(A/N: If you find any typos or any problems, please let me know! This was a big chapter to write! I appreciate it and enjoy the read!<3)       

                                                 Part 50: The Contest (Round Two) - Talent Show


But when Roland got home, he fell into the snares of another, who so fascinated him that he forgot the maiden.” (Sweetheart Roland, Brothers Grimm)



        “That blood is going to take a miracle to get out.”

            Ella has spent the last five minutes trying her hardest to get the dark stains out of my dress, but it’s to no avail. The brunette is squatted in front of me, her calloused hands rubbing purposefully at my dress.

            “That was really brave of you to help that little boy, but how will you explain this,” she gestures at the numerous bloodstains spilled across the front of my dress, “to the royal family?”

            “It’s alright,” I assure her. “I’m sure no one will notice.”

            Seeming as unconvinced as I am by my words, Ella raises a brow at me and continues working.

            After the knight summoned us, we were led back here, facing a set of doors that lead into the throne room and waiting for the royal family to make their appearance so the second round can begin. The line is full of nerves; barely anyone says a word to one another. The two brown doors at the front of the line seem like the twisted, rotten lips of the Giant, both eagerly awaiting the moment that we step through them so they can spit back out our tattered remains.

        More than ever, I’m glad to have Ella here with me. Although I know next to nothing about the friendly, robust brunette, I’m grateful for the companionship she’s shown me. I don’t think I would have anyone else to talk to if she were not here.

        But even upbeat Ella isn’t immune to the nervousness that seems to float through the air like a disease. Her hands are shaking even as she continues to fret over my dress.

        “I’m glad my stepsisters got out in the first round,” she says, trying for a smile. “Now I can stop worrying over if they might recognize me and just focus on passing the next round.”

        I nod, even if my mind isn’t fully part of our conversation. My thoughts keep dancing between two faces, two girls who both have shocked me within the past hours.

        My eyes drift behind me, to where the masked girl is. She stands back from the rest of the line, as if she’s in a world apart from ours. The little boy must be weighing heavily upon her mind because she hasn’t said a word since Nate took him away.

        I never thought I would feel pity towards someone who appeared so strong. I always envied people like Ruta, who could wear their emotions on their sleeves without caring what anyone else might think of her. But, back in the room, I saw a different side of her, one that she was reluctant to show. She was vulnerable and somehow, that little boy had become her vulnerability. I can only pray that both she and her friend will be alright.

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