I put on a mask of sullenness which greatly amused Adam as we entered the Throne Room and we put our presents on a table amongst others.
Tiger spotted me from the throne he was seated upon and frowned. I couldn't help but notice he looked spectacular with his black cloak and gleaming silver shirt.
"Why is the ceremony called a Crowning when the Royal Family wears badges?" I asked Adam as we sat in the third row of chairs in front of the thrones.
"The Fireland crowns were misplaced during the eruption of Mount Pyro," he replied. "It's thought that they were hidden somewhere and forgotten about. The ceremony kept its name, though."
"Oh, that's interesting."
In a few minutes, the Supreme Ruler and Tigra Flame were standing before us, reciting similar vows to the ones I had, although I was amused to note that one of the vows was to continue to uphold the Phoenix-Dolphin Conflict. Adam gritted his teeth, as did the Supreme Ruler while Tigra cheerfully said these words, but I personally, inside of course, was laughing at the irony of a member of royalty promising to create disturbance between two peoples.
After Tigra had been presented with her oval-shaped badge which was a deep green colour (and incidentally the same as her mother's) everyone walked through to the ballroom where a band was already playing. Tigra immediately stepped out onto the floor, her arm linked through another Phoenix's.
In the ballroom, I was confronted by an angry-looking Tiger. I asked Adam to get us drinks and calmly dealt with the situation.
"What are you doing here?" he hissed.
"One Wavian royal had to come," I replied, pretending to look bored.
"I kept thinking about my behaviour on my Crowning and decided I'd been extremely foolish. I mean, what kind of a Dolphin Princess tries to make decent conversation with a Phoenix? It's just wrong. So I said to myself this event would be a good opportunity to deepen the loathing I feel towards you all and make up for my stupid mistake."
Tiger smiled nastily. "I'm glad you've seen sense. If you need me to fuel your fire, just ask." He winked as he walked away.
I cursed myself as I re-saw that wink in my mind and added a romantic quality to it.
Adam returned, looking concerned.
"Is everything okay?" he asked.
"Yes, it's fine," I said, smiling. He handed me a glass of grape juice which I slowly sipped at. But I doubted Tiger was going to ask me to dance with him after that. He probably thought I hated him now.
"Could I have the next dance?" Adam asked.
My smile grew. "Sure."
As the next piece of music began, Adam and I placed our glasses on a table and walked out onto the floor.
"Now, it'll only have to be one," he murmured as we started. "Any more than that and I'll lose my self-control."
I nodded, frowning slightly.
But as the dance progressed, my smile grew back. Adam's enthusiasm was infectious. I put as much as energy into each step as possible, and he looked greatly impressed.
As I danced, I couldn't help but notice my negativity. For although I must have looked graceful and Adam extremely enviable, I had no real hopes that Tiger would become jealous and want me as his own partner. As far as I could see, all his focus was on another girl, quite probably a Phoenix, with a pretty face and jet-black hair streaked with green, violet and icy blue.
When Adam led me off the dance floor, I could feel many eyes on me but none of them the ones I wanted. I felt ill.
"Are the gardens open, d'you know?" I asked Adam.
"Well, the castle doesn't have gardens as such but I believe guests are allowed to step outside if they need fresh air."
Adam led me over to a set of glass double doors thrown open wide onto the grounds. I stepped out into the warm evening air. The sun had not yet set - it was at that point in the sky where it casts a magnificent golden flow over all.
I noticed Adam had hung back at the doors.
"Can't," he choked, sounding almost like a stubborn child save for the pain in his tone. "Sorry."
"Me too," I said sympathetically.
He remained at the doors while I sat upon an iron bench.
This would be the perfect place for Tiger to ask me to dance. No one would see, everyone being in the castle, and the setting was so romantic (lawns stretching out before us to the feet of mountains looking radiant in the sunlight with a cloudless sky above and a soft atmosphere) that the dance would be bound to end with a kiss. Adam called out to say he was fetching us another drink each. I told him I wasn't thirsty but encouraged him to get himself one.
And that would have been the perfect opportunity. I was sitting out there alone, no protective-looking guy in sight, with an aura of serenity and a longing for something to happen.
But Tiger was blind to all this; Tiger wasn't romantically minded. He didn't love me and he never would.
So when the time came for me to leave wretched Fireland Castle, I was in despair.
I had done everything I could to try to attract him and it hadn't worked. I had even hurt Adam in the process.
I vowed to myself that I would never try again.