tried to nonchalantly say, 'fine, that's your choice,' but she wasn't able to finish before her temper got the best of her. She stepped forward and furiously slapped Will across the face, he fell backwards, his back striking the edge of the ottoman as he clattered to the floor.
'Idiot,' they said together, huffing with insult and leaving the dormitory together.
Will reached up to his cheek which stung hotly, a smudge of blood came back on his fingertips as he traced three nail marks just below his eye, now swelling up.
'I know this is a bad time,' said a voice behind him, Will turned and saw sitting Andrel on the staircase peering through the metal railings with a look of awe and incredulity, 'but that was amazing.'
Though it caused his cheek to throb, Will smiled.