Chapter Nineteen: Roxy

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I met them in the entrance way the next day. Cinaer was coming with me - I'd had to use all of my powers of persuasion on him last night - but he had "places to be" this morning so was meeting us in the city in an hour or so. The Arcans were crowded together, conversing in voices too low for me to hear from my position on the stairs. Brae was standing in the centre, his figure more imposing than any of the others. His hair shimmered strangely in the light streaming through the glass doorway.

"Ready to go?" I called loudly, announcing my presence and causing them to break off hurriedly. They were clothed in the same washed out colours as before, looking sickly and frail against the deep red colour of the walls behind them. In fact, as I glanced around the entrance hall, I realised that the Arcans were the only colourless thing in it. Everything else was dyed in rich reds and oranges and embellished in gold.

"We've been ready a while actually," Brae said with forced casualness. "I thought we were meeting half an hour ago."

I shrugged nonchalantly. "I was busy." Painting my nails a dazzling shade of gold then adding matching gold streaks into my hair to draw attention to the red, making it look like it really was on fire.

I also thought it would be fun to make them stand in the entrance-way with nothing to do. It would ensure they were already mad at me by the start of the tour. That way, they wouldn't pay so much attention to what I was showing them - they'd be too preoccupied with their emotions. I was planning on taking them on the most useless tour of Halia I could, making sure that I didn't show them anything which could arouse their curiosity about Helian culture.

"Where are we going?" Brae asked. He was the only brave enough to meet my gaze, let alone ask me a question.

"I was thinking of the Royal Park, just down the road from here. It's like a microscopic version of the Island's ecosystem - a kind of mix between a zoo and a garden centre." Very Helian, but also very pointless. I'd been around the Park plenty of times as a kid. It would keep the Arcans busy for a while, wondering at all the bright colours and strangely shaped plants.

A hint of a frown passed over his face, but he quickly masked it behind his annoying diplomacy. "Are we ready to go now then?" His voice was even and controlled, betraying neither disinterest nor eagerness in the proposal. His coolness was beginning to frustrate me, making me determined to break him.

"Might as well get it over with I suppose," I replied, smiling sweetly. I led them out of the front door. No sooner had we stepped outside than all four of them threw their hands up to their eyes to block out the intense blaze of the sun. I had genuinely forgotten that this might be an issue - the Helian Realm, with its two suns and buildings of glass, was very, very bright. Our eyes had evolved to suit this, but the Arcans were blinded by the sudden intense glare. Well I said I'd take them on a tour - I never said they would actually see anything...

"We can't go anywhere like this," Brae said, his eyes still shut.

I sighed heavily. No fun. Oh well, at least we had come up with a solution for this issue before they all arrived. I went back inside and grabbed four pairs of dark glasses, which I handed out to the startled Arcans. "Put these on, they'll make everything dimmer and duller. Like you guys really." Once they no longer looked dazzled, we began the walk to the park in a heavy silence.

Excepting Brae, the Arcans all looked at each other uneasily, seeming reluctant to say or do anything in front of me. Every few seconds, the girls glanced at me incredulously, well, more specifically my outfit. I'd spent a fair bit of time this morning deciding on what to wear to make them as uncomfortable as possible. After rejecting the majority of my wardrobe, I had settled on a bottle green top with my shortest black shorts, which left a good eight inches of thigh showing above my knee. The outfit hugged my figure like a second skin and didn't leave very much to the imagination, perfect for getting their little Arcan sensibilities in a flap.

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