Chapter 7

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The grand dining hall had been vigorously scrubbed from one end to the other and any trace of the previous evening's revelries was long washed away. The marble floor gleamed as she stepped in, and she wondered if the previous night's feast had all been but a dream. Yet, as her people and their Egyptian counterparts filed in, she could clearly see that they were all worse for wear. All but the minister. He looked as fresh and as bright as the very sun that greeted them. Streams of the warm rays pierced through the skylights in the high ceiling, but the expressions of most present revealed that they would rather be curled up somewhere dark and well out of view. Malawashina was glad for this, however, for perhaps in their current hungover states they had forgotten the happenings of the night before. Her memory too was rather fuddled. But a great heaviness weighed in her gut and it was not due to her slight hangover. But the minister... Was he truly some god to have not been affected by the alcohol at all? And where was the prince? He was now absent presence.

The seating arrangement from the previous night too was to be repeated this very morning. Malawashina's cheeks burned with a hot flush at hearing this from her mother, who then promptly told her to behave herself.

"A very good morning to you, princess."

Why was the minister's voice not afflicted at all? The chirpiness within it was unnatural for the predicament every one else was in. They were exactly the thoughts that ran through Malawashina's mind as she blinked up at him, a bright halo of light encompassing him as the sun's rays struck him directly from behind. Was this too a dream? She could feel the lingering warmth of his lips upon her throat once more.

"Did you sleep well?"

His question resonated in her ears. She had slept rather uneasily, all because of him.

"Quite fine, my lord," she answered with her eyes lowered. "I pray that you did as well. Is the prince alright? I do not see him present."

The minister chuckled and covered his mouth with his hand to hide his grin. "I apologise, but the young prince is... rather indisposed this morning and will be unable to join us. He will join us in the afternoon for lunch, however."

"The poor boy, he is far too young to have been drinking so much." The words slipped from her mouth, and she quickly bowed her head in apology.

"Forgive me, I spoke out of line..."

"It is quite alright, your highness." His emerald gaze glimmered brightly, unaffected by her words. "I could actually say the same thing about you. However, at least you are able enough to be here."

"I may have to ask everyone to whisper now, though," she admitted meekly.

"Ah, that bad is it?" He lowered his voice to an almost whisper.

She nodded nervously before continuing, "Forgive me if I did or said anything... uncouth and out of character."

The warmth of his smile outdid that of the sun. Now his tone became one of a whisper. "Not at all, princess, in fact, you were quite delightful."

"

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